Day trip to Atlantida: Blueberry picking and El Aguila

I have a love-hate relationship with having family or friends coming to visit. I love having familiar faces around, someone other than Carlos and my parents to talk to, and getting a bunch of goodies from the States. I hate having to come up with ways to keep them entertained.

I went through something similar when my aunt came to visit in September. Even though it was the beginning of Spring when she came, the weather was less than welcoming and we found ourselves spending a lot of time at home rather than enjoying all Uruguay has to offer.

This month my mother-in-law and her boyfriend came to spend a few weeks with us and it’s been rather challenging coming up with things to do. I’m still on the prednisone which, somedays, renders me useless. And other days, Paloma just doesn’t want to be bothered with long car rides. But Saturday I was adamant that we were going to get out of the house and do something.

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Road to Atlantida. I just love the view.

Did you know that Uruguay is one of the worlds largest blueberry producers? Well, now you know. Anyway, I’m part of an expat page on Facebook that advertises things to do around the country. The past few years we’ve seen advertisements for blueberry picking in both Atlantida and Piriapolis. Carlos and I have always wanted to go but never found a chance considering our first year here I was 9 months pregnant and last year Paloma was still too small to enjoy it.

 

So we headed out at around 9:30am and got to Atlantida at around 10:20am. It wasn’t a bad car ride but I did get lost a few times. By the time we found the place PJ was ready to get out of the car and run around. The farm is really lovely. Not only do they grow blueberries, but they also grow and sell their own organic produce separate from the picking.

I’m so glad I brought PJs rain boots because it would have been brutal to clean her up afterwards. She had a field day! She threw herself in the dirt, played with the fallen berries, picked berries off branches, tried to get through each tree into another aisle, and overall just had a blast running up and down the aisle from me to her dad.

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We were only there for about half an hour but ended up picking about 3 kilos of blueberries! And let me just tell you they are DELICIOUS! We froze about 2/3 of our pickings to be able to have some year round. But what we didn’t is almost gone.

After we got PJ cleaned up we headed to El Aguila on the beach. It’s a local landmark that was built in the mid 1940s. I don’t think it ever served an actual purpose but it’s a pretty cool building to see if you’re in the area. It’s built off a cliff so you get pretty awesome ‘sea’ views. I wish the cliff were roped off for child safety reasons but it is what it is. I was not thrilled to be chasing my two year old away from the edge, that’s for sure.

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El Aguila

We then headed to my FAVORITE bakery in all of Uruguay–La Baipa. When we lived in Atlantida before PJ was born, I used to come there at least twice a week. Their lemon merengue pie is worth every penny and empty calorie. Most people I know head to La Baipa on their way east to Punta del Este or even to Rocha. It’s a definite must go to place in Uruguay. Their selection is different than most bakeries where your options are the same four bizcochos. They have tiny bite size tiramisus, apple tarts, and lovely cream puffs. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

Our stay in Atlantida was less than four hours but we had a lovely day. For those of you in Uruguay that would like more information on blueberry picking please don’t hesitate to ask!

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Giving Thanks

As the year is starting to close, we’re finding ourselves being bombarded with Christmas advertisements and nostalgia-inducing holiday movies. I feel as if most Americans this year have forgotten about Thanksgiving and are skipping straight ahead to Christmas.

I hate it. I absolutely LOVE Thanksgiving! It’s always been my favorite holiday. I love the message of appreciation and thankfulness. I enjoy spending time with my family. And before I found myself to be a stay-at-home-mom I loved the four day weekend.

This year we’re blessed to be spending Thanksgiving not only with my parents, but also with Carlos’ mom and stepdad. They came to visit from Miami and it’s been great having them around. PJ has really taken to them–minus the angry peeing but that’s a story for another day–and I’ve been grateful for all the extra love.

It’s inevitable to make to the last week of November and not find yourself thinking of what you truly appreciate and value in your life. And this year is no different. So here comes my list of things I’m thankful for this year.

Things I’m Thankful for in 2015

  1. My family. As cliche as it sounds, my family has been and always will be my rock.
  2. My health. After the MS scare last month I’m definitely thankful for my health and am making it a point to really care for myself.
  3. My salvation. If it weren’t for my relationship with Jesus I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be as aware of who I am or the consequences of my actions.
  4. Living in Uruguay. I love that Uruguay isn’t as materialistic or as work-centered as other countries are. It’s a country that focuses more on family and over all just being ‘chill.’
  5. Rekindled friendships. No explanation needed.

