Best Uruguayan thing since parrilla…PAGANZA!

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before but paying bills in Uruguay is a headache. Normally you would have to go to a place where you can pay your bills called Abitab or RedPagos. They provide a myriad of services like bill pay, they make appointments to get your ID, you can pay your taxes, exchange money, you can buy scratch offs, and they also have a point system where you cash in and get discounts on things like toys, alcohol, and home goods.

Normally I don’t mind going to our local Abitab. But there’s always that time around the first of the month that you don’t want to be caught near one. That’s when Uruguay’s version of social security checks come out and everyone lines up at the Abitab to collect. I’ve waited in line for two hours before because I needed our internet turned back on. It was not fun.

Which brings me to this amazing new app I heard about through the expat Facebook group. Available for iPhone, Android and Windows, Paganza is an app that links to your (Uruguayan) bank account and allows you to pay your bills through the comfort of your home.

I know what you’re thinking…”What’s the big deal? I’ve been able to do that where I live for years.” I’ll tell you what the big deal is. I couldn’t do that in Uruguay before this miraculous app came into my life. It reminds me of when bills need to be paid BEFORE the paper bill comes to my house–if it ever comes.

It does take a few days for the payment to post onto your account, so you have to be mindful of when your bills are due to avoid your service being shut off. For example, we had one of our cell phone bills due LAST Friday but we didn’t realize that until Sunday. Because this week was Carnaval, the payment didn’t post until Thursday.

Anyway, I definitely recommend this app. If you’re in Uruguay and have a Uruguayan bank account I would check it out! Let me know how it goes, if you do.

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Day trip to Atlantida: Blueberry picking and El Aguila

I have a love-hate relationship with having family or friends coming to visit. I love having familiar faces around, someone other than Carlos and my parents to talk to, and getting a bunch of goodies from the States. I hate having to come up with ways to keep them entertained.

I went through something similar when my aunt came to visit in September. Even though it was the beginning of Spring when she came, the weather was less than welcoming and we found ourselves spending a lot of time at home rather than enjoying all Uruguay has to offer.

This month my mother-in-law and her boyfriend came to spend a few weeks with us and it’s been rather challenging coming up with things to do. I’m still on the prednisone which, somedays, renders me useless. And other days, Paloma just doesn’t want to be bothered with long car rides. But Saturday I was adamant that we were going to get out of the house and do something.

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Road to Atlantida. I just love the view.

Did you know that Uruguay is one of the worlds largest blueberry producers? Well, now you know. Anyway, I’m part of an expat page on Facebook that advertises things to do around the country. The past few years we’ve seen advertisements for blueberry picking in both Atlantida and Piriapolis. Carlos and I have always wanted to go but never found a chance considering our first year here I was 9 months pregnant and last year Paloma was still too small to enjoy it.

 

So we headed out at around 9:30am and got to Atlantida at around 10:20am. It wasn’t a bad car ride but I did get lost a few times. By the time we found the place PJ was ready to get out of the car and run around. The farm is really lovely. Not only do they grow blueberries, but they also grow and sell their own organic produce separate from the picking.

I’m so glad I brought PJs rain boots because it would have been brutal to clean her up afterwards. She had a field day! She threw herself in the dirt, played with the fallen berries, picked berries off branches, tried to get through each tree into another aisle, and overall just had a blast running up and down the aisle from me to her dad.

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We were only there for about half an hour but ended up picking about 3 kilos of blueberries! And let me just tell you they are DELICIOUS! We froze about 2/3 of our pickings to be able to have some year round. But what we didn’t is almost gone.

After we got PJ cleaned up we headed to El Aguila on the beach. It’s a local landmark that was built in the mid 1940s. I don’t think it ever served an actual purpose but it’s a pretty cool building to see if you’re in the area. It’s built off a cliff so you get pretty awesome ‘sea’ views. I wish the cliff were roped off for child safety reasons but it is what it is. I was not thrilled to be chasing my two year old away from the edge, that’s for sure.

