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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Down to 1 Bathroom

Well, our once lovely 3 bedroom, 2 bath home is now down to 1 bath. We (and by "we" I mean Aldo, since I am coming down with a little bug and an nursing a sore throat) began the preparation for new fixtures and tile. Nothing fancy, just plain solid bathrooms. These, by the way are very small bathrooms (just 32 ft2). Still there are 2 (or there will be) and we plan on making Denise's more feminine and mine more masculine. In fact, we plan on putting signs- "Damas" y "Caballeros", along with appropriate symbols. And in the men's bathroom, we may not even put the toilet seat down.

 We are at the stage in our heating project where we can step away from it. The stove is putting out lots of comfortable heat and spreading it throughout the house. It is not overpowering- but sufficient.  Things are really underway.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Friends and a Lesson Learned

This is Debbi and Dave (with Denise) who are from Texas and visiting Uruguay on a "scouting" trip. Having read about Uruguay from International Living's writings, they decided to take a trip down here and see for themselves what it's all about.

Now here is the funny thing. They googled "retire...Uruguay..." and eventually found my blog (can you believe that I am being read by someone who doesn't know me?). Intrigued by what they read, we arranged to meet and spend the day with them, showing them some of the offerings of Marindia, Atlantida and La Floresta. They immediately loved La Floresta (as we knew they would). Tomorrow they head up to Punta del Este and return home on Saturday.

We took them by Tienda Inglesa (probably the finest market chain in UY) and while picking up some lovely wines for a couple of bucks each and salami and bread for dinner- we saw this loaf, which would be sliced thin for sandwiches or something else. This is something you don't see often, and notice the obligatory egg.

We are on the lookout for a tile/concrete worker. Meanwhile, I have strapped on my toolbelt and will take on some of the small jobs myself. Someday I plan to retire.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Night With an Empanada

Last night was the first time we had one of the famous empanadas of Uruguay. Actually, we had a couple one day (cold) and another day we had some frozen ones that we heated up. But last night was the first night we had empanadas from a restaurant in Salinas that specialized in them (Empanadas Santa Fe).

OK, so we ordered about 5 each and they make 36 varieties. When we got home, how could you tell one from another? Let's take the quiz. Look at the 2 empanadas pictured above. Which one is carne con panceta and which one is quieso con longaniza? Obviously you have a 50% chance of being right, but to be sure- look at the top crust. There are markings and they give you a "legend" with pictures to match. The top is Longaniza (with a single "twist" and the bottom is panceta (with 2 cuts at the top and one on each end).

I was not familiar enough with the process to order over the phone and have them delivered. They will deliver for about $1, but next time we will try sitting at home and enjoying delivery.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thorns n Horses

Last night we had a nice fire and the stove seems to be working. Haven't run all of the ductwork, but what is there is distributing the heat nicely. At sunset the view was magnificent. Even though we don't see the sun setting over the water, in summer we may catch a glimpse of the sunset, when it changes it's trajectory. But for now, the glow of the sunset over the water is great.

This morning our neighbor had some visitors. They are local horses that are left in yards to graze (and fertilize as well). The lighter horse is a stallion, the "momma" was tied to a tree nearby, grazing and the little colt reminds me of "donkey" in Shrek. Looks like there is a little mule in him. He was quite feisty and tried to bite and run after you. Denise fed them an apple and got out of his way.

There are 2 trees on our property that are a threat to life and limb. I don't know the name of the tree, but Martin our current tree cutter has tackled the worst of them, today. It is at the road and straddles both main electric lines, secondary lines and also the telephone line. As you can see, the spines are deadly. I can't imagine why anyone would want the tree or allow one to grow. Martin climbed up into the tree (without gloves) and just started hacking away, carefully avoiding the lines as he took the tree apart. He says he will cut it down for firewood for the stove. That will be the best use of the tree, in my estimation.

We have one more in the back yard, but it is not bothering any of the utility cables. Still, we will have that removed, as well.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Heating Project Underway

Aldo started the ductwork for our central wood heating project on Saturday. He is pictured near a wall that we are going to re-attach the original wood siding to. That wall had some of the most beautiful wood I have ever seen, and we are going to clean it up and use it again for the living room wall. We took it down to keep it safe.

Here is the first of the two ducts that will run down the hallway and bring warm air to the master bedroom (which is at the back of the house) and the 2 bathrooms. It may not be as efficient as we would like, but it will be the best solution that we can come up with under the circumstances.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Man Make Fire

This is fire. Fire is good. Me make fire. No- that is not caveman talk, that is the best Spanish I can muster. Let's be honest, I am not even that good. But, tonight is the first time we have had a fire in this house, since we bought it, a little over 2 weeks ago. This is the stove installed. Notice the pipes rising from the top of the stove, we hope these will transmit the heated air (driven by the blower on the side of the stove) to the entire house. We will see about that. Still, it was the best and most economical option open to us.

