Welcome to Uruguay

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Welcome to Uruguay

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Less wealth, more creativity

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Traveling to my dear Uruguay from Canada is not an easy journey. There are no straight flights and more than two connections are always required.This time I flew from Ottawa via Boston-Panama City to Montevideo. I should consider myself lucky because my total trip was only 18 hours. Sometimes it takes up to 30 hours.

Connecting flight times were very brief. In Boston, I had 90 minutes to change terminals, then go through security again. The second stop in Panama was even more brief: 50 minutes that I passed, running across an airport packed with people, trying to make it to my gate. Needless to say, I was sweaty and stressed by the time I heard the last call. But I made it! After a final  long 7 hours, I landed in Montevideo – very tired. It was midnight yet my brother and my best friend Tammy were waiting for me. I felt loved and happy because of their welcome!

I slept over at Tammy’s home. Just like old times, we stayed up chatting until 3:30 am. She is one of those friends that time and distance are never a barrier in our 45-year friendship. Everything had gone smoothly after I left Ottawa. I honestly was quite amazed because usually  something goes wrong: either a delay or canceled flight, or something happens on the plane.

But my luck didn’t last long. I woke up the next morning and went to pick up my car at my parents’ home where it had been parked during my time in Canada. As was expected, the battery was dead but that wasn’t all. The car was parked with the driver’s door so close to the wall that no one could access it to get in. I also learned that this brand of cars has only one lock and that was on the driver’s side. What was I to do?

Edward has been the doorman of my parent’s building for over 40 years. He didn’t finish high school but he is a creative and resourceful man. I called him for help. He stood for a while observing the car, trying to come up with a solution. First he tried to get through the car door with a wire and fish for the lock, but he couldn’t. So he climbed onto the top of the car. Lying on his tummy, he reached the other window that was slightly open so was able to fish for the lock and opened it. We were celebrating his achievement when we realized that it didn’t solve the problem as the other door still was closed.

I was ready to call the AMA and pay whatever amount was necessary to solve the problem. He was sweating. I was watching the time nervously as I needed to pick up Eli my husband at the airport in a few hours. Edward came up with another idea! He got a thicker wire and made a hook at the end. After some Sweaty minutes his patience and precision paid off. The door was opened. I could have never come up with such a solution!

What made him capable to create a repertoire of solutions one after another?  I think that’s what happens with people who cannot afford hire others to solve problems. They sharpen their creativity and resolve the difficulty the best way possible. Now,we had an unlocked car but no live battery. He phoned AMA and asked for a boost. Seeing I was stressed, he sent me for coffee. By the time I was back, the car was running and ready to go. I felt blessed and relieved.

He helped load my luggage and I departed for the airport. I decide to stop to fill some gas as it was early. A young lady came to help me and asked me to turn off the engine. I explained that I was afraid to get stuck again without battery. She told me not to worry as they could give me a boost if needed. I turned off the car and that was it. My car wouldn’t  start again.

The gas attendants tried to boost my car with different cables, different cars, but nothing worked. They even offered to change the battery. I agreed out of desperation but they didn’t have the type I needed in stock.  

By that time Eli had already arrived but I couldn’t pick him up because I couldn’t start my car. I was very close to the airport but couldn’t make it. I was so frustrated. The gas attendants tried without luck to find a taxi. They felt bad and guilty! They were trying to help me in every possible way but nothing worked.I called AMA again; I also called my cousin asking her to pick up Eli and bring him to the gas station. I couldn’t do anything else:  I just sat and waited.

The reunion with Eli after a month of traveling separately wasn’t what I would call romantic. It happened at a gas station while the AMA was boosting the battery of my car. However,  I thought to myself: what the heck, we are together recharging our personal batteries and the problem is about to be resolved. I was right. After 10 minutes, the car started. Also,  Eli and I had an opportunity to visit with my cousin and we were ready to go on with our day.

We drove out of town where my parents had been waiting for more than  an hour but  I was afraid to turn off the car. By the time we arrived home, it was late afternoon. Sitting on the balcony while watching a beautiful sunset, I reflected upon my day. It was certainly stressful because nothing went as planned. But I was very thankful for the kindness of the people who bent over backward trying to help me solve every problem I encountered throughout the day.

People’s kindness and willingness to help others is one of the qualities about Uruguayan culture that I most appreciate and love. People who have few financial resources become extremely creative. Solutions to problems are improvised whenever nothing goes as planned. Everything is spontaneous and relaxed. It’s a very warm and helpful culture. Very simple and very neat!


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