Best Countries For Expats Part One

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Best Countries For Expats Part One.

“In any given moment, we have two options, to move forward into growth or to step back into safety.” Abraham Maslow

There are somewhere around nine million American civilians currently living abroad. Where to go is an open question. Mild weather is the most important thing for us. Whether a country has a lot of English-speakers, a favorable cost of living or an immigration process that’s (relatively) navigable are other considerations.  Here are some of the possibilities we are thinking about. These countries make a pretty compelling case to leave everything behind. I think no matter how much research you do and how prepared you think you are, there will always be things that surprise you when you’re finally there. Some are good, some are bad but that’s what the experience is all about! Here are five of the ten countries that we are considering in no particular order.

New Zealand would be an easy place to move to because everyone is friendly and speaks English. It has a lot of outdoor activities, great air quality, Lord Of The Rings scenery and wineries. Wellington is a cool city. There are many areas with milder temperatures year round. It is extremely safe with no violent crime. We can really travel around Australia and Oceania. The downside is that it is a full day’s flight from America and the cost of living on an island far away from everything is high. 

We visited Uruguay for the  first time last year. I loved it. Uruguay has a stable economy, large middle class and a very low violent crime rate. There are no homeless camps. People live simply. It has a functional political system with little corruption and a highly educated population. Marijuana is legal to grow and to possess for personal use. The wine, the beef, and the national soccer team are all world-class. The Atlantic beaches are among the best in the world and the temperature in the winter never falls below freezing. It is relatively easy to buy property and establish residency without bribery. Uruguayans on the whole are welcoming, friendly and helpful. I love South America so traveling around from here would be great. It is not as cheap as other Latin American countries  to live in but is still less than the US. Thefts and muggings are common in the cities. There is not a lot of English spoken here so I will need to improve my Spanish.

Greece is sadly expensive for the Greek people but a bargain for Americans. The food is delicious and fresh – think feta, lamb, fish and tzatiki. The scenery is breathtaking and the weather is similar to California. If you want a city, avoid Athens and try Thessaloniki. I have spent many summers there and love this country and the people I have met. The islands are dead in winter and ferries don’t always run so it’s important to pick an island like Naxos or Crete that is agriculturally self sustaining. I’m familiar with the culture, the beauracracy, and the slow way of doing things. There is terrible unemployment due to their financial crisis  and as long as you are not going there to work you will be ok. 

Peru has some  of the best food in the world. No country with 5000 varieties of potatoes is anything but deadly serious about food. The food in Lima is a mix of Chinese, Andean, Japanese and Incan influences. The landscape is beautiful, diverse. and filled with history. Macchu Picchu is one of my favorite places on earth. There are plenty of Pacific beach towns as well. At the moment, the government and the economy is stable. Good health care, cost of living and travel is very affordable here if you are coming from the U.S.  A tourist visa lasts for six months so it will be easy to try it out and Peruvians seem to like Americans. You do need to speak Spanish and crime is high in the cities. Some parts of Lima are not safe.

Portugal has a mild climate, panoramic seaside views and endless beaches. The American dollar does well here. It is a relaxed way of life and there are many English speakers in the cities. The people are warm, welcoming and helpful which is good when trying to deal with the language and bureaucracy.  Health care is good and affordable even if you pay out of pocket.  Violent crime is very low and theft is mostly pickpockets in the tourist areas. It is considered one of the best places in the world to move to. The downside for me is that the language is very difficult. It looks like Spanish but is pronounced so differently. I have been to Portuguese speaking countries four times and still can only say Thank You.

Stay safe,

JAZ

Beaches Of Uruguay

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Beaches Of Uruguay

“Hello sun, once again you come and visit us unannounced. Once again in your long walk since the beginning of life…….” Carlos Paez Vilaro, Uruguayan artist

Two months out  of the year (mid December to February) the  beaches of Punta Del  Este, Jose Ignacio and Barra are where the South American rich and famous go to party. This is where the beautiful young people come to show off their beach bodies, get a tan, eat and drink well, and then hit an all-night club or casino.

The rest of the year the beaches are quiet and most of the boutiques and restaurants are closed. If the weather is good, like it was for us, this was not a problem.

I grew up on the beach in Brooklyn. I spent my summers from eighteen to twenty five years old on the islands of Greece. I  live in Venice, California.  I was ready for the wide empty beaches and quiet roads of Uruguay in October.

Driving from Montevideo, we stop in Piriapolis which is Uruguay’s oldest resort town.

