Uruguay & Buenos Aires | April 5-19

As part of our study abroad semester, we were given two weeks for our spring break (almost three weeks if you skip the Thursday and Friday in which classes begin again). As most of the other students, I spent this time traveling… a lot. And I could not be more happy with my experiences. My first two weeks of spring break were spent in Uruguay visiting my boyfriend, Gabriel. The two of us met in my last days of summer mission. From there, we started talking and dating. We’ve been dating for over six months now, and with finding a cheap flight from Spain to Uruguay, as well as a shared free time, it only seemed appropriate to use this as our opportunity to see each other.

My time in Uruguay was some of the most memorable two weeks of my life. It was a beautiful time, a relaxing time. I enjoyed getting to know Gabriel in a new way, taking on Montevideo, Durazno, and a bit of Buenos Aires with the one I love. I won’t go into too much detail with this post since I would be writing endlessly if I tried to capture every detail. Besides, so much of our time together was filled with little moments. Simply experiencing life together. These things are things that can really only be relived between the two of us. But of course, I do want to remember some things in the way I do best, writing about it. And I’m sure there are some curious souls who have been wanting to know about my recent travels.

My adventures began on Wednesday, the 5th of May. I left class early so that I could finish packing and preparing before my 2:30 bus to Madrid. I got to Madrid at 5:30 and had a few hours to kill before my midnight flight. Leaving went fine, but two hours into our flight, we landed in Madrid again due to engine problems with the plane. It was frustrating to add even more time to the trip, to starting this 12-hour flight all over again. When we landed, we had to wait on the plane for a while the fire department came to cool down the engine. A shuttle bus took us to a new gate where we waited an indefinite amount of time for a new plane to be prepared for us, and we started our journey again at a “lovely” 4:00am.

The flight itself felt endless, but at least God had fulfilled my desire for a cool companion. Shortly before take off, this couple came and sat in my row. They put what I thought to be a duffle bag on the seat next to me, but I was quick to find out that it was a pet carrier. I kept stealing little glances at the little pup as he’d stick his head out of the door to be comforted by his owner. It was adorable. The couple was adorable too. It almost made all of the flight troubles worth it.

We landed a little past 12pm Uruguay time. The last hour or so was spent obsessively watching the screen with our little plane icon. Little by little, we were entering into Uruguay. We were getting closer to Montevideo. I was almost back. Landing was a beautiful feeling. It was a satisfying feeling to return to a land where I had so many sweet memories. A land that I was completely in love with. I was in the same place as Gabriel. He was waiting for me. It was a beautiful, but dizzying feeling to think that it was finally time.

I got my second passport stamp of the trip and I navigated my way through security, stopping in the bathroom for a bit to freshen up and moreso “abandon” my gross airport clothing. I took some time to process how different everything would be as soon as I went through the exit. I kept eyeing the doors as I passed my luggage through security. “He’s there. This is it.”

As I walked out, my eyes just naturally found him standing right in the center of all of the people. He held a sign with my name on it (It’s always been a life goal of mine to be greeted in an airport with my name on a sign. Check that off my bucket list). He greeted me the “Uruguayan” way with pomelo and bizcochos for us to enjoy as we caught our bus. Everything felt so surreal.

We arrived at the Tres Cruces bus terminal and immediately caught a bus to Durazno, a smaller city a couple hours away, where Gabriel studies. The bus ride was just filled with good conversation and maybe a 10 minute nap. When we arrived in Durazno, we pretty much had to hurry since he had some academic events to attend. He dropped me off at a car dealership to meet the girl I was staying with for the night. Her name was Luly. She was a sweet girl. Super pretty. I adored her. I hung out with her at work for another hour before we went back to her house. Conversation was a bit awkward since I was so tired. The Uruguayan Spanish was impossible to understand at first after being so accustomed to Spain. We made it work though. I enjoyed her company.

