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One Year Ago Today

We arrived in Montevideo on March 26, 2009. What a year!! We've had the opportunity to explore so many corners of this great city.  We've learned more Spanish and met lots of wonderful people- both Uruguayos and extranjeros.  As many Uruguayos don't seem to understand, we like it here.  We have chosen to come here.  It was not a mandated move due to work or education, we chose Uruguay as our home and we really love this little country.

We've grown as a family over this past year and while we don't have a baby on our hands anymore, she has grown into a very capable toddler. We still adore Jardín Caminito, our daycare, and how loving and supportive they have been for us.

The lease in our current house has been extended for another few months (was set to expire on April 20th).  So it is another winter in our cute but drafty home!  This time we won't be so thrifty (jaja!) and we'll be using our grocery store loyalty points to get a space heater.  This is a supplement the fireplace and bedroom electric units.

Come spring, who knows what we will do.  It'll be a perfect time to travel a bit without the expense of an empty house. Maybe an extended stay travel with 3-6 months somewhere?  Maybe Bariloche, Argentina?  The world is our oyster and we are going to treasure every moment here!!

Artwork by Uruguayo Joaquin Torres-Garcia; Upside Down Map (1943).  Uruguay is located at the coordinates, near the top line.

Living Abroad Makes You More Creative?

Here's an interesting video discussing how those living abroad tend to be more creative- possibly tied to language skills and adaptation. Interesting studies!

"People who live abroad are more creative; and the more time they spend away from home, the more creative they become. Thats according to a recent study done by William Maddux, an assistant professor of organisational behavior at INSEAD."

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     lacostanera@hotmail.com

La Costanera delivery truck

Stack of mixed wood at the front of our house

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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!

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Furnished or Unfurnished?

We brought a bunch of stuff with us but didn't want to have to worry about all the details of setting up a house in Uruguay, so we opted for a furnished rental.  I am so happy that we did.  

kitchen- A night viewFurnished apartments/houses generally come with everything from furniture to artwork, dishes to brooms.  Ours was no different.   There were things here that I never would have expected in the house we rented: curtains on every window, a vacuum, new kitchen towels, place mats and tablecloths, a bucket, gardening tools just to name a few. I figured that furnished meant just furnished. I did not  think that furnished meant EVERYTHING!  Most of the items in our place are new as well, so I can't complain. Our landlord keeps asking us if we need anything else.  We purchased a clothes line to string in the back courtyard and then learned that he would have taken care of it. 

On the flip side, UNfurnished means that it includes nothing.  Usually that also means no appliances.  Yep. The previous renters/owners take the appliances when they move out.  All of them.  Range, refrigerator, washer: all gone. Many houses that we've seen do not have clothes dryers or dishwasher, so I guess that is a few less appliances that you have to worry about replacing.  

We looked at unfurnished places but the thought of renting (there are a few furniture/appliance rental resources here) or acquiring all of the necessary items to furnish and equip a house was so daunting, we very quickly decided on furnished and I am so happy that we did (yes, I had to say it again).  

As advised by people already living in Uruguay, we brought bedding with us from the USA along with a few towels (have to get a few more) and favorite pieces of cookware/kitchenware.  We've been in the house for two weeks and feel that we are nearly completely set up and can focus on other things (like working, setting up daycare, getting health insurance, having long lunches out with new friends.  You know, important stuff!!)

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. 

Locks, Keys and Security

19 KeysI mentioned before that we received an insane number of keys upon move in. Well, we still don't know where they all belong, but there is truly a key for everything (19 total).  Our back windows have keyed locks (2) each with its own key.  The back door as well, another key.  The storage/servicio room outside, another key.  Closet doors and bedroom doors lock, all with different keys.  We have three keys needed just to get in the front gate and front door.  

There are a few areas that do not have keys  though.  The windows in front that face the street front windows have wooden shutters that lock from the inside via a lever, so surprisingly, no key needed there (but there are also metal bars that are between the shutters and windows which is very common in Montevideo) .  The mailbox which is located at our front gate also doesn't have a key, at least not from the house side.  

