From January 2006 I am spending 9 months working on a voluntary art project for the Artcorps in Guatemala. I am working for Fundación Riecken, an NGO who are constructing libraries in Honduras and Guatemala. I will be artist-in-residence at libraries in Chiché and Zacualpa, in the Quiché region of Guatemala. I also plan to do a little travelling along the way...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Living in luxury in Uruguay

Note HRH Lizzie gazing from an excellent viewpoint on the stairs
The union jack is not flying because, of course, the Ambassador is not at home
Afternoon requisite

La Residencia Britanica

I have been in Uruguay for a month now and it is having several notable effects:

1. I have become a dulce de leche addict. How did I ever live without it before?

2. I have reformed and become a mate-drinker. Yerba de mate is a green herb that grows in Uruguay, Northern Argentina and Southern Brazil and nowhere is the tradition more fervently upheld than in Uruguay. As my Argentine friends commented, “In Argentina we drink mate, but we wait until we arrive at our destination to sit down and drink it”. In Uruguay absolutely everywhere, in every situation, people can be seen carrying thermos flasks under one arm, mate in hand, sipping, refilling, sipping, refilling, all day long. So, now I own a mate (recipient carved out of a gourd), a bombilla (metal straw) and a thermos flask recently purchased in a duty free shop on the Brazilian border. Never in my life have I seen people so excited about the qualities of my thermos flask! So I can now pose as an Uruguayan (pronounced Uruguashan with plenty of emphasis on the “sh”) with my new-found national preferences.

3. I have become a proper carnivore. Parilladas, barbeques Uruguayan style, are truly excellent here. It makes our BBQ tradition look pathetic in comparison. Argentina has all the fame for the quality of its meat, but Uruguayans are perhaps even more obsessed. The mountains of sizzling steaks served at any given moment are hard to believe.

4. I am a rare breed. It’s great to answer “Scotland” when people ask where I’m from and watch the look of astonishment which follows. You would think that I’m the first Scot they’ve ever met and it’s probably true. They are always intrigued as to how I ended up here whilst simultaneously expressing surprise that more people don’t know their country. I have at least met one other Scot here: the British ambassador, who hails from Lothian. After spending a month in some fairly basic accommodation, I have arrived to Montevideo in style: I am now safely installed in the palacial-like British residence where my private quarters are several times larger than the average 3 bed house! Thanks to Emily, my new friend, who just so happens to be wife to the ambassador. So here I can feel like a true ex-pat, admire the many portraits of the royal family, swirl down the grand staircase like Scarlett to take afternoon tea in fine bone china with silver spoons. I am getting used to be waited on by several maids and a butler. Long may it last!

Apart from that, I can vouch that the beaches in Uruguay are paradasaical. I should know, having just spent a solid month lying on them. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tanned! Uruguay also has an extravagant carnival tradition full of dance, music and costumes and it is still going on, which is a treat. Now I’m off to a marimba concert at the Guatemalan embassy, being an old-timer when it comes to marimba and all that Guatemalan jazz! Hasta luego,


At 3:05 pm, Blogger UD said...

Great post. Now you are true Uruguaya!

At 6:16 am, Blogger Martin said...

Un-feckin'-believable! That staircase, I mean. So, have you been forcing down silver salvers of Ferrero Rocher? Or talking top secrets with the MI6 spooks? It sounds - and looks - fantastic. Hope to see a pic of you all Scarlett-ed up for a ball!



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