Learning Uruguay

Every day brings ????

Archive for the ‘Daily life’ Category

Birthday trip to Buenos Aires

Posted by urufish on May 22, 2009

buenos-aires-big

Last week was my wife’s birthday.  

Sometime ago, it seems like another lifetime,  I wrote about the difficulties of facing my first wife’s birthday in Uruguay.  Up north, I knew where to buy cards, get her a birthday present and set up a nice quiet dinner at some cosy restuarant.   Here, I couldn’t find one or when I did find one, I couldn’t understand what the birthday card said.   I always used to buy her something small and unique up north.  Small you will find here but unique, you wont.  There are tons of cosy restaurants but I didn’t know where they were.  It’s really great to have friends when that happens.  

This birthday, having 2 years under my belt, was totally under control.  Birthday cards are no longer a problem because I buy a year’s supply of cards for each occasion when we’re up north in July.  My wife’s anniversary card sits in front of me in preparation for this weekend.  May is just a blur for me.  Mothers day, birthday and anniversary all rolled into one.  I took care of the present and the cosy restaurant in one fell swoop–a trip to Buenos Aires.  

Those of you know who know my wife know she’s only interested in two things.  Shoes and sunglasses.  All joking aside, having been to NYC, LA, Paris and the isle of Capri, I honestly believe Buenos Aires is the women’s shoe capital of the world (style, selection and price).  She was in heaven.  Sunglasses weren’t so bad either.   Betweeen Florida and Santa Fe, we must have checked out a dozen places.  Not only did she find a great pair to add to her closet of sunglasses we brought down from up north, but she found a great pair of Reef frames for reading glasses.  As you know, this country runs on text messages and I think she finally figured out she couldnt keep texting if she couldn’t read the incoming messages.  

As for a cosy restaurant, that took a slight twist to a ‘very nice restaurant’.  Buenos Aires has some great restaurants, even in the shopping district.  

To make it a really great trip, we flew instead of boating over.  Pluna must have known it was my wife’s birthday because both flights were on time.  I’ve never experienced that before.  This was the first time she used her Santander Van Gogh card to beat the immigration lines at the airport.  There’s a special line and there’s never anyone there.  We literally came in non stop and surprisingly enough, the luggage was already on the belt.  And to top it all off, customs had gone home for the evening so we just walked out of baggage right to our car.  Weird but true.

In the past, we used to stay with friends in Buenos Aires–the sister of my wife’s best friend.  But she moved to Mendoza so we had to seek commercial lodging.  After looking at a dozen different internet hotels and for each of them, reading at least one customer’s unhappy experience, I decided to fall back on the Marriott chain.   I always used to stay in Marriotts up north when travelling on business.  In 10 years, I never had a truly bad experience so I was hoping and praying that Marriott, Buenos Aires would be similar.  For some reason, they had executive suites on sale that weekend so we took a one bedroom on the top floor.  For us, we really liked the place.  It’s not a modern building.  Supposedly, 2009 was its 100th anniversary.  But it was well kept and there’s no substitute for old architecture.  I’d take peeling paint and cracked walls any day over sterile steel and glass.  The staff were friendly.  We had no problem checking in.  Breakfast was included and it was very nice.  The hot water was hot and plentiful.  The bottled water at 21 pesos seemed a little too Mariottish for our tastes but the refrigerator had lots of room for bottled water purchased around the corner.  

Getting the one bedroom paid off because my wife’s friend decided to come to BA to visit her for her birthday and the couch worked out just great.  She even had her own bathroom.  

I know that women’s clothing is a bigger money maker than men’s so it came as no surprise that most of the stores we passed held little interest for me.  Oh well.  It was her birthday and I was preoccupied with ways to pay off the credit card when we got back.  I did end up buying a sweater in a fabulous sweater store that it turns out I have bought sweaters in twice before when we visited Buenos Aires when I was here on holidays years ago.  I must have a thing for their style.  

For men, they do have have fantastically stylish suits and shoes.  But I’m a shleppy kind of guy, most happy in jeans and a polar (my newly adopted Uruguayan covering of choice).  If I ever need to find a pair of shoes to wear with a suit, if I ever wear one again, this would be where I’d go.  The prices are reasonable when compared with the quality and style.  As always, Buenos Aireas has phenomenal leathers of all kinds.  I have this dream of findig the right suitcase but I never have.  But I keep looking.  

