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Friday, November 14, 2014

The Information Age!

A cool thing about Uruguay is that it doesn't have junk mail! You won't see dozens of ads, flyers or catalogs mixed in with your mail. In fact, a visit from the postman/person is somewhat rare. If something is sent to me through the mail, it takes a special visit from the local Salinas post office They don't have everyday routes and visits here. A cool looking dude riding a motorcycle and maybe wearing a leather jacket but not any special uniform will drive up my driveway and try and deliver it or leave a notice that he tried. I have a rock for my mail. I never got around to buying the little plastic box that others have tied to their gates.

My bills are left on my utility box with some rocks acting as a paperweight sitting on them. The individual power companies send their own people around to deliver the power, water and phone bills due. Different people from each company will leave you their bill and each home will have it's due dates uniquely their own. I usually hope that it doesn't rain during my delivery days which are not exactly the same days. I only lost 1 bill due to the wind but I eventually found it in the bushes.

While a few flyers might be passed out at the weekly feria or printed in slick booklets left on the counters in hardware stores and other places hoping that you'll take one when you leave, most advertising here is not on a printed waste of paper, most is done through the radio, TV or sound cars.  Cars, bikes and motorcycles with huge speakers front and back drive through all the neighborhoods blasting out their stores' jingles and specials. One time a small plane flew overhead announcing something but since it flew by so quickly only part of the message was heard, some sale was taking place, but where and of what who knows?

Receiving information however, in another form, is about to take a giant leap here in Uruguay, we are getting Fiber optic cables for home use (al hogar).

My little neighborhood is joining in with this information advancement as well, since fiber optic cables for our individual homes are being installed throughout the streets even as I type this.

Antel, the government owned communications network is laying down the cables and doing it surprisingly fast. Porta-potties are popping up in neighborhoods and little work tents. Trenches are being dug and the cables layed. They are zipping through streets right and left.

The sound guy and I seemed to be taking the same route.
I took a tour of the Antel project, taking photos on my way home from my weekly feria or farmers market trip. I always walk to the market place, so that gives me an up-close view of what's happening in the neighborhood. I crossed paths several times with the local sound announcing motorcycle.

Coming up the main highway, so that I could stop in one more store before returning home, I took these final shots of a crew at work. Many of them gladly posed!

These pictures as I mentioned, were taken along the main highway. It runs west to east near the coast and passes by the many beach towns like Salinas where I go to the feria and then past my town of Marindia and up towards Atlántida etc... It is called the Interbalnearia, balnearia means spa/resort, that's what they consider these beach towns to be. The Interbalnearia goes from Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay and runs up towards Punta del Este for instance. The main highway has a little secondary road that runs along either side of it. In the past these roads were only dirt roads but now many sections are paved with asphalt which really helps in the rain. Along this portion of road that I was walking home on, is a little soda pop, ice cream/cigarette, etc.. stand or more like a Kiosk which they are called here (spelled in Spanish, Kiosco) it stands in front of the owners home that was having cables laid down in front of it. The owners Mabel (pronounced with the b/v sound)  and Carlos gladly posed as well. So here are some pictures of their stand/store which is a very typical style of little convenience stands/Kiosk's you'll find in the many neighborhoods down here.

This project will take a few more months to complete but Antel wants it to be up and running or working for the homes in about 2 to 3 months, no more!

So that's what's happening in my town. Bye, Bye and remember to buy for now, so says the sound guy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Feeling Blue!

Apologies are needed, It's the end of the month and I haven't posted anything for 3 weeks.

I have my reasons. For one thing, My computer was being difficult, it wasn't charging even when it was plugged in! I had to send for a new charger from the States (USA). It took about a month to arrive but it seems to be working/charging now. My mouse function died many months ago and I've been using a very "crappy" touch pad to maneuver around with, it doesn't allow me to spell check anything. I only know when a word is misspelled but I can't auto correct it, like before.  Wally has the same type of mouse ball as I do, his works. So yes, I tried exchanging his to replace mine but no, the problem persists. My computer was a brand new present from Wally, a rare treat, if you know how little he likes to spend on gifts. He brought it back from the USA for me when he went to visit his sick father (who is well now). Of course, in bringing it back, he promptly dropped it in the airport onto a concrete post and slightly bent it! I normally don't get a lot of presents, so go figure. I am amazed it has worked this long (1 year).

