Bizcochos

Montevideo, the capitol of Uruguay, is what some of my friends call “a toy city.”  Although it contains over 1.5 million people, I understand this as there are not that many tall buildings, and most of those are eight story hundred+ year old office buildings downtown and around Plaza Independencia. It does give an impression of a city you could pack away into a basket and set beside the sofa when you are done playing with it.  But there are some tall modern buildings down near the Rambla, which runs along the Rio de la Plata, on the south side of the city (a river so wide that we think of it as the ocean, although knowing that somewhere on the far side is Argentina).

The World Trade Center in Pocitos near the Rambla consists of four (soon to be five) very tall buildings full of modern offices, and due to some legal arrangement with the country, these are free trade zones and tend to attract some of the major international businesses which have a location in Uruguay.  I teach in the WTC, and my students are accountants.  I have always thought of this as a dry, dusty word, but I now know better, as these three humorous, vibrant individuals enrich my life every time I spend an hour with them.

Except now I am trembling in my boots because Valentina, my young adviser on all things Uruguayan, informed me yesterday that she was sending me back to the USA because after 15 months in her country I am unaware of something very very important:  bizcochos.  Finally we established that I have indeed sampled them, and have been negligently calling them “those bread things.”  In order to avoid a major trauma and losing all my new friends and hard-won Spanish vocabulary, I swore I would immediately purchase some on the way home and eat them with coffee that very afternoon.

And I will never forget that according to Valentina: “In the afternoon everyone’s eating bizcochos.  Bizcochos are Uruguay.  They melt in your mouth.”  On the way home I got four each of a selection of sugared ones, ones with cheese inside, ones with ham inside, ones with pudding inside, and an onion flavored one that the bakery man insisted I try and would not be sorry.  He was right, I was not sorry.

Exploratory Tour of Uruguay

johnIn May John S., a teacher and scientific minded Virginian in his early 50’s came to Uruguay for 2 weeks to find out as much as he could about the country and possible relocation.  His wife Sylvia was counting on him to post lots of photos since she didn’t come due to work, and he not only posted great photos but lots of comments about his experiences and thoughts on the place.  This is a compilation of those touring notes with some additions by John after getting back home and contemplating the trip.

 

John S. in Uruguay….an exploratory tour

MVD

May 20 & 21
These are from my first two days in Montevideo, Uruguay.

 

This place is beautiful. Going east to Punta del Este, probably mvdstreettomorrow as I have a meeting for lunch on Saturday with some Americans I met in the MVD airport.

 

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My first Uruguayan meal. They mix mayonnaise with cilantro and it makes an excellent topping for the grilled steak. The Olive oil is Uruguayan.

 

May 22, Day 3
Another busy day in Uruguay. Went to go up in the tallest building to catch a view of Montevideo and they wouldn’t let me go because I had the time wrong for today and its in the afternoon. Then I went to the oldcityUruguayan World Trade Center which has 4 high rise building and they wouldn’t let me go up in any of them – bummer. Then I ate at a Japanese Restaurant and then went to visit my new friend Edy, who I had dinner at her home last night (it was her bookstorehusband’s B’day), and we went to the British Cemetery here, and learned each other’s history and talked about teaching and real estate and other points of interests. Then (after a number of things happened) we went to a restaurant about 3 blocks from her apt and had a most excellent meal. I’m in a hotel instead of a hostelB&B (which was very nice and at $26 a night was really cheap) but tonight I’m going to sleep very soundly as I won’t be able to hear anyone who decides to break into song on the street at 1am (which happened last night but I do understand that in Uruguay this is considered just a part of life)! Tomorrow by 9:30 I depart for Punta Del Este and meet archa couple that I met at the airport just 3 days ago. They invited me to come and I’m taking them up on their offer. They found me a home to rent for $50/night. Remember its getting colder here as they are backward to us in seasonality. Their winter is our summer and visa versa. I didn’t take very many pictures today and will post them tomorrow. It is still 80* here which is really unusual as this is almost Thanksgiving time if we were in the States but it should get a bit cooler tomorrow when a front comes through and we should be getting a high of 60. I will be grateful because I mostly packed fall clothes but this feels like summer! Wish I had brought another pair of shorts!

 

These are from today in Montevideo…

The Rambla in Montevideo Journal

The Antel (phone company) Tower that the would not let me go up in because I (actually they) gave me the wrong time. Later in the day I went to the Montevideo World Trade Center where there are 4 towers and I couldn’t go up in any of them- bummer.

 

La Courta Restaurant (The Court) in Montevideo. Was recommended by my B&B owner so I tried it. Had Grilled Chicken with mashed potatoes. Excellent

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Near Independence Sq – I can see it but you probably can’t.

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To the right in this picture is the Montevideo Leather Works were I bought a belt that should last for 20 years. I hope I last for another 20 years!

 

president’s office – Pepe Mujica who was the immediate past President used to drive here in his beat up old VW Beetle!

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salvo palace, An awesome old hotel that is now been condo’d

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The door to the Gaucho Museum. An amazingly funky building. The Gauchos are interesting too!

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Edy Kizaki’s Refrigerator door. This is the kind fishing you will find in Uruguay!

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Dinner at Edy home. It was Steve’s 67th B’day. The couple on the left, she’s an American who met him on her job and fell in love. He is Guatemalan and speaks perfect English. The pair in the back is Diane and her son Chris. They live in Rocha and were in Montevideo so Chris could renew his passport at the American Embassy.

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Steve and Daniel with Max, a 13 year old blind dachshund who is a sweet dog.

