My trip to Montevideo was uneventful and not terribly exciting. The city is small – half the size of Salvador – and tranquil; there was not much going on during the beginning of the week when I was there. It’s not touristy at all. Unfortunately, the museums I wanted to see were closed/under renovation, and all the cool street fairs apparently happen on the weekends – bah. So I didn’t do much but walk around the city and chill out in the hostel (which had cable TV, so I got to see ER and decent American movies in English!)

The good part was the food. Sorry Brazilians, but I think the Uruguayans have you beat in the churrasco (BBQ) department… soon I’ll post a picture to illustrate why. It was also nice to taste some other flavors, because the strength of Brazilian cuisine is not exactly in its subtlety and complexity of spices. They flavor things with salt and lime… salad gets vinegar and olive oil… and when they use pepper, it is PEPPER, pure and simple, direct to the point. Back in São Carlos, when Simone flavored some veggies with ginger, everyone thought it was the most exotic thing ever. Also the dulce de leche was excellent; they had it every morning at the hostel.

I had a harder time than I imagined with Spanish! After the wonderful, liberating ease and clarity that I’ve finally reached in my Portuguese communication abilities, I was back to being rather clueless and smiling and nodding a lot. I could get by – especially if people spoke slowly. But when it came to me speaking, it was actually easier for me to speak in Portuguese and have the other person get the gist of what I’m saying, than for me to try to remember Spanish words, which felt foreign in my mouth and left me really limited in terms of vocabulary.

It was also super hard to break the ingrained, reflexive habits: remembering to say gracias instead of obrigada, buenos dias instead of bom dia, biting my tongue before I asked “tudo bem?” …I’m betting some of these phrases are going to stick with me back to the U.S., where I am sure I’ll be saying “com licença” instead of “excuse me” for a while! I have to say I prefer the sound of Portuguese to that of Spanish. Portuguese is smoother.

I ended up missing my flight back to Brazil because the taxi driver came 40 minutes later than the agreed-upon time, and then the guy at the airport wouldn’t let me run to catch the plane (even though it hadn’t left yet) because check-in had closed. That made me a little crabby… especially since I had gotten up at 4 AM for nothing… but I was able to reschedule for the following day without *too* much financial damage.

There were no problems re-entering Brazil, although the Federal Police officer at first thought that my tourist visa wasn’t valid since I hadn’t entered the country within 90 days of getting it – but I had, the stamp was just on a different page. The problem now is that my passport contains two different types of visas and a whole bunch of different stamps from 3 different entries/exits into Brazil within the past year… so it can be confusing. But I got in fine, which was a relief!

It’s really nice to be back… Bahia really has a special energy about it.