I have also been working about 6 days a week doing house cleaning jobs. I agreed to work for a lady for 3 months while her cleaning lady was in the USA for 3 months. She wanted her house cleaned 3 times a week. Apparently, I did a good job because her Aunt who also used the same other lady wanted me to clean her house 2 times a week. I have 2 other regulars, of my own, that I clean for but only for 1 time a week each. My 2 regular cleaning jobs help me to pay for my pets' pet food (very expensive here in Uruguay) and my cat grit/kitty litter. They also give me just a few dollars for personal items that I want to spend on myself. So by doubling up on some days and cleaning their houses, I was and I am exhausted. My own house is now filthy or "Mugrienta",  Full of "Mugre/ filth and grime (my new Spanish words) After cleaning other peoples houses for 7 hours a day 6 days a week and traveling by bus to their towns there is no way I wanted or had the energy to clean my own home or to blog, Sorry! Wally likes to cook.

October started out incredibly sad for me! Romeo, my new kitty from the month of April was killed!

 I was outside, admiring my front garden because the gardener had removed some ugly bushes at my request. Well, curse it, I had to pee, so I ran back into my house where all my animals were waiting for me by the front door. Romeo, an inside cat, dashed out and I couldn't grab him fast enough. I blame having to use the facilities for that. Well, I quickly went to look for him and couldn't see him anywhere.  I then just had to use the toilet (which is why, I'm so mad at myself). I should have thought about going onto the roof or into the neighbors' yard, over on the next block but no, I just had to visit my porcelain friend.

I called all day and night for him. He had escaped before but he always stayed nearby or came when I called! This time a day and 2 nights passed without my seeing or finding him. Finally, when I came home from work and started calling again for him some workers, working on a new house construction 2 doors away, came to ask me, if I had found my cat? I said, "NO". Then, they said, they believed he might be dead because they could see the body of a cat in the next yard. They very nicely passed me a ladder and I climb up it to peek into the neighbors' yard. Another worker, then lifted up the body so I could see if it was Romeo or not. Sadly it was! By the look of his rigidness, he died on the very first day he went missing, which is why he didn't come back immediately. The workers asked if I wanted the body back to bury in my yard but I said no because I have 3 dogs that know him and his scent. So they nicely dug a deep hole in the bush area where he apparently wanted to explore. They dug it wide and deep and gently put him in it for me. They covered him not only with the dirt but seamlessly replaced the grass lawn over him. I was glad I saw him one last time, so that I knew for sure, he wasn't coming back home. He didn't suffer as there was no blood or damage. Some dog must have just shook him then walked away and left him without further disturbance. I know this is a terribly sad post but I just had to share in English my feelings, so forgive me.

I cried, and cried, day and night, because he was so young and because he had become my favorite pet so shortly on. My other cat, Nathan (of 5 plus years) is a typical cat. He's independent most of the time and loving when he feels like it. Romeo, was named (Ill fated I guess) Romeo because he was amazingly affectionate. He also had huge paws! Not deformed with extra toes, no, he had perfectly formed nice paws that were just very large (Larger than the 5 year old cat) and he had sturdy legs. He could not only push a door open but could "PULL IT OPEN" with his huge paws. Nathan meows and waits for the door to be opened for him.

Well, I don't have a kitty heaven or resurrection or reincarnation belief for animals, so I think, I cried more for him then for some people I knew. After 2 straight days of crying it was time to get up in the morning and meet my friends at 7am at the bus stop to attend my religious 3 day district assembly.

I had 3 straight days of Bible conference, readings, lectures, demonstrations and a really nice video Bible drama. Too bad for me, it was all in Spanish! I understood more than I have done before but I was again tiredly reminded of my great inadequacies. So I was glad to be with friends but I was also very tired mentally and emotionally by the end of it.

