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Monday, May 20, 2013

A Night Out On The Town!

Wally doesn't like to drive in Montevideo because of all the wild drivers who straddle lanes and buses that barely squeeze by you. He especially doesn't like going there at night! So I jumped at the opportunity to go with some others who were willing to do the driving.

You know me, always out for a bargain, I was thrilled to be invited to go to a "FREE" concert being held at the sports club , Club Bigua in the barrio of Villa Biarritz one of many Montevideo neighborhoods.

Most towns have a local social club/gym but this neighborhood has "some bucks". There are several high end neighborhoods in Montevideo and this one showed it belonged to their ilk, not just by its pricy high-rise buildings lining the streets but by its amenities like this huge sports center.

We didn't know if the concert would be held outside under the stars on the grassy grounds surrounding the place (it was a beautiful night) or inside. It didn't dawn on us that the singer would be accompanied this evening by the Symphony Orchestra of Montevideo, so yes, it was held indoors this night.

On entering, I noticed the unique 2 story basketball court with its bank of windows above where you can watch the people exercise and work out on the row of running machines. This sports club also had several Tennis courts (a very popular sport here) full of participants. This was a very active place.

The concert started at around 7 o'clock and lasted some 1 1/2 hours. It played to a packed audience (every seat was taken). The orchestra conducted by Maestro ÁLVARO HAGOPIAN played a piece in the style of the "Big band" era.

Then the main attraction came out, a singer named LAURA CANOURA.  She was hard to get a photo of because several bright lights shone on her and my camera washed her face out.

There were several children in the audience and amazingly the audience hushed them as they made noise.  I was impressed that this crowd really wanted to hear this singer sing.

I will try and edit a portion of Laura singing. If not please excuse the first few seconds of blurry pictures and babies crying, it seems to clear up quickly. I liked these song choices but others in my group had heard her on previous occasions singing livelier songs from her stage play in which she stared as "Pia". I don't know about that play, so one day I'll find out what that plays' story was about.

After the concert we located an Asian restaurant. It was down some dark street and it had no windows to the street. You had to be buzzed in. I felt like I was trying to get into a "speakeasy" one of those places to sneak a drink of booze in during the prohibition era in the "Roaring Twenties"(1920s') when booze was banned in the USA. This restaurant was primarily used for delivering Chinese food to people in the local neighborhood who called them up by phone. Foreign food is a novelty here so it was good to have a change of pace food wise.

Finally, before we drove back home, we stopped by 2 interesting sites.

I got to see "The Greetingman" The Greeting man is a giant statue in light blue of someone "bowing in greeting" It is a gift to Uruguay from a Korean artist called Yoo Young-ho. It was installed last year in October, 2012.

It's located alongside the rambla (a road that runs by the water) in the Buceo neighborhood of MVD and it is 1 block from José Batlle y Ordóñez (1 block before) if you are coming from the East.

It is lit up at night and highly visible.

It cost 200 thousand dollars (US). It weights 3 tons. It is 6 meters tall (19.69 feet).

Bowing is the Asian form and Korean way of greeting one another.

"Greeting is the first step in any relationship!"(Yoo Young-ho) That was the point of this sculpture.

The statue is blue so as not to reflect any racial skin color or prejudices and it is naked for the same reason. A dress style could prejudice one by identifying it with a social class.

It was given to Uruguay because Uruguay is supposedly the direct opposite globably to South Korea on the map.

According to El Pais newspaper the artist raised the bulk of the money for the Uruguay statue by selling 800 smaller stautes at $200 each

2 tourists "bowing down" to read the plaque!
Yoo Young-ho has an ambitious aim to put 1000 of these statues around the globe. He hopes to install a second statue between North and South Korea as a gesture of peace. He also wants a third one installed in Vietnam as a way to "ask forgiveness" for Korea's part in the Vietnam war. He believes a forth one should be placed between Palestine and Israel to serve the same purpose for peace as the one he wants between the 2 korean countries. So far, the only one that stands in reality, is in Uruguay.  He is calling this the "Greetingman project" because of his grandiose dreams.

