Posted by: talljoe | September 16, 2011

New Posts Are On The Way!

Hola!  I’m sorry I haven’t posted as much as I had originally said I would – I’ve been so busy trying to learn Spanish, keeping up with my course work and dealing with adjusting to a totally new lifestyle here in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Just to let you know… I’ve been writing a few posts that I am hoping to post later tonight:

0.  About my terrible first “residence hall” living experience

1.  About my terrible first homestay experience

2.  About how my water suddenly turned orange last night (it’s still orange as I am typing this…)

3.  About going to the dentist in Argentina

4.  On Birthdays in South America

5.  On the old versus the new (technology in uruguay and argentina)

6.  On Argentine tango

7.  On Uruguayan sweets (yummy!)

I’m going to immigrations today to get my student visa.  It’s 6:30 in the morning here in Buenos Aires and I’m expecting a long day at the immigrations office.  Perhaps another blog post?  🙂

Posted by: talljoe | September 12, 2011

Security in Uruguay

Uruguayan in-store security is tight in most places.  You must leave your bags in lockers located at the front of the store and return to them when you leave.  Some stores don’t allow customers to wear hoods or hats while inside.  Additionally, products like vitamin c, pills, dietary supplements, and protein are considered over-the-counter products and are literally kept behind a pharmacy counter where you must ask the clerk for the product you want to purchase.  In one store the over-the-counter products are placed inside protective bags to prevent theft while in transit between the pharmacy counter and the checkouts at the front of the store.  Some stores lock their doors during the night, leaving only a window open to take “orders” from customers like a walk-up ice cream stand.  Most of the customers who use the store during this time are looking to purchase alcohol or cigarettes.

Posted by: talljoe | September 6, 2011

Careful Spending

Since I’ve been in South America, I’ve found that the way I spend my money has changed.  In Argentina, one Argentine Peso is equal to approximately 24 cents.  I’ve noticed that I can stretch my dollars here while shopping.  Almost everything is cheap here.  You can buy a liter of milk for 95 centavos (about 23 cents).  Today I bought a box of crackers (similar to Saltines) for only 3 pesos (72 cents).  A one subject notebook (similar to Five Star) for 6.20 pesos ($1.47).  2 liters of bottled water cost me 2.30 pesos (54 cents).  In a bakery you can find a fancy sheet cake for only 29 pesos ($6.91).  Today I also bought approximately 1/3 of a pound of salami for only 8 pesos ($1.90).

However, not everything is cheap.  I bought a bag of Lays potato chips.  I bought the small bag which costs around 10 pesos ($2.38), but the large size bag that we have in the States costs a little over 22 pesos ($5.25).  A quart of ice cream can cost anywhere between 23 and 30 pesos ($5.48-7.15).

Despite the variance in price, I still find myself more conscientious about spending my money.  Perhaps it has to do with the numbers on the bills in my wallet.  For instance, I am very careful deciding how to spend a 100 pesos bill.  Although it is barely equal to $24, I still find myself setting it aside until I have nothing else to spend with.

I spent 70 pesos in the store today ($16).  It is the most I’ve spent in a store since I’ve been in Argentina.  Before today’s purchase, the highest was 30 pesos ($7.15).  It’s hard to spend above 30 pesos because I’m still not used to the change in the monetary system.  Looking at 30 pesos still feels like $30 US dollars for me, thus I am very picky as to how I spend it.

I wonder how this will change as the semester progresses…

Posted by: talljoe | September 3, 2011

Ordering Pizza in Buenos Aires

I ordered a pizza in Buenos Aires today.  It was my first time ordering out in Buenos Aires, and it was different than delivery in the U.S.  Pizzas in Buenos Aires come in three sizes: individual, chica, and grande.  Individual is similar to the personal pan pizza served at Pizza Hut back in the states.  Grande would be equivalent to a large pizza in the U.S.  I ordered chica, which is more or less a medium sized pizza.