A few months ago, I had finally found a Spanish teacher in Salinas (the nearby town) and once a week I was going to them for a "1 on 1 lesson", a personal lesson using some of my house cleaning money for the lessons. I was loving it, even the homework. However, She started to cancel them and then she quit all together, citing personal home problems. We are on good terms and I would start them again if she was available. Alas, I am without affordable, live personal lessons.

To everyone who has emailed me or left a comment, I want you to know that, now that the computer is at least limping along and the 3 months of non-stop house cleaning is over, I will try and start blogging and answering questions again. Please remember, that to your computers, someone writing to you from Uruguay, looks like spam and is often trashed without reaching you. So check your filters and spam settings.

Also, I will probably need a "what's new" post, This week saw voters out electing officials (by law every citizen has to turn out to vote) (note: Jw's handle it like registering for the draft at 18 yrs. old in the USA) next week is to elect a President.

There was a fierce wind storm with lightening last night (Oct.28th). Today, I was to clean for my 2 ladies but they called to tell me there was a bus strike today (Oct 29th). Just as well, It rained and thundered with lightening all day so we rescheduled.

 Also the camp site in Marindia has since closed.

I was too busy to look into any other camp sites for the reader who wants to camp here in December. There are a couple of sites in La Floresta a few cities north of here. MAYBE, in November, I'll find something out about them, now that I have more free time.

To another reader, as far as I know I'm not "allergic" to wool but a mix of synthetic and wool will be less itchy so a mixed wool blend knitted cap would be nice if the offer is still open. I probably, sadly, missed that window of opportunity.

Okay, that about wraps it up!
I have more home projects in the works and some more interesting city projects taking place around town. So I hope, you'll check in next month! I hope to have a better month as well!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Plumbing and Draining Fixes!

Okay, Solymar and I seem to be having the same problems, that of good drainage and the ability to flush our waste away. "The city of the coast" ( La cuidad de la costa) is solving their problems with a multi-million dollar project. I was able to solve mine much more reasonably.

I noticed the problem while taking a shower. The drain seemed to be slow in draining, so I made a mental note to get out the plunger once I finished showering and to try and jog things loose with it. I take very long and steamy hot showers. When I finally got out of the shower, I saw that my entire bathroom floor was flooded with water. It had come up from a drain trap door in the floor that most bathrooms have if the house has a pozo negro (cesspool/ septic system).

At least the water was fairly clean and a toilet hadn't overflowed. It's just that I thought, the shower was draining but it was actually filling up the drain box which was blocked, so the water having nowhere else to go started to fill up the bathroom.

The marble threshold kept the water from spilling into the hallway.

Each month, we put a few pesos into an envelope so that when we need to drain our septic system we will have the money to do so. When we first moved into our house, we had to drain the septic tank  twice, in only a few years time. Now, I know that was only because we had had construction debris clogging it up. Still, I figured out that it has been about 3 to 4 years since we have emptied it, so I grabbed my envelope and tried to remember who to call to drain it.

Fortunately, just 2 days before this, I had seen my neighbor, who lives up the same street as I do, getting his pozo negro cleaned out! So I ran up to Juan's house and asked him for the name of the company and their telephone number. I also, asked him how much they charged him. He has a 4,000 liter tank and they charged him $750 pesos (about $37.50 US). I found out that my tank is a huge 10,000 liter one. They charged me $1,500 pesos  (about $75 , I still use a 20 to 1 ratio). So double his price but I got 2,000 liters of free cleaning, so to speak, so I thought it was a good deal.

Juan told me who to ask for and to tell him that I lived on the same street that they had just been to. That made it easy for me to try and explain how to get to my house over the phone in Spanish.

Juan said, that a fairly young guy named Mateo drove the truck. I had to wait a few days until they could come, so I started a no flush champaign because I didn't want my next flood to be, you know what. 

The truck arrived on a rather gloomy day so I was glad to see them show up.

