Neighborhoods

There Go The Trees

MVD Trees 2

A curious thing has been happening lately in Montevideo... the trees have been coming down.  I first noticed it a few weeks ago and now block after block after block of the beautiful treetops are gone. I do need to clarify, the trees aren't entirely gone, but so aggressively pruned as to leave no foliage at all, just the main trunk and several of the larger secondary trunks to grow back. These once beautiful tree-lined streets that provided the much needed shade as I walked, are now bare and cold.

I knew that the trees here in UY grow very quickly due to year-round growth and therefore while large, are somewhat weak.  Upon further inspection, these trees have seen this type of pruning before and will most likely again. Their somewhat scraggly main trunks are met with markedly newer growth just slightly above.

One nice advantage to this tree trimming (if you're looking for a silver-lining) is that you can see the houses more clearly and all the gorgeous traditional detail that they hold. If you're in an apartment, you may now have a view where you never did before, just beware of who may be able to see you :)

My one question: How long until the trees grow back? I will miss the beautiful shaded canopy they provided!

A Week (and a half) in Review

Spring in Montevideo is coming in fits and starts this year. Cold and rainy one day, 70 degrees the next. I'm amazed at how quickly time here is passing and we're keeping busy with lots of different activities. Dia del Patrimonio was a great family day. We went to Ciudad Vieja's Plaza Matriz and toured Club Uruguayo (Uruguay's most prestigious private social club, founded in 1878), the Cathedral of Montevideo and the Spanish Embassy on Sunday. All were very beautiful old buildings, with the Embassy being an eclectic mix of traditional and austere contemporary architecture. We wanted to get out and see more places on Saturday, but we had a spring festival on the farm with the preschool class, so we were otherwise occupied with kids, animals and lots of food. Saturday was the nicer of the two days so I was happy that was our day outside. Sunday was cold and rainy and a perfect day to dash from one building to another, which is exactly what we did.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9pXFN_MTVQ

We're busy planing our trip back to the USA in December and all of the festivities there. Early December brings us our little girl's second birthday and a baby shower for my sister-in-law and first niece. Later in the month we celebrate Christmas with multiple families and try to equally split our time, which is not always easy. We fly back to MVD on the 28th, which happens to be on the same flight as another family we know who is moving here!  We are so excited and can't wait to have them join us in this fair city.

This past Saturday we went to our first wedding in Uruguay!! It was a beautiful church ceremony- very formal and very late. The invitation stated a start time of 8:30 PM. We were advised not to get there before 9 PM, and the ceremony started at about 9:15. A few differences: there were no attendants, no ushers, no programs. We also learned that it's customary for there to be two or even three sets of invitations sent out: one to the ceremony only, one to the reception and sometimes one to the after-reception. Receptions usually last until dawn or later. We went to the ceremony only- but had a great dinner out afterwards by ourselves at a funky little restaurant/interior design studio called Innove.

Wedding

As if we don't have enough going on, we've been in our house for 6 months and are already thinking of the lease end. A unique opportunity has presented itself and we are weighing our options. A family that we know and love is moving to the USA for a year, and renting out their house here in Montevideo. It's in the Cordon neighborhood, and is close to the jardín, hospital we belong to and many other services. This is an area we have been considering for our next house here, but since it is not the "normal" expat/tourist areas of Pocitos or Punta Carretas, the furnished rentals are very limited. This house is furnished and quite a bit larger than our current house for hopefully about the same monthly rent. Brad and I could each have private offices within the house! The lease terms don't quite match up so we all need to talk more- but it's an exciting prospect!

I'm definitely feeling some of the ups and downs of life in Uruguay. The longer we are here and the more we learn, the more we like some aspects of life here and dislike others. That's true with any place I suppose.  Some days I am really homesick (mostly for how "easy" it is to exist in a place you know well) but I do like Montevideo. This is a unique place with unique people that can't seem to understand why we would want to come to tiny Uruguay "just because".

Yoga in Montevideo

There are many Yoga centers in Montevideo, Uruguay.  In fact, there are three yoga centers that I know of within a few blocks of our home in Pocitos. Since my Spanish is not great yet, I felt intimidated just walking into one of those locations and taking a class... I found the perfect solution: Yoga in English with instructor Charla Cooper.

Charla teaches an excellent yoga class that I have been attending for the past 6 weeks. The class is small so you can get a lot of individual attention, the location is great, and it is a fabulous mix of yoga styles with Kundalini, Ashtanga and Iyengar. I had never practiced Kundalini yoga before this class and while it took a little getting used to, now it's a part of class that I really love.

Cost is UY$ 150 per class or UY$ 1000 for a month pass.