No birthday trip to Buenos Aires can be complete without going to a live theatre.  In this respect, BA is very much like NYC.  Very much unlike my hometown of Toronto.  People love live theatre.  Prices are reasonable and some of these theatres are absolutely mangnificent.  I forget the name of the one we went to but there were about 200 people in the audience.  We had good seats.  I think there were 70 pesos (about USD20) a seat.  The show was a series of skits with scantily clad, curvaceous ladies.  My language skills are fair or worse but I found I enjoyed myself.  My wife and her friend were able to appreciate the jokes, of which there were many.

We went to the new mall that’s billed as 6 floors–4 up and 2 down.  Once you’ve been to a mall in BA, they all look the same to me.  Same stores with the same merchandise.  But this one had something I hadn’t seen before down here–an honest to goodness WalMart.  It turned out it was a WalMart in name if you’re American.  The stock resembled nothing we’re used to.  In fact, I kept telling my wife I felt we were in a bigger Tienda Inglesa.  First place I went was to the food section looking for Skippy peanut butter.   Nope.  No Kosher dill pickles either.  No original Kraft dinner.  No real choice of salad dressing but it did have a good selection of Newman’s own albeit in small size bottles.  

I have two memories from that trip that stand out the most.

First was what I thought was an incredibly built young lady standing on the street behing held back by 3 cops while some guy was yelling at her being held back by another 2 cops.  Turns out the she was a he.  

The 2nd memory was a young couple making out in the stairway of the Walmart mall, obvlivious to the world next to the elevator we were waiting for.  Just before I got on the elevator I took anothe quick look and like above, the he turned out to be a she.  They say Montevideo is very liberal in these kinds of things but in my 48 hours in BA, I saw more liberalism than I’ve seen in my 3 years in Montevideo.  

To sum it up, Buenos Aires will be my standard ‘birthday package’ for at least the next year or two.  That is unless my credit card bill comes in and reality smacks me in the head.

Posted in Daily life, Shopping | 2 Comments »

Small bills

Posted by urufish on January 23, 2009

uyu50

We’ve been here just over 3 years and I still haven’t figured out why I’m always running out of small bills. 

We’ve tried several strategies to keep ahead of not having enough small bills to pay for something.  We would go to Macdonalds and use $1000 bills for food.  We would pay with $1000 bills at the Costa Azul across the street but they got wise to use a few weeks into the program and said sorry, they had no change but they’d be happy to take our credit card.   Not what we wanted to hear. 

Last year, at the beginning of the summer, we got a great idea.  Every weekend we’d go to Piriapolis and we’d pay the tolls with $1000 bills.  By the end of the fall, we had oodles of small bills.  We thought they’d last forever.  But alas, we used up our supply last week. 

Today, it finally came to me what had to be done.  Do the same thing we used to do up north in retail.  Go to the bank and get stacks of small bills.  I must have avoided this early on in Uruguay because my Spanish wasn’t up to the task.  But today, I bit down, went into the bank and did my best to make myself understood.  Amazingly enough, my teller (I say ‘my’ because he knows for 3 years), just smiled, winked at me and produced stacks of small bills neatly wrapped in elastic bands. 

Problem is now solved.  Every time we run low, it’s off to the bank for change.

Posted in Banking, Daily life | 5 Comments »

Piriapolis isn’t so peaceful after all

Posted by urufish on June 22, 2008

This morning, my wife’s friend called to tell us that we made the right move when we decided to stay home this weekend.  Friday night, 2 people were shot to death next door to us on Cerro San Antonio.  My wife asked her how she knew all this and how did she know for sure it was the house next to ours.   She said it’s the HEADLINE in today’s newspaper.  So I went out and bought the paper just to make sure.   Yep, that’s the picture of the neighbour’s house (above). 