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May23 day 4

Another exceptional day in Uruguay. Woke up in the Regency Hotel regencyat 7:30 and went downstairs to my first Uruguayan breakfast, which is Regencybreakfastbasically a European breakfast – no bacon and eggs but pastries and fruit and coffee. Then got in my car and headed east to Punta del Este to meet Mike and Judy Curry, who I met in the airport as we were going through customs. The invited me to come visit them and of course I did! Also the temperature dropped by 20 degrees and it was about 60* today with intermittent rain, which they have not had in about 5 weeks.

rambla1Had a lovely drive east, first on the Rambla and then on the IB, which is a toll road where twice I had to pay 65 pesos, which is $2.50. at 90 to 110km/hr it makes for a pretty American kind of ride. Stopped at Piriaopolis and small town west of Punta del Este, which is gorgeous and it turns out where the Curry’s are renting a small farm. RamblaHotelI had to do it or I would have been too early. I spent about 20 minutes looking at the town and then headed on to Punta del Este and arrived at 11:59, one minute early. GPS systems are most excellent!!!

So they took me first to where I am staying, which is called Solano piriapolisand it has probably 50 apartment buildings and I am staying in a one bedroom apt which I got for $50/nite. It is very very nice. All of the buildings are empty as this is considered vacation homes and the place only is crowded in November -February and is livingbasically dead the rest of the year! Apparently it is very popular with Argentines and Brasilians who come here because a) it is a very beautiful place and b) because their currencies are going downhill fast so they buy these as hard assets and park their wealth in these buildings.

Then I got in their car and went into Punta del Este. PDE is also pdelEbasically empty as the country is heading into their winter. So we explored Punta and they showed me all the sights. As Punta is a peninsula it has the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Rio de la Plata on the other side. The Rio side is much calmer and has excellent beaches. The Atlantic side is mostly a rocky shore but there is an excellent sand beach about in the middle of PDE . Then we stopped for lunch at Virazon Restaurant and I had virizon2an excellent Paella with scallops and octopus and shrimp and fish, etc on rice. Then we went east into Maldonado (yes I was staying on Maldonado Street in Montevideo) which is where everyone who eggsworks in PDE lives. We stooped at a grocery and I bought bacon and eggs (the butcher had to slice the bacon off of a big slab of bacon meat) some Olive Oil (Uruguayan) and some Uruguayan made NON ALCOHOLIC beer called Pilsen Soul! ( I found it at Virazon!!!).

puntaballena3Then we went to back west a bit to Punta Ballena (Point of Whales) which is even more upscale than PDE. Very large and very (VERY) expensive homes. Some had to be 20,000 sqft. Even though these homes are empty many had security guards watching them.

Then they brought me back to Solena, and dropped me off. So I am in the apt and writing this. What an awesome day. I will go see their place tomorrow and then see what develops.

My first Uruguayan breakfast. Continental/European style. Pastries and fruit and coffee.

 

My bedroom at the Regency Hotel

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evening: My place for Saturday and Sunday nights. $50/night and there are two other apts occupied, the rest are waiting for November.

 

Virazon Restaurant.  Punta del Este is a very nice vacation place and lots of Argentines and Brasilians are buy homes and apts to get hard assets as their currency is hurting in their home countries.

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Another home in Punta Ballena. This one has a thatched roof and neat statue.

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May24

visit to Mike & Judy Curry

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This is Mike and Judy’s solar hot water heater. It does have an electric component if its shady for more than a 2 days but on sunny days Judy says the water is “nuclear”. Because this is the southern hemisphere they have to point them to the north while in the northern hemisphere they must face south.

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A wild chicken is what they call these birds that are all over Uruguay. They have little fear of people and they will come up on the deck.

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Piriapolis from Mike and Judy’s deck

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The front of their chacra. Its about 800 sq. ft and has 2 bedrooms and 1 bath.

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Mike demonstrating how to use the grill. It has a Uruguayan name but it has slipped my mind!

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You pile the logs on the left and build a roaring fire and then you rake the coals under the grill (while adding more wood to the fire) and you can adjust the height of the grill to control the temperature. You see these inside in restaurants and they work very very well.

 

The living space and kitchen behind

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Steve, an orthodontist from Minnesota who moved to Uruguay a bit more than a year ago. Very nice guy.

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This is a low speed 4 stroke engine in a front yard in Piriapolis. This is what you need to produce electricity from “biogas”, ie. methane from poo. Can be cattle or pigs or chickens or people, put it in an airtight bag or box and give it a few days and you will get a flow of biogas! Keep adding poo and keep making power. This was an awesome find for me. These things run at a maximum speed of maybe 300-500 rpm.

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The sun has set and the lights are on.

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An awesome veggie pizza Judy cooked up.

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These eggs are store bought but the yolks look like the ones we used to get that are “home grown”.

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Long story on this place but some really nice homes

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My first Uruguayan bacon. Thickest slices I ever had but the cooked up excellently.

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May 25 at 5:24pm ·

A very long day of cruising in the car but I saw the Atlantic coast up to Rocha, then went inland and north then turned west a bit and then south to Minas where I am in a nice hotel right in the central square. So the wifi wasn’t working in my room so as I was working with the hotel lady (who speaks no english) I ran into 2 Americans with their Russian garndmother who gave me some pointers and we shared emails and Facebook contacts.

Uruguay is an awesome country.

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You probably can’t see them but there are vertical windmills on the top of this building.

Brenda: love your pics. As opposed to horizontal windmills?
John: The horizontal windmills are about 500 ft tall, and 3 massive blades and are all over the country. I hear that windmills produce about 30-40% of the electricity in Uruguay.
Shelley:  Why is it still so expensive then?
John: Because they just put the mills up and they have to import all their other fuels.

There is very serious money in Punta.

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This is the lighthouse at San Ignacio.

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This is an olive orchard with this huge building. It is private property.

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Dinner in Minas…

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Lamb Serrano with leeks and white rice. The rice was in its own pile but I was hungry and ate some before I remembered to take a pix. The spread in front of the plate is very finely made chicken salad type of a spread. It was, of course, delicioso! It was another excellent dinner.

