Food

Missing the Coffee Shops

One thing that I miss in Uruguay: American style coffee shops.Coffee I know, I know. This is not the USA and why would there be American style coffee shops here? We knew that this wasn't the same kind of coffee culture as the USA. It's just taking some getting used to.

I love coffee shops that sell a variety of baked goods, roasted coffee beans and fresh coffee- to enjoy there or TO GO in big, big cups. I am historically not an espresso drinker because it's gone in two sips. For me, a 16 ounce coffee is good, but 20 is even better. Not that Starbucks is a favorite, but we used to live right above one in Minneapolis and it was a frequent stop for us.

In Montevideo, you can go to any of the standard fare restaurants or confiterías and get an espresso, café or cortado in a beautifully presented little cup, but not to-go.  They may offer some really fabulous pastries, but it is just not the same. I want to settle into a comfy chair with a gynormous cup of coffee in hand and enjoy some alone time with the newspaper. For now, that will have to be done in the comfort of my own home.

The best alternative that we have found in Montevideo if we want a coffee "para llevar" (to go) is--please don't laugh here--McDonald's. The restaurant side of McDonald's sells coffee or café con leche in a to-go cup.  It is not the best, but it's all we've got here if you want it to-go.

One huge surprise for us has been the McCafé- it is an actual cafe attached to the McDonald's restaurants in Montevideo and quite impressive one at that. The McCafé has higher-end finishes, free wifi and an upscale attitude, serving pastries on porcelain plates and coffee in glass. We have enjoyed some time at a McCafé, but the sizes are smaller and prices are quite a bit higher than the to-go coffee in the McDonald's restaurant. Rightfully so, as the cafe is much more civilized than the standard McDonald's.

We have stumbled upon two places lately that may become close stand-ins for our beloved coffee shops in the USA. More info and reviews to follow in the coming days.

With the occasional visit to the McCafé or the other shops we've found lately, more frequent stops at McDonald's for a paper cup of joe and daily coffee at home, we'll do just fine. The differences here in Uruguay are also leading us to some welcome changes in our lifestyle. We slow down, take a seat and enjoy our coffee and conversation for a while instead of grabbing our to-go cup and running. Not a bad change at all.

Get Your own Toll Free Number

Expat Network

We're so happy to have a strong Expat community in Uruguay to make our transition to life here easier. We have every intention of integrating into local culture here but in our months starting out, it is a great resource to have friends who speak your native language and have been through the same things that you are going through.

Through our network of fellow Expats, we're received referrals for all of the people who work for us, as well as many of the services and resources we use on a daily basis. Our realtor, housekeeper, babysitter, Spanish tutor and daycare are all Uruguayos to whom we were connected  by other Expat families living here.

Look at this naan!!

Our social events are a little heavy on the Expat side right now, but have a mix of Uruguayo and both native-Spanish and native-English Speaking Expat families attending.  We attended a beautiful Asado at a friends home last weekend and had a wonderful time speaking to an older Uruguayo gentleman for most of the evening. Yesterday we were at the home of a Re-pat (an Uruguaya who returned to Uruguay after many years in the United States) to share an outstanding Indian dinner. There were 10 couples attending with more food and drink than you could imagine and we all had s great time. Brad and I were so excited to be a part of the evenings festivities, partially due to the lack of Indian food since we've been here, but more so the opportunity to get out together and learn about a variety of people- including (but not limited to) Re-pats, Brazilian, Argentine and native-English speaking Expats from Canada, the USA and New Zealand in yesterday's group.

Thanks to all of our network here in Uruguay that has helped us in this transition. Hope that we can do the same for all of you who may be interested in this great country.

Gimme Some Sugar!

In a land where 'dulce de leche' rules supreme, one can expect that sugary sweets are a mainstay of the local diet.

As a person with Type 1 Diabetes though, I have an unusual relationship with sugar (and all carbohydrates for that matter). Contrary to popular belief, I can eat sugar, I just have to be diligent and count exactly how much I am consuming, then give myself the proper corresponding amount of insulin. Alternatively, I'm not a fan of aspartame and lean towards sucralose if I do need an artificial sweetener.

I was not prepared for sugar popping up in all sorts of unusual places in Uruguay.

Ground Coffee. While not a coffee connoisseur, I like the stuff enough to drink every day. Since arriving in Uruguay, I have purchased a variety of ground coffees from the grocery store. Never in my wildest dreams did I think to look at the contents of a bag of ground coffee. If you see the word "Glaseado" on the label, sugar is the #2 ingredient. I found one brand of 'cafe natural' that advertised no sugar. I was thrilled but unfortunately I find the coffee somewhat bitter. The Mellita brand also has unsweetened ground coffee.  Pay attention to the name because there is also a Melita (one 'L') that has sugar.  

