My friend James (Diego) and I had to write a story for our Spanish class in high school about an imaginary trip to a South American country. I think this is why Señora hated us.
Jeeves has infiltrated my Internet browser. He is rather insistent I take a trip somewhere. I called Diego to see if he could come in and exterminate Jeeves somehow. In the midst of Diego’s endeavor, he booked us on a flight to Montevideo. We leave tomorrow at 7.
This is not Uruguay. This is not a Spanish speaking land in even the vaguest sense.
Diego and I boarded the plane this morning. We ate our in-flight peanuts. Diego locked himself in the bathroom for no apparent reason. After the flight attendants broke the door down, he calmly returned to his chair next to me and said he had seen the ground through the toilet drain. I requested another seat.
Out flight took twenty minutes. We got to the hotel, and Diego screamed bloody murder. He ran to the room and locked himself in that bathroom. He later told me that Vikings fans make him nauseous. While he was weeping, I called the airport. I explained that when I boarded the plane this morning, I was under the impression that I would be in Montevideo, Uruguay. Instead, I was in Montevideo, Minnesota. If it were my intention to end up in Minnesota, I would have driven.
I was impressed by the courtesy of the airport staff, who booked Diego and I on a fight, half-price, even, to leave that afternoon. I pounded on the bathroom door and relayed the news rather loudly to Diego. He said he’d think about it.
We arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay early this morning. Diego was asleep, and I can’t say I blame him. He was completely exhausted from his three and a half hour struggle to free himself from the duct tape I had strapped him to his seat with. He ceased, finally, when I explained to him how necessary the duct tape was. If there’s one thing Diego takes seriously, it’s chemical warfare.
After Checking into our Sheraton Hotel, Diego and I explored the many facets of Montevideo. We spent a great deal of the day in the “Ciudad Vieja,” or the “Old Town.” I was captivated by the 18th century architecture which was apparent most places you looked. Diego said he thought it’d be older, while excusing himself to use the latrine. I laughed when he realized it was an antique.
Next, we visited the Mercado del Puerto, where Diego bought himself some fruit souvenirs. I bought a marionette puppet from a meager merchant who called himself No Toque. I must have given him enough Pesos to begin with, because he didn’t even barter with me. I decided I would name my Puppet after him.
When Diego, No Toque, and I got back to the hotel, we were hot like skillets. We decided a swim in the pool was in order. Diego is a fine swimmer. He made me watch him do cannon balls and other water tricks he had perfected on his own. I sink when I swim, and decided it was safest to remain in the shallow end about where the steps were. No Toque was partial to the hot tub. He fell to pieces before I got him back to the room, but not before he ate Diego’s souvenirs.
Today we travel by bus to Punta del Este where we will visit the “Isla de los Lobos,” which is home to one of the largest sea lion colonies in the world. Diego couldn’t wait to get going, and had everything packed and ready this morning before I even opened my eyes. When I asked him why he was so excited, he told me he has always wanted to shake the Big Hand in the Sand.
The bus ride from Montevideo to Punta de la Esta was fairly uneventful. A tour guide pointed out all the areas of interest, especially those places Bess, our bus driver, could not go. Bess growled at all of us as we were exiting the bus.
Diego ran straight for the Hand in the Sand. He tossed me his camera so that I could take a picture of him hugging the massive index finger. He spent an hour searching for the giant pair of fingernail clippers that belonged to the hand. But to no avail, apparently. I am not sure, as I left him to go work on my tan.
The beach was pretty busy for a weekday. I suppose if we had a beach in Wayland, I’d be skipping school, too. Diego and I went snorkeling. I filled his snorkel with sand. He was spitting for hours.
As the sun was setting, and the beaches were closing down, Diego told me there was one last thing he had to do. He ran to the shore through a flock of standing birds who quickly scattered at the sight of Diego. They flew noisily in all directions, and resettled again in different places. Diego returned at a slower pace with a shell in his hand. “So I can hear the ocean,” he said, as I caught a glimpse of a hermit crab peeking out of the opening. I didn’t say anything, though. Instead I just smiled.
We waited at the bus stop for Bess to come pick us up. Luckily, it was a different driver whose only vice appeared to be a tendency to bite his nails. We got back to the hotel, and went right to sleep. We have a long day ahead of us.
This morning we checked out of the hotel. Diego took one too many complementary mints, and received an evil stare from the receptionist that said, “never come back”. Diego sent him back a look that explained, “I don’t intend to,” while grabbing another fist-full of mints. The receptionist, greatly offended by this act of war, placed the bowl of mints under the counter. Diego shot back a resentful gaze. Concerned for our safety, I broke the duel of stares by thumping a suitcase against Diego’s chest. “Carry this,” I told him, and lead the way to the exit.
When we got outside, we noticed it had begun raining. We were under the main entrance car tent, so we kept dry enough. I asked Diego how we were going to get to our next destination, which was the Lago Artificial, Uruguay’s largest lake. No sooner had I asked that when a car pulled up right in front of us under the tent. An American man clad in a business coat stepped out and said half to us, half to himself, “Oh, I hope I’m not late.”
Diego answered, “No, you’re not late. Checkout isn’t till 11.”
The business man handed Diego his car keys and hurried inside. As he was passing through the doors, he shouted back at us, “Be good to her!” I guess he meant his car, as I wasn’t wearing my kilt today.
Diego and I loaded our luggage into the trunk of the car. We were eager to get on our way- it was a long drive to Lago Artificial. The car was incredibly roomy. Diego estimated it to be at least $120,000, and why anyone would just give it to us was beyond him.
The early morning drizzle became a downpour and we turned up the radio to drown out the hypnotic rubbing of the windshield wipers. Diego began to really get into the Spanish pop music. On some songs, he would blink his hazard lights and honk along. Cars pulled off the road to let him and his bad self through. He’d honk politely at them as we passed.
We reached Lago Artificial in the afternoon and looked into the waters. Diego said the lake looked pretty real to him. It was still raining, so there wasn’t much else to do except sit in the car and play checkers. I beat Diego three times, so he owes me a pop once Lent is over.
We stayed the night at a small Inn on the edge of the lake.
On our last day, Diego wanted to stop at a town he found on the internet called Trenta y Tres. Since there is an airport there, I didn’t argue. We didn’t have anything else in mind other than to get there, get to the airport, and get home. Just the thrill of seeing the water tower was enough to make Diego giggle like a schoolgirl. He snapped a few pictures as we pulled into the airport parking lot.
On our way through customs, the x-ray of Diego’s bags revealed a small, crab-shaped rock. The inspectors made Diego leave the wildlife on the Uruguayan soil. This included the shell he picked up from the beach. He boarded the plane with no souvenir except a pen he stole from the security guard and a bag full of mints. I told him it wasn’t a wasted trip. At least he had his memory. And his pictures. And a luxury vehicle that would be shipped to us within the week.