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This a Serrento type dessert. Graham cracker crumbs soaked in coffee, which sugar and some other stuff in it. I ate the whole thing and scrapped the bowl.

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Loaded down now with baked potatoes, 4 whole chickens, some red peppers plus some sausages.

 

May 26

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Not sure but somehow the phone got switched to selfie mode in the olive orchard…After this I turned it off and back on and fixed it. Its foggy because my fingerprints are all over the working side of the iPhone.

 

So someone has brought 3 old railroad cars, and track, up this hill/mountain to n=build a home. Coming along nicely.

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So I asked the owner of the Plaza Hotel were I stayed in Minas last night ( he speaks almost perfect english!!!) how I should route myself to get to Durazno. He suggested that I should first go look at Villa Serrana. So I drove back north on Ruta 8 and went to Villa Serrana. I am really glad I did!

There are two roads to the Villa and he routed me to the 2nd on as it is paved. I came back on the dirt road. Glad he made that suggestion as the paved road I took up the hills and the dirt road coming down the hills! This is the entrance.

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Stopped at this Catholic Church and met 3 really nice small dogs.

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Quary near Minas:

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They have the huge VW trucks pulling double trailers. Some haul logs, some haul grain and some haul cows, though those are single trailers.

 

In San Ramon I stopped first for 2 Pilsen Soul (the N/A beer) and a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips. Right out back, were bushes of flowers. Its fall and everywhere there are flowers blooming, seems strange to someone from Virginia!

 

I love the alternative folks popping up everywhere.

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And then a couple hours of driving and I got my first Uruguayan “Hambergesa”. This one is the top of the line, the Hambergesa de Milaneso. It has freshly grilled burger, a fried egg, a slice of ham, mozzarella cheese + lettuce, tomato, onion and some mayo. It cost $2.70 or 70 pesos. It was AWESOME!

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I saw km after km of row cropped fields. They are bare now as the harvest has occurred. But there are greenhouses still producing.

greenhousesatMinas

The Hotel Santa Christina were I am staying tonight, Just to the south of Durazno. This is the “Center of Uruguay”. Nice town with lots of kids and Mom’s on motorbikes with a kid riding in front and sometimes driving at what appears to be 4 yrs old!

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A friendly man checked me in. He spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish, but it worked out. The room was $84/night.

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Fire in the lobby fireplace. It was 47 when I got up and hit about 63.

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The pool. Surprised it is still open. Remember its fall here!

I got my first close up of a windmill. I have heard that Uruguay gets 30-40% of its electricity from windmills!

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So the restaurant here at the Hotel Santa Cristina is called La Perdiz or, as you can see in English – The Famous Grouse. They have it written in english pretty much everywhere. They also have a few dozen bottles of scotch called The Famous Grouse on the bar. So who ever owns this place is definitely into Scotch!

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I had chicken in a spinach sauce. Here is the chef cooking MY chicken on the perillada.

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These are sausages of various types on “standby” waiting for someone to order them. They are a big part of the entrees.

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I ordered a “Simple Salad” that they said I could have one of the list of specials. It could have been, lets say cucumbers. I asked for Hearts of Palm and my waiter brought me a bowl of nothing but Hearts of Palm. I though there would be some lettuce but this was a big bowl of just Hearts of Palm. And yes I started to eat it before I remembered to take a picture. Another excellent meal!

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Cheesecake with Raspberries and a cup of coffee. Small cup but it packs a punch!

 

May 27 John Strause The breakfast this morning at the Hotel Santa Cristina. Typical Uruguayan breakfast.  The coffee pot and bread with a toaster. The British flag must be because the owners must be Brits or Scots.  This is a very nice hotel. If you ever find your way to Durazno, Uruguay stay here. You won’t be disappointed.

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John Strause This is Carmelo were I stopped for lunch. I stopped at 3 because I was famished. Walked into the place to find the waiter eating spaghetti. He got up to find the chef and came back and said the chef had left but the owner would fix me a simple meal. So I chose fried chicken breast with french fries. When the owner came out with the meal, which was big and delicious, it turns out he speaks pretty good english as he had worked for several years in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. It seems everywhere I go I run across someone who speaks english.

carmelo

carmelolunch

There’s my lunch! Also every place will give you bread but its the spread they delivers that is a) different in every place and b) excellent in every place I have been so far!

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Heading to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay’s St. Augustine. Founded in the mid 1600’s it about a 100 years younger than St Augustine. This place is so far south it took the Spanish another 100 years to get here.

May 28

The Raddison Hotel & Casino. They wanted $150/night and I said NO. Came two blocks over to the Plaza Hotel and have a nice room for $61/night. I asked a Raddison desk assistant and he recommended it.

Raddisonincolonia

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The (or a) Rowing Club with a ramp to get the boats in the water.

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Walking to the waterfront.

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John Strause The structure may be ruins but the design is too cool. These bricks are from the 1600’s.

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The lighthouse. You can climb it but the Naval guys had just closed it for the night.

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See the ruins. St Augustine Fort was built out of cochina or shells maybe 20 ft thick. These are stone walls maybe 6 feet thick. Unreal.

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Two different Uruguayan Navy vessels. Both crews got off while I was walking down to take this picture.

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This fish car is right outside the Aquarium.

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Getting dark.

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Inside of colonial government building.

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May 28 at 10:16pm

My last night in Uruguay.  For the last 10 days I have discovered my idea of paradise and it is in Uruguay. Mucho gracias, Uruguay.

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Edy

In the river, the water is brown as this is the west end of the Rio de la Plata and the water is coming from the Rio Uruguay that runs south from Paraguay and Brazil.

MVD

May 29 at 6:26pm

I’m in Panama and homeward bound. Won’t land until 12.55 on Saturday morning .  Big rainstorm here but having been here before I bet it won’t delay my departure. I AM looking forward to seeing Sylvia even if she is asleep.

