I started off the morning with the intention of writing something completely different for a completely different blog. I can’t stop seeing or thinking about Montevideo, though, so we’re going to talk about that.
When I started study abroad blogging, I did it partly for myself, and partly so my family could keep tabs on me. I did it to express, somehow, in the most imprecise but best way I had, how it felt to be there.
Words are so imprecise, but at the same time they are so magical and useful at binding senses to memory. Sometimes when I remember things, I scramble to file them away in my brain for later — the words encode the feeling, at least partly, in case my other senses fail to remember. I don’t want to forget everything I remember, and I always feel as though I remember so little.
I remember how there wasn’t a single even stretch of sidewalk. I stopped wearing my ballet flats after the first try — the tiles were too uneven to wear anything but sneakers.
I remember how when I walked to catch the bus to class each morning, if I remembered to look to my left as I crossed the street, wow — there was the river.
I remember how every time we went to the beach, my socks and shoes and pockets would dust the floors with sand for days after. I even itched sand out of my scalp. I laughed a little every time it happened.
I remember the sweat and sunblock slick smell-feeling of summer, summer in February, the peeling sunburn — langosta! — on my shoulders covered with a pale pink t-shirt. I only wore tank tops at night or under a jacket for the rest of the summer, until the burn faded along with the band-aid shaped tan line on my right shin.
I remember the wind whipping around my hair and my underwear as I organized my clothes neatly on the roof clothing line. I remember grabbing the keys, laughing, sliding the old-fashioned elevator grate shut and whisking ourselves up to the roof to “hang up our laundry” even when all my clothes were safe and sound in the closet and hamper.
I remember the taste of grappamiel, the way it felt like syrup going down as we mixed it with Coke or gulped it straight from the bottle. Our host mom made fun of us — it’s a sipping liquor, old folks drink it in the winter because it keeps you warm. It kept us warm.
I remember the taste of dulce de leche thick on French bread as we stumbled to life in a hostel kitchen. Washing it down with milk, milk from a bag, and hot herbal tea and instant coffee.
I remember peeling off our jeans and running into the water, where its edge so casually met the land. It was just there. So vast. At the water’s edge, everything is a world away. We passed around a bottle and let the waves buffet us into one another’s laughter.
I remember the creak of the library stairs. I remember the way the wind made our doors slam if we didn’t close them just right. I remember staring out the window of the bus every day, the same route, the same soundtrack, constantly seeing new things. I remember the way Elvira flung her scarf around her like a shawl, with style, and I remember giggling and doing the same. I remember when I stopped wearing makeup, saving my cara pintada for nights out.
I remember never once thinking how much I would miss it, how much every bone in my body would crave to go back, or at least go elsewhere. I never knew how it would feel to miss it. You never know how it feels to miss it, until you decide to let it wash over you, until you give it the time and space to do so.
I remember all this and so much more, and I never want to forget.