Thursday, January 31, 2008


Not only is it the height of summer here, but the sun is simply stronger in Uruguay, closer as we are to the equator and, according to what I've heard, under an actual hole in the ozone layer—so more UV rays get through. I wear 60 SPF sunscreen and I've still gotten a little burnt each time I've been out; the students run around with no sunscreen to about 30 SPF, and after last week's trip to Punta del Este, there were MANY red faces and bodies (this week there are several leprous-looking, peeling body parts among us).

In contrast, the people here have such beautiful and beautifully-adapted-to-the-sun skin. There really IS something to that Latin Lover thing; there are so many physically lovely men and women—and the babies, oh my word, are gorgeous. But lest you think that everyone is similarly brown-colored, let me dissuade you of that thought. There are people as fair as I am (though I've seen nobody as freckled, lucky them), and there are people about as dark as Katie is (I would say that's maybe the majority), and there are people significantly darker. In general, beautiful brown eyes with long lashes prevail, and, as I've seen everywhere I've traveled outside the United States, people are much thinner than Americans. On the streets, I'm often the only one wearing sunglasses, because my blue eyes actually hurt outside here without them, especially during the middle of the day. Don't I wish my blue eyes weren’t?

The update on Krista’s music experience in Latin America

Written by Krista herself

From what I’ve seen/heard so far, the music here can be quite varied.

Some people have insisted on listening to American music. I personally was thrilled to hear Alice Cooper’s "School’s Out" playing in the gym on the first day we went there. The Gimnasia plays a lot of different music, and practically all of it is Techno Remixes of English-Speaking bands such as Evanescence, Within Temptation, and the Cranberries (that one was really fun to kick box to).

Now, as for bonafide Latin American music, it actually isn’t that bad, but I don’t particularly enjoy it. When we were at Carnaval, a few of the floats actually had live bands playing on them, which was really cool. I’ve only heard a bit of their music, but the tempos are off to me and I find that it sounds….wrong.

What else is wrong with the Spanish-singing music is that, some of it is just translated American music. At the church we attend here in Montevideo, we sing “In moments like these,” but it sounds so bad because they try to squish their words into the music written. It's either sung very fast and very badly, or very elongated and very badly. I’ve decided that they just need to write their own songs, because, hey, it would sound SO much better.

Monday, January 28, 2008


PUNTA del ESTE: Saturday we went on a trip together with all the students to visit the famous-around-here resort town of Punta del Este, about 2 ½ hours away from Montevideo.

CASA PUEBLO: Our first stop was about 30 minutes before our ultimate destination at the amazingly cool home, Casa Pueblo, of artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. If you get a chance to Google this man, please do. I really like his art, and his open-to-the-public home is breathtaking. It was my favorite part of the day.

GORRITI ISLAND: Our "real" destination, Punta del Este, has miles and miles of beautiful beaches, and, as it's the height of summer vacation here, everything was pretty packed. However, due to clever planning on the par
t of Lynette and Lee Penya, we took a boat to a little island offshore (called Gorriti) for about half the day; there was beautiful sand to be found, the crowds were much smaller, and Ken and I walked the entire circumference of the place, exploring just about everything (the girls frolicked more at the beach than anything).

LOS DEDOS: We also did the touristy thing by stopping at Los Dedos (which means The Fingers), a huge sculpture of a hand emerging from the sand. You can see our group in the picture. We also went to a crazy, wavy bridge that Autumn's Study Abroad group got to go over several times; we,
 however, were in a big, fancy tour bus that wasn't allowed. Bummer. 
We do, however, have a picture of it with Ken, Katie, and Krista. 

PIRIAPOLIS: On our return, we stopped in another resort town called Piriapolis, where we ate a fabulous dinner at a hilltop restaurant with an almost 360-degree ocean view. Despite (a) a tire blow-out on the bus and (b) a run-in-with-something-oceanic that forced us to re-dock and switch boats and (c) quite a few sunburns all around, this was an A+ day. Study Abroad student Emily said it best when she said, "This is the best day I've ever had, ever."


The Church of Christ is right next door (in the left picture, the church is to the right, the metal gate doors on the left are our entrance to Casa ACU; the bell tower above is very cool; the whole building is MUCH larger than it appears in the pictures), so naturally we go there for services each Sunday. The congregation is pretty small but filled with sweet, sweet people. [However, because of the Uruguayan custom of greeting people by kissing them on the left cheek, I get my weekly fill-up on human contact in about 82.4 seconds.] 

I am proud to report that all thirty of us at Casa ACU (22 students, 4 Cukrowskis, and 4 Penyas) have attended church both Sundays we've been here. That's saying a lot, since most of us understand VERY little while we're there. Our group consists of a number of excellent singers, and that's been fun to sing in Spanish; also, we've actually contributed to the edification of the church in that we sing better than they do!