The full article below is in Spanish.  In plain English it says that a father and his daughter were shot there.  The father was a retired police officer who sold guns for a living.  His daughter was married with 2 children.  Her husband reported them missing.  Their bodies were found in the trunk of the father’s car which was abandoned in Montevideo.  After police found the bodies, the investigation led them o the top of San Antonio.  They found cartridge casings and bloody clothes in the house. Several people have been arrested from Monvetivdeo, Maldonado and El Pinar.  

Update Nov 13/08.   Just found out that our friend Merlin, bought this house last week..   He’s supposed to be here in a couple of weeks.  Gee..  We would be so happy to have him as a neighbour.   It’s got a terrific view and a great lot.  Just needs some work…   We’re really looking forward to seeing him this summer. 

Un vendedor de armas y su hija ejecutados a balazos
Doble crimen. Muertos en Piriápolis y dejados en Carrasco

La Policía cree que se trató de una ejecución. El móvil del doble crimen es una incógnita. El homicidio se consumó en un chalet de Piriápolis y anoche la Policía buscaba a varios sospechosos para interrogarlos.

Euclides Heber Viera y su hija Natalia Soledad fueron ejecutados en un chalet cerca de la cumbre del cerro San Antonio, en Piriápolis. El sargento primero, jubilado de la Policía, salió el jueves pasado rumbo a ese balneario. Iba a cerrar una transacción comercial y llevaba consigo al menos cuatro armas de fuego que no aparecieron. Quedó registrado su paso por el primer peaje sobre el arroyo Pando. Sin embargo su cuerpo y el de su hija fueron hallados en pleno Carrasco, dentro del baúl del Volkswagen Santana que pertenecía a Viera.

La lista de preguntas aún sin respuestas que tienen los investigadores de la División Homicidios es extensa. Desde la madrugada pasada los equipos de la Dirección de Investigaciones de Montevideo, de la Comisaría 14ª y los criminalistas de Policía Técnica trabajaron en la esquina de Lombardía y Ancona en busca de indicios.

Se debió pedir el apoyo de Bomberos para abrir el baúl del automóvil, donde estaban ocultos los cuerpos de las víctimas, asesinados a tiros.

Un vecino de Carrasco que había visto el automóvil gris con vidrios polarizados estacionado en esa esquina desde la mañana del viernes, fue el que, intrigado por esa presencia, dio aviso a la Policía ya en horas de la noche. Cuando los uniformados de la Comisaría 14ª llegaron frente al 5861 de la calle Lombardía lo primero que constataron fue que la matrícula SAG 2218 pertenecía a un coche requerido por el Departamento de Registro y Búsqueda de Personas Ausentes del Ministerio del Interior. La tapa del baúl estaba ligeramente abierta, apenas por una rendija los policías pudieron ver que dentro había dos cuerpos. Ya era la medianoche; la tranquila esquina de Carrasco comenzó a llenarse de móviles policiales.

DESAPARICIÓN. Euclides Heber Viera (62) se había retirado de la Policía con el grado de sargento primero. Se dedicaba al comercio de armas e insumos, aunque su actividad era fundamentalmente la de gestor de habilitaciones de porte y tenencia de armas para sus clientes.

Fuentes de la investigación señalaron que Viera se disponía a cerrar una transacción comercial en Piriápolis. Viera padecía de diabetes y problemas cardíacos. Como no se había sentido bien en los días previos, le pidió a su hija Natalia (32)-casada y madre de dos niños- que lo acompañara a Maldonado. Eso ocurrió el jueves pasado. La esposa de Viera comenzó a alarmarse cuando con el correr de las horas no tenía noticias de su marido y de su hija. Temiendo lo peor llamó a la Policía. Los mecanismos de averiguación del paradero comienzan a ponerse en marcha recién a las 24 horas de ausencia de una persona. La oficina especializada del Ministerio del Interior lanzó el alerta a todas las unidades policiales del país en la tarde del viernes.

“Nuestra preocupación principal es que, dado el perfil de esta persona, creemos que podía llevar armas consigo, no sólo tenemos una persona desaparecida, además podemos tener armas con un destino desconocido”, comentó una fuente del Ministerio consultada por El País. La peor hipótesis se hizo realidad pocas horas después.

EJECUCIÓN. Los investigadores de Homicidios están seguros de que se trata de una ejecución.

