UNDERSTANDING URUGUAY

January 31, 2002 11:00 pm
Paige Cramond sits with Uruguayan ranchers to eat lamb. ().
Paige Cramond sits with Uruguayan ranchers to eat lamb. ().

Paige Cramond, 18, has returned from her stay in a foreign country in an effort to learn about a culture and foreign language.

About three weeks ago, Cramond returned from a five-month visit to Uruguay, a South American country that is slightly smaller than the state of Washington.

I had a really good time there, Cramond said. It was more than worth it. Id do it again.

Her trip to the nation of 3.3 million was the second she has taken through the exchange service, Youth for Understanding, which provided her with a partial scholarship. Cramond spent a year in Germany in 2000.

She described Uruguay as a total opposite of Germany. There is a lot of poverty, but its not a third-world country.

People are more liberal about the clothes they wear, the society is more open and friendlier, she said. Yet, abortion is not legal and the people are predominantly Catholic.

Politically the nation is a republic, but voting is mandatory. People can be fined for not voting, Cramond said.

It is a tradition among Uruguayans to greet each other with a kiss on the right cheek. Touching is more accepted.

The physical bubble is nonexistent, Cramond said describing the closeness of the people.

Cramonds stay began Aug. 10, just in time to complete the last quarter of the school year. Because Uruguay is a Southern hemisphere country with seasons opposite of the United States, the school year ends in October and begins again in March.

I spent their summer there, Cramond said.

She went to school in Melo, a city of 50,000 that serves as a state capital, which is 50 miles from the Atlantic coast and about the same distance from the Brazilian border.

Schools there are really cool, Cramond said of her short stay in the education system. Because of her short stay, she had trouble deciphering the system there. She just recalled that school is mandatory until age 15.

A school day is from 4 to 8 p.m. This is because the country is mostly a night culture, she said. Many people begin their day around noon.

Once school was out, Cramond had the opportunity to tour the country and the southernmost portion of Brazil. Her host families often shopped across the border, she said.

She traveled to Southern Uruguay to the city of Montevideo, the nations capital. Nearly half the people live in that city, she said.

Its friendly, its clean, its on the ocean and its absolutely gorgeous, Cramond said. It is my favorite city in the world.

Cramond also got a taste of rural life when she visited a ranch.

She went horseback riding, which she said was painful. After the ride the ranchers gathered for a feast. They killed a lamb and prepared it for the meal.

Cramond said she was horrified to watch the lamb being killed.

I was a vegetarian for 20 minutes, Cramond said.

While the meal was prepared, she took a nap. When she joined the meal, she said she did not hesitate to eat.

It was delicious, Cramond said of the fresh kill.

Uruguayans eat lots of meat, especially beef and lamb, rice and fried potatoes.

They eat lots of fried food lots of oil is used, Cramond said.

While in South America, Cramond joined tours organized by Youth for Understanding. She went to Rochas and Punta de Este (East Point) where she visited beautiful beaches for a week. She also spent a week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is across the Rio de la Plata from Montevideo.

Although Cramond said she would like to take another trip, her immediate plans are to stay here for awhile and get to know America. She said she knows little about her own country.

She is now attending College of the Redwoods in Crescent City full time. She hopes that she can use her foreign language skills in her career, which she has not decided on yet.

Five college credits were awarded for her trip to Uruguay, she said.

Cramond has learned to speak German and Spanish, although she joked that she speaks those foreign languages with a weird accent.

She speaks Spanish with a German, American and Brazilian accent, she said.