This weekend, IFSA-Butler took across the “Rio de la Plata” (River of Silver, despite the fact this river is hella brown) to the small town of Colonia in Uruguay. The way they described Colonia in the orientation – “it’s a very tiny town that is very old and there is very little to do” – had been so unenthusiastic I’d seriously considered skipping the trip. But then again, it was an expense I’d already paid for with my program fee and I’ve never been to Uruguay so why not? At the very least I could buy some touristy T-shirt with a bad “U-r-gay” joke on it. Well actually, it turns out they don’t sell those, which seems like they’re missing out on a major cash cow, but aside from that hiccup, the rest of the trip was awesome.
After crossing the river, our unruly group of 40 plus American college students descended on the quaint little town like a Mongolian horde. I’m from New England so I’ve experienced tiny touristy towns that don’t have much to offer except trinkets and “history,” with that history being limited to “this town existed a long time ago.” Within minutes of listening to a tour guide explain that Colonia used to be part of a Spanish colony (duh), was old (obviously), and that the church shaped building was, in fact, a church (Jesus fucking Christ, lady…) my friends and I wandered off to explore the city on our own. We paid $1 to climb a lighthouse and take this cheesy photo.
So as you can probably tell, Harrison and I both like sweaters and sunglasses, we are mildly high up, and that river is brown. We continued to wander about the town admiring its cobble stone streets and buildings of much antiquated style until we found this burger place with the most horrifying clown mascot I’ve ever seen. This dude makes Ronald McDonald seem like a guy you would want to babysit your kids. Hell, he even makes John Wayne Gacy seem classy and responsible in comparison. There were many ads in Colonia for this clown-hell-burger place and I hated all of them.
After checking in to our hotels, we had lunch at the program director for IFSA’s house out in the countryside. I actually failed to read the schedule for the trip so this was a very welcome surprise. What was even more welcome of a surprise was that Mario, the programmer director, lives in one of the most beautiful houses I’ve ever seen on a dank piece of property that is also a lemon orchard. Seriously, we’re talking like the set of a Uruguayan rap video. You could easily picture Rick Ross and Lil Wayne making it rain hundos while rapping in this grove of lemon trees. I’m an idiot and I didn’t take a picture of the house, but I did take a picture of the asado (bad-ass Argentine style BBQ) we ate. Here is some dudes cooking it.
And while normally I would say that taking pictures of plates of food is best left to the nerds on Instagram, this meal was insane so here’s a photo. There was steak (bloody and perfect), pork ribs, sausage, sweet potatoes, black beans, chimicurri, and pitchers of sangria. I’ve long felt that part of the appeal of certain BBQ places in Texas is the difficulty in eating there. The farther you drive, the longer you wait, and the earlier you have to go, the better people will say it tastes. Well, now my favorite BBQ is in Uruguay on a lemon orchard and you gotta know this guy Mario in order to get hooked up. Suck on that Franklin’s.
After lunch, we walked down to the beach, poked around for a bit (I bought a whiskey and water from a dude running a beach shack before the IFSA people realized you could do that and forbade everyone else from buying a drink), and then came back to Mario’s to eat apple pie and relax. Some of us took naps by the pool, while others acted like jackasses and wouldn’t stop tossing the goddamn lemons around. This made me feel like I was very old and around people who were very young. Can’t we just enjoy this picturesque beauty and the graciousness of our host without acting like morons? Is that really so difficult?
After dinner (where I spotted this offensive little bellhop statue), the options for nightlife in Colonia consisted of the one or two boliches (nightclubs) the tiny town offered to tourists and a casino. Since I’ve always been pretty good at understanding math, casinos have never held much appeal for me. Going to a tourist bar also sounded lame so Harrison, some other friends and I decided to order off the menu and bring bottles of wine down to the rocky, windswept beach. As soon as we did, we ran into several groups of dread-mulleted Uruguayan kids and realized that drinking wine on the beach and fumando purra was pretty much the name of the game in Uruguay. Eventually we found some kids playing bongos and guitar and chatted them up while we shared their box wine.
Earlier in the day Harrison and I had scoped out a place that rented motorcycles (okay…. crappy scooters) for only $30 US a day. We asked our new friends what was cool around Colonia that we could check out. After we got them to stop saying, “Nada. Nada amigos.” (Nothing. Nothing friends.) they told us there was “un gran colección de lápices” nearby. Since that means, “giant collection of pencils,” Harrison and I were like, “Ummm, are you fucking with us?” but they assured us they weren’t so we headed to bed so we could wake up early the next day, rent scooters, and go check out the world’s largest pencil collection.
….TO BE CONTINUED