Monday, August 24, 2009

Montevideo II: Afternoon MAPI

The tile museum was closed and my chuck-wearing feet were blistered, so I caught the bus back to Ciudad Vieja. Over breakfast that morning, I had made arrangements to meet Eduardo at a teahouse in Plaza Matriz at 4pm. I arrived at the square an hour ahead of schedule, but I had to find a bank and the teahouse; plus it was, as I said, a lovely day. No worries.

Except I couldn’t find the teahouse. Strike 2. For nearly 45 minutes I scoured, with aching feet, the square and every possible side street to no avail. I thought I had remembered seeing an orange sign days earlier…I asked a few people that worked in the neighborhood…some vaguely recalled maybe seeing a tea house too, but where? No one knew. I was getting tired and frustrated. I had no way to contact Edu. I was thirsty. I wanted to sit. So I went to the sidewalk café, by some other name, in the middle of the square, and sat in an obvious place.

I saw Edu arriving a bit later. As he joined the table, I explained that I couldn’t find The Illusive Teahouse. He said, “This is it!” At least, the other day when he passed it, he thought it was a teahouse. Now it seemed to be a café/cervezaria. We laughed at our hazy observations and ordered some caffeine.

Then we set off, spontaneously, for MAPI (Museo de Arte Precolombino y Indigena).

The artifacts were largely uninteresting to me, both for my apparent lack of sophistication and the fact that there wasn’t much information provided about them—and none of it in English or Portuguese. I was happy to see the assortment of rompecabezas (pictured, center), which my guide book tells me was a rather early weapon of the indigenous peoples.

“I’ll romp your cabeza.”

At one point I asked Edu to identify some round clay artifacts by translating the information. “What are these?” I prompted. “Cookies,” he replied, without looking, without hesitation, and as dryly as can be. I laughed my head off.

Eduardo, showing off his new piercings (teeth, click to imbiggen)

Quickly, though, both me and my equally goofy companion tired of the clay and stone bits…

…and went exploring…

Actually, we were both vastly more interested in the building itself. Originally intended as a medical center with an indoor pool (something of a mineral spa, I think), whoever the money and/or inspiration was behind the building, he died before it opened. The building was abandoned and fell derelict. The restoration has been slow but the results, nearly complete now, are phenomenal. On the top floor we found some information on the process and some before-and-after photos, which we discussed longer than normal people would discuss marble support structures.

Exhausted from the day, I was forced to decline the invite to join Edu and the other Sul Americanos in their party ways. I returned to the Che Lagarto hostel—where I had checked in that morning—drank a spot of wine and went to sleep.

It’s unlike me, but this retelling is all out of order. Well, chronological order, that is. I’m working topically, for a change.

But I’m MAPI now. Off to bed.