This sounds like the title of a somewhat interesting spy novel, at least. In fact, if anyone does the treatment and submits it to a major studio- I would like Robert Redford to play me (he is still good, after all these years). Anyway, back to the real world.
Last night (actually at 30 minutes past midnight this morning), I boarded a bus for Paysandú. Why? I'm glad you asked. Here is the story.
For the past 6 months, we have been trying to find a way to get our Uruguayan driver's licenses without having to take the test. In the past (we were told by our residency facilitator), the US Consulate would do a translation of the driver's license and then Uruguay would accept that, and issue you one here. We were told by our facilitator (the guy who we paid to know) that this option was no longer open. In fact, we were told that he had gone so far as to contact the main office in Canelones (our department) and asked if any accommodation could be made and we were assured that it was not possible. So, Denise's license went out of date, and this month mine would expire.
However, on a local forum, I casually mentioned that I was going to have to take the written and practical test to get my license and was informed that I should be able to take my US driver's license, medical exam (required in any case) and a passport showing entry into the country less than one year and be able to get a license, on the spot. Ah! Here is where the problem begins. Our passports haven't been stamped for entry for over a year and 1/2. So, in order to take advantage of this possibility, I would have to cross into Argentina and back, get the stamp and complete all of this before the 31st of this month- a month that is busy on anybody's calendar. Hence the midnight trip to Paysandú.
Well, it actually worked out quite well. The trip, itself was uneventful. Got some shuteye on the trip up. Upon arriving at Paysandú, I realized that I had to take a taxi to Colon (the Argentina side of the bridge) and back to get the stamp. I was quoted 500 pesos for a 30K trip. Probably a bit high, but it worked out, since I explained my situation to the driver on the way over and he was able to explain why I needed to use the passport to make the crossing, and not simply my cedula (UY ID card). In fact, without the cedula- I would have been subject to fines. So, after explaining- Stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp- drive over the bridge and then stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp (getting UY and Argentine entries and exits in the passport. On the way back, we passed by this lovely plaza and church.
I rushed back to the terminal, and found that the earliest bus back was about 2 hours later. Good. So I thought I would try and get the medical exam out of the way in Paysandú. After being directed to 2 different hospitals and being informed that that is done by appointment- I was directed to a clinic way uptown. I searched and searched and finally found it. It wasn't open yet, so a few of us were waiting around when they came to unlock the doors. We took our numbers. Most were there for the carné de salud (your basic health card), but since I needed the driver's exam, I was told it would be later in the day- no go for me! So I returned unsuccessful, just in time to get the bus back to Montevideo.
Since it was day, I got a chance to see some of the rural parts of the country. It reminded me of rural America, farms and equipment and all. I was particularly impressed with Flores. It had everything you could want in a city. Almost all of the little towns along the way had nice main streets and many beautiful stores and restaurants. I had not expected it to be so nice. I was pleasantly surprised. I wish I had taken some pictures of the cows I saw. Now they were contented! They were laying around in lush fields just hanging out.
Arriving back in MVD, I now had to find the SUAT clinic that was recommended to me for the medical exam. Fortunately it was very close to Tres Cruces (one of the main bus terminals) and within minutes I was inside, filling out the forms, giving money (430 pesos) and eventually was ushered into a rather large exam room. I was asked about medical history (broken bones, diabetes, etc), whether I wore glasses or had any noticeable problems, to which I could answer no. They did note that I have high blood pressure and informed me that if it was too high, they could not certify me. I had forgotten to take my pill that morning, I had been on the road for 13 hours and had not eaten since the night before. But, I passed (it was high, but within the range). They gave me my certificate and I rushed off to the Intendencia.
The licensing portion of the Intendencia closes at 3:00! I was there 15 minutes late. So, we don't know the end to this story. Will I have spent hours of my time and thousands of pesos for nothing? Or will I get my driver's license tomorrow?
Denise wanted me to hold off posting until I knew the outcome. But that wouldn't be any fun. Even if this is a total failure, it was a great experience. She pointed out that I was able to take off at a moment's notice, mash enough Spanish together to get the job done, and came back home in one piece. So- successful or not, it makes a good story- and I'm all about the story.