I hope that everyone had a Thanksgiving full of love, laughter, and family. Take the time to reflect the things that really matter and know that just because we collectively celebrate our thanks today, we should take the time out of each day to appreciate even the tiniest blessings every day.

 

El Prado Expo

I haven’t updated in what seems like forever. First, I didn’t know what to write about. Then, I didn’t know how to formulate my thoughts into words. And lastly, my computer died last week. Thankfully my mom is letting me borrow hers until I get it back from the repair shop.

My aunt is currently visiting us from Miami so I’ve been quite the busy tour guide!

This post is dedicated to our day at Expo Prado last Thursday. I’ve been wanting to go since we got to Uruguay two years ago but something always came up during those days. The expo is a agroindustrial fair where the country’s best animal farmers bring their prize animals for auction. It’s also where merchants come to show off their latest farm inspired goods ranging from machinery to fashion.

Walking into the fair grounds I quickly got nostalgic for the yearly fair that takes place in Miami. The smell of churros quickly hit my nose, balloon vendors were bombarding us and I just knew it was going to be a good day.

Hereford bull being brought out of the pen to spread his legs.
Hereford bull being brought out of the pen to spread his legs.
Hey Mr. Cow! Be nice!
Hey Mrs. Cow! Be nice

I’ve seen my fair share of cows before but never like this! Prior to moving to Uruguay I literally thought cows came in the black and white variety and that was that. Very small minded of me but hey, I’m a city girl. Carlos was showing off by telling me all about the different breeds, where they originate from, and how they came to Uruguay. I swear sometimes it feels like I don’t even know who my husband is!

We were separated from my mom and aunt for a bit so we decided to check out the goat pen. We used to have goats on the farm but after four died from their mischievous antics, we decided that while we love goats we weren’t suited to own them. Turns out that we have our own little goat seeing how PJ decided to climb into the goat pens.

After walking around aimlessly for a bit we came across an beer stand. For those of you that don’t know, Carlos is an avid beer drinker. As for me, as long as it has alcohol in it I’m almost always in. The beer selection was the usual Uruguayan Patricia selection along with some imported beer like Budweiser and Corona. We decided to try some Argentinian beer called Patagonia. It was delicious and I’ll definitely be looking for it at the exotic beer shops in Montevideo.

Patagonia.
Patagonia.
La Oriental Beer Company
La Oriental Beer Company

We found a little playground area in the back of the park and let PJ run around and release some steam before we decided to keep walking around the animal pens. It was nice to take a break and let her enjoy herself. After awhile we kept exploring and found a little alleyway of sorts that led us to a tiny amusement ride area. PJ originally wanted to ride the teacups but she is still too small so we coerced her to give the carousel a try. As you can see in her photo she’s just a little ball of sass.

Hi Mom!
Hi Mom!

Past the rides, there’s an area of artisanal shops selling things like leather boots, purses and even cheesy tourist keychains. My aunt ended up buying herself a mate cup along with some souvenirs for everyone in Miami.  From that point there were more alleyways leading to different parts of the park but PJ was getting cranky so we left.

Overall, we had a very nice day together and I definitely plan on making this a yearly tradition.

If you ever find yourself in Montevideo in the month of September I would definitely take the time to come to the expo. It’s a nice for a family outing with good food, animals and rides for the kids.

Would you like a kiss?
Would you like a kiss?
My own little mountain goat.
My own little mountain goat.

Feliz Día del Niño!

Oh Uruguay…How you’ve managed to bring more holidays into my life is ridiculous. But here we are celebrating our second día del niño!

You’re probably wondering what the día del niño is, so let me explain. According to Wikipedia–my source for all things unknown–it’s a yearly holiday celebrated across the world to unify and celebrate childhood, bring light to the wellbeing of children, and promote child rights. It’s celebrated across the world in countries like Nicaragua, Albania, Argentina, and Paraguay just to name a few.

In Uruguay, the día del niño is celebrated on the second Sunday of August. For kids, it’s bigger than Christmas. There are events and festivals dedicated to it.