When we arrived at Luly’s parents’ house (which was conveniently just above Gabriel’s apartment), I took the time to relax a bit. Shower. Have some much needed “me” time. I was exhausted after a long couple days of travelling. Luly, her mom, and I enjoyed a little merienda of alfajores with dulce de leche. We skipped out on the cafe con leche since Gabriel would soon be there to pick me up.

He arrived and we went to a restaurant for dinner. Our first non-skype date together. It was the first of many ravioles that I ordered during my trip. This one was the perfect compromise between a salad and pasta, for it felt like a bit of both. After dinner, we walked to a nearby plaza to simply talk and enjoy the night together. It was a beautiful ending to our first day together.

The next morning, the two of us did some various errands around the city. We also went for a little walk down by the river. The area reminded me a lot of Wisconsin, of LaRiviera park and of spending time near the river. It was beautiful. It was refreshing. It was really fulfilling to the soul. The day was lovely, and I was happy to share it with Gabriel.

We also spent some time at his apartment that day. I got to meet his roommates and some classmates. They all had a study session, and I spent some time of my own simply writing. After that finished up, we stopped at a nearby gas station to pick up some tortillas de papas (patatas) and salad to take with us to the university. He had his second day of his workshop/event, and I kind of hung out working on various things that I needed to get done. It was nice.

Afterwards (at about 6:30pm or so), we met up with Luly at her workplace again. We wanted to just hang out with her before we left Durazno a few hours laters. The three of us made plans to get pizza with another couple. It was fun getting to know more people, although I was feeling pretty frustrated with my inability to communicate. All of the energy I had for the Spanish language was going towards understanding what was going on. It was hard to talk in that, so that was a bit discouraging. It was fine though.

Gabriel and I ducked out early to head back to the apartment, grab our luggage, and rush to the bus station to catch our 11pm bus back to Montevideo. We probably could have stayed in Durazno longer, but we had already made our plans to leave for Buenos Aires, Argentina the next morning. Crazy travels, right?

We arrived in Montevideo late in the night, probably close to 2am (as you can see, specific times are not a forte of mine). My heart was happy to be back in such a familiar city. We took a taxi to Gabriel’s house and were welcomed home by a locked door that led to the houses inside. We ended up waiting outside of the door for a couple hours since we couldn’t get ahold of his mother who was sleeping and no one else was around to open it for us. By the time we got inside, showered, and packed for Buenos Aires, it was 5am. We got a solid hour of sleep before having to get up again to head back to the bus station.

We took a bus to Colonia at 7am, and from there, we took a ferry to Buenos Aires. I wasn’t expecting the ferry place to be such an intense deal (I guess it was hard to imagine what it was like since I have never taken one). It was much like an airport. There was a huge line. We had to check in, go through security, and then go through immigration control. The people seemed to be pretty strict with my passport. The person stamped it and passed it to another lady who asked me a series of questions about my stay there. It was intimidating, but hey, I got another passport stamp. All good.

The ferry ride itself seemed pretty quick. I slept the whole time. Gabriel has photo proof of that. We got to Buenos Aires around noon and then found our way to our hostel. We dropped our things off there and then headed to go find some pizza to eat. We spent a little bit of time at the hostel, taking a quick nap before heading out to see the city. We took the metro to go see the Japanese Gardens, something that we were both really excited to see.

As we exited the metro, it began to rain a bit. It gradually turned into a downpour as we continued. It was fun at first. We found the gardens, but they costed money and were closing in 20 minutes, so we decided not to go. Besides, how fun would it be to walk through everything as it was raining? We enjoyed walking around in the rain for a bit longer. I had never really seen such heavy rain before. But after a while, it became not so fun. I was drenched from head to toe and everything that I had in my tiny travel pouch was getting drenched. It was a bit too ridiculous.

We took shelter underneath the outside of a bank. A couple guys gave us directions on how to find a bus and/or metro to get back to our hostel. We were pretty far away, and I was not prepared to trek out into the new rivers that were coursing their way through the city. We waited for some time, but the rain didn’t let up, so we braved it anyway. We managed to get a plastic bag to put our stuff in to keep it dry.