This kind group of people treated us to a reception after the first Sunday, where they served pizza and cokes. We all had to introduce ourselves--in Spanish--the regular members were very kind. Katie and Krista have met a couple of the kids from the youth group; perhaps there will be some chances to get together sometime.

The services are wonderful, but class, taught by a well-intentioned man who utilized completely narrow-minded readings of proof texts, was designed to make everyone understand that church attendance is the most important thing a Christian can do for salvation. It was both annoying and sad. I'm sure I will say more about church here at a later time.


Among the many mistakes I'm making in Spanish, which are too numerous to count, some are simple, little things and some are muy grande. Some words both look and sound like English words, but they really don't mean anything like one another. Sometimes, people refer to these errors as "false friends." "Embarazado" and "Ingles" are like that; if you say you are "embarazado" about something because you are embarrassed, you are actually saying you are pregnant! Or, if, like one of our students Colter, you are telling people about your "ingles," about your speaking English, you're actually talking about your groin muscles; this he did for awhile!

But I'm not saying anyone else is making more errors than I am; after all, I talk a lot, so I'm probably making the most mistakes of anyone! The simplest errors for me are Spanish words that look like English, visual cue errors when I read the word; by that I mean that when I see the word "con," I can't help but think it's against something, but it really means "with," pretty much opposite in meaning. Similarly, "once" still should be followed by "upon a time" to me, but it's the Spanish word for eleven.

Don't even get me started on my errors of the ears; over and over in church yesterday (for the record, I estimate I understood about 6 per cent tops; I gathered that the sermon was about God's love for Gentiles as well as for his chosen, Jewish people), I heard corramos, "let's run," which was immediately followed each time by… no, not a jog, but a prayer (after all, prayers do make more sense in church!). But my ears weren't hearing "orames," which means "let's pray"; they heard a word I knew instead. I'm sure I also heard the preacher say several times something about "una cigala," which I looked up in my dictionary. It means "Norway lobster," which I don't understand even in English, so I'm pretty sure he didn't say that. Once I did figure out— after the fact—that I had heard French, "a mort," meaning "dead" or "died," when, of course, the preacher wasn't speaking French; he was using the verb to love, "amor." Duh!

A harder, yet supposed-to-be-simple, word is "mañana," which can mean tomorrow or in the morning, depending on the words around it, words I may or may not catch. So someone may be talking about something going to happen next week in the morning, and I think the event's tomorrow. Problem.

This false friend discussion reminds me that I've been a false friend to people too at various times through the years. I hate all the hypocritical, nasty, and petty things I've let myself do or think over the years, and I regret them. And I am thankful for my true friends, such as Gayla, my family, and others, who have remained faithful to their flawed friend through the years.

Friday, January 25, 2008


OK, so you want to know something really funny? I tried posting a short little video clip of some girls, somewhat scantily-clad-but-still-clothed, dancing on a float to really loud music to give you, dear readers, a small taste of what the Carnaval parade last night was like. But Blogger turned me down. Thus I have now been rejected for attempting to post porn on a website! I never thought I'd live to see the day! Wow.

So instead I'll post a couple of much-less-interesting still shots and tell you a wee little bit about Carnaval (spelled correctly, by the way, even though my fingers want to type CarnIval with an "i" every single time).We enjoyed (mostly) the opening parade of Montevideo's carnaval last night. The parade started around nine (but we left the house at 7:30, walked downtown, got there around 8 and started looking for spots to stake out, since there were 28 of us in our group last night) and lasted longer than we did. We left in several different stages, around 10:30, 11:00, midnight, and one group left after that (curfew is at 2 A.M.).
The parade started with the queens of carnaval and the queens of the llamadas riding on floats. Trucks advertising Pilsen Beer and Antel (the national phone company) followed. Marchers carried large horizontal banners featuring various sponsors and kids from the audience would lay down in the street so the banners would pass over them. Throughout the whole thing, there are vendors hawking their wares walking up and down the sides of the street; they are selling various food items, like roasted meat, potato chips, and drinks, or they are selling knick-knacks like pins and/or wands that light up or blink and Carnaval masks ranging from the traditional to Disney characters and aliens. It was fun seeing the murga groups in their elaborate costumes, but the parade wasn't really the best forum for hearing what I understand to be their excellent singing. Some rock bands played amplified music from the top of trucks, and that worked well. The candombe drum troupes were the most exciting, but they were fewer and farther between than I had hoped. I hear we're in for some candombe treats at the beginning of February, however. [The second picture shows a few members of our group, and you can best see Mike, Nobuki, Colter, and Kelsey; we paid for seating, as opposed to standing forever and ever along the sides of the streets.]