I don’t think it’s a holiday we’ll adopt until PJ is in school and she mentions it. I will say that I take advantage of the sales and buy her birthday/Christmas presents now. Much better discount now than at Christmas.

Most towns, churches, malls, and schools have celebrations in honor of the day. Something to get the kids out of the house. But our town canceled it’s event due to a weather-related power outage. I was looking forward to the bounce house and the firefighter show/thing they were going to do. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to take her.

Somewhere in the middle: My cultural identity

A couple of weeks ago Carlos and I were invited to a dinner party thrown by the gallery owner Carlos is set to show at in October. A small get together to meet up and coming artists in Montevideo along with local art buyers. I’ve been to a few things like this back in Miami, always the same pretentious art talk being thrown around, where I normally spend half the night trying not to throw up from all the bullshit. 

But this time, there was something different. Very early on the group divided between the art buyers and the art makers, those of us falling into neither category floating in the middle. Right at the beginning we met Juan, a Cuban artist that married a Uruguayan and has been living in Montevideo for a little over a year, and Nathalia, a psychology student from the department of Artigas living in Montevideo for over 11 years. In true man fashion Carlos and Juan pulled out their phones and started showing each other pictures of their work, leaving Nathalia and I to “ooh” and “aah” at every picture. Shortly there after we noticed that Juan did not have a typical Uruguayan accent leaving us to ask, “Where are you from?” Cuba. I quickly got excited telling him that my parents are Cuban including the towns they hail from but not before he asked, “Were you born in Cuba?” “Well no,” I responded. “I was born in Miami.” Juan, very politely, responded with, “Bueno entonces no eres cubana, tus padres si, pero tu eres estadounidiense.” (translating to: So then you’re not Cuban, you’re from the United States.)

My husband looked at me, waiting to see how I would respond, knowing that hearing that stung. I wish I could say that was the first time I had heard it. He’s not wrong in saying that I am in fact not Cuban but American. but as with everyone else who has told me that it was as if I was hearing, “You aren’t worthy of identifying yourself as Cuban. You are not one of us.” 

Growing up in Miami you would expect the melting pot of Hispanic ethnicities to create a warm and welcoming environment. The idea that they’ve all immigrated to the United States in search for a better life would bring them together. But it never really worked out like that. I grew up in an environment that divided Cubans from everyone else. Miami Cubans—and yes I am generalizing here—overall had this air about them that because Miami is known to be a Little Havana, that Cubans are THE best and all others are second class citizens. 

But I remember growing up and while I identified as a Cuban-American I never really fit in with the Cubans in school. I hadn’t immigrated to the States and while I may have spoken Spanish at home it wasn’t as if I was fluent. You would think that I would have found a place with other Cuban-Americans or Hispanic-Americans going through the same plight but I just didn’t. I didn’t listen to salsa or reggaeton, I didn’t watch Sabado Gigante or telenovelas on weeknights, and I didn’t go to loud family get togethers on Sunday afternoons. 

Then there were the American kids telling me that I was too brown to be their friend. That I wasn’t American enough to be American. “You came to this country for the ‘American dream’ well you’re not welcome here go back to your people.”

I spent most of my youth listening to bands like N’SYNC or the Backstreet Boys. I watched T.G.I.F. religiously and read Judy Blume books. Even when I did manage to build my tribe from 6th to 12th grade I didn’t have the same Hispanic experiences as them. Their parents made their culture known but apart from delicious Cuban food and my parents speaking in Spanish to each other, it wasn’t something that was common for me. My friends spent their summers in Cuba or Nicaragua, they only spoke to their families in Spanish, and they strongly identified as whatever their nationality is.

But me? I didn’t know what to identify as. I come from a blue-collar family. My dad worked three and four jobs at a time while my mom worked a steady 9-5 with good benefits but lacking in decent pay. We wore used clothing, had used toys, and my sister and I were constantly reminded that we needed to be better than our parents. I don’t feel like this struggle is a Cuban struggle or an American struggle because this is a human struggle; making ends meet, putting food on the table and providing for loved ones. At home we listened to oldies and classic rock. We watched English programs and my mom was active in my school work. If you asked me who Justin Timberlake was dating I could tell you Britney Spears in two seconds flat but ask me about whatever popular hispanic power couple and I would be as quiet as a country mouse.

