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July 16th 2009
Published: July 16th 2009
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It’s that time of year again… when my visa runs out and I have to leave the country. This time it was kind of special, as it’s almost a year since I set foot in Argentina. On the 15th of this month, to be exact. This is actually quite an achievement for me. I realised earlier today, that the last time I spent one whole year in a country was, well, years ago… I think I worked out that it was 2003… says a lot.

So yeh, my visa was about to run out, and the easy option is a short hop across the river to Uruguay. Annoyingly for me, my visa had to run out the week before our winter holidays start. Otherwise I could have killed two birds with one stone, and spent some time exploring Uruguay… another time I guess! As I only really had the weekend (ok, that’s a lie, I could have taken four days, as July 9th is some kind of Independence day here, and my Friday classes have been cancelled due to pork flu… but hangovers and other such stuff prevented me). Instead on Saturday morning… way to early I found myself on the train, which was surprisingly busy, heading towards Tigre.

Tigre is one of the ports that offers crossings to Uruguay. Conveniently for me it’s only 20 mins by train. So getting there was no problem. A few awkward questions at immigration, not helped by me being a walking zombie, and then I was on the catamaran. I had ahead of me just over 2 hours of meandering through the Paraná Delta… did I see any of it? I was much more concerned with catching up on my sleep, In spite of the concerted efforts of a young family of five sitting around me…

My destination was Carmelo. Granted, of the 3 main options for a short trip to Uruguay (the others being Colonia and Montevideo) it’s the quietest (read most boring) but it’s also the closest and the cheapest. I had been warned that there was nothing to do there, and that suited me fine. I didn’t want to do anything.
By 11am I was in Colonia, making my way up the main street. My first impression was how it was not at all what I expected. I don’t really know what I expected, but from what I had heard about Colonia and Montevideo, with their picturesque old towns… well I just presumed that Carmelo would be like that, but smaller. Instead it was very small and to all appearances fairly impoverished. Well, that’s probably an overstatement, and I know there are parts of BsAs much more impoverished (and I’m not talking about villas here), but, well, I wasn’t expecting it.

Finding a hotel was easy enough, I found one on the main street that offered private bathroom, cable tv and breakfast for about 80pesos. Normally, when I’m travelling I balk at paying over 40 pesos, but I had decided this weekend was for me to relax, and I was getting a whole room to myself as opposed to a bunk in a hostel.

After dumping my stuff I went out to explore. Including lunch of a chivito (a Uruguayan speciality, which I totally recommend, merely because it seems to be based on the philosophy of putting as much stuff as possible between two slices of bread…) I managed to spend, ooh, about 2 and a half hours “exploring”. I shouldn’t be so disparaging. It was actually a nice place to walk around, if very quiet, as what shops there were all closed for lunch. But the river was pretty, prettier than the Argie side. And I got to take lots of photos of the giratory bridge (el puente giratorio), I don’t know the English word, but it’s a bridge that swings out of the way when a boat comes in.. It was the first ever in Uruguay, so it’s a big deal! So apart from that, and photos of some pretty, European looking plazas… well that was it. I did try to find the casino and the small nature reserve, but didn’t ever find them after two attempts… so decided to cut my losses and head back to the hotel to make full use of the cable tv.
I did, before falling asleep… it wasn’t only the fact of having to get up ridiculously early, Saturday was one of those bracing winter days, where the sun is shining but it’s bloody freezing, and I maintain that doing all that walking just made me extra tired! I woke up early evening, in time to explore a bit more, and take photos with the sun going down. I then had a few hours to kill before dinner, so was able to get some work done that I had brought with me (Oh the joy of being a teacher!)

Dinner was fairly bog standard, in one of the 2 restaurants on the main plaza. I decided to have fish, as it’s not something I get very often in BsAs… and that was it… Carmelo wasn’t the most happening of places, and I wasn’t all that fussed about finding somewhere to get a nightcap as I was still trying to let my liver recover from Wednesday nights Mexican feast extravaganza. Instead I went back to my hotel, dyed my hair (such a rock and roll life I know) and watched the Formula 1 show on Fox Sports.

Sunday morning I woke up early, but only to take advantage of the free breakfast. I also arranged a later check out… so I could watch the Grand Prix! And yay Webber, I was so happy that he won, definitely deserved.
And that was it, back to the port and onto the boat. This time I not only bagged myself a window seat, but I managed to stay awake to appreciate the scenery, and the delta is pretty. It was also a much nicer day, a lot warmer than the previous day. Y bueno, I’m all visa’d up and ready to go.

So what else is new? Well, as I mentioned above, pork flu has hit us pretty bad. Actually really bad. The last death count I heard was on Friday and it was 80ish, but that’s only the official number. It’s all been a bit of a mess. Argentina is the 3rd most affected country in terms of number of deaths, I think. Basically the general consensus is that the government messed up. Two weeks ago there were elections to elect the new congress, and the leading party got hit pretty bad, but before the elections, no-one wanted to call a state of emergency, and kept on delaying it and delaying it. Then lo and behold, elections are out of the way, and suddenly all schools are closed, theatres, shopping malls etc. However, each province is pretty much doing what it wants, there is no general rule. My institute is still open, and some classes are full, others empty. It all depends, but all my other classes have been cancelled. So I’m kind of working part time, which is nice, but it won’t be so nice in August when I get a reduced pay packet (my business classes which have been cancelled only get paid if there are classes).

My housemate has moved out of the house, but it’s no big loss, as we didn’t get on at all. In fact the Mexican extravaganza on Wednesday night was pretty much a gone-away party. In that we were celebrating her leaving. We still have to work together, but I don’t really have anything to do with her, and she’s leaving in December… So I’m alone in the house at the moment, although someone else is moving in at the end of July. I’ve met her, and we seem to get on ok, so we shall see.

Apart from that, the main news is that I’m now officially suffering from S.O.D otherwise known as Season’s Over Disorder. Last weekend was the last fixture in the Argie calendar. Today was the their equivalent of the playoffs… and now there is no football on the horizon until mid-August when the Premiership starts up again… It’s going to be hard. Really hard. I’m not actually sure I’ll be able to get through it.

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