Sunday, September 06, 2009

Monk Mode

We've almost reached the six-month mark of our yearlong South American adventure, and as I mentioned previously, the second half of our year won't be spent in Buenos Aires (where we've lived for four of the past six months). Instead, after our visit home in September (during which I plan to consume copious amounts of nut butter, maple syrup, and Timbits) we're going to fly to Lima and travel around the continent - first south through Peru, Chile, and Argentina, then back to Brazil and possibly a few of the northern countries like Bolivia.

For the past three weeks we've been traveling through Southern Brazil and Uruguay, which has been a great trial run to figure out exactly what we want to carry on our backs for six months (the answer: a lot less than we're carrying now). It has also given us the opportunity to figure out and implement our new budget, in which we allocate a third of our daily spending to travel - something we didn't have to do when we were living in Buenos Aires. Borrowing a phrase coined by my BFF, Sirrah, we're in Monk Mode, which means that we're living frugally - just like monks, except without all the annoying celibacy.

It wouldn't be so bad except that we both like to eat, a lot, as in we really enjoy eating and we also like to eat a lot of food. In Brazil, we could usually find lunch of either chicken, fish, or meat, plus rice, beans, fries, and a small salad for around $5, and it was more than enough to share. A shot of coffee (cafezhino) in Brazil goes for anywhere from 25-50¢, and there's all that delicious fruit.

We're now in Montevideo, Uruguay, and have found a bakery near our hostel at which we can buy 2 coffees and 6 tiny medialuna sandwiches for $2.50. A hamburger from a street cart costs as little as $1 (and up to $2, depending on how many toppings you want to add, and by toppings I don't just mean ketchup and mustard - these babies come with slices of cheese, ham, bacon, and sometimes a fried egg).

As you may have gathered, the menu items available during Monk Mode are often not the most nutritious, so my new plan is to seek out introductory (read: free) classes of any physical activity I can bring myself to do, from yoga to capoeira to pilates.

Activities in a new city are also a challenge. We spent one day in Puerto Alegre, Brazil, and it rained, nay, poured, for 11 of the 12 hours we were there. We spent most of the day wandering around the central market, parking ourselves at one of its many eating establishments and ordering 2 of the cheapest coffees on the menu which we nursed for an hour or more while we played cards.

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