Located on the sparkling banks of the Rio de la Plata, it has smooth waters making it the perfect setting for those who desire long swims in the sea

With many seafront restaurants and shops, it’s also an ideal spot for a family vacation. A hike up the hill offers beautiful views of the coastline and town and Punta Del Este can be seen in the distance on a clear day.

I loved this town.

Our next  stop is Casapueblo. it is a hotel, museum, and art gallery.

It was built by Uruguayan artist, sculptor, architect, writer, and composer Carlos Paez Vilaro.

One of Mr. Páez Vilaró’s most difficult times came in the winter of 1972, when a plane carrying his son Carlitos and other members of his Uruguayan rugby team crashed high in the Chilean Andes. Authorities eventually abandoned the search, but Mr. Páez Vilaró never gave his son up for dead. Finally, after 72 days, the painter’s son was found among the 16 survivors whose ordeal was retold in the book and movie ‘‘Alive.’’

He built the house  by hand out of wood, white cement and stucco.  The building is an enormous, bright, white labyrinth formed along the side of a cliff.

It has no straight lines, as the artist wanted it to have a natural, human feel, and to resemble the mud nests of Uruguay’s hornero birds.

Inside Casapueblo, Paez Vilaro’s art work and sculpture are displayed. 

Punta del Este is Uruguay’s biggest tourist destination. It’s over-developed in parts with hundreds of tower block apartments and holiday homes, and it certainly caters towards the wealthy local summer holiday crowd. It is also incredibly popular with Argentinians and Brazilians. I see Trump is building a hotel here.

Outside of this area, though, the coastal communities remain just that, communities.

Famous beaches  include La Playa De Los Dedos (The Finger Beach), famous for a giant hand emerging from the sand that’s not nearly as creepy as it sounds. The hand was supposedly put there for swimmers to pay attention to the undertow but it’s more of a photo op now. 

We have  lunch  at Imarangatu Beach Club.

The fish was super fresh and perfectly cooked. For those of you who have traveled with me, you know when I’m hungry I forget to take photos. The ambience is great and it’s located on a beautiful beach.

The BF went in the kitchen to learn how they cooked the fish. Even with a language barrier, they couldn’t have been more helpful!!!

La Barra (Bikini Beach) is known for attracting models, and is lined with seaside mansions  and many all night clubs .

Jose Ignacio  with its relaxed  beautiful beaches has become even more trendy in high season.

Between La Barra and Jose Ignacio is Mantiales another relaxed beach town.

We stayed at the wonderful Faisano Hotel in Punta De Este. It’s not on the coast but it is an incredibly beautiful setting with lovely rooms and a great spa.

 it so relaxing, The staff is  impressively helpful and you feel well taken care of. It is great to come back there after exploring the beaches.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Things That I Have Learned in Montevideo, Uruguay

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Things I Have Learned in Montevideo, Uruguay

“Montevideo is like Buenos Aires without the LA vibe.” Anthony Bourdain

Over half of the country’s 3.3 million people live in the capital, Montevideo.

Montevideo is not a city for vegetarians. Salads are few and far between. (translation-Did  we make a barbecue today?)

The chivito is Uruguay’s classic sandwich.  Chivo means “goat” in Spanish so it means baby goat but the sandwich is made with steak, ham, cheese, and sometimes other ingredients, like lettuce, tomato, and fried egg. We had a scaled down version.

Walk past any small eatery in Montevideo  you’ll see two, three, even four people sharing a single sandwich.

Jacinto, open since 2012, is a much talked-about eatery led by Lucía Soria, an Argentine chef who trained under renowned chef and restaurateur Francis Mallmann before moving to Uruguay. Her restaurant is just off Plaza Zabala  (near our hotel) in the historic heart of the city, She invents fresh and modern versions of old Uruguayan classic dishes,

The Carnaval Museum is located in the Old Town. it was free on the Sunday that I was there.

I loved the display of old carnaval photos, the music and especially the amazing costumes.

Uruguayans hold the democratic process very highly. They remember the years of dictatorship and the upcoming election is very important.

Everyone is out supporting their candidates and trying to get your vote. It is inspiring to see.

.La Rambla is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world on the banks of the Rio De  La Plata. Joggers, cyclists and families are out enjoying the view. 

One of the popular tourist attractions in Montevideo is the classic sign on La Rambla.

We stayed  in the  Ciudad Vieja or the Old Town  at the Alma Historica Boutique Hotel. All the rooms are different.

We were in the Torres Garcia room  which  of course led us to his museum. The hotel is cool and staff is very helpful.

Joaquin Torres Garcia is  perhaps Uruguay’s most famous artist, despite spending most of his life abroad in France and Spain.

