Expat Turnover

We have learned that not one, not two, but 7 families that we know in Montevideo will be leaving within the next 5 months.  Nearly all are leaving for work or educational opportunities, but some for a new adventure or economic reasons. Truth is, with inflation and the falling exchange rate of the dollar, it has become more expensive to live in Uruguay than it was when we arrived here 10 months ago and certainly when others arrived a few years previously.  Oh, why does the UY economy have to be so stable ?? (Unlike the Argentinian economy, which remains less stable  and as a result- a more favorable exchange rate from the US dollar). Great for Uruguay, not so favorable for expats!

We had been warned about the very common Expat Turnover and how it can go in waves.  We were just not prepared for quite the rush of people we know leaving Montevideo within such a short time.

We are very excited for the new friends arriving here on a regular basis, and more are sure to follow.  While it's hard to build relationships and then have people scatter to all ends of the world, (or rather Toronto which is strangely where many are going, but also to Thailand and the USA) we look forward to welcoming the new people coming to Uruguay, and staying in touch with those friends leaving.

To those of you leaving: We love you all and will miss you terribly. We'll keep up on facebook! Thank you for all the fun times, the support when we needed it and for helping us feel at home here in Uruguay.

With our Expat friends in UY, we have experienced: Piriapolis, numerous asados and pizza parties, birthdays, Friday lunches, Expo Prado, yoga, the beach and pool parties, zoos, movies, fubol matches, the parks, many exchanged notes, stories and recipes and so many other wonderful memories.  Thank you!

(Please note: While one rarely hears the word "Adios" here in Uruguay, it is universally understood, and well, I didn't have a photo of "Chau" written in the sand!)

We're Back!!

We were in the USA for nearly four weeks for the holidays and had grand plans to keep writing, but alas the writing fell to the wayside. Our time with family and friends was all too short and we had to take advantage of every second.  After a glorious time celebrating a cold, snowy, traditional Christmas in Minnesota, we are back in Uruguay, with the energy and enthusiasm that a beautiful summer brings.  We promise to write more frequently, dear friends!!  In fact, we have a few posts in the pipeline already- so no excuses! While away, Brad got more thumbnail photos loaded to "dress up" this new site a bit.  We hope you like it!  We'll continue to work on updating the older posts.  There are a lot of them!

We're also working on two new business ventures and we'll be adding those shortly to our information here.  This is such a productive time in our lives!

As always, if you have questions, comments, or just want to say hello, comment here or send a note on the "Contact" page. We'd love to hear from you.

A Weekend in Buenos Aires

We just spent a quick weekend in Buenos Aires, and it was a very nice change from everyday life in Montevideo. Since we've been there before and have already explored Recoleta and some of Palermo, a few highlights and notable details of this trip are:

Buquebus: We took the Buquebus shuttle from Tres Cruces bus Terminal in Montevideo to Colonia, then the ferry from Colonia to Buenos Aires.  This is more economical than the direct ferry from MVD to BsAs (and had a departure on Saturday AM instead of PM), but the journey takes longer. Because of the weather on Friday and into Saturday, I'm happy we did it this way.  The winds were strong and as a result, the waters choppy.

Waving goodbye to the Colonia port

Note: Do not expect to be able to get Argentine pesos at the Buquebus terminal in Buenos Aires.  The Cambio was closed on Saturday morning and the ATM's were not working. Exchange your money in Montevideo so you don't have to waste time in Buenos Aires- because there are no banks, cambios or cajeros near the Buquebus terminal.

Hotel: We stayed at a gorgeous little hotel in an out of the way area. The Lola House is rated 6 on out of 341 hotels in Buenos Aires and I can't say enough good things about it. The rates were excellent and we were treated like royalty.  The Subte  (subway) stop is just a few blocks away and you can be in downtown near Calle Florida within about 10 minutes.  Taxis are also very inexpensive, but it will take longer to get across town than via the subway.

Starbucks: You knew this was coming, right? We stopped not once, but twice in 24 hours. The baristas were wonderfully personable, remembering our names from the day before and even giving us free milk for Geneva.  Not that I like the wastefulness of take-away cups, but man, this was really good.

At Starbucks in Buenos Aires

Feria San Telmo:  A fantastic mix of antique vendors and artisans with food and beverage peddlers, street performers and tango demonstrations mixed in. It's a little touristy, but stay, eat and wait for the tourists to leave, there is samba drumming and tango dancing all evening long.  Takes place every Sunday south of downtown, on Calle Defensa between Av San Juan and Plaza de Mayo. We had a great time wandering and people watching.

