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Monday, May 25, 2015

For Sale





Virtual Tour of Casa Tranquilo

Well, we have finally made all our preparations to move. We are putting the last of our personal effects in boxes. We will probably take much less back than we moved here with. After almost 7 years here (on June 8th), we still had some things in boxes and stored away in cabinets.

So- the house is officially up for sale. I know some of you have followed us for several years, so if you have friends that are thinking about moving here (or you are finally making the move)- let them know that our house is available. I am being shamelessly commercial about this.

They say that location, location, location is important when buying a house and as you readers know I agree! Living just steps from the beach and enjoying the sound of the surf at night and seeing the daily activities on the sand itself of people playing soccer and horses galloping by all through the view from my dining room window, I can't imagine wanting to live anywhere else in Uruguay than in Marindia.

So, yes, I will miss this house and place a lot! If we weren't moving back to the USA, I wouldn't be selling this home at all!!!

That having been said, this house is now for sale. It is an open and bright (with natural light and plenty of overhead lights) airy floor plan. It has 3 bedrooms, 2 bath rooms and a separate laundry room with it's own window and outside door and laundry sink (washer and dryer included). It is on a double lot. There are water views from the living room, the dining room and even the kitchen! So you can wash the dishes looking through the kitchen sink window and see the sea, but we also have a dishwasher that is included in the sale. The backyard is fully fenced with a tall block wall for privacy and has a dedicated fenced vegetable garden area. It also has a back patio with a covered Parilla (bbq grill).There are several patio spaces around the house to take advantage of the winter and the summer sun.

The neighbourhood is beautiful and is very walkable (and safe) with 2 grocery stores you can walk to that each have full butcher-shops in them. As most of you readers know, I walk to Salinas to the weekly farmers' market (called the feria) pulling my little wire cart behind me to buy fresh vegetables and fruit for the week and other goods. This same group of farmers then goes to Atlantida to sell in the afternoon on the same day, their wares. So we here in Marindia and Salinas, we get first dibs on the produce, then Atlantida gets what is left! So fresh produce is a big plus for my area. Speaking of walkable, you can also walk on the beach all the way to Atlantida a major town/city away, as it's only an easy 5 kilometres away, and yes I have done it.

The town of Salinas has all the small support systems you may need like a beauty shop, post office, restaurants etc... and I regularly walk there. So I will also miss the convenience of not needing a car in my daily rounds. There is also the available bus system a few blocks away on the main ruta/highway. Okay, enough of the sales pitch!

What a lot of preparation goes into a move, though. There are papers to get for the pets, who are going with us, this time. There are pet "passports" to get and the travel arrangements to be made with the airline. Happy to note that our dog will fly for only an additional $ 200. Now if only I could arrange to fly in a kennel, I could be Denise's pet.

We have noticed that houses here in Uruguay are rarely prepared much for sale. They just show them as they are, dirty clothes strew about, piles of dishes, etc... are often shown in the "for sale" photos.. In the States, it is common to stage a house by removing most of the decorative and personal items in the house. Denise recently learned that the practice of taking ALL of your photos off the wall may not be the wisest course. A few personal photos show a prospective buyer that a real family lived here and that their family could also be happy in the house. But any needless clutter should be removed, and surfaces cleaned and presented with just enough decoration to make the house attractive.

When we sold our house in Seattle, we sold it fully furnished. We expect to do the same here. We're not planning on taking more that 20-30 boxes back. Just the items that we have picked up on our travels.

So, if you have ever had a hankering to sample life at the beach in South America with the Southern cross above your heads at night and a never ending sky meets water view, then Marindia might be a good choice.....  and have I got the house for you....

Monday, May 11, 2015

House Of Straw





I had a chance to pick up a little extra money, doing a few days work in the country- near Punta Del Este. And when I say country..... I mean way away from anyone. Off the grid. UTE has not even put power lines out this far, so we worked off a generator. But what an interesting house this was. The owner has been building on it for almost a year and it is far from finished, even now. A crew of about 4-5 workers is doing the work.


