My day started early yesterday, with a cell phone alarm at 5:30 a.m. Once in a great while, there’s something exciting about getting up while it’s still dark out; I like having an hour or so to myself while the rest of my world is still asleep, and being awake to see the sun come up. At first it makes me nostalgic for really early mornings in high school, having to catch a 6:30 bus for band and choir at 7:15, but then I remember having to do it every single day and suddenly the memory loses a lot of its rose-colored tint. But yesterday was a special case; our program was taking a day trip to Colonia, Uruguay and I couldn’t wait.
Rather than have us take the train in to the city and bumble around by ourselves trying to find our meeting point and eventually get lost and miss our trip completely, Carlos got up early to drive us directly in to our meeting point himself (bless his heart). Everything was going swimmingly until we stepped outside to discover that some drunken idiot had smashed a bottle in the street outside our house the night before, littering the ground with broken glass that had nicked one of our gray car’s tires. Despite the loud and insistent hissing coming from said tire, Carlos proceeded to bundle us into the car anyway and drive us all of two blocks, where the tire promptly gave out. Carlos told us to wait for him on the corner and walked back to the house to get the white car instead, and ten minutes later we were on our way.
After a long wait to check in for our trip and a longer wait in Migrations, we were finally herded onto our boat, the Eladia Isabel. I don’t know what I was expecting—something smaller and more homely, maybe—but it wound up being more like a miniature cruise ship: three floors (decks? is that what they’re called on boats?), live entertainment (some guy set up on the main floor with a microphone, singing along to instrumental tracks of popular songs), deep plush nap-inspiring seats, and an open top deck (floor?) perfect for taking in some sun and scenery. Another big attraction was the little duty-free store, which was 100% packed with people throughout the entire trip, that sold little luxuries like cigars, candy, alcohol, toys, cosmetics, perfumes, and small electronics—all made by brands I recognized, which can be hard to get here in South America.
Three hours later, we were in Colonia!
Upon arriving in Colonia, we had a short bus tour of the city, where we saw, among other things, this really neat old bullfighting stadium. Everything was green and lush and picturesque; a breath of fresh air (literally) after having been in the city for so long. Thankfully the tour was short, as we were all anxious to eat lunch and then get out and explore.
The high point of lunch was definitely the flan I had for dessert. Flan is an egg custard a bit firmer than pudding. It’s notoriously tricky to make; I’ve tried once or twice and it’s never come out looking like anything I would actually want to eat. But the dish that I had yesterday was wonderful; part of that might have been due to the fact that it was topped with almost as much dulce de leche as there was flan. Dulce de leche is an extremely popular sweet milky caramel that Argentines put on almost everything and that I am going to miss a lot when I go home. I’m not entirely sure how the entire dish of flan disappeared so fast, but disappear it did…!
After lunch, our coordinators turned us loose to go explore the city on our own for a few hours. I went with the girls I’d been sitting with at lunch to rent a golf cart for our first free hour and careened around the cobblestone streets soaking up the scenery. It was possibly the most touristy thing we could have done—we got lots of long-suffering looks from the locals we passed—but it was a pretty efficient way to explore the city, as well as a fun little adrenaline rush.
After our golf-cart escapade, we ambled around on foot for about an hour. It was about this time that my camera battery gave out, so I have no pictures of the adorable restaurant (El Drugstore) that very kindly let us use their bathroom, the tiny craft market we stumbled on, the beach where we sat and played in the sand for twenty minutes, the stray dog at said beach (whose cuteness was directly proportional to its awful smell) that decided we were its new family and trotted with us all the way back to our bus, the two-year-old who played peekaboo with us in the check-in line for our return trip, or the gorgeous pink-orange-purple sunset we enjoyed from the top deck of the boat on our way home.
Lesson learned—next time I will make sure my camera is charged. Especially for our next big excursion…to Iguazu Falls, which is the end of this month! So excited!
As far as I know, this coming week will bring two things: 1. hopefully, a visit to the contemporary art museum that we have been meaning to get to for weeks and 2. unavoidably, two days of final exams (our first six-week class is almost up).
Hope you are all enjoying the weekend. 🙂