Please see the Yoga in English website for more details and any updated class information. You can also email ccooper495@gmail.com for more specific questions. Hope you can join us!

Email Us With Questions!

We have had a great response to our blog and receive email frequently from people who are interested in moving to Uruguay and are looking for more information. I've been corresponding with a woman from the United States who was looking for info about a possible move here with two kids. I wanted to include a few excerpts from our email conversation regarding the most expat-friendly neighborhoods and costs of goods/services in Uruguay.

Thanks for the note! To address your questions about the Pocitos, Punta Gorda and Carrasco neighborhoods:

We love the Pocitos/Punta Carretas areas. They are considered higher end, safe and very expat friendly areas that are still close to downtown. We live on the border between the two "barrios" listed previously and are within walking distance to just about every service and store that we could want. Cabs and public transportation are excellent, so we have no problems in this area without a car. There are a lot of high rises in this area and nearly all the buildings are attached to each other. While we know of a few people with small yards here, it does not seem to be common. Our house does not have a yard. Instead, we have a small front garden and a back patio.

Carrasco is gorgeous, with big houses and large yards that feel more like any United States suburb. You would definitely need a car in Carrasco it is around a 15-20 minute drive from where we are living (on a good day with no traffic). Punta Gorda is one barrio/neighborhood closer to downtown Montevideo than Carrasco and from what I hear, it has a similar feel to Carrasco.

If you click on Google Map Montevideo, you will see the names of the different neighborhoods (you may have to zoom in) and you can get some perspective to their relationship to one another. The little pin on the map is between Punta Gorda and Carrasco. If you follow the coast to the left you will find Pocitos and next to it at the point near the bottom of the screen, Punta Carretas.

To address your question regarding items that are less or more expensive than the US: Cars and gasoline here are very expensive, as is most technology including computers and home electronics. Kids/baby stuff here is also extremely expensive (2-3x more than what you'd pay in the US). I just looked for a potty seat for my daughter at a local shop and the only decent one I found was a Safety 1st model that is $50 here but only $23 on Amazon.com. On the flip side, food, most services, child care and medical are all much cheaper than what we experienced in the US.

The lifestyle is definitely different in Uruguay. We love it but we also know people here who are having problems adjusting. They expected it to be more like the US or Europe, I guess. With such a small market in Uruguay, many consumer goods are not the quality that you'd get in the US and the imports are insanely expensive due to all the import and sales taxes. Plan trips to Buenos Aires or the US to get anything you can't find here. While you technically could ship anything here, there is a very hefty price tag attached!

Good luck with your decision and feel free to email with any more questions- Lisa

If you have any specific questions and would like to email us directly, please use the 'Contact' link at the top right of the site, or feel free to leave a comment on this or any of our posts. Thanks!

Get Your own Toll Free Number

Palermo/Centro Dreaming

In my world there is no such thing as coincidence and everything happens for a reason.. So why are all signs pointing us to Palermo?

Street view of Maldonado in Palermo

When we started hearing of the Palermo barrio of Montevideo, it was simply in passing. Then I learned of the Ecotiendas store and mentioned it here on May 16th, not even knowing where it was located at the time.

Brad and I talked that the next place we should live in Montevideo should be a bit closer to the water, still very walkable as we have no intention of having a car, and not as "uptown" as the

Renewing our Temporary Visitor Permits

Uruguay Coat of ArmsThe time had come to renew our temporary visitor's permits for Uruguay.  Some people call these a visitor's visa, but they are not technically visas. Uruguay gives you 90 days and then you have to leave the country and re-enter to extend your permit. We knew about this and were planning a weekend trip to Buenos Aires with the extension in mind. We didn't want to go to Buenos Aires quite yet and had heard a mention of extending your permit for the first time at the Uruguayan immigration office in the Ciudad Vieja barrio of Montevideo. We looked at the forums for information about this and found very little. Well, it was either the immigration office or an impromptu trip to BsAs for the weekend, so we thought we'd try here in Montevideo first.

The Dirección Nacional de Migración office is located at Misiones 1513, esq. 25 de Mayo in Ciudad Vieja. When you walk in, take a number which is on a large column and wait in the main area. Even though the place was packed with people, the numbers flew by. Pay attention as it is not posted anywhere what number they are on.

Our number was called, we went up to one of the desks, sat down and told the clerk that we need "Prorroga de permanencia temporaria" (temporary extension of stay). After they typed our information into the computer, out came official looking forms with our names/passport numbers, etc.  We brought the forms to the caja (register), paid UY$356 each (about US$15), then took our papers and passports to a third desk where we received stamps all over the sheets (but strangely not in our passports) which will extend our stay for another 90 days.  All done in about a half an hour. I bet immigration in the USA isn't nearly this easy!

