Saturday, November 03, 2007

Uruguay Wa-hey

Well, we´ve finally left the backpackers hostel in Barra Lagoa. God - we went there for three days, and ended up staying 12! Testament to the wonderful people who worked there, I think, and also it´s fabulous location!

Things I´ll miss about Brazil? Christopher´s outrageously enthusiastic lust for life (tempered slightly by the moderate annoyance caused by his constant happiness); Senór Chocolate! The man who came around every night at 9.15 with the most fabulous hand-made (by his wife) chocolates you have ever tasted - chocolate, coconut, strawberry (with real chunks of strawberry), coffee - gorgeous! I ate four on my last night!; Having a double room with Alan! Definitely high on the list! You don´t realise how much you value your privacy until you are forced to undress night-in-night-out with five lads breathing down your neck; Waking up to the sound of the waves across the beach; Keef, the crazy dutch man who could play harmonica like no other; The great common area, where there was unlimited beer and craic to be had.

Things I won´t miss about Brazil? The enforced ´fun´of the hostel - you know, when people put Hawaii flower things around your head, and TELL you to laugh...not my idea of a good night! I´d rather have fun organically - you know, when the fun just HAPPENS by itself - than to have it forced upon me; Being there long enough to see three turnovers of people - do Ozzies have to be the loudest people in ever room? The girls especially - God, just relax! You don´t always have to have EVERYONE looking at you!; Not being able to just have a quiet night in, because somebody´s always berating you for not going out; The locals in Barra Lagoa - never have I seen a tourist spot so loathing of tourists! Seriously!; The crime element of Brazil - getting checked with a metal detector before entering a pub? Crazy!!; The high prices of things - be happy to return to a world where I can eat out occasionally!; The language - I´ve enough to deal with learning Spanish without throwing Portoguese on top of me, thank you very much.

Anyway, had to take two buses to Montevideo, and the border crossing happened in the middle of the night, but our lovely bus driver had collected all our passports and relevent forms and processed everything while we slept. What a service!! Montevideo is gorgeous! Yes, it helps that we left Brazil in tropical storms and torrential rain, and it is now in the mid-30´s with beautiful blue skies, but it is still a gorgeous city! Again, like Buenos Aires, very European - the lost Colonial riches still haunting the facades of buildings, giving a gravity to the vista belied slightly by the McDonalds shoved into the bottom floors!

The drive here passed a few Brazilian towns away from the coast, where lean-to´s and garbage dumps served as people´s homes. What a country! So wealthy and expensive, and yet such a multitude of people falling below - and WELL below - the poverty line. It´s a sad parallel to see, especially when you are a traveller getting through the land on comparative riches - watching barefooted children running through red-mud ´streets´in between shacks of varying states, and as night drew in, seeing that there was no electricity in a lot of ´houses´ - though the odd satellite dish could be seen attached to the delapitated side of a galvenised house. Much like the down-and-outs in Dublin who can afford Lacoste tracksuits and Sky television, but can´t feed their children, you can see that the same luxury-hunting infects this country too - and, again, it´s the innocents who suffer (children, as always).

Montevideo has it´s share of poverty, and you are beseiged by beggars asking for money, spotting, of course, your tourist status. I don´t know how to react in most circumstances. Saying no to a woman old enough to be my grandmother, or to a man bent-over with alcohol, or to a mother and child is so hard. The children running alone are tough too - ragged jumpers and bare feet. I have taken to carrying small packets of crackers or bread with me - handing those instead of money. But there is not so much here in Montevideo as you would imagine - despite the fall in economy, they are still a proud people, who hang on to their luxuries guardedly. I think I will find poorer countries - like Peru and Bolivia - so much harder. Matthew, a young chap from Derry (only 18 and travelling alone!!) we met in Barra Lagoa, is tagging along with us now. His sister is living in Buenos Aires at the moment, but before that she was working in Bolivia with street children. He says she found it extremely hard - caring for children that show up beaten the next day or, worse still, found days later with their throat´s slit for the want of 10euro that they owe the various parasites who prey on the poverty and neglect of the countries children. It is something I have always wanted to do, a thought that was cemented more with my trip to Peru last year, and is steadily getting stronger as I see the children of South America proper. I just wonder if I would be able for the emotionalism of it all!

On a more personal note, my cousin Patrick is very ill in hospital at the moment. I feel very far away and homesick thinking of him suffering at home while I am still so far away. Patrick has been a fixture in my life since as long as I can remember. He has never missed my birthday, or a Christmas - indeed, for myself and my brother and sisters, he has given us constant attention and love. And, it has been beautiful to see my brother and sisters children drawn to him as much as we were as children, recognising his boundless capacity for patience and interest in the most minute of children´s worlds. I wish that I could be there with him, and with the rest of our family, at this time, and I can only send my constant prayers and thoughts to him in hospital, and hope that he pulls through this awful time. All my love, Patrick, and I hope with all my heart that you will be at home waiting to see all my photos when I get back in June.

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