I went to Uruguay (yet again) last weekend.  It wasn’t a trip for pleasure, one more of necessity due to my still pending visa situation. I decided since I couldn’t convince anyone else to go with me that I’d make it a quick trip and not waste my day there. Just go drink what would end up being the most expensive cup of coffee of my life (the trip cost me about $80US) and come right back.  I booked the ticket on Buquebus, a more reputable boat company than the one I had traveled with before, hoping that I might avoid some of the trauma I had experienced the last time I went.  It had been a ride filled with men, women, and children, all either vomiting or holding cotton pads of alcohol to their noses to calm nausea as we passed through some rough waters, followed by us hitting something in the water at full force and half of the boat being asked to move to the other side to avoid us from sinking I presumed. no formal announcement was made that we were in danger and people took it upon themselves to put on their life vests, but when we arrived two hours late to a crew of about 10 people helping us all off the boat I knew something had happened.

Saturday morning at 12:30 we left the dock at Puerto Madero right on time, and I sat back and dozed off a bit to some relaxing music playing on my iPod.  About 20 minutes later I started hearing some weird tapping noises coming from the seat in front of me so I took my earphones out to see what it was.  It sounded as if the man in front of me was pounding on his chest in a constant rhythm.  I couldn’t see much since there was an empty seat next to him but I didn’t really know what to think.  I put my earphones back in.  Then I saw him raises a fist in the air above his head a few times and shake it around and started to think that he must be listening to the Uruguay soccer game that had started just when we left and gotten excited about a goal.  But I was forced to take my earphones off yet again when he began breathing very heavily, so much so that I couldn’t hear my own music over him.  A couple in the seats next to me peered over at him and I heard the man ask his wife if she thought he should go over to make sure he was okay.  Then I heard him burp loudly, and I began to think maybe this was a whole routine he did to try to avoid throwing up.  Whatever it was it was strange.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on and part of me was scared to know.  Before I could wonder anymore about it, he abruptly got up from his seat and walked to the food vendor area. I noticed that he was a man of about 50, with a long beard, and he wasn’t wearing his shoes, just socks.  He looked clean and put together and the fact that a ticket on the boat cost almost US $100 made me think there was no way he could be homeless. Suddenly I heard a really loud noise and I saw him pacing back and forth.

The next thing I knew he walked into the passenger area, facing all of what was probably about 75 people, closed his eyes and let out the loudest scream I have ever heard from a grown man.  He did it several times, bringing his hands up and down each time as he did.  The whole boat went silent and no one moved.  He began pacing along the side row of passengers, thankfully a distance away from where I was and screaming the same way over and over again.  At one point I saw him get close to a woman, stare at her and scream.  No one seemed to know what to do and finally a group of five men came running out with walkie-talkies.  One of them approached the man just as he was turning around to make his way back (screaming along the way) to where he started.  His eyes were welling up and as the security guard went to put his hand on his shoulder he moved away from him and wouldn’t let him touch him and started screaming in his face.

The security guards let him go at it again and I began to feel like I was in a nightmare that I wanted to wake up from. I hurriedly stashed all my things in my bag and started examining where I could hide nearby if he started to pull something really crazy. I had seen small children board the boat and wondered how scared they must be.  The screaming and pacing continued for about 15 minutes and it felt like an eternity.  The woman next to me pointed over to the seat in front of me and made a comment that the security guards should take his stuff before he came over and took out his gun.  I had been sort of thinking the same thing, you just never know.  Finally the screaming stopped and it seemed they had sequestered the man somewhere in the boat for the time being.  I found out later there’s a jail on the boat so it must have been there.  Security came to get his stuff and I began to relax, though part of me was still fearful there was a hidden bomb in his things.

I arrived in Colonia just in time to witness the crazy celebration taking place after their big win in the world cup game against Ghana that morning.  During my walk from the station I had been pondering why these crazy boat experiences seemed always to happen to me and while on my way to Uruguay, but I was immediately put in a good mood once I saw the celebration.  The main street had been over-taken by a processional of cars, honking their way through the crowds while streaming their Uruguayan flags. I couldn’t help but feel excited and happy for them too.  A group of young guys played drums on the back of a truck and people drank from big bottles of beer.  The video above gives an idea of what it was like, don’t forget the sound for the full effect.

Living in Buenos Aires I often get the feeling I moved to a place where one doesn’t encounter very many crazy people, unlike NYC where it’s a daily occurence.  But after my recent trip to Uruguay I began to have some doubts.

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