The Neighborhood

I thought I would take this opportunity to show everyone what the neighborhood is like around our apartment. At the first place we stayed I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable wandering around with my camera and acting like a tourist. The neighborhood we are in now seems much more friendly and affluent and I feel much more comfortable here.

Some stats on our apartment:

– We are two blocks from the beach

– We are 6 blocks from a Devoto (a large grocery store chain)

– We are 3 blocks from the nearest chivito restaurant

– We are within 2 blocks of, not one, but four bus stops

– We are within walking distance of Shopping Montevideo (a large shopping mall, about a 20 min walk)

– We are 1 block away from the farmer’s market on Fridays and 6 blocks from a farmer’s market on Wednesdays

– We are within 2 blocks of a bank

– We are 3 blocks from the nearest place to buy fresh empanadas

The neighborhood is mostly apartment buildings that have about 6-10 floors. Almost all the apartment buildings have lobbies with doormen. This means that no matter where you are going or at what time, you are being watched. This may sound a bit creepy, but it’s actually quite comforting to know that if something happened, someone would have seen it and be there to help.

There are a lot of people in the neighborhood which means that the sidewalks are sometimes busy and the streets are sometimes hard to cross (that is mostly because pedestrians don’t have the right of way) during rush hour. Many of the car garages have warning alarms so that pedestrians know to look out for a car coming in or out. These warning alarms always seem to go off late at night or early in the morning. Go figure!

Most of the apartments have balconies or at least large windows. When the weather is good, there is an abundance of laundry hanging out to dry on those balconies, or sometimes the rooftops.

The trees that line the streets are tall, reaching to the 9th floor in some places. At this point, most of the leaves have fallen or are on their way to the ground.

The beach is friendly. People walk and take their dogs to play there most days, weather permitting. It is a great place to throw a frisbee or have a little beach ultimate tournament. The city takes pretty good care of the beach. They rake the sand every once in a while and haul off garbage that the tide brings in. The Ramblas runs along the beach and makes a great place to walk, run, bike, or just enjoy the view while sitting in one of the many benches. I frequent the Ramblas most days for my morning run. There are always people using it!

The neighborhood also seems to have an abundance of construction going on. Fixing the sidewalks seems to be a common occurrence. There are also a couple large construction sites where whole apartment buildings have been demolished and new ones are being put up. Unfortunately one of these sites is catty-corner across the intersection from us. Despite the citizens of Montevideo being generally late risers, this apparently does not hold for construction workers. We wake up to the sounds of construction quite frequently, although it doesn’t seem to bother me much.



Preparation: A Whole New Beast

The longest trip away from home that I ever took lasted about 2 months. I don’t remember doing anything special. I stuffed all my clothes in a backpack and went. I didn’t have trip insurance, I didn’t look into special health care options, I didn’t cancel my mail or sell my car, I didn’t worry about how to get money, and I certainly didn’t try to learn any new languages. This trip is a whole new beast.

Below is an account of only some of the organizational things we have thought of in preparation for our trip:

Permanent residence: We do not own a house and I imagine there are very few reasons why someone would be compelled to maintain two rentals simultaneously. So we moved out of our rental house. Our nearest family lives in an adjacent state. Graciously, we were allowed to store the aftermath of our minimalist endeavors in their garage. We changed our permanent residence to match the location of our stuff. Some things we had to consider were: Change of addresses (U.S. Postal Service can be done online for a $1 fee and they will forward your mail for up to a year), driver’s licenses (A note from a family member confirming that we were actually moving in and two bills in their name seemed to be sufficient), voter registration (can be done at the DMV), and car registration (we decided that selling our cars would be a better option).

Health Insurance: It turns out that health insurance must match the state in which you are a permanent resident, so we had to make some changes. We enlisted the help of a health insurance agent who was certified through a variety of agencies. He was able to put together various quotes for different policies and look into policies that specialize in international travel (without any success). European health care is familiar with insurance companies in the United States, but we were told all bets were off in other areas of the world (i.e. the ones we’ll be visiting). We will probably have to pay up front for any medical care and file claims with our insurance later. We are currently looking into additional trip insurance with a medical evacuation rider in case we need to get back to the states in an emergency.

Money: ATM fees, international credit card fees, international bank fees? We are currently undecided as to the best and cheapest way to get our money abroad. We have been told from other reliable world travelers that getting as much cash out of an ATM at a time and doing this as infrequently as possible is a good way to keep a handle on fees. Also we’ve been told to avoid using credit cards because the fees are really high, although at this point it’s just hearsay. Also, if you are going to order currency prior to your trip you can do so through your local bank, but it could take up to two weeks for “unpopular” countries.

Again, these are just a few of the things that we’ve thought of before our trip. There are numerous other things that we have either thought of and dismissed, or haven’t thought of and will come back to haunt us in one way or another.