Property

Palermo/Centro Dreaming

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

Street view of Maldonado in Palermo

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

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

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!!)

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.

A Much Better Day

pugs-on-boxes Great news that Pablo, our 8 year old male Pug, is on the mend.  We had a vet visit yesterday, along with medication delivered today and all should be better soon.  Brad can write more at some point about his vet adventures.  I also have to mention that Paloma, out female Pug turned 7 today.  Happy Birthday!! As you can tell by the photo above, the days festivities were exhausting and they found a comfy spot on a flattened box to rest. 

This afternoon we had a bittersweet lunch with friends who will be leaving UY today to head back to MN.  While they are planning to return here next year, we probably will not see them before then and miss them already.  Jim and Mariellen had a wonderful experience here and are definitely planning UY as their retirement destination! Yippee!!

At the tail end of our lunch, I had to leave a bit early because Ms. G was in dire need of a nap.  I took her back home (which was about a 1/2 block away) and put her to bed.  I then prepared coffee for everyone to come back and enjoy once they were done with the bill and the last bit of wine at the restaurant.  15 minutes had passed.  30 minutes had passed.  Still no sign of them.   40 minutes after I left the restaurant, they get back here.  Turns out that the bill was paid and then the waitress brought two BIG carafes of wine, on the house.   That was certainly unexpected and I was more than a bit envious that I missed out.  We talked some more and had a quick 20 minute coffee (Record time in UY!) in our back courtyard before the landlord and Jorge were scheduled to arrive.   

Jorge  and the landlord get here.  We say our goodbyes to Jim and Mariellen (who have to get to their hotel and then off to the airport ) and we are off to talk about the water issues.   The landlord lived in this house for 4 years and is familiar with the systems.  He says that the water pressure can build up in the system overnight and that causes leaks where there are not normally leaks.  For the next few days, he is asking us to turn the water off at night until they can get the system repaired.  Not a big deal and we are happy to do so if that will prevent more water.  The kitchen cabinet need to be dried out (we have some stuff to absorb the moisture) and then bleached. I don't like bleach, but if it can kill the nasties, I'm all for it.  The atmosphere was all very comfortable and they came prepared to hang up a clothes line while here (we already did that a few days ago) and silicone the shower fixture as we had requested.  We  also got the assurance that all was going to be made right and received the landlords phone number and address (he lives right around the corner) and then an invitation to come to his house to pick up a tricycle.    His daughter is 3 and had graduated to training wheels.  He thought that we might like it.  Geneva thinks it's fun to push it and walk while straddling it, but hasn't gotten the concept of riding get.  It'll come.

All in all, a much better day than yesterday.  A vet visit (along with a husband who's Spanish is good enough to handle a vet visit) great lunch with friends and a responsive and helpful landlord all make for a very happy Lisa!

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.

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!!

A Day with Friends

Today turned out to be a pretty terrific Sunday. It actually started on Saturday evening when we were invited to a Sunday morning excursion to the park by someone we met here last year (all names are removed- try to keep up!). With his wife away for the weekend and two young daughters at home, a crisp fall morning at the park would do everyone good. Brad, Geneva and I had a nice breakfast at the hotel (although after 3 weeks here, it is getting a little boring) and then received the call at about 10:30 AM that they were headed to the park shortly. We packed and walked the 10 blocks to Parque Biarritz where there is a large play area. On such a great morning, it was packed. After about a half an hour there with a very clingy Geneva, it was time to move on. Before we left though, there was an invitation to stop by their house later this afternoon to socialize some more. Thanks, we just may do that!

Out next appointment at noon was meeting some visitors from MN. We had met a couple before leaving MN who are planning to purchase retirement property in Uruguay withing the next couple of years. It is a funny, random connection. The husband works with my cousin's husband and really, how many people from MN are planning on moving to Uruguay? Well, at least a few of us and we were introduced. We met once for lunch in MN and have corresponded back and forth to plan a meeting while they are visiting Uruguay. Today was the day and it was great to see some familiar faces from home! I think we were a welcome sight for them as well because their first 24 hours in UY had been rough with missing luggage, a noisy hotel room leading to a sleepless night, etc. We talked and commiserated at Old Maz restaurant for a while before we were joined by many others there for the 1:00 Expat meetup.

Sunday at 1 PM there is a meeting of english speaking Expats at the Old Maz restaurant in the Pocitos neighborhood of Montevideo . They've been meeting every Sunday for three years, rain or shine, holiday or not (we were there on Easter Sunday). There are tourists, people investigating Uruguay for a future move, and those of us who are committed and are going to be here for a while. There is no formal meeting, it is just a group that gathers to socialize, share experiences and learn from each other. Today was absolutely packed! We stayed for a little while but with a baby that was growing more and more tired, we left at about 1:45.

Skip ahead through a late lunch, drama with a sleepy Geneva bumping her head and a long nap for all of us.... and 5 PM rolls around. We head out to see if the invitation to come by still sticks. It does and we apparently have perfect timing. Two little girls sit at the table, the older one who is 5 and is totally bilingual is doing homework (spelling and cursive) an in both languages. Let me say that again... 5 year old.... homework... both languages. I was stunned at the skill of this intelligent little girl. Very fun to watch. We all played and were invited for an impromptu meal. Wine was brought out, we talked, the girls played, the meal was amazing. It was really great to have a home cooked meal. It feels like it's been so long! There are only a few people we know who can deliver such an incredible, non-scripted dinner and evening of entertainment. It was really a nice time. While we were there, the Mom of the family came home and joined us for dinner, and we made our exit not too long after, as all the girls needed to get to bed.

A long, busy, very fun day with friends. What a good day.

NOTE: I'm learning that I am really bad at planning photos for my posts. Sorry for the wordiness and nothing to look at. I can't believe that a visual person like myself can't seem to remember the to grab the camera. If I could only hook you up to my brain...no wait. Dangerous!