We also dropped in to see a FABULOUS boutique hotel that Brad has been booking for his clients on the opposite side of town from where we stayed. We'll definitely try this place out on one of our next trips to BsAs- and I'll write about it then.  Contact us if you want to learn more right now.

After living simply for the past 6 months- and loving it- we were both surprised how our consumerism nature came rushing back when faced with all the material things not available in Montevideo.  Other than coffee and food, we bought a few personal care items and an inexpensive handmade bag at the San Telmo market, but thankfully we were strong and that was it for the purchases.

24 hours in Buenos Aires is not nearly enough time. I can't wait to get back.  With a metro area of 13 million people, there is so much to explore!!

Jardín Caminito- A Perfect Choice for Us

We love the jardín that Geneva attends.  Thank you a million times over to Suki for recommending it. There are so many things that I appreciate about Jardín Caminito: the atmosphere is extremely warm and open, the play is creative and inventive, family events are fun and frequent. The thing that I love most about Caminito, though, is the quality and quantity of communication between the jardín and the parents.

Caminito class

Information to the parents is spread quickly and readily via email, printed and handwritten notes.  We receive email messages frequently with news about meetings or recent happenings in the jardín. Even with Geneva's day-to-day activities, the communication has been incredible.  When we first started attending Jardín Caminito, we received three "books" that had been created for her:

  • One small book to travel back and forth that contains daily handwritten communication and questions.
  • One large book that mainly lives at Caminito but travels back and forth as well.  This binder contains printed song lyrics and other printed communication regarding materials that they need or specific activities that they are working on.
  • One large book lives at home where we can collect all of her artwork in a binder format.

All the parents of Jardín Caminito have access to an online photo album that is updated every month. Last week we received a CD of songs that they sing in Geneva's class, along with lyrics. There is even a rotating library of children's books and we receive a new book to borrow each weekend.  It is so much fun to read these sweet kids books in Spanish and it's as much of an education for us as it is for Geneva.

Last week Brad and I attended the "Reunión de Padres sala 1".  Nearly all of the parents of the year 1 class attended, along with the administrators and all the teachers (not just our grade).  We learned in detail what they are working on in the year 1 class and there was a forum where parents could ask questions about both the jardín and the children. The instructors knew that the spoken information in Spanish was fast and we may not understand all of it, so we were given a printed copy of the main curriculum discussion to read.  We also wrote private letters to our children as if they were reading them when they are 20 years old.  There were few dry eyes in the building after that exercise.

A few of the parents and instructors at the Jardín speak English and they are all very concerned that we understand all of the information and our questions answered.  I cannot express how wonderful this is when we do have questions. Although 95% of our communication with the jardín is in Spanish, it is great to know that we have people to turn to if we need clarification.

Several times both that night and previously, Brad and I have commented to each other  how we wouldn't get this level of hands-on attention in the USA. To the best of our knowledge, most US daycares do not have 2.5 hour long meetings like this to discuss our kids, their growth and progress.  Our daughter would not get kisses from all of the teachers and many of the kids, as we are walking into and out of the school each day. (So she get's a few extra colds along the way, you take the good with the bad!) She would not have an opportunity to go to a farm once a month in the USA, or have "classmates" that she could potentially stay with throughout her preschool years.


Geneva frequently comes home with evidence of face painting or coloring.  They sing songs with various musicians coming to visit and they learn about  the world around them through daily exploration activities.  It seems that she loves the other kids as much as the activities and her teachers say that Geneva's comprehension of Spanish is great.  We are excited that she has an opportunity to be immersed in the Uruguayan culture and language for 20 hours a week and that she is thriving here.

Brad and I are making many new friends and receiving an education of our own through this experience. With all of the meetings and correspondence in Spanish, our comprehension is improving and we're learning much through the process of becoming integrated in a new culture.

Brad is attending a "Dia del Padre" this afternoon with Geneva at Caminito and I can't wait to hear all about it.  :)

The Art of Fire: Our Wood-Burning Fireplace

We left our native Minneapolis, MN in March with snow on the ground and arrived here in Montevideo, to gorgeous summer weather. That summer weather lasted about 8 weeks and now we are enjoying the cool, crisp winter days with chilly nights. It's still beautiful here...many clear, sunny days with the smell of burning fire wood heavy in the air. It seems so strange to have winter in mid-July. Opposite seasons in the southern hemisphere will seem surreal for a while.

The Pugs with the best seat in the houseIt is common for many homes in Uruguay to rely on wood burning fireplaces as a source of heat. The cool, damp air is penetrating and like ours, many homes do not have central heating. It is time for us to master the fireplace. Our fireplace is open with no damper and no doors, so the learning curve has been high. There's been adventure with not-so-dry wood from the supermercado and the fireplace not venting. Besides filling the room with smoke a few times and smoke detectors beeping frequently, it's been fun and we are now semi-skilled at the art of fire making.

