Monday, March 03, 2014

Endless Alphabet and Reader Characters: Big Blue

Big Blue is probably the character from Endless Alphabet / Endless Reader that appears most often.  Big Blue is a male monster who usually behaves like a responsible adult.  My guess is that he is the father of two other characters, Little Blue and Bean, because he often appears with them while performing guardian-type tasks, but this is never stated, and it is possible that he is modeled after an uncle or another friendly relationship. [This theory is also not supported by a couple scenes--for example, Big Blue is part of the one big happy monster family, but neither Little Blue nor Bean appear in that movie.]
Big Blue is reasonably active.  He cannot fly.  To go swimming, he wore an orange mask and fins, although we didn’t see him in the water because Pistachio was taking up the whole pool.  At the park he chooses to swing, with Pinkerton.  When exercising with other monsters, we saw Big Blue wearing a sweatband and stretching for his toes.  We also saw him ride a bike with Dapper Dandy and Pinkerton.


Big Blue likes to play with a ball—between Endless Alphabet and Endless Reader I noticed at least three times that he was playing ball; once alone, once with Little Blue, and once Sam caught his ball.  Another time when Big Blue is on an island, he makes a friend out of a coconut (reminding us of Tom Hanks’ Wilson in Castaway); Big Blue is lonely by himself, which may be part of the reason he appears so often with other monsters.

Big Blue plays the banjo, although he had trouble finding it for one word.  His talent with the banjo is not a big surprise, because those who are familiar with Endless Alphabet already know that he is a “musician” capable of playing the electric guitar, since he played in a band with Rod and Cone, Scampi, and Francis.  Big Blue is also a photographer, and he knows how to yodel.

We often see Big Blue in the role of an adult.  As mentioned above, he swings with Pinkerton when some of the monsters are at the park, and he also rides a bicycle with Pinkerton.  Big Blue is often seen with Little Blue—helping him reach cookies, watching clouds or bouncing a ball together, and celebrating various events.  Big Blue expected Sherbert to say please when she wanted some cupcake and then he shared half with her.  Big Blue occasionally feeds Bean—he fed Bean when Bean was very hungry because he hadn’t eaten breakfast, another time he let Bean have cake if he ate dinner, and another time he gives Bean broccoli when Bean wants a cupcake.


Big Blue is a popular guest at monster festivities.  He is part of “one big happy monster family”, he attended a big monster dance party, and he was present at the party to “celebrate” Little Blue’s third birthday. He also eats “scrumptious” cake with Little Blue and Rocky to celebrate the one year anniversary of Endless Alphabet.  This suggests that Big Blue and Little Blue may be the most original characters from the cast of EA characters. 

Big Blue also appears in a few random words that don’t seem to have much to do with anything: he dyed a shirt orange with Eli, drank a potion that made him “gargantuan”, he is overwhelmed by multiplying little green things, and he yawns and falls asleep while reading books.

Big Blue runs across the screen to scatter letters both with the group, and separately with only Little Blue.

(For the full list of characters from Endless Alphabet and Endless Reader, click here.)

Endless Alphabet and Reader Characters Biography Project

I've decided to make a little series of blog posts about the characters from Endless Alphabet and Endless Reader, because there is nothing about them anywhere on the Internet, aside from blogs and award pages recommending the app.  As I have watched Paisley play them I noticed a few cute themes and the researcher in me wanted to see what all we know about the characters and put it somewhere.

So, I've gone through each of the words in Endless Alphabet and Endless Reader, taken a bunch of screenshots, compiled information about each character, and I am working to turn my notes into little biographies for each character.  This is also part of another project that I will blog about later.

For now, here is the list of characters I have noticed, and I will begin posting information and pictures for each of the characters as I have the chance to turn my outlines into little biographies.  Then I will link this post to the pages about the characters.

(If anyone reads my blog and is not interested in an application for little kids, feel free to skip these posts!)

List of Characters that Appear in Endless Alphabet and Endless Reader:
(listed in order by approximately how often they appear, from most to least)

1. Big Blue
2. Little Blue
3. Yoshi
4. Scampi
5. Pinkerton
6. Pistachio
7. Rocky
8. Sherbert
9. Francis
10. Eli
11. Grok
12. Grumpkin
13. Rod and Cone
14. Dapper Dandy
15. Tuttle
16. Sam
17. Sunny
18. Amy
19. Bean
20. Green monster with lots of little legs
21. Purple DJ monster


Another time I will also discuss the six types of word movie clips I have noticed.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Some of our language mistakes. (And some other things about Uruguayan Spanish.)

Our Spanish is improving a little bit.  We've had a tutor come teach us at our house 4 or 5 days a week for the past few months, so I think we hoped we would have seen more improvement, but oh well.  It's something.

I thought I would just share a few funny Spanish errors that we've made.

I mentioned the grocery store "Tienda Inglesa" in a previous post.  Jeff almost always calls that store "Tienda Iglesia" and it always makes me laugh.  (Tienda Inglesa means "English Store", and Tienda Iglesia means "Church Store".)

When Jeff is talking about things that are old, he very often calls them "viaje" ("trip") instead of "viejo" or "vieja" ("old").  It makes whatever he is talking about sound a lot more exotic because I picture a vacation version of whatever he is talking about. 

My mistakes are usually not as amusing.  Or if they are, I don't know it.  Occasionally I will feel like I am communicating just GREAT and the person I am talking to will seem confused.  Those times I realize I am interjecting some Italian.  A lot of times Italian works here (even if it wouldn't work in other Spanish-speaking places) because there are a lot of Italian immigrants, and the dialect occasionally reflects that.

