I’m back in Uruguay, which means I’m back to speaking Spanish! Today’s post begins with a quick lesson, one that is difficult for native English speakers to grasp as they start to learn Spanish, because verbs in Spanish are often more precise than in English.
For example, in English one says, “I am from Minnesota”, and, “I am tired”, and the verb (am) is the same in both contexts. On the other hand, this is not the case in Spanish, as one would say, “Soy de Minnesota”, and “Estoy cansado.”
While soy and estoy both translate to mean, “I am” in English, they are not interchangeable in Spanish, as soy is used to describe permanent characteristics whereas estoy describes temporary states.
Another example of this concept is a pair of Spanish words which both refer to “knowing.” These verbs are conocer, which refers to familiarity (knowing a person or place), and saber, which refers to intellect (knowing facts). This post is devoted to the new and intriguing people, places, and things I have come to conocer and saber regarding my new city: Montevideo.
More than anything, these two weeks have provided me with ample time to relax, which was much needed following an extremely hectic month in which I was virtually homeless. Beginning June 18, I slept in – no exaggeration – twelve different beds as I moved from place to place until I was finally able to move into my new apartment here in Montevideo.
And man did I move into a great situation. I’m living with Guillermo! After having such a good experience in Rivera, I was thrilled when Guille offered me la oportunidad de seguir en la familia, and I opted to do just that – stick with the family.
Very much in the heart of the metropolis, our apartment is within walking distance of the city’s main bus terminal (Tres Cruces), which is clutch considering I travel 40 km to a school in the coastal town of Salinas once a week. In addition, we’re just a block away from the “lungs of the city”, Parque Battle, a huge green space in the middle of the city that’s also home to Estadio Centenario, one of the world’s most renowned soccer stadiums.
During the transition I found myself with some extra time and made an effort to better conocer the city of Montevideo, and due to it’s proximity, Estadio Centenario and its’ Museo del Fútbol became the first stop on my self-led tour of the city. In 1930, the stadium hosted the very first World Cup, which Uruguay won (4-2 over Argentina), and in 1983 FIFA named it a Historical Monument of International Football, the only building of its’ kind in the world. The Museo del Fútbol boasts a pretty amazing collection. Trophies, jerseys, autographs, newspapers, you name it. One headline in particular caught my eye, and for good reason as in English it read, “Justified Cannibalism.”
What? This is a soccer museum… My eagerness to saber more about the situation sent me across the city to Museo Andes 1972, a museum that honors 29 Uruguayans killed in a tragic plane crash, and recognizes 16 Uruguayans who endured 72 days in the Chilean Andes under the worst conditions imaginable. The Museum tells the story better than me, so if you’d like to learn more, check out their page: http://www.mandes.uy.
I visited a whole bunch of museums and touristy sites this week, but don’t worry I’m not going to talk about each one of them. The point is that these trips enabled me to learn about the country’s history (Museo de la Memoria), education (Museo Pedagógico de José Pedro Varela), and even the flora (Jardín Botánico de Montevideo) among other things.
In addition, visiting these tourist stops forced me to get acquainted with public transportation, and having made several trips all over the city I feel I have a pretty strong grasp on the bus routes. When I want to get some exercise in, I’ll just leave the apartment and start running. With no destination in mind, I just go until I decide I’m tired, and then I hop on a bus and make my way back home.
Well that was what I did until just a few days ago when I bought a bike! I found a Craigslist-like advertisement on Facebook and picked up this bad boy for just 2,000 pesos (roughly $70 USD), and now I’m able to navigate the city far more efficiently.
My bike has already proven to be a good investment as I no longer have to spend quite so much cash on bus tickets. Montevideo is a fairly bike-friendly city, and more than anything I appreciate the freedom it offers me, as I can get around far more quickly. Plus, it’s a luxury to be able to stop wherever and whenever I want!
Guille jokes that I’ve seen more of Montevideo in my first two weeks here than he has over the course of his life, including various trips as a youngster and over a year of living independently in the city. But it might be true! I have probably seen more of the city than many Montevideanos.
In fact, this past week I assumed the role of tour guide when a handful of Fulbrighters from Brazil and Argentina came to visit Montevideo during their respective winter vacations. I took them around to see a bunch of touristy sites (Plaza Independencia, El Mercado del Puerto), but I was proud to show them some local gems as well.
It dawned on me as I was preparing for their arrival that I really wanted to give my 🇺🇸 colleagues a good impression of “my” country. Showing them around made me realize that I know (saber and conocer) more about “my” country than I thought.
And that’s exactly how it should be.
I think one of my principal jobs here (in addition to teaching English and sharing 🇺🇸 culture) is to be a sponge, absorbing everything (good, bad and otherwise) and in turn, relay all that I can back to the homeland. Hence the blog, as it allows me to help familiarize you all with an unfamiliar corner of the world. THAT is what Fulbright is all about.
While many of you will never get the chance to conocer (visit Uruguay or speak with an Uruguayan, I’d like to think that you’ve all at least come to saber something about Uruguay through hearing about my experience. Exposure to other cultures helps you learn a lot more about your own. THAT is what Fulbright is all about.
So, why am I bringing all of this up?
At the Regional Enhancement Seminar in July, we were informed by US Foreign Service officers that the current federal budget proposal would cut international academic programs significantly, with the Fulbright Program taking the largest hit, potentially losing between 47% and 55% of its funding.
The Washington Post reported in June:
For the record, the Obama administration also attempted to trim the Fulbright Program’s budget by 14% in 2009, but both Republican and Democrat Congressmen rejected the bill unequivocally, citing that the program’s ability to establish and foster positive, international partnerships.
Soon enough the current Congress will vote on the budget, and Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin (video below) has already gone to bat on behalf of the Program.
My point in all this is that I’d like to invite you to join the cause and contact your US Congresspeople in support of the Fulbright Program. The following link enables you to quickly and easily reach your reps (https://www.callmycongress.com).
Fulbright is about so much more than simply the individuals who are awarded grants. Just this past week we laid the foundation for a pen-pal exchange between a group of my students here and a group of students in Red Wing.
I realized early on that while I would only be here physically for eight months, that time would give me the opportunity to establish relationships between people here (🇺🇾) and there (🇺🇸) that will last substantially longer.
THAT is what Fulbright is all about, and we need to keep it that way.
A las ordenes.
Algo bueno: I attended a forum hosted by Ex-Uruguayan President José Mujica and distinguished linguist & politician Noam Chomsky (🇺🇸).
Algo malo: Being away requires sacrifices: Congratulations, Fish & Lakken! Wish I could have been there to celebrate!
Algo curioso: To talk trash before a competition (sports, cards, etc.) you can tell someone, “Te voy a dar la papa.” While it refers to defeating someone handily, it literally translates to “giving someone the potato.”