Fruit Juice. It was brought to my attention a few weeks ago that the fruit juices here contain added sugar. While doing some investigation, it appears to be a variety of sweeteners in juice: sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame or sucralose. Not extremely unusual, I guess, but I would hope for at least a few unsweetened options.

Correction: I have found a few of the Dairyco brand juices in the refrigerator section do not have added sugar (or other sweeteners).  The Naranja y Manzana (Orange & Apple) juice is really nice.

Tomato Sauce. I just want plain tomato sauce or tomato paste.  No salt, no sugar, no luck.

Yogurt. There is one giant jar of plain, unsweetened yogurt of the 'Claldy' brand. Everything else is one of the sugar/aspartame/sucralose trifecta.

There are also plenty of items in Uruguay that have high fructose corn syrup.  Coca Cola here is unusual in that it is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup in the USA and sugar here.  In this case, I'd take the sugar.  This is the reason that people in the USA seem to like the taste of  'Mexican' Coke.  It's that wonderful sugar...

The whole point is, lots of things in UY are 'dulce'.  Fortunately most of the grocery products list their ingredients. Spend some time and read the labels.  You may just be surprised at what is in the food that you eat.

*When needing to add a sweetener to food, there is a natural alternative available in Uruguay. Stevia is an extract of a plant grown in Paraguay. It is available at the larger grocery stores. Thanks Franklin for reminding me of this!  I also love Agave nectar, but so far I have not been able to find this in Uruguay. If anyone knows of Agave in UY, PLEASE send a note!!

Feria Vegetables

There's been recent talk in the Uruguay blog community about cost of food and I agree wholeheartedly with everything that has been said. Go to the many the ferias around town for great, inexpensive produce, fish, eggs and cheese.  I might add, go to any of the ferias outside of Pocitos, Punta Carretas or other "upscale areas" of Montevideo for even cheaper prices. I found what I believe to be the ultimate frugal feria score: approx 2 kilos of Soup starter vegetables for just over $1 US.

Feria vegetables for 25 pesos, or just over $1 US

It included:

Another Great Find

Deli SingerI've been walking past Deli Singer for weeks. Just a few blocks away from our house and right across the street from the grocery store that we frequent, this place is a gold mine.  It's always closed when I tend to walk by (weekdays between 2-4 PM) but Friday evening we found it open.  Deli Singer is a Jewish deli that  has all sorts of prepared foods as well as wonderful bulk nuts, dried fruits and grains, peanut butter, and other lovely sundries that tend to be hard to find here.  I  am thrilled that it is so close and they have a great variety.  Tonight we enjoyed some amazing cashews from Singer and would have had sundried tomatoes as well, but I forgot to add them to the lasagna I made.  

Deli Singer's hours are 8 AM-2 PM and 4 PM-8 PM  Monday through Friday and 8 AM-4 PM on Saturday.  

Deli Singer, Scoseria 2607 , esq. Luis de la Torre 

tel: 712 12 75

 

Note to Brian and Chrystal: You have to check this place out. They have large bags of almonds, and not far away from you!

"It's The Little Differences"

Vincent: "But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?" Jules: "What?"

Vincent: "It's the little differences. I mean, they got the same sh*t over there that we got here, but it's just, just, there it's a little different.

Pulp Fiction, 1994. 

 

Well, that goes for just about anywhere in the world that you visit, whether it is Europe, or Asia, or South America. And it's not that things are different as in "weird", just different than what we are used to. 

1.) Bugs.  We come from a cold weather climate of MN.  Sure, there are bugs there like mosquitoes, ticks, flies and spiders, but this is a little different.  It is not like when we were in the Amazon in Peru, but here the creepy crawlies are still a lot bigger and scarier than MN.  I'm generally not squeamish, but when I turn the light on and two "things" that are about an inch-and-a-half long go scurrying for the cover of darkness, I get a little freaked.  Ewww.  