If you're late in renewing your temporary status here, don't fret.  You won't be kicked out of the country but you will pay a fine.  According to the Dirección Nacional de Migración website price list, it looks like the extension of an expired stamp is only US$8 more than the valid extension.

You can make this trip to the Immigration office every other time you need to extend your visitor's status here in Uruguay. The original stamp in your passport is good for 90 days. At the end of 90 days, go to the immigration office as described previously. At the end of the next 90 day period, you MUST exit and re-enter the country to renew your temporary status in Uruguay.

The visit to the immigration office is a great alternative to those who do not want to travel often, cannot afford it or simply don't have the time to travel when they need to renew their visitor status. Compared to other governmental services here, we found this process to be quick, inexpensive and efficient.

Do Your Homework

Our adventure started long before we stepped off the plane at the Carrasco Airport, Uruguay on March 26, 2009. We've been planning this move for over a year, with an exploratory trip to MVD in March 2008 (with then-3-month-old Geneva in tow). On that trip, we spent 7 days in Montevideo, two nights in Colonia and 3 nights in Buenos Aires.

Quick Water Update

We have water again!  All that good karma you've been sending this way worked!  It was down to just about 10% of the city that didn't have water this morning and all the city should be restored by tonight.  All the Uruguayos that we've spoke to can never remember this happening before.  So luckily we can't say 'Oh, this is how things work in Uruguay!"  Great that we still have the hotel room through Friday so after dinner and a walk, we were able to shower and get baby G in her PJ's before coming home.  Just think though, this was a 40 year old water main that burst to an city of 1.5 million.  New York has a water tunnel that is 114 years old that serves a city of 8 million.  That would really be bad!

Now we can really get to the work of cleaning and moving in.  With two pugs and a toddler underfoot (and falling hard on all this tile flooring), it should be interesting!!

We're in!

Well, it's been another interesting, exhilarating, wild 24 hours!  I wouldn't have it any other way!! living room-move inWe're in the house.  A cute little furnished one level on the border of Pocitos/Punta Carretas.  There really is just about everything within 8 blocks.  For the last 24 hours though, that has not included running water.  What????  I said the same thing.  No running water. We got all the boxes and suitcases moved and we were starting to get things unpacked when the water in the kitchen sink slowed to a trickle.... and then stopped altogether.  I thought the water must be shut off to the building. No, all the lines were on.  What could be going on?  I called Jorge, he'll know what to do (thankfully we have Jorge!) Well he tells me that half of the city is out.  A main burst and they don't know when it'll be restored.  Hmmmm.  Okay.  The Disco (supermarket) is 2 blocks away. We'll get a few 5 L jugs of water, but no shower, no flushing toilet and no hard-core cleaning of this place before we unpack.  

Here it is 24 hours later and still no running water.  El Pais (newspaper) says they are working non-stop to fix the problem, but it was a 40 year old concrete main that is very deep.  They hope to have it repaired by the end of today.  All of the coastal and downtown neighborhoods are affected including: Buceo, Pocitos, Punta Carretas, Parque Rodó, Barrio Sur, Palermo, Cordón, La Blanqueada, La Unión, Parque Batlle, Tres Cruces, Centro, Maroñas, Flor de Maroñas, Cerrito, Villa Española, Pérez Castellano, Larrañaga, Bolivar, Brazo Oriental, Jacinto Vera, La Figurita, La Comercial, Villa Muñoz, Sayago, Peñarol y Retiro. 

Happy Earth day!  We're conserving water!!

Other than the *minor* water issue, we are thrilled to be in the house.  It is working out really well for us, and we're getting into our routine.  Internet was set up this morning and Brad will comment on that. I met with the security company who came by to make sure we understood the system. There was a technican with very good English as well as another "translator" that they sent with. They left a manual for the system in English and also gave us the phone and email information for an English speaking customer service agent in case we have additional questions.  I appreciate the English help but certainly didn't expect it. Talk about service!  The technician also stopped by again this afternoon to make sure he got the monitoring setting correct.  After he left, he said that he was questioning himself if he did the final setting and he hadn't.  At home, I would have expected a phone call to set up another time to come by a week from now or something.  Wow. 

Next thing to arrive this afternoon should be our two furry friends, Pablo and Paloma!  I am thrilled that after a month they will be part of the family again.  I should learn all of the Spanish commands that they have been hearing from their temporary family.  For a month stay for both dogs I think it ended up being 7000 pesos ($280 or so).  Plus we had a minor incident with a need for a vet visit  and antibiotic shot for Paloma's bladder infection and a refill of her perscription food.  Still not nearly the cost it would be in the US, and the vets come to you instead of you carting a sick animal to them.  Seems more humane to me. 

