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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Expat the Difference in Montevideo defines “expat” as:

expat (ˌɛksˈpæt) — n , — adj informal short for expatriate



[v. eks-pey-tree-eyt or, especially Brit., -pa-tree-; adj., n. eks-pey-tree-it, -eyt or, especially Brit., -pa-tree-]

1. to banish (a person) from his or her native country.
2. to withdraw (oneself) from residence in one's native country.
3. to withdraw (oneself) from allegiance to one's country.

When we realize it from time to time (even those from previous onsite assignments), we call ourselves “expat” always with a dash of mockery. The reason I could think of is that we come from a Third World country and landing to another country which is more dominating compared to the Philippines in terms of its place to world economy and the like is a little humbling. I felt that particularly in the US or in the Netherlands. The usage of the term is just different as compared to meeting some foreigner colleagues back home and joining them for a guided tour in Intramuros or having a dinner at The Fort.

Last weekend was unexpectedly weird. Unknowingly, it looks like I’ve completed the expat checklist in span of only two days. Let me count the ways:

1. Visit a touristy place.

Uruguay is such a small country with population of only 3 million. For sure, for almost two years, we’ve visited all the top tourist spots especially here in Montevideo. Except for one which, in my thought bubble, is fine for the adage “saving the best for last” (or shall I just say that I know that I’ll be going back to Manila for good once I’ve visited it). It’s the museum of Joaquin Torres Garcia’s works right at the portal of Ciudad Vieja (Peatonal Sarandí 683, website here). The old building which is close to a library-restaurant houses some of the famous Uruguayan artist’s paintings and scribbles. There aren’t that many that’s why I planned to go there and just catch a guided tour. Unfortunately, when I went there two Saturdays ago, the tour was not available. I browsed the collection almost all by myself and it was occasionally sad and scary (a bit dim and quaint, and to top it all, all captions are in Spanish). It’s actually difficult to miss JTG’s signature cubism as it is generously printed in almost all the souvenir items from here (t-shirts, wall décor, etc.) or even on the wall in some streets. I like the one with “America” on top but I did not see it there. The girl in the museum shop mentioned that it is kept in a government office and it is not available for viewing. I like any art form that combines aesthetics and math. For me, JTG’s style of mixing proportional shapes and colors is of the same beauty line as the works of M.C. Escher.

2. Locate a restaurant that serves dishes from your country.

Well, not exactly from the Philippines but the vegetarian buffet at Bosque Bambu (San José 1060 corner Río Negro with website here) includes different flavors that are very close to home. You see, we’re getting tired of the delatas we brought from Manila and instinctively, we tend to find an alternative. The said Asian restaurant offers a buffet every Saturday at 10am to 3pm I think. It was another Filipino colleague who just came here in Montevideo two months ago who discovered it while looking for ingredients for pancit. Apparently, the other half of the establishment functions as a grocery store where you can find some repacked kropek and Ajinomoto. As for the buffet itself, it’s heavenly. The selection is wide, almost endless, from spinach in coco milk down to fruit cakes and dulce de leche flan. For a bonus, the very welcoming waitress can speak English.

3. Meet fellow expats.

This is more of Pinoy than expat. A non-Filipino colleague observes that we’re too clannish like the girls going to the toilet at the same time or the big group chit-chats during lunch. Right after doing the first two entries in this checklist, we met up for dinner for a hearty pancit bihon and some empanadas (we get our fix from La Taberna del Diablo) in one of the apartments. In most onsite assignments I’ve been to, there’s at least one kitchen person who does the cooking while the rest just chip in for expenses if necessary. Conversations usually vary from camera 101 to the unavoidable okrayan. By the way, we call ourselves Manila Mafia (Uruguay Chapter) here.

4. Do what the Romans do.

One colleague got hit by stomachache the next morning. With the language barrier and all, we had no choice but to brave the idea of going to the hospital for check-up. We asked a Spanish-speaking colleague to help us. Otherwise, we’ll end up having a brain surgery or something. Kidding aside, everything went fine. Hospital Britanico (or simply British Hospital which was founded in the city before the turn of the century), which is close to Tres Cruces, is very upscale and very efficient (they’ve got Wi-Fi). We were attended to at the lobby (we were the only ones there plus the receptionist) and we were asked to proceed to the emergency area. The attendant there told us first about the consultation fee (around UYU 2,000 or PHP 3,800) before availing it. We then proceeded to an alley with small cabin-like rooms. After some minutes of waiting, a nurse approached us to inform us that only one visitor is allowed in the area. I tapped out and just waited back at the reception area where four or five other families were also waiting. After a couple of minutes, the doctor suggested having a blood exam and an ultrasound scan. Again, we were asked if it’s OK to proceed. After settling it, it was waiting game once again. The whole process took us three to four hours and a whopping UYU 7,000 or PHP 13,300. Glad that my colleague is fine now and for the fact that the ache is far from serious.

Some pictures here for that weekend plus our dinner at Restaurant Dackel, a German restaurant, here and that send-off Friday for the Manila Mafia here.

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