I went with Jim, my neighbor and employer, in 2 day shifts, and camped out overnight, with Jim providing the food. Except for the mosquitos, it was very enjoyable. The second time I went, I brought a mosquito net and had a much easier time of it.

The house, besides being in the middle of farmland (the cows mooed all night long) had a number of interesting features, which made working there a challenge.




First of all, the owner had bought about 25 huge windows, with stained glass inserts (the larger ones arched tops) from a mansion being demolished. And when I say huge... the big ones were 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide. It was all that Jim and I could do to lift the frame, without the window panels in place. Jim has taken on the task of renovating, sanding and painting the windows. It is painstaking work and anybody who knows me, knows that I do not like to paint. Still, it was a refreshing change of pace and I am glad I had the opportunity.


Straw Light Panel in Place
Another unique thing about this house is the use of straw light panels. The workers have a pit, where they mix the clay and straw together, then stuff it into pre-made forms in the wall. The use of both clay and straw should produce quite an insulation factor. I have heard that there is lots of "green" building going on in the Punta area.

They mix the lay and straw together

Finally- the quincho style roof was breathtaking. It was more a work of art than a roofing system. It looks like it was sculpted. And the inside of the house is going to be very spacious. And while it should prove to be very cool in the summer, I am not sure how warm it will be with all of those single paned windows in the house. Still the straw light panels should provide good insulation.






 On the last day, we got to work on the new (read, very old) front door. It was actually fun to see such work and have a hand in restoring it.

Jim filling a crack in the door
Some of the detail carving
So, while this may end up being house of straw, no wolf is going to huff and puff and blow the whole thing down. When it is finished- it should last a good long time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Motorcycle Diary




No, we did not take a motorcycle trip around South America, but we did have visitors who ended their 3,000 mile journey with a 3 day stay at "Casa Tranquilo". How we ended up hosting this gang, composed of 2 guys and a girl, is an interesting story.


Glory Days
over 40 years ago, I was roommates with Lance Wakely, a budding young guitarist, song writer and studio musician, formerly of The Cascades musical group- famous for "Rhythm of the Rain" (how is that for a run-on sentence?). When Lance looked like he did on the left, I looked like I did on the right. Anyway, after living in Hollywood for many years, Lance eventually winds up in Poland (don't ask me how). He currently records and releases albums as "Dr. Harmonica", and is a one man band who plies the "busker trade" throughout the summer months in Northern Europe.

The Busker
Recently he took his lovely Polish wife on a tour of the USA, and he stopped in Sacramento, California (on the west coast) to visit a relative of his, Dan. While talking together, Dan mentioned that he and some friends were going to ship motorcycles down to Chile, and ride them over the mountains into Argentina and end up in Uruguay. So, the idea was born to end their trip with a visit to us.
Lance And His Lovely Wife
To follow their adventure, you can visit Nancy's blog "Special Agent Nancy" and click on the Travel Blog.


They came in and spent several days with us. There was Dan (Lances relative), Doug (a bearded bear of a man) and Nancy (whose helmets had horns on them, if you can picture that). They had been on the road for about 5 weeks and after they left us, one was storing his bike for another trip later on in the year (Doug), while the other two were shipping theirs back to the US from Buenos Aires (Dan and Nancy).

It was very interesting for us, as this was quite the adventure and it opened up some stories that they shared about their time on the road. We had some food, I made pizzas and chicken wings, we drank a little wine and enjoyed ourselves. Later, when Dan left us, he penned a poem (you would not peg him for a poet), that we will treasure always. It describes his visit with us in our home.
**************

In the far off land of Uruguay

Where the world and road come to an end

Is the lovely Casa Tranquillo, where I made two wonderful friends

Life there is gratefully simple

And time warps in strange way

It passes both slowly and quickly, on any same night and same day

The sand and the sky meet the water

The night sky sparkles with glee

It's not easy to get there, and it's even harder to leave

There are places on earth that can change you, and then you are never the same.


I don't know if I'll ever get back there, but I'm glad in my heart that I came.

