Upon returning to our hostel in Buenos Aires, we have been pleasantly surprised to find that the brood of partying Aussies has been replaced with an equally as stimulating, though less insomnia inducing group of Scandinavians (Finns and Swedes). Thus, I have had little time to be as reclusive as I anticipated in order to update the blog with our week in Punta del Diablo. Fortunately, I am a special breed of being that transcends all nationalities. I sleep very little. I wake up early. No distractions when no one else is awake. Entonces..
Present: As I mentioned we have been assimilated into the Scandinavian horde. It began innocently enough, a fellow named Antti from Finland and I began talking soccer one day - which became all day. He invited me to play in a 5v5 tournament that takes place every Friday in Palermo. There were to be three Swedes coming down from Iguazu (over twelve hours away) just to meet up for the tournament. They arrived two nights ago and we all talked for some hours about various topics - mostly soccer.
Yesterday, before the match, I had some errands to attend to. Financial matters, letters to send, and registration for my spanish course. It was a very productive, though mellow day.
4pm rolled around and it was time to leave for the fields. The tournament was set up so that there were eight teams in two brackets. The the best record from each bracket playing in the final. I was a bit nervous about my level of play compared to the Scandinavians. We had talked the night before about the lack of opportunity in the States to train at a high level - compared to the thoroughly organized structure in Sweden and Finland.
However, I performed well. Scored all three goals in the first match and then had a handful of assists as we made our way to the final undefeated. The overall quality of play was very high - mostly Europeans and South Americans - all with a very high work rate. We played well in the final. We were up 3-1 only to see it even at 3-3 with three minutes to go. We scored the winner just before time ran out, in our minds we were done. Then the ref says, "We have four more minutes. We could stop now, but..why not play four more?!" Of course, we agreed, and ended up "losing" 4-5. We still got free beer at the end (though it was the last thing I wanted to drink after running longer and harder than I have in some time!), but we missed out on the "medals" which were basically yarn and a coin with a hole through it - simple, but still would have made a great momento for the trip.
Needless to say, we all really enjoyed playing together. After showering and making dinner, we all had wine on the roof terrace, talking and listening to Swedish hip hop until two in the morning.
Today we are all going to the Boca Juniors - Independiente derby. It is likely to be pretty crazy, considering Boca is a smaller venue and the teams are not far from each other in the league table.
More on this later..
Past: A week in Punta del Diablo - Uruguay
Welcome to Punta del Diablo! Here we have the village center (more or less). There is a trinket market on one side of the cove. Then you have restaurants, a surf shop, and the main grocery store just up the road. The beach of this cove is also where the locals come to play soccer in the evening.
Our first night in town we stumbled upon the game. Over twenty men of all ages (mostly young adult) playing between the surf and the boats with piles of sand as goals. As soon as I saw the game, I knew I would have to play. Of course, they said I could join.
For the most part our time in Punta del Diablo was spent in relative isolation. We went to the market every now and then to get supplies, but generally we stuck to ourselves. The game though, is a rare opportunity to communicate in a very profound way. Though little, if anything is said, and certainly the only words expressed revolve around the game. Yet, from group and individual mentality towards the game - you can gain such an insight into the community.
In Punta del Diablo, it is a simple game. It is brutal competition one moment and a farce the next. Laughing, then screaming. They dart between their skiffs and half exposed cinderblocks seemingly without a second thought that a slight miscalculation could jeopardize their livelihood. They wrestle in the tide - heels and shins in a heap - until someone gets thrown into the breaking wave - and the game continues..
As for our cabaña, it was perfect. It was able to accommodate as many as four, but for two people it was a very comfortable space (with a little extra room for scorpions and spiders).
The first floor featured the basic amenities and served as a cozy place to read and lounge - while the second floor had a large bed and spacious balcony for basking in the sun.
Of the seven days, two or three were rather overcast, but this made for comfortable walks around the village. To watch the surfers, the bizarre creatures scuttling from boulder to boulder, the horses, the steady stream of maté carrying scooter pilots - and the dogs that would chase tires without end.
However, there was plenty of sunshine as well! Most days consisted of waking up with the sun. Lounging with a book in the cabaña or on the beach. Though the water was quite cold, I managed to catch a few decent waves, but mostly just enjoyed being back with the ocean.
One rookie mistake, that was mostly due to my nonchalance was that we did not bring enough money with us to pay the cabaña owner for the entire week. The reason being that we didn´t want to carry a lot of cash on our person, figuring there would be an ATM in Punta del Diablo.
The closest ATM ended up being an hours bus ride towards the border with Brazil to a town called Choy. Choy exists mainly so people can purchase duty free items that they don´t really need..and we were stuck there for five hours waiting for the next bus back to Punta del Diablo.
However, this unfortunate time in Choy did allow me to snap a photo of the ever present horse drawn carriages that are particularly popular in Uruguay (even in Montevideo). I suppose it isn´t too strange, considering the economics of the country, but especially in Montevideo - one can´t help but stare as a city bus waits impatiently as a horse drawn carriage attempts to parallel park on a busy city street.
Lastly, a bit of soccer tennis played on our last evening in Punta del Diablo. Rather picturesque..
Even more present:
Since beginning this entry - I have attended the Boca-Independiente derby - and survived! We were actually quite comfortable (more so than when watching River) - though if we had been seated anywhere near the Barra Bravas (essentially fans that are more like the mafia) - I might not be hear to write about it.
Never-the-less, the game was incredible. As a team, Boca are a bit frustrating - rather one dimensional, however - their fans are absolutely incredible. I´m not sure there is anything that rivals their passion in the world..and the more I talk to internationals that love soccer as I do - the more I am certain of this. If only the level of play (which can be quite good) were deserving of the fans energy. Then I might be able to comprehend seeing people climb thirty foot fences topped with barbed wire, just to have opposing fans shower them with questionable liquids from the terrace above. It is truly a different world..and though I love it - I am grateful for the distance I have from it. So I can stay alive and healthy to appreciate it.
From Castro to Karly -
8 years ago