As for Uruguay, what an absolutely awesome place!

I asked John why he wanted to relocate to Uruguay, and here is his answer.

Why would I, a person who lives in my version of paradise (and it is paradise!), be coming to tour Uruguay with an eye to living there? My deep conviction is that the land of the free and the home of the brave doesn’t exist in America any more. It is purely because I feel America does not honor and practice our Constitution and our people have lost their understanding of just how important our Constitution is to having our land be a free place, where our citizens will be brave, if threatened on their home turf.

I am a history teacher, and when you look at the facts, America has not followed the Constitution since at least 1913 when the Federal Reserve Bank was created. I say this because the Constitution says in Article 1, Section 8 that the Congress must  “coin money, and regulate the value thereof.” The Congress WILLINGLY gave up this REQUIREMENT of the Constitution when they created the Federal Reserve Bank and gave the Federal Reserve Bank the authority to “coin money” but mostly when it says to regulate the value of our money. Congress does not do this anymore. The Federal Reserve Bank does this now. So our Congress no longer controls either the coining of money nor determining the value thereof.

The Federal Reserve Bank is supposed to be independent of control by anyone other than its own directors. However they are appointed by the higher ups at the commercial banks, which are privately owned. The Fed has two duties, to maintain the value of our currency and to keep our public as closed to fully employed as is possible.

They have failed on both counts. For starters an ounce of gold used to cost $20 US.

That was its price, as set by Congress. An ounce of silver used to be $1 US, also set by Congress. When Franklin Roosevelt determined that gold was a threat to our economy, (mainly because the Federal Reserve HAD ISSUED MORE PAPER DOLLARS than there was gold bullion in hand to match up to the paper), he wrote an Executive Order that forced all Americans to turn in any gold coins they had and then once he has collected most all of the coins he revalued the currency by saying gold was now worth $35 US per ounce. That is a 43% devaluation of the dollar. Did our Congress do anything about that? The answer is NO! They did nothing while our currency shrunk in value by 43%.  And this was 23+ years before I was born!

What is the value of our currency today? Well the value of gold in dollars is now .01687 or 1.7¢ per dollar or a devaluation of 98% since our founding. So basically if you are holding only Federal Reserve Notes your currency has declined to basically 1.7¢ where it used to buy $1 in items of value.

As for its job on employment, the government claims that unemployment now resides at 5.5%. But this is not true for the government does not follow people when they STOP looking for work because there is none available. They are missing all these people who have given up looking for work. That number equals 23.2% of people who are not working but would like to be working “full time”. (This is from Shadowstats.com which follows economics “the old way” i.e. before the government started redefining what these words mean.)

So right there you have two of the main reasons why I am looking at Uruguay. Our government in the United States is not “of the People, by the People or for the People”. It is being run by a small group of individuals who could care less what actually happens to “We The People” as long as these individuals “stay on top” and “run the show”.

Our country was supposed to be operated by the people/citizens. These people would elect representatives who would consult with each other and when in agreement, would pass laws for the rest of us to follow, mainly because it makes sense to do so.

But by now most of our representatives are 1) wealthy when elected  2) get even wealthier when they are in office and 3) could care less what happens to their constituents, i.e. the people with little or no wealth to their names who put them into the legislature and 4) take their “orders” on how to vote from their “party leadership” which is either Republican or Democrat. But both of these parties have only one goal and that is to be re-elected again (in 2, 4,or 6 years terms) and that directs all their activities. So the Republican Party, once the party of liberation for black people in slavery, now stands against all minorities (except the wealthy) as they struggle for equal rights and services. The Democrats used to be the party of resistance to change, but now is the PARTY OF CHANGE, that wants to liberalize every action that our government takes.

The thing is that our Constitution, the foundation for our government, makes no mention of political parties and many of our founding fathers were against having any political parties at all. The creation of political parties was the beginning of the end for our country, and unless we can terminate both of these parties our country is lost.

This is more than just sad, as the American people were once given the power to rule via representatives, but they let that power wane because the never stepped up to see it enforced. I do not wish to be living here when this ending finally happens.

Edy’s note:  these opinions are those of John, and do not necessarily reflect those of “Who Is Uruguay”.  (It may be unfortunate that I myself don’t have the degree of knowledge necessary to debate these points, although I have started paying attention!)  But it is important to note that in conversation with many of those who have come here from the United States in recent years, these themes crop up over and over again.  Uruguay, being a small country, may have the advantage of being able to directly address some issues of the country as they crop up, avoiding the difficulties in even understanding what is happening in such colossals as the U.S. or other large countries.  We all know we buy too much and we are generally in too much debt for things we don’t really use or need that much.  Our impulse to collect luxury “toys” and other costly things, our distraction with fashion and other disposable elements of culture, our lack of concern with how over-consumption is damaging our world beyond reason, are a seemly acceptable (since they are being accepted by so many) result of what I have secretly called to myself “consumer slavery” ever since I got out of university and got my first job.  We are manipulated into wanting better more and different, whereas right in front of us are the treasures of our loved ones, the beauty of the luminous natural world, and the arch of the heavens telling us that we are very small in the great scheme of things.  These treasures get trampled in our rush to possess… and you can’t take it with you.  Not only that, not only that you can’t take it with you, but it becomes tarnished once it’s yours simply because it was the glamour of the hunt to acquire that made it so attractive in the first place.  And it takes you away from living life to the full.  Uruguay seems to present a relatively tranquil and balanced way of living and a connectedness that is rare in our North American society.  I guess that’s my two cents.  John, it was great meeting you while you were here and we wish you the best in your attempt to make it all come together and move to Uruguay with Sylvia!

