Three Weeks In Montevideo: Superpowers and Handicaps of The Extranjero Engaged in Long Term Hostel Living

On this, the Mid Western Rube's 22nd day in Montevideo it is time to take an inventory of the powers and handicaps possessed by the extranjero in Montevideo. First the superpowers:

  • Superior mapping. Unburdened by familiarity with the bus system the gringo walks far and wide surveying the earth. Locals and Brasileros alike are astounded when you can offer a shorter path to their destination that involves a 15-30 minute walk rather than a 20 minute bus wait and who knows how long on bus. Mapping supremacy is aided by a street grid that tilts to accommodate the coastline, once awareness of how key thoroughfares are aligned is had, the rest of a neighborhood's layout falls into place.
  • Eye contact supremacy. Much as the ground can be surveyed, so too can be the human landscape. When walking amongst people as opposed to hamplanets, this exercise can be most revealing. Whose curiosity is piqued by the 5'7" gringo with bad teeth and an impressive beard? The pretty girls. Who is embarrassed that this is the moment they share a sidewalk with an extranjero that isn't yet another Brasilero spending the weekend aca? Most of the pretty girls. Whose self worth collapses in the presence of the gringo with a full beard? Young males of trouble making age.
  • Entiendo mas que hablo: Have you ever had the pleasure of going to the cinema, attracting a mixed gender crowd of young cinema employees astonished any extranjero would visit a cinema, acquired a ticket, and then watched the ample color completely drain from a young boy's face when you raise an eyebrow because you caught him trying to refer to you as a woman without the stupid extranjero noticing. The laughing did not disambiguate the way he expected.
  • The surprising rapidity of the transition from visitor to presence: The transition from receiving advise to not visit the Ciudad Vieja at night to telling the hostel staff to make eye contact with every stranger who approaches them and gifting them the knowledge of exactly how far away and in which direction from the tourist areas prices return to sanity happened far faster than I expected. Also, gifting ~15 dollars worth of super market sandwiches to those at the hostel who did not anticipate the extent to which the city would be closed on Navidad appears to have generated substantial good will.
  • Full beard: Here even many of the people who appear to have the ability to grow a full beard still crop it close for some reason, likely "fashion" or some other shit.
  • Solid walking boots: In a corner of the world where the old men wear petite mass market leather shoes and the young boys wear basket ball inspired brands of plastic foot covering, the difference a solid pair of leather work boots provides makes a substantial social impression. Not to mention the confidence provided by a self cleaning lug pattern and non-slip sole. Woe to the under shod fellow who on the ceramic tile stretches of sidewalk encounters a dog turd. And then there's the biomechanics and commanding stride encouraged by these same boots.
  • Social access: Living in a hostel and making my office in a coworking facility, I have social access to people. Some more transient, some more rooted to the city. When it was time to find a teacher for Spanish lessons, this made all the difference between parting with 1000 pesos (~30+ USD) per hour and parting with 300 pesos (~10 USD) an hour.
  • Yo se que yo puedo tener hambre: Going to a foreign land with a gansta roll and a mission to start a new chapter in life, the lazing about of the vacationers and the stability in the routines of the employed locals has the potential to lure the self guided agent of the Republic into sloth and unproductive compliance. Remaining acutely aware that the gansta roll is a finite resource renewable only through directed goal oriented activity has been paramount to anchoring my activities to sanity and purpose. Eating a bit less food, putting a bit of time between meals, and knowing the actual hambre can develop and interest in me has been solid motivation to ward off delusions of choice.
  • Communion with The Most Serene Republic: Nothing in this world can substitute for the leverage that becomes available from having history and voice in the Republic.


  • Occasionally there's a surprise and inconveniently timed vocabulary lesson. Is there a good time to learn from una chica the meaning of celos?1
  • My US passport, rarely in history has a single document scared so many banks.
  • Not starting this part of the adventure that is life two years ago.
  • I still have ideas. For example the one where I though an abogado was the correct professional to midwife a company birth and lost a week of waiting for the locals to digest paperwork that was instead spent trying to find the right kind of professional to oversee that process.
  • My ears still bias towards preferring to try decoding Portuguese when it is being spoken in close proximity to Spanish. This is abating, slowly.
  • Local tolerance and patience present opportunities to practice poor language habits. For this reason, structured Spanish lessons have proven essential. Few things here appear to be more rare or valuable than persons capable and willing to deploy humiliation, particularly the necessary educational sort.

Bonus Update Handicap:

  • Attempting to recover from monolingualism as an adult in a trilingual space is mentally taxing. My error rate in writing my native language has increased substantially compared to last month.

  1. The good time that follows una media hora mas tarde makes up for the inconvenience.  

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