**************

Well, it was quite an interesting time and thanks to Lance for connecting us.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Concierge Veterinary Service!




This post is dedicated to my dog Noche, may she rest in Peace!

It also has some serious warnings to think about for you dog owners.

I was shocked to learn that my dog not only wasn't pregnant but had never been. This was confirmed with an in-home sonogram. Thanks to a wonderful English speaking veterinarian who practices concierge medicine, I finally had some answers as to what was happening to Noche.

The term concierge means custodian or aide. In Medical practices it tends to be a higher level of personal commitment and attention to the patient. Some of you may have seen the TV show "Royal Pains" where an East coast Doctor sets up a practice in South Hampton, New York. In the show, the Doctor caters to rich people by visiting them in their homes and taking care of all of their medical needs. Mariana Amoedo a licensed Veterinarian has a list of individual clients (pets) that she takes care of versus just walk in strangers. She thinks of each pet as unique and individual.


I was ready to change vets, when I started having some problems with Barney. I noticed that my regular vet in Salinas didn't really give full exams. He never really opened my dogs mouth or looked into his ears or used a stethoscope to listen to the dogs. He took you on your word as to what you thought was happening. I thought Barney was allergic to something and so had some hot spots or sores where he was scratching too hard. The Salinas vet prescribed some omega 3 and 6 vitamins to help his fur which didn't. So an empty bottle and a month later, I called around and learned about this woman vet who comes to your house instead.

In the meantime, Noche was due for her Rabies shot, the last one in her puppy series, she was barely 1 year old. I was too busy during the year so she received shots from only 2 visits in Salinas instead of the 4 visit appointment that they usually give each young pup. The 2 were scheduled about 1 month apart. I was about to take her in for the last one when she went into heat for the first time and the vet told me to wait until that was over, even though I had already given her the parasite pills they make you give to them several days before the rabies shot. So I waited that out and then they said I had to buy more parasite pills and wait the few days to let those pills work, then bring her in for her shot.

Now, I am a big believer in Neutering pets to avoid unplanned pregnancies, really I am! My dog Barney is neutered, so is Sheila and even my boy cat Nathan is neutered, since males can father hundreds of litters. However, this last year, I kept putting it off when it came to Noche my female dog. For one thing she was still young. Then, when she turned 7 to 8 months I found myself working 6 days a week cleaning houses for people. I have never trusted our Volkswagen not to breakdown on me and I'm not that great at driving a stick-shift. Wally was also out of the country for many, many months which is why he didn't post about Uruguay. So on my own I didn't get her "fixed' before her 1st. heat cycle. I didn't know that I could get a veterinarian to come to my house. Had I known that I would have called immediately to have had it done. I just kept thinking that to carry back an unconscious dog home after neutering was beyond me. Most of my friends have motorcycles. One friend, was dealing with his own sad family circumstances and so I was in a waiting pattern with Noche.

During her 1st. heat/mating cycle while I was waiting out the time, I thought I was extremely careful not to let any male dogs near her. Except for Barney, who I know is neutered, she was never out of my sight on any walk to the trashcan and never more than 1 minute was I not looking at her. However, there was 1 minute once, when she dashed around our house corner into the next yard but she came back immediately when I called her. Little did I know that, that 1 minute would cause me to feel guilty and cause me so much emotional stress.


After her heat cycle was over and the 2nd parasite pills given and days passed, I walked her to my Salinas vet and she got her combo shots.  During the next month when we had some friends over to our house for dinner we all remarked how big her belly had become and that she looked pregnant!  Now I was worried and started to watch her get bigger and bigger. She looked healthy just pregnant and that missing minute started to haunt me. If she got pregnant before her rabies shots then she had been given the vaccines while carrying puppies! How damaged would they be? We prepared a place for her to give birth, a quiet place away from the other pets. Still, I was very worried about the condition of the "puppies" which because I hadn't neutered her, I was now sure she had because of seeing her fat sides.