 

 

 

Feria Tristán Narvaja – 30 Block Market

On our way to find the perfect antique dish set to fill out our Feria Address: Dr Tristán Narvaja, Montevideo 11200, Uruguaycupboard and allow for the inevitable entertaining evening or weekend without hunting around for plates, we kept getingAddress: Dr Tristán Narvaja, Montevideo 11200, Uruguaysidetracked by every conceivable temptation known to man, woman or child.

The bunnies and puppies and feather dusters and leather belts. The vibrant plants and heaped vegetables and sausage stands.  The metal fasteners arranged in intricate patterns on blankets.  The books, the elderly typewriters, the earings with semiprecious stones, the 70 year old irons that work perfectly, the wine glasses.

And the beef skewers and tidbits from Bambu restaurant in their market booth, almost too good to keep going!  But keep going we did, recording here and there a moment of the autumn weather, bright and cool, and the lively feria which is the breath of Montevideo on Sunday morning.

Convention says watch your bags and especially your wallet as you make your way thorugh; friends have experienced purse snatchings amidst the bustle of the hawkers and the market stalls.  Bring small change and your friends, and don’t make any appointments for later in the day as you will inevitably be there twice as long as you planned!

 

Feria Address: Dr Tristán Narvaja, Montevideo 11200, Uruguay

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Address: Dr Tristán Narvaja, Montevideo 11200, Uruguay

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Magda in Montevideo

Like Alice in Wonderland, Magda often felt things were getting “curiosier and curioser”.  Arriving in Uruguay last March to execute MagdaCafeContentoon a degree in Cultural Management from Foundacion Itau, she started out the new adventure with lots of energy and excitement.

After a year in the program and living in the city, Magda is going back to Austria this week.  She’ll be back in 2016 to perform an ambitious project with her working group from school, and the excitement still exists, but tempered now with the knowledge of just how different and often mind bending the Uruguayan culture can be.

With other students, she arranged several spontanious art “happenings” around the city, and never lost an opportunity to see do and participate in the plentiful cultural and art events taking place in Montevideo all the time.  Says she, “I’ll be back.”project feetcasamadreselva enRivera CerroChato

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12 Years and Quite at Home

JohnJohn Hamilton, a 48 year old pastor from the state of Kentucky in the US, has been in Uruguay with his family for the last 12 years and takes time out of a busy schedule to share his experience and advice on how to approach the life here.

I am originally from Kentucky, right in the heart of the Bluegrass youngjohnstate.  In those days young men my age played basketball, explored the rural creeks and caves, and spent many hours working on beautiful horse farms as needed to pay for gas, car insurance, and college.

While I was born and raised in Kentucky, my parents were not.  My father came from Syracuse and my mother from a far away mysterious land called Uruguay.

And that is where my Uruguay connection began.

JohnHSeveral years out of College, I found myself working full time as a Youth Pastor in a local church on the west side of Jacksonville, Florida, with a pull towards Latin America.  It made sense.  My wife, Lisa, was born in Michigan, but lived in Bogotá, Columbia, from the age of two.  Her family invited us down to work with teenagers through a local church on the north side of the city.

I thought to myself that Colombia would be a terrific launching pad for Uruguay, helping me to master the language and culture for a couple of years.  Two years turned into ten.  We invested ourselves in teenagers, prisoners, and young parents during an exciting, challenging, and ultimately extremely fulfilling decade from 1993 to 2003.

In 2002, the Uruguayan economy had suffered a dramatic setback, which actually opened the door for us to come. The US dollar was chivito-al-plato-en-plazatrading at 27 to 1 and lunch at La Passiva was less than 100 pesos.  It seemed cheaper to eat out with dollars than to cook at home.  We brought our Labrador and three small children and rented a lovely home in Carrasco for U$S700 (“seven hundred US dollars“) a month, now the price of a room in many parts of the city.

The changes were significant.  I thought my previous visits, reading, and study had informed me well about life here, but head knowledge and actual living experience is different.

We found Uruguay and Colombia to be almost polar opposites in familymany ways.  The differences were rich, but challenging.  My family, completely fluent in Spanish, struggled with the local dialect. We did not anticipate the small town feel of the capital city, nor the reluctance of people to drive short distances for a visit.

However, we loved the way you can pay all your bills at the Abitab or enjoy a leisurely lunch without worrying about traffic on the way to the next appointment.

We enjoyed the simplicity of the food offerings, although we missed international flavors,  and the myriad fruits and vegetables we were accustomed to in Colombia.

Colombians in general are extremely proactive in pursuing improvement and change.  Uruguayans in general seem to be much more willing to move with the natural flow.  We struggled at first to adapt to the slower, small town feel, but quickly learned to appreciate the commitment to sunsets, long walks, weekends off and spontaneous asados among friends.

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John cooking asado, Uruguayan barbeque, in his back yard.

We have made Montevideo our home.  Our girls have moved on to university and beyond in the States, but carry Uruguay in their hearts.  Our son Josh was only four when we came and his blood runs Celeste Blue.  My family tree runs back to 1885 in Uruguay and 1820 in Argentina so I have found a deeper understanding of my family of origin.

We have hosted many friends and facilitated the integration of many expats who have stayed from three to five years or longer.  We feel this is our home and plan to stay.

For ten years, I have served Christ Church and the wider community atchurch2as Pastor, Chaplain, and Protestant Priest.  It has never been easy, but good things in life require hard work and effort.   Many hundreds of people have passed through our home and church and most have moved on in the transitory way of the eastern side of the city, but we have had the beautiful opportunity to form lifelong friendships with waterpeople from every continent, dozens of countries while helping and being helped all along the way.

My advice to expats looking to retire is to be cautious.  Costs have exploded and personal security is an issue.  Regional crisis will reach us.  But when you find friends, they will be always loyal and helpful.  The fresh air and love of nature, the local produce and the richness of blended generations and cultures is delightful and perhaps, relatively unique.  However, many people, my family included have been negatively impacted by asthmatic allergies leading to chronic bronchitis in the winters due to the overexposure to damp, moldy environments.  If any one issue pushes towards a move away when our retirement approaches, it will be my pursuit of a drier climate where I can breathe in the winter months without inhalers, air purifiers and dehumidifiers.

