Category Archives: Living in Uruguay

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.

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

adapting magda4 magda3

 

 

 

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.

asado
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.

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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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table

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menu1

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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.

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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.)

 

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.

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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.

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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.