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El Aguila

We then headed to my FAVORITE bakery in all of Uruguay–La Baipa. When we lived in Atlantida before PJ was born, I used to come there at least twice a week. Their lemon merengue pie is worth every penny and empty calorie. Most people I know head to La Baipa on their way east to Punta del Este or even to Rocha. It’s a definite must go to place in Uruguay. Their selection is different than most bakeries where your options are the same four bizcochos. They have tiny bite size tiramisus, apple tarts, and lovely cream puffs. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

Our stay in Atlantida was less than four hours but we had a lovely day. For those of you in Uruguay that would like more information on blueberry picking please don’t hesitate to ask!

Giving Thanks

As the year is starting to close, we’re finding ourselves being bombarded with Christmas advertisements and nostalgia-inducing holiday movies. I feel as if most Americans this year have forgotten about Thanksgiving and are skipping straight ahead to Christmas.

I hate it. I absolutely LOVE Thanksgiving! It’s always been my favorite holiday. I love the message of appreciation and thankfulness. I enjoy spending time with my family. And before I found myself to be a stay-at-home-mom I loved the four day weekend.

This year we’re blessed to be spending Thanksgiving not only with my parents, but also with Carlos’ mom and stepdad. They came to visit from Miami and it’s been great having them around. PJ has really taken to them–minus the angry peeing but that’s a story for another day–and I’ve been grateful for all the extra love.

It’s inevitable to make to the last week of November and not find yourself thinking of what you truly appreciate and value in your life. And this year is no different. So here comes my list of things I’m thankful for this year.

Things I’m Thankful for in 2015

  1. My family. As cliche as it sounds, my family has been and always will be my rock.
  2. My health. After the MS scare last month I’m definitely thankful for my health and am making it a point to really care for myself.
  3. My salvation. If it weren’t for my relationship with Jesus I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be as aware of who I am or the consequences of my actions.
  4. Living in Uruguay. I love that Uruguay isn’t as materialistic or as work-centered as other countries are. It’s a country that focuses more on family and over all just being ‘chill.’
  5. Rekindled friendships. No explanation needed.

I hope that everyone had a Thanksgiving full of love, laughter, and family. Take the time to reflect the things that really matter and know that just because we collectively celebrate our thanks today, we should take the time out of each day to appreciate even the tiniest blessings every day.

 

Hospital Blues: My Week of Unwanted Mommy ‘Vacation’

The past week has been a total whirlwind. I don’t know where to start.

I’m pretty sure I mentioned a few posts ago that Paloma caught a bit of pink eye and I thought it had rubbed off on me. After about a week of eye pain, I went to the eye doctor in my town to get it checked out. After a quick but thorough exam, the opthamologist sat me down and told me I had what she thought was optic niuritis and should head to the ER right away.

I honestly thought she was exaggerating but decided to just heed her advice and get rechecked just incase. Carlos and I left the baby with my parents, we made dinner plans and thought we would be home by bed time. No big deal, right?

Wrong. Within two hours I was checked in and on a corticosteroid drip to ease the tension on my optic nerve and a team of doctors checking me on all fronts. The first doctor told me I should expect to stay at least three days. The next doctor told me five. And the next one told me seven. I was a wreck.

I remember looking at them and saying, “No, I’m sorry you’re wrong. I have a two year old at home I need to get back to. You’re going to have to find a way to fix me in the next few hours.” I realize now how dumb it is for me to have thought that but in that moment my only thought was PJ.

The doctors started spouting medical mumbo jumbo at me; optic niuritis is a condition that happens when the optic nerve becomes inflamed. It can cause temporary partial blindness and intense pain. And at its worst it is commonly seen as a precursor to multiple sclerosis.

Hearing that I was stunned. How did we go to an inflamed optic nerve to MS? I’m 25. I’m generally healthy. I exercise, I try to eat right, and I’ve lost a lot of weight. I swore the doctor was joking but considering his next plan of action was a lumbar puncture I was pretty sure this was pretty serious to them.

After several painful attempts at collecting the spinal fluid, the doctors had everything they would need to run their tests. Our main job would be to sit and wait. Sit…and wait.

I spent most of my days telling Carlos to stay home so that PJ wouldn’t really notice my missing. The ladies I shared a room with would pity me, whisper things like, “I can’t believe they would just leave her alone like this. Poor girl.” But of course my main priority was making sure PJ was okay. I would try to FaceTime as much as I could just to see her laugh and play but it would kill me.

