I hope you regular readers didn’t fear for me, just because it’s been two weeks since my last post announcing my imminent departure for my new life in Uruguay. I arrived ten days ago and have been very, very busy ever since. At last, here’s my first jumbled description to fill that blank spot in your mind about my arrival in this great South American country. First, a few pointers:
We’ve all been pronouncing it wrong. It’s not “You’re-a-Gway.” It’s “Ooor-a-ghway.” Just mildly clear your throat midword, though they’ll forgive you if you merely say “Oooraguay” with a hard g. They forgive you anyway. Uruguayans are such wonderful people!
Okay, here’s a quiz! Where is Uruguay? Don’t be embarrassed if you guessed that it’s on the Pacific, between Colombia and Ecuador, like my daughter did when she heard that I was moving there. As a matter of fact, Uruguay is three-quarters of the way down to the bottom of South America, on the opposite, Atlantic, side; right under Brazil and next to Argentina. Oh, go get a map and look it up. You’ll find me in Montevideo with glorious blue water on two sides, basking in the summer season.
I’ll share a few excerpts from my journal:
“Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2013 – The overnight flight was a pleasure, though sleep was scarce. I was so interested in what the Uruguayan people would be like and I knew that a majority of the passengers must be natives, though there was no way, at all, to tell us apart. Except that they spoke Spanish. What a lovely atmosphere filled that plane, with every human connection between those strolling the aisles! I felt surrounded by a jumbo-set-sized family. “Ineffably Wonderful!” came to my mind, though I’ve never heard that term before. Laughter, kindled eyes, and kind helpfulness comes naturally to them. It’s obvious that these Uruguayans are happy people. They like each other and I like them!
I must mention the power of my new Norwegian suit jacket, which I now call “General Jacket.” It’s tailored of navy-blue wool and bears double gold braid around the collar and sleeves. I think of it as my Space Commander jacket. Indeed, people do seem to want to salute or at least to do a double take. On the plane, when I complimented a woman on her lovely sweater, a seatmate mentioned my jacket in return. A nearby man gave a small salute by way of definition. We laughed and agreed. Wish I’d had a better story than “I bought it in Oslo!” Something like: “Oh, I’m simply hopping a ride to Earth from Andromeda”.
Just now, in the airport ladies’ room, the attendant asked me, in Spanish, what the stripes meant and we had a funny time pretending that I was a pilot, because navy wool and gold braid is exactly what they all wear. The only difference is that my stripes are a tad closer to the elbow, I’m way past retirement age…..and oh yes…. I can’t fly!”
Since I arrived last week, I have successfully found my way around the city. First, by getting nicely lost in the Tres Cruces (Three Crosses) area where my arrival hotel and a marvelous bus terminal are located. From that station, one can catch an ultra-fancy double-decker headed anywhere in this compact country, or even neighboring Brazil, Argentina and Chile. Tickets are reasonable and travel times short. Above the terminal is a big, modern mall, which I hear isn’t very large according to local standards. Well, I got happily lost in it 100% of the time. I’ll lack for nothing, that’s for sure!
Sunday, I attended the regular luncheon meeting of the local expat community at Club Banco Republica, an athletic club and restaurant right on the Rambla walkway, overlooking the beach and waterfront. It’s a drop-in meet-up organized by Sonia Duarte, of Total Uruguay, an expat assistance agency. The group has been functioning, non-stop, for seven years and is a great way for foreigners here to get acquainted. Ten of us attended this time and both Sonia and Terry Doering, an American realtor with Your Real Estate Team, immediately agreed to help me achieve some points on my bucket list. That afternoon, Terry showed me an available apartment, which I will move into on December 15th.
On Monday, Sonia helped me drop off my virus-infected computer at a repair shop and to buy a cell phone. In the way that such ironies happen, my faithful little computer had picked up its bug in Florida from some virus protection software that I’d stupidly bought (IObit). I had to look at this great inconvenience philosophically, imagining that it symbolized a “getting a clean start.” Now, for only a chunk of money and a week’s worth of wasted computer time, I’m back to normal with a clean-brained, well backed-up, computer.
Thursday, when my five days at the Hotel Tres Cruces ran out, I transferred to a lovely new hostel in Ciudad Vieja, the Old Town Quarter of Montevideo. This delightful, new Los Jardines Colgantes de Babilonia (The Hanging Gardens of Babylonia) Hostel is one of the most pleasant that I’ve ever stayed in…. and that’s saying a whole lot, because I have stayed in hundreds of hostels, worldwide, by this time. Bunkbeds are $20 per night and I have my two-bunk room all to myself and am able both to sleep and get lots of serious work done in this peace and quiet. Plants, greenery and trailing ferns hang from high ceilings, above black and white tile floors, serenaded by Chopin and Beethoven, in this lovingly restored mansion.
Ahhhh, more about this easy life in a few days. Do stay tuned!
It seems as if I’m staying just one jump ahead of the cold weather which is now barrelling across Arizona where I just attended the International Living conference and spent two days with my brother and his family. It was actually hot last week in Phoenix and it has been in the eighties here in Dunedin and Clearwater, Florida. But that changes tonight as temperatures drop into the sixties.
In case you heard about the Florida sinkhole that swallowed two houses last week in Dunedin, Florida……. that happened just three blocks away from the house where I am staying now. My good friend, Fawn Germer, met me at the airport and brought me home where CNN helicopters were hovering overhead and police had a nearby street cordoned off so the demolition crew could quickly get the damaged houses off the delicate surface. We stood beside the traumatized owners while their roofs and walls were knocked down and eighty-five dump truck loads of brown dirt replaced their lives. Today, those two home lots are simply fenced-in, smoothed over dirt fields, looking as if they’re ready for planting.
While I drag all my possessions around in two heavy packs and study lists of duties to see to before jumping off to a life in Uruguay; these families are lucky to have their lives, in spite of the ripping violence that swallowed swimming pools and half the houses into a 56-foot deep sinkhole.
Life goes on in this neighborhood and I must admit, that I haven’t even worried that Fawn’s house might go too. I moved to an already-scheduled Airbnb and took care of many business duties in town, such as banking and medical stuff like inoculations and getting things from the shed at the old house, now rented long-term. Fawn simply increased her insurance coverage and went on a scheduled kayaking/camping trip, bringing me back to housesit for her beautiful pets, who are also not the least bit worried.
Florida sinkholes are extremely random events.
But, I do believe that I shall fly out from under that messy Arizona weather right about the time that it slices into Florida next Wednesday. American Airlines will send me south to Miami and then, to Montevideo’s summertime, where I shall land on Thanksgiving Morning, like the Mayflower Pilgrim that I am.
My relatives, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, landed in America almost 400 years ago. Now, I shall do that in SOUTH America. Of course, they didn’t immediately celebrate with a big Thanksgiving feast. That came much later after surviving sickness and terribly harsh winter weather. But, I know they said prayers of gratitude upon landing, as I shall.
Tell you what! After I have survived the rigors of locating a great place to rent; have found the expat community and made a bunch of Uruguayan buddies (some of the friendliest people on the planet); and when I have learned a little Spanish; and gotten my permanent visa applied for….. then, I’m gonna cook a turkey with all the trimmings and have a Thanksgiving party of my own. That could happen at the end of May, 2014, which is the equivalent of November in the southern hemisphere. After all, it’s the arrival of the modern-day MAYflower that we’re celebrating!
All of these new adventures are going to be captured on my new camcorder in short postings that you will see here. It’s bound to be very wiggly photography, as I don’t know how to use this object, but things will improve with practice, as will my Espanol. Stay tuned!