I read online how someone had a vet take a sonogram of  her dog and 1 pup showed up dead and was blocking the birth canal. Armed with this knowledge she had the dog receive a "C" section to deliver the rest of the puppies which saved the dog mother and the other puppies. What if, Noche would need that? So, when my new vet, Mariana, came to visit Barney in our home we explained our worries about Noche having a normal pregnancy or not.

When she saw Noche she got worried, she was large but her nipples didn't look maternal. She wanted to look at what was happening to Noche's inside and suggested the sonogram as well. She is in touch with several specialised vets in her practice and called 2 right away. Naturally, everyone was on vacation during Mardigras but she was able to at least contact them. As soon as one came back on Monday he said he would visit us in our home. Dr. Nicolas Girreta who works with her is a Diagnostic Ecográfico Veterinarian with his own machine. I meanwhile, kicked myself, for not neutering Noche and causing this,  and for letting her be vaccinated unknowingly pregnant, she obviously was not showing any signs of fatness when I went to the vet in Salinas.

Well, Nicolas showed up in his car and Mariana and her father in their truck. They checked Noches' belly and there were NO PUPPIES! There never had been a pregnancy, what else didn't show up was a liver of any significant size! Both Nicolas and Mariana were surprised that this condition was showing up in a dog so young but they both said that just recently there has been a sudden rash of such instances very new to Uruguay. The youngest dog with this condition was just 6 months old

They explained to me that her liver had shrunk and her belly was filled with water filling in the gap. They drew out a huge amount of water with a syringe and showed that to me as well.  They said that diuretic medicine could help with the water build up but without a functioning liver it was really, well, not a good outlook. So right there, while she was still lively and healthy looking we made the awful decision to put her down in a dignified way.

Mariana has a large property and she kindly took Noche away alive. She was going to put her to sleep at her clinic. This way we can remember her happy and alive. This is the only way that I can cope with her death. Other people would obviously prefer to be present during the procedure and Mariana would do whatever you prefer. Still, it was such a shock to learn that she was so ill while seemingly so healthy. The decision for us was like pulling off a bandage, we needed to resign ourselves quickly and decisively.



 By having Mariana take her away and putting her under at her clinic (by lethal injection), the smell of death won't be in our house for the other animals to sense.

Noche will be buried on the Doctor's property. She has 24 Hectares and we were invited to visit her grave if we wanted to. Apparently, other people come often to do that. We believe that dead animals are dead, so we won't be doing that, still, I included her 2 favourite toys to be buried with her. I asked that her collar stay on. She had people who loved her and I wanted her to be buried with her belongings. She is and was so sweet that she walked to the truck quietly and unafraid, as I said goodbye.

Brand of shots used past years for Sheila
I then did, some research online about Liver failure in dogs and I saw that it can be a side effect of vaccinations. Noche had her Rabies shot in December then a second one a month later, it was after that, that she filled up with water, making me think she was pregnant which I wouldn't have thought if I had neutered her 6 months earlier. She was being put down exactly 1 month after her last shot.

Noche's new brand of shots.



I read that in the USA "yearly" rabid shots are no longer given. All 50 states have agreed to no longer give annual shots but rather they only give them every 3 years instead!
Here's a link on some information about dog vaccinations. http://www.dog-health-today.com/dog-vaccinations.html

Many critics feel that the effects of the immunity may last longer than just 3 years from 5 to 7 or possibly the life of the animal. But of course, the companies would suffer financially.  What has caused me some concern is that when I looked at Sheila and Barney's old shot records, the vaccines were from the Pfizer company, a well known established company but this year the vet in Salinas has changed brands and Noche was given all her shots last month using a brand called Calier.

I know, I maybe grasping at straws to find a cause or to blame someone or something. I feel only slightly okay that Noche was never pregnant nor given shots while thus so. Still, this rash of young dogs getting old dog conditions is new to Uruguay. I at least want the vets to start asking dog owners about this possible connection between the rabies vaccinations and the new company and to check/compare brand labels used by the affected dogs. They might end up seeing a distinct pattern or not and just keep on being bewildered about this new trending condition in young dogs occurring in Uruguay. I'm also mad that Noche was given a double dose of parasite pills just because I had to wait 3 weeks until her heat cycle was over. It was all such bad timing! I will see Mariana this coming Friday when she visits Barney. I will show her the old labels from the brand given to my other dogs versus the new brand given to Noche. It would be terrible if the new brand being used, was been used because it's cheaper in price and quality. Conversely, it could be overly powerful, too much so, for a young dogs' system to handle.


