“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” – David Mitchell.
Adios Uruguay, and yes, like the Terminator, I will be back. Hasta la vista, baby!
In Montevideo, the Southernmost capital of South America, I left behind 1.9 million denizens, autochthons or expats, who enjoy, every year, during their austral summer, 40 nights of the longest carnaval in the world. On the World Happiness Index, they are in the top tier.
They live life with a perpetual smile, in a clean, neat, prosperous, democratic, tolerant country, with no crime and no terror. They pay 36% in taxes, and do not have to worry about tuition, healthcare bills, childcare, sick days, early retirement, and a host of other socio-economic issues.
In the streets, one sees no homeless and no beggar. No one is in rags. No one plays loud music.
The average Uruguayan speaks at least two languages. No less than 98% of the population is literate; at least a third holds a bachelor’s degree.
In America, we call this socialism. Is there anything wrong with it?
The Lilliputian nation squeezed between two South American giants, Argentina and Brazil, will never morph into a world superpower. But with 95% of its electricity derived from renewable sources and its communication systems 100% digitalized, Uruguay shows the path forward to the G20 elite, definitely on the way to reverse climate change.
Uruguay is a microcosm of progress, a laboratory for cheerfulness and optimism, as illustrated by universal football and legalized marijuana. A trip to Montevideo is a substitute for those who will not make to Milan, Geneva, or Barcelona. It is worth the time and the expenses. But it is not for backpacker.
It took me 16 hours to travel back from the Hyatt, on La Rambla, on the banks of Rio de la Plata, to Warrenville New Jersey. At check out, I hugged and kissed everyone at the reception desk and in the lobby. They were magnificent hosts.
During the 2-hour stopover in Sao Paolo, I enjoyed working around Guarulhos Airport, shopping and snacking. Flight LATAM JJ 8180 was far from being a pinnacle of comfort, but it offered a pair of meals, dozens of movies and sitcoms, and the opportunity to catch up on sleep.
At JFK, Albert was waiting at the terminal. He was not carrying a name sign. He no longer needs one. On the back of the black limo, I could not fall asleep, my head was filled with technicolor images of carnaval, beaches, monuments, and beautiful women.
Simultaneously, it hit me that all humans are similar products of the same genes. We all want a long, peaceful and productive life, and a better tomorrow for our progeny. Only our societies differ.
I am a citizen of the world. If a blue-watered Caribbean island is my homeland, the world is my patria, and Warrenville is my home… It took me 100 minutes to reach home. Now I am home in Warrenville, I have been back to the rat race… It is so good to be back home.
Until the next adventure, that was The Traveller.
(O. Robert Jeanlouie, Wednesday, February 19, 2020)