During the LOOOOOOOONNNNNG spaces between groups, kids sprayed each other with foam from aerosol cans and threw confetti. Most of the confetti, rather than glittery or papery, was little styrofoam pellets, either colorful or plain white. We all looked like we had odd dandruff before too long. The kids also sprayed foam on the floats and on the dancers. Performers later in the night fared better since the kids had depleted most of their ammunition. We were surprised to see that there were far more men in the parade than women.
We were told to be aware of pickpockets and camera-stealers, but, as of this writing, I haven't heard of anything bad happening to any of our group. My group left the earliest, around 10:30, and I wanted to walk back on the main street through all the crowds and excitement; they humored me for quite a few blocks. However, after we passed a bunch of pot smokers (Krista said it reminded her of the Abilene High bathrooms; sad, eh?) and, after a bunch of drunk people started a conga line right behind Krista, she said, "Mom, take a left at the corner; we've gotta go up Colonia instead." So we did, and it was a lot more calm, just one street off the chaos. All in all, I'm glad I went, but I'm also glad I didn't sit there until 2 A.M.
[The really blurry picture is there to show you how it FELT when we were in the crowds, trying to get through to anywhere.]


Thursday, January 24, 2008


The food we're eating is good—and not just because it contrasts SHARPLY with what we were eating the last couple of weeks back home (notable exceptions so far are tripe and blood sausage, but they're in another blog). Before we left Abilene, we decided to eat everything we could from our freezer and pantry to turn off our fridge and save electricity while we were gone. So we had some interesting combinations and "meals" as we decided what to eat and the least-disgusting way to prepare it: "Surprise, family! Tonight we're having black-eyed peas, walnuts, feta cheese, and yogurt!"

So for today's entry, I'll just tell you about a few food items.

Red Bell Peppers: really expensive back home, but less than $1/lb. here. I have served them in salads and have cooked them into my spaghetti sauce so far. We had a whole one grilled down at the meat market place. They are absolutely delicious.

Yogurt: The yogurt is amazing, like a dessert. So we're eating it as a treat. The brand we like is almost like real whipped cream, and we like the Forest Berry type to stir in with it.

Anything Raquel makes: I know you're feeling sorry for me, but there's a wonderful cook here who prepares seven meals a week--and we onsite families are welcome to eat with the students. She prepares a hot breakfast on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings, and she makes lunch Monday through Friday. Poor babies--we're on our own for dinner and all weekend meals. Not bad, eh? I'm sure I'll be updating you on more of Raquel's specialties, but let me give you a little hint--the word rhymes with "b-empenada."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Pictured here you can see the city center's main feature, a HUGE statue of Jose Artigas, who is so famous that every other street, square, and company is named after this man I had never even heard of. So who was this guy?

Artigas had been a soldier of the colonial guard, which protected the western Uruguayan borders from occasional Indian or Portuguese attacks. He became famous when he became Uruguay's benevolent dictator, believing that government should include not only the fancy-pants people but also the lower classes and Indians. One can only imagine how the people in power loved these innovations—not!—and when the Portuguese invaded Uruguay around 1820, Artigas was forced into exile in Paraguay for the last thirty years of his life.

I missed how he actually died (I think it was an anticlimactic death by old age) or how his ashes came to be housed right smackdab in the middle of Montevideo, but there he is in the urn in an underground mausoleum that's guarded 24 hours a day. Guarding this guy must be the most boring job in the world, because
(a) he's not going anywhere;
(b) I don't think anybody wants to steal him; and
(c) one of the two guards we saw was actually falling asleep standing up. It's cruel I know, but it was HILARIOUS watching him bob and snap, as he waged his own battle on behalf of the leader Artigas.

Just for the record, I too want to be reduced to ashes someday, and yes, I get that I will be whether or not I choose. But I really don't want to be buried; I have instructed my family to cremate me—and definitely don't keep my ashes on the mantelplace next to the lost TV remote.

Why cremation over a coffin? First, I think most cremations are great (a notable exception is General Artigas, whose remains and tomb take up an entire town square) because why should dead people take up a lot of space; second, I like the idea of going in one big conflagration instead of slowly rotting (I especially hate the idea of worm and maggot infestation); and third, I want my ashes poured out somewhere nice—or maybe many somewheres nice, like at a little vineyard in France or in your garden or a little bit in a library somewhere. Doesn't that sound nice?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


We parents eat an awful lot of our words throughout the years. If (1) you talk as much as I do and (2) you like to eat, you have to eat even more of them than most. But I thought I could do worse than follow some excellent examples that I had known. Here’s one: when I was six or seven, my grandfather Pa Jay gave me a pinch of snuff—in order to teach me never to get hooked on tobacco, like he was. It worked! I reeled, and I can’t believe I didn’t vomit, it was so so so so gross. When I was offered cigarettes and/or pot as a teenager, I quickly turned down all such offers.