2.) Other warm weather differences: There are indoor/outdoor spaces here. Our back courtyard is nearly an indoor space, except it is open above.  Perfect for entertaining, for cooking on the large brick parilla, for the dogs and G to play in and for doing laundry.  Our washer is out there (no frozen pipes!) and there is no clothes dryer so everything gets hung up on the line.  Single pane glass on the windows is also different.  Not wild about this because it lets in more noise, but hey, we're used to noise.  No window screens.  I could go on...

bagged-foods_edited-11

3.) Food in bags.  I've talked about the BioBolsa shopping bags from Disco grocery store, but food is also packaged in bags.  Milk is in liter bags, mayonnaise is in bags and olives also come in little bags. Plastic and glass recycling is limited here, and food packaging bags take up a lot less space in the landfill than the alternative of glass or plastic containers, I suppose.  Plus it would be less weight to transport.  I still don't like plastic bags one bit and I'm working on finding other options. 

4.) "Industria Uruguaya" on almost everything.  How can a country about the size  and population of Oklahoma make so much of its own food/products?  It is incredible that so many items display these two key words so prominently. It's the full gamut of foods and products, too, including but not limited to: flour, fruit, coffee, beef, wine, beer.  There are some imports as well and not surprisingly most are from from Argentina or Brazil.  

5.)  We really don't need a car at all.  We only had one car for the past several years in MN (the beloved MINI), but here we really have everything we need within walking distance so a car is completely unnecessary.  I love that.  If we need to go further, taxis are everywhere and the bus system is extensive. We can also rent a car if we need a weekend away. 

Liter beer bottles next to a standard wine

6.) Smaller sizes of most products.  The US is a bigger-is-better, bulk society. Here, you buy 4 rolls of TP at a time  and 2 or 4 rolls of paper towels instead of 12 or more.  I have not seen 24-packs of soda (although there are 1.5 and 2-liter bottles of the big brands).  The only big sizes I have seen are beer (1 liter bottles are standard, at grocery stores and restaurants) and restaurant serving sizes are gigantic for nearly everything.  

7.) Vets making house calls and most everything can be delivered.  We had a vet visit Paloma when she was being boarded and Pablo's medication dropped off for us once we got into the house.  SO nice.  Grocery stores also deliver, as do many restaurants, storefront fruit stands and food shops.  We have yet to employ those services, though.   

8.) Our microwave freakin talks to us!  In Spanish or English.  It is really cool and I'll have to post a video sometime. 

9.) Bidets.  This is a bidet culture much like many parts of Europe and areas of the world. The US is not a bidet culture and in fact, in my years in the Interior Design industry, I have  had only one request for a bidet and at the time had a giggle about it (This was 10 years ago, give me a break!)  The bidet is an integral part of any main bathroom in UY and I am sure it would be viewed as odd here to not have a bidet as it is in the US to have one. 

10.) Other things we've explained before: the late dinner hour, rental process, etc.  

Really, though, these are all the things that make exploring a new country so much fun; Taking everything that you know and turning it on its head and finding different ways to accomplish the same thing.  These are all priceless experiences.

Posts to Come

We have a few projects in the works and wanted to let everyone know what will be coming in the next week, in no particular order:          X  Expat Travel Technology Series, Part 2: "How do I get my mail?"  Brad's weekly update on our tech tools.

        X  Setting up Daycare:  Two places that we've looked at, including our thoughts and prices for 5 half days per week in the post "Daycare Options"

        X  "Furnished or Unfurnished?" and why we chose what we did for our new home.

        X  Creepy Crawlies: Post took the form of “It’s The Little Differences"  to discuss lots of small things that are different in UY from those which we are accustomed.

  1. Firing up the Parilla: Our first attempt at an pseudo-Uruguayan Asado (pseudo because it was vegetariano)
  2. Photo/Video gallery via SmugMug

If there is anything you absolutely cannot wait to see, please send us a note.  We can pull some strings.

We will be updating this list to link to the topics after they are posted. 

May 1- Worker's Day

May 1 is Worker's Day in Uruguay.  Similar, I believe, to Labor Day in the US except nearly all workers get the day off. All government offices and banks are closed with nearly all shops and restaurants closed as well. Thankfully we were warned of this ahead of time and I was able to get to the Supermercado and bakery yesterday. That in itself should be a post.  People were absolutely everywhere. It was as if the stores wouldn't be open for a week.  

Empty Street- May 1Today was a completely different scene (above). I was out walking throughout the day today and it was like a different world.  Few cars on the streets, barely anyone walking.  I have no idea where everyone went, but it's a great long weekend for most every Uruguayo to enjoy. 