In only 1 month after her last shot, she went from fit and running around to swollen with water. I will now go on to follow the USA practice and not give my other 2 dogs their shots next year,  nor the next year after that. Every three years, sounds safer than every year (annually). Maybe, I will even have my dogs' blood tested after that length of time because many studies are saying that if there are antibodies for rabies present in the animals blood, those that have been vaccinated, then there is no need for more shots. There are no booster shots for Rabies only the full dose is given each time and not according to weight! Do your own research and make your decisions before it's too late.

Noche, my sweet, beloved girl, will be sorely missed!

Mariana Amoedo, Veterinaria. lives in Atlántida, Ruta 11, KM.159.500
Camino A Solis Chico
Her clinic is called El Rocio
 (near Expat Jerry). She speaks English and Spanish. Her phone numbers are 437 25046 (home)
099 130 943 (cell phone)
Her website is    www.elrocio.com.uy  Her Facebook page is El-Rocio

Dr. Nicolás Girreta, Diagnóstico Ecográfico Veterinario
e-mail: ngirreta@gmail.com (cell phone) 099 599 015

Monday, February 9, 2015

Repair Or Replace?



We recently had to decide whether to repair or replace a broken refrigerator. It is a GE brand that we bought almost 7 years ago (it still looks almost brand new).

Word on the street, is that most appliances here last no more than 7 years- hence the need to decide whether to splurge on a new refrigerator or repair the old one.

It kept running, without stopping and the cooling was minimal. We thought it might be the gas that needed recharging, but couldn't be sure.

This is shows 1 week of frost build up while we were awaiting the correct part.
The visit to examine the unit was going to be $38 US dollars. But what would the repair cost? We actually considered buying a new unit, but eventually decided to bite the bullet and call for a repair.


They came on time, examined the unit and determined that the heating element that keeps the cooling fins clear of ice needed replacing. Because the call center gave them the wrong model number, they had to come back a few days later to complete the repair.

But eventually the repair was completed, and the refrigerator works better than ever. And the final cost, just under $100, including the original visit. So it payed to repair, rather than replace. Now if we can just get another 7 years out of it.....

I think that the cost to repair items is far lower here, than in the US. My father had someone come out to examine his refrigerator last year and it cost him almost $100 to find out that the repair wasn't worth doing.

I don't think I mentioned this before, but when we first came to Uruguay, I had purchased a brand new Sony 300 CD player. I forgot that it was 110V and when I plugged it in, I fried the unit. I took it apart (hoping to find some obvious part I could replace), but was unable to come to any conclusion, so I put the parts in a box and stuck it away.

Later, I decided to contact Sony repair in Uruguay and eventually sent it in, parts in a box and all. They tested it, put it back together and installed a new power supply (220V, this time). All for about $80. You couldn't even find anyone to look at equipment for that price in the US.

So it pays to repair. Hopefully that remains true for our 7 year old washing machine, that is currently waiting a service call....

Friday, January 30, 2015

2nd. Annual Sand Castle Event



I thought I'd give my Uruguay readers a quick heads up.

Snooping out of my window this morning, I saw some new activity at the beach in front of my house. I saw  poles being set up and strung with wiring and lights, right on the sand itself.

Also, there was a large bulldozer pushing mounds of sand into piles at various intervals.


So I waddled on down to the beach with my camera in hand and started asking some questions. It turns out that, the second annual Marindia Sand Castle event will be this last weekend of January. It should have, all of the sand sculptures ready to tour by Saturday, January 31 and Sunday, February 1st. This year the city of Salinas, who oversees Marindia, is adding a new feature to the event. The beach will be lit up at night to illuminate the sand sculptures.

