Monday, March 3, 2008

Everybody Must Get Stoned...or climb them anyway!

I’ve been really fortunate this semester in that I found the only rock climbing gym in all of Uruguay (and it happens to be only a couple of blocks away from our house!). The wall is located in the local YMCA, which is called the Asociacion Cristiana de Jovenes (Christian Association of Young-People) in Spanish, and several of us students have placed membership there. Three of us, Alan, Mallory, and I have been frequenting the rock climbing wall about 3 times a week. It’s been a great place to train for climbing, to make friends, learn about Uruguay, and to practice Spanish.
Recently, we were asked to go on a rock climbing camping trip with the group. Not wanting to be stuck in Montevideo we gladly accepted and went on to have the time of lives. Here’s our weekend in a whirlwind: rode on a rickety, old bus, rock climbed, ate Uruguayan food, rock climbed, pretended to know Spanish, learned Spanish, practiced Spanish, swam in the river, rock climbed in the river, ate Uruguayan parrilla (grill: we had ribs), slept, and repeated.
On the trip we got to meet a lot of the Uruguayans that we had been climbing with over the past couple of weeks and have made some pretty good friends. One of our closest, has been Pablo. We met him from the very start when we toured the ACJ, most likely because he speaks the best English out of anyone I’ve met while living down here. And he’s crazy: he’s the best climber I’ve ever met, he’s single and in his 30’s, and we found out on the camping trip that he’s a ham! While we were waiting for the ribs to grill on Saturday night, he kept trying to get the kids to sing and dance to no avail. And the 3 of us also call him our “mom.” He helped us out a ton on the camping trip, most comically by bringing us every kind of food available to try: “You don’t have to eat it if you don’t like it, just try it” he would say.
He also has one of the coolest jobs ever. I don’t know if he works for the ACJ or not, but we’ve come to learn that he has a private business creating fitness programs for special needs people, especially those with Down Syndrome. Alan and I were able to see him work with a group with DS in the rock climbing area and it really touched me. In the future I want to do something like that. Maybe not specifically with handicapped people, but just the aspect of using something that I love like rock climbing to make a difference in the world really appeals to me.

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