After getting our fireplace cleaned, purchasing a screen and some tools (all courtesy of our landlord), we were set to order our first load of firewood. We planned to order quite a bit so we'd have some left over after heating season to use in our outdoor parilla. We ordered 1/2 ton of mixed wood for delivery. That is a whopping 500 kilos for the low, low price of $1450 (approx U$S 60) which included an extra $100 pesos to bring it to the back of the house. It was delivered yesterday and neatly stacked for us, but there was a mix-up. The delivery was all large split logs of astilla and none of the other types of wood we had requested. After calling back, we opted to get another 1/2 ton of the additional kinds of wood, and they would still deliver the same day: leña de monte, rolos secos and atados for an additional $1250 pesos (approx U$S 52). Now we know exactly what a ton of wood looks like!

There is something very comforting about not only a real wood fireplace, but the stacks of beautiful wood ready to give us heat in the cold evenings.  We'll continue to hone our fire making skills and hopefully Geneva won't have to say "Beep, beep, beep!" anymore to mimic to the smoke detectors.

Our wood came from La Costanera. They were excellent.  We worked out the mix-up in wood types quickly and they came back the same day with the additional order.  The young delivery guys were very fast and courteous.

Firewood delivery :

La Costanera

tel: 601 4074

La Costanera delivery truck

Stack of mixed wood at the front of our house


Why Are We Here Anyway?

A conversation over lunch on Friday continued over dinner Saturday and got me thinking: We have never really explained why we are here and what we are hoping to accomplish.

So here goes without writing a novel:

Who we are/our love of travel: Brad and I had talked about moving abroad for the 12 years we've been together.  Brad did several study abroad trips through college and I had traveled to Europe a few times before we met. My mom was born in the Netherlands, so there has always been a strong tie to family abroad. Our love of travel brought Brad and I to Spain together for Spring Break 1997 after dating for only two months. We've traveled pretty extensively ever since.

As technology improved and our careers morphed from being employed by someone else to starting our own companies, a few pieces started falling into place. We started researching different locations and we felt that Buenos Aires, Argentina was the place for us. One book in particular that validated the decision we already made to live abroad was "The 4-Hour Workweek".  This also gave us some new ideas how to conduct business remotely.

Brad and I sold our house in Minneapolis that we had been in for nearly 7 years. We were expecting Baby G at the time and moved into a condo for a year while we got our business and personal lives in order. We sold most of our larger possessions and sub-leased our office space. All the while, we were still researching possible locations and talking to people. Our focus turned from Argentina to Uruguay as a very family friendly, safe and stable country.

We joke that we spent our 20's acquiring stuff and our 30's getting rid of it all. We did leave many sentimental items and valuables in MN for the time being. We'll figure out if they are coming here or staying there soon.

In March 2008, we took an exploratory trip to Uruguay with G, who was three months old at the time. We loved Uruguay and knew this was the right place for us. We told our families of our plans to move a few months later.

Why we are here: It's a huge contradiction. We want to lead a simpler life. We don't want the big house with lots of fancy things. I don't like to shop and I am turning into more of a hippie all the time.

Only because of technology, though, can we be here and do what we do. We need our computers, our VoIP phones and high speed internet in order to work.

We avoided getting a mobile phone here for the first several months and just broke down and got one last week.  We have a nice TV that came with the furnished house, but no cable or antenna, so we can only watch DVD's. We check news and weather online when needed. We have no car and no immediate plans to buy any material possessions. We do not necessarily want the same standard of life here that we had in the USA because there were so many distractions attached.

What we want to accomplish: We want to have a life rich in experiences without being encumbered by lots of  physical 'stuff'. Our desire is to travel through South America and see both the cities and the countryside. Sure, I want to have some luxuries along the way, but I'd rather have a good wine, a meal with friends or a massage than a new table for the kitchen or a purse I saw in a shop window. Let's lead the simple life in regards to "stuff", but  rich in services and experiences. Services are inexpensive here, so we are living well on a much smaller amount of money than we lived off of in the USA.

I want Geneva to learn Spanish and the Uruguayan culture. I want her to learn to appreciate travel and be comfortable around people and situations that are different to her. I never really liked the 9-5 business world where I may only get to see my child for a few hours every day. Thanks to self employment and a culture that sees kids as a welcome part of the family instead of something you have to leave at home when the sun goes down, we can do that.

I'm not saying a move like this is right for everyone or it's easy step to take, but there are options and this option of living in Montevideo, Uruguay is right for us right now.