The Spanish here is not normal Spanish, it is Rio Platense Spanish, so they use a different accent (j and ll sound like "zhu" instead of "yu"), a different tu form (vos), and a lot of different words.  People here also often don't pronounce the ends of words.  This means my ability to communicate depends a lot on who I am talking to.  Sometimes I feel like I speak Spanish quite well, and other times I feel like I don't speak any "Spanish" at all.  It really ranges.

Sometimes I'll get several compliments on my Spanish, and other times the people around me at the store are like "ohhhh, she doesn't speak Spanish" and occasionally people volunteer to help me by translating.  Usually (I think!) I am decent and can communicate but sometimes don't know specific words.  Other times I feel tongue-tied, I can't think of words I need, and just kind of shrug and smile.

I have made a couple dumb mistakes at the grocery store lately.  (A lot of our Spanish interactions are in grocery stores since we have no friends here.)  This one time, I walked up and set my items on the space by the cashier, but she was counting her change.  She told me she was done, and I nodded and then I realized I didn't know if she was done working for then or if she was almost done doing stuff with change or what.  A cashier a couple lanes down announced that his register was open, and I thought he was telling other people.  Then I started to wonder if I was supposed to go to the other line.  So I picked up my stuff and went to the lane of the cashier who was available.  I was only buying a few things, though, so when I left a few moments later I saw that she was helping someone else.  That must have been really weird to tell me that she was just about ready, and then I picked up my stuff and changed lanes.

Or another time recently a cashier was talking to me about Paisley--everyone loves her--and she asked me how old Paisley was, I thought, but I didn't hear her well, so I said nineteen months...but then by how she responded I realized she had actually asked how long we had been in Uruguay.  But it was too tricky to explain that I thought she had said something else (because that's like...past...subjunctive? or some less regular verb tense), so I just went with it.  But I felt like an idiot, because I would really hope that if we had been here for close to two years, I hope that my Spanish would be better.  How embarrassing!  (I think we need more interaction with local people, to practice.)

When we were in Colonia del Sacramento we were out looking for a place open for breakfast and I asked a waitress if they served "desayuno" (des-eye-oon-oh).  She had no idea what I was saying, so I repeated myself a couple times.  She was lost until she suddenly figured it out.  "Ah!  Desayuno!" (des-ah-zhu-no!)  YES.  THAT.   For the longest time I felt almost as if I were making fun of them when I pronounced things their way, since it is not good/real Spanish, and it feels very unnatural to me...but our Spanish teacher has assured us that it doesn't come across as rude, and we agree that it would be nice to be better understood, so I'm working on it.  

But, if I were talking to someone with a Texan accent or a British accent and I suddenly assumed a bad fake accent matching theirs, wouldn't that come across as rude?  And that reminds me of something else that I thought was funny...

Our Spanish teacher speaks English very well.  She speaks American English, but tries to teach us in Spanish unless we don't understand or need a more precise clarification or when we relax a little bit and just want to be understood for a moment.  I think she's been working with us since November.  Somehow, it must have been in mid-January, something came up and I asked her about learning American English (maybe we were talking about how much American TV they get here?) and she admitted that she learned British English in school.  I asked her so, when she is with her friends that speak English, does she speak American or British English.  British English.  She said she actually prefers British English.  Whaaaaatt.....?  All along I had no idea!  She just uses an American accent for while she teaches us.  I thought that was very funny.  It probably helps.

Sorry I have no pictures to go along with this!  Annnd, Paisley just woke up so I had better post this and go help her.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Residency in Uruguay: Adding our Birth Certificates to the Civil Registry

As we've been working to obtain residency in Uruguay it has been a little bit of a process to figure out what we need and where.  There is information online for expats who want residency in Uruguay, but most of it is outdated, so I thought I would post a more recent explanation of what we've been doing, and what they have expected from us.  That way if anybody else is looking for information there is something a little more recent.

Registro Civil, at calle Uruguay 933!
One of the requirements for residency is that we need to be add our birth certificates and marriage certificate to the Uruguay civil registry (Registro Civil).  This is one of the parts that takes the longest, so it is good to do as early as possible.

First of all, you need copies of your birth certificates, marriage certificate (if you're married) and/or divorce decree (if you're divorced).  I can only speak about the process from the United States, since that is where we are from, so it may be different for people from other countries.  Although we did not originally plan to become residents of Uruguay, I had photocopies of our birth certificates and a real copy of our marriage certificate with us just in case we ever needed them.  These copies were useless.  Uruguay has joined the Hague Convention, so in order for documents to be accepted, they need Apostille.  So, we ordered new documents, and apostilles from the United States.  If you know that you're moving to Uruguay, it would be much, much easier to obtain birth certificates and apostilles before you leave the United States! 

After we had our documents and apostilles, I took them to the Ministry of External Relations to be legalized and they just kind of smiled and me and politely assured me that I didn't need anything from them, I just needed to deposit them at the Civil Registry.

I knew they would need to be translated, though.  So, we did that.

Then, we used the translated birth certificates to get our cedulas (identity cards).

Today I took all of our birth certificates to the civil registry.  They told me they will be ready in a month.