This afternoon as I took Geneva to the park (no injuries, I am happy to report), I noticed that a few restaurants had opened and they were packed.   We cooked at home today, then got the baby to bed, and we had time to enjoy a "Pilsen Stout" (Dark Uruguan beer) and some US television.  Hopefully we'll have episodes of 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother.... if we can get the stream to buffer.  Nonetheless,  a nice, quiet holiday Friday in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Not All Is Rosy

Today I hit the wall. Not literally of course, but I hit the "I'm freaking-out-could-this-be-culture-shock" wall. I think it was more just general stress with lots of weird things compounding.  There were lots of tears involved, but fortunately a very supportive husband who along with Baby G gave me some much needed hugs.  Sorry for another list.  We've has a bunch lately--- 

1.) Pablo is sick. I'm not going into the details but it has to deal with his bowels and said evacuation. We thought it may have just been a stress related issue for him, coming to yet another new environment, but since it continued through the weekend, we have to call the vet. So, sick dog. Gross. Lots of cleanup involved. Plus, dog who loves people and toddler who loves dogs are hard to keep apart.

2.) VERY willful toddler. That goes without saying, I guess. She's our first, though, so we've just never been in this stage before. She is testing us like crazy and is still not extremely stable on her feet. A tall baby with a big Dutch head is just asking for trouble! It is taking constant vigilance to keep her safe. (Thanks Paul, you warned us!!) Not much unpacking, cleaning or cooking is being done. Email and blog posts are happening only during naptimes and after bedtime. I am full-time mommy, which I have never been before.

3.) Child safety standards are different here (I knew this before we arrived) and while I want to bring Geneva to the parks to blow off some steam, they scare the bejeebers out of me. Baby swingThink wooden baby swings with no crotch rail that are 4.5' off the pavers/concrete slab below. Or slides that have a small patch of sand at the bottom with a ring of bricks to keep the sand in. I envision kids cracking their head open at every turn. It is not unlike the types of playgrounds Brad and I remember from our childhood. My mommy instinct to keep my child free from harm is in overdrive. Thank god that Brad reminded me the life expectancy here is the same as the US. I was wondering how anyone made it to age 10.

4.) After the first two days of no water in the house at all, we now have water seeping from both sides of the plumbing wall, into the kitchen cabinets and the bathroom. We saw the water in the bathroom late last week and didn't think too much of it ("Hey, maybe I left the shower door open a crack."). But the water kept coming back at random times, from the area between the floor and baseboard. We couldn't figure out what was causing it. We reported a small amount of water to our rental agent on Thursday via email, then called on Friday to follow up. Within minutes, the owners agent called us and told us that a plumber would be here on Monday. Cool. We could deal with that. Late Sunday night though, I walked into the kitchen at about 1:30 AM to find water dripping from the front edge of a base cabinet (from the wood above the toe kick) and the musty smell that I originally detected was overpowering. The sink pipes were fine. This water must be coming from the wall.

Everything I know about construction says this is no good at all and we could have a serious mold issue. But wait, this is poured concrete/block construction with plaster. There is no wood framing, no sheetrock and no insulation for mold to feed on. The only "food" for mold here is the cabinetry. It seems like there must have been water before to cause the original musty smell that I noticed upon move in. I shot short videos of the water and Brad got a hold of the rental agents this morning. A plumber was over at noon and checked all of the exposed pipes and then turned everything off and checked the water meter out front.  No movement at all, so no internal leaks. Then he turned on the spigot to a drip, the meter started spinning. He said that our water issue is actually from the building next door and not coming from our wall. He confirmed that this building has had a problem with the adjacent building's water once before.  No more update as of yet as to the solution but the cabinets are still wet and the smell is horrible, so we are staying out of the kitchen until we have this resolved.

We're pushing for new base cabinets and a full clean-up of that wall. We'll keep you updated on the progress of that. We knew not everything was going to be rosy in paradise, but the last few days have been stressful indeed.

Thankfully the vet is two blocks away and is coming over tomorrow. One issue down. Yippee for small victories!!

Chivito

So tonight I just had to go out.  We went for a short walk, then enjoyed an early dinner. I had a crazy-big Chivito and a glass of wine to decompress at "Chivitos Marcos" (Corner of Louis de La Torre and Sarmiento). While the photo is not my exact sandwich, it is close, except mine was goopier and included pickle and hot pepper and was without fries. It was excellent and I will definitely be back again. Nothing like comfort food after a rough day!

