Archive for August, 2012

We are now official permanent residents of Paraguay. Hooray!

My plans to take over the world are coming together… muahahahaaaaaa!

“Uruguay has a way of kicking you in the ass when it knows you are leaving,”

HardwareBob commiserates. I was in his store buying up all the heavy-duty trash bags I could find in order to clear out the vast accumulation of mold and deterioration that was in our old Montevideo apartment. We were there for a few days cleaning it out to put it on the market. He had asked me what I was doing with my truck after we left, because he wanted to buy it, and then the whole story came out about the accident last week, etc.

HardwareBob and I have a long history. I spent vast fortunes in his store, daily, for bits and bobs and various and sundry items with which to fix up and restore our old apartment around the corner. He’s a nice guy. So are his employees. When I told them we were moving to Chile, they were all excited yet bummed to see us go. So were MaidBob and other neighbors. Most of the people in that neighborhood are unaccustomed to transitory living and comings-and-goings. Most people who live there are born there and live there and die there. I will miss HardwareBob and his employees.

“I have a guy who already wants the truck but if he changes his mind, let’s talk,” I tell him. Fair enough.

WifeBob and I spent 2 days working around the clock, cleaning, organizing, and packing up the last of our “stuff” to ship out to Santiago. Most of it was clothes and books. Things that we wouldn’t miss if we lost them but wouldn’t want to have to re-buy either. Oh, we *did* give away a ton of stuff to MaidBob, who was delighted. Bonanza for her.

I had gone all the way through Hell’s half-acre and back for 25 40x40x40-cm cardboard boxes which cost me some $1400 pesos to get. I had a Uruguayan experience waiting 40 minutes to pay for them. This is at the ONLY place in Montevideo where you can get cardboard boxes. And they didn’t have half of what I was looking for.

“Do you have more of this one here?” No.

“How about this?” Out of stock.

“This one? Any?” Just the one you are holding in your hand.

“OK then, what do you have 25 of, which are remotely close to this size here?” the slow rusty cogs of parallel thought process begin to squeak free…

I got into a conversation with another frustrated guy in there, a businessman, who was astonished that the box monopoly had hiked his prices from 30 to 36 pesos per box.

“How long have you been here?” he asks me after the usual where-are-you-from stuff.

“5 years,” I reply.

“5 too many,” he grumbles. Yeah, man, I feel your pain.

While we were going through all of our stuff, it was like flashbacks from the past 5 years. Every item in there was the result of or involved in some sort of productive behavior of ours. Ticking through the inhuman efforts we endured, piece by piece. WifeBob became nostalgic; I had swallowed several barrels of “don’t-give-a-fuck-and-in-fact-while-you’re-asking…” which were still in my system.

It was also amazing the stuff which we would have just tossed in the trash or taken to GoodWill had we been in the USA, which we clung to with greedy fingers and refused to part with, because of all the effort that had gone into getting them into Uruguay. The added value attached to them, be it in taxes, smuggling them through Aduanas, or just the sheer amount of wasted, frustrated hours burned away in their acquisition.

Charity disappears quickly when it’s taxed at 60%+22%IVA.

We used our Gringo Rocket Science and powered through the whole place in record time, packed up the truck in geometric Gringo Rocket Science fashion so as to make just one trip out of it, and headed the F out of there, hopefully never to return.

Then I get a panicked call this afternoon from the neighbor downstairs who tells me that our balcony is falling off the front of the building. *&^#@$!! So I go into panic mode and call anyone I can to go and have a look since we are no longer in town. Precious minutes grind by as I chew my fingernails to the bone, wondering just what other disasters will befall us in our last few days in Uruguay. I am thinking (and according to the neighbor’s call, correctly) that the whole thing is dangling by a thread and about to fall completely off and kill an innocent bystander below. Wouldn’t that just take the F-ing cake!?

The day after you finish cleaning your property up from top to bottom to make it showroom condition for selling, and the balcony falls off the front of it into the street? That, my friends, would be the Uruguay experience in a nutshell. Oh, and some idiot crashed into your car and the insurance deems it your fault. Oh, and thieves tore the screen out of your window trying to break into your house. All in the same week.

Finally the call comes back in: our balcony is just fine, but a piece of cement fell from the balcony of the folks above us (The Retard Family), broke, and shattered little rubble bits around the ground below. The sky is falling!

Yeaaaaah, I’m so over it.

Check out the graphic up on Google today.

Apparently this goes nicely hand-in-hand with the postal strike in which several tons of mail have still been piling up.

According to El Pais, On the 21st of August, a “pre-agreement” was made (why not a full agreement? Can’t anyone finish ANYTHING in Uruguay?): at one meeting, they finally agreed that “On Friday we will meet to discuss this proposal at another meeting, and if it is approved, we will lift the measures (stop the strike)”

At this point my impression is that they kind of want the strike to stop but then on the other hand they don’t, because then they have to actually go back to work and do their jobs, PLUS figure out how to deal with the 50+ tons of mail that has accumulated since the strike began. The last time this happened, the Correo quickly solved their dilemma by outsourcing delivery to the tides of the Rio de la Plata. “Well, we dumped it in the river, and if it never got to you, it’s not our fault, it’s the fault of the river! Leave me alone, I’m just doing my job!”

Look on the bright side: 100 more workers will be hired. Surely that will make the whole thing run like clockwork!

In a gesture of “good faith” in this negotiation, the correo has agreed to authorize the departure of ONE TRUCK to “mitigate the delay in deliveries.” What??? You can’t make this stuff up.

