Today, the exchange rate is oh, so dismal! I've been trying to hold out for a better one but the $19.30 rate has been hanging around for a week. Today is February the first, the start of a new month and soon people will be stopping by our door for their due. So it's off to the money house (cambio) to exchange our Social Security dollars for Pesos. The Cambio house offers a better rate than the bank does. We might get 5 to 10 cents more per dollar through them or $19.35 or $19.40 this month . It makes a difference!
A good exchange rate, say like the one in November, of $19.80 can mean a project or two can be accomplished around the Glass house. Hey, a good exchange rate can even add a night out at a restaurant or a Pizza, although I like the pizzas Wally makes at home with his greek olives and feta cheese!
I mentioned people stopping by our door for payment. You might not know this but the health insurance company sends a person to your house each month to collect the premiums in person. The person or in our case a lady named Miriam arrives early in the month with our monthly preprinted health cards. She knocks on your door and waits for you to answer, she carries change. They never call first! They just assume you'll be home! In the 3 years we have lived here, I've only missed her 3 times. I had to go to the clinic the first time and get her cell phone number, call her and rearrange for her to swing by the next day. So each month you have to get a new health card to show you've paid. I just thought you like to know that tid bit.
Jennie is a new, up and coming photographer. She has taken classes, joined clubs and entered several competitions and won! While checking out her Facebook albums and photos I saw a print of hers that I feel in love with. It is of some palm trees on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I love graphic quality photos, so this one, having been not only photographed by her but also computer manipulated by her as well, really struck a chord with me. It reminded me of my Southern California, Pacific coast upbringing. I gave her a thumbs up and mentioned how much I liked that photo of hers. Well, what a surprise I got when she offered to send a signed and matted copy of it to me all the way down here to Uruguay. What a sweet and amazing offer! I said Yes, Yes, Yes!
This being a blog about Uruguay you might be interested to know that the 19x24 1/2" box (6 inch deep) packaged up through her local UPS store arrived safely and was delivered through our post office to our door. In addition to the matting costs and whatever the UPS store charged her, It cost her $40 US dollars just in postage to send it down here from California, USA. It took a month to arrive. She mailed it December 27th (after Christmas) and it arrived today Feb. 1st. I just thought you blog readers, who like to know the price of mundane things, would like to know how long it took to arrive and the cost to ship such a package. Because the package was light in weight, it was able to be delivered to my door by post. I have heard horror stories of larger packages having to go through customs and being picked up in downtown Montevideo at the port. A 60% custom charge is accessed on what customs thinks the item is worth.
I wasn't charged anything today and got the pleasant surprise of not one but three photos! So I am including Jennie Duncan's photo site and a second site at http://jensphotogallery1.shutterfly.com/ so you can look at her photos. So in the midst of my fretting over the poor exchange rate today and how poor I would be this month, I was suddenly made rich! Rich in beauty and warm feelings of friendship!!! Thank you so much Jennie! You are as beautiful a person in spirit as your photos will be on my wall!
I got a second delivery today, my first firewood order of the year. Every year, I tell myself, we will start ordering wood in the summer for our winter usage but we often spend the money borrowing it for other projects. Well, I finally held some money back and we bought and received a ton today. I tried looking around for a better price but the $2700 peso price ordered from the same guy as last year (Eduardo) was the best I could get. Expats call each other with news on various prices and while I was told to look up this guy or that guy and to go here and there, the reality was that everyone I contacted had a different issue making my purchase difficult. So, I settled back on last year's guy. Back in 2009 we paid $1900 Pesos a ton or Mil but he got out of the business last year. Still, we called him just in case. No, he still was not in business. Last year, I felt I was taken advantage of by a price of $2800 pesos because some pieces of wood were too large to burn safely in my wood-stove.
wandering last year and found Eduardo. This year I tried a few new places first. One guy said that no wood would be available (of the size we needed) until the end of February as he was too busy selling wood for BBQ or Asado which is smaller. One guy wanted $2900 Pesos a ton and he said he would not stack the wood nor come onto your property but would just dump it in front of your house for that price.
Eduardo said he would charge me $2800 Pesos but I talked him down. I left Wally waiting in the car as he is not as willing to bargain as I am. So $2700 pesos was decided on and that included the free delivery, coming onto the property and neatly stacking the wood in my wood storage area. One ton of cut wood generally takes a pickup size trucks's bed and a small trailer full, as seen in the above picture. All my orders of a ton of wood from the many different companies all hauled in the little trailer and the pickup full of wood. So that insight might help you judge your order's worth. Astillas is the Spanish word you need for the cut open type of wood versus the word Rolos for the cut log type of wood. I always get the person to write out the price we have settled on, on a piece of paper. It helps get clearly in my head and theirs what the price was in the midst of delivery day.
Since Eduardo remembered last year's routine he remarked how quick the delivery and stacking went this year. Still in looking back over last year's post the cost went up $200 Pesos. I paid Eduardo $2500 per ton last year. As we pay our bills this month we hope to have some more money left over for a second wood order. A better exchange rate would have changed the wording "we hope to" in that sentence to "we will".
We have space now to store 3 tons of wood covered. I added the 3rd storage area while Wally was in California. We use no more than 5 tons per winter and we had about 3/4 of a ton left over from winter.
I've said it before, Uruguay is not a cheap place to live in and the prices keep going up! My health insurance went up from $1494 Pesos in June of 2011 to $1587 Pesos in the month of January, 2012. I don't know if it will be more this month. I'll have to wait for her knock. Still, richness and beauty in life can be found if you keep an eye out for it and are willing to say yes to it's delivery.