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Dec 9, 2015

Uruguay Through My Eyes

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We have been in Uruguay for 2 months as of December 14.  It’s been several days since I last blogged mostly because I’ve been so tired from all the stuff we’ve been doing.  I’m going to share some of those different kinds of things to catch you up.  Then I want to share my take on this country after this amount of time.

We have been fixing up the apartment where we will be living for awhile.  Actually I’ve been doing very little of the work, but the rest of the household has really put forth an effort.  It dawned on all of us that our friends who own this whole place have family coming a couple of days after Christmas.  There was a lot to get done which I won’t list here.  But when you want to find some “thing” here, if it has more than one working part, you will usually have to go to several places to get all the parts to put it together.

To some that is a bad thing.  To us — get to hear Spanish with many different accents, many different kinds of vocabulary and we get to meet many different kinds of people.  The cool thing is that we have never met anyone yet other than sweet, gentle and big hearted people who put up with our broken Spanish and help us.  And that even includes the parking lot attendants who have given us directions and actually walked with us to the store where they were telling us to go because they realized we didn’t get it.  I find the people here exceptionally un-self-centered.

So apartment arranging has been the order of the last couple of weeks.  We also have been working on getting our residency.  So that has involved going from place to place to get all the paperwork in order.  We had to have a health exam.  Because Kris and I are both over 65, we didn’t have to have a PAP exam nor a mammogram.  We had a general physical with blood and urine tests, blood pressure, and a zillion health questions with advice to lose weight and lower our cholesterol!  We did pass the health exam however.  We also visited a Judicial Notary who checked all our identification papers — proving who we are and how much income we make.  We passed that one too.

We have been given Uruguayan birth certificates and my name is again Linda Lucille Adams!  Now I know it sounds funny because I was born in Oregon and Kris in Michigan.  But the idea is that when you live here and are a resident, they want you to have paperwork that everyone will understand.  To open accounts, to travel, to do business, to get health insurance, they like to see your birth certificate.  A Uruguayan birth certificate looks just like everyone else’s so it’s easier all the way around for everyone you meet.  A pretty novel and unique idea.

So here I am blogging.  Summer is arriving and it was warmer than usual today.  I will say that we love it here.  The beauty of this place is stunning.  It’s very much like Leelanau County only you can see further at a time.  There are huge hills – some covered with massive rock outcroppings and lots of green vegetation.  We live on the eastern side of the country and this is what it is like.

The wind blows almost constantly so no matter how hot it is, there is almost always a breeze that cuts the heat.  In the winter it will be a different story, but I can tell you, Spring was definitely the time to arrive in Uruguay!

The traffic has picked up a bit as the Argentines and Brazilians arrive for their vacation times in their seasonal homes.  Lots of streets do not have stop signs.  When you come to an intersection, everyone slows down and somehow, people just know when it’s their turn.  I’m learning the same.  Often they simply wave you on through.  There is very little irritation displayed and no road rage at all.

See people don’t yell at each other in public here.  It is very peaceful and mostly calm.  This is not to say there are not problems.  There definitely are.  Anyone who listens and pays attention will see that there is poverty here.  It’s not seen in big slums like in Brazil or Detroit or New York.  But the very poor housing and very low income situations are definitely present.  Many, many of those people make the lives of others more enjoyable by being employed as workers, maids, cooks, or other jobs.

But everywhere we go, people are laid back.  They seem to enjoy each other at work or at leisure times.  Here is an example — we had gone shopping and decided to have lunch in the cafeteria of the store.  As we waited…..and waited…. for a waitress to come, we noticed that it was shift change time and they were all telling each other goodbye with the traditional Uruguayan kiss on the cheek and gentle hug.  They were laughing and talking about how they would see each other the next day.  We did finally get served slowly and in a very laid back manner and everyone was having a great time.  The food was good and affordable and in due time we were on our way again — a little later than we had originally planned, but happy on the way.

When was the last time you saw staff hug their fellow staffers goodbye at the end of a shift, laughing and looking forward to seeing each other at shift change the next day???

Think about that.

Several men were standing in the restaurant — as they each came into the group, they hugged and kissed each other and then stood talking and laughing together.  Then after about a half hour they all hugged and kissed and went their separate ways.  Yes, the men hug and kiss each others cheeks when they meet – every time, not just once a week or at holidays!

Think about that.

I went to pick up a used item someone had for sale.  When I got out of the car he came over and shook my hand and kissed my cheek.

Yes, I’m making a big thing about this because it feels to me like we have lost something in the states.  I’ve actually had people in the states make like it was odd that I gave them a hug when they had just seen me the day before. When the time for hugs is over and you can give them no more, will it have been enough? Will you have shared that aspect of friendship with even a stranger?

Think about that too.

Okay — we live in the country and drive to town to shop.  It’s about a 45 minute drive depending on the weather, the traffic, and the pot holes.  The main roads are very good — very few pot holes.  The back roads out in the country are sometimes pretty rough — you have to slow down and pay attention.  Sometimes you even have to slow way down so the someone else coming in the other direction doesn’t have to hit a bad pot hold on their side of the road.  It does remind me so much of 8th street in Traverse City!!  Ahh yes, it slows you down.

Which leads me to another subject —

You slow down here.  Life slows down.  People are more important and life simply does not run at the pace it does in the states.  Sometimes people complain about that aspect of life in a Latin country. When you arrive here, it slowly dawns on you how “fast” life has been where you came from.  No one has time for anything in the states or other places.  But here, you will be forced to slow down.  You can get yourself into a tizzy fit, or you can recognize that maybe you are here because you are supposed to slow down.  It’s not just to smell the roses either.  It’s to meet and know others.  It’s to enjoy the beauty around you — the ocean, the abundance of food, the little stores tucked in here and there with the things you need for your project.

Most of us that have moved to a foreign country have done so for about a dozen different reasons.  It usually isn’t to slow down.  People want to live where it’s cheaper or warmer or both.  It’s my experience that some things here are much more expensive and other things like food are much cheaper.  And the weather is superb!   However as fate would have it, you are probably drawn to a place because you need what it has to offer you — you need to slow down or to care more about other people and enjoy the interaction.  Well, that’s my take on it anyway.

So I’ve slowed down!  ha ha ha  You knew that was coming, right?  You know how active I can be and me — I’ve slowed down and am enjoying the incredibly good things Uruguay shares with me.

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep having the same experiences you always have!  Not terribly unique, but profoundly true!

There are nice expats and there are wretched ones.  There are whiney people and there are joyful people.  There are people who can see nothing but the disagreeable and others who see it but move forward in peace.  You meet all kinds of people — I say that you are who you are in large part because of the choices you make as you get out of bed every day.  Not totally, but mostly!

Tchau, tchau!





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