Category Archives: holidays

Seeing the Celebration of Yemaja

Once the sun went down on the day where I saw the sheep’s head, Romina, her friend and I headed to the Yemaja Festival on the Rio de la Plata — on a different beach from where we had been earlier in the day.

There, was a religious festival on the beach, in the river and on the streets. Yemaja is the Goddess of the Sea.

The beach was full of people celebrating this spiritual holiday. The beach and the surrounding streets were full of people like us, who were observing.

In the sand, people had scooped out holes to put candles. Families gathered around their ‘hole’ and you could see them enjoying the company of those around them.

these were the holes in the sand

the beach was covered with candles in holes

It made the beach look beautiful but if you weren’t watching where you walked, it could have been dangerous.

it looked pretty

People were dressed in all white as they walked from the beach into the river to make their offering to Yemaja. Long white cotton gowns and pants dominated the fashion scene of religious participants.

women walking into the water

On the beach there were bands playing and on the street just parallel to the beach there was music coming from nearly every car.

It was very interesting and I didn’t take many photos, or try to get good ones, because I felt like an intruder on a spiritual journey. If you Google “Yemaja and Montevideo” there are photos if you wanted to see more. The spellings vary as this is celebrated in a variety of countries with an African influence.

And no, I did not see any other animals on the beach.


Heads Up! You Won’t Believe It Until You See It!

I know I didn’t want to spend time in cities, but after being so far from civilization for a few days, I couldn’t have been happier being in Montevideo.
With Romina's mate
As for food, jamon y queso sandwiches are everywhere! That’s ham and cheese — and they cut the crust off when you order them in a restaurant.
The other popular food item — dulce de leche. It’s very sweet and I was introduced to this during a vacation in Argentina. But the locals love it!At this point I had stayed one night with Mariela in her high-rise apartment and one night with Romina in her rented house. I didn’t want to be the houseguest that never left but the girls convinced me to stay just one more night.
My third, and final full day, in Montevideo had Romina and I heading to the beach!
View to the left…
Montevideo in the background
View to the right…
 Beach view away from the city
Shot of the city and the beach
The beach was pretty dirty with smashed watermelons and a fair amont of trash scattered on the beach.
 Dirty beach
Romina explained that this was the start of a native holiday. The fiesta, celebrating Yemaja, was for native people to send off watermelons, and boats, as gifts to the Goddess of the Sea. It was an African tradition and there would be many people celebrating again, on beaches around the city, tonight. We should go, Romina said. It wasn’t something she celebrated but it would be good to show me. I agreed.
Romina's shot of me after she took the picture of the head. Still note trashed beach.
We continued to soak up the rays and I headed to the water to stick my feet in. I walked along the edge of the water realizing that I was in Uruguay. It was like I had to keep pinching myself, knowing I was there. Being around Romina and Mariela made me a lot less lonely and their hospitality was incredible. I was having so much fun with them but I knew I needed to leave the next day. I continued along the beach until I was stopped in my tracks.By a head.

Yes, you read that right. A head.

Head
Without even taking a double look, I ran back to Romina skeeved and shaking in disbelief at what I just saw. I started speaking in Spanish and English telling her that I think it was a dog’s head. I even woof woof’d a few times to get my point across!
There was no blood but there was most definitely a head. She erupted in a fit of giggles. I was puzzled but still freaked out by what i just say so I was asking what, why?
When she caught her breath from her laughter, she said it’s probably from one of the gifts from the festival.
I said you have to go take a picture of it. I can’t go back and look but I wanted to see it again. Plus, no one at home would have believed me.
She took my camera and went to document the body- less head.
When she came back I asked more questions. And I kept saying perro (dog)? She replied with baaaa baaaa.
So sheep it was.
Another shot of the head

Dia de Noquis

Less than a week after my arrival in South America, I would get to celebrate my first holiday in Uruguay — Dia de Noquis! (Day of the Gnocchi!)

dia de noquis

The story goes …

By the time the end of the month rolled around no one had much money left. Gnocchi was cheap to make since the only ingredients needed were flour, potato and eggs. Remember that the next time you order a $30USD plate in New York City. Tradition says to place money under your plate for good luck the following month.