So, for those who are looking for more specific details, here is what we did:

1. Obtain documents from the United States.
- We ordered all of our documents online, using VitalChek.   In order for the orders to be processed, each state requires something different for identification: Arizona wanted a copy of Jeff's driver's license and his signature.  At the time that I placed my order, Utah asked me a few questions to verify my identity (the questions were like when you order a credit report).  California was the worst--they required a notarized statement from me saying that I was authorized to request it.  In Montevideo the only place that I know of that offers a United States Notary Public is the US Embassy.  The US Embassy offers notary services only on Tuesday afternoons, only with an appointment, and it costs $50 per document.  They are able to do an ink stamp along with the seal so that it shows up for the scan.  At first this seemed like a huge rip-off, because I am used to getting things notarized for free at my credit union in Utah, but when I compared the cost of using an escribana and apostille from here, it was going to take a couple weeks and cost a few hundred dollars, so then the US Embassy sounded like a bargain.  When you order copies of your certificates, be sure to state that it is for "Apostille" because it needs to be the long form of the certificate, not a short version.  Some states only want to send copies TO the person on the certificate, but that was okay for us because we were using Jeff's parents' address anyway.
- After my in-laws received our certificates, they put them in the mail to send them with Apostille Request forms for each state.  Each state does their own apostilles.  If I remember right, Arizona's cost $3 per apostille, Utah was $15 per apostille, and California was $20 per apostille.  You have to send the original birth certificates with the form and payment to the Secretary of State for the state where the document is from.  Then we had all of the documents with apostilles sent back to my in-laws and they put them in a UPS mailer and sent them to us.

2. Documents DO NOT need to go the the Uruguayan Consulate in the United States.  They used to need to be "legalized" in the US at the Uruguayan Consulate, but now that Uruguay accepts apostilles, documents DO NOT need to be legalized in the United States, and they DO NOT need to be legalized in Uruguay at the ministry of exterior relations (MREE).

3.  Have the documents translated into Spanish by an official public translator.  It has to be an official translator because they need to be able to stamp it with their special stamp.  I had a lot of trouble knowing how to find a public translator.  I have since heard that it is possible to get a list of public translators at the national identity office, but I don't know whether that is true or not.  I eventually found Nelida Kreer who is a public translator that lives in the Pocitos area.  She even has a website, which is kind of unusual for business people here.  I was very, very happy with her.  After I e-mailed her about translation, she replied quickly, and she was able to have my translations done within 24 hours after she received them.  She prefers to work from originals, but since I don't live near Pocitos, she was willing to work off of scans.  After I met with her to pick them up, I could understand why originals would be much better for her--the translations are VERY detailed, including descriptions of borders and colors of seals, impressions that are not visible on scans, etc.  She charged us $695 (in pesos, which is about $35 USD per document) for the translations, plus $120 pesos each for the official stamp (the official sticker is about $6 USD).  When I came to pick them up, I had to bring the originals, and we went through and she read and explained the whole thing to me.  It was important for them to be totally accurate, since you can have problems if something is translated incorrectly.  Her English was very good, which I guess you would expect from an official translator, but it made me feel very comfortable talking with her about it all.  I had my daughter with me for the whole thing--which ended up being kind of a lengthy meeting, since she had to make a few minor corrections since she had been working with scans and I didn't know to tell her about some things that mattered--and anyway, she was awesome about letting Paisley wander around and check stuff out, and play with marbles, etc.  She also showed me at the end, she just wanted me to know that she was giving me a good price, so she showed me the "official" price list was from 2012, and she was giving a lower price even though they were kind of long translations, etc.  Anyway, I believe her, and once I saw what I huge job it was, I feel like she more than earned what we paid.  I highly recommend her, and we will definitely have her do any other official translations that we need in the future.  She is fantastic. 

Copies nearby!  I paid 40 pesos ($2 USD), 3 big sets and a pen.
4. Make complete photocopies of each document.  So, we had the apostille on top, the certificate next, and a few pages of translation beneath.  All of it gets photocopied, double-sided, and stapled together.  I didn't know to do this ahead of time so I spent a little while searching around the Civil Registry for a place that did photocopies.  I found one.  It is just down the street a block from the Civil Registry, at Uruguay 891.

5. Take your whole packet to the Civil Registry, at calle Uruguay 933 in Montevideo.  They are open from 10:15 am to 3:30 pm, BUT the last time to take a number is 3:00 pm, and it really takes a bit longer than that anyway, so it is probably best to try to arrive by 2:45 pm at the latest.  No appointment necessary.  We arrived at about 3:00 pm but without photocopies, and when we came back with copies several minutes later a guard was standing in front and told me they close at 3:00 pm, and he wasn't going to let me back in.  I told him I thought they closed at 3:30, and he said no, 3:00 pm, and when he saw me standing there unsure what to do next he told me okay, I could go back in, but to hurry up.  I was grateful to him for that, because it saved us a drive back to Montevideo!

The desk for adding foreign certificates to the civil registry.
When you arrive at the Civil Registry, it is kind of hard to know where you're supposed to go.  Walk past the cash registers in front, walk past the staircases on your right side, all the way to the back of the building, where you can turn to the right.  If you turn to the right you will see a long desk, with a bunch of books and maybe film, and then to the right of that there is the desk where foreigners can add their certificates to the registry.  There is a thing for you to take a number on the right wall.  Take a number.

To the right are the numbers to take for a turn.
After they call your number, you hand them your stack of documents, and they will look them over to make sure you have official translations, and to make sure you have a set of photocopies.  Then they will give you a cover sheet (no photocopy of that necessary!) and tell you how to fill it out.  You put your name, local address, cedula number, and phone number at the top.  My phone had died and we recently changed numbers so I left the phone number blank, and she didn't like that, she wanted a phone number ("but, what if we need to reach you to ask you about something during processing???"), but I showed her that my phone was dead and volunteered my e-mail address, and she said to go ahead and put that.  I had just picked up our cedulas so I was able to put cedulas for me and Jeff, but Paisley doesn't have a cedula yet so I left hers blank there, and that didn't bother them. 

This is the cover page you fill out.
On the bottom of the form you write your first name, last name, the country the person was born in, and the date of the birth, and then you sign the form at the bottom.  I did the forms for all three of us, and Jeff didn't come.  I had called ahead to make sure they would be fine with him not coming, and they said that was okay.