Walking was miserable, so we found a coffee shop to stop at along the way. We planned on sitting outside since we were so wet, but the lady insisted that we come in and sit down. She brought us our coffees, a ton of sugar, some water, soda, and fries. Maybe she was just doing her job, but I’d like to think she was spoiling us specifically, treating us well after such an eventful day. We warmed up a little bit and continued on our way. We ended up taking the bus since the metros were closed from flooding.

We returned to the hostel, leaving trails of water behind us. I felt bad for walking anywhere. The front desk was out of towels, but luckily they managed to find two to bring to our room. We resorted to the comfort of our four-person, two-bunk room. When we arrived, our roommates, two British girls, were already there. They got to witness the direct aftermath of the rain. They were super friendly though, and the four of us talked for a bit as Gabriel and I “dried out.”  The girls gave me suggestions for my Budapest and Prague trip. We ended our day with relaxation and ravioles, cooked by Gabriel after the kitchen was closed.

The next morning, we woke up to a beautiful Argentinian breakfast. I of course, had croissants with dulce de leche and some fruit. It was good. We checked out shortly after, leaving our backpacks behind at the hostel, and then we explored some more of Buenos Aires. We walked through a street market and some historical areas and visited the obelisco. In the market, we got some amazing empanadas and ran into our new British friends. We really had no direction, but it was fun to simply exist in the city. It began to rain a little bit here and there, but it was no problem. This time we had my umbrella.

Our time in Buenos Aires ended with us almost missing our ferry. We showed up to the wrong place and had to take an overpriced taxi to the other place. It worked out well though. We made it in time. Our two days in Argentina were lovely. There were quite a few “bumps” along the way, but I honestly love them all. They make for a more memorable story. Although we didn’t do anything too extravagant, we were able to see a little bit of the city. I appreciated the “artsy”, lively feel of it. It was a little taste of Europe while being out of the continent.

Again, we got back to Montevideo kind of later at night and we passed out. The next day, we had some things to do in the centro, mainly related to banking. Gabriel took me through a beautiful park along the way. Beautiful pink trees were shedding their flowers, and I felt like a little kid as I enjoyed walking through the enchanting “petal rain.” We met up with Gabriel’s closest friend Lucas that day. Our time together consisted of videogames (which I simply watched) and then lunch. They even went out of their way to buy ingredients to make me an ensaladilla rusa. From there, Gabriel and I just sat and talked in a plaza for a bit before heading home.

Much of the week carried on like this. I was simply doing life with Gabriel. I can’t remember too many details of the next day, but I think much of it was spent just helping out around the house a lot. There were various home improvement tasks going on, as well as simple cleaning. It was enjoyable to work on these things with Gabriel and his mother. We took a break to enjoy a nap in the hammock. The day was warm, and I think that was the only time during the trip that I was able to wear the sun’s effects on my skin.

Other things that happened throughout the week included meeting another friend of his, Leandro. That occurred later in the same day. We had spent the sunset along the rambla, which was super beautiful. I absolutely loved being near the water as the sky came to life with beautiful colors, as the sun disappeared and the stars came out to decorate the sky. It was the same place my team had visited on summer mission, so feelings of sweet nostalgia and present bliss filled me. I just sat with Gabriel, enjoying the night. It was a bit chilly. I ended up with his coat.

We stopped at the Montevideo letters for a bit. This time, they were blue and painted with a musical theme. Children were playing on them, so it was nearly impossible to get a good picture. So we left, and went to the mall to do some quick errands (sadly, none of which included going into Indian Emporium. That didn’t happen at all in this trip). After the mall, we went home for a bit until we were able to go Leandro’s house.

There, we spent time with a large group of his family members, all who gathered around the table laughing, talking, and sharing photos and videos on the TV. It was a lively and energizing group of people. Leandro was cool. His girlfriend seemed nice as well. I enjoyed his family and being there with Gabriel.

