Services

Miami-Box for Shipments from the USA

I needed to view and approve samples for work, but they were 6000 miles away in Minnesota.  I weighed my options: FedEx and UPS were quoting in the $160-200 USD range to get a 2 kilo box to uruguay.  I thought that was insane and was determined to find a better way. Mail would be cheap, but there is a hell of an ordeal to claim your package at the Correo Central and pay aduana (taxes) if necessary- plus stories of packages never arriving and I couldn't take that chance.  I decided on Miami-Box. Miami-Box is a parcel forwarding service between Miami, FL and Uruguay.  Set up a free account on their website and you get a unique address to send packages to in Miami.  This is a great solution for items purchased online or gifts from family and friends. Once a package arrives for you in Miami, you are notified via email and you have a few options depending on the purchase price of the package: if under $100 USD, you can opt to pick up your package at the airport and handle the aduana (taxes) yourself (with Miami-Box supplying the paperwork for you), or you can opt for full service delivery, with your credit card on file being billed for the aduana and delivery fees.  I decided on the latter and it was so convenient.  Not necessarily inexpensive, but convenient.

My little 2 kilo package cost me $99.60 on a $30 retail value.  A little painful, but still cheap in comparison to what UPS or FedEx were quoting.  The fees were broken down as follows (all in USD):

Airline freight from Miami (based on weight) $27.00

Aduana Taxes (based on retail value of $30 + freight of $27.00)  $36.00

Delivery (optional) $15.00

Handling  $15.00

Administrative fees  $6.60

___________________________

Grand total of $99.60 USD

The package arrived within 5 days, in one piece and hand delivered to my door.  I will try priority mail next time for comparisons sake.  The correspondence with Miami-Box throughout the process, as well as the delivery were all extremely professional.  I would certainly recommend their service.

*As noted on the Miami-Box site, books and magazines are not taxed to bring into Uruguay.  I will definitely use Miami-Box in the future for that purpose. They are also offering 60 magazines without the normal subscription cost for a limited time.  Please see their site for details.

Jardín Caminito- A Perfect Choice for Us

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

Caminito class

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

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

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

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

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

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

geneva-face-painting

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

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

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

SUAT Emergency Service

We signed Geneva up for SUAT Emergencia Móvil service yesterday. She had pinkeye again and I also wanted to get her ears checked since she had an ear infection last month.  We did not like the idea of spending another 4 hours and U$S 120 at the Hospital Britanico, so we started looking into the alternative - one of the many Emergency/Urgent care services in Montevideo.

SUAT Policlínica Pocitos
SUAT Policlínica Pocitos

These companies offer Policlínicas (urgent care clinics) as well as ambulance service and in-home doctor care.  It is essentially a Minute-Clinic with actual doctors on staff who also make house calls and can bring you to the hospital if needed.

We were thrilled with the service at the SUAT Policlínica just a few blocks from our house. Within 10 minutes of arrival, we were done with the sign-up paperwork, paid and in an exam room seeing a doctor.  We had a quick exam and we were out again in about 30 minutes total, prescription in hand. Brad ran down the block in the other direction to the pharmacy, stopped to get some empanadas and was back with the eye drops and lunch in hand after only 10 more minutes (he claims it was only 6 minutes, but I digress...)

The amazing thing is the cost: about U$S 10.50/month for full-service membership. Yes, that is about $125 per year for emergency and urgent care.  We got in a 6-month promo, which is only approx $5.30 per month ($ 127 pesos).

Many families that we've talked to here have this type emergency service membership for the entire family, in addition to their hospital or mutualista membership. Others have the additional emergency service just for the kids - for those unexpected "kid" incidents.

We'll probably just keep it for Geneva right now.  It's the peace of mind knowing that we can call in the middle of the night and a doctor will come over, all paid with our monthly membership.

A few of the most popular Emergency service providers are SUATSEMM, and UCM.

*We did learn at the SUAT Policlínica that we did not need a prescription for Geneva's eye drops, but with a prescription, we can get a discount at the pharmacy.  We may need to check that out because unfortunately, now I have pinkeye as well ;(

Yoga in Montevideo

There are many Yoga centers in Montevideo, Uruguay.  In fact, there are three yoga centers that I know of within a few blocks of our home in Pocitos. Since my Spanish is not great yet, I felt intimidated just walking into one of those locations and taking a class... I found the perfect solution: Yoga in English with instructor Charla Cooper.

Charla teaches an excellent yoga class that I have been attending for the past 6 weeks. The class is small so you can get a lot of individual attention, the location is great, and it is a fabulous mix of yoga styles with Kundalini, Ashtanga and Iyengar. I had never practiced Kundalini yoga before this class and while it took a little getting used to, now it's a part of class that I really love.

Cost is UY$ 150 per class or UY$ 1000 for a month pass.