Al caer la tarde los investigadores dieron con el chalet donde fueron muertos padre e hija. Una pequeña y elegante finca ubicada cerca de la cumbre del cerro San Antonio. En el suelo del chalet se hallaron vainas de proyectiles detonados, manchas de sangre y ropas ensangrentadas. Un equipo de criminalistas de Policía Técnica viajó anoche desde Montevideo al chalet. El juez penal Federico Álvarez Petraglia tomó cartas en el caso. Al cierre de esta edición, la Policía buscaba sos- pechosos entre Montevideo y Maldonado. Uno de los procedimientos se llevaba a cabo en los alrededores de El Pinar.

Posted in Daily life | 3 Comments »

Food

Posted by urufish on March 2, 2008

 fresh-bread.jpg

I never thought much about food back home.  For breakfast I made my own ham sandwiches.  For lunch, I’d go to a local, fast food restaurant.  Dinner was waiting for me when I got home from work.

Here, things are different.  It’s not that my eating habits have changed much.  It’s the food, or should I say, the freshness of the food that is different.

At home, when my wife shopped, she’d stock up on food.  Meats were frozen.  Bread was same day from the bakery and frozen or refrigerated.  Luncheon meats were put in a refrigerator for 7-10 days.  Here, you shop 2-3 times a week for anything perishable.  It’s not unusual to pick up your vegetables a few hours before you prepare them.  Me, I’m in the habit of buying my bread 15-20 minutes before I eat it.   That’s for dinner.  In the morning, it’s 5-10 minutes. 

I can recall a few times in my life I ate bread, still warm from the oven.  Here, it’s a daily event–and we dont have to bake it ourselves.  

Meats are NEVER, EVER frozen.  You buy what you’re going to eat a day or two before.  When I buy luncheon meats, like bologna, ham, bacon or sliced chicken, it’s always 100g, just enough for a day or two.

Living in this part of Pocitos clearly makes a big difference in how one eats.  With 3 supermarkets within 3 blocks and hot bread baked daily in one of them it makes no sense to do big, northern shoppings.  If we feel like a roast chicken, there’s a rotisserie 2 blocks from the house.  Fresh made pizza is across the street.   One of the best ice cream shops in Montevideo, La Cigal, is one block away.  There must be a half dozen chivito places within 3 blocks.  Marco’s (the most famous in Montevideo) is much farther–at 5 blocks away. 

Good thing I dont eat a lot 🙂

Posted in Daily life | 3 Comments »

Shopping can be exciting

Posted by urufish on February 18, 2008

hiperpiria.jpg  Devoto Piria – scene of the ‘almost’ crime 

Note:  If you have no patience and want to get to the ‘exciting’ part right away – go to the 2nd last paragraph now.   

This was the first weekend of the year that we were able to get away for most of the weekend.  A family friend dropped by from BA on Friday so we took to the opportunity to go to Piria for Sat/Sun.

We left on Saturday morning for Piriapolis.  The traffic was light.  We only had to go back once because we forgot something.  When we arrived, everything looked beautiful.  A local friend volunteered to drive to the house every night and water the lawn and plants.  They really looked spectacular.  The best part was the new pool.  Last time we were there, it looked like Arrancopelito’s in the beginning–pea soup.  No matter how much chlorine I put in it, it was still green.  But like her pool, ours is now clear because she gave us her pool guy.  Yes, he really does a great job.  We could see the pattern in the floor clearly for the first time.  

That afternoon, we drove around quite a bit, showing our friend all the changes (she was born and lived here before she married and moved to BA).  We drove out towards Arrancopelito’s house, passing by Punta Fria, Punta Colorada and Punta Negra. Lots and lots of new houses…  Punta Colorada is fast becoming a very nice seaside resort. 

Everywhere we looked we saw signs for beachfront lots for sale.  Hopefully, a lot of people buy them and when we go next year, it will look even more fantastic.  I like the way the sand dunes move onto the road and everyone is zigging and zagging to stay out of them.  It’s great when the guy coming towards you is zigging when you are.  Always liked to play chicken.  My wife didn’t care much for it though.. You guys know how women get when we play these games 🙂

When we were almost at Arrancopelito’s place, we turned and drove onto to the beach.  We had Mordy, the dobie with us.  We wanted to let him run free–and run he did!!!  He just took off and ran from one end of the horizon to the other, almost knocking me over a few times.  This beach could aptly be called a ‘wild’ beach because it’s completely empty in both directions.  No wonder she likes this place.  We hung around there for a half hour or so.  Then headed back home.  Dropped the dog off on the balcony to guard the ‘casa’ and we went to the big Devoto in town.