A Trip to the Supermercado

Disco Supermercado I just went to the grocery store this afternoon. We're always walking so I can't buy too much each time I go to the store. I tend to go there almost every day for a little something but it's two blocks away from us, so not a big deal. Today I wanted to have a "Te Completa"  (tea or coffee with croissants, cakes and little sandwiches) at home and needed some little bakery goodies to do that. I thought I'd share my shopping list with you to give you an idea of some food costs here. Granted this was a trip of little items, including some frivolous items, but still should be worthwhile to see. Prices are based on an exchange rate of 24.5 UY pesos to $1 US and rounded up to the nearest cent. Price in pesos is listed first with no symbol (although they use both the $ and U$ here for pesos) and dollars listed second in parenthesis.

  • Olives- pitted in a clear plastic pack 360 g - 44.50 ($1.82)
  • Empanadas- Cheese and Onion, pack of 6 premade - 68.00 ($2.78)
  • 12 medialunas (mini croissants)- from the bakery sold by weight - 46.96 ($1.92)
  • Frozen Pizza- 3 cheese, onion and olive - 104.00 ($4.24)
  • Whole Milk- premium baby formula (nearly double the price of regular milk), two one-liter bags - $72.80 ($2.97)
  • Pilsen Stout Beer, large 960 mL size - 45.00 ($1.84)
  • Beer bottle deposit - 9.90 ($0.40)
  • Plastic food storage container, large 1.3 liter size - 69.90 ($2.83)
  • Plastic food storage container, small 0.6 liter size - 41.90 ($1.71)
  • Paper towels- 2 small rolls which are standard here, medium grade- 49.90 ($2.04)
  • Pepper- whole peppercorns with bottle grinder- 134.00 ($5.47)
  • Salt- 500 g box - 18.50 ($0.75)
  • Wheat crackers 200 g bag - $26.50 ($1.08)
  • Dozen Eggs - brown (side note: eggs are kept out on the shelf here. Really freaks me out.) - 42.50 ($1.74)
  • Refund of 19.80 for return of 2 beer bottles (- $0.81)

Total UY pesos 754.56 (or $30.79)

You can live inexpensively here but that really depends on how and what you eat, among other things of course. I bought no fresh fruit or veggies from the grocery store today because we purchased a few things yesterday at the Villa Biarritz feria market (not sure if this is really what it's called) and we still have bananas, peppers, onions, sweet potatoes and tomatoes left from earlier in the week. I find the feria prices are less than the grocery stores and it's so much more fun to go to the big open air markets!

We bought a few small zucchini at the feria yesterday, along with a kilo and a half of both apples and oranges (3.3 lbs each) for a total of about 85.00 ($3.47).  Fruits and vegetables are plentiful and can be quite inexpensive. Purchase locally produced and in season produce and it's even better.  This is perfect since we are a strictly veggie family at home.

Now off to crack open that big bottle of beer!

One hint: Bring a few of your own reusable shopping bags.  We have two that fold up when not in use and they are used every day.  All of the grocery stores and markets use small plastic bags, and many multiple plastic bags for each trip there.  We have tried to avoid plastic bags as much as possible ("Sin bolsa, por favor"), but still have them all over from when we forgot the reusable ones. Kudos to the Disco chain of grocery stores that has "Bio Bolsas" that are still plastic, but are supposed to decompose in 2-3 years. 

Shameless Plugs

There are a few people/services that we have used here in MVD that have gone above and beyond and have been so wonderful to us, we have to recommend  them to the world: Jorge Cassarino Etcheverry, Maria Jesús Etcheverry Negocios Inmobiliarios (rental/real estate agent) :  What is there to not to love about Jorge?   He goes the extra mile, is funny, fair and really, just a big teddy bear (wow, I rhyme, too!) Jorge was recommended to us by some peple who used him to find their house a year and a half ago. Now they are good friends.  Really though, what a nice guy, and his English isn't bad either!  He showed us numerous places over several days and showed us some differnet options that we didn't even know we wanted (we were all set for an apartment!). jc@mariajesusetcheverry.com www.mariajesusetcheverry.com

marti-aparthotelMarti Aparthotel:  Great neighborhood, big rooms, excellent staff. Ask for a top floor, they're sunnier above the tree line.  The 11th is where we stayed, one level below the breakfast room (don't worry, it is not noisy).  A small kitchen is included in the room, along with a decent sized bathroom with a tub. Every floor has a wireless access point. Federico is the contact for booking at the hotel.  He'll give you a deal if you let him know you found them here! 3325 Jose Marti between Berro and Chuccaro.  http://www.martiaparthotel.com.uy

Then a few eating establishments:

bar-62Bar 62: I hear this place gets its name from the first trolley line in the city of MVD. Well, I can't verify that, but it is some of the best food we've had here, and by best, we mean a 7:00 dinner of nothing off of the parilla because it's not ready yet, because we're out too early with a baby in tow.  Still, it's been incredible. They have an eclectic combination of sushi/tempura (veggie tempura was light and not greasy- some of the best we've had.  Looking forward to the sushi!), mediterranean salads (we've had it served differently on two occasions, both really good though)and typical Parilla fare . The waitstaff is cool, the building is beautiful and we're certainly going back for a real dinner (at the normal time of 10 PM) the first time we have a babysitter. Barreiro 3301 and Chucarro in Pocitos, 2 blocks from La Rambla. 

