Tuesday, May 06, 2008


We leave Casa ACU in a few hours, tomorrow noon-ish, to head to the airport for the LONG journey home. We get back to Dallas at 7 A.M., the morning of Ken's and my 24th wedding anniversary (what a way to spend it, eh?!). My wonderful mom will pick us up, we'll head directly to the Apple Store to try to repair my stupidhead computer and retrieve the photographic evidence of this fabulous journey, and then we're off to Abilene before nightfall.

It's been great. There's so much more to say, but I'm glad we came here. Attached is a photo of our group on the day we arrived in Uruguay, a mere 3 1/2 months ago, when we knew a dozen or so words of Spanish among us and precious little of what to expect from our time here. Now, I can safely say that I've reached my goal of being able to speak the Spanish of a mildly retarded toddler. Set your sights low, I always say, and then maybe you can achieve them.

I'll write something much more profound (I'm sure!) later, but for now, I will leave you, Casa ACU, the Study Abroad students, and the country of Uruguay with this prayer: Vaya con Dios, mis amigos. Gracias por todos.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Talent show anyone? - by Krista Cukrowski

Hey, This is Krista! I felt the need to tell all y’all readers about one of the most exciting things that has happened since we have arrived here! What I’m talking about of course is the First Ever ACU Study Abroad Talent Show!

What happened is that Mallory, one of the students here, thought it would be fun if everyone got together and performed something for all the rest of us--and thus a great idea was born. It was a REQUIREMENT that everyone perform a talent, so EVERYONE was rushing around, thinking of things that they could do! And when I say “everyone,” I mean even my PARENTS and the Penya Family as well! The whole thing was great, and everyone contributed lots.

However, the #1 reason that this was so hilarious has to be because Holly, one of my Dad's students who happens to be a gymnast, needed a second person for her number. She decided that her talent would be (drum roll please!) to teach Ken how to do a backhand spring in 24 hours. Yes. I am COMPLETELY serious.

I find it necessary to explain why this is so spectacular. My dad is in great physical shape, and he can probably run circles around you.
BUT….he’s going to turn 46 in 2 days, and he's so inflexible that he can’t even touch his toes! He certainly has never done a back handspring.

Despite these minor setbacks, Holly put Dad to work. They spent hours practicing the steps that would go into this miraculous feat. When the time came to perform, most people had NO idea what they were gonna see! So…Dad stepped up there, gave a quick intro, Holly joined him, and I started up playing the Olympic Fanfare on a friend's computer (Mom's died)! Somehow, my father is still alive! It turns out that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

The moral of this story is…You can view this wonderful achievement on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCaX2clNegA&feature=user or just type in the key words “Coach Holly and Dr. Cukrowski” and be prepared to laugh your head off!!!!!


To prove to you that I really am getting old, as if the gray hair, memory loss, and wrinkles weren't evidence enough, I will now report that my perception of time is that of an older person. For example, time no longer exists in 24-hour chunks in my memory--everything either seems to have happened just yesterday or about a thousand years ago. I find myself thinking today, as my nephew Luke turns 12, that it was only at most a year ago when I was honored to be present in the room as he was born, when his daddy was alive, and when my family and I lived in Connecticut.

About a minute and a half ago (Karen time) or four months ago (real time), we were making lists, preparing to come to Uruguay. Now, as we're less than a week from returning to Abilene, you could see lists again on big Post-It notes in the apartment kitchen were you here (and I wish you were). These lists say things like "Get flowers for Mariela and Raquel," "Visit the Gaucho Museum," and "Pick up Nativity Sets for Christmas gifts" (sorry to spoil the surprise!). But what the notes are really saying is "Finish up this incredible experience and leave it behind."

And so, in my best Ken-like fashion, I will make some lists for you now.

Things I will miss about Uruguay:

*my Pomelo drink, Paso de los Toros Light; I drink at least about 2 liters of this stuff every day. I'm going cold turkey next week. Pray for me.

*recycling; you can buy stuff, especially drinks, in refillable, recyclable containers, and turn them back in for cheaper drinks. In Argentina and Brazil, recycling containers for other kinds of things, such as plastics and organic material, were as prevalent as were the regular trash receptacles. Abilene's recycling, such as it is, is entirely optional, and it's much, much easier not to recycle than to do it.

*La Cigale: great Italian-style gelato ice cream store, two blocks from here. Coco con Dulce de Leche. 'Nuff said.

*Public transportation; I love walking everywhere. I've missed my car maybe twice in four months, if that.

*The temperature now; it's Fall going into Winter here, and it's beautiful. Yesterday in Abilene, in April mind you, it was 88 degrees apparently. I hate being hot. I can't even fathom what the people who made a town in West Texas were thinking when they decided to settle there; maybe they were antisocial and thought "Oh good, now nobody will ever bother us by coming here too."

*no phones: I love that my phone isn't ringing off the hook; I have a cell phone here, but in fact I never carry it and I don't even know the number! Back home, I disconnected our home phone service last Fall, since we all carry cell phones. That's a start.

*the smell of the laundry here; our laundry smells incredible when we get it back, neatly folded and in these fun blue bags. The price went up this month, from 60 pesos a load to 70 ($3.50). Worth every penny for the smell alone.

*the courtyard: I love the students, and the environment the courtyard has fostered. For example, one of my favorite parts of every day is hearing Marissa Walker sing as she goes through her day.

*12:30 P.M. Raquel cooks a meal for us every day, and nine times out of ten, it's fabulous. Ten times out of ten, I'm grateful for it!

Things I'm looking forward to back at home

*my family and friends (well, duh...)

*good-tasting milk in cartons (it comes in stupid, floppy sacks here; if they were recyclable, I might be willing to give in on this one, but they're not)

*our cats; I really want to take a nice, long nap with Crookshanks.

*a break from people all the time; yes, the courtyard is both on my list of favorite things AND on my list of least favorite things. Such is life...

*some variety in my clothing; I only had 3 pairs of shoes (flipflops, sandals, and sneakers), one pair of jeans, two pairs of shorts and capris, one skirt, two pairs of pajamas, a jacket, and a few shirts total; I notice, however, that even typing my total wardrobe took awhile, as it's more than lots of people have, and it was in fact enough to get by on just fine. Lesson learned).

*one type of currency in my wallet; I'm so glad the Euro exists for folks in Europe now, except stuffy ol' Britain. It was a pain in the neck having to have Uruguayan and Argentinian pesos, dollars, reals, and soles available, often within minutes or hours of one another.

*black pepper; actually, I will be glad to return to flavorful food in general. Los Arcos, here we come!

*knowing the language. While we have learned LOTS of Spanish and I'm proud as punch of my kids for keeping up and/or bettering the college kids with whom we took the beginner class, we still can converse only on the kind-of-slow-two-year-old level. It's good enough to get around, but it ain't pretty.

Things people moving to Uruguay should bring with them:

*Jif Extra Crunchy peanut butter, because it's fabulous and unavailable

*notecards and maybe a 3-ring binder and paper; these are findable, but I would have preferred my own kind. I made my own notecards, and they were great for studying Spanish.

*tortilla chips, yes, even though they're bulky and they will become dust in your suitcase. The dust is better than the chips here.

*Velveeta and Rotel, fajita and/or taco seasoning

*stateside gifts for the folks you will get to know here; I brought a whole suitcase full, and we've used every one of them. I'm talking stuff like ACU sweatshirts, Texas playing cards and keychains, etc.

OK, these lists are incomplete, but they're the best I've got right now, mainly because I'm tired of writing this blog in the computer lab, now that my computer has bitten the dust. See you soon back in the U.S. of A.