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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. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

More Rust! Painting the railing!

Okay, we live near the beach and that's great except when you realize how corrosive salt water spray can be on iron. Wally and I hate to paint and now we are reaping the sad results of that tendency.

The good news is that I am slowing starting to address the rust problem areas and fixing them. Unfortunately, because we waited so long in doing this we had to again, get professional help in tackling the problem. I called the garden gate father and son team to return and have them give me an estimate. I would need grinding down and taking off the rust spots and patching and filling them up. Since these guys are iron workers I knew that they could weld anything that might need it.

Sergio's cell phone number
Remember, that I originally got their telephone number from a sign off of the main highway.
They were quite professional despite their sign. I was pleased to have them back!

Sergio's home telephone number
They scolded me, (nicely) for having let the railing get so bad. I agreed! We had almost lost, a good investment. I freely admitted, that in 5 years we had only painted the railing once and not even completely. So with head held down in shame, I hoped that they could repair the damage. It was bad!

After, accessing the damage, Sergio the son came back to my house with a written estimate of what the work would entail and cost me. He even put it in a plastic keeper which I felt bad and gave back because I wasn't sure when I would be able to start the work, I should have kept the holder.

The work estimate said,
             *Limpiar hasta sacar todos los oxidos de las barandas.  
             *Limpiar y reparar todos los oxidos que hallan perforado el caño.
             *Pintar con dos manos de antioxido. Ulbrica todo el barandal.
              *Luego de sacado el antioxido se pintara con 2 manos de esmalte Ulbrica negro dando
                por finalizado el trabajo de las barandas.
                Dicha cotización es de $13.800 (pesos uruguayos). 

That would cost me around $680 US

In brief, he would remove the rust from the bars and repair the holes/perforations and paint with 2 coats of anti-oxide paint and another 2 coats of shinny finish paint in black. He said that the esmalte brand name of the finishing paint was a brand from Germany and was especially good at resisting salt water.
It was expensive but the damage was extensive so I agreed to the price.

The head of the team, Sergio (the son) arrived on his motorcycle and his helpers arrived on their bicycles.

He showed me the wire brushes that he had bought especially for my job.

He asked if he could store his extension ladder in my storage room during the job. It had to come by truck since it was too big to carry on a motorcycle so of course, I said yes. It was a sturdy giant wooden ladder. I didn't know they made extension wood ladders that tall. Of course Nathan, My cat had to check out the giant scratching post. Sorry Nat, it's not for you!

The first day a very young looking worker about 18, came. He used the grinder and ground down a section (that wasn't all that bad) for 5 1/2 hours. It looked nice but the second day reinforcements came to help.

I choose black as the finish coat because the railing was black but the coat of grey primer anti-oxide paint was kinda of pretty.

I was home during the repairs so I know that 2 coats of grey primer were used.

Next came the shinny black coat of finish paint. I was shown the can and yes it was made in Germany.

The black coat was much more of a pain to use being a sticky oil based one. So even more help arrived 2 days later after the grey had dried.

I had Jasmine growing on this side of the railing which helped my plants from getting wind wiped. It also smells so lovely at night when I open the nearby window. It had to be removed but I was able to flip it back over after the paint dried. It smells heavenly now.

The sad news is that while the repair work was great and the 2 grey coats of paint were great and the 1 black coat was great, the final coat was not. Naturally, that's the one everyone will see and I am stuck looking at. The first black coat had time to dry but the second coat was shaken not stirred. While that maybe the preferred James Bond method for Martinis, it left bubbles in the paint. One smart ass worker tried to tell me it was the result of sand blown onto the coat. I looked at him and said I don't speak Spanish but that doesn't mean I'm an idiot. I know that that is not from sand but bubbles, another worker agreed with me, this was not from hard grit. When the boss came I showed him the sad result and they got to work painting and I guess "smooching" the paint down with the rollers. They did the best they could. It is just a shame that the other coats were perfect and this 4th coat was not. At least from a distance the railing looks good and with 4 coats of paint on it I know it's well protected.