Here we also have three locks on the front door, a security system with motion detectors inside and out, and cameras in the front and back courtyards viewable from a special monitor.  Pretty elaborate system and in terms of security, better to over-do it and be a bit excessive than the alternative!  

And all this in a great part of town.  Don't read the above information wrong, this is a wonderful neighborhood with low crime.  In all of Uruguay, violent crime is extremely rare and the overall crime rate is low but petty theft is viewed as common.  If you leave something out, it may just find a new home.  We don't want that so we're using all of our security features available to us!  

When we lived in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis (not known as the best part of town) for 7 years, we had only one key that opened the front, back and garage-to-house door.  The windows "locked" with a standard window latch, not a key. We also had a security system with glass break sensors but we never left windows open and never considered bars on the windows because of fire escape reasons.  Different construction here. Different standards, as I have noted previously, make bars on the windows nearly a non-issue.  

Half-closed shutters

As we've seen throughout our travels, the differences between the USA and the rest of the world are interesting.  There is so much to learn in a culture.  We are just taking a fingernail to the surface right now.  Not everything can be judged from our USA eyes, nor should it be.  The best lesson we've learned: It is what it is.

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!

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.

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!!

Our Little House

So today was the big day. We got the keys to the house. Easy enough. Sign some papers hand over the money and in return, a set a keys. Well, it's a bit more complicated than that in Uruguay. All in all, really it's not that hard, just very time consuming. The papers are very similar to the contracts that you might see in the States as a rental agreement. We also received a six page inventory addendum detailing absolutely every little thing included in the rental (since it is furnished and equipped) down the color and number of forks in the kitchen. In our case, we received this list in advance via email so we were able to review ahead of time.

The detailed addendum contained too many household items to know all of them in Spanish, even if your Spanish is quite good. We just pasted the text of the Word doc text into Google Translate. This site is a fantasitic tool. It will translate a word or entire websites while keeping you on the site. Want to read the local paper El Pais? Just pop the URL into Translate and it will almost comes across as though it were written in English. It's not perfect, but if you know some Spanish you can clean up the translation afterward. Anyway, fantastic tool. Use it for all of your translating needs.

Armed with this inventory list, we were picked up by Jorge at the aparthotel at 12:40. An odd time you say? Not exactly. The banks in Uruguay open to the public at 1pm and most close at 5pm. (You thought bankers' hours were nice in the States and elsewhere!) This gave us enough time to stop at the house where we were given the keys by the other rental agent, Andrea  and received a few additional details. Then off I went to the bank (Itaú) with Jorge while Lisa and Geneva stayed at the new house to review the checklist.  Andrea went to the Banco Hipotecario del Uruguay (BHU), where we'd be meeting her later.

The Banking:

Half the keys we received

 

Lisa detailed this the other day. We had wired money from our Credit Union in MN that posted to Jorge's business account in 1 day. We're were told it would take two or three days, but expected four or five. We expected the worst, but in the end very simple very easy.  Now it gets complicated. The process is well defined, but certainly different.  Try to keep up.

We had to withdraw a ridiculous sum of money for all of the different payments we had to make today, which of course had to be approved by several people at the bank. Thankfully, I was wearing my jeans (jeans = lots of good pockets). I ended up with a pocket for each sum. One pocket for the deposit (the equivalent of five months rent...again weird laws thus the strange practice.  I think we put down less when we closed on our house in MN!) to be held in escrow at the one bank in town that does this...BHU where Andrea was already waiting with the number that held our place in line (otherwise it would really take all day to complete the transaction). This main sum for the deposit had to be in pesos. Jorge had already called his friend at the bank while we were driving there. We were given a rate nearly a point better than that posted. Not bad. It pays to know someone.  In such a small country, everyone knows someone. So deposit money one pocket in Pesos. Second pocket the 1st month rent in US Dollars for Andrea. Third pocket the equivalent of 1 month's rent plus the taxes of 22% for Jorge and all his work....and he deserves every penny. Then the little extra so I could buy a pack of gum in the final pocket. It was more than that but I was feeling a little house poor at that point.