Schooling:  The schooling options are increasingly almost prohibitively expensive.  Public education is strong in some aspects, gymbut not nearly all students aspire to University even in private school.  50% of kids will not go beyond 10th grade in the pubic schools here.  Some will go on to trade schools, and many do not even aspire to University.  Most expats have a lifestyle and cultural experience that would be difficult to replicate for their kids without including a basic University degree…my opinion.  A challenge for bringing your older expat kids to Uruguay is that some of the major private schools are not too welcoming of foreign kids so it can be a real challenge to break in socially.  Expat kids (we like Third Culture Kids) need to discover and develop a talent that helps them have their own identity.  Young children can adapt, but adolescents and teens are in for a tough time to break into the closed social dynamics of many private schools.

A bright spot is that teachers tend to be very loving, affirming and available to help students who want to be helped.  Social life here (as everywhere) for teens really depends entirely on having a circle of friends to hang out with.  Schooling issues and challenges for the children are probably primary reasons why families choose to leave in spite of other benefits they are experiencing.

atChristChurchAll things considered, twelve years into our adventure, I would say that we have grown to appreciate Uruguay, but it is the deep friendships that keep us here.  So lower your expectations, slow down, walk, breathe, cook over an open fire and invite some folks over…meaningful friendships are just waiting for you!

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Moving to Uruguay

MariaFaceIva Marie Botchie and her husband Michael recently moved to Uruguay from the Pacific Northwest (USA).  They have quickly settled in and are starting to make it home.

In August of 2013, my husband Michael and I decided to close our business, sell off everything we own, and move out of the US. We made that decision one evening sitting on our front porch during RockingChairswhat we refer to as “our rocking chair moment”. A couple of weeks later, after some on-line research, we decided on Uruguay as our new home. We held garage sales every weekend, and by March of 2014, we had sold everything we wanted to sell, loaded the rest in our container, and moved out of our home.

Michael and Marie in Spain
Michael and Marie in Spain

Beginning on April 23rd, my ten year anniversary of being cancer free, we took a detour through Spain before making the move here. We wanted to walk the Camino Santiago after seeing the movie “The Way”, and realized there may not be another chance in our life where we would have the “time” to make such an ambitious journey, so we jumped on the opportunity to make it happen. It was an incredible seven weeks that I think helped us considerably in our transition here in UY, and we are grateful to have had the chance to explore ourselves on such a meaningful level before making our life changing move here in July.

Sunset
what we see from our house
Gonzalo Michael Ida
Gonzalo shows us a health food store the first week.
Eduardo and Michael
Michael and Eduardo

After our Camino, we went back to the US for a few weeks, and that’s when things fell into place quickly. We found an adorable cottage in La Barra on Craigslist, if you can image, and the young man that advertised it, Eduardo Correa, recommended the services of Gonzalo Gomez from Punta Consulting for our immigration needs. Between these two amazing souls everything just worked out for us smoothly. Eduardo became a treasured friend that assists us in purchases, utilities, customs, and more. Gonzalo made sure we were prepared with everything we needed before we left the US, and within a week after we arrived in La Barra we had our UY ID, and Temporary Residency. Since then we have also obtained our Driver’s Licenses, gun permits, and started a business, which allowed me to obtain health care that I was not eligible for due to a pre-existing conditions. (Cancer is a pre-existing condition in UY, even if you have been cancer free for 10 years.)

Gonzalo recommend Mary Ann Thompson from Language Solutions to assist us in learning Spanish. Mary Ann is now a friend that I can

Mary Ann with her gift to us, our lovely Bella.
Mary Ann with her gift to us, our lovely Bella.

confide in. Not only does she help us to better understand the language, and the customs, she promotes every aspect of our success here.

We cannot say enough good things about the people from Uruguay!

MichaelContainerWith the arrival of our container in February, (a long story in itself), and thanks to our new friends Karen & Neal from the US, who helped us find our new home, we moved into a larger cottage that accommodates our things. It is amazing how good it feels to sleep in your own bed after almost a year! It was better than Christmas to unpack the comforts of home, and while so many things were a joy to have back in our lives, as we unpacked, we house2often found ourselves asking “why in the world did we bring this?” It’s hard to know what you’ll need or want until you get here, but some of the advice we had gotten naponline really paid off. For example; it came highly recommended to us by other ex-pats, who have lived here for several years, to bring our bed, bedding, and kitchenware. That proved to be great advice. We even brought our own hammock.

Today, as we settle into our new home, establishing a means to

Asado - barbecue at a neighbor's, Uruguay style
Asado – barbecue at a neighbor’s, Uruguay style

sustain it is of our highest priority. Since we are far to young to retire, we have to create a new way to provide for ourselves. Our way of thinking is put all of our talents out there, and trust that one, or several of them will provide us with  the income we need to live here. It’s a different market here in Uruguay, and we have been told it can prove challenging.

Michael’s new business is called Botchie Multiple Services. We were General Contractors back in the States performing building maintenance for all the FedEx and FedEx Ground Facilities in the State of Oregon. Because we valued our customers, and cared about
the quality of service we provided, we maintained an A+ Rating on the BBB for over 14 years.

Michael is an electrician, welder/fabricator, certified HVAC technician, carpenter, plumber, and more. He spent several years in school, and obviously many years on the job to obtain such a Michaelfixes
diverse list of skills. After listening to many ex-pat horror stories regarding the “unexpected” when they purchased homes here, Michael has added Home Inspections to his list of services.