We parked across the street because the lot was full (as often is this time of the year).  I thought the place was full but not quite.  The meat and cold cuts and dairy sections were jammed, but the boxed and canned food section was nearly empty.  That was unfortunate for my poor wife.  Like most American husbands, I headed for the part of the store that interested me while she did the boring stuff.. like buying food. I spent some time in the beer, wine and liquor section and then I moved to electrical, plumbing and finally, briefly, the AV section. After about a half hour, I went looking for her. 

I found her in the soups section. BTW, soups here are not what we think of back home.  I haven’t seen a can of soup since I got here.  I’m talking about vacuum sealed pouches soup section.  Anyway, when I came up to her, she was red in the face and looked ill.  Before I could ask what happened, she said something about smelling ether really strong and it made her sick to her stomach.  She said some guy walked past her or was near her and that he smelled really bad, like ether.  Now she had a horrifible headache.  Our friend was there and she said she smelled it too but by time she caught up to my wife, it wasn’t very strong.  I took her out front and sat her down and she was saying her ears felt like they were going to explode and she had this horrible headache and she was pissed.  We thought nothing of it until this afternoon, when her brother came to visit and she told him the story. 

He asked her to describe the guy and what he was doing when she smelled the ether.  She said he had some kind of pouch and he was putting something into it when the smell hit her.  Turns out this is a method used by the ‘bad guy’s to steal from people on the street and most recently, in supermarkets.  They carry ether in a spray can.  They spray it near someone like my wife.  The reason he chose her is that no one was on that aisle and she had her purse on the cart.  If her friend hadn’t come around the corner when she did, he would have taken the purse and gone.  Apparently, a lot of them use this technique but spray something in your eyes–which blinds you temporarily (not seriously), but you still end up losing your purse or whatever it was the thief wanted. 

The story ended well.  She woke up this morning without a headache.. And of course, thanks to our friend, with her purse intact.

Posted in Daily life, Shopping | 2 Comments »

It’s summer

Posted by urufish on February 14, 2008

Today I thought it would  be good to put up a few pictures now that our grass has taken root.

pa150003-medium.jpg  Looking out the front of the house, notice our frequent police guy. 

pa150002-medium.jpg Looking up the side of the house to the fountain which we put back together again after the robbers were unscuessful at removing it this past winter.

pa150001-medium.jpg  Looking out the side of the house from the bedroom.  There’s our friendly dumpster. 

Posted in Daily life, Real Estate | 2 Comments »

The sound of horse hooves

Posted by urufish on January 17, 2008

horsedrawn-cart.jpg

Having a little trouble getting time to write in the blog lately….  Am trying a new approach… short, pointed posts…

At 8am this morning I awoke to the sound of the Toronto phone ringing.  Being that I work on Toronto time, I dont get up until 8:30 (5:30am Toronto).  It was a nurse calling from the hospital where my mother has been for the past month.  She said they’re moving her back to ICU.  I told them I’d call back later and speak with her doctor.

It was 25 degrees at 8am.  I opened the windows to get some cool air in and took a quick shower.  While dressing I heard the distinctive sound of hooves on pavement.  One of the many recycle guys, (the guys who jump into the dumpsters and remove things of value), was visiting the one on our corner.   

If someone had told me I’d hear the sounds of horses’ hooves while sitting in my bedroom, I would never have believed them.  Welcome to the life of living in a house in Pocitos. 

Posted in Attitudes, Daily life | 4 Comments »

Much ado about nothing

Posted by urufish on January 3, 2008

 ban_dated08.jpg

For the first time in my life, someone gave me a planner.   Maybe it’s a hint 🙂   I’ve never used one before but I understand the principle behind them.  Nowadays, many schools sell these types of books to students (fundraising) and lots of my friends have used them for years.  My daughter was addicted to hers while in highschool in Toronto.  So today I opened mine up and after making a couple of entries for tomorrow, I decided to thumb through the beginning of the book.  There’s a ton of information there about Uruguay.  I decided to share some of it here.  If you’re into trivia, you may find this interesting. 

