I kissed a man and I didn’t like it……..

A strange piece of beach furninture-Punta del Este

Before you all jump to conclusions and deduce that I’ve gone rogue and sausage side, fear not.  The latino way of greeting one’s fellow hombre with a single kiss to the cheek has fell upon me and it doesn’t sit pretty.  Even if it is for the first time you’ve met the man! 

On my 4th day here no sooner had I set my little flipflops into the dancehall to tackle the Tango, my teacher was upon me, planting a smacker on my cheek before I even realised what was going on. Despite the obvious wave of shock that gripped me for pretty much the whole class, my spanish teacher told me that this is entirely normal here and I need to get used to it………………..ok.  Anyway that aside, I love the Tango. Smooth, passsionate, and an intense ensemble between the two dancers, much to my surprise it’s very enjoyable. The foot movement and timing is almost like doing ‘slow march’ (for the soldiers amongst you) so I took to it quite well.  The only trouble is I turned up for my 3rd class the other day, and this time instead of a whole room full of girls and the odd amigo, it was just me. I have no idea why, save to say my teacher (we shall call him Angelo) waltzed me around attentively for the next hour……..

Spanish classes have the been the name of the game for the last 10 days as I endeavour to become part of life here.  The Uruguayans are friendly, without being outgoing, and Montevideo is a quiet and unassuming city which is overshadowed by its overbaring and bositerous neighbour, Buenos Aires. 

In the last week or so I’ve been to Punta del Este which is meant to be the French Riviera of Latin America, where the rich and famous strutt their stuff during the summer months and unleash their ferrarris and porches along the Ramblas (stretch of road) for all to purvey. I spent the weekend there doing a bit of surfing (very good waves) and surveying the nightlife. Really, despite its pretensions it is rather more like a tarted up Torremolinos with a few boutique shops, beaches crammed full of Argies sporting ridiculous haircuts and puffed-out chests.  I never seen a beach so crowded. It is ridiculously overpriced but quite good fun. 

Surf-wise, the guy (Juan) who owned the Surf School I rented from gave me a pretty honest showdown of where’s good to go and has offered to show me around a bit in March.  He was extremely friendly, RIDICUOUSLY cool and keen to tell me how much he disliked the Argentinians, recounting gleefully a football chant they sing that derides the Argies for not having the balls to have another crack at the Falklands……… He turned out to be a pro-surfer on Uruguay’s national team……………

View from Home

Also this week in the evening I went to a carnival and a strange traditional custom celebrated one a year. The carnival was a great sight.  Late into the night the parade unleashed along the streets dancers dressed like peacocks, the women scantily clad in little but a bikini tops and thongs, top to toe with face paint with plumes of feathers wedding their headress.  I also witnessed probably some of the most incredible drumming (Candomne) I’ve ever heard.  Though the Uruguayans descend almost overwhelmingly from Europe, the country’s rooted with culture brought other by Africans a century or so ago, and this is what you hear in the Candomne

This was also very apparent in the yearly tradtional strange offering to Yemanja. Verging on Black Magic it is a bizarre ritual offering gifts to an African water goddess to ask for her to protect the ‘offerer’ and their family from drowning.  On a beach in Montevideo, lots of little holes are dug in the sand, candles lit inside and prayers said. Larger ones, which are basically shrines are dotted around the beach where people dressed all in white jig rythmically to the beat of the Candomne in a style you would expect to see in Africa. In one ‘celebration’ I saw, clearly intoxicated with alcohol, the participants were in some sort of trance as a woman shrieked her cries to Yemanja speaking in a voice I can only describe as witchlike. Whilst this is going on, you could make out in the twilight hundreds of tiny handmade boats dotted just off the shore loaded with offerings to the goddess which range from a handfull of pesos to watches.  Apparently, paradoxically the next morning many people hit the beach to pilfer whatever is still floating around…………

Nearly three weeks in now and I’m starting to meet a few more people.  It hasn’t been as easy as I thought as there are few internationals, though my aim is to meet the Uruguayans as that is the only way to get a grasp of the language. This is also proving tricky.  The immersion into Spanish is difficult, fraught with frustration as I am often lost in translation leading to me regularly catching the wrong bus……. Getting used to my own company is ever ongoing, as I no longer have the other Peter Pans from the Officers’ Mess to enter my room to Facerape or Meatspin me (Ed Jones…..) but as ever I have a guitar.  I’m fortunate to have a wonderfully clear 6 string travel guitar with me, given by a very kind Indonesian Defence Attache before I left England who’d had it with him in Baghdad and wanted to pass it on. I’ve written 2 songs in the last couple of weeks so hopefully I’m doing him and the instrument justice, however my grouchy neighbour has already complained so perhaps I’m wrong! On this note, I’ll say adios before sticking on Rage Against The Machine to piss off my Victor Meldrew next door. Ciao a todos…….


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. claire raine
    Feb 06, 2011 @ 22:47:56

    Great writing, Antony, you could be a journalist!


  2. Giles
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 22:11:04

    RayRay not sure if it is a coincidence but the google ad below this column reads:
    ads by google:
    What Really Attracts Men
    9 Tips To Instantly Set Off An Uncontrollable Attraction In A Man


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