García created curious portraits of historical icons such as Beethoven, Da Vinci and Dostoyevsky as well as cubist paintings similar to those of Picasso. The gift store is a good place for souvenirs.,

 Jose Gurevich was born in Lithuania 1927 and moved to Uruguay when he was four years old. He was a well-renowned painter, muralist and sculptor who died at the very young age of forty seven. His museum features drawings from his life in Lithuania as well as Uruguay.

The main area of the Ciudad Vieja is the Plaza Independencia. General Artigas lead Uruguay to independence. His  mausoleum is built under the square and directly below a huge iron statue of him riding a horse. It’s a really cool, unexpected mausoleum. Uruguayans know how to commemorate their independence struggle and heroes.

 Architectural landmarks include the stunning Palacio Salvo, a towering masterpiece by the Italian architect Mario Palanti. The Art Deco facade may look vaguely familiar if you’ve done any sightseeing in Buenos Aires. That’s because Palacio Salvo is the graceful sister of Palacio Barolo, his other best-known work,

The Teatro Solis, yet another impressive example of Montevideo’s architecture. Built in 1856, the theater was renovated from 1998-2004, when it was reopened to the public. The theater is recognized globally for its phenomenal acoustics,

The Palacio Legislativo  (the Parliament) is a huge imposing neoclassical building overlooking the city.

Mercado Agricultura de Montevideo (MAM)  is a working market in a beautiful early twentieth century building.

There is plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and beef.

One thing you notice in Montevideo is that people are obsessively drinking yerba mate.They all have thermoses or that beautiful mate cup with a silver straw  (bombilla) which is sold all over Uruguay. You can find bags of  many varieties  of yerba  mate in the market. Finding yerba mate to try in a cafe is difficult. Yerba mate  is  bitter and an acquired  taste.  I  had already had it in Argentina and bought the mate cup  and yerba  mate there. It seemed like  if I wanted some in Montevideo, I was going to have to get someone to share theirs  with me.

Soledad was our wonderful guide in Uruguay. She is  knowledgeable, smart, funny and can change plans when needed. She was also very helpful with getting the necessary bandages for my finger  and she was right. It was exactly what the doctor told me when I got home.and have to do for the next few months. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

Bad Luck In South America

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 Bad Luck in South America

“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.” Cormac McCarthy

I am a believer in good luck charms when you travel. I never get on a plane without one. There’s a fine line between a bit of harmless (and possibly helpful) superstitious behavior for luck, and developing an obsessive and crippling dependence on some elaborate routine.

I woke up five hours into my flight to Montevideo, Uruguay and realized my necklace was hanging open on my neck without the charm. I couldn’t find it anywhere. It felt like a  punch in my gut. Flying had always gone remarkably smoothly and I always fly with a symbol that luck was on my side.

A few days later in Punta Del Este, Uruguay, I broke my travel mirror which means seven years of bad luck to those of us who believe in such things. I sat down to tie my shoes and fell off the stool causing my finger to hit a table and bend backwards. Year one was not starting well.The next day it hurt and was swelling up. I could move it and it was not that bruised so  we taped my two fingers together and I got on a plane. it was noticeably  swollen when I got off. ”Do you want to go to the hospital?,” asked the receptionist at the hotel in Sao Paulo when she saw it.  Ice and tape seemed to be helping.

Now, I know that the concept of luck is all in your head, but this situation left me wondering where my luck had gone. It was no surprise that i left a bottle of my favorite moisturizer in Punta Del Este. I was expecting things  like this now.

In Salvador, Bahia I dropped my coke on the floor and it spilled out. “That’s bad luck” said  Julia our guide. I explained that I already had it.”Well,” she said, “It’s your third bad thing so now it is done.”

 I was not so sure. I needed some good luck – a new talisman. A talisman is a something that brings good luck.

On Sunday Oct 13 while I was in Salvador, María Rita de Souza Brito Lopes Pontes, known as “Irma Dulce” born in Salvador, ,Bahia, and considered to be Brazil’s answer to Mother Teresa  became the first woman born in Brazil to be declared a saint.  Everyone is Salvador was celebrating. It was the perfect day to change my luck.

The Church of Bonfim is possibly the most famous place of worship in all of Brazil. The simple white edifice has long been the juncture of Catholicism and the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé traditions.

Outside the church and all over Salvador, people sell multicolored ribbons with ‘Lembrança do Senhor do Bonfim da Bahia’ written on them, which are often seen tied to railings in front of churches dancing in the breeze.

Each color represents a different Candomblé god, and they are thought to bring luck. Our guide Julia negotiated  the price. The first man selling ribbons was charging double.

