Category Archives: Getting to Uruguay

Seven Months in La Barra

DenaePotterDenae Potter is a warm and charming western woman in her 30s who came to Uruguay from Hawaii.  Here she reflects on why she came and impressions during her first seven months living in La Barra, a small gracious town just west of Punta del Este, with her partner David.

ocean
One of Denae’s favorite beaches in La Barra.

I have spent the past 10 years working in supplement stores and learning about natural remedies and have also done personal training for about the same amount of time.  I worked in a store in Maui called “The Dragon’s Den” where items such as nutritional products, supplements, herbs, crystals, and pendants were sold.  As for what I enjoy, I was raised to be in the outdoors and nature.  My family went camping, hiking, fishing and bike riding.  I was the second child of five and we were always active and doing something.  I was raised with no TV and no computer.  We read, did art projects, and went outside.  Here in Uruguay now, as in Hawaii before we left, I have lots of chances to indulge my passion for being active in the outdoors.

beach
Uruguay sea sand and sky.

My professional desire and pursuit of ultimate health made me think of leaving the States and in Maui. Things had gone outside of my control. There was “vog”, volcanic material in the air, toxic heavy metals were present, the things Fukushima brings, and sugar cane burning.  My interest in a long and healthy life means not living in someone else’s toxic waste. Other reasons include the political situation and how the U.S. government is being handled along with the loss of rights in the U.S.  Fukushima was so close to us in the Hawaiian Islands it was motivation to go quickly.  I wanted the freedom to see other parts of the world that are beautiful and safe.  I had not visited Uruguay but my partner David and I made the decision to come here.  Leaving was a challenge.  What to say and how to say goodbye when leaving friends and family and our jobs.  What to pack. Then, after arriving, knowing people to create a mutual community with to help and be helped was a challenge in the first month or two.  Uncertainty was an issue, and we were couch surfing and WOLFing (working as volunteers on an organic farm.)  Although we hadn’t been here before, I knew quite a lot once I looked on You Tube and went online and read about policies and the President.  I learned Uruguay is safe, it’s easy to get a Cedula (residency card) and to obtain residency.

Sunset
Exquisite sunset in Uruguay.

After having lived here 7 months, I can report that I love the blue skies, the water, and the air smells fresh.  It is safe comfortable walking around.  I haven’t felt unsafe and I like the people I meet. I appreciate the culture, friendliness, its community‐oriented, and more open.  I definitely love how tranquillo (tranquil) it is, and how low key it is.  I love the beef, and all the water that’s here in rivers, lakes, and in the campo (country) it is beautiful.  I like it that there are a lot of like‐minded people with the same interests as me, and in the states that’s not true.  One example is natural living and being aware of what is happening in the US.  Here I find others who also do their research and are up on current affairs and want to take action and change their lives.  I love being close to the beach and how it is quiet here in La Barra where a lot of people live year round.  I have made friends in the area and I like the people I’ve met here. It is close to stores and I like to shop here.  It is close to Punta del Este but not in the town itself.

There are a few things I would change.  The Wi‐Fi hassles; not being able to connect or going out of commission after I get online.  I don’t like it that the business hours are willy‐nilly and open one day but closed the next and they don’t seem to keep a schedule and some people are flaky about  being on time, and commitments don’t work.

couple
Denae and David enjoy the beaches and outdoor lifestyle in Uruguay.

Bottom line, I would not want it to change.  People are wonderful;  my advice is to come with money or you’re in for a rough winter.  Another thing is my Spanish ability, my ability is very low and I need to hook up with an instructor. Good ways I’ve used to learn include listening to music, and watching cooking shows. My ability to hear is getting pretty good because I hear it often.  When I first arrived I couldn’t hear individual words and now I can.  All in all, my happiness and well being has improved drastically and I was happy and in a good state of well being before I came.  Here I’m even happier and in a better state of well-being.  A lot of this has to do with air quality and environmental issues that affect how I feel.  I think my opportunities will be better than in the States because entrepreneurs are able to open up new things and there’s an open slate for it.  Here it is not as consumer-driven.  Living a simple life is more common than not.  There’s an open slate for well-being  in a place that doesn’t put so much emphasis on consumerism and a simple life style is acceptable.  If I had to do the move over, I would have brought more supplements and more things natural and organic.  I would have come prepared for winter and it was colder than I expected.  I brought a nice water filter.  In my experience what to bring includes organic seeds for a garden, organic or natural hygiene products.