Soon, giant hoses were unloaded and attached to the truck that was parked in the middle of our street. The hose had to come up our drive way and then up my brick garden stairs. Then it was laid across my courtyard into the first of 2 iron tops that cover 2 access pits. One pit fills up then flows to a second.

I am completely upset with myself that I didn't show the pits after, they were throughly cleaned out. 

I made sure that after they were finished, I verified it was in fact completely empty. We once had someone only empty half because they said their truck was full. They asked for a large price I think $1200 pesos  some 4 years ago but then they never came back to clean out the other half. Wally had paid them already. I now handle, the paying of people because I'm not so easily parted with my money. I explained to this company, that I wanted everything, cleaned out before I paid.

After many years of use, the pozo was filled to the top with toilet waste.
I was glad that I had made such a pre-fuss because sure enough it started to pour down rain and they said, they had to empty the truck. They said, they would be back after lunch but not too worry, I wouldn't pay them until they had come back that afternoon and finished the job! Whew, 

They came back in the pouring rain and finished the job. I think because of all the rain and fuss that after I looked into both pits I forgot to take the photo of how deep and awesome our empty pit was.
Instead, I asked, if I could finally flush my toilets? They said yes, so I gave the needed flush however when I came back out they had already lifted back on the heavy iron tops and I didn't have the heart to ask them in the pouring rain to take them off again, so that I could take the final photo. Too bad, Qué lástima (what a pity).

After my Pozo was totally cleaned out I was so happy. I took a long shower. The next day, after a very long shower, I came out into the bathroom to find it flooded again with shower water!!! This time I called a plumber!

Diego, the plumber, speaks English but he says he is going to move to Spain soon. So too bad, the expat community will soon lose a valuable resource.

Wally's bathroom backs up to mine. We each have a little floor drain. That was good to remember, because after taking out a lot of grit, sand and debris from the bathroom drain that had flooded, we wondered why the drain was still slow to drain. Then Diego opened up my drain. It too had grit down it. Still, the shower drain was slow to drain. It only worked, after Diego used a home made snake (a piece of rubber hose) to clean out the connection between Wally's bathroom drain and mine. 

The last photo above shows how much sand, and etc... that he cleaned out of our drains. Now, I can take truly long luxurious showers and step out onto a dry bathroom floor. Yeah! Diego din't charge too much. So unlike the neighborhood of Solymar, my 2 projects of sewage and drainage are now complete. 

So as not to leave you with images of poop and debris, ugh, I will use this post as a perfect excuse to include some recent photos of my new kitten Romeo and my cat Nathan, to focus on instead. They are getting along great. Nathan is proving to be an attentive big brother.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Solymar is a residential neighborhood belonging to the "ciudad de la costa" since 1994. This neighborhood and the "city of the coast" is one of the balnearia/beach towns along the strip of coast called the "Gold Coast" or  in Spanish called the "Costa de Oro". It literarily means Sun (Sol) and (Y) sea (mar). It's about a 35 to 40 min. bus ride (depending on traffic) away from my town. The main section of highway that fronts the town is chock full of enterprises.

It has a Disco supermarket, a Multi ahorro supermarket (which means multi savings) and everything else you might need.

At night snack trucks come out and sell fresh made garrapiñadas, churros and my favorite new mobile truck stand, a "Fried fish and chips" (french fries) place.

That's Jessica on the left with Juan the cook and owner. They have the best deal in town or over several towns regarding their french fries (papas fritas). A generous sized portion only costs 60 pesos.

Most other places are charging 100 pesos, $3 dollars versus $5. In Uruguay food is NOT cheap.  A fried piece of fish, fried to your "color preference" is served with a lemon wedge and costs $38 pesos.

I always order 2 pieces and I've always gotten a 3rd piece thrown in for free because they try and serve large pieces and will compensate for 2 smaller ones.