I made some important wishes and tied a few to the church.

For a bit of money, I receive a blessing from a Candoble priest. I definitely felt lighter.

The rest of the ribbons I kept with me and tied them to my purse. We would be flying on a very small plane in a few days.

In the Pantanal I broke a bottle of makeup all over the floor and fought with loud, arrogant, racist Trump supporters which definitely affected our time there.

I did not hang enough ribbons for the small stuff.

I bought some figas in Sao Paulo.  – a large one for my house and few smaller ones for gifts. Figas are Brazilian good luck charms. They are amulets- protection from evil. As you can see, i believe in all countries  and all religious  symbols of luck.

Good luck charms feed the human need to look beyond ourselves for solutions to our difficulties, while still encouraging us to do our best. When things are tough, it feels good to hold a charm in your hand and hope for things to get better.

 Even with all the mishaps and torn ligament, this was one of my best trips. It still doesn’t change my feeling about good luck charms. i will always carry that lucky coin or wear  my lucky socks on a plane because you can never have too much good luck.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Things That I Have  Learned In Uruguay

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Things That I Have  Learned In Uruguay

“History never really says goodbye. History says see you later.” Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan author

Uruguay is the second smallest country is South America.

Uruguay became the first country to supply a laptop for free to every school child. Uruguay has one of the highest literacy rates in the world with 98.1% for adults. This is largely thanks to Uruguayans’ access to free and compulsory education.

The national anthem of the country named the “Himno Nacional de Uruguay” is the world’s longest national anthem .

 In Uruguay, state and religion are separate. The country does not have any official religion. It is one of the least religious countries in Latin America.

In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize the production, sale and use of marijuana.

Uruguay claims to be the birthplace of the tango (as does Argentina).

Almost 95% of electricity in Uruguay is from renewable energy resources.

Uruguay contributes more troops to the UN peace  keeping missions  than any other country of the world.

Uruguay is the only country in Latin America which is entirely outside of the tropics.

Football is the most popular sport in Uruguay, The first-ever FIFA World Cup was held in Uruguay in 1930. Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 and won the FIFA World Cup in the same year.

The name Uruguay comes from the Uruguay River which means ‘river of the painted birds’ in the Guarani language. The river starts in Brazil and ends in the Rio de la Plata Basin which forms the water border between Uruguay and Argentina.

In Uruguay, cows and  sheep outnumber people four to one. It is a nation of 12 million cattle but just three million people.

In 2012, a bill was approved by its Senate to legalize abortions during first-trimester pregnancies. This bill attracted a lot of attention among other countries in Latin America. The only other country in Latin America where abortion is legal is Cuba.

It is one of the few countries in South America to have access to clean water for its entire population.

Jose Mujica, who served as Uruguay’s President from 2010 to 2015, is known for his humble lifestyle.  He lived on a simple farm with his wife on the outskirts of Montevideo and donated about 90% of his monthly salary to charity. Mujica set an example for politicians all over the world.

Uruguay is now the least corrupt country in Latin America. It is ranked first in the region for democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of life, freedom of the press, size of the middle class, prosperity and security. (getting out the vote)

This is all the more impressive considering the country was ruled by a military dictatorship until 1985. In 2009, General Gregorio Conrado Álvarez, the country’s final dictator, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for 37 counts of murder and human rights violations.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Things That I Want To Do In Uruguay

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 Ten Things I Want To Do In Uruguay

“When you’re traveling, ask the traveler for advice, not someone whose lameness keeps him in one place.” Rumi

Punta De Este is the “Hamptons Of South America.” Relax at a beautiful hotel and visit the beaches.

See Casapueblo. It is an art museum in a nine story white washed hillside  building owned by artist Carlos Paez Vilaro, in Punta Del Este.  

Eat at La Huella in the trendy fishing village of Jose Ignacio with its interesting shops, lighthouse and beautiful beaches.

Take a street art tour in Montevideo. 

Since I won’t be there for Carnaval, there is a Carnaval Museum in Montevideo. 

Visit the Mercado de los Artesanos, packed with local handicrafts, or Sunday’s sprawling Feria de Tristán Narvaja in  Montevideo.

Walk La Rambla in Montevideo which is the longest sidewalk in the world that runs the full length of Montevide’s coastline (13.5 miles – so maybe half and uber back) Stop at the Mercado Del Puerto.

Have some good asado ( barbecued meats), yerba mate and dulce de leche (similar to Argentina).

Visit a vineyard and do some wine tasting. Uruguay is known for the red Tannat.

Drive along the coast and stop and different fishing villages and beaches.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