There’s a cryptic entry on the very first page…  ‘Remember Luxux Hard’   I wonder if that has a hidden meaning? 

The first few pages have entries for all sorts of good things… specifically Uruguayan I believe.. like both numbers for your hospital insurer and your emergency response insurer and places for your account number.  They’ve got a whole section for professionales.  Your lawyer, doctor, accountant, architect, dentist, escribano and very Pocitish… your veterinarian and chiropractor. 

For home maintenance, (a large % of Uruguayans own their own homes/apartments), at the top of the list is of course the albanil (the guy who works with blocks, plaster, cement, etc.. you get the idea), followed by carpenter, lock guy, electrician, iron guy (lots of iron bars here), gardener, painter, plumber and of of course, the TV technician. 

Under recreational, they of course have your local barkeep’s number, gym club, auto mechanic, hairdresser, both your preferred taxi AND limo driver and for those of us who remember what it ‘was’ like to have teeth, our acompanante. 

There’s a half page devoted to calendars with all the holidays for Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile.  The Uruguayan exodus of the 60’s although worldwide in scope, had a lot of people stay on the continent.  In addition, there are the US holidays and believe it or not, Israeli holidays. 

 I found the population figures very interesting.  I knew the country was around 3mil (about half of the metro city area I come from) and I knew Montevideo was about 40% of that (at 1.3mil).  I didn’t know the number of homes–1.3mil countrywide.  456K in Montevideo.  The book’s census figures drilled into that even deeper. 

I found out that where I live, (Pocitos), is the biggest neighbourhood in Montevideo with 70K people and 30K homes.  Carrasco, the upscale, closest to American suburbia neighbourhood in Montevideo ranks as smallest with 16K people and 4.6k homes.  

Some other interesting numbers.   Some expats live in Colonia Valdense.  No wonder you dont lock your doors.  You’ve got 3000 neighbours living in 1000 homes.  If there was a bad egg, I guess everyone would know who he was 🙂    The number 2 province/state in Uruguay is Canelones.  It’s got nearly a half million people.  Many of them commute to Montevideo to work.  We have a house there but I cant find our town of Salinas on the census.  I guess we’re too small. 

Punta del Este checks in with 7300 full timers in 2943 homes, just a hair behind Piriapolis at 7900 and 2800 homes.  We have more people but they have more money 🙂   The town of Maldonado makes a strong showing with 54K people and 18K houses.  Someone has to cut the grass and service all those vacant houses during the off season plus be ready to cater to the hordes of tourists in the summer.  Sorry to my other friends.  You’re in my Salinas boat.  Punta del Diablo didn’t score but La Paloma did sneak in there with 3200 people living in 1100 homes.  My wife’s birthplace (Castillos) came in with 7600 people and almost 3000 houses… I guess those folks like their space. 

 Under banks, the international community is well represented.  Foreign banks total 12.  Big names like ABN Amro, BBVA, Itau, Citibank, Discount, HSBC, Lloyds and Leumi are all here servicing both Uruguayans and itinerant Argentinos. 

The section on government offices is of course, very large.  Uruguayans love working for the government.  Most of the world’s countries are represented in Montvideo with official diplomatic missions.  Some of the more obscure are Albania, Angola, Libya, etc.  Heck, even Malta has a mission here.. Go Mary go.  They also list all the Urugayan embassies abroad.  My favourite is of course, Canada’s.  But they dont show the consulates so I dont get to see my most favourite, Toronto’s. 

There’s an outstanding graph that follows the peso vs. the USD.  We’ll know when the USD has really tanked when they change this graph to the peso vs. the Euro. But for now, it’s still the USD.  I like the graph a lot because it start in 1977… just a few years before I started coming here.  So it’s my history I’m seeing.  One day I’ll study it to see how much I really remember and how much I made up.   🙂

 There’s anothe graph on what they call the Unidad Readjustable.  I think its supposed to represent an inflation index.  But the way governments manipulate this data, not sure how accurate it will be.  For instance, the adjusted rate of inflation for 06/07 was 8.25–which strangley enough, does sound right.  One day, I’ll get this out with one of my accountants here and he’ll explain it to me. 