So when my firstborn was two years old, she asked for a sip of coffee (not quite as dramatic as chewing tobacco, I’ll admit, but this is my story), and I thought, “Yeah, I’ll give her some, and she’ll hate it, and then she won’t get hooked on coffee.”
It worked!
Tah-DAH! I’m a great parent!

A year or so later, I have another two year old, and Krista asks for a sip of my coffee. Knowing now that I am in fact a fabulous mother-and-teacher, I say “Sure.”
And she says “Yum.”
Uh-oh! But no matter; after all, I had a cup with lots of cream and sugar (Ken always says that we like our coffee the way that, if you were to freeze it, it would be coffee ice cream), so I gave her a sip of black coffee. A little cruel admittedly, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
And Krista says “Yum.”
Oh no! Pa Jay’s method is failing me; what to do, what to do? So I give this beautiful baby, who has barely passed her second birthday, a coffee bean to chew.
And Krista says “Yum.”

Now that’s a real coffee drinker—and she has been all these years.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A nice cup of Coffee Mate… hold the creamer

Ken and I aren’t really coffee drinkers; sure, we have the occasional cup when we’re out with folks (we don't inhale), but really, Ken is a hot tea guy, and I’m a cold Diet Coke girl.

But here’s the thing: coffee is available everywhere—and often, for free (Starbucks notwithstanding). Churches offer it; my oil-changing place back home offers it; for crying out loud, even my dentist offers it, and you’d think they’d despise people drinking such teeth-staining stuff.

One summer during college, I drank a LOT of coffee, but again, mainly that was because I was cheap. I worked for a patent attorney, and one of my main jobs was to make sure there was an extremely fresh pot of coffee at all times. I was pretty poor and I hated to waste pretty much anything, so he and his clients would have a cup or two, and I drank the rest—black—all day long! I’m talking 15 cups a day, easy. I figured I was hooked for sure, but in the Fall when I went back to ACU, nary a cup of joe passed my lips.

But here in Uruguay things are different… old people and young people alike drink mate (pronounced MOTT-ay), often many cups a day. It's a culturally distinctive thing similar to the tea ceremonies of Japan--there are special cups you use made from a gourd (also called a mate), fill it all the way with mate leaves which look exactly like dried grass clippings, pour in your hot water, and slurp it through a straw that kind of looks like a spoon. The whole process looks mildly like everyone is sharing drugs through a bong, but the slurping gives the whole thing away. Sadly, I think I would prefer it to be drugs. Why? If you know me AT ALL, you know I hate slurping or smacking sounds; actually, they make me completely nuts. Thus, so far the whole sharing the mate experience isn't one I think I'll import home for keeps.

I’ll tell you another coffee story tomorrow, this one about what a perfect mother I am (ha!).


You know how most of the world eats healthier than Americans in general? That's true, but there are some places that defy preconceived notions as to what makes up a healthy diet. I think most people would expect us to be eating only a bit of meat now and again here in Uruguay. But they would be wrong. Quite wrong. The word CARNE in Spanish means meat, whence comes our word CARNIVORE—and that's completely accurate in the case of Uruguayans. They eat A LOT of meat.

We went to the Old City on Saturday with the students and the other onsite family, our back-at-home-neighbors Lynette and Lee Penya and their kids, to look around the flea market, to see the port area, and to eat dinner, OK, well, to eat meat. The place is huge, and stall after stall sells huge braziers of grilled meat: several kinds of sausage, pork, chicken, beef, etc. [A tip: if you order the grilled meat for two, more than four people can eat it; if you order the grilled meat for four, then half of our class can eat on it and have leftovers. Mostly this is because there's a whole lot of meat, but it's also because some of the meat is, shall we say, less commonly consumed in the United States, like tripe, which is yummy stomach lining, and which was in the pile of leftovers.]

A funny conversation happened between the girls and Sophie Penya, who is three years old and LOVES anything sweet. She saw Katie, Krista, Sarah Sims, and me eating (or at least trying) what looked like delicious chocolate cake but was in fact blood sausage, and she wanted some. Sarah told her that it wasn't cake, but Sophie wanted to try it. She took a couple of bites and then said something like "I've had better cake." I can imagine! J

[Also pictured are Katie and Krista "Fear Factor-ing" some blood sausage.]


January 16 through May 8, 2008

We're here! We have arrived in Montevideo, our home-away-from-home for the Spring '08 semester. Short version: the weather is gorgeous, the students are fantastic, our apartment is great, we are all well. Long version: sorry I haven't posted before now, but now that we're settled in, I'll post frequent, bonafide entries. Stay tuned...
Pictured: We are very near lots of beautiful coastline.