Denae 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.