Can I point out that you never actually realize how fast your kid grows until you’re forced to NOT be there? I came home and this kid was running and jumping and saying things like “NO!” and putting her toys away before bed on her own. Crazy how much kids grow in just a week…

I’ll spare you the boring details but just know that the tests all said I had a massive inflammation of the optic nerve which caused my temporary loss of vision (duh) and that I tested NEGATIVE for MS. I can’t tell you the immense weight that was lifted off my shoulders when I heard that. The doctors feel positive with how I responded to the medication and are planning on keeping me on the steroids for a bit along with biannual check ups with the neurologist.

I’m feeling pretty rough on the meds and the after affects of the lumbar puncture but obviously happy to have my vision back and a relatively clean bill of health.

But moments like this always bring on the awareness of ones mortality, don’t they? I started freaking out picturing what my marriage would look like in the future, my daughter having a ‘disabled’ mother, a diminished quality of life for all of us. Then you feel guilty for thinking things like that, knowing that you are one of those people that always thought it happened to other people but never to you.

I’m feeling blessed/lucky right now that everything turned out the way it did though. It really made me think and reevaluate how I’m living my life, how I want the rest of my life to turn out. I need to start focusing on the future. Set goals and try to make them happen.

Change is coming. I don’t know who, what, where, or when. But I know that I need to shape up.

El Prado Expo

I haven’t updated in what seems like forever. First, I didn’t know what to write about. Then, I didn’t know how to formulate my thoughts into words. And lastly, my computer died last week. Thankfully my mom is letting me borrow hers until I get it back from the repair shop.

My aunt is currently visiting us from Miami so I’ve been quite the busy tour guide!

This post is dedicated to our day at Expo Prado last Thursday. I’ve been wanting to go since we got to Uruguay two years ago but something always came up during those days. The expo is a agroindustrial fair where the country’s best animal farmers bring their prize animals for auction. It’s also where merchants come to show off their latest farm inspired goods ranging from machinery to fashion.

Walking into the fair grounds I quickly got nostalgic for the yearly fair that takes place in Miami. The smell of churros quickly hit my nose, balloon vendors were bombarding us and I just knew it was going to be a good day.

Hereford bull being brought out of the pen to spread his legs.
Hereford bull being brought out of the pen to spread his legs.
Hey Mr. Cow! Be nice!
Hey Mrs. Cow! Be nice

I’ve seen my fair share of cows before but never like this! Prior to moving to Uruguay I literally thought cows came in the black and white variety and that was that. Very small minded of me but hey, I’m a city girl. Carlos was showing off by telling me all about the different breeds, where they originate from, and how they came to Uruguay. I swear sometimes it feels like I don’t even know who my husband is!

We were separated from my mom and aunt for a bit so we decided to check out the goat pen. We used to have goats on the farm but after four died from their mischievous antics, we decided that while we love goats we weren’t suited to own them. Turns out that we have our own little goat seeing how PJ decided to climb into the goat pens.

After walking around aimlessly for a bit we came across an beer stand. For those of you that don’t know, Carlos is an avid beer drinker. As for me, as long as it has alcohol in it I’m almost always in. The beer selection was the usual Uruguayan Patricia selection along with some imported beer like Budweiser and Corona. We decided to try some Argentinian beer called Patagonia. It was delicious and I’ll definitely be looking for it at the exotic beer shops in Montevideo.

Patagonia.
Patagonia.
La Oriental Beer Company
La Oriental Beer Company

We found a little playground area in the back of the park and let PJ run around and release some steam before we decided to keep walking around the animal pens. It was nice to take a break and let her enjoy herself. After awhile we kept exploring and found a little alleyway of sorts that led us to a tiny amusement ride area. PJ originally wanted to ride the teacups but she is still too small so we coerced her to give the carousel a try. As you can see in her photo she’s just a little ball of sass.

Hi Mom!
Hi Mom!

Past the rides, there’s an area of artisanal shops selling things like leather boots, purses and even cheesy tourist keychains. My aunt ended up buying herself a mate cup along with some souvenirs for everyone in Miami.  From that point there were more alleyways leading to different parts of the park but PJ was getting cranky so we left.

Overall, we had a very nice day together and I definitely plan on making this a yearly tradition.

If you ever find yourself in Montevideo in the month of September I would definitely take the time to come to the expo. It’s a nice for a family outing with good food, animals and rides for the kids.