The delivery boy came on a bicycle with a box attached to the front.  I’ve never seen this before, but then again, I’ve never really lived in a city as big as Buenos Aires before.  The pizza box was tied shut with string.  To my surprise, the pizza was not cut into slices (weird!).  Actually, it was not cut at all.  I ordered pizza de ajo al oleo (a cheeseless pizza topped with sauce, garlic, oregano and olives).  The pizza was good.  Something about the sauce made it slightly spicy, but it was enjoyable.  This pizza was a healthy alternative to the greasy pizzas we enjoy in the U.S.

I also bought fainá- a popular pizza companion made from chickpea flour.  Fainá originated in Italy.  It’s original name, Farinata, means ‘made with flour.’  The dish is an unleavened dough, cut into slices and served on top of pizza.  When I mentioned fainá in a previous post, I noted it’s nickname, pizza a caballo (pizza on horseback).  I guess because the fainá is “riding” the pizza.  Fainá can be ordered in thick (gruesso) or thin (de orillo) slices.  Porteños might think I’m crazy, but I think it tastes like rice.

Total:  22.40 pesos (about $5.33 US dollars)


Posted by: talljoe | August 19, 2011

Small Business in Montevideo

One thing you would quickly notice about Uruguay is the amount of small businesses available on every street.  Montevideo is full of them.  It’s been ages since I’ve seen a variety of individually owned flower shops, shoe and clothing stores, grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, hair salons, etc; co-existing in the same area.  For those readers who are familiar with my hometown, Montevideo is reminiscent of downtown Irwin in the early to mid 1990s.  Imagine Main St. in Irwin times a thousand, with thriving businesses instead of those with boarded windows and locked doors.

Irwin, Pa.

With all of these businesses thriving, one should not be surprised to learn that there are zero Wal-Mart stores in the country of Uruguay.  We are aware of the drastic affect Wal-Mart has on locally owned businesses operating near their stores, but the corporation has yet to infiltrate Uruguay.

On Monday I will be heading to Buenos Aires, Argentina.  I am curious to see how Argentine small business compares to that in Montevideo.  There are 66 Wal-Mart stores there.  Perhaps I will update this post once I am in Buenos Aires for a week or so.  It will be interesting to see the role Wal-Mart plays in the infrastructure of Buenos Aires.

Posted by: talljoe | August 19, 2011

48 Dollar Balloons

In my last post I wrote about the low price of the kettle corn combo in the Montevideo movie theater.  However, yesterday I learned that not everything in Uruguay is cheaper than it is in the United States.  Thursday was my 10 month anniversary together with my boyfriend.  To surprise him, I wanted to buy 10 heart shaped balloons filled with helium to give him when he returned from work.

I wasn’t sure where to find balloons in Montevideo.  In Pennsylvania I’d just drive to the Dollar Store, Giant Eagle, or the Crossroads, but in Uruguay I have to rely on public transportation to get around.  Using Google I found a store that specializes in Balloons, but all of the locations would require me to ride a bus for at least an hour (round trip).

Giving up, I asked my boyfriend’s mother where to go.  I hardly speak Spanish and she doesn’t speak English, so conversations between us are generally sparce.  With my rocky Spanish (and a hint of my Japanese accent, of course!) I said, “Yo quiero comprar globos para mi 10 meses anniversario con Mati…Donde esta el supermercado?”  She understood what I wanted, but she told me that I could not get balloons (globos) at the super market.  I had to go to a ‘tienda de cotillon (party favors)’.  She drew me a map and tried to explain how to get there, but in the end she decided to go with me.

We walked three blocks to Kanata, the local party favor store.  Once inside, we found the balloons just as they are sold in the U.S., separately in plastic bins.  I selected the 10 red, heart shaped, latex balloons and looked around for the tank of helium.  I could not find it.  Again with my terrible Spanish, I tried to ask my boyfriend’s mother if the store sold helium for the balloons.  “Necesito helio!”  I said, wrongly pronouncing the most important word in the sentence.  I often forget that the ‘h’ is silent in Spanish (helio is pronounced [ay’-le-o]).  Puzzled, my boyfriend’s mother told the clerk that I do not speak Spanish.  Seconds later, two clerks came and tried to speak to me with broken English.  Their English was enough to comprehend what I wanted and remind me of my mistake – they did sell helium balloons in the store.