I've been down to Solymar almost everyday now because I have several small house cleaning jobs down there. They pay for all the dog and cat food, plus cat litter box grit, that I need to supply for my 3 dogs and 2 cats. They also contribute to some pocket money for me. Of course, the down side is that now my own house is filthy. After cleaning 8 hours a day in other peoples' houses, the idea of coming home to do more cleaning in my own house and not getting paid for it, is just too tiring to consider. In a month or so I'll drop most of the jobs and just keep 2 ladies. That will be enough for the pet food and supply money with a "tiny" extra besides. When the ladies that I work for said, that they would recommend me to a "ALL" their friends after their regular cleaning lady comes back from vacation, I said, "please don't, I'm exhausted" (Estoy agostada).

Because I'm down in Solymar so much, I decided to bring my camera down with me to document a grand public works project that the water company, OSE is carrying out. OSE stands for Obras Sanitarios del Estado (Sanitary Works of the State). This project will accomplish several needed services for the city of Solymar. Solymar has suffered flooding on several occasions after no more than a very heavy rain. One of the ladies that I clean for, had to throw out her large area rug after water poured into her house under her door. She has no front stoop. The drainage ditches alongside of the streets quickly fill up with water then they overflow, turning the neighborhood dirt roads, into mini lakes.

So water drainage is being addressed. Also, It seems that everyone is getting new sewage lines. Most people have bidets next to their toilets and they don't use a lot of toilet paper to wipe their "hinnies" with, not like us North Americans do. So I have seen a lot of "ugh", used tissues thrown into the trash bucket next to the toilet. People here are reluctant to flush their paper down the toilet. Everyone has a septic tank that they apparently don't want to fill up with paper. The paper here is so thin that it seems to totally de-solve right away but still the habit persists.

I started taking pictures of the project, when I noticed how deep down into the ground the workers and machines were digging.

These giant u shaped cement pieces, shown in the 3rd photo above, are to be buried completely underground, they will have tops added on top of them once in place, then more sewer lines and other stuff goes above them.

 So the newly dug underground canal is deep.

The cement canal pieces were lined up along the street and became our pedestrians routes until each one was taken up by a giant crane and placed into the newly dug pit.

I'm about 5 foot, 5 1/2 inches tall, so I'm guessing that these are about 4 feet tall?

To show how deep down they were buried, here are some photos of the workers standing down in the pit with them.

Huge steel plates were used as walls to keep the excavation from caving in on itself, the crane would then pound these in deeper with a deafening sound, over and over again. I wondered how the steel plates could take such a beating.

I don't know how high up, they will have to build the street to bury these sewer connections and hoses or if there will be some very tall sidewalks poured in place to cover them over but it seems to me that these lines are too close to the surface. I can't imagine cars and trucks rolling over these without damaging them. For now, I will just keep an eye on the developing project.

The street that this is being done to is aptly named Uruguay, a few side streets are also benefiting. The work is taking place on the North side of the ruta or main highway, called the Interbalnearia. The project is headed up the street to the next main route. I asked some workers when the project was due to be completed, they said in November of this year then just started laughing! We all know, it will take much longer to complete. It was supposed to be a 2 year project ending this year. The cost? I'm not sure but it's in the millions of dollars (USA). The water company OSE had to not only hire the workers but also had to rent the large machinery from other sources. So it's a costly expense.

Maybe, in the future when it rains, Solymar won't get inundated with flood water. Also, who knows maybe they will, "live a little" and flush away all those nasty used pieces of toilet paper. If I continue cleaning houses I can only hope so!!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Our Roof!

I must have a thing about roofs and different roof material types. In the past, I've posted about a thatched roof (Quincho) being repaired or rather replaced with a new thatched roof. I've mentioned my neighbor's tin roof being exchanged for a clay tile one. Now, it seems only fitting to mention my cement and brick covered one, atop my own house.

I don't personally like the idea of a flat roof. Although, I was raised in Southern California and "Seems, it never rains in Southern California, (unless) it pours, man it pours." (I'm alluding to an old 1972 song here). Despite raining a little or a lot, I do not like to think of rain settling on the roof and just staying there, pooling and eventually causing problems. Now if I had lots of money, I'd build a roof deck on top of my flat roof and take advantage of the view but alas I'm broke so no roof deck in my future.