The event is FREE!  It is located in the town of Marindia on the beach near the parking area named, Bajada 7. Today, Friday (January 30th), seems to be a preparation day for the event.

If you want to see the artists constructing the castles, then Friday is the day to come. However, I am looking forward to strolling at night, tonight (Friday the 30th) on the beach under the temporary event lights to see what was accomplished during the day.



On Saturday,  I want to see how many artists finally contributed to the event.

Last year, Our neighbours (2 houses got together) added a very professional looking "Sponge Bob square pants" sand portrait!

Last year, 2014, our neighbours' "SpongeBob". 
Today, amidst the piles of sand waiting to be worked on, I saw one small but impressive sculpture finished and left standing abandon as a fore-gleam of what is to come.


Last year, some neighbourhood dogs ran through and jumped on some of the pieces, ruining them. So be warned that the city wisely put up a "no animals allowed" sign.

Be sure to avoid any fines and leave your dogs at home (yeah, those dogs ruined it for the others). I hope the lack of dogs on the beach is only for this event since watching your dogs play in the sand and running through the surf is a joyous thing to behold. I agree though that the hard work of the artists need to be protected.





I went Saturday night with some friends and took these shots of the sand art lit up by the lights.


 Everyone, took photos in front of the naked lady sculpture.


We all, thought the penguins were outstanding, Wally liked their beaks.


So, if you are looking for a romantic, yet free venue to come to, try strolling on our Marindia beach at night this weekend (or day).


Enjoy the beach, the weather and the sand art!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Year - New Name



Well, I finally made it back home. They say you "can't come home".... they were lying. And I am very happy to be back in Uruguay. Actually my return was planned so that I could renew my cedula (national identity card) on time and enjoy another 3 years without worrying about paperwork.

But first of all, some information about the first name change for the year. Our house. Previously our house had gone by the name "......" - in other words, it wasn't named. We had always talked about naming it and had decided on the name "Tranquilo", but never got around to getting a sign made. But Denise, as one of the many excellent improvements to the house had a custom sign made and installed.

Now onto the cedula renewal process. It was as simple as you can get. Denise secured an appointment at the Géant processing center, by visiting the local Abitab and paying the 233 pesos per person for the renewal fee in advance. She was able to make the appointment for two people at that time. Then, we each had to travel to Montevideo to secure a "Document de Llegada", which just says you have arrived here. Whatever. It's a simple process. Enter Migraciones, take a ticket, wait for your number, go to the proper desk. show them your cedula and they ask for your address (we both brought an Antel bill in case it was needed). They take an electronic scan of your index fingers (left one first), then you wait near the payment window while your document is processed and you step up to pay the $162 pesos (per person).

Then on our assigned renewal date, we showed up at the Géant office for immigration. Our appointment was for 3:00 group and it was not worth going too early, because the office only opened at 2:30. We came in when our group was called (they are assigned in 1/2 hour increments), presented documents, answered a few questions, got a picture taken and within a few minutes, we received our permanently sealed cedulas, good for another 3 years. Denise's photo came out OK... they managed to make me look like a fat old man. Hmmmmm.

Now, here is the funny part. Denise had not gone down to get a certified copy of our marriage license. It is on file from your initial application into the country. Last time when we renewed, we didn't need it. They just put Denise's name as our regular married name, with my family name last. However, this time they asked for the license. Since she didn't have it, they asked if she just wanted to go back to her maiden name, which is how most married women in the country are registered, anyway. The wife has her name and cedula and the husband has his name and cedula and the children are named in some form of combining the family names which is beyond my understanding, but results in longer names than we are used to.

So, Denise now is officially known by her maiden name. This doesn't change our marital status, but it does put Denise back on her own separate status, so that if something happened to me, she wouldn't have to go back and get death certificates, etc., to continue staying in the country. She is here in her own rights.

So a new year. I am living in a house with a new name and living with a wife who just had her name changed. And this is just the beginning of the year. Who knows what 2015 will bring? I can hardly wait.