More of Life at the Casita

G's sock bin We're settling in to life here and here's another update on stuff that's been pending in our world:

Alejandra finished her first week here and we love her already.  Cleaning this whole house top to bottom in the course of two days, including purchasing many of the cleaning supplies, doing dishes and some laundry.  Total cost:  510 pesos for 6 hours on Tuesday and 350  for 4 hours on Thursday = 860 pesos or $36.00.  She even arranged Geneva's sock bin in color order!  Wow~

Looks like Caminito (daycare)  is a go for June 1.  There is a picnic next Saturday to welcome the morning class into the afternoon and we are invited.  We also dropped by today to get Geneva measured for her "uniform" (light green velour hoodie, grey velour pants and white t-shirt).  We're excited to get started!  Now to just translate all the paperwork needed and get it filled out correctly.

 The water issue in our bathroom is still on-going and we continue to turn off the main every night.  The plumbers keep working on it and took out a little of the back of the kitchen sink cabinet today to try to learn more about where the water is coming from (there are 4 plumbing fixtures on the shared plumbing wall).  After removing the rotted cabinet base under the kitchen sink two weeks ago, we don;t have too much of that cabinet left! Good thing it's on concrete and they think they found something although we have yet to learn what they are going to do about it.  

I took a few photos of our sink demo, but had a moment of clarity before posting.  Who on earth wants to see a sock bin and under a sink in a post.  I've gotta get better photos.  

On a different note:

I was returning yesterday from a great playdate in the park when it started to rain.  Geneva and I made it the 6 blocks or so dodging downpours and as I turned the stroller onto our street, I got a really strange feeling: We are living here.  We've signed a lease.  We're no longer just tourists.  We are interacting with the plumbers, the store clerks, the Jardin, the locals.  We are committed.  It was a really odd feeling of familiarity and comfort and at the same time a little apprehension.  My heart began to race.  In all my travels, I've never been anywhere this long before.  I love it and it freaks me out.  I blame the mood on 'winter' coming.  I've never done well with winter. Luckily today is 80 degrees and winters here aren't so bad.  Bring it on!

What We've Been Doing

We've been slacking on the blog.  Sorry. But our social calendars have been getting a workout!  Between Brad going to a Futbol (soccer) match on Thursday between Argentina and Uruguay, me being being double booked for Friday lunch, emailing with another expat about upcoming yoga classes, entertaining at our house on Friday night, and going to the Rummage sale at the American School today (we had 3 expats offer to give us a ride), we've kept busy.

17 month birthday

It was also Geneva's 17 month birthday this past week, which we always celebrate with a sign and lots of photos.

I've also been doing tons of laundry since we have a few nice days again after three days of rain, I'm cooking a lot and just today started baking and crocheting a new project.  I am a domestic goddess after all!  Well, maybe not.  Read on:

We also interviewed a lady to come in and clean the house 2x per week.  She came very highly recommended by an expat we know and we met with Alejandra on Thursday.  She'll come on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for 80 pesos  ($3.33) an hour plus bus fare.  We do also pay taxes into the UY equivalent of the social security system as her employer.  Alejandra would also do some cooking and laundry, which we said we wouldn't need that at this point. She will also help us get set up with any of the equipment/cleaning supplies that we need.  We'll try it with Alejandra for a few weeks and see how it goes.

An update to other items:

We have yet another lead for a possible daycare.  Caminito still may work out in a couple of weeks, but we don't know for sure and want to keep the search going just in case.

We still have a water issue that is going to be dealt with this week.  The plumber has been here several times and installed a new kitchen faucet, toilet mechanism, and adjusted/repaired the temperature control on the water heater and we still have 2-3 liters of water on the bathroom floor every morning if we don't shut the water off every night. Jorge has been a huge advocate of ours and has been the one dealing with the landlord on this issue. I would rather they just break into the wall to see what's going on and get it done with.

Other than that, we're getting into a routine. Weather is turning colder and the heat is on in the bedrooms at night. That is the only heat that we have in the house and the other rooms are chilly.  No wonder I'm cooking more, at least then the kitchen is toasty warm.

Tomorrow we'll probably go to the Expat lunch at Old Maz which happens every Sunday but we also have tentative plans for afternoon/evening for Brad to help a family with some technology/internet issues.  The girls can play and we'll work for food and wine!

We've met lots of wonderful, interesting people so far and really value the information we've gleaned and the friends we've already made .