It wasn’t until I met my husband that I had found someone other than my sister that felt the way I did. He was born in Nicaragua but raised in the States. When we go to Nicaragua they don’t consider him one of them, rather he’s a “gringo.” But if you ask any American if my naturalized husband is American they make it a point to differentiate themselves from him. 

The easy way to deal with this is to say, “I identify myself as a human. I have no cultural patrimony.” But that’s far from realistic. I think for right now I am comfortable knowing that I’m currently in-between cultural identities. My parents are Cuban, each with their own eclectic cultural backstory, I was born and raised in Miami but now I live in Uruguay. There are parts of each currently embedded in who I am and how I interact with others. I hope that one day I can figure it out, that I can give an answer that can please myself and not offend others. 

I’m thankful that I can have so many cultural influences, and that while my daughter may come across the same issues, that she will be proud of where she comes from. 

Until next time…

The past few weeks have been busy with flight preparations and tying up loose ends. Closing bank accounts, cell phone transfers and avoiding our feelings at all costs. It wasn’t until our last day together that it even hit me she wouldn’t be there the next. For the first time in my life I don’t know when I’ll see my sister again. Continue reading Until next time…

The five things I didn’t think I’d miss…

1. Gallon milk

At this point I just miss milk that comes in a jug. And that’s that I don’t even drink milk. But having a 17 month old and a husband who is obsessed with milk in his coffee have made me miss it so much. In Uruguay, as I’m sure it is in other parts of the world, milk comes in a bag. Sure, they have pitchers for you to place the bags of milk in but seriously it’s just such a pain in the butt. You gotta worry about accidental spills and if something icky touches the bag while it’s waiting to be opened. It might just be me but seriously I hate it.

2. The Home Depot

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re currently remodeling our house in Uruguay. Our contractor does all the work but asks us to go buy the materials. No problem, right? Wrong. The way construction supply stores, also known as “barracas,” work in Uruguay is that you take a number to be attended. When your number is called you go up to the person attending and tell them what you need. Here is my problem. You are not allowed to view the product you are ordering. If you don’t know the different brands they have they’ll just give you whatever you want. You might get the most expensive thing or the cheapest thing depending on who the sale person is. Obviously I’m not a contractor or a construction worker. I don’t know what I’m asking for but if I have a list and it is in Spanish and you salesperson are working in a construction supply store SHOULD know what it is that I’m asking for. Don’t give me a blank stare when I say, “Hello, this is an itemized list of what I need. Thank you.” I miss being able to just walk along those aisles, staring blankly at a bunch of stuff I don’t understand wishing that someone would help me but in the end being on my own. Because honestly if all you do is stare blankly at me and are unsure on how to answer my questions then I’d rather shop on my own than deal with your sub-par customer service. My failure in picking the right thing pisses me off a lot less than having to deal with your crappy service and haphazard disinterest in dealing with an “extranjero.”

3. Shopping

I miss shopping without depending on someone for help. I’m not talking about the normal greeters when you go into a store. I’m talking about everything you want to look at is kept behind a counter and you need to interact with people to see what you came for. What if I don’t exactly know what I want to look at? What if I just want to window shop? Are you going to take the time to show me every item behind the counter? I don’t think so. (For more complaints about shopping and dealing with crappy customer service I refer to read #2 again.)

4. Mail

This is probably the most ridiculous thing on the list but seriously I miss going to the mail box and seeing a huge stack of junk mail waiting for me. I miss Saturday mornings at home drinking coffee and perusing through the weeks advertisements and magazines. It could be that we haven’t lived here long enough to really receive mail but from looking at my neighbors I’m guessing that mail in Uruguay is strictly reserved to packages and bills. Magazines are something you just buy at the newsstand and even then Uruguayan magazines aren’t the same as American ones (obviously when your population is coming in at nearly 4 million you don’t have the capital as one would when trying to reach let’s say ~100 million).

5. Driving automatic

When I first learned how to drive a stick shift I was SO EXCITED! It was one of the things on my bucket list and it took me about five months to accomplish it (I took driving lessons once every two weeks so it took me awhile). However, after about a year of driving I can honestly say nothing annoys me more than driving stick shift. I hate how sore my legs get after driving in the city. I hate constantly using both feet to stop and go, stop and go, stop and go. What I would give to just be able to put the car in drive and not have to worry about anything else except not hitting anyone or anything.