One of the big differences between Wally and I is, he's not just a "glass half-full" type of guy, to my "glass half-empty" personality but rather, he is a "the glass is always full and overflowing" type of person. I think that's why I'm forced to be the half-empty type, just to balance or compensate for his exuberance.

A crack on the outside fascia and the top roof edge caused this. 
So after our end of the year row/tiff, he finally agreed that maybe, my concern about seeing some ceiling cracks in my bathroom and in our bedroom were valid. In our bedroom we once had an old wood stove that the previous owners had left behind. We were concerned about using it and possibly getting badly burned walking around it in the middle of the night so we remove it years ago. That left a large hole clear through the roof where we took out the chimney. The hole was patched and you'd never know that once we could see the sky through it. However, several months ago I noticed a drop of water coming down in that repaired spot. Actually, I originally thought that one of our dogs was having bladder problems because her dog bed was under that spot. I was finding her bed slightly wet during the day and I thought she was leaking! Well I'm glad to say no, she was fine, just the roof was leaking. Wally kept putting off repairing it until finally, I was afraid we would have a skylight there because of it's falling down.

A chimney stove pipe, once went through this spot!
The spot went from a barely noticeable drop to being full of cracks. I wasn't really worried about that spot because I knew the history of the ex chimney. I finally complained about my bathroom enough to get attention to the whole problem. Our roof needed help!

Outside my bathroom window, moisture damage showing under the ledge
New asphalt already laid above, ready to be trimmed.
We called around to our friends and asked, if there were any roofers among them. It turns out that a good friend of ours Leo (he drove Wally to the airport in a post last year) used to be a roofer but now had a sales job. Leo does maintenance at our congregation and is a meticulous worker.

Leo finishing with a paint job to our facia trim.
He took a week off of work because sales were slow due to the holidays and he ended up repairing large sections of our roof during this time. We were so pleased with his work that I was able to talk Wally into using him again to do some other sections of our roof in a few months from now.

Our roof as mentioned, is made of concrete. The concrete is coated with liquid asphalt, a tar like substance. That is covered with a thick membrane roll of Asphalt, then a base of sand covers that and finally thin cement tiles called tejuelas used for walking on, cover the sand.

Tejuelas and sand removed and a coat of liquid asphalt is painted on.
Our house is very old but that system had lasted through all these decades until now. The membrane had simply become buckled up at the edges. Some of those edges had become unsealed. Because of all those high winds and tropical storms starting in September, water was driven under in spots and allowed ingress.

Bringing the liquid Asphalt to the edges
Leo says, that many people make the mistake of not sealing the edges after the membrane is torched on. There is a product using liquid aluminum that can help keep the edges from coming loose due to the intense sun temperatures a roof receives. Covering over the blacken tar like stuff with the light liquid aluminum can reduce decay and prevent this problem.

Our flat roof with some silver aluminum showing at the edge
After the black liquid is rolled or painted on you must then torch on a separate membrane roll over that coating. I have seen other roofers not really torching the membrane to melt it as well as they should but melting it is what thoroughly adheres it to your roof!

The back of this membrane asphalt roll is covered with an included aluminum attached cover. This is to reflect the sun and not absorb it. That keeps your roof cooler in summer then just asphalt alone would.

The roll of Asphalt membrane after torched and adhered.

Leo recovered the new membrane with the sand and then put back our roof tiles over that base. Wally de-weeded our unintentional green roof. Weeds loved to grow in the sand lines around the tile.
Edges addressed, tiles relaid.

Leo then went down off our roof and up a ladder. He scraped and patched/repaired the areas under our facias which had shown the water damage occurring.  I saw these all along, Wally just had to finally agree to address the problem.  Leo also painted these facias and our trim.

Because of our budget we are working in stages. Leo worked tirelessly in the hot sun for days. His expertise will also be put to use as a painter and plasterer to help make our inside ceilings unblemished again. For now it's back to his normal job for him and we will see him again in March but the real problem areas where solved. So, it looks like part of my "empty glass" attitude is starting to be filled up, Wally is lending me some of his.