In the United States I could purchase 10 helium balloons for $10 at the Dollar Store.  In Montevideo, Uruguay, however, 10 helium balloons would have cost me 890 pesos (approx $48 in the States).  I was shocked.  890 pesos for balloons?  I could take my boyfriend out for a fancy dinner and a movie for that much, and still have money left over.  I wonder why it was so expensive?  Perhaps helium is not very common in Uruguay?  Or maybe I’m just used to buying everything so cheap in the States.

In the end I decided not to buy helium for the balloons, and instead I used my own air supply to fill them.  Who knew something so small could run such a big bill?

Posted by: talljoe | August 18, 2011


Yesterday I went to the movies for the first time outside of the United States.  We saw Harry Potter 2.  Despite what you may think, the movie was in English with Spanish subtitles.  The theater was rather small, but the entrance was only 100 pesos ($5 in the US).  Similar to the States, the concession stand prices were through the roof, but again, when compared to the United States it seemed to be the contrary.  A large popcorn and two drinks (no refills!) for 150 pesos (about $7.50 in the US).

I have been dating my boyfriend for 10 months.  When he studied in the United States he would refer to popcorn as ‘pop.’  I always considered it to be someone cute that he made up, but at the theater in Uruguay popcorn is sold as ‘pop.’  Coincidence?  Not really.  Even in the streets of Montevideo, vendors sell begs of  ‘pop’ for 10 pesos (about 50 cents in the US).

Don’t get your hopes up for that high calorie overload of butter and salt we enjoy in the States.  In Uruguay, movie theater popcorn is what we call ‘kettle corn’ – slightly sweet, slightly salty ‘pop.’  It was quite nice for a change.  I found myself not overindulging in the concession aspect of going to the movies, and I enjoyed the movie experience much more!

Advice for the US?  Carmike!!!

Posted by: talljoe | August 17, 2011

Dulce de Leche: +1 for My Sweet Tooth

Yesterday I ate a Vanilla and Dulce de Leche swirl soft serve ice cream in an Oreo cookie cone at McDonald’s in Montevideo.  For 30 pesos (approx $1.60) I enjoyed several minutes of pure bliss.  Dulce de Leche is a caramel-like spread made from sweetened condensed milk.  In Spanish, Dulce de Leche means ‘sweet of milk.’  In Uruguay and Argentina, Dulce de Leche is eaten like we eat Peanut Butter, Jam or Nutella in the States – on bread, crackers, cookies, ice cream, pastries, anything imaginable.  It is very sweet and somewhat salty.  The taste is similar to caramel but better!

There are many different brands of Dulce de Leche (you can even buy it homemade), but the Uruguayan brand Conaprole makes it best.  It seems as though EVERYONE in Uruguay eats Dulce de Leche!  My boyfriend’s mother says that yerba mate, empanadas, asado, futbol and dulce de leche are some of the things that make a Uruguayo a true Uruguayo.  If you’re curious and want to give your taste buds a run for their money, go to your nearest Argentinean (or Uruguayan if you can find one) bakery and ask for anything made with Dulce de Leche!