The following day was a day for just Gabriel and me. I had declared it “Gabriel Day” to celebrate all of the good things going on in his life, but of course he reciprocated that. So it became a day-long celebration for both of us. We started our morning by catching the sunrise on the beach, which was just as exciting as the sunset the night before. We really couldn’t see the sun itself since it was behind the buildings, not on the water, but we were present as the city woke up. That was good enough for us. I took off my shoes and walked through the water a bit since I’ve had little contact with the ocean in my lifetime. Gabriel would follow me, but we’d run away as the waves came towards his shoes. It was amusing.

We then went to the mall to do some more things, but it was so early that much of it was closed and the people were yelling at us for walking through the shopping areas. We got some food at Burger King and then headed back home. We met up with Leandro and his girlfriend Camila in the Prado area. I don’t even know how to describe the park-place that we went to, but it was a touristy display of everything that Uruguay had to offer. It kind of reminded me of the fair in a way.

Gabriel and I spent the first portion of our time just walking around and trying to find the other two. We passed through a building with a bunch of show rabbits. Gabriel adored the rabbits, and I adored him for it. We created life stories a personalities for them. There were other buildings with different vendors, shows, and displays. We eventually met up with Leandro and Camila and walked around. We watched a show of traditional Uruguayan dance, got pizza, and found the rest of Leandro’s family. Somehow I ended up eating three huge churros filled with dulce de leche, and that was death to my stomach. I could barely look at the amusement rides as the others went on them. Eventually, Gabriel and I gave everyone besos, said goodbye, and left. We spent a little bit of time in a rose garden before catching our bus home.

We returned home, took a nap, and drank a bit of wine (not necessarily in that order). Our day had started pretty early and we were tired. There was still more to do. We got ready to go to a restaurant for dinner. We arrived at about 11pm. There were maybe two other tables of people who left shortly after, so it was a quiet atmosphere. All of the workers were super friendly and accommodating. They didn’t even seem too bothered when we stayed into their midnight closing time. We had a delicious and filling dinner. Bread and dip, cheese, and then lastly, spinach ravioles. Dessert consisted of flan. I think that meal changed Gabriel’s life. He enjoyed it, (and so did I). After dinner, we went out for the rest of the night. We were wanting to dance, and we only felt comfortable going out together. That was quite the experience.

The next morning, I slept in. I was so tired after getting home around 5am. I’m pretty sure everyone hated me for sleeping until 11. I woke up as Gabriel was leaving to go to the drugstore (he had to get some medicine, which brings me back to when we went to the hospital and saw a Jackson Avery look-a-like). I woke up, and shortly after, Gabriel’s mother came up to my room to talk with me. She invited me to breakfast, and from there we decided to go on a walk together.

It was the perfect weather to do so. Not too warm, but warm enough. Blue skies. Lots of sun. We walked to the nearby park and just had meaningful conversations on the swings. We did another loop around the park and came home. Gabriel and I might have made lunch that day. I don’t remember exactly, but we did make two pascualinas during our time together. It was Gabriel’s day to get caught up on homework, so I left him alone for much of the day and just spent time with his mother. Our night consisted of tidying up her room and drinking smoothies as we watched a movie. It was a pleasant day with her.

The next day was already Sunday. Easter Sunday. We got up and went to ChristChurch, a small bilingual church in Carrasco. On the bus, we met up with another couple who was going there. Gabriel was friends with them, and I kind of knew them from summer mission. They had taken us to ChristChurch during our last weekend on summer mission the summer before. And of course, that is the church where I first saw Gabriel. The service was nice. It was really refreshing to attend a church service again, and the people were so warm and welcoming. Afterwards, everyone just stuck around for a little coffee or tea and a lot of conversation. I got to talk with people from all over the world. It made my heart happy.

