On March 25 I received this message on Facebook:
We are from South Africa, been here since the beginning of March. I am currently 4 months pregnant and South Africa is in lockdown. We will have to (and feel safer to) wait coronavirus out in Uruguay. My husband and I are currently in La Paloma. We are hoping to find an obstetrician who speaks some English to do the scans and tests as needed until we can return home. I know this is quite a big and unusual ask but we are really unsure of what to do.
Vici is from South Africa. She’s a full-time musician. She plays rock and roll in a band called Die Horries. Its name is in Afrikaans and means the shakes – the kind a heavy drinker gets the day after a bender. She’s married to Hennie, who also plays rock, and he’s an electrical engineer who runs a software company in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa.
A three week ‘baby moon’ in Uruguay goes awry
Vici and Hennie got married last year but because she had gigs they couldn’t do an extended honeymoon. However Hennie had been fascinated with Uruguay for a really long time. Vici says that he really liked the progressive politics and that Uruguayans seem to be “reasonable”, “accepting” and “about equality”. Combined with the “beautiful beaches”, a holiday in Uruguay appealed to them both. A month before leaving, Vici found out she was pregnant. That’s fine, she thought. This will be a ‘baby moon’–a term that’s being used for the last holiday a couple has before a new baby arrives. She had a scan the day before they flew to Montevideo for their planned three week holiday, arriving on March 10.
Vici and Hennie were on their way to the beaches in the east on March 13. They were listening to the radio but struggled to understand what was going on. It was only when they got to La Paloma that their Airbnb host, who had spent some time in the US, explained that there were now Coronavirus cases in Uruguay. So then they realised that things were serious, though because La Paloma was so calm and quiet, they weren’t really worried. It was only a few days later, as they were planning their next stop in Cabo Polonio that they understood, things had changed. Their host in Cabo contacted them to say that the parks were closing and that they should come to Cabo for the day at least to see it, but that staying there was out of the question. Then they found out that all commercial flights out of Uruguay were grounded.
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Balancing the risks of flying home or staying
Vici in the meantime needed to do her second scan. Taking a humanitarian flight home to South Africa was risky.
It was at that point that Vici reached out to me. “We discovered Guru’Guay before we came to Uruguay. Hennie found the site and he was like “check this out, this is so informative”, said Vici. They planned their list of must-visit places using www.guruguay.com. So it only felt natural that “with all of the craziness going on I got a little anxious and emotional and Hennie was like: “okay, just relax, send a message to Guru’Guay and we’ll see what happens”.”
I recommended they use the wisdom of the crowd and Vici wrote to our Discover Uruguay group on March 26, explaining her situation and asking for recommendations. They ended up getting the scan at the British Hospital. They were also helped by English speaking Uruguayans and made contact with other South Africans living in Uruguay (there’s a growing community).
They decided to stay another month in Uruguay, though they moved to Atlantida to be closer to Montevideo. By then the COVID 19 situation in South Africa had escalated. Despite a mandatory lockdown there are over 100,000 cases.
“There were so many uncertainties regarding going back home,” Vici said. “What the situation would be, when the virus would peak, what the hospitals would be like to give birth safely.” In the end, she and Hennie decided that they would stay in Uruguay where they felt they could plan.
Particularly impressed with the public hospital in Uruguay
On the advice of their Uruguayan hosts, they signed up with ASSE and were overwhelmed with gratitude to be assigned an obstetrician who speaks excellent English in the Pereira Rossell. If everything goes to plan, their little girl, Olva, will be born in Montevideo’s most well known public hospital in September.
Most Uruguayans will be shocked to hear this. The British Hospital and the Pereira Rossell are considered opposite ends of the healthcare spectrum. However Vici experienced both and speaks highly of both and she was particularly impressed with the public hospital.
“We are not used to a public health system that is so accessible and a really good standard,” she says. The hospital has assigned her a highly-trained obstetrician who speaks excellent English.
A South African baby girl will be born in Uruguay
Vici and Hennie will return to South Africa with Olva in January, to ensure her immune system is developed enough to deal with a transatlantic flight. Though in the meantime, Vici’s mother is trying to get on a humanitarian flight here so that she can accompany the couple.
In the meantime, they are moving to Montevideo at the end of the month. Vici is dying to learn more about the rock scene here and Hennie would like to make contacts to see if he can replicate what he does in South Africa and set up a software company here. He continues to direct his company in Pretoria remotely. Last week Vici bought a second hand guitar on Facebook. “We met the guy who sold it to us and he’s definitely in the rock & roll scene. When we move into Montevideo we are going to have dinner with him and his wife”.
You can follow Vici’s band in Facebook.
The Guru in El País newspaper
This article was originally published in Spanish in El País, one of the most important newspapers in Uruguay. We recently partnered for creating original content about foreigners traveling or living in Uruguay to inspire the expat community and Uruguayans themselves to explore their country. You can follow Karen's column in El País on Wednesdays, both the digital and printed version. We are also publishing the translated English version of these articles here in guruguay.com.
More articles in the series:
When the Clipper Round the World race was called off, Spaniard Clara Carrington followed her heart 11,000 miles to Uruguay, making it as the borders closed.
The coronavirus pandemic trapped them in a country they did not know, yet they adopted it as their refuge. Where are these travellers a year later?
Fearful after hearing scary stories from elsewhere in Latin America, this adventure motorcycle couple’s experience in Uruguay couldn’t have been better.
This South African has had a crash-course on life in Uruguay–and healthcare–after finding herself stuck here on her ‘baby moon’ during COVID-19.
This San Franciscan photographer runs a Uruguay/US creative arts institute. “There’s not a day that I don’t think, I’m the luckiest person in the world.”
The coronavirus pandemic trapped them in a country they did not know, yet they adopted Uruguay as their refuge. Where are these travellers a year later?
Kris and Ryan from Oakland, California’s round-the-world trip came to an abrupt stop as they found themselves stuck in Uruguay. But they have no regrets.
Finding herself stranded in Uruguay on a biking holiday, Kate Chernysheva couldn’t believe her eyes as she rode into tiny San Javier. Find out why.
When Chris locked his New York City apt door in Dec 2019, he never imagined he’d be moving out of it, in a pandemic, via WhatsApp and from Montevideo.