Posted by: talljoe | August 15, 2011

25 Random Things I’ve Noticed About Uruguay

Uruguayan coast (that's the sea out there)

  1. Most things that we usually buy in bottles are sold in plastic bags (milk, ketchup, mustard, mayo, yogurt.. etc;)
  2. Eggs are not refrigerated in stores… they’re just sold in cartons on the shelves with the rest of the dry foods
  3. It is not unusual to see one or two armed policemen outside of a bank when money is in transport (by armed I mean shotgun in hand)
  4. It is not unusual for vendors to sell things on buses during transit, or for people to come onto buses and sing for money
  5. You can eat and drink on the bus without getting in trouble
  6. McDonald’s restaurants are fancy here
  7. Poor people ride horse and buggy into the city to collect trash

Horse and Buggy with trash

  1. There is dog, horse and bird poop everywhere!
  2. Dinner is served late – between 9-11 pm
  3. It is not unusual to stay out until sunrise on weekends
  4. There’s a lot of graffiti in the streets… on memorials…and statues
  5. Unless Uruguayans have been to the U.S.  they don’t see anything wrong with the name of this store

This was kind of funny

  1. Restaurants don’t have ‘free refills.’  When you order a coke it comes in a coca-cola bottle with an empty glass.  If you want more you pay for another bottle, or buy a larger bottle in the first place
  2. Bathrooms have bidets to wash your bottom after you go to the bathroom

The bidet in SUR Hotel, Montevideo, Uruguay

  1. Usually only the toilet bowl is on the ground.  The back part of the toilet is hanging on the wall above the toilet
  2. The toilet’s I’ve seen so far do not have much water in them.  When you flush the toilet, the water the bowl flushes with the water that should have been there
  3. A lot of the cars are from the 70s-90s.  In Uruguay you cannot ‘lease’ a car so most families cannot afford to buy new ones
  4. There are dogs in the streets of Uruguay like there are birds in the streets in Pennsylvania.  They’re not mean… it’s almost like walking by pigeons in a U.S. city.  In Uruguay there are no dog pounds because animal rights groups won’t allow the government to establish them
  5. Uruguayans go to bars to socialize rather than getting drunk by taking shots to have a good time
  6. In Uruguay you greet and say goodbye by kissing each others’ cheek (not literally)
  7. From what I’ve seen, most Uruguayan homes/ businesses do not have central air conditioning, but rather room air conditioners throughout the establishment (same with heating)
  8. In Uruguay there is a strong sense of national pride rather than pride in ones’ ethnicity.  In the U.S.  we identify by our ancestral roots (Irish, Italian, German, French, English…etcl;), but despite their roots, Uruguayans identify as Uruguayans.  Ex:  I brought my boyfriend’s mother Irish Breakfast tea.  When my boyfriend told her I am Irish she replied, “But I thought he was American?”
  9. Devoto is a chain of stores… similar to Walmart…but with class

Cami, Mati and I at Devoto in Portones, Montevideo, Uruguay

  1. Uruguayan taxi drivers are crazy!  They drive fast.  Sometimes through stop signs, red lights, and on the center of the road rather than in the lane
  2. Uruguayan’s celebrate a lot of holidays!  Today was La Dia del Nino!  (Kid’s Day)  All of the stores had sales on toys and parents give children gifts
  3. (BONUS!)  La Faina is a Uruguayan dish made with chickpeas… it is a sponge-like bread served with cheese.  Uruguayans eat it with pizza and call it Pizza a caballo.  It is SO tasty! 🙂

Eating pizza a caballo at La Pasiva

Posted by: talljoe | July 28, 2011

11 Days – 11 Interesting Facts About Uruguay

Once Hechos de Uruguay
(11 Facts About Uruguay)

  1. In Uruguay there are 3 cows for every one person
  2. The Capital city of Uruguay is Montevideo
  3. Uruguay has a population of about 3.5 million (that’s barely 25% of the population of Pennsylvania!)
  4. 95% of the Uruguayan population are of European decent
  5. The United Nations ranks Uruguay as the 45th country with a rich quality of life
  6. Uruguay is a small-scale transit country for drugs
  7. Uruguayan Independence day is August 25th
  8. Uruguay is the first South American country to legalize same-sex civil unions at the National level
  9. In 2009, Uruguay became the first nation in the world to provide every school child with a free laptop and wireless internet
  10. Uruguay is the 2nd least corrupt country in Latin America (Chile is the first)
  11. Although 46% of its population practices Catholicism, Uruguay is the most non-religious country in the Americas

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