A day in Colonia, Uruguay

On Friday I went to Uruguay for three whole hours–to renew my tourist visa. This exciting process is one that many long-term expats in Buenos Aires are familiar with; since work visas are (understandably) difficult to obtain, most foreigners live and work here illegally on a tourist visa that is issued to any person who enters the country. Tourist visas are only valid for 90 days, which means that every three months you have to pop over to another country– for any amount of time, as long as you step over the border– so that your visa can be renewed for another 90-day stay. It’s a slightly inconvenient process that Argentine officials happily ignore because it means an influx of dollars and euros and an increase in spending for the economy. (I hear plenty of foreigners bitch about this “inconvenience,” and while I’d certainly prefer to have a legal visa myself and not have to plan a day trip every three months, it’s nothing compared to the fact that we are basically allowed to work here illegally, which usually means not paying taxes.)

Fortunately for me, Uruguay is only an hour away from Buenos Aires on a comfortable ferry ride, so I booked a cheap ticket for 80 pesos (~ 20 bucks) each way and headed to the cute town of Colonia for a few hours. It was a rainy day and I only stayed to eat lunch, so this trip wasn’t terribly eventful. Instead, I thought I’d post some pics from my first visit to Colonia in November, which was a beautiful sunny day full of adventures and exploration. (story at the end)

Colonia was originally colonized by the Portuguese. There are some neat colonial areas near the water to explore.

After checking out the colonial areas, I headed inward to see what the city had to offer.

why yes, that IS a blue whale skeleton

A famous street– The Street of Sighs

Tiny doorway confirming that I do not fit anywhere in South America

After that I walked back to the ferry station, following the old train tracks along the shore back to town.

List of plants and animals in the nature reserve

Cute old guy I spied sitting in his chair in the shadow of a tree. We talked for a few minutes (mostly about the weather, of course). He was really adorable so I snuck his picture while I was walking away.

Uruguayan children-beasts! (In Argentina and Uruguay little kids wear smocks for uniforms at school. They’re adorable as hell.)

After several hours, I took my time getting back to the ferry station, arriving a little less than an hour before my ferry was scheduled to return to Buenos Aires. I walked up to the attendant to check in and she glanced up at me from her computer:

“Se fue.”

Five second pause as I painfully translated in my head: “Se fue. Se fueΒ is the past tense of go. That means it left. The ferry left. OH MY GOD IT LEFT.”

As it turns out, a few weeks before, the clocks in South America had changed for Daylight Savings Time. However, Argentina, being the badass rebel country that it is, chose not to change its clocks this year (yes, it varies every year depending on how the president feels). So, Uruguay was now one hour ahead of Buenos Aires and I had actually arrived an hour later than I had thought– right as my ferry was departing.

I panicked for a moment because I had not thought to bring my credit or debit card with me, and I had only a small stash of pesos in my wallet. I started running through all the possible scenarios: calling someone at my house and asking them to bring my debit card, paying their ferry fare and maybe having to spend a night in Uruguay. (For the record, I am a worst-case scenario optimist: I hope for the best but am well-prepared for the worst.) I nervously approached the ticket booth of another ferry company, inquiring how much a seat on the next ferry to Buenos Aires would cost me. The attendant typed at the computer for a minute, then told me… “130 pesos.” I looked in my wallet– and found exactly that amount inside.

So a few hours later I got back to Buenos Aires, hungry because I didn’t have any money but grateful to be back home– and better prepared for my next trip to Uruguay.

Beautiful sunset on the way back home

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