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Planning Your Trip Through Uruguay – Part 2

March 4, 2006

Last night we had our first real taste of customer service in a semi-emergency. It was pouring rain when the  main circuit breaker shut off – and nothing we could do would make it turn back on.  So we got out the yellow pages and called the very first electrician listed at 11PM on Friday night.  Carlos answered.

Copperhead explained the problem.  Carlos told him that undoubtedly there was a major short circuit on one of the three additional circuit boxes that was not letting the main breaker come back on.  We found these, turned them off and sure enough the main breaker functioned normally. We followed instructions and found the bad circuit, but still had intermittent problems. The cost, thus far: nothing.  Carlos just visited us. It appears that some of the outside wiring is very bad.  As we are not seriously disrupted by one circuit being off, Carlos will email us a proposal to fix everything, and will  detail the cost, so we can get it approved by the landlord.  The cost after his visit:  still nothing. I’m impressed. This is the kind of problem that always turned into an expensive nightmare in Costa Rica.

I guess they haven’t figured out how to “sock it to the gringos yet”; maybe their culture is such that they never will. Too easy – too normal; I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

March 6, 2006

I can’t take it!  Waiting for the other hob-nailed boot to drop is killing me!  If this keeps up I’m going to have to leave here because of the stress…of waiting for the big “gotcha” that must be out there somewhere. This morning, the government-owned phone company, Antel,  showed up as promised and installed our two additional phone lines: amazing!  The only downside is that if you want more than one jack per line, you have to hire a private contractor for the additional jacks. Earlier in the day, a 20-page tabloid size advertising flyer in full color was delivered in the post.  It was from the local 24 hour pharmacy chain.  It offered the usual gamut of items from lipstick to hemorrhoid treatment. That, plus free dial-up Internet access and even real street addresses is too much to take. The normalcy is killing me. To paraphrase one of my readers, I’m waiting for the “immigration police to kick in my door”, or the transplanted Russian Mafia to kidnap Harry, or something, anything that will burst this bubble of seeming normalcy before I get suckered in again.

March 7, 2006

I’m relieved.  Something has finally gone wrong.  The ADSL line will not be installed today, probably will not be installed tomorrow, but may be installed Thursday.  It figures that little things would go well and the biggest thing would go poorly.  The problem appears to be eerily similar to Costa Rica in that even though we are getting our ADSL service from Netgate, a private firm, the state phone company Antel, is still involved because it comes to us on their landlines.According to Netgate, Antel hasn’t delivered the modem to them yet.  We planned on a second internet connection anyway, so today we’ll order another one directly from Antel and see how long that takes. We went with Netgate first because we were told it had better customer service – perhaps we were misinformed.  In the meantime, we are still on dialup, but at least we now each have our own line – and another line for voice calls.  That is some progress. Follow-up on the electrical problem:  none.  No word from the electrician or the landlord – no crisis, so we’re not pushing it too much, yet.  Apparently the spirit of ‘mañana’ is indeed alive away well here, every though it has had a European face-lift…..

March 8, 2006

Maybe it was more than just a face lift?  I was truly relieved when things went sideways yesterday.

But yesterday late afternoon they went and got better on me again, so I’m really confused now.

Yesterday the landlord called and apologized for not getting back to us sooner – she was trying to contact the electrician she always used and trusted.  He came last night and fixed things.  Later last night, Netgate called and said they would install the ADSL line today.  They just did.  Next week a second  ADSL will be installed from another company on which we will use the VoIP phones exclusively.  This improves quality and also gives us two providers in case one is down.  Now that things are like they are supposed to be, I have to worry all over again.  Darn!

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March 9, 2006

Two weeks ago today I landed in Montevideo.  Since that time Copperhead, my business partner, and  I have leased a house, installed phone lines, acquired cell phones and had broadband internet installed.  Business bank accounts are in the works as well. An interesting observation occurred to me yesterday: in sharp contradistinction to Costa Rica, this has all been done without an attorney or notary or the expense connected thereto.  Nothing took more than a passport and money.  Copperhead went into the phone company and came out with a working cell phone. I cheered him on over a beer at the cafe across the street.

Another difference is the attitude towards time.  After living in the West Indies for a while I learned the system there:  whatever time frame was promised would really happen in the next higher time unit:  1 minute is really 1 hour, 1 hour is really 1 day, 1 day is really one week, etc.

I also figured out the time rules in Costa Rica:  there are none!  If someone is really considerate, they will ring you 45 minutes after they were supposed to arrive to cancel or postpone.  If they are from the government telecoms, they will set an appointment and never show up; or they will show up out of the blue and expect you to drop everything to accommodate them.

Time here seems to be understood in an Italianate mode:  they try to be on time, but sometimes things happen; and when things happen they are very, very sorry and will do better next time:  and they do. Thus far, nothing has slipped more than a day – which amazes me.  I waited weeks for telephones in Costa Rica and months for broadband. This place may really be “Eisenhower’s America in Spanish”.  ¡Hasta luego!

Excerpted from “Montevideo, Uruguay: Diary of an Ex-Pat” in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 83.

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