More in the Daycare Story :)

Sorry for those of you who don't have kids and don't care about our daycare story.  I know there are others that want the latest on our meeting today with Caminito. Brad and I walked to Caminito today at about 2:00.  The afternoon session had just started and Gabrilela was leaving.  Jimena gave us a quick tour and asked if we could come back this evening when they would both be available to talk. We took a cab back at 6:30 and were there for a little over a half hour. They told us they are in the process of restructuring, cutting out the morning session (I believe the teacher for this session is leaving) and possibly adding another afternoon session for the 1-2 year olds. To do that though, they need to find a new instructor.

Long story short:  We'd love to start there ASAP but we don't have a spot until they get it all figured out. They said that they'd get back to us within a week and maybe we can start in two weeks.  We walked out with all the paperwork and fingers crossed that we'll be able to get in soon.

It could be a lot worse, like some daycare centers in the US where you are on a many-month waiting list for a spot to open up.  We'll just see how it goes!

Daycare- Option 3

We received the referral that I referenced in the post last week Daycare Options. CaminitoI visited Caminito Jardin de Infantes today, along with an Expat Mom whose 3-year-old daughter goes there.   I also just learned of another family that has a two year old son there as well.  Both families highly recommend the program.

I visited the Caminito website a few days ago and with the help of Google Translate, I was able to learn about their philosophy, hsitory and teachers before evere visiting.  The center is located about 12 blocks from us, down Boulevard Artigas, going away from la Rambla.  Still walkable though, and I was in the area today in about 15 minutes (at a very brisk pace).  I met up with Expat Mom and we walked to Caminito together.

My initial impression was great.  The place is cheery and fun, with a big metal gate in front that is locked with a key and someone actually has to come out and let you in, instead of just buzzing from inside.  Note: It is really not as ominous as it sounds when it's painted all in bright colors.  We entered and left the stroller in the storage area.  The first differences were evident.  There were tubes of various materials and colors, something that looked like a hula hoop but with texture, balls of every shape and size, a bunch of empty 5-liter water bottles.. this is the concept of using everyday materials to create wonder and exploration.  I love it already!

(Note to my Dad:  You were right with all of your surprise "toys" for Geneva.  I just didn't realize it at the time!!)

We talk with the Administrator, Gabriela for a few minutes.  The place is clean, bright and sparsely furnished. There is a small garden in back, I hear with lettuce or spinach planted that they will use to make a torta for the kids. Then we went upstairs to see the 3-year-old and one-year-old rooms.   The three year olds were climbing through nylon tunnels and bouncing on mats.  Each age group has two rooms, one with furniture and toys and the other is open for napping or larger activities.  The instructors plan different exploration activities daily, many with reused products.

Geneva and I go into the room with the 1-2 year olds. There are 4 kids and two instructors (it was late in the day and I think a few had left already). The kids are around a table painting and putting paper confetti on their "paintings" with both materials gettin absolutely everywhere.  The huge smiles on every child in the room told me that they were thrilled  and Geneva wanted to get right in.

Once back downstairs, Geneva and her 3-year old friend each get a different shaped plastic bottle filled with food-colored-water and various floating objects (all the caps were glued on) an they start rolling and shaking the bottles. Nothing like purple bubbles!  We talk a little more, I get a price list and find that Caminitos pricing is the same range as the others I looked reviewed.  They are implementing uniforms, with the winter uniform of a light green velour hoodie, light gray velour pants and a white t-shirt. Very cute and having come from a youth filled with uniforms myself, I am all for them.  My uniforms were green plaid and not quite as cute, though!

They also provide homemade snacks and milk at Caminito, for a whopping  250 pesos (under $ 11.00/month) for the afternoon session with the morning session a little less.  All included, it still comes to about $150 for the month: The general monthly fee and snack are the monthly costs with materials,  Matricula (registration)  and uniform (figured 4 per year) all divided since they are yearly costs.  Hopefully we got everything here, if not, we'll make adjustments to the above information.

We plan to visit again tomorrow so Brad can join us and hopefully register at that time.  I really like Caminito and think it will be a great fit for us!

Note: Caminito is a new-ish program and it sounds like they are making adjustments to their offerings, class sizes and instructor schedule.  More information to come.

Daycare Options

After much consideration and weighing the pros and cons, we have decided that we want Geneva in professional care outside the home instead of having a nanny.  The advantages of a licensed caregiver, socialization, language skills and a stimulating environment won for us.

We checked out two Daycare/Early Learning centers today and were quite impressed.  "Snoopy" (I doubt the name and likeness is licensed) came highly recommended by several people and "Humanitos" (Little Humans) was nearby and we wanted to check it out.  Both have highly trained personnel, great facilities indoor and outdoor play areas, and excellent pricing compared to what we are accustomed.