Something I’ve noticed about the Uruguayan mindset is that generally  people work really hard.  Sometimes it feels like the people in this part of  Uruguay work hard in the summertime and not hard during the rest of the year. Also, in my dealings here I have learned not to have expectations that won’t be met. If I had to give some advice to people planning to come here, I’d say go with the flow. If you want to take the adventure, Uruguay has its own time and we can’t manipulate it.  Don’t get too hung up on the stereotype of South America, Uruguay is much different. It’s interesting what different people have as visions of Uruguay…many people have illusions about the country before they come, and I have learned to see it clearly at this point.

Montevideo from Airport

Edy just returned from a visit back to the US.  Here’s how Uruguay looks!  The best way to gEKet anywhere in Montevideo from Carrasco International Airport  and how to get pesos. (Mary and I will blog about how to get to other cities directly from the airport later.)

It’s so wonderful to be back… here I am, back in the city of Montevideo, in the small and peaceful and shimmering country of Uruguay.  It is a glowing wonderful day, a cool breeze and a very warm sun, just perfect.  Like the best weather of San Francisco.

It was hard while I was back visiting the USA to remember how wonderful it is here, but now that I’m here the feeling of well-being and relief is so intense.  There is an aura of peace, a feeling, an energy imprint of the place and people that I have, after 8 months living here, become used to. It feels very welcoming and pleasant to be back in the SUN, and the lack of pressure and the lack of that over-the-top American TV thing is very evident.  Here it feels like a simpler time and place where there is a rhythm to life and people are glad to see each other, where small things are still noticed and important.

The shuttle driver literally almost hugged me when I handed him a $5 bill, an older man with glasses and a wrinkled brow wanting to make sure everything went right and he got us where we were going.  A new Uruguayan friend, an accountant whose agency has been open and in the family more than 100 years, called me to welcome me back and say hello this morning.  Our friends who live in an old quarter, Barrio Sur, got us tickets to a Murga and Political Comedy event at the tablado of the Museo del Carnaval.

Once back home, I hung out my laundry on the line to dry in the sun.  pizzaThe food TASTES MUCH BETTER here.  And on and on, the families sitting together in the park, people walking home from the supermarket pulling grocery carts, the horse drawn carts of the men who search the trash for recycling items, the quite casual yet somehow sleek clothing, very small things that compose a life.

How to get from the airport to anywhere in Montevideo, cheapest and easiest:   The transportation from the airport is totally solved… my

Carrasco International Airport, an award winning building that could be mistaken for a spaceship hanger.
Carrasco International Airport is a 20 minute ride from the World Trade Center in Pocitos.

new favorite solution is, take the SHUTTLE, it’s only $14 per person and delivers you right to your destination.  The downside is you share it with a couple other parties, but if you’re lucky you strike up a conversation and get to know people and learn something .  (This is available also at early hours — like when my friend was arriving at 4 a.m. when city buses don’t even run). There is a clearly marked booth for TAXI/shuttle once you emerge from the customs area into the reception hall.  A bus into town or long distance buses to other parts of Uruguay also stop in front of the airport.  You can also take a private taxi for around US$40 or a little more than 1,000 pesos, also paid for by purchasing a coupon at the booth in the airport.  And note that if you have your dog, you must rent a shuttle all for your own party and your luggage and your dog, which is as of now US$64.  Lastly, you could rent a car.  Note in Uruguay they say they require a big deposit (like $1,000) when renting a car, but when we rented a car for a weekend trip I got around that by buying the complete insurance rather than the limited, which insurance I guess cost about US$35 extra per day, about twice the limited.

Using your credit cards in Uruguay:   For a taxi or the shuttle you buy a coupon and they will take a credit card, so you don’t need cash.  About changing money at the airport, you might do a little but the rates are better in the city.  All big supermarkets and hotels and many boutiques etc. take VISA. You need some cash for the bus, a small grocery or buying stuff in the feria, street markets, where it’s cheaper but of course they don’t take VISA, and some restaurants don’t.  Our credit cards charge us a little bit each foreign transaction, like .14 or so depending on how much we spent.  You might want to check yours, each one is a bit different in their policy.

Using an ATM in Uruguay:   There are also ATMs where you can use your debit VISA card from your bank to withdraw pesos directly, a slight charge with each withdrawal so I usually  take out about

A RED BROU currency changing shop.
At the RedBROUs everywhere in the city, you can use an ATM or change currency.

6000 pesos per time, which seems to be our limit for 1 withdrawal, this might also vary bank to bank.  and the maximum limit for us per day to withdraw seems to be 18,000 pesos per day, that is probably according to your own bank withdrawal limits.  You can also go to a bank and do a cash withdrawal on your credit card, but there is a charge for that, I understand, on the credit card company’s bill.  One ATM I know of is in the BROU banks, which is just like a regular bank ATM but you can use any VISA debit card in it.  Most others, I understand, take debit VISAs, but it varies a little.  If you have any trouble, please share your story so we can all learn.