I love Uruguay, I really do. I felt it quite intensely when I first showed up 6 years ago. It’s an odd sensation to feel so strongly for a place that, for all intents and purposes, is exceptionally disconnected from my native land. Seriously 10,000 kilometers south and a hemisphere away. And I can’t stress enough how little I knew about the place. It really is a bit of a disability we North Americans have. We know lots about ourselves and even more about our American neighbours, but very little about anybody else. Our proximity to the United States often overshadows the rest of the world.
Our “busy bee” culture doesn’t help the situation. We’re always working. And when we are not working, we are desperately trying to catch up on household errands. Working at work and working at home. By the time, we get around to vacation time, we’re exhausted. Burnt out. And in desperate need of something easy. Something close by and familiar. Nothing too challenging. Usually something American, or some all-inclusive in the Caribbean. Maybe if you have a little bit of strength left, Europe, and if you have a little more, Asia.
Well, I, for one, was not burnt out, and was quite excited to take a 10 hour flight straight south to somewhere new. And that made all the difference.
So there I was, on the beach in Punta del Este.
I had started my day at the beach. Had a bite to eat and a drink at one of the restaurants lined along the Rambla, hugging the shoreline. I visited the port, watched fisherman unload their boats, and observed, quite intently, the local sea lions holding court.
I returned to the same spot on the beach, where I had begun my day. I sat there, drinking a chilled Pilsen beer, watching the sunset. With the rest of the county.
I am not sure if this is true, but I think that all of the country of Uruguay stops for sunset. This may be just the peculiar observation of a Canadian, far from his land, but I think it’s true. The beaches fill up with families. The Rambla swells with friends and neighbours, watching the sun slowly travel down the sky and then dip below the Rio de La Plata. We watched it as a group, a great community of people coming together to take a break and soak in the experience. A lagging red/orange glow still in the sky, I turned around a looked around. People were gathering up their maté ensemble, corralling their kids, and discussing plans for the evening. And I felt refreshed. Cleansed. Reset by the passing of day into night, by the Uruguayan sun.
Since that day, I’ve partaken in the same ritual whenever I’m in Uruguay, whether it be at the peninsula in Punta del Este, at a café at “Casapueblo”, or on the “la Playa de los Pocitos” in Montevideo. And each time, it feels great.