So, once your form is filled out, you go to the cashier to pay.  The cost to be added to the registry is $513 pesos (about $25 USD).  When you pay the cashier she uses the cash register to print onto the apostille page (I think it was that page?), so they know you've paid.   

Then you take the whole stack back to the foreign section.  They accepted it, and asked me to take a seat.  Probably about 10 minutes later, the lady gave me my photocopied sets of documents back, with a little receipt type thing stapled to them.  She said we can come back in a month and they'll be added to the civil registry.

This is what you get in the end.
So, that's where we are at this point, waiting for a month.  After that, we will need to get copies of our birth certificates and marriage certificate (Uruguay versions) and take them to immigrations to be added to our file.  Or at least the marriage certificate; that is what they specifically requested, but I have read elsewhere that we needed the birth certificates to be in the registry, and I believe that when we go back to renew our cedulas having our birth certificates in the registry makes it so that we can have cedulas that don't have to be renewed as often (our current cedulas are only good for one year).

An interesting note about birth certificates is that I was kind of confused about one of the stipulations from immigrations, that they wanted a copy of the marriage certificate (the Uruguayan one, after it is in the registry) that was less than 30 days old.  I asked our Spanish teacher about that this morning and she said that here in Uruguay you don't get a permanent birth certificate.  They expire pretty quickly.  So the reason our marriage certificate needs to be less than 30 days old is because they don't want an expired copy.  How about that!



Saturday, February 01, 2014

All About Grocery Stores in Uruguay!

Grocery stores in Uruguay are pretty good.

If you don't have anything specific that you're looking for, they seem quite a bit like grocery stores in the United States.  The big stores are usually air conditioned.  Little stores might not be.

The produce section is pretty good.  They don't have as many items as our stores did in the US, but they do have a lot of stuff, and it is all fresh.  I rarely see fruits that are way too underripe or overripe.  Stuff tends to be seasonal.  So, sometimes there are no strawberries or blueberries.  There are a few items that are organic (like, some of the fresh herbs), but most items don't say.  I had heard before that a lot of stuff is organic and just not labeled but at a cooking class with other "foodies" they said no, most of it is not organic.  It is tough for farms to qualify as organic, so if they meet the requirements, they will usually label it.  They said though that a lot of the meat (beef, particularly) may be close to organic because cows are usually grass-fed.

When you buy produce at grocery stores in Uruguay, you put it in a bag yourself, and then take it to an attendant in the produce department who weighs the item and prints a price and barcode sticker to put on your bag.  If you get up to the front without the sticker they can't weigh it there, so someone has to go back to the produce department for the sticker.

There are a TON of meats and cheeses in the deli section.  Many of the cheeses are not refrigerated.  They seem to love ham here.  There are pre-packed (refrigerated!) sections for meat and cheese, but it is popular to use the deli services where they package stuff fresh for you.  Cheeses seem to be hit-and-miss for us.  Mostly, we just miss good cheddar.  They have some "American" type cheese but we can't really eat that.

Uruguayan grocery stores do not have a large selection of imported products.  Many (most?) products say INDUSTRIO URUGUAYO, or they are from Argentina.  There are a few exceptions, but not a ton.  Whatever you're buying, there are usually only a couple choices for brands.  For example, if you're buying Ziploc type bags in the United States, there are like four brands, plus a store brand, and each kind has a few varieties, and several package sizes.  Here, you usually have three choices: Uruguay gallon zip bags that are pretty thin and have a seal that is tough to close, gallon Ziploc brand bags in a package of 9 bags? I think?, or I usually buy a variety pack by Ziploc that has 3 sandwich bags, 3 quart bags, and 3 gallon bags all with zip tops.  If you want brown sugar, there is one brand (bella union) and it isn't very brown (I may post more about that another time).  If you want molasses, too bad.  Vanilla is made by two brands, and they taste the same, or you can buy one (hard?!) vanilla bean at a time in a spice jar, from the same brand.  

They do have Heinz ketchup, A1 steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce and a few other things like that.  Devoto and Tienda Inglesa carry more import products than some of the other little stores.  Imported products are expensive.  When I buy Toblerones they are usually $80 pesos for 100 gram or $130 for 200 gram packages--that's like $4 for the small one or $6 for the large one.  When Jeff buys Haagen Dazs the tiny individual serving is about $2.50 in US dollars, and the pint size of Haagen Dazs is about $10 US dollars.  Ground beef is usually available in three kinds; I get the best one and it is $180 pesos per kilo (about $9 US dollars per kilo).  I think the cheapest ground beef is usually about $120 or $130 per kilo (about $6 US dollars per kilo).  Blueberries in season were $34 pesos for the tiny containers and now they are usually $49 pesos ($1.50-2.50).  For peanut butter there is only one kind and it has hydrogenated oil so we don't buy it.  Fresh salmon ranges from moderately to very expensive; at Devoto we usually pay $399 pesos per kilo (about $20 per kilo) and sometimes it is a few dollars more.  They do sell Nutella.  They have m&ms some places, and Oreos.  There is usually only one brand of pretzels and it has ingredients that we don't like.

The things we miss the most are our special "short ingredient list" brands in the United States.  Hydrogenated oils are still a big thing here.  Sodium benzoate is popular as a preservative.  A lady we know here desperately misses Karo corn syrup.  There isn't corn syrup here.  You can see a lot of the products that they carry on the stores' websites.

Personal care products are fairly limited.  They have a decent selection, but the products are very similar.  We definitely have not been able to find organic shampoo, aluminum-free deodorant, or fluoride-free toothpaste.  That stuff isn't a thing here yet.