If you are buying property using a septic system, there are a lot of options Michael can help you consider as well.

messagebottle
Message In a Bottle gifts

I am a photographer, writer, and business administrator by trade. I provide custom bottle creations including vases, chandlers and gifts, and custom buttons.  As a photographer I can offer photo CD’s, photo restoration, portraits, events, DVD slide shows, photographic art, limited printing, and more. If there is interest in scrap booking or arts & crafts I have that covered as well, including the supplies.  Over the next few months I’ll offer several afternoon workshops on making dream collages so let me know if you’d like to be on my mailing list. 

Being here in Uruguay for us is about cheersconnection. People from all over the world are coming here and greeting each other with an honesty, and openness that we haven’t seen in a very long time. We credit much of our accomplishments and success to the amazing people here who provide fair services, or just want to help out of kindness. Making new friends is a huge highlight to our new life!MarieBella

When people ask us why we moved to Uruguay? Our favorite reply is “we wanted a longer shelf life, and to move in a different direction.”

Peace to everyone, I hope your journeys take you to amazing places.

feria
Shopping at the local Farmer’s Market (once a week) called “Ferria.”

 

ourhouse
Our new home, with thatched roof.

 

 

 

Korean Restaurant, Montevideo

EdyKHatEdy Kizaki lives and works in Montevideo and is busy making Uruguay her beloved home after moving from the US last April with her family.

frontIn Montevideo there are many excellent restaurants and a wonderful variety of good food, especially offering asado and grilled meats or Italian food.  Although they exist, Asian restaurants are harder to find.  One of the best so far is the  Restaurante Coreano, Myeong Ga, which is just off Plaza Independencia.  The food is great,

Owners Moon Jeong and Cho greet diners.
Owners Moon Jeong and Cho greet diners.

as good as any I had in Korea during my three trips, or the excellent Korean food I became used to in Seattle.

streetLocated at Ciudadela 1367 a block north of Plaza Independencia, the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and until 11 p.m. (from 1 p.m. on Sunday by the way).

Lovers of spicy Korean food will not be disappointed, but you can also request a mildly spiced dish, and there are dumplings and other chinese style choices as well as the traditional barbecue meat, hotpots, and rice bowls.  The small dishes and rice that round out the meal are delicately flavored and excellent.

Kim Chee Hot Pot is wonderful
Kim Chee Hot Pot is wonderful

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Living In Montevideo; 3 Neighborhoods

EdyKHatSo as to become more familiar with possible places to live, Edy Kizaki and her family have stayed in PocitosBuceo and Punta Gorda.  Edy also teaches in the Old City, Pocitos, and Carrasco and so has become familiar with those neighborhoods too. Others frequented by expats are Punta Carretas (more upscale) and Centro.

Living in Montevideo – Exploring 3 Neighborhoods by Edy Kizaki

One of my biggest pleasures this first year living here in Montevideo has been riding the bus, because I don’t have to worry about driving and while sitting next to the window I’m always watching as the streets and shops pass by.  The buses are slow and local so I can let the sights flow past and each little shop is unique but also there are types of shops like the butcher shop (carnicería), flower shop (tienda de flores), fruit and vegetable shop (tienda de fruta y verdura), furniture stores (muebles), restaurants (restaurantes), coffee houses (cafes), bakery (panadería), etc.

Because condominium buildings, single-family homes and commercial shops are all mixed together along the streets  every neighborhood is walkable and has its own character.  Living directly along a main street will be noisy due to traffic, but the plentiful trees seem to cushion the streets and provide a peaceful buffer, to a certain extent.  Note that across from a park will occasionally be quite noisy since events tend to go late into the night. I prefer a side street when choosing a living place, but it may not be the first consideration.

The first three months that I lived in Montevideo (I arrived here before my family followed me down, because I got a job and I had a time deadline to be here by the middle of April) what I decided to do since I was on my own with our family dog was to live in three different short-term AirBnB rentals which I did.  (Actually regarding AirBnB I had some negative as well as positive experiences with it, which will have to be another blog.  There seems to be a tendency for the landlord to make claims after you move out, such as something is missing when it isn’t. So use caution.  Your main tool is the reviews, which you can only do for a few days after the end of your stay, so you have to be on top of it.)

SilvanaApt
An AirBnB rental in Buceo which was well appointed but the landlady behaved less than professionally, including not being there as agreed to let me in when I arrived from the airport, and claiming I’d taken a “very expensive” pillowcase which I had to argue about, after which it was miraculously found.

However living in the three different neighborhoods I believe was a wise move. It got me familiar with neighborhood styles in the city, as well as three unique places to live, so that I got a better sense of the type of environments available here.  The neighborhood (barrio) I lived in first is called Buceo and it’s just to the east of Montevideo  Shopping which is at the east end of Pocitos neighborhood.  Buceo is the next neighborhood over, still on the Rambla and it’s very centrally located and a great neighborhood.  It has a small feria which is a street market. I’ve forgotten the day now but I think it was on  Saturday mornings and it’s just next to the wall of the British Cemetary off Rivera.  There is also the Night Market.

SylviaApt
A private home in Punta Gorda that rents bedrooms on AirBnB, extremely wonderful hostess who bends over backwards in every aspect to help and support her guests.

Next, I rented a room in the house of a lady who is Uruguayan. She puts rooms on AirBnB.  She’s a psychologist here in Montevideo, a lovely lady with fairly limited English but still good. This was more a regular family house away from the center of the town, in Punta Gorda.  She had a pool in the backyard, but because it was winter I didn’t utilize that. It had a green little backyard which the dog appreciated. She also has a huge orange tom cat called Willy Wonka.  Punta Gorda was the name of the neighborhood and it’s farther out along Rivera toward Carrasco, so you’ll be taking a bus about 20 minutes more to get downtown. It does still have a small shopping area with a wine shop, a pharmacy,  a supermarket, a butcher, a pasta shop,  and a bakery, and it has its own feria once a week. However, it’s also quite near Portones shopping mall on Avineda Italia in Carrasco which is very very large and has almost anything you can imagine.

bebaapt
AirBnB rental in a very nice building in Pocitos on Av. Brasil, but even though the rental was for 2 months the hostess left all her clothes and items in the apartment and locked the closets so there was no closet space, all the drawers were full and it was not cleaned properly! We still would do it again as we loved the area and cleaned up things ourselves.

