Posted by: Jena Davison | October 17, 2009

If You Wanna Be a Badger, Come Along With Me…To Uruguay

When I first emailed Brian Meissner, the owner of El Diablo Tranquilo, I was surprised, but excited, to find out that he was a Wisconsin alum. Little did I know that I would be travel halfway across the world only to be met by a strong, loyal Badger community. About half of the staff currently working here went to UW-Madison, but most of us were in different social circles and did not know each other. Yet, while reminiscing, it is funny to realize that many of us have potentially brushed shoulders in certain bars or apartments, without even blinking twice.

Anyways, Brian decided to get us all red Wisconsin Badgers shirts that say El Diablo Tranquilo Hostel and Bar on the back, which are pretty sweet. Needless to say, today was game day, so we all stopped everything we were doing to play drinking games and huddle around the reception desk computer to watch the homecoming game stream through the Internet. We even went as so far to build a makeshift beer bong out of piping and an empty soda bottle, and played songs like ¨Sweet Caroline,¨¨Jump Around,¨ and ¨Swingtown.¨ Although, the Badgers ended up losing to game to the Iowa Hawkeyes, it was so comforting being surrounded by people who can all relate to the college experience I had and loved so much.

On another note, this morning, Kerry, Julie, Lindsay and I took a long walk through the sand dunes and ended up at this peak that overlooks all of Punta del Diablo to the right and a stunning beach to the left. We went down on the beach after admiring the view and sat down to relax and take in the aesthetic scenery. We pretty much had the beach to ourselves, which allowed us to really take in all the sounds, sights and smells surrounding us. The ocean was pretty calm, but waves gently billowed in the distance and then lapped the horeshoe-shaped shore in a rhythmic fashion. I felt so small compared to the grandeur and vastness of the ocean ahead, which spans mind-boggling miles into the distance. There is no visible land or structure to interrupt its natural course anywhere within view.

Also, I was awed by the brightness and visibility of the stars last night. Never in my life have I seen a sky so speckled with gleaming flecks of light. It is really beyond description, but it felt as if I was in an outdoor planetarium. I could effortlessly make out all of the consellations, though different than the ones we can all see in the northern hemisphere, and Rob even pointed out to me where Venus and the Milky Way galaxy were located. I was told it is even clearer if I head down closer to the beach, so I see some further star-gazing in my near future.

The hostel hosted an outdoor BBQ on the beach last night with asado, chorizo, veggies, pasta salad and tomato salad, which was all very delicious. Afterwards, I came back to the hostel and mingled with some of the guests. In particular, I spent most of the night talking to this Kiwi named Sam, who was very bubbly and enthusiastic. I was really curious to learn more about the history and current condition of New Zealand and he was kind enough to patiently talk me through all the questions I posed to him. I realized that I did not even know the capital of New Zealand and it bothered me, so it encouraged me to learn more. The capital is Wellington by the way, not Auckland. He studied oceanography, but had been working as an engineer in the UK for the past few years to travel Europe and whatnot. Overall, New Zealand seems like a great place to grow up and live, and I would like to visit it someday.

Eventually, we got on the topic of socialized healthcare, which spiraled into further conversation about the healthcare system in the States. New Zealand has privatized healthcare, yet it seems to work just fine there. The question came up as to why it has failed so miserably in the U.S. and further, how different systems and regulations work for different societies. Probably my favorite part of working here is that every single night is a stimulating conversation and a constant learning experience. I feel like a huge sponge wanting to soak up all the deep histories and fascinating stories of all the guests who stay here. Everyone has something to share if you are willing to listen and they are willing to open up.

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