The rate for 4 hours per day, 5 days a week (80 hours per month) was between $110-150 per month.  There are a few additional costs for materials and special activities, but considering we were paying over $800 per month for two full days per week (64 hours per month) of  in-home care in MN, this is an incredible savings.

The two schools have a very similar format in that there are two sessions per day. Morning is from 8:30-12:30 and afternoon is 1:30-5:30.  You could opt to attend both sessions, but the above pricing is for one session only.

Snoopy has been around for 30 years, and has this location and another one named Goody across town. It is a very popular program and as a result, very busy. The building is a renovated home (as is Humanitos) and was absolutely bustling with activity. I was amazed with how many instructors there were floating around.  They also had an indoor "gym" (possibly a renovated sunroom?) which was nice and bright in the back of the building in case it was wet outside, like today.

Humanitos has been in existence for 15 years and was MUCH more calm, but with smaller facilities and fewer kids in each age group.  Very professionally run, the staff was extremely warm and friendly for our drop-in visit. I loved their indoor play area as well,  it was just within the interior of the building.  Both buildings looked very safe with the proper child-proofing measures in place.

The integration process is incredible at both locations.  It can take up to a week where you bring the child in for an hour (with parent present) and stay so that they can get accustomed to the new environment, knowing that you are there.  The next day, you stay for a little longer.  It will probably help the parents as well as the kids, although I think Geneva will start playing and think "Bye Mom, this place is GREAT!"

One thing that I was not wild about at first glance was the teacher-to-child ratio for the schools.  At Geneva's age group (she is almost 17 months), it is 1/6 at Humanitos and a possible 1/7 at Snoopy (but 1/6 with current enrollment). For toddlers, this seems like an awful lot of kids to one teacher, in my opinion.  I looked up the MN childcare standards though, and much to my surprise, 1/7 is the limit for toddler care in daycare facilities back home.

I do have to mention the cutest thing in the world:  The kids at both locations wear these sweet little "túnica" (smocks).  They are just so sweet when you have a room full of little kids together wearing all of the same smocks.  Can I get an "Aaawwwwwwwwww!"?

I have a referral from an Expat to one other center which I am definitely going to check out as well.  I don't know the exact location or format of the third center but I will add an update when I receive more info.

The Baby List

Geneva in the toy bin

We have been recently corresponding with a couple who will be moving to MVD shortly with their daughter. They've asked great questions about traveling abroad with a baby and what to bring, and we've responded with our experiences thus far.  Another couple with a little girl just commented on this blog yesterday (what's with all the baby girls? They're the best, I know. But baby boys are portable too!) and I thought this would be a great time to publish our very extensive baby packing list.  

Whether you're moving to Uruguay, the UK, Australia or UAE (or wherever in the world your journeys take you) this list should help to plan out your move with a child.  Appropriate for birth to 2+ with some minor modifications, this is what happened to make the journey with us. 

I had been planning this packing list since shortly after Little G's birth.  We visited MVD to scope things out in March 2008, when Geneva was 3 months old) so I could really get a feel for what is available here and what is not. After talking to people here last year, I found that baby stuff in particular is not the quality that we are accustomed to in the US.  I wanted to bring as many things as I could that were portable, good quality and will grow with the baby.  I also brought a bunch of small stuff that I knew I could probably get here, but didn't want to worry about going out and finding it right away. I regret absolutely nothing in this list. Here goes:

  • Tripp Trapp® from STOKKE® Highchair with baby rail and cushion. Packs flat.  You can adjust the seat/foot rest to grow with the child and eventually become a standard chair that holds up to 300 lbs. Is a great design and we'll use it forever.  We have a 2008 model in red with the white baby rail and art stripe cushion.  The 2009  models are changed slightly so be sure the chair and accessories work together. 
  • Sunshine Kids New Radian 80 Convertible Car Seat   The only car seat that has a metal frame, FOLDS flat for storage/transit (great for getting through airports and into airplane seats) and fits up to an 80 lb kid. No booster seats here! This will be the only seat we'll ever need.
  • BabyBjörn Travel Crib Light I mentioned this one in a previous post and it really has been incredible. Set up takes about 30 seconds and pack up takes about a minute. Weighs a mere 11 lbs and comes with a sturdy bag that can be airport checked, or packed in a suitcase. Geneva loves the thing and we are still using it.  I wanted to get a "real" crib when we got settled down here but I am starting to reconsider if we really should get anything else.
  • Two mattress pads and few crib sheets including two jersey sheets that work well for the travel crib.  I didn't buy the baby Bjorn sheets because I just couldn't justify $30 each...
  • Clothes: 18 month summer and 24 month in both summer and winter- I get everything in lots off of craigslist and have the next two sizes boxed and ready to ship here if needed. 
  • All the sippys, plates, silverware to get her through the next year.
  • Cloth diapers- several different varieties including All-in-One's (AIO's), prefolds, fitteds, PUL covers and wool covers. See note below about diapers.
  • 4 packs disposable diapers Nature Babycare Eco-Friendly Diapers and several packs of wipes to get through the first few weeks
  • Chicco C6 Stroller Comes with a storage bag and shoulder strap.  Great for checking it at the airport.  We left our larger stroller behind and brought this one to MVD both times.  Was great when G was 3 months old and still great now with that she's 16 months old.  
  • California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo and Body Wash I brought two 8.5 oz bottles and wish I had more because I use it as a face cleanser, too. I like this because it is unscented, biodegradable and tear free. 
  • Baby proofing stuff for cabinets and door knobs- A big help in the hotel rooms, too. 
  • Baby toys, books (English and Spanish), etc. Another post to come of some specific toys as well as the items I brought with us on the long plane ride here!  3 flights and almost 24 hours of travel,  I  had to have a few tricks up my sleeve!! 
  • Geneva in the tubSafety 1st Kirby Inflatable Tub Lots of hotel rooms and houses here only have showers (but they do have hand-showers).  I received the tip to bring an inflatable tub when we visited a family here from Canada.  It's been wonderful.
  • Clock Radio with white noise feature- We used this in MN and its been nice here to block out noises and create a great sleep environment for Geneva. We need to use it with a transformer since it is from the USA, but it's what she's used to, so we packed it up with everything else. 
  • Closetmaid 2 Pack Fabric Drawers Blue Cloth storage bins that fold flat.  I had used this style for my socks/tank tops, etc before baby and ended up getting two for Brad in blue and several for Geneva in a deep pink color.  They're great for toys, books and clothes (or the baby, as pictured at the top of this post) and once again, packs flat for transit. 
  • Small photos and momentos from home to keep a similar look to the room that she is used to
  • Several blankets including a few that were mine when I was a baby
  • Big Kids' Halo SleepSack - Pink This is the walker version with holes for little feet, rather than just the sack for infants. It will be great for cool nights where blankets get frequently kicket off.  I got the 2-3T size and it is huge on our tall girl.  Something to grow into!
  • Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 (Black) and Vision Pro for Mac Webcams are a must to stay in contact with the grandparents and other family back home via Skype.  We purchased one for us and 4 to give as Christmas presents this past year.  The reviews for this camera are outstanding and we have had the best experience with this after returning a previous webcam and giving others grief after also purchasing another brand of webcam.  This is the best!
  • There are also several other items that I will include in the next packing/toys post
Note on diapers: 
Disposable diapers here kinda suck. We've heard that from others here and discovered it ourselves. I actually know of one family that bought most of their disposables from Argentina.  We used a combination of cloth diapers and Naturebaby Care biodegradable disposables in the US.  I brought 4 packs of disposables here and all of the cloth diapers that we had been using.  We've tried a few brands of disposables here and the absorbency just isn't the same and one brand seems to be a very slim fit which has leaked badly for us. Sounds weird, but I can't wait to get some decent laundry detergent so I can start cloth diapering again. 
Thinks that I wish I could find here: 
  • Cheerios for the baby (or an organic/natural equivalent) - there is nothing similar down here except for sticky honey covered stuff. 
  • Unscented/natural laundry detergent- I'm sure we'll find it, but we haven't yet.  Everything readily available is scented
  • More California Baby shampoo/bodywash.  See note above.
  • More suppy cups.  Baby chompers are sharp and like to chew...

If you have traveled or moved abroad with young babies/toddlers, we'd love to hear your ideas and what has worked for you.  If we become friends via the blog and you're coming in this direction, be warned. We just bay ask you to bring something from our wish list!

* Note: All of the links above are Amazon because in preparing for this move, we hopped on Amazon all the time when there was something that we needed. We heart Amazon and are "Prime" members so we got free shipping in 2 days on most items.  Plus, there are reviews of all the products so you know what you are getting.  Brad had a good time practicing his HTML skills placing code for all of those links!

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!!

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.

Pocitos Beach

We went to Pocitos beach today, a block and a half away from our hotel.  Since it is the first time we have had a baby on the beach for any length of time, we overplanned and overpacked but were prepared.   The beach was crowded with all sorts of people: those who have seen much sun in their many years,  those who just stopped for a moment of sunshine while biking or walking by and those who were enjoying great family moments like us.  What I love most about the beach here is that everyone is welcome (including pale foreigners) and it really doesn't matter what you look like.  One piece suits on women are something of a rarity and body issues seem nonexistant.  I love that!

