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Monday, August 8, 2011

Mundane Things!

Well, It's been a while since my last blog and our readers are restless.

A friend from Washington State even wrote to give me suggestions on things to write about, in case I had writer's block.

Here is a copy of possible subjects that "D.C." from Washington suggested:

So, I'm thinking the new or old subjects I would like to hear about would be:
VW stories
Wood stove heating in detail. Tech details on stove etc. How often you 'stoke'.............
Utility expenses, power, propane, firewood, TV cable, Internet service, water,
    telephone and Cell phone, gasoline, sewer or septic.
Daily temperatures thru the years...possibly a chart.
Things you are planning to purchase in the future.
Fishing, crabbing.
Are CB radios ever used there ?
Are Ham radios popular ?
What does it cost you to send a letter to the US.
What does it cost you to make a 3 minute phone call to Seattle.
What is the difference in using a cell phone to call Seattle as opposed to land line.
Is Verizon to Verizon cell talk free as it is here ?
Where does your garbage company dispose of same ?
You have bars on your windows....explain.
Is a hot tub affordable using electricity to heat it with ?
Is alcoholism and drug use prevalent in the local society ?
What does a Best Western type motel cost in your area ?
Is prostitution a common thing in the local society ?
What would a nice VW bug cost American ?
What would the same year VW Westphalia cost ?
Ha Ha Doc, I bet you didn't think that I would take your advice so literarily but here it goes.

Using the above list as a reference, I'm going to tackle for this week's post some down to earth subjects or rather, some"Mundane" things, like the Utility expenses we pay, here in Uruguay. Bear in mind that the dollar exchange rate keeps lowering. This month (August) the exchange rate is $18.25 pesos per each USA dollar. So you can do the math.

The power company is UTE which stands for  Usinas y Trasmisiones Electricas. It is government owned so it's full title is the Administracion Nacional de etc...(see above). The power or electric bill varies month to month. The bill includes a little graph chart so you can tell what your usage was during the same month last year and the chart continues on up to the current month. I can see for instance that my highest usage is, not surprisingly, during the 3 months of our winter; July, August and September. Our wood stove has a fan that sends the heat throughout our house so since it's on almost 24 hours a day for those months it makes sense that those are the highest bills. We don't have an air conditioner for the summer months so winter is our only high season.

Some people are on plans so they choose initially when signing up, what time of day or night that they will be using the most electricity and then they have to stick to that same set time, month after month. If they go over the agreed amount they are charged or gigged a lot. Wally and I can't live with that kind of set choice or pressure so we just pay the standard fees. Under so many kilowatts your charged so much per watt, go over that and your then charged a higher rate for the over wattage only. It doesn't matter if I decide to reverse my schedule and party at midnight or two in the afternoon, the time of day doesn't matter only the amount of watts.

For instance,  4.82kwh= $186.47
                      100kwh = $274.35
                      179kwh= $710.09

Add that up, then add some more charges called, Cargo Flijo (fixed charge) of $114.12 then throw in some tax called I.V.A; say of $282.71 pesos and add it all up. The grand total on that bill was $1568 pesos (they round up or down to the nearest peso) or $85.92, USA dollars (at 18.25 pesos per dollar). That was for the month of march, slightly before Autumn. I'm in winter now, so it will be a bit higher this month. In most Latin American countries the cost of electricity is very high.

The water company is O.S.E. It stands for Obras Sanitarios del Estado (obras means "works" in Spanish). It too has a little water usage chart. Uruguay has clean and abundant water so the bill is much more reasonable. Depending on the month and possible home projects think around $250 - $350 pesos for water. Most people in the suburbs have well water available for gardening use and lawn irrigation. You don't have to go very deep to find water but if you do go deeper then that water is usually very potable. So the cost of city water can be decreased through well usage.

The telecommunications company is Antel. It stands for Administracion Nacional de Telecomunicaciones.You get two separate bills from them. One is for internet service and the other for your landline telephone. Mobile or cellar phone plans are through other companies. Internet is about $1000 pesos, the most expensive of the two bills. You pay more or less depending on the speed you opt for. Telephone is around $200 pesos depending on usage. They give you the dates and phone call duration times (of your calls) so you can monitor the bill. As a side note, when making phone calls, house to house calls or cell phone to cell phones calls are recommended, don't mix them up, it costs more when you do.

All of these utility bills can be paid in one place, at a neighborhood Abitab center, pictured in the above title photo.

I'll quickly run through a few more bills to answer our friends' curiosity. We used to get cable TV and paid about $50 (USA dollars) a month for it, without any of those speciality channels (although we could have ordered them and paid more). We dropped it, as we now use the computer for anything we want to watch.

Gas/propane tanks used for cooking and also for some small heaters are $373 pesos a refill. You have to first buy the tank yourself (on your own) somewhere. An empty tank can cost in the neighborhood of $2500 to $3000 pesos, then you buy the fill for $373. I remember buying a pretty gold tank, when they came to bring me my gas order fill, they took it away and gave me one of the companies' old blue tanks. They bring a pre-filled tank to you, so don't bother buying a good tank you'll never see it again anyway!

Firewood, I feel that I got "taken or gipped" on my last purchase of $2800 pesos per cord of wood, for Eucalyptus wood. An expat in Atlántida (a nearby town) has since given me an ad for firewood and a telephone number that I'm going to call and sometime this month I'll will try for it's price of $2400 pesos a cord. I will also request smaller pieces from them. I will probably go in person to see them as my telephone Spanish skills are not great.