And because Uruguayans love a good holiday, there you have it. Dia de noquis! Since I happened to be in La Pedrera on the 29th of January, I happily partook and enjoyed my noquis y vino for lunch with Romina and Mariela.


Along for the ride

“We all like to think that we have some control over the events in our lives, and a lot of the time we can fool ourselves into thinking that we really are in charge. But then something happens to remind us that the world runs by its own rules and not ours and that we’re just along for the ride.” – Taken (Sci-Fi movie)

Be thankful for what you’ve done, where you’ve been and where you are going this Thanksgiving.


Celebrate #indie30

Here’s prompt number seven for BootsnAll’s 30 days of Indie Travel Project — celebrate!

It was December 2006. The boyfriend and I had been in Italy for just a few days and we arrived in Florence in the morning on December 31. We had nothing planned. Just our accommodation — a room in a bed and breakfast that a former colleague had recommended which was half a block from the main square and the Duomo.

As we tried to figure out our New Year’s Eve plans with only a few hours to go, the owner of the B&B had told us there would be a large outdoor celebration with music and fireworks in the square at midnight. He had suggested we get to a nearby restaurant early, to try and get an impromptu table for the first seating and then head to the square for the party since everything else inside would have required advance reservations.

This outdoor party appealed to me 0%. While on a smaller scale, it seemed like it would be like New Years Eve in Times Square. Which is not something I ever want to partake in unless I am holding a glass of champagne looking down at the action on the crowded streets below from a heated high-rise building with access to toilets. Big public street parties with large crowds of people do not have any appeal to me at all. And to the boyfriend, even less.

We took the owner’s advice, we went to the restaurant early. We had a surprisingly short wait and were seated with another couple, both Italians. Just before we ordered, I had decided that we would slowly order appetizers, dinner and drinks, stretching our meal over several hours to get us to midnight to avoid the party in the square.

We were really taking our time and probably had just ordered our dinner when the couple seated with us had finished their meal, paid the bill and left. The owner came over to our table and I thought for sure we were going to be asked to hurry up and leave. Not so. Instead, he politely asked if we would mind if his nephew and his girlfriend could join us.

Um?! What? Of course! We’re taking over a table for four with no reservation, we are visiting your country and it’s a money making holiday for restaurants. The owner was delighted that we had agreed that hesent over a round of drinks for the table.

We ate and drank and talked to our table mates. The guy spoke some English, his girlfriend only Italian. With my Spanish and better language skills as a result of the alcohol the boyfriend and I were able to hold a conversation with the guy as he translated for his girlfriend.

The boyfriend ordered a bottle of champagne for the table and to share with the very generous owner.

After the clock struck midnight, we made it onto the streets. At this point we should have probably gone back to the B&B and to bed.

This was nearly five years ago and we have still only been able to piece together our evening with a lot of holes that will probably never be filled. To start, the next day we found wrappers from Italian chocolates in our pockets. Neither of us recall eating them.

We had a few unplanned days later in our trip and we both vaguely remember chatting with some people on the streets trying to figure out where to spend those extra days as we made our way back to Milan. Neither of us are sure how we met these people, or how we started talking or what else we talked about.

As a result of (over) celebrating, we spent the better part of New Years Day, oh, who am I kidding, we spent all day in bed. We left around dinnertime to get some dinner. If I recall, it was ginger ale and rolls.

Once we got home we developed our photos eager to see what we may have missed. We had not yet gone digital so we didn’t know until another week or so what had transpired. The photos helped piece together some of the evening … red wine stained teeth, photos with our table mates, the owners, the waiter – as if we had known them forever and then photos with random people on the street.

So even though we can’t remember all of it, it still made for a very memorable New Years Eve celebration!

* Public safety note: We were young and dumb. We’re also very thankful we were not arrested, injured or robbed while we were less inhibited.


Veterans Day

Take a moment to thank a veteran today. It’s just that simple.


Someone very special to me turns 30 years old today!

Today is the 30th birthday of one of my readers. She is not just a reader but also my sister and one of my best friends.

I’m so bummed I won’t be able to celebrate with her in person this year.

I just wanted to give her a (sort of ) public shout out for the happiest of birthdays!

Love you J! Here’s to your next thirty (plus!) years!