Please see the Yoga in English website for more details and any updated class information. You can also email ccooper495@gmail.com for more specific questions. Hope you can join us!

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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Renewing our Temporary Visitor Permits

Uruguay Coat of ArmsThe time had come to renew our temporary visitor's permits for Uruguay.  Some people call these a visitor's visa, but they are not technically visas. Uruguay gives you 90 days and then you have to leave the country and re-enter to extend your permit. We knew about this and were planning a weekend trip to Buenos Aires with the extension in mind. We didn't want to go to Buenos Aires quite yet and had heard a mention of extending your permit for the first time at the Uruguayan immigration office in the Ciudad Vieja barrio of Montevideo. We looked at the forums for information about this and found very little. Well, it was either the immigration office or an impromptu trip to BsAs for the weekend, so we thought we'd try here in Montevideo first.

The Dirección Nacional de Migración office is located at Misiones 1513, esq. 25 de Mayo in Ciudad Vieja. When you walk in, take a number which is on a large column and wait in the main area. Even though the place was packed with people, the numbers flew by. Pay attention as it is not posted anywhere what number they are on.

Our number was called, we went up to one of the desks, sat down and told the clerk that we need "Prorroga de permanencia temporaria" (temporary extension of stay). After they typed our information into the computer, out came official looking forms with our names/passport numbers, etc.  We brought the forms to the caja (register), paid UY$356 each (about US$15), then took our papers and passports to a third desk where we received stamps all over the sheets (but strangely not in our passports) which will extend our stay for another 90 days.  All done in about a half an hour. I bet immigration in the USA isn't nearly this easy!

If you're late in renewing your temporary status here, don't fret.  You won't be kicked out of the country but you will pay a fine.  According to the Dirección Nacional de Migración website price list, it looks like the extension of an expired stamp is only US$8 more than the valid extension.

You can make this trip to the Immigration office every other time you need to extend your visitor's status here in Uruguay. The original stamp in your passport is good for 90 days. At the end of 90 days, go to the immigration office as described previously. At the end of the next 90 day period, you MUST exit and re-enter the country to renew your temporary status in Uruguay.

The visit to the immigration office is a great alternative to those who do not want to travel often, cannot afford it or simply don't have the time to travel when they need to renew their visitor status. Compared to other governmental services here, we found this process to be quick, inexpensive and efficient.

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!

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!!)

Expat Travel Technology: An Introduction

Get Your own Toll Free Number

There are many challenges in moving abroad.  One is technology.  What do I bring? How will it work?  Will it work at all?  Do they sell that in Timbuktu? If yes, do I have to give up my first born to get it?  The answer to that last one is...maybe.  Technology abroad--for the most part--is expensive.  

expat-technology-helpTech--as it's always been--is a blessing and a curse.  There are an incredible number of options, but at least we have options.  I give Lisa's mom a hard time for coming over on "the boat" in the '50s from the Netherlands.  They actually flew with several stops, including one in Greenland. Either way, it was no picnic.  So even if my computer crashes or my VOIP goes down...I did not have to come over on "the boat".  Again, options. We can communicate locally and internationally even if that means I have to walk down to the nearest restaurant or McDonalds with WiFi (wireless internet) if my Internet crashes.  WiFi is even available in the parks here in UY and some buses  I'll have to try that albeit discreetly --if that's possible-- as I don't want my computer to be relieved from my possession.  You can even sit down at the McCafe and have a "meeting" across the table via webcam.  So you can continue those Starbucks-style meetings if you like.

One challenge involves staying in contact with your "home" country.  For some this may not be an issue if they are severing ties to the homeland.  In our case, we need to work with clients in the United States to allow us to maintain our expat lifestlye and keep up with family.  Thankfully it has never been easier to maintain this connection as an expat.   Even three or four years ago this transition was far harder than it is today.

There are many issues to consider: receiving postal /snail mail, personal and business phone, computer hardware, backing up your computer, power supplies, what technology to bring, watching your favorite TV shows from home, hiring developers or independant contractors. Fortunately there is a tool, a download, a website, or a physically piece of equipment that can address all of these issues. Even if you're a baby boomer retiring abroad and technology is not your best friend, there are still many tools that are worth the small investment.  I will provide information on several of the travel technology tools that I use everyday in Montevideo... many of these we were using well before the move because they're just great services. The technology we use untethers us from a physical location and thereby is perfect for a traveler on the go or an expat...well...that's flat out gone. 

I'm sensitive to you Mac folks...I have not yet joined your ranks, but most of these tools play nice with Mac...probably better.  

I will also talk about some of the challenges of limiting the interuption to my business while navigating the set up process in a foreign country.  There have been pleasant surprises and of course headaches.  I will share it all here.  I may not be able to wait until Monday...there's so much good stuff!!!

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.