Forgive me, but I thought this YouTube video that I posted below was funny. I never knew about the Greeting man before lastnight. As a side note, in thinking back to my visit there, the statue forces you "to bow in front of it" since the information regarding it is written on level ground in black granite and placed before the statue. Everyone coming up to the statue bends their head down, in order to read, what the plaque says.

The second site we saw was the refurbished Hotel Sofitel Montevideo Casino in the Carrasco neighborhood (another high end neighborhood). It is a beautiful french style classic looking building which has been declared a National Heritage site. It was gorgeously lit up to highlight its facade. The hotel part has 93 rooms and the casino is in the center of the building under a domed roof.

Since we only drove around it in the parking lot and didn't go in, I will have to look inside it another day. I don't gamble but I do enjoy peeking into places, especially beautiful architectural gems. So one day I'll try and snap some inside pictures of that Casino/hotel.

All in all, I enjoyed my "night out" and about in Montevideo very much.
 (photo credit goes to Loren Henry for the "Greetingman", casino and restaurant)


Anonymous said...

Hi Denise,
The problem with the Greetingman is that Mr. Young-Ho should have done some cultural research before forcing his donation on us. The way we perceive it, it's a gesture of submission, and the ridiculous size and color of the thing, plus its placement in one of the most loved corners of the Montevideo Rambla, makes it universally hated by Uruguayans...

Denise said...

Dear Margarita,
I heard the rumor or maybe it's just a joke that the "Greeting man" was actually given to Argentina first and that they rejected it, so it was sent here instead!

I used to live in Hawaii and Guam where there is a lot of Japanese influence and have visited Japan. Bowing is very much integral to their culture as a gesture of "respect" to others and a sign of gracious humility both admiral qualities! These are what come to "my mind" first rather than any negative show of weakness. Maybe it's good exposure for this country so small to be introduced to other cultures and traditions. So that they can do some "cultural research" as well. All art has the power to elicit emotions good or bad, this seems to definitely be impacting people, so it is actually doing it's job.

The choice of it's placement maybe could have been somewhere else yet there is another statue nearby on this same corner a few feet away, honoring some Uruguayan personage yet it has graffiti scrawled across it's base. So that seems to also speak negatively, does that have something to do with Uruguayan culture as well. Remember people don't "have to" accept donations or gifts, maybe those who accepted this gift wanted Uruguay to be a part of something bigger and go a little outside of their comfort zone in receiving it.

Just a thought to ponder.

Anonymous said...

Dear Denise,
As you know I am not Uruguayan, I am from Brazil, a place with a very similar culture as Uruguay. I completely agree with your point, it is about embracing cultural difference and being open minded. I would love to have statue at my hometown in Brazil!
By the way, I’ve seen a similar statue in a village called Heyri, in South Korea. It is a dedicated art village not very far from Seoul… really very nice place for a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of Seoul. It is like being transported to the pages of an architectural magazine… there they also have their Blue Man Statue.
I like the idea behind this artist's goal, as a way to connect different people and cultures through something as simple as a greeting!
Best regards,

Anonymous said...

First of all, thank you for your blog.
I've been reading it for about 3 years now. I left Uruguay 8 years ago, and still miss my home very much. So, again, thank you.
About the statue I would like to say that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, specially when it is about art, that is so subjective. In my personal opinion, I loved the statue, not for the look of it, but for the meaning, it just made me feel that I wanted to be there bowing at it. It would make me feel so humble and I am sure it would somehow bring some peace to my soul.
I'm sad to hear that some things in the idiosyncrasy of the Uruguayans haven't changed yet(i.e. negative comments), but I guess that 8 years is not long enough to change a major part of a country's way of thinking.
Kind regards, Gabriel.

Seamus said...

Denise, just FYI: If you ever do go back to that casino, inquire first before taking pictures. I don't know about Uruguay, but in the US it is a BIG no no to take pictures in a casino. It's that, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." privacy thing. Which is a lot of nonsense because any court subpoena will trump a casino tradition. But if you try to take pictures, the bouncers might not like it.

No need to post this.

And once again, I really enjoy your blog.