Today held no Spanish classes, no searching around for houses/apts, really nothing too productive it felt like. But then I realized what today’s value held: meeting the locals on the street. And these are not the locals of the ritzier areas or the locals that I have been in contact with via the internet before meeting face to face. They are the workers in the old city quarters where at night you should not walk through. It was considered the red light district back in the day due to the sailors landing at the port here, and the necessary prostitute market.
I woke up this morning to a bustling street outside of my balcony (I live three stories up) and the accompanying scene out of a trashy Portabello Road in London. But what a treat, nonetheless. Then the singing started, “Fresh Strawberries here (in Spanish).” Every Friday and Tuesday the street market thrives with two long blocks full of vendors selling fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and dog. Well, not dog – lame joke.
Walking through the street I dropped my trusted pen. I heard a grunt behind me and realized what had happened, and this nice gentleman with a cigarette permanently stuck to his mouth pointed to it. We then started to talk and walk together. The ‘did you vote’ question came out immediately after discovering I was American. I felt as if I were back home in ways. Then he starts talking about “El Negro” but never uses Obama’s name in the conversation. Needless to say though, like all other Uruguayans I have met, he was stoked that America, and the world, has Obama leading the States. And for the record, he posed for this picture and dictated where the shot was to take place. Classic.
I’ve started to become comfortable in certain areas that I was told were dodgy when arriving, hence I carried my small camera and clicked the picture of El-Negro-Man. He’s actually the vendor down the road at a convenience store – I will be seeing him again and asking his name…again. And he made me go to this spot next to his store, while holding the pose.
Later on I took a run through the other part of the old town, but this time in the area that you REALLY should not go to during nighttime. I stopped into a small mom and pop convenient store and fell into convo with the owner, Sandra, for a few minutes. She let me in on how long she has been there (60 years), the switch from the red light district to people with money coming in, and the fact that I need to watch out for children here. Ones under 14 are the most dangerous, and they are all on drugs…more specifically the residue from cocaine that is sold very cheaply, and obviously very addictive. After I walked out of the store there was a group of ten kids chilling outside. I have never looked at a group of children with those thoughts running through my mind. Children scare me now, especially because Sandra says they will kill you because they don’t think, and don’t know the laws. They just want their next fix. Wow.