The graph tracking the national interest rate in pesos is scary.  It’s been pretty good for the past 3 years but before that, during the crisis of early 2000’s, comercial paper ran from 40% to 120% at the peak. 

Foreign income is mostly associated with animal and plant exports with cattle leading the way.   If anything were to happen to the beef industry, like a boycot due to something like Mad Cow syndrome, the shock to the country would be unimagineable.  Uruguay, like many countries in the world, has been running a balance of trade deficit for many years. 

Unlike the USA and very much like Canada, Uruguay looks outward – on a global scale.  You can see it in the agenda as well as on the street.  Holidays, distances, populations, economic data from all over the world is represented in a personal agenda. 

Posted in Daily life, Information | 5 Comments »

Holiday Season

Posted by urufish on January 2, 2008

 scene24.jpg

For the 24th or 25th year in a row, we celebrated Christmas in Maldonado with my in-laws, the San Martin’s and New Years, on top of San Antonio in our place.

As we get older, kids grow up and some even move away… at least to Montevideo…  So this year’s Christmas gathering was a little smaller than last year’s, which was a little smaller than the year before.  When the weather’s hot and there’s no chance of rain, we have Christmas dinner outside.  This year we were worried a bit about rain, so we held it in the garage.  Urugayans are very creative.  My inlaws dont have big tables, so they take doors off their hinges and use them for table tops.  Not sure what’s holding them up.  My brother-in-law is a carpenter.  Could be he made boxhorses years ago he still uses. 

The garage is my nephew’s (his son’s) automotive shop.  So the walls are decorated with SnapOn tools.  The dinner was great, as always. 

We plan dinner to end around midnight and that’s when everyone pulls out their fireworks and light them off for 10-15 minutes.  My nephews have never outgrown their childhood.  They still prefer those ultra loud bangers.  Wouldn’t be that much of a problem up north, but here, everything’s close together and it’s all concrete block.  My ears hurt until 12:30am.  This year we couldn’t even find the family dog.  He took off and hid around 23:30. 

After the fireworks, we open the presents.  Uruguay is odd that way.  We open presents after the fireworks.  Everyone gets presents.  Even the kids.  I say even because the serious day for presents for children isn’t Christmas.  It’s Kings Day.  January the 6th.  So if you celebrate Christmas and come to Uruguay, keep those two differences in mind. 

After the presents were opened, Delia and I drove to Piriapolis for the night.  We didn’t want to drive all the way back to Montevideo.  We’ve used the house so rarely this year, it’s a treat for us to sleep over. 

When we got to the house, we got to use our new automatic gates and garage opener.  The front door has been changed.   There’s an alcove there now and you cant see the door itself until you get out of the car and leave the garage.  When we got to the door, we got the surprise of our lives.  There was a big, black dog lying there.  Good thing he was a friendly dog.   Scared the hell out of us.  

Earlier in the day, we’d stopped off in Piriapolis on the way to Maldonado and left our dog upstairs on the balcony.  He didn’t seem to be upset at all that this dog was there.  Figured that meant the dog was a she – not a he.  Anyway, the dog wanted to stay and we wanted ‘her’ to go.  So we opened the back of the car and she jumped inside for a ride down the mountain.  We went to the port and opened the back of the station wagon up and she jumped out.  We drove back to the house, unloaded our car and as we were about to enter the house, the dog was back… panting like mad.    We think it ran all the way up the mountain. 

So we tried to get her back into the car to take her further away but she clearly figured out what were up to and didn’t cooperate this time.  But we kept trying and finally, she jumped in for the ride and off we went.  We debated which direction to take her in… Should it be towards Arrancopelito’s place (Puerto Suelo) or Pan D’Azucar.  Pan D’Acuar won out and off we went.  We dropped her off just outside San Carlos.  When we opened the back door up, she refused to get out.   So I went into the driver’s seat while my wife coaxed her out the back.  As she stood there, refusing to leave, I pressed the gas and out she went.   I slowed down so my wife could get in but the dog came after the back door so I had to go up the street, close the door, turn around and come back for Delia.  We got back to the house and waited a half hour.  No dog.  Whew…. 

