Our trip to Montevideo yesterday, was a day filled with activity- obtaining medical cards in the morning, fingerprinted at Interpol for FBI clearance later, freedom marches in the streets and then signing the boleta (official house offer) in the evening.
Lets start with the medical card. Every citizen and every immigrant (yes we are immigrants) must have a medical exam. It is surprisingly thorough. They do a blood workup, background information, blood pressure, eye exam, urine analysis (by the way- you bring your own urine sample in a bottle that you buy from the drugstore) and dental exam. Now none of these is extensive, but they do give you recommendations along the way. I was about 20 lbs overweight and was recommended to lose some. However, since they weighed in kilos- I saw that I only weighed 75.5, so I felt much better then if I weighed 170. In about 45 minutes (yes, they have the results from the tests while you wait), they issue you a fully laminated medical id card. You are not in any danger of being rejected for any medical problem- it is just a requirement. And of course all Uruguayans have access to free medical at state clinics. It is not the very best, nor the speediest- but it is available (and did I mention?)- free.
Then we were whisked off to Interpol for fingerprinting. Each request for residency is accompanied by some type of official police (in the case of US citizens- FBI) report and they take your application, perform the fingerprinting and send it off to the agency for the report. I have never been fingerprinted so thoroughly. By the time the process is over, both of your hands are covered with thick ink (this is not the time to scratch your nose). Then you go to a little washroom, do your best to remove the remnants, and you are back on the street, with the rest of day in Montevideo.
While on our way to the bank (to see if the money that I wired actually arrived), we came upon this huge street rally. Peter Stross, the man helping us with immigration, told us that the speakers were actually high ranking PIT-CNT officials(nationwide union central), because this was an annual celebration of the day when the military regime was ended in Uruguay in 1985, ushering in a democratic government. The speeches were loud, the flag waving frantic and it was very peaceful- it was not a protest.
As we walked around the city, we came upon this interesting contrast- old versus new. Denise's sharp eye caught this interesting picture. Click on it to expand the photo.
Then on to the bank, to check on our money transfer- another harrowing experience with our lack of Spanish. Well, we managed to find out that it had arrived, but there were a list of demands, before it would be released. They needed proof of it's intended use. The US government has required most banks around the world to track incoming dollars in an effort to stem drug trade and no doubt, terrorist funding. So we find it necessary to provide some documents showing our intent to buy a house. That will be coming. Then on to another bank, that has an agreement with the US for direct deposit of social security payments. Finally at the second branch we tried, we sat down, made our request for that new account and were informed that I needed my social security card. Now I've got to find that. Who would have thought I would need a social security card to apply for direct deposit of my social security check in Uruguay?
As the day wore on, it got closer to signing our offer on the house. While waiting in the Plaza del Indepencencia (the main plaza in town), we looked up and saw this odd little statement about life in Uruguay. If you expand the picture, you will see, that in the midst of this beautiful, stately building (no doubt very expensive real estate), overlooking the main plaza- someone has taken advantage of the sunny day to wash their clothes and hang them out to dry on the windows and shutters of their apartment. Because the day was so warm (60's), the ice cream and hot dog vendors were out, and we tried our first ice cream cone. It was delicious. Like some of the best Italian gelato you have ever tasted. The hot dog wasn't great- but it wasn't bad.
As we waited for the escribano (real estate attorney) to pick us up, I took the picture of this statue in a nearby plaza. It pictures cavalry crashing in combat. Then to the escribanos. Hector came and walked us back to his office. Very nice office right above an interior shopping mall, filled with small shops that winds through many of the downtown buildings. Hector told us that if you are familiar with them, you can use them to avoid rain when going from street to street. In the office we met his cousin, Rose and their assistant. Rose and Hector work together in a law firm that goes back several generations to their grandfather. Very professional, they had all the document in order and had arranged for the sellers (a doctor and his wife) to be there with their escribano and also the real estate sales agent. The documents were read out loud, the cashiers check that I had obtained for the deposit was shown around and documents were signed by all. As an interesting side note- the cashiers check we had brought, when given to Rose (who presided over the signing) was put in a little wallet, along with what looked to be other checks, money, etc. At the appropriate moment, she took the wallet out, retrieved the check, showed it around and then promptly put it back into the wallet and put the wallet away. Just a comment about the personal nature of business in Uruguay. Then after everything was signed we all kissed goodbye (yes, remember you give a little kiss in greeting and a kiss goodbye) and we all parted. By the way- I have learned that Denise can kiss everybody and I can kiss the women- but I need to kind of ease up on kissing the men (don't want to give the wrong impression).
Back to Atlantida on the bus and a good nights sleep (but not after a quick milanesa at our local restaurant). A BIG day in the BIG city.