This time I will try and keep it up, by painting it yearly. I've learned that in Uruguay things aren't always going to go perfectly but since neither do I, I guess we're a good fit.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Preparing for Winter!

Uruguay has a temperate climate, at least where I live. Something called a Biome says that Montevideo, Carrasco, and Prado roughly at 34º50' S (51' S and 52 for Carrasco and Prado respectively) Latitude. and 56º 1' W Longitude (12' W for Carrasco and Prado) have a "warm temperate dry forest" type of climate. But it's said that Uruguay in General is classed overall as having a humid subtropical climate. If your wondering why I added the Lat. and Long. map directions, it's because I just found out how to make the degree symbol on my keyboard ººº yeah!

The Capital of Uruguay is Montevideo, I live 40 Km (24.85 miles) away from there.
Some of you readers from places like North Dakota, or Buffalo (up state, in New York State), Canada, Germany, Sweden and etc... Might start laughing when I mention that it gets cold here in the winter! How cold does this temperate climate get? Well, we do really have to bundle up during our average 57.2º F high (14º C),  down to our average low of 42.8º F (6º C) winter weather.  I have experienced it getting down several times in winter to 2º C which is 35.6º F. The coldest temperature ever registered in Montevideo was 24.8º F (-4º C).

The temperatures of 45 to 35 degrees that I have felt here may seem as nothing to you readers up North, but they feel much colder down here because of the humidity and lack of insulation in the buildings. To add to the unpleasantness, in winter there is also an occasional fog that strikes, sometimes quite dense.

A view of my neighbors house with some fog.
In case you think that I am just a wimp to complain about our seemingly mild winters read on.

I have lived in places where it snowed regularly in winter. Wally and I lived for 3 years in Brooklyn, New York USA and have seen some tough winters there when I was younger.

In Brooklyn, New york USA
Photo #1Digging our Volvo out of the parking lot.  Photo #2 Me and our friend Gordon Grant at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan
 Photo #3 The Brooklyn Bridge  near the Fulton Ferry.

Even in Seattle, Washington where we lived for 18 years, it would snow at least once or twice each winter with at least one of the snow falls being very heavy and dumping lots of snow on the ground . Of course, everyone would call into work and beg off from going in that day. Seattle wasn't really equipped snowplow wise to clear off all of the streets. Even buses would go sliding down the streets.

Our house in Kirkland, Washington State USA and our puppy Maggie!
Wally and I also lived in the south of Germany near the Swiss border. Once during winter we had hung our clothes inside to dry in the living room of an old farmhouse we were renovating for a friend. It was winter and we had strung up a clothes line in the living room to dry our work clothes after washing them. They hung out to dry in front of the ceramic fire box. Well, we went to see and visit a neighbor and when we came back the fire had gone out and our clothes had frozen stiff!!!  Another time in Germany, Wally was wondering why he couldn't open our car's door when he realized it wasn't the door lock or the handle but the fact that his gloved hand was too cold to work, it was 23º F (-5 ).

Blumberg Germany and The Römer in Frankfurt, Germany
We have visited cold places in winter, like Denmark, where we saw ships frozen in the harbor canal and ships being repaired with fire pots lit right on the frozen water.

Denmark, Europe. It lies above Germany in the North, it snows in winter.
The Capital city of Copenhagen, Denmark and the "Little Mermaid" at Langelinje pier.
It's true that we had great coats on and always wore scarves, hats and mittens (gloves for Wally) and so we felt warm in these places but the Uruguayans also dress up like Eskimos about to venture toward the North Pole. They need to because I and several Canadians living here, all say that, we have never felt colder living anywhere else, than here in Uruguay in the winter.

You never seem to warm up during the winter because you don't have heated places to go into. Even schools are said to be kept cold. It's due, as I said before to the lack of quality insulation or any insulation. My house is pretty well built and will retain heat once heated but still without a heat pump or central heating neither of which I have, I, like the rest of the majority here, have to bundle up most of the time inside and outside.

