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The ‘doo’ detector

Posted by urufish on June 29, 2007

Somewhere in my 4th decade, someone mentioned to me that I wasn’t a very optimistic person any more.   Somewhere in my 3rd decade I changed from a half-full glass person to a half-empty glass person.  I did some soul searching and decided there was truth to the comment in that my actions would lead one to that conclusion.  But that wasn’t how I felt about life.  The truth was more complicated.  I was showing the effects of several years in the business world, as an entrepeneur which is more often than not, an ‘optimistic’ word for a world of civilized warfare, where you and your competitors fight for the same thing, without end and without quarter.  .    The daily cycle of victim/perp, tends to harden ones outer shell, which after several years, becomes one’s demeanour.  But it doesn’t have to change one’s inherent character. 

I decided to consciously alter my demeanour to present a more accurate reflection of my character.   It was also right around this same time that I became aware of the main principal that was guiding me in the business world (and by proximity, my personal life as well).  I realized my success wasn’t as much the result of what I was doing right as much as it was the result of what I was NOT doing wrong.   I call this ‘using your doo detector’.    ‘If you dont step in dog shit on the way home, you dont waste valuable time washing your shoes later’.  A corollary of that is ‘you dont stink either’. 

Just because a person has a good ‘doo detector’ doesn’t guarantee success, (not stepping in it).  Over the years, I worked with several people who ‘had a feeling’ that such and such was a rip-off, or a con, etc.  Yet, they went ahead and in the end, stepped in it.  I most often saw this when one of my friends got a ‘hot tip’ on a stock.  I’d say something like, ‘you really dont buy that crap do you?’.  They’d usually answer, ‘not really, but I’m not an expert on this stuff.. he (the tipster) is.’    It really did turn out to be ‘crap’.  

I think ‘doo detection and avoidance’ is as valid a talent for success as is doing the right things, making the right choices.  Furthermore, if your ‘do it right’ talent is OK and your ‘doo d/a’ talent is great, you will be successful, in all things these apply to.  Of course, if you’re blessed in both categories, your success will be overwhelmingly successful. 

I saw this ‘doo d/a’ put to good use the other day, right here in Montevideo.  A friend of mine was looking at purchasing a property.  He loved the place.  The price was right.  But he didn’t get good ‘vibes’ from the neighbour.  Most people I know wouldn’t have even considered this is a reason for ‘not’ buying the property.  But this person’s ‘doo d/a’ talent is unqestionably much better developed than most of us.  He made up his mind to look elsewhere.   I’m sure at some point, he’ll find another place he likes just as much and just as important, his ‘doo d/a’ detector wont be flashing a ‘brown’ alert.   

Posted in Attitudes, Moving to Uruguay, Real Estate | Leave a Comment »

Unloading your container

Posted by urufish on May 27, 2007

 unload-container.jpg Dec. 24/2006.  Sorry.. no white Xmas. 

While we’re on the topic of container manifests, why not follow up with the whole container process.  

The decision to ship household goods is a personal one for every immigrant.  Each case is different.  Some people want to get rid of everything.  At the other end, people like us, professional horders, want to keep everything.  If you’re going to pick up and move your family half way around the world, it made sense to us to surround ourselves with everything we held dear to our hearts over the years.  It would also make it esaier for our teenage daughter.  If you have to lose all your friends, at least you get to sleep in your own bed, surrounded by familliar furniture and all the stuffed animals and toys that you played with all our life.  

My wife, being a member of the ex-pat Toronto, Uruguayan community for 35 years  knew the 2 Urugayans who specialized in shipping goods to Uruguay from Canada. We also got very lucky with timing.  The Uruguayan consul, a friend (and neighbour) of ours, was going back to Uruguay in June.  The government pays for diplomats’ containers, outbound and inbound.  He chose Canur Courier Service in Toronto, Canada.  ( http://www.directoriolatino.ca/web20/LookUpManager.aspx?keywords=Envios%20de%20Carga )  If this link doesn’t work, Google:  Canur Courier Toronto.  They ship approximately 10 containers to Uruguay every year for many years.  They do everything but more importantly, they know ‘everyone’. 

We met one of the owners, Oscar, at a few parties in the past.  My wife called him to come over and give us a quote.  He looked around the house.  My wife told him what was not going with us.  He took about 2 weeks to get back to us with a quote (still thinks like a Uruguayan after all these years :).  He figured one container, U$S4250.  

We flew back to Toronto a week before the container was to be loaded and finished up the packing of delicate and personal items.  Then, realizing what we needed and didn’t have in the house, went on a shopping spree which included boxes of peanut butter and salad dressing. 

The container arrived on time, mid day of the day before the loading was to start.  The next day, Oscar, his brother and 3 other men showed up.  They decided what would go in first.. things that we didn’t want customs to see.  The new, never opened clothes, LCD TV’s, and related electronic equipment and a motorcycle we decided to ship at the last minute.  They continued to load the container throughout the day and into the evening.  This went on for 3 days. 

Loading a container is nothing like a moving van.  We moved 3 or 4 times before this.  We used professional movers from top companies like Mayflower.  In those moves, the movers worked quickly, carrying things out into the driveway where goods were staged.  The guy or guys on the truck would drape the furniture with thick blankets and put them on the truck, securing them with straps as they worked.   About 2/3 through the day, they’d pack up and drive (intra-city moving), to your new house.  They’d be unload and be done usually by nightfall. 