So that covers the gamut:  House, water, technology, dogs.  There is so much more to say but I have to leave something for later.  

Please send good vibes this way that can fix water mains. We need water soon!!

Walking, Then Walking Some More

Since we arrived, I am both happy and embarrassed to say that I have not taken a cab or a bus and the only time I have been in a car is to see houses with our Inmobiliario (rental agent), Jorge.   I am happy to say that because we have done some pretty hard core walking and with the help of Brad's GPS, figure that we do on average about 4 miles per day. I'm embarrassed because I have not seen as much of the city as I would have liked by this time.   We will not have a car here and love it because it is such a walkable city with services and shops spread evenly throughout the neighborhoods.  Once we get settled, we'll take you on a stroll down the street where we will be living. It is amazing that there is almost everything one could need within about 3 blocks. 

Ciudad Vieja fountainThere is certainly a limit on how far I will walk, though. Take this morning for example, we went to go see the dogs. It is a little over a mile in each direction.  By the time we got food and got back to the hotel, we estimate it was almost three miles round trip.  The plan was to eat, go to the hotel for Geneva's nap then take a cab ride into Ciudad Vieja (Old Town).  Well, once we get back to the hotel Brad must have had a burst of post-empanada energy and suggests that we walk to Old Town.  We did this last year when we visited.  It was a beautiful walk along the water the whole way, but it is 5 miles in each direction with the curving coastline!  That is simply too much for today.  I don't want to be a wuss, but I think my limit for walking without wining the whole way is about 6 miles per day tops.  We'll take the cab to Ciudad Vieja today and leave the walking trip for another time when we can start earlier and haven't already done 3 miles.  

If you want to read more about Ciudad Vieja/Old Town, Wikipedia has a nice short summary here.  It is the business and tourist center of MVD, the architecture is amazing (although can be found in varying states of decay) and the scene is completely different than Pocitos, the neighborhood where we've been staying.

Culinary Discoveries

I had read in some of the Expat forums prior to arriving here that certain products are either hard to find, extremely expensive or even non-existent in Uruguay. Specific spices, nuts (expensive), Goat's milk and prepared "ethnic" foods like Mexican are a few examples that come to mind. I am so very happy to report that while preparing for the worst, we have been very pleasantly surprised. The most common foods found here are an Italian/Spanish hybrid along with what most outsiders consider the "Argentine" Asado. We've been to one Mexican restaurant, Roma Tijuana, were quite pleased and know of only one other by Montevideo Shopping. Contrary to what some Norteamericanos think, Uruguay is NOT Mexico!!!  It is easier to find a Heineken or Stella Artois here than a Corona!

 

We packed a few things with us that we'd use frequently, like fish oil and flax supplements along with a hefty sized bag of TVP (texturized vegetable protein).  We thought it was such a specialty item, there was no way that we'd be able to find some down here.  We use it as a filler instead of meat for stews, chili, etc.  Well, lo and behold, today I found it.  

Market at Berro and Marti

There is a street market or Feria that sets up every Friday just outside of our hotel door.  Stretches one block down calle José Martí and two blocks down Pedro Francisco Berro and is mostly fresh fruits and veggies with the occasional meet, cheese, clothing or housewares stand.  I was walking through with Geneva today and wanted to get some fruit (Now which one of the 40 fruit vendors do I go to??) when I happened upon a lone vendor of spices.  He was jammed in between a few busy fruit stands and with baby in tow, I coundn't muscle my way in to the stand for a closer look, but my superior height allowed me to see the labels of the items, including bags of a chunky, recognizable, dried product labeled "Protein de Soya".  Bingo!  It's here.  It's around. Our bag will probably last us a long while but it's good to know that reserves exist!

The whole atmosphere surrounding the discovery was made more wonderful by the old accordian player sitting on the corner.  As he hunched over his well loved instrument, I dug for some change and put it in his tin.  I am a sucker for the accordian.   

Later today, long after the market packed up and traffic once again took over those streets, we found that the Mexican restaurant down calle José Martí in the other direction was open for business.  After several days of watching and waiting while they set up, we can't wait to try it out.  It is more of a restaurant stall, with a vey small but cute storefront and outdoor seating (picture to come tomorrow).  No matter, I'm sure we'll end up there tomorrow to try out their veggie burrito (Brad) and some wonderful meat option (me) all washed down by a few lovely Corona....