Barney my poor guy doesn't have much fur, not like the other longer coated pets. I usually wrap him up in a towel so he can sleep toasty and then Nathan (the cat) will come and sleep on top of Barney. Sheila wouldn't allow that. All of my animals sleep in doors at night.

So preparing for winter by buying firewood beforehand is a must. You want dry wood, it will burn hotter. I use about 4 1/2 to 5 tons of fire wood a year, most of it is used only for the winter months. Depending on where and from whom you buy your wood from currently the cost per ton here is anywhere from 2500 pesos to 4000 pesos a ton or about $125 to $200 per ton each (USA dollars). So figure on an average of 5 tons of fire wood times $175 and you end up spending $875 a winter just on heating your house. If you plan on keeping your house warm 24 hours a day with some usage during non-winter months, the expense really adds up because you need to buy more than 5 tons of wood. So the average Uruguayan home is somewhat cold. Most have fireplaces without inserts and the heat goes up the chimney. At least I have a wood stove with a blower.

Photo #1. My wood stove in Uruguay and photo #2. My Seattle gas fireplace.
Winter officially starts around June 21st; but I consider June 1st; to be the start of my firewood use. I will put up with shivering with cold in May and only use a movable tank gas heater inside, stoically watching the calendar until June first rolls around.

It was cold last winter and we got frost covering the grass.
I have 3 cement covered wood storage areas built into my backyard, each one holds 1 ton of wood, divided into 1/2 ton spaces. So at a quick glance I can see how much wood I've used or need. The problem is that I have to wait and use 1 ton of wood up before I can buy my needed 4th ton and then repeat to buy a fifth ton. I reserve money for those 2 extra tons of wood that I need to still buy. One day I will need to build a 4th storage unit so that I can buy 4 tons in summer not just 3. I can also put about 1/4 of a ton under my parilla/BBQ area.

 Winter also means, that we have to clean the chimney and flue belonging to our wood stove. "Magna" the company in Montevideo that I bought our wood stove from offered a cleaning service, 2200 pesos or $110 USA. So I took advantage of that. I really needed that service this year because during a recent wind storm our chimney cap blew off. I didn't realize that until I saw water pooling under the wood stove. When I opened up the stove, it was rusted and had water inside of it.

I bought a new cap and paid the delivery men a little extra pocket money to carry the heavy cement top up our rickety ladder to the roof and then to lay it on the chimney. I then wired it into place.

The man from Magna made this wreck of a wood stove look new. He scraped, then painted the rusted areas, after first vacuuming out the chimney (we have a short run up to the roof). He then put some new fireproof cord around the door. I was glad that he did that as I was afraid I would have to order some and then not see him for many months. It was a full service winterizing for our wood stove.

Winter means, me trying to finish up, painting the rest of the rusted ironwork around my house. Because we live near the beach it corrodes very fast if left unprotected. Wally and I both hate painting, so most of our iron work was in sad shape.  I've been paying others to have it scraped, sanded, primed and repainted with 2 top coats. The idea is that once it is done, I should be willing and able to maintain it in the future, like I should have been doing all along, me bad!  My giant gate leading to my backyard needed painting after some 5 years of neglect. Yes I already admitted, me bad.

My iron railing surrounding my terrace also needed attention, as it faces the full burnt of the salt water. I think I will have a separate post in store outlining that job.

Even though I fixed my parilla doors' rusted lock problem earlier this year, the putty surrounding the window panes needed replacing which is going on right now as I type.

I have only 3 more weeks until my winter deadline arrives, starting June first. I should try and get my exterior walls pressured washed clean before then. They are spotted with mold but several other things will have to wait until after I go through winter. I just don't have the money or ability to tackle everything that needs to be done. I have already faced a lot of repairs this year and had to meet those instead, as you blog readers already know.  I should have my shutters repaired and painted which is a major job but I just can't afford that yet. I will have to save up money for several months during the winter for that. They are still strong and lockable, so I will just have to wait.

Instead of any more projects, I plan to buy an electric blanket or heating pad and some knit hats and then bundle up for our very cold "temperate" winter climate" burr...