Uruguay – my first interaction with South America. I had no expectations, actually I had no idea how it was gonna be. I was ready to fight to avoid infringing my oath, but I was also ready to fail – clearly, this would have been a really difficult battle.. I had brought a few dollar bills in my wallet, in case of emergency, since I had been told that exchanging dollars is the best way to get pesos in Uruguay. I did not really want pesos, but the world around me definitely did.
Transportation, as usual, was the main enemy to my oath. After spending almost 1 hour investigating the various possibilities to get out of the airport, I soon realized that there were no possibilities I could use bitcoin to pay either the taxi or the bus. So, unless I would find a human wallet, I was pretty much stuck. Finding a human wallet in an airport in a foreign country – whose language I do not master that well – is, however, a pretty challenging task. Considering I was already late for the reception, I decide to call it an emergency, and went to change my dollar bills into Uruguayan pesos, so that I could take the bus. Of course, i tried to spend my standard 10-15 minutes for explaining to the bus driver that it is important to accept bitcoin, but the driver simply could not care less about that, and just kept ignoring me, pretending he could not understand my language. This was unfortunate, but not too bad, considering I was really not in the mood of doing my customary bitcoin-missionary speech at that point.
Arrived at the conference venue, I was welcomed by delicious drinks and hors d’oeuvres – nothing better to remember that, if Bitcoin does not serve you well, the dollar (or pesos, in that case) are often just redundant in the modern academic society, characterized by abundance and sharing.
The reception went on for a few hours, till my Uruguayan host came to pick me up, to bring me to the house where I’d be staying during the week. Finding a place to stay had been quite a challenge in fact, considering that my university refused to pay for the accommodation expenses (I have no idea why), I could not rely on the notion that I was merely an intermediary between the hotel and my host institution – I had to find an alternative that would not involve spending dollars or pesos. The task was harder than expected. Airbnb was not a possibility because of not accepting bitcoins. So I tried with couchsurfing, but no one had positively replied to my request. Then I started harassing everyone I could think of that might have some kind of connection with anyone living in Montevideo and who could offer me a couch. Again, a much harder task that I would have expected, and I found myself just a few days before flying to Montevideo with no idea where I would be passing the night. But, as usual, things eventually turned out okay. Just one day before jumping on the plane, I got 3 positive answers from 3 different people offering me to stay at their place in Montevideo. So I ended up staying with a really cool person who lived right next to the conference venue (thus eliminating the need to spend pesos for transportation). It had been a really pleasing experience thus far, and I did not want to ruin it by annoying my host with my bitcoin restrictions, asking them to pay for my stuff whenever we’d go out (instead, I’d rather pay for theirs), so I made the rational decision that – while I would try and survive on bitcoin as much as I could whenever I am hanging out on my own – I would not let my oath ruin the relationship I had established with these great people from Montevideo. Just like I had formerly done in Europe with the euro bills, I declared the Uruguayan pesos to no longer count as a currency that would go against my oath. This was, I believe, a good decision, since Uruguay (like many other places on earth) is simply not ready (yet) for widespread Bitcoin adoption.
This did not prevent me from preaching the use of bitcoin to everyone I met though. In particular, as I met with the other people who had offered me a place to stay (in the “corporate suite” of Montevideo Neo’s office), I immediately understood that, even though they were not (yet) so knowledgeable about it, these people would definitely figure out the benefits of Bitcoin pretty soon. One of them was, in fact, in a band and interested in learning more about Creative Commons and the various business models that can be implemented around it. I told him that the best business model for online artists is Flattr, or the standard donation button, which is often more effective as a bitcoin-donation button. Given his interest in the thing, I promise I would set him up a Bitcoin-wallet, and a website with a Bitcoin-donation QR-code on top of it — my weekly mission !