We have a septic system it can run depending on the company you call anywhere from $600 pesos to $800 to empty. We have a very large one so about every 6 months we call for removal.

Gasoline, I don't know the exact price per gallon or Liter here in Uruguay because I've been walking everywhere. I guess, it's around $5.00 to $6.00 a gallon ,USA dollars.

Uruguay is NOT! an inexpensive or lower place to live like, let's say Mexico. It is simply a slower paced place to live, more restful.

Okay, I am now very depressed and bored with the mention of all of these "Gastos" or expenses and their rundowns.

 I'll show you some flower photos now to cheer us up. I used to have two huge Camilla trees back in Washington State and they would bloom in February. That is about the equivalent for this month of August, here in Uruguay. We have had a sudden spell of warm weather and so the early bloomers are blooming. My Daffodils are all up and some trees are blooming, yellow puffs, as well. Here are some photos of what's coming up around me in Uruguay.

I choose the yellow flower photos because they are so sunny and happy looking!

I might not be able to address everything on D.C's list but I will, in the future, keep some of the items in mind and try and mention them in a blog post or two. This way, any of you that are interested in the more mundane things occurring in Uruguay can get your fill.


Phil said...

Thank you for another great post. Even the mundane is of great importance when learning about a new land. Very interesting.

I liked the pretty yellow flowers!

Anonymous said...

Hi Denise
Approx. how much do you think one should budget for wood for an average winter at U$2400.00 per chord

How long does a tank of gas last you (on average)

Regards, neddie

Alfonso said...

If you are paying 1000 pesos for your internet connection then you have two options:

1)they are ripping you (our service costs about 490 pesos or so)

2)it's the super-ultra-mega best internet conection I have ever seen xDD

Wally said...

Alfonso- I don't think there is any way they can "rip us off". The prices are posted on the Antel site. We have chosen the 2M libre service which costs $883 (Denise rounded up the price to $1000). You have the 1024/256 service, which probably would work for us also. I will look into that, when I return.

Denise said...

Dear Neddie,
We try and figure no less than 4 cords of wood for the winter months only, 5 would be a bonus for us. However, while I was asking around for a better cord price one expat had already used up 3 1/2 cords of wood while after double checking I had only used up 2 1/2.

So it would depend on #1. How big your house is and it's insulation . #2. What you're using to heat it with, for example: a wood stove verses a fireplace. #3How big your heating unit is. #4 What type of wood and it's dryness are you using. #5 How warm do you really want to keep your house? We keep the door closed on two rooms usually, but we heat the rest including the hallway.

I hope that helps!

Denise said...

Thank you Phil!

Denise said...

Dear Neddie,
I forgot to answer your gas tank question! I recently bought a little gas heater for a period of bitter cold (there was frost!) I learned that running it for 8 to 9 hours a day straight through would quickly use up the $373 peso fill in a week. I was glad I had the money back then but now I only use the heater to take the chill off, while deciding if it's worth it to make a fire for the day or not. The cook stove's tank on the other hand is never run for more than a couple of hours of baking and cooking time a day and so it can last for over a month (the same size tank). Again, It all depends on your life style!

Maink said...

Hi Neddie,

I thought I would reply to your question about wood since I live up the coast from Denise in a completely different style of house. Our home is an open floor plan with 5 levels. There's a wood burning stove in the lowest level that runs constantly on red wood and we build supplemental fires in the fireplace on the third level as needed through winter. We pay less per ton than Denise and Wally do. Our gardeners supply the wood at a discount since we pay them monthly for their services, so we paid $1700/ton last year and $1800/ton this year. We also go through a heck of a lot more wood than Wally and Denise! :) We're up to 8 tons so far and will probably have to get a couple more before all is said and done unless this great weather holds. On the upside, people always comment on how nice and toasty our house is when they come in from outside. ;)


Hawk's Organic Farm And Orchard said...

wow, denise and wally. thanks sooo much for your blessing of this blog. i have been researching uruguay for 3 years and have a local friend whos moving to the lake region next spring/summer. he turned me onto uruguay as a place to retire. i have learned so much from you. i probably want toi live farther up the coast towards Chuy, Im a writer and an organic farmer. I would probably raise most of my own food easily from what i know of the country. I would also bring my own solar panels,simple farm tools, etc in the container i ship there. Im guesiing its cheaper to live in the north near brazil and prehaps a touch warmer? again thank you for your warmth and care in writing this . you have been more helpful than you know. Billy

Hawk's Organic Farm And Orchard said...

thank you. i hacve researched uruguay for 3 years, a friend who is moving there to the lakes region in 2012 turned me onto this amazing country. your blog has been warm and honest and helful. i will be in uruguay around feb or march for 3 weeks to feel my way around. Im leaning towards living in the Chuy area on the beach but securing some farm land as well to grow most my own foods. it might be a touch warmer in winter and i love the beach are, its where i grew up in america and feel at home. I realize the northern rocha beach area is desolate in the winter but im a writer as well and that appeals to me. besides i like to grow in film covered greenhouses in the winter and there is lots that will grow in the uruguayan winter climate and a greenghouse. again, thanks so much ofr your efforts , they are a blessing. Billy