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