Perhaps the folks at Google are mocking Uruguay with this graphic, or perhaps it is a faux-pas? Supposedly today (August 25) is the observance of Uruguayan Independence Day, but this graphic is kind of a backhanded compliment. I like it!

Yeah, you’re independent. Now act like it, and deliver your damned mail.

Bravo, Google graphic artists! Even if you didn’t intend it.

…but I have a sneaking suspicion that you did. And Bravo again for that. Quite clever.

The Mosquito Coast

Posted: August 25, 2012 in Ancient wisdom, Life
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There are many reasons why The Mosquito Coast is an excellent movie. It was recently stirred up from the recesses of my brain because WifeBob and I were having a conversation about a friend of ours and I had voiced concerns that they are going “Mosquito Coast.” WifeBob had never seen the movie so she didn’t get it. And for those who haven’t seen it or have forgotten the basic premise, it is a story of man’s need to be appreciated for his genius, a struggle of man vs nature, man vs himself, man vs man, , capitalism vs communism, science vs technology, and a big lesson on how obsession and ego can end up putting you in mortal danger.

So we found a copy and watched it, and WifeBob truly enjoyed it. We had to pause it periodically to applaud its excellence. After living for so many years as both a water vagabond and an international expat, Mosquito Coast has even more little bits and pieces you find that fall into place, where you nod and laugh and say, “Yeah, I get it,” and “Yeah, you poor souls have no idea what you are in for but we know where this is going.”

One of the best lines of the movie:

The scene: Father and son are sneaking up to kill a trio of looter thugs who have been preying on his village, having tricked them into bunking up inside his giant freezer, in order to lock them inside and freeze them to death. The son is fearful and doesn’t want to kill anyone. The father, smashing a mosquito on the back of his neck, turns to his son to put his fears and trepidations to rest and says,

“Don’t pity this insect. That’s not his blood, it’s mine.”

We’ve been in and out of our own Mosquito Coast experiences repeatedly. I think it’s something all expats deal with now and then. If you’ve never seen it, or if it’s been a long time since you have, I highly recommend giving it a go.

The other day a lady shot out from the left side of an intersection, right in front of us. By the time we saw her coming it was already too late and we ran right into her. Fortunately nobody was injured. Her car was trashed but our truck, while the steering and front frame is bent, suffered little more than cosmetic damage. We drove home.

We did the standard insurance thing, two inspectors come out to survey the damage, information is exchanged, and then you wait to hear from your insurance company. Meanwhile you research the local laws and educate yourself on right-of-way and other sundry items.

…such as the following, which states clearly that when in an unmarked intersection, the right-of-way preference goes to the vehicle on the right, and/or the street with through-way preference.

I was both on the through-way street, *and* the vehicle on the right. So, clearly, I thought, I had the right-of-way and the other lady’s insurance will pay for the damage. Having learned the laws I felt confident when I went in to get the results from my insurance agent.

WRONG!

My insurance company is leaving me to hang. “This all depends on where you are from,” my insurance agent explains to me. Translation: because you are a gringo, you are instantly guilty. Nice. Forget the law, forget that it is much more expensive for them to pay to replace the entire front end of the car WHICH CAUSED THE ACCIDENT than it is to say, “this is the law, your client is clearly guilty, and you should pay for the damage to my client.” Forget that they will lose a customer. Forget that I am a legal resident, forget that I have a local drivers license and a locally registered vehicle and I know what I am doing and know the laws. Nah, that’s all unimportant.

The corporate office’s official excuse: Because the street I was on changes names on the other side of the intersection, I am therefore culpable. Not a note about the fact that it is the secondary throughway through town on which all the bus routes run to avoid traffic on the main road. Nor that there are no street signs to signify the change-of-name. Because the locals are too lazy to post them and also because if they did, someone would steal them (as in here and here). So I shall hang because of mismanaged data on a map.

Fortunately the agent is on my side despite the ruling from the corporate office, so he has arranged tomorrow afternoon to help me get this straightened out. He has written in to appeal the decision in corporate, and he is going with me to Crash Lady’s insurance office to see what we can wrangle out of them. We shall see what happens. I am not hopeful. If they fail to please me I shall put their name up here with a notice to boycott.

Added Aug 25, 2012:
The company in question is RSA. They are reputed to be a quality insurance company (we have multiple policies for vehicle and home coverage). However at this point, I will not renew my policy with them, and instead I shall transfer it to a different company upon its expiration.

Welcome home! I can’t wait to get the F back out of here and get back to Chile where laws are at least more respected than the Kangaroo Subjective Interpretation you get here in Uruguay backwardsland.

Yet more ridiculous prices

Posted: August 21, 2012 in Life, Stupidity, Travel
Tags: , ,

Diesel fuel costs $36 pesos per liter these days (US$1.69, or $6.42/gallon). The road toll prices were recently also hiked to $55 pesos (US$2.58). So now it costs about US$60 in fuel to drive round-trip from Punta Del Este to Montevideo, with an additional US$10.32 in tolls.

More price hilarity

Posted: August 16, 2012 in Food, Stupidity
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The insanity continues:

Tube of Pringles chips: UY$72 (USD$3.39)

Bag of locally-made potato chips, 500g: UY$126 (USD$5.93)!!!

8 hot dogs, locally-made: UY$95 (USD$4.47)!!!

And, here’s the one that hits it out of the park in so many ways I cannot list them all:

The 200 empty shell casings for my .303 rifle, which I left with the gun shop back in January 2012, I have decided not to recharge, because in August 2012 (8 months later) I finally got an estimate for USD$6 per shot! For reloads! For reference, I can buy them brand-new elsewhere for less than $1, sometimes as cheap as 50 cents each.

How the heck are Uruguayans supposed to afford food?