After church, Gabriel and I went out for lunch with that other couple. We found a spot outside since the weather was nice. I got some of my favorite four-cheese ravioles (hint: the motif of my time in Uruguay is ravioles), and we all enjoyed good company and silent prayers that the pigeons wouldn’t get too close to our food.

After lunch, we went our separate ways. Gabriel took me to the beach in Carrasco where we simply walked around and took in more of the gorgeous day. The weather was sunny, but really windy. It got chilly after a while. We went home and enjoyed a relatively lazy rest of our day. It was my first Easter away from home. Although it looked quite different than my traditional Easter, it was still a perfect day in celebrating the Resurrection.

The next day was our last full day together. That truth kind of hung heavy in the air that day, and Gabriel didn’t fail to make it more emotional than it needed to be. He would bring it up and go on and on about it. He made me cry a couple times by playing with his words. It was amusing though. That last day was a pretty tranquil day. We had wanted to go to Ciudad Vieja, but nothing was really open during the day after Easter, so we didn’t even bother. I believe that is when we went to the store and got ingredients to make our second pascualina though. It was fun.

And before we knew it, Tuesday the 18th had arrived. The day of my departure. Things were kind of rushed as we both packed our things (he was leaving for Durazno after dropping me off at the airport). Maybe that was a good thing. A little distraction in a way. I said goodbye to his mother, downed some bread and a banana as I stuffed my backpack, and we headed out the door to catch our bus.

We got to the airport and I checked in while he waited. There wasn’t a lot of time left before I needed to get going, so it all felt kind of rushed. That time crunch kind of killed the moment. We waited together for a little bit, neither of us actually wanting to say our goodbyes. But we did it.

Let me tell you. The thing about long-distance relationships is that goodbyes are so weird. They’re not really sad like one may think. Sure, there’s that element to it, but there are also 20 other things going on in your head at the same time. You’re reliving all of your experiences together. Anticipating your next reunion. Savoring those last moments of a loved one’s touch. Wondering what you’ll feel when you actually walk away. It’s sad, but it’s also beautiful. Too soon, the time came for me to leave. Although it was a moment we had long expected, it still felt odd, it still felt heavy, to walk away. A few minutes later, I was already reaching for my phone to return to our oh-so familiar Facebook Messenger.

My flight left at noon. It was a smooth flight home. No problems this time. I kind of slept, kind of didn’t. When I was awake, I would be reliving the past two weeks and writing a little bit about my trip. i was also planning stuff for Budapest and Prague, which was feeling like a reality now that my other trip was done with. It was the first time I had gotten three meals in one flight, one of which was ravioles. I was happy. The other two meals were ham and cheese sandwiches, but I was hungry, so I cheated and just took the meat off.

I returned to the Madrid airport at about 5am the next day and waited until 11:30 to catch a bus from the airport to Valladolid. I met up with my friend Maiyer at the airport. It was really refreshing to see her and share travel stories. I got to relive and tell a bit of what had happened in Uruguay.

My two weeks were absolutely incredible. I wouldn’t trade any second of it, and I could have happily been there longer. It was beautiful taking a long-distance relationship that had already been thriving for six months and entering into a whole new level with it. To be able to touch Gabriel, to have him touch me. To talk with him, share life with him, spend time face-to-face with him. To share beautiful moments together. It didn’t even need to be anything fancy. I just loved existing with him.

I will cherish every moment of my time in Uruguay. The times we spent stargazing or drinking wine or dancing to Ed Sheeran. The food we ate together, the sunsets we saw together, the little “bumps” in our plans that we had to deal with. And I look forward to doing it all over again. I didn’t think I could miss something so much, but I already do miss him. I miss Uruguay again. I can’t wait for more adventures by his side.

Words cannot describe just how precious it was to share my time with someone so dear to me. I hope you all can experience something just as beautiful in life, whatever that looks like for you. That you can find your source of love and joy and that you’ll chase it (even if that involves flying across the world). Travel. Enjoy life. Pour love generously into those around you, and receive the same from them. I wish you all the best.

Mara

 

 

 

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