 By the way, many of the walls we have seen have broken glass set all along the top. I thought it was to keep birds off the wall. I was informed that it was to keep burglars off the wall. What a difference from the US, where a burglar injuring himself while breaking into your house or business may sue you for damages. In Uruguay, if you try to climb over one of those fences and cut yourself to shreds- that is just too bad for you.

Aldo (the carpenter from New York state) has been most helpful. We plan to have the ductwork installed and the house heated by early next week. Denise is staying at the hotel through Saturday, but will be here on Sunday for better or for worse.

Now back to the fire. As you may have noticed, it was not a roaring fire. Yes I made a fire, but not after much smoke and at that a very little fire. I've got a lot to learn. I may need more seasoned firewood, as well. However, making a fire every day will be good practice.

So much for now. Adios.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Storms and Stoves

Well last night was a doozy of a storm. Wind, sheets of rain and lightning and thunder. It was scary being in a new house and you don't really know what will blow away, will trees fall down.

We have gotten a lot of the furniture delivered and the place is beginning to look like home. Here is a picture of the living room looking to the dining room. The dining table is nicely topped with 3/8" frosted glass and the seats nicely match the coffee colored leather couch. Those chairs are new, but the fabric looks antique. When we saw them in the store, we thought we were in a used furniture place. Turns out it is the style and color that gives it that antique feel. You may noticea set of congas and a guitar. Could this be the beginning of a music area? Not pictured is Denise's new trumpet (an instrument she played in high school). She has promised to take it to the beach and practice (poor fishies).

We received delivery of the high efficiency wood burning stove that we hope to use to heat the house during the winter. On Thursday we will have some 35 meters of ductwork delivered and Aldo and I will start installing it. Aldo is a young man I met at a local lumber yard. He has been in the US for 20 years (New York state) and does remodels. Being from Uruguay, he will be a big help on this project, before he returns to the US.

The stove has 4 hot air outlets, powered by the fan motor on the right. We hope to run 2 ducts to the rear of the house, one to the living and kitchen and the other to the dining area. It is unclear whether the motor will move the air that far, effectively, but we will install it and make modifications, if necessary. Will give you an update on the progress.

The solar water heater that we had installed is doing quite well. Have not had power to the unit since it was installed and there is sufficient hot water for our needs. The sunny days (though cold) have helped.

Denise is staying in the hotel for now, refusing to spend the night in a house without heat. I envy her. For my part, I am staying here in Marindia, wrapped in blankets and trying to keep warm. Perhaps today or tomorrow I will install the stove and at least have heat in the living room. By Friday I hope to have the house at least partially heated and we can do away with the extra expense of the hotel.

Until later....

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Going Green

Well, we have taken the plunge and entered the green arena. Today they finished the installation of our solar hot water heater. Carlos (known as Solarch on the Uruguay board) had his people (hey he's got people) install it where it will catch the most sun during the winter.

This particular unit comes with a built in heating element which can supplement the hot water when the sun don't shine. When the water reaches the desired temperature, it shuts off and in the summer the unit can be shut off entirely, while relying on the solar unit, alone.

The glass tubes, in this Chinese import, heat the water inside, and natural convection takes that heated water up to the storage tank and cold water replaces it to be heated. The tank is 200 liters (52 gallons for you Northerners). Now 52 gallons might not seem like much, but it replaces a 110 liter electric tank which was huge by Uruguayan standards. Hot water tanks run from 40 - 80 liters, normally. And by the way, while the solar unit is quite beautiful- do you notice the view behind it???

We expect to have reduced heating costs in the winter and almost none during the rest of the year. We will see. At a cost of $2400, installed, it seemed to be a wise investment, considering the high cost of electricity here.

This week we received: a new couch, washer and dryer, stove, telephone and cable TV and on Satuday, internet will be hooked up. By next week, we will be living in the house. As of this moment, we are making plans for heating, and if things work out, we will have a new cast iron fireplace insert installed- but not before a few chilling nights. Our plans include ductwork to take hot air from the double-chambered stove throughout the house. A sort of forced-air woodburning central heating. Very green, the most inexpensive heating solution and cool to look at, as well. At a base price of $2800 (does not include necessary ducts and installation) it is not cheap. We will keep you up to date on our progress.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

On The Road Again

Well, this has been quite a week. Monday we finally got the house, clear and free. Tuesday I got a brand new motorcycle, free and clear. Of course the weather has been anything but free and clear, but that is another post. Pictured here is the Keeway Supelight 150. Notice subtly in the background, the name of the hotel, and also the current state of mind. Now for those avid bike riders a 150cc bike may seem the joke, but here in Uruguay- it's a big bike. Everyone that sees it remarks about its size. You see- 125cc is the standard for large motorcycles, here. Riding a bike here can be hazardous to your health, since there are really not many rules of the road- or rather there are rules to the road, but nobody follows them. I am glad we are in the Atlantida area, where traffic is sