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Holiday Season

Posted by urufish on January 2, 2008


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


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. 


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 »

May day (just a little late)

Posted by urufish on May 16, 2007

Today was May 1st… a holiday in Uruguay, equivalent of the northerner’s Labour day.   Except in the north, we celebrate it on the first Monday in September.  In this part of the world, it seems a little more left…  May day. 

This presented an opportunity to christen our new parilla.  My wife’s family from Maldonado drove in and some octogenerian aunts joined us from Montevideo.  We bought a ton of meat yesterday and today, at noon, they showed up with a pile of wood and my nephew started up the new BBQ. 

As those of you who have spent time here know, these things are more than meals.  They are entire afternoons.  To get the coals to the right temperature and volume is an hour right there.  Then you have to cook the meat ultra slow.  I usually end up eating something else while waiting. 

The assado was great.  Churascos, morjillas… and to keep in tune with the progressing times, chicken.  Correct me if I’m wrong but I dont ever recall cooking chicken here back in the 80’s?  In those days, we used to bring live pigs and lambs home and slaughter them in the backyard, just before we cooked them..  Dont ever remember a chicken running around without its head 🙂 

Anyway, we live across the street from the Costa de Azul restaurant and all the staff were waving at us… congratulating us on our first assado.  I felt bad because while the house was being built, they kept asking when we would have it and they wanted to come.   Will have to make one just for them in the next few weeks… 

This time of the year, lunch is the best time to do it.  Nights are getting just a tad too chilly for sitting around outside, eating and drinking….   My wife panicked when she realized we didn’t have any beer and she thought all the stores were closed.  Well, most were but some Uruguyans, who own small corner mini supermarkets figured this would be a good opportunity and opened up.  They weren’t wrong.  We went to our corner store for 6 Pilsens and to my total surprise, there were 6 people in line waiting.  I go to this store almost every day and the most I’ve ever seen was one person ahead of me.  And to make it worse, one of the 6 was purchasing what looked like a week of supplies.  The total was over $2000 pesos…  I have never ever seen anyone spend more than 200 pesos in that store.  The owner had her entire family helping out.  My niece went with me and took the family ferret – Noodles – with her and everyone, (except the owner) played with him while we waited.  Ahhhhhh… we love this place. 

So we trekked back with the 6 Pilsens..  Cold beer on the table and ready to eat and the next crisis came.  We need 3 tomatos.  So I trek back and this time, luckily, there are only 4 people ahead of me and they’re  all small baskets. 

I get back with the 3 tomatos and everyone’s started eating.  Well, why wait for me.  I’m just the delivery boy. 

After that, my niece wanted to take the ‘bugie’ out for a spin.  The ‘bugie’ looks like a dune buggy but it’s made in China and if I was dumb enough to drive it in the sand, we would need to replace the engine.  So we drive it on the streets of Pocitos. 

We haven’t used it for weeks and it wouldn’t start.  Fortunately, this is Uruguay and everyone’s a mechanic… and in our case, her brother really is a mechanic.  So after taking the engine apart and putting it together again, it starts.  The air filter was clogged with bichos… a couple of whacks and it was clean. 

So my nephew takes out his sister and then his father and then his mother and as they round the corner to come home, the gas runs out.  So we all pushed it back into the driveway and if I’m lucky, it will be too cold to drive it until the spring :).  Did I mention I hate to drive it because everyone stops and stares at you.  A dune buggy in the middle of Pocitos can do that for you.  Today, my nephew tells me a delivery guy on a moto pulls out his cell phone while they go by and with a backhand, and his hand behind his back, the guy takes a photo of the bugy behind him.  The next block, they find some guy crouching under a car taking a picture of them.  I guess my relatives like the spotlight.  Me, no. 

Then it starts to rain and everyone goes home. 

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