Third, I lived on Avenida Brasil, down a couple blocks from the Rambla and that was a wonderful place to live.   Steve and Daniel arrived in Montevideo from the states just after I moved there.  We were lucky enough to have a building with a kind of a small gym, pool and spa (which was not mentioned in the blurb about the place) and it had 24 hour concierge so we got familiar with how doormen operate here, which was useful. That neighborhood has excellent shopping, a great many high quality shops and services.  Tienda Inglesa  is there, a small one, and (it means English shop but basically it’s a supermarket which has a lot of imported foods as well as all the staples. There’s a big one in Montevideo Shopping, and there are large ones elsewhere, one is in Carassco at Portones Shopping) the small one which is over in Avanida Brasil is a good one for daily needs, although without the huge inventory of the larger ones.  Some of my Uruguayan friends say that they only trust the fish from Tienda Inglesa or the feria but not most supermarkets.

There’s also one of the nicest cake shops I’ve experienced on Avanida Brasil, and there really are great cake shops here in Montevideo. There are two fantastic butchers, there are several antique shops, there’s a small auction house, there’s a Pilates studio, banks, bike shops, toy shops, stationary shops, casual restaurants and sports bars, and many many many many many other businesses which make it a fantastic neighborhood to live in, and very very walkable.

After those three temporary rentals we did arrange to get a long-term rental apartment.   That in and of itself is a subject that I should address because there are certain things you have to know before you attempt to do so, but that will be in a future blog.

In terms of discussing neighborhoods I’ll just say that the fourth OurPlacelocation was in Pocitos again, but this time near the intersection of Rivera and Julio Cesar and that it is a one year rental with two bedrooms and two baths on the fifth floor of a new building. It has a relatively large terrace and quite small rooms but still decent, and we’ve been enjoying the location very much.   It’s useful to be near so much (being right off Rivera we have access to lots of buses which go direct to all the places we want to go, whereas Avenida Brasil was off the main route so you have to transfer) Now we go shopping very close to home, one to two blocks in either direction leads us to butcher shops, outside vegetable stands, clothing shops, stationary shops, etc. etc., and then Tienda Inglisa is only about four blocks away in Montevideo shopping.

School Note:  if you’re planning on sending kids to school, a lot of the major bilingual schools and the British Schools, the Uruguay American School,  The New Zealand School, Woodlands School, The Christian Brothers, and the Waldorf School are all in Carrasco, so many families locate there.  The German School and the Lycee Francais, Jean Pieget School, are around town.  We’ll be trying to

Colegio Paulo Friere
Colegio Paulo Friere

interview some experts on the school situation here soon.  My own son goes to Colegio Paulo Freire with a kindergarten, primary and secondary schools all nearly in the same place near Parque Batlle.

If you are planning to get residency for your children, they are required to be in school and homeschooling them is not accepted for this requirement.  Public schools seem to be half day, until noon.  More on this later.

(Note: please let me know if you have other school recommendations or experience, we can add it for the resource value.)

 

Carnaval In Uruguay

SteveAnthonyby Steve Anthony, resident and student of all things Montevideo, who arrived in June of 2014 and plans to stay quite a while.  He writes of the monuments everywhere in Montevideo

 

“Murga doesn’t represent the masses, they are the masses.” Yamando Cardazo, Director Agarrente, Catalina

 

I want to learn Spanish.   I’m living in a Spanish-speaking country, obviously.  But at this time, the time of Carnaval, I am inspired to learn Spanish so that next year when I attend Carnaval, I will understand the finer points of language use employed by the worker artists of Montevideo.

Not every participant is from Montevideo proper, but the majority are.  There are several ways a performance artist might participate.  There are murgas, parodistas, revistas, comparsas, who compete for prize money.  I have much to learn and the process is quite enjoyable, a labor of love.

Probably like a lot of people, when I heard about Carnaval, I thought “Party” “Revelry”, some noisy drunks and nearly naked women.

Well, I now see carnaval as an alternate Universe. Carnaval is 2 parts performance, 6 parts training and working as a group, 2 parts family support and love (editor’s note: that’s 10 parts)

Love could be a jumping off point so we’ll touch on that.  I want to focus on my favorite, the murgas.  To be a murga, you need a strong and trained voice, a mime or dancer’s sense of movement, a sense of comedy, a high level of presentation.  Acting most murgas are men, murga13 singers, 1 director and a symbol – a snare drum and a large base drum in the Candombe style.  The director often has a guitar that is used sparingly.  A lot of the presentations are acapella singing. They provide social communication in the songs.  A typical presentation may poke fun at the government, the legalization of mariuana, dogs and their owners, or the prisoners in Guantanamo.

They sing harmonies that pierce the night air as one powerful voice fills the space in us.

I Mentioned love as being an important element in all this the actors singers  and dancers must love it they spend a lot of their spare time planning guiding building costumes and sets training voice and body

During 8 to 10 months of preparation for roughly one month of performance love is the main element ultimately the exchange between audience and performers reach a crescendo toward the end of the time limit which is imposed as part of the competition

As the singers are preparing to leave the crowd is on its feet performers and audiences are overcome with what I can only describe as love inspiration in appreciation for each other and appreciation for each other the audience is their loved ones family and friends the Mergus exit still singing and dancing into the crowd kisses hugs tears of joy and relief that come from just doing it make it make up smudged from face to face until at last the group handles in tight circles singing a last celebratory song of the elaborate heard dresses as the elaborate head dresses I thrown into the air if you can resist all this and not be swept up in pure joy of life you need a pulse check.