When we woke up the next morning, there was no dog.    Hopefully, she made some nice friends in San Carlos. 

We drove back to Montevideo and I worked the rest of the week and prepared for New Years eve which was to be at our house. 

New Years eve….

After shopping to provision the house for the season, we left for Piriapolis around 4pm.  We had our nephew purchase 2 piglets for the main course and you have to start roasting them about 6 hours before dinner.  We arranged for him to get the house around 5pm and start the parilla.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have any money so he couldn’t buy the wood.  We ended up buying it after we got there so the piggies started roasting a bit late. 

Around 9pm, I took my daughter down to the town to buy some stuff and fireworks.  Unfortunately, everything closed at 9pm this year so we could only buy fireworks.  About 100 bucks later, we were on our way up to the house again. 

When we got there, guess who was in the back of the house?  Yup.. the black dog.  My wife speculates that when she hears fireworks, she comes to our place.   Yah.. I couldn’t figure that out either.. but that’s what she says and my wife’s like Dr Doolittle…   I dont question her communication skills with animals. 

The dog had thick, matted black fur and I didn’t know what she was carrying around with her but I didn’t like the idea of her hanging around the parilla.  So I strung a long run of galvanized wire between two trees in the backyard and put a choke on her and let her slide back and forth up there all night.  We brought her food and water so she got to watch everything, comfortably, but from a distance.  Our dog didn’t seem to mind her presence there at all.   When we went to sleep, I took her off the choke and she went to sleep at the front door.  When we got up in the morning she was gone.  Mystery dog. 

The pool was working great and my nephews got to swim for several hours.  Later that evening, a friend of my nephew dropped by.  He’s the chief of the highway patrol for Maldonado and probably Rocha.  Guess what he says to me when he sees me?  ‘Driver license and registation please’..  in nearly perfect English.  It seems the only English he knows 🙂   When he was leaving, my nephew and him got into a little bit of wrestling–a little too close to the pool–and both fell in.   

 After dinner, we shot off all those fireworks…   If you ever get a chance to come to the top of San Antonio at Christmas or New Years, it’s a great place to watch fireworks.  You can see everything on all the beaches towards Montevideo.  If you go to the backside of San Antonio, you can see all the fireworks along all the beach towns up to and including Punta.  Great view!  Some people even drive up to the top of San Antonio and set off their own fireworks. 

This New Years eve, everyone went home about 2am.   On New Year’s day, we got up late and I did a bunch of handiwork around the house to finish it up for the season.  Didn’t see any Tarantulas.  I guess they were still hiding from the fireworks the night before. 

As bad as you’d think the traffic should be coming back from a 4 day weekend, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it used to be driving south to Toronto all those summers we lived there. 

Posted in Attitudes, Daily life, Fiestas | 1 Comment »

Channukah in Pocitos

Posted by urufish on December 6, 2007

menorah-in-trouville-park-wide-shot.jpg

I took this picture of the park in front of our Rambla apartment this morning.  The name of the park is Punta Trouville park, but the local Jewish population sometimes calls it parque de los judios (park of the jews).  I’m not sure if that’s because a good portion of Montevideo’s Jewish population lives in this general area or because the city encouraged the display of the menorah during the Festival of Lights…  Hannukah. 

Speaking of the Festival of Lights, here’s a picture I copied from David’s blogsite http://www.uruguayliving.com/, from his post on Piriapolis vs. Noche de las Luces. 

festival-of-the-lights.jpg

I remember seeing the menorah last year.  I was out on the balcony one evening and I noticed several lights going.  A light (candle) is lit each night starting with the beginning of the festival.  It’s brought out about a week before the festival starts and is removed shortly after it ends. 

Uruguay is sometimes described as a country that is overwhelmingly catholic at birth.  Another way of putting this is that the vast, vast majority of people are catholic – non practicing.  This clearly translates itself into a country that is overwhelmingly tolerant of others’ beliefs and faiths.  This is a perfect example. 

Posted in Attitudes, Daily life, Fiestas | 2 Comments »