I like being in a country that doesn't care if you have love handles or a bit of a spare tire  around the middle.  You're out enjoying the sun and having a good time, just like everyone else.

Baby at the Beach

Missing Home

It's been 2 -1/2 weeks since we left MN and I am homesick.  Not homesick like I was when I left for Europe when I was 16, but homesick nonetheless.    When I was 16, I was with a school trip, had a few calls home and a few postcards that I mailed out.  I felt like I was on the moon, everything seemed so different

This time around, we are the grounding force for our daughter, we are home for her.  We've been here before as well and are comfortable with the area, people and atmosphere.  The main reason that our homesickness is kept at bay though is because of our great connection to home through techology. The same stuff that allows us to live and work abroad allows us an unbelievable connection to our family and friends in the US that wasn't possible just a few years ago. 

Facebook has been amazing.  Nothing like having a network of your freinds and family seeing your photos and reading your updates on a daily basis.  Not like waiting for a letter or postcard via airmail anymore. 

While we use email, it is simply not the main tool of communication anymore.  We use it for specific notes to family members or to communicate links to a group that may not be on facebook.  

Youtube has been the main tool for posting video and sharing with people, via facebook or email.  One thing I don't like about Youtube is when sending a video marked as private (viewable by only 25 people who you send the link to) those people have to set up an account to view the link.  Seems like an unnecessary step.  The link should be enough, in my opinion. For example, we sent a private video to family with information about the house we will be living at. 

Skype for video calls to the grandparents and possibly even to have Easter dinner with the family in MN.  We'll see how that goes!  We gave 4 webcams to family for Christmas so we can keep in touch.  It was a great gift that allows us at least to see each other in real time.  Quality is great and will just keep getting better.  We're currently using Skype with our wireless connection at the hotel so we can't wait to try it with a wired line at the house! Not quite like being there, but it's the closest we've got.

Other Great Stuff (that we brought along)

There are a few other things that we brought with us that have been invaluable to an extended stay in a hotel. These were all items that we purchased for previous adventures abroad (Peru and Thailand) and I think they are all nifty little tools to share: Campsuds

Campsuds: This is a multi-purpose, biodegradable liquid soap that can be used for clothes, dishes and body. While we have bathed with it before, we are using it for clothes and dishes right now. There are several scents available and it is concentrated so it lasts forever. We have a 4 oz bottle that has lasted us from our Peru/Inca trail trip a few years ago.

We use Dr. Bronner Castille Soap for showering and other cleansing.  Another excellent concentrated all-purpose naturally derived biodegradable liquid soap.  

Pack Towl: These microfiber towels are amazing and we have them in 4 sizes. Ours are a previous generation, so I assume that they could only get better. They have been great as dishtowels, bath towels, wringing wet clothes dry- you name it. They're light, have a snap loop to hang with, wash perfectly and dry incredibly quickly. What more could you ask for?  Be warned though, these are not cushy towels.  It's a bit like drying with a giant chamois, but they get the job done. 

Frio Pouch: This was the only solution that I could find for trekking in Thailand in 2002. I needed something that would hold my insulin and keep it cold when I was going to be away from refrigeration for extended periods of time. The Frio pouch was/is a godsend. It has a gel that is activated by water that keeps the pouch cool for days. Soak it for about 10 minutes or so and you're ready to go. When the water starts to evaporate, simply re-soak it (I did this in more then one stream during the Thailand trek). The gel dries to a sandy texture and it completely reusable. Saved my insulin from the Thailand heat and has gotten through airport security in my carry on and everything!! MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: I highly recommend carrying a doctor's note when traveling with any medical supplies/devices. I have also found it helpful to call the airline and have a note added to your record if you are traveling with large amounts of supplies (thank you to Brad for recommending this). It saved me a whole lot of trouble this last time! Also, just because it worked for me, does not mean it will work for you and/or the airline you are flying. Check and double check with them first!!

"Mi Amor"

Our Daughter is being exposed to so much Spanish love and affection by people that you would never anticipate in the USA.... EVERYONE!!!   Waiters and waitresses, delivery people and perfect strangers on the street coo and wave and talk to her like she's their own daughter or granddaughter.  It's amazing.  We encountered the same thing when we were here last year, but I figured it was because she was

The Late Dinner Hour

We're having an issue with dinner hour.  People here seem to work late, then have a snack or "Te completa" (coffee/tea, light sandwiches and pastries) at about 6:00, then eat dinner at about 9:00 or later.  Most restaurants don't open until 8 PM and don't serve their complete menu until 9 PM.  How do people do it with kids?  When we were in our home routine in MN, Our daughter