With a container, it’s totally different.  The first thing they do is build a wooden compartment at the front.  Half the height of the container, and with  a floor.  In the top section, the put boxes.  In the bottom section, as described above, items that you want to keep away from customs and those that you want to keep as safe and secure as possible.  Each time  an item is placed, the container guy measures the space remaining, to the centimeter and calls out the exact size of what he wants next.  The guys in the house scour around for something with the closest fit and they bring that.  Insted of blankets, they will use bubble wrap or foam sheets.  We did something unusual by buying a supply of one time shipping blankets, so we put both those and bubble wrap on our furniture.  These sections are 8 feet deep.  Once they finish one section, they stop loading and build another.  They build 5 of these in total.  In our case, it took them 3 full days to complete this process.  And remember, this was only the loading.  Unloading would take place a couple of months later. 

When the packing is done, they pull out a seal and put it on the ctontainer, in front of your eyes.  You write down the seal number.  It should not broken when you see it on the Uruguay end.  In addition to this seal, we put our own locks on the container and kept the keys with us.  The ONLY reason for opening the container is, yep, you guessed it, US Customs or Homeland Security.  This is very rare, but possible.  We were Canadians but since our container had to go by truck to NYC, we were subject to the same checks Americans are.  Had we loaded the container in Montreal, we could have avoided that possibility but we took our chances.  Customs do NOT put the container back the way it was AND it’s impossible to prove they damaged something.  Been there, done that with international trucking years back.  Not a nice thing.    

We made our manifest the day after we loaded the 2 containers (a full one and half of another one).   We typed it out from written notes my wife and friends scribbled down while packing and loading it at the Toronto end.  Of course, some unmentionables never made it on the manifest or did so cryptically. 

Because we also insured our container, we took a little extra care with the manifest, also adding the replacement value of each item.  We emailed one copy to the shipping company and one to the insurer.  I cant recall if my wife gave the manifest to the consulate in Toronto or not.  I know she filled in some papers there (that had to be done before we left) at the consulate.  Check with your consulate to see what you need to do there if you’re bringing in items duty free. 

We met with the shipping company the day after they took the containers and finished all the paperwork.  The move was supposed to be one container, cost U$S4250.  This includes packing at our end, loading the container, shipping the container, clearing customs in Uruguay, delivering the container and putting everything in the house.  We ended up with 1.5 containers at U$S6375.  At the last minute, we decided to keep our basement furniture and went on a 3 day shopping spree at WalMart and the Building Center.  They gave us an approximate idea of when our containers would arrive.  The trip normally takes 4 weeks, but we didn’t want the containers until mid December, so we had one sit in Toronto (paid storage) for 3 weeks.  The other, because it was a half, and had to wait to be combined with other customers’ boxes and furniture, would take an extra 2 weeks and our shipper could hold the delivery up for a few days in Montevideo.  They told us the containers would go by truck to NYC, then by boat to Montevideo.  As it turns out, the boat went to Buenos Aires and the containers were transferred to a smaller ship there. 

The shipping company called us a couple of days before the containers were due to arrive and organized the deliveries with us for the day before Christmas.  For the half container, it wasn’t a big deal because they would offload at their warehouse and send over 2-3 smaller truckloads with their guys.  But the full container required some planning.  The day before the container was to arrive, some men came here and put flashing pylons in front of our house (see photo above).  There was a car in the way so they paid the parking guy a small sum to put them in place when the car pulled away.  By the end of that evening, we had closed off the entire front of our house and half the neighbour’s property. 

The next day, the container arrived early in the morning (see above).    I checked the seal.  It was unbroken.  I took off our locks.  The customs guys showed up.  We opened the doors and I could swear I smelled Toronto air 🙂  The customs guys joked around with the shipper for 30 minutes and then they left.  To the right in the picture above is my wife, her friend and Oscar, the shipper. 

You might be able to make it out in the picture but there is a wood floor half way up the walls that stretches the entire length of the container.  It’s built in 8 foot sections at a time.  This is done so they can load to the ceiling without placing too much weight on the bottom.  I think the container is about 7 or 8 feet high.  So there’s no more than 3.5 to 4 feet of vertical weight.  This is built with 2×4 and 1/2 inch plywood.  In our case, the shipper is a Uruguayan and he’s been doing this for years.  He built an entire house with Canadian wood framing by recovering wood from all the containers he’s sent here over the past 10 years.  Ours was no exception. 

We did something a little unusual too for packing.  We purchased a couple of hundred moving blankets to make sure everything was properly padded.  You can see a few furniture items wrapped in blue.  That’s them.  We’ve been selling them off here and there over the past few months and they took off recently, as blankets to cover beds.  It’s getting cold now. 

Posted in Moving to Uruguay | 16 Comments »

Container manifest

Posted by urufish on May 27, 2007


When we moved to Uruguay, we brought our worldly possessions.  This is what a container manifest looks like.  Not very complicated nor does it need to be highly detailed.  It can NOT contain any banned or illegal items as it pertains to the maritime shipping act, the carrier’s own requirements or the government of Uruguay.  For instance, you dont want to list liquor or motorycycles.  Of course, you can bring things you cant bring in duty free, like a motorcycle or a car, but then you pay the duties and taxes, or spend the rest of your life here, hiding them from the police. 

It works in Spanish and/or English.  We did ours in Spanglish. 


Posted in Moving to Uruguay | 56 Comments »