So off  to the BHU to meet Andrea. Just a couple things to accomplish here. Sign the contracts which took about three minutes and place the deposit. This is the painful part....for everyone. It's a huge bank. I envisioned about 500 people standing outside the door ready to rush in like like a store the day after thanksgiving or worse Filene's Basement the day of the bridal dress sale.

I am pretty certain that each banker processes 4 to 5 transactions in the 4 hours that they are open to the public. We waited about 45 minutes to get from number 21 (the number we saw when Jorge and I arrived) to number 33--us. Mind you there are about 30 or 40 desks that--in theory--could help us. So we waited. Signed the papers and I gave Andrea the first month of rent. We chatted. We commiserated about this bank. It went fairly quickly. Andrea had already completed most of the form to create the deposit account. Yea! Finally 33! We go to one of the desks. They hand the banker the paperwork. Almost nothing is said. The gentleman types away while we chat. 20 minutes later. He's done and prints off a form with our new account number. That's wasn't so bad. Oh, we're not done?? We have to go to the teller (caja) to put in the money in the bank. 35 minutes in line and we're at the counter. We deposit our funds less 2% for the bank for the priviledge of them holding our money. Jorge tells me it used to be interest bearing account but that practice had ended. BHU does however pay back the money at the end of the term at the rate of inflation. So one's money is at least worth what it was when it went in. In pesos anyway. So money is in. Now we walk back over to the first desk where Andrea had been patiently waiting. They verifiy the details and we're done. In all, about two hours were spent at the bank. Good times. Then back to the house to see how Lisa and Geneva made out go over a few more details and discuss the urgent need to grab a drink and celebrate. Whew!

Oh that's right, we have to take care of Jorge. We give Jorge his agency's fee plus the taxes and we're set.

I'll let Lisa describe some of the "fun" and "interesting" features of the new house in an upcoming edition, like the grasera, tiny propane range and the 200-some keys we were handed (not quite, but close!).

Housing - Parte Dos

Well, our offer on the little house was accepted. We had a meeting a week ago with the owner and both Inmobiliarios (rental agents) to sign preliminary paperwork, sort of an agreement to agree/letter of intent with the basic terms and information spelled out. Now for the details to fall into place. One of the big coordination issues is the cash. As mentioned in the last housing entry, 5 months rent (in UY pesos) is required to go into an escrow account, one month to the rental agent and then the first month rent payable to the landlord. That is 7 months rent up front! We could take money out of our accounts via the cash machine but the quantity needed, along with our daily limits, would require a visit to the cash machine every day for weeks. We do not have a bank account in Uruguay yet, which makes wiring money from our MN accounts difficult. We could possible write a personal check, but it is not known how much time that might take to clear.  With so many unknowns, we discussed this with our wonderful rental agent who agreed to let us wire to his company account in order to expedite the process.  After a  few phone calls and emails to get account numbers, and a visit by Brad to the local bank in UY which the money will be going to, the wire request from our MN bank was made and the money is on its way.

Honestly, the whole "wire" process is a bit backwards to me. In this time of instantaneous transactions, wiring money (which can take up to a week or longer in some cases) is supposed to be the fast way to transfer money. Fast?  Maybe in 1950!!!! But I digress....

When the money gets to the Uruguayan bank, it will be withdrawn in dollars, we will exchange it for pesos at another location to get the best exchange rate and then take it to another bank, the Banco Hipotecario del Uruguay (BHU) which is the only one in the city that handles this type of rental escrow account.  Banks open at 1 PM and we are told to plan to be there for a while because the whole process may take up to 2 hours. At that time, both the landlord and the renter sign the account and the lease paperwork. Keys are given out and when it is done, we have a place to live and can move right in.

The whole bank process is scheduled to happen on Monday the 20th, barring any delays in the money wire from MN. It is possible that we will be moving into the house on Monday evening!!

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.

Safety Standards

As we are starting to look for places to live, all of the US building code standards are flashing before my eyes. Life abroad is very different and that goes for building code standards as well.  Not that this or any other country are wrong, just different and we have to view it with different eyes.   For example:  

Egress:  Many bedroom windows, if there are windows at all