La Taqueria: The little taco joint that we mentioned before.  We finally got there on the night that we moved into our house.  What a great day!! Don't let the little taco stand facade fool you.  These guys know what they are doing (and with a little prodding, they can and make it HOT!).  It is a bit more expensive than a typical mexican place... but completely worth it.  As Brad put it in a recent email to two future friends from CA and their daughter who are moving to MVD in a few weeks: "We love spicy food.  We went to that Mexican place the other night (Tuesday to be exact).  They brought our the first salsa. We tried it...pretty much about as spicy as ketchup.  Then he proudly brought out the "mas picante" option.  Better, I can feel it a little bit now.  He said he could do one even "MAS picante" after a few minutes I went up to him and asked for it.  I saw the guys in the back mincing the chili pepper.  One of his buddies tried it before they brought it out. I heard him cough, turn red and reach for his drink.  They brought it to the table.  Lisa and I both filled up a chip.  It was great, but this is very much the exception". We had the veggie burrito, chicken burrito, quesadilla  and some amazing chocolate torte for desert. Heaven!!  On Jose Marti between Benito Blanco and Chuccaro in Pocitos.

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....

Language... Oh the Challenges!

Learning a language while in a foreign land is a great way to do it because you're immersed but extremely frustrating because you're immersed. It is baptism by fire, being thrown to the wolves, complete trial and error.   I ventured off today with the baby to visit the dogs at the house where they are being boarded.  Not a big deal.  I knew where they were and how to get there.  I had a few basic questions in mind that I needed to know: 'Do they have enough food to last one more week?'  and 'Have they gotten the flea/tick treatment?' Both of these are pretty easy questions but to a person who doesn't know much Spanish (Me) and another person who knows even less English (the lady who boards the dogs), the whole exchange was a challenge.  She ended up grabbing her daughter's Spanish/English dictionary which helped immensely for a few key words.  "How did Pablo get the scar on his leg?" I told her that he had surgery to remove a lump. "When will you be picking them up?" Next week Tuesday or Wednesday. "Where is the new house you're renting?", etc.  The visit ended after about a half hour and I was proud of the things that we were able to communicate.  We both tried really hard and had to resort to miming at points, but we got the point across.  Oh Marcel Marceau would be so proud!!

Empanada

On the walk home, I was hungry so I stopped by a panadería (bakery) to get something to snack on when I got back to the aparthotel.  It was late in the day but I hoped that they would still have some empanadas (meat or cheese filled pastries).  The veggie options are sometimes hard to find but necessary for my vegetarian husband.  I pushed the stroller in and took a look in the display cases.  One Cheese/Onion and one Cheese/Olive Empanada left.  Perfect!  I started by asking the lady for "Empanadas, por favor" and it all went down hill from there.  She started asking me how many I want total (in order to get the right sized bag to put them in) and I thought she was talking about how many I want of each kind.  We stood there for a moment, not knowing what to say because neither of us was being understood.  I eventually understood what she was asking and told her I needed 4 total, then proceeded to place my order.   We got them bagged and she passed them to the check-out lady who asked for "Ochenta Pesos".   I know that means 80,  I had exact change and handed it to the lady.  She counted it out onto the counter and told me "Ochenta pesos" again along with a string of other words that I didn't understand.  After a moment of talking to me, they ended up saying it's all good (in Spanish) and handing me my bag.  I was so confused because I thought she was asking for more money, but I think she was just counting it and saying that I had exact change and to take my empanadas.  I HOPE that's what it was! How a simple exchange can be so confusing!! 

That's the way to learn, though.  As much as it's painful and I want to avoid those uncomfortable situations, I also want to be immersed in the culture and have real experiences with the Uruguayan people.  Through my whole day and those interactions, I think there were only two words in English!   I'll be happy when I can start my Spanish lessons as I'm sure my language skills will progress quickly.  One can hope!

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