Would you like a kiss?
Would you like a kiss?
My own little mountain goat.
My own little mountain goat.

Two years in Uruguay!

This past weekend was our two year anniversary of being in Uruguay! I can’t believe it’s been two years since we embarked on the craziest journey of our lives, but here we are.

Things are finally starting to come together. We’re starting to decorate the house, the boxes are slowly starting to diminish, and our town is really starting to feel like home.

We celebrated this momentous occasion by heading to the Ministerio del Exterior to pick up our approved residency papers! When we first moved here we started our application at the immigration office on Misiones and 25 de Mayo in Montevideo. But this past election, some laws were changed and our application moved to the exterior office due to Paloma’s Uruguayan citizenship. Essentially because we have a Uruguayan daughter, our residency was expedited.

Stopping for a quick selfie at Plaza Constitución.
Stopping for a quick selfie at Plaza Matriz.
Plaza Matriz.
Plaza Matriz.

After a not so pleasant encounter with the front desk manager and two hour wait period, we were taken in the back to sign the finalized papers and given the necessary documents to update our cedulas.

Since we made it all the way to Montevideo we decided there were a few other things we wanted to do before heading back to Sauce. We walked along Colonia and found a new art supply store for Carlos. He’s pretty excited to find some Windsor & Newton paints in Uruguay. I wanted to go to the baking supply store but as my luck would have it, closed for inventory. They do have other stores but they were out of our way. Oh well…off we went to buy our kitchen table and chairs.

Carlos posing with our new kitchen set.
Carlos posing with our new kitchen set.

Bazar La Iberica is like Pottery Barn only 10 times prettier and just as expensive. Most of their stuff is way out of our price range but a few weeks ago I noticed they were advertising Eames chairs and table set. I’ve always loved the look of them but found them to be too expensive in Uruguay. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the table and four chairs were $13,800 pesos! Based on todays exchange rate it was US$483.00. What a steal! We purchased them and set off to find a place for lunch.

We were lucky to be in Ciudad Vieja for lunch time. There have been a lot of new restaurants opening in the area and they’re only open at lunch time. We debated for awhile but decided on this place called Camelia. From what I could tell most of the food is prepackaged. Pick what you want from the cooler, bring it to the counter to pay, and sit and enjoy! If you want coffee or the soup of the day those behind the counter would provide that for you. Carlos got a ham sandwich while I grabbed myself some sushi. I had been craving it for weeks and decided time to treat myself.

We enjoyed our lunch and decided to visit Marcelo at the gallery before heading home. After receiving the surprising news that he was moving up Carlos’ show date to September, we rushed home to process everything. I’ll save the details about his show for another time.

Repurposed furniture at Roggia Gallery.
Repurposed furniture at Roggia Gallery.
Camelias.
Camelias

It was a day like Monday that made me happy to be here. I love the architecture of Montevideo and how things look when it’s overcast. That I’m finally knowing my way around and don’t feel like a tourist every time I step foot in the city. Uruguay has become my home and I can’t wait to see what it has in store for us.

Thankful for this country and it’s people, that while we may have our rough days together, you always find a way to pull me back in.

Feliz Día del Niño!

Oh Uruguay…How you’ve managed to bring more holidays into my life is ridiculous. But here we are celebrating our second día del niño!

You’re probably wondering what the día del niño is, so let me explain. According to Wikipedia–my source for all things unknown–it’s a yearly holiday celebrated across the world to unify and celebrate childhood, bring light to the wellbeing of children, and promote child rights. It’s celebrated across the world in countries like Nicaragua, Albania, Argentina, and Paraguay just to name a few.

In Uruguay, the día del niño is celebrated on the second Sunday of August. For kids, it’s bigger than Christmas. There are events and festivals dedicated to it.

I don’t think it’s a holiday we’ll adopt until PJ is in school and she mentions it. I will say that I take advantage of the sales and buy her birthday/Christmas presents now. Much better discount now than at Christmas.

Most towns, churches, malls, and schools have celebrations in honor of the day. Something to get the kids out of the house. But our town canceled it’s event due to a weather-related power outage. I was looking forward to the bounce house and the firefighter show/thing they were going to do. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to take her.