Horse-and-cart Waste Removal


“It’s a social problem,” our homestay mother explained to us, as the horse-and-cart garbage collector picked the bags up from the curb.

I can’t speak to whether it’s a social problem or not, but it’s certainly a curiosity that in one of the most developed countries in Latin America, waste disposal is done in such an old fashioned way. I suppose it’s a reminder that outside of Montevideo and the glitzy and hippy beach towns, Uruguay is a very rural country.

Learning Spanish in Montevideo

Plaza Matriz near the academy

It had been years since I graduated university, the last time I had spoken Spanish with any consistency. I was rusty. On top of that, I still had Brazilian Portuguese rattling around in my head, mixing with and supplanting some of my Spanish vocabulary. Rosie was at a beginner level, and wanted a firm grasp of the basics.

We looked on-line and found Academia Uruguay, located by Plaza Matriz, near the edge of Ciudad Vieja in Montevideo.


There are various options for group or individual courses. If you sign up for a four hour a day intensive group course, but they can’t find a class to put you in, they’ll give you a three hour a day individual course for the same price. When we signed up they had an offer that if you join with another person, the second person gets a 50 percent discount.

We decided on a two week course, twenty hours a week. In that time, I had three different teachers. As a teacher myself, I could tell that the standard of teaching was quite high. They know their stuff and they keep the classes varied and interesting, using Uruguayan advertisements, rock songs, games and of course, a textbook.


One of the best things about the Academy is the free additional activities offered in the afternoon. These include pronunciation and listening workshops, visits to parks and museums and other excursions.

Every week, they also offer an hour a day course with a teacher from another Spanish-speaking country. These optional classes aren’t free, but can be interesting and offer another way to supplement your learning. In the second week, I took the class with a Venezuelan teacher, who each day presented a different aspect of his country; the landscape, the language, the food, the music and the controversial Hugo Chavez (our teacher definitely wasn’t a chavista).


Students can pay to stay at the school’s hostel, at a homestay or arrange their own accommodation. We chose the homestay for the extra Spanish practice. The family was great, but it wasn’t exactly the immersive experience I thought it would be. They had their own things to do, and didn’t spend all their time indulging our attempts at mastering their language. Still, they were very accommodating and a five minute walk from the beautiful Malvin beach.


We paid $782, which included 40 hours each plus accommodation at a homestay. The homestay included breakfast and dinner (except on weekends).

Location and Contact Info

Juan Carlos Gomez 1408, Montevideo, CP 11000, Uruguay

Tel: +598 2 9152496 / Fax: +598 2 9152496


Montevideo is a relief for those who find Buenos Aires too hectic. But that isn’t to say it’s a mini Buenos Aires either. It has its own charm, from the miles of easily accessible beaches within walking distance from nearly anywhere in town to the crumbling beauty of the old city (don’t walk around there at night). Buskers ride the bus for free–Sinatra-like crooners and folk guitarists alike. Construction workers have an asado over an open flame on the side of the street. Cyclists fill their mate flasks as they ride, passing horse-and-cart garbage men in this modern city that feels much smaller than it is.











Punta del Diablo

Punta del Diablo is a small town of beach huts and sand dunes. From a small fishing village on Uruguay’s Atlantic coast, it becomes a hippie surfer hotspot in the summer. Visiting during the shoulder season means you can wander through feathery grasses and along sandy paths virtually alone, but still enjoy the daily catch and cocktails in town at a few restaurants that stay open.











Stay: Hostel de la Viuda
Bus: 4 hours from Montevideo