Milk comes in bags, and it is almost always ultra-pasteurized, or UHT long-life treated.  Jeff can't drink it and I choose not to, so we buy fresh milk from a local dairy.  Raw milk is technically illegal here.  At grocery stores we have been able to find good cream that is just pasteurized regularly and doesn't have additives.  Boxed juices usually have sugar added (why, why, why?) but there are some "fresh" brands that don't, and they are yummy.

They do have a "healthy living" type section in many stores.  Our Devoto has a few organic ingredients there (flour and sugar), but it is mostly a sugar free/gluten free/salt free section.  The products are mostly full of other additives that we avoid, so there is little that we like from that section.  They do have rice flour and a bunch of rice products and some gluten free mixes so if someone doesn't care about additives and is just avoiding gluten, there is some stuff for that.  There are a couple stores that carry organic stuff...one is Ecotiendas, in Montevideo centro, and another is called Mercado Verde (I think?) and it is near Arocena shopping.  They have another location in Punta del Este on the peninsula.

Some stores offer loyalty cards, but I don't think you need to use them to get the sale prices.  I think they are just for earning points towards reward prizes.  If you want a loyalty card, you go to the customer service desk, fill out a form with a lot of personal info, and then come back in about a week to pick it up.

As far as I am aware, there are two main competing grocery store chains in the Montevideo area: Tienda Inglesa, and Devoto/Disco/Geant.  I have also seen Tata and MultiAhorro, although I haven't really shopped at those.

Tienda Inglesas really vary in size--there is a huge one at Montevideo Shopping, which is relatively similar to a Walmart, with more food than other items, and another huge one across from Portones Shopping.  There is a regular "grocery store" size Tienda Inglesa in the Arocena shopping area, and a very very tiny Tienda Inglesa in Pocitos.  Tienda Inglesa has a customer loyalty card, and they frequently do big giveaways (often for cars) that you can earn entries into with your purchases; with your receipt they give you tickets to fill out and put in a box.  Tienda Inglesa does something kind of fun which is that (from what we have seen) they tend to have different around-the-world product themes.  So, during Italian Days (or whatever it is called) they have a broader assortment of Italian foods, and even a few little "souvenirs" from Italy.  They set up a special section of the store devoted to the theme, and sometimes some of the employees are dressed up to match the theme.  I saw them do this for Italy, Spain, and maybe Germany, but I don't remember well, and I haven't paid close attention, because I don't usually shop there.  One thing we do buy at Tienda Inglesa is soap.  They have a laundry soap that is a bar of soap that is just very plain coconut oil soap with no extra ingredients, and Jeff likes to use this.  

The Devoto/Disco/Geant chain is what we use most often.  When we were downtown in the Montevideo centro, we shopped at Disco and really liked it.  They kind of advertised having low prices, I think.  But the stuff there was fine.  Now, we mostly shop at Devoto.  Devoto is very very similar to grocery stores from the United States.  Geant is the biggest store in the area, the most similar to Walmart, in Parque Roosevelt (although I believe they just opened another one on Artigas in a new shopping center).  I should probably write more about Geant separately sometime.  Devoto/Disco/Geant also offers a HiperCard where you can earn points to buy prizes.  We do have one of those.  Unlike stores in the US, they ask you at the beginning of every transaction if you have your store card and if you don't give it to them at the beginning then you can't use it.  Of anywhere, Geant's prices are the best.  Devoto sometimes does giveaways (I remember one for a trip to New York), but they don't do them as often as Tienda Inglesa.

Our Devoto that we usually go to offers five separate shopping cart options:
1) regular shopping carts like in the US;
2) regular shopping carts like in the US, with a simple baby seat attached, for laying down infants (there are usually 2-3 of these per store);
3) large(-ish) plastic baskets that you can pull, and they have wheels;
4) another model of the large(-ish) plastic baskets that can be pulled OR they have a handle so you can carry them, they're a bit smaller than the others;
5) baskets just for carrying, like in the US.

Even when stores are busy, it is usually pretty quick to get through lines.  Stores usually have enough check-out lines open so that you don't have to wait for more than 1-2 people, and often you can just walk right up to check out.  There is often a line for people with 10 items or fewer, and many times there are signs saying that pregnant ladies get priority.  I have never seen a self-check out machine here.  When you pay, they often accept Uruguayan pesos or American dollars.  Sometimes if you want to pay with dollars the total has to be above a certain amount.  

They do give you plastic bags at the grocery store, and they are not the ultra-thin save-the-environment kind, they are good.  They don't charge extra for them.  But, they are also starting to encourage people to use reusable bags, and each store has their own reusable bags that you can buy up by the cash registers.  Some of them at our local store say "Yo no contamino."  ("I don't contaminate") large on the outside.

At Tienda Inglesa they don't offer money changing services but they told me they -kind of- do, because you can pay with dollars and they will accept them and give you change in Uruguayan pesos.  At our Devoto they have a cambio (money changing booth) up at the front of the store.  Stores often have little independent stores attached or in front across from where you check-out; our regular grocery store has that cambio, plus a small dry-cleaners, a locksmith/lock store, a 24 hour pharmacy with separate and shared entrances, and an Abitab (payment place) with a separate entrance but as part of the same building.  This type of layout is very common for grocery stores.  The Devoto itself also has a DVD rental place that is inside the store but I think it has its own check-out spot separate from the main check-out lines.

Most grocery stores have sufficient parking lots, especially when you're not in downtown Montevideo.  Some have underground parking, and some have large parking lots.  Our grocery store that we usually go to seldom has a parking problem, and most of the parking has little roofs to cover the cars.  During evening hours (when people get off work) it is a little more crowded.  Almost always, the parking lots have a worker or guard or two that stay in the parking lot all the time.  They often do friendly things, like help you carry groceries to your car if you're wrangling a squirmy toddler, or come up to you to take your cart so that you don't have to take it back.  They seem genuinely friendly.  At the Tienda Inglesa that is in the Arocena area, there is usually someone managing traffic in the parking lot, and helping people into and out of parking spots.  

Stores seem to be fairly worried about theft.  All of the normal-size grocery stores have self-service lockers (where it has a large number attached to a key) so that you can store any bags at the front, and they're kind of strict about it.  The Portones Devoto is attached to the mall, and if you walk into Devoto and forget to put other mall purchases in a locker, someone will come up and tell you you need to use a locker, and insist that you do so before you go into the store.  

There is also a procedure when you buy more expensive items, like electronics.  (It is the same experience that we had when we bought our GPS in Argentina.)  When I bought a printer at Geant, I pulled it off the shelf myself and took it up to the front with the rest of my stuff like I would have done at a Walmart in the United States.  No, they told me, I couldn't do that.  The process is this:
1. Talk to someone in the electronics department, and have them get you an order ticket with your name and info on it.
2. Take the printed order ticket to the customer service desk (like, the place you would go for returns in the US...I don't know whether they do returns here or not) and pay for it.
3. Take the PAID order ticket and receipt to a "pick up" type desk located at the exit of the store.  For Geant it is outside the store, but still in the shopping center.  
4. Someone at the desk reads your order ticket and looks at the items that are waiting to be picked up, to find your item.
5. They open the box, and pull everything out of the box, to make sure everything that is supposed to be included is included.  They put everything back in, and tape it shut.
6. Maybe they have you sign acknowledging that you picked it up, and they sign confirming that they checked it?  I think this happens on some paper, but I don't remember which.
7. You can take your stuff.
It is very disappointing!  I love the excitement of opening something new that I've just bought and pulling items out of the box to discover it all and enjoy it.  Watching someone else open your fun thing is no fun.  I feel kind of jealous, because I want the experience for myself, and a little irritated, because I don't want them touching my stuff, and because it seems like a waste of time.  It seems like it must be a fun job when new cool things come out...can you imagine being the one to get to handle all the new iPhones before anyone else gets to touch them?  Maybe it gets boring to them.

Anyhow, that is about all I can think of to tell you about our grocery stores here!  If you have questions, feel free to ask.  Sorry this is so long and without pictures.  I will try to add some pictures later, if I remember.  The stores are clean and usually relatively modern looking.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Nineteen months!

Today Paisley is 19 months old!  I feel like she has grown up so much over the past few months.  It looks like the last time I blogged a monthly post for Paisley was when she was five months old!  It is hard to believe how much has changed since then.

This morning she weighed about 20.5 lbs on our bathroom scale, and I have no idea how tall she is.  She is still really little compared to kids her age in the United States, but in South America she seems about the same size as a lot of other kids her age.  Her third canine tooth came through this past week, so we have one more of those and then we should get a little break before the next set of molars come in, I think.

Where do I even begin to describe our fun little girl?

Paisley is a chatterbox!  All day long she talks and talks and talks to me, mostly in phrases.  For a while I kept track of how many words she knew, by adding to a list whenever she started using a new word correctly.  I gave that up several months ago, after she had around 800 words and the list became too difficult to maintain.  Now, she has a lot more than that!  She knows plurals, possessives, and gerunds (-ing words), plus shapes and colors.  She knows a lot of letters and letter sounds, and she is very interested in numbers but she only knows 1, 2, 3, and 5.  (Usually she just counts "1, 2, 1, 2...many!")  When she drops things she says "oopsie daisy" and it is adorable every time.  I kind of want to record everything she says for a day, so that we remember what she is like right now!

She also knows some words in Spanish: hola, gracias, chau, que rico, maƱana, vamos, casa, papa, nado, agua, ducha, linda, and probably a few others that I am forgetting.  She is constantly making friends with people around us, partially because she is blonde, and partially because she grins at people and then they melt when they hear her say "hola" or "gracias".  People are always stopping to tell her how pretty she is, or touch her, and she is usually tolerant and friendly.

Paisley loves to "draw" and "write" which both mean 'to scribble'.  If she sees me writing something she suddenly desperately wants the pen I'm using so that she can draw or write.  She also enjoys coloring, with crayons or ColorWonder markers.  And she loves to paint, especially when she can make handprints.  She really likes handprints, or if we're not painting then she likes to have me trace her hand.

Paisley also loves to swim!  Uruguay has been colder than we expected, so we haven't done much swimming since we left Panama, until about a week ago.  She is so delighted when we go swimming--she keeps a huge grin on her face, and she squeals with excitement!  She is good at kicking, and not very good at scooping anymore.  We will keep practicing.

Paisley loves her iPad mini that we gave her for Christmas.  Her favorite games are Endless Alphabet and Endless Reader.

Paisley still loves dogs.

Her favorite foods are: Nana (which is nursing), cheese, fruit leather, pretzels, and goat milk.  She also loves chocolate, cookie dough, and ice cream when we eat them.

She really wants to learn how to jump, but hasn't quite got it yet.

She likes to help (usually by carrying bags or cleaning up stuff she has dropped, or helping carry laundry outside, or by mixing things in the kitchen), and also likes to be with me.  Actually, she loves to be with me.

She also loves when I read to her, and she likes to pretend to read books.

Paisley loves to be gotten, which is where I say "I'mmmm going to get you!" and then I start to creep towards her, and she squeals and runs to me.


She loves using the remote to open our front gate.  She likes taking lids off of things and putting them back on.  She likes checking the kitchen trash to see if we have added anything interesting.  She loves to crack eggs.  She loves colored baths, although we don't have a tub here, so that was mostly just a treat on our vacation to the US.

Paisley is also very sweet.  She used to very very sweetly say "Love!" and hug me.  Now she says "love you" or sometimes even "I love you"... but I noticed this weekend it almost always precedes her asking for something, which is disappointing, although I guess it just means she is smart if she is making kind of clever attempts to manipulate me.  "Love you.  Nana? Ookkaaayy."  Or, "I love you too.  Up?  Ookkkkaaayyy!"  She asks for things and then says "Oookkaaayyy!" or "All riiiight" just like I do for the times that I do agree to what she wants.  That's kind of funny.  

Paisley is such a funny kid!  We are enjoying her very, very much.


Thursday, January 02, 2014

Photography by Paisley, age 1

Especially when I scroll through pictures on my phone, I sometimes think baby photography--meaning, photos taken by babies--is an interesting (and under-appreciated) art.  Paisley absolutely loves cameras.  When I scroll through the pictures she has taken, they are always from an unusual perspective, usually accidental, and sometimes beautiful.

One of the reasons we decided to get her an iPad mini for Christmas was because we wanted to encourage her in her love of cameras, in a toddler-proof way.  I have already noticed her playing with the camera a couple times, so it will be fun to see how her little hobby develops as she gets a little older, more coordinated, and has appropriate tools at her fingertips.

Here is some of her art that I have on my computer already (so these ones were taken on our Canon PowerShot A1200).  I will have to post some of the ones from my phone another time.

Paisley also loves to change the camera's settings to inspire creativity for others.
 
11/3/2013 - Self portrait.

11/3/2013 - The ceiling.

11/3/2013 - Self portrait.

11/10/2013 - Self portrait after chocolate                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             .

11/10/2013 - Self portrait.

11/15/2013 - Waiting for Mom to assemble my slide.

12/15/2013 - Self portrait.

12/15/2013 - Mom's purse.  She also calls it my diaper bag, so that means it is "Paisley's", and it is full of things to entertain me at any moment (like when she is carrying me on the same side as her purse and I can reach in to grab something).

12/15/2013 - Self portrait. 

12/15/2013 - Sitting behind Mom.  This is the space between us.  I hate that space.

1/2/2014 - Side view from below a table, with three packs of labels. I cannot resist giving that doily a good tug sometimes!



The Future of Privacy (or lack thereof)

Lately, I have been confused about what to do with my blog.

I have had some interesting ideas about the future—things are changing very quickly. I think facial recognition technology is fairly advanced; if you think about Google Glass, and about Facebook grid search, and the progress in voice recognition, transcription, and translation...I can imagine a world where strangers who meet me in the street can instantly review and sort all of my Facebook comments, my pictures, and my blog posts; they could search for specific things, or they could make generalizations, or they could chart trends (I'm thinking of the little programs that will already analyze our Facebook profiles or blogs and tell us detailed things about ourselves). Even information that is private now—such as e-mails I've sent, or things I have typed in and then deleted without posting it or sending it or saving it anywhere—this information is in databases somewhere, and who is to say that those databases could not eventually become public on purpose or because someone or everyone decides they must be...and I just wonder, of course, I am human, and what if I blog something that offends someone, or is accidentally factually incorrect, or who knows what, and then that information is there for interpretation in contexts that I don't even understand yet. It seems like everyone knowing everything is bound to happen sooner or later, and I think of the math question about how fast a stadium can be filled with water, and I can see that technology is advancing very rapidly. That makes me think I should delete everything and never post anything, in the spirit of “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.”

And then I think, by the time everyone knows everything about everyone, silly attempts to conceal human weakness will be irrelevant at best or deceptive at worst, and most likely, nobody will care, because it turns out everything is just about math, and once we have enough of the code figured out, solving x will be obvious, and it will be hard to judge anyone for anything, because it's just math. You would never look at a forest and judge one of the trees harshly, because it just really doesn't matter if one tree is a little taller than another tree, because they're just all growing towards the light, and a crooked tree is strong in its own way because it is kind of amazing that the tree was able to take advantage of different opportunities to reach light in a place where there wasn't much.

I am also a little afraid to blog because I could be wrong about things and be embarrassed later. Or, I could accidentally offend someone, and later cause someone to be angry. On the Internet it is impossible to take anything back after it is said, or even after it is “thought”.

I can just imagine going for a job interview and having someone present me with things I said that were not thought through well enough, or “evidence” that I wouldn't do the job well based on something I admitted or did poorly years before. But after that kind of paradigm shift, maybe everyone will have things like that.

And, if I am earnestly trying to be a good person—which I think I am trying to do—maybe that kind of record is a positive thing.

Last Sunday in Sunday School they were talking about the ten virgins, and I had the thought that the story totally matches my idea of what is coming. Once everything is known, it will be too late; what we will have done will already be done, and it will be available for full review, and it will be too late to revise and add new “drops” of oil or become “good” (whatever that means).

by Paisley, Jan 2014
My ideas about technology are very interesting to me as I think about religion and the gospel. Think about this: if everyone knew everything about you, how would you want to be? If people could use micro-drones to kill anyone, or pass whatever judgment they felt was just...how would you prepare for that, if you knew that it was coming? You would love your brother as yourself, for sure. The best you can do is to love others as much as yourself, and if you've loved them that much, how can anyone expect more, because that was the best you could do? Or, if you wanted to get specific, to prepare for that kind of world where everyone knows everything you wouldn't steal, lie, or commit adultery. And if you had a history of that kind of stuff when things changed, everyone would suddenly know, and it would become a problem for you.

My big ideas about technology and the future have me increasingly convinced that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are true. I used to feel like there was a conflict between religion and technology (or “logic”), and then I started to feel like they must blend somehow but over the past few months I've figured it out. I've had a paradigm shift, and everything makes so much sense. Technology is truth, the gospel is truth, and comments about advances in technology being “for” the gospel totally miss the mark. The Internet is not just to help people do family history or watch movies about Jesus, although those things are nice; it is much, much, much bigger than that: technology is how the gospel happens. I may write more about this later. Now that I understand, I am very interested to read the scriptures again because I think I will come away with some really amazing insights that will help me understand what is coming and know how to prepare for it.

Anyway, back to my original topic, I feel some anxiety about how online sharing will affect my future. I think I will continue to write anyway.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Training the Neighbors' Guard Dogs

All day--every day--Paisley and I talk about one thing: dogs.

Since we left the United States, there have always been a lot of dogs around: both in Panama and Uruguay there have been a ton of dogs. 

In Panama the dogs were randomly very relaxed.  They did not bark or chase cars, but they were quietly relaxing everywhere.  I remember the first time I came across a dog in the middle of the road.  I started to feel sad, but then as our car got closer, maybe 30 feet away, it got up and moved out of the way.  No big deal!  Just relaxing in the middle of the road!  That happened a few times. 

In Uruguay the dogs also everywhere, but they are uptight and noisy.  They don't wander around in public as much as the dogs in Panama, they are usually with people or guarding houses.  For our first month in Uruguay there was a dog out on a balcony diagonal from our apartment, and he barked cooonnnnstantly.  It about drove me crazy.  I would just about have Paisley asleep and he would bark some more and Paisley would sit up in bed, totally alert, and say "Dog?!  Woof woof?  Dog!  Dog!"

Now we are in a neighborhood and almost all of the neighbors have a guard dog (or five).  Paisley's vocabulary has also grown, so a couple months ago we started to have this conversation several times each day, whenever we hear (or walk past) a dog:

 Paisley: "DOG?!  Bark!  Woof woof!  Tail.  Wag.  Dog.  TOUCH!  TOUCH!"  (She wants to touch every dog.) 
Me: "Nope, we can't touch it."
Paisley: "LOOK.  See it.  Look.  Look.  Pass.  Dog."

After a while of her asking to touch every dog, about a month ago I explained to her why we couldn't touch all of the guard dogs, at a simplified level that I hoped she would understand.  I explained that the dogs are mad.  The dogs bark because they are protecting their house and if we try to touch them they could bite us.  We need to ask the owners before we touch dogs.  So that is why even though we pass a lot of dogs we usually cannot touch them.

She did understand. 

After that, we still talked about dogs a ton.  She still asked to touch them.  Something changed, though.  Now when we pass by dogs, she doesn't run to try to touch them.  Instead, she wants to be held instead of walking, and she clings close to me, curled up tightly into me.  She shudders when they bark.  Now, when she talks to me about dogs our conversations are different.

"DOG!  Bark!  Mad.  Bite.  Scared!  Afraid!  See it.  Touch.  Mad."

She begs to go see dogs, but once we get to them she is afraid!

It's kind of sad to me.

But it had to happen eventually, right?  She had to know eventually that it is not safe to touch every dog, because it can be dangerous. 

Even when she sees friendly, happy dogs she says "DOG!  Mad.  Bite."  So I started telling her that some dogs are HAPPY!  Some dogs are FRIENDLY!  Not all dogs are mad, and most dogs are only mad sometimes.  And they're behind gates, so we're safe.

Pais doesn't really get it, though.  And every day several dogs bark at us viciously as we walk past, so that doesn't help her to be less afraid.  We can't not walk past, so that is just how it is.

Then I had an idea...

I remembered that goat kids become friendly if you feed them raisins when you interact with them.  I remembered that when we had Chalcy she was very trainable.

I wondered, what if we bought some dog treats (even though we don't have a dog) and carried some with us so that whenever we pass a scary dog we can toss a treat at the dog and it will disrupt the barking and make the dog like us. 

I wasn't sure if it was ethical or not, because if I had a scary guard dog I wouldn't want a lady and her baby to make it not a scary dog.  And, I have very strong feelings about what I consume and what people feed to Paisley, and some people might object to me feeding their dogs anything.

I decided to do it though, because:
1) The dogs don't just bark if we are threatening their territory.  If a dog were only barking if we stopped outside their house, or trespassed, that would be one thing--and some dogs are that way--but that is not the case with most dogs.
2) The value of having dogs on full alert for us is not worth the cost of my baby really believing that all dogs are mad, and that is what is being reinforced when they are so vicious. 
3) We do not actually pose a threat to the houses--whether or not the owners know that--so if dogs are friendly to us it does not raise the risk of burglary or harm to the people.
4) We are feeding very generic dog biscuits, in small quantities, so it is unlikely to make anybody's dog fat or have some kind of dietary problem.
5) If the owners ask us not to, we will stop.

So I bought a bag of dog biscuits, and started to toss half a dog biscuit to any dog that barks at us.

The first few times I threw dog biscuits it took everybody by surprise.  The dogs abruptly stopped barking to look for treats.  Paisley was surprised by the unexpected change, too, and she laughed and laughed!

We've been doing that for about a week and a half, just whenever we see the dogs. 

It's working!

We've seen the most improvement with the very scary, extremely barky dogs that live two doors away from us.  They still run across the yard to meet us when they see us, but they don't bark at all.  Instead, they wag their tails and wait patiently on the other side of the gate, hoping that I will toss treats in.  And I do.