We arrived by bus to La Barra, Uruguay from Montevideo on November 17th with the plan to spend the next 6 weeks in this small beach town near the more well-known resort town of Punta del Este. If you are anything like me, then Uruguayan geography is maybe not your strongest subject, and hopefully the map below will help. With the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast, the Uruguay coast is easily the place where I’ve been the most directionally-challenged of anywhere I’ve ever been (so far!) Being on the coast, you’d swear you were seeing the sunset, but how can you be when you’re looking South?!?
After our time in Brazil and Argentina, we’ve come to the conclusion that the kids (and let’s face it, all of us) will be better off if we can find more organized activities in which they can participate. In Buenos Aires, the boys loved the Club Marongoni de Futbol (soccer) that they did 3x per week, but we never found quite the right option for Cecelia, and even for the boys, it was clear they would love to have even more time with other kids. The fact that they are clearly missing time with friends plus some of the challenges of homeschooling/entertaining all three at home has motivated us to find more organized programs for them in our next destinations.
Traveling in close quarters for the past 3 months has also made it apparent (unavoidably so, at times ;)) that every one of us needs our own ‘right’ amount of “me” time and space. Most adults know how much time they like to spend with other people, and how much time they like to themselves, but it’s interesting to think about the fact that by the time you’re an adult, you probably don’t even think about this balance consciously on a regular basis. Most of us choose how to spend our time based on feelings and preferences that we might not even be able to articulate, that have become patterns and habits over time.
This trip has definitely made me more consciously aware of my own needs for space (whether or not my mom-guilt lets me admit to it) and it has been really eye-opening to start to observe this same drive and need in the kids to find the right balance for themselves. While obviously articulated differently by each of them, the kids each have a very strong sense of what they need and when they need it relative to space and time to themselves, and while we can’t always grant their wishes immediately (eg Colin told us that he needed space so he suggested he stay alone in our apartment in Punta del Este while we went to the beach), it has been great to see them start to learn this about themselves and to share it with us so that we can try to support them in getting their needs met.
Additionally, when they’ve had the opportunities, it’s amazing to see how the kids branch out when they’re with peers in the places we’ve visited without us ‘helicoptering’ about. Sean takes particular pride in the fact that he’s made at least one friend everywhere we’ve gone so far, and Cecelia has emails for the friends she bonded with in the pool at our hotel in Iguazu Falls, and on our snorkeling adventure in Ilha Grande.
So, arriving to La Barra, we had hopes of finding school or extracurricular programs for the kids over the (Uruguayan) summer break to give them a chance to hang out more with their peers, without us, and to even give them space from each other.
As with our other destinations, we had rented a small house in La Barra using Airbnb and were excited to arrive to our ‘cottage’ less than 2 blocks in either direction from both a beautiful beach and a commercial neighborhood with markets, restaurants, and shopping.
The kids have been troopers, and get better and better at traveling as our trip goes on. Our bus left us off ~5 blocks from our new home, and they barely batted an eye when we told them we were walking from the station to the house (with our 5 suitcases, 5 backpacks, and random extra bags of snacks for the trip and treasures we’ve acquired along the way). Needless to say, we were a sight (again) making our way through town during what is still the “low” season. This area gets much busier in mid-December through February during summer holidays for Argentines (90% of the tourists to this area), and Brazilians (5%), with people like us making up the other 5% (tourists from all over).
Out host met us at the house and was very gracious, even offering to take us into town to get groceries, which we’ve learned from our other arrivals is a critical first step to ‘setting up house.’ (Well, second step usually, with the first one being to actually locate the grocery store ;)). When it turned out that the local market was closed due to a strike, she drove us back to Punta del Este (a 15 minute drive), waited for us to shop, and brought us back again with all of our groceries.
The house itself turned out to be somewhat different than what was described in the ad on Airbnb, and unfortunately, we had a rough night staying there: we tried to make a simple pasta + vegetable dinner and found that there was not enough propane to boil water on our gas stove for the spaghetti, or even to thoroughly cook the broccoli (not that the kids minded this specific setback). The pots and dishes were all fairly dirty which required wash before use, and there was not a drying rack or dish towel to be found when it was time to clean up. The night only went downhill (I wish I could report otherwise) and we spent the majority of the night chasing buzzing mosquitoes and comforting kids who were also not sleeping well, only to find in the morning that some tiny critters had been feasting on them all night, and they were covered in red itchy bites. Needless to say, we decided without much discussion or fanfare to cancel our rental and make alternate arrangements.
While not a good night’s sleep and definitely not a home we will miss, we did make the most of the beautiful beach and grassy backyard to enjoy the super long days Uruguay has at this time of year. Uruguay has been experiencing unusually large and strong storms as of late, and the beaches were covered with shells and other interesting treasures as a result. (The storms probably also contributed to the insane quantity of mosquitoes and other flying pests that tried to disrupt our peace.)
Back in an apartment in the bigger city of Punta del Este, we checked out the beaches on both sides of the town (being a ‘point,’ it has a more exposed (rough) coast on one side and a more protected (calm) one on the other) while we started to figure out what we’d do next.
Believe me when I say that our whole family is always grateful for everything that Jim does, but we were even more grateful than usual to be married to/fathered by someone who owns and operates a South American travel company since our Airbnb was not what we had hoped for and we suddenly needed a new plan for the next 6 weeks.
Still wanting to see other destinations in the area that had been on the wish list all along, and following some intense hours of researching and planning on Jim’s part, we decided to rent a car and go on a mini road trip over what turned out to be the long Thanksgiving weekend.
Next post…Uruguay road trip!
Tchau for now!