After having gone from one extreme to the other, I figured I could now enjoy something slightly more balanced. Which is exactly what I found in La Paloma. As peaceful as José Ignacio – especially in autumn -, less jet set. La Paloma is rather the beach destination for middle class families. I was welcomed there by Sahiana and her dog Gaia. I wouldn’t have thought it possible for me to ever get to love a Pitbull but I have to admit that Gaia was good company for a walk or for just sitting at home with a book. Although it would have been unwise of me to count on her in case of an attack by any of the other numerous dogs in the neighbourhood. She was rather the submitted type. I since heard Gaia went missing. I can only hope that she has been found.
So La Paloma stood for uneventful beach walks – except for an encounter with a 20 year old lady, who unsuccessfully tried to teach me skateboarding and afterwards accepted to be my model for half an hour – and political discussions around an open fire. On the following Sunday, the Uruguayans had to vote. Traveling through couchsurfing, most people you meet are left-minded. In Uruguay, that would generally mean you will vote for the “Frente Amplio”, which is Pepe Mujica’s party. The right wing parties are mainly “Los Blancos” and “Los Colorados”. But before making their final choice, in october, they first have to determine who will be the presidential candidate for each party. Somehow, you can feel the dictatorship and the events from the 80’s are still a lively discussion. Though some of them think that’s the past and they now need to look at the future.
On my last day, before dropping me off at the bus station, Sahiana took me to the her farther’s milking farm. Uruguay is known as the country which has the greatest amount of cows per inhabitant: 3.8 cows for each Uruguayan. Sahiana works there part time. Like many other people I have met so far, she has two jobs. And is studying at the same time. Now 29, she runs a little hotel in La Paloma – which is much quieter now, during the low season – and studies Business administration. The latter is only possible thanks to the action taken by the current government to open universities outside Montevideo. Uruguay has only 3 million inhabitants and about half of them live in the capital. So, for a long time, it was the only place you could go to university. However, studying there is expensive, because you need to rent a room and prices are really high. So either they abandon the idea or, when they finish their studies, they stay in the capital, leaving the provinces bereft of a great part of its qualified youth, which could participate in their growth. Going to the University in Rocha allows Sahiana to work at the same time. With her degree, she hopes to be a better help in her father’s business.