Blog Posts by Day Robins, Spring 2016

Dinner at 10:30 PM: my favorite part of the day
April 2016

My favorite part of the day is dinner with my intellectual host-parents, and Ana's incredible food is only half of the reason.

The other half of the reason? Dinnertime conversations. More often than not these conversations leave me seriously questioning policies or entire schools of thought that I previously took to be universal truths...

Some nights, of course, we're too tired to talk. But even then the dinners are just as enjoyable: incredible, warm food, the feeling of belonging and coziness. (On cold days, which is everyday, warm soup with rice is especially satisfying.)

For all these reasons and more, I cherish every dinner, to the point where I plan my day around my parents' schedule so that I can eat with them.

Rather than miss home, I spend most of my time counting all of the things I like I about my new home--my hip apartment, the food, learning how to cook, the location, the radio station my parents listen to, etc. After two short weeks here I was already anxious about leaving my new home. On March 14, I wrote:  "Dinner last night--essentially the two-week mark--was one of the highlights of my entire stay here. My parents are a lot more politically active than I thought and have put a lot of their free time and energy into a subgroup (called Magnolia) of the major socialist party here, el Frente Amplio. Our conversation started just before dinner, with me asking Gus about Uruguay’s electoral system. Eventually we were eating dinner on the far left side of the table (fittingly) so that I could keep my computer and notes sprawled out on the right side."

While there is something cozy about eating late at night and then going straight to bed, the main downside of dinner is that it usually doesn't start until after 9:30pm, sometimes hours later. I miss my American schedule and eating a full dinner at 6:30pm. On March 22, in my journal I noted an extreme case (I can't remember why we ended so late):  "At the end of the day I finished washing the dishes at 1:28 am. This is not a joke."

El Mate:  impossible sustituir
April 30, 2016

Last week at the farmer’s market my host dad mentioned something that helped me understand the value of mate in Uruguayan culture. He said, “si hubiera plata en mi casa o no, todo el tiempo había mate. Es como imposible sustituir.”

Translation:  “Whether there was money in the house or not, there was always mate. It’s like imposible to substitute.”

During my first week here I asked my host father what he had for breakfast. His response? “Mate.”  I’m also pretty sure his profile picture has been his mate for quite some time.

The thing I like most about mate is that it’s made for sharing. Sharing mate among family and friends is a tradition in many countries throughout Latin America. Interestingly, my host dad told me that mate in Uruguay is known for being bitter relative to mate in Argentina, and that Uruguayans reject sweet mate/think of it as kind of insulting.

Given that my host dad only drinks mate for breakfast, that I have eggs for breakfast grosses him out. “Es medio asqueroso” he told me on the first morning I made eggs (a couple weeks ago), which translates to “it’s pretty disgusting”.

One morning my host dad looked at my breakfast, eggs and oatmeal pancakes, and said something like “if I were to eat all of that for breakfast I would vomit afterward.” Uruguayan’s all seem to think that Americans eat tons of eggs and bacon for breakfast. For better or for worse I think I’m reinforcing that stereotype. (Something sad I discovered about eggs in the US the first time I made eggs here: the shell is much stronger here relative to eggs back home. Like you really have to slam it against the side of the pan to crack it–to the point where my host mom recommended using the side of the counter. The reason? The chickens in the US are malnourished.)

Fútbol Uruguayo
February 27, 2016

Soccer might be “the most important part of Uruguay,” to quote a Montevidean soccer coach that I sat by on the plane to Uruguay–a country known as a hub of soccer talent. As such, the politics surrounding soccer are complicated, and choosing your team is a big deal. Ever since my first day here, my loyalty lies with a small club with a noble, socialist history: Defensor Sporting.

The team, also known as “La Violeta” for it’s purple color, was originally formed by workers, “Defensores de la Huelga” (Defenders of the Strike), at a glass factory in Punta Carretas. Apparently some of the team members were communists.

To quote my host mom Ana during my first week here: “Mientras vivas en esta casa es de Defensor y el Frente Amplio.” (While you live here you’re for Defensor, and the Frente Amplio, Mujica’s Tabaré Vázquez’s political party).

My first day in Uruguay happened to be the same day as the “El Classico” game for two small Uruguayan clubs, Defensor Sporting and Danubio. Since Defensor won for the first time in months, my host parents’ friends told me that I was good luck. Ever since then my loyalty has lied with Defensor.

My host father, Gustavo, is an “hincha fanático” (superfan) for Defensor Sporting and a member of the club’s board. However, since he opposes a lot of Defensor’s policies (for example, they don’t have a women’s team), he considers himself a member of the opposition. The leader of the opposition, who happens to be close with my host parents, got me free tickets to the game.

Update 5/18/16:  I attended the “El Classico” game between Uruguay’s two most famous clubs, Peñarol and Nacional, and when I came home wanting to see another game, a tense conversation ensued about the difference between Defensor fans and fans of the two major teams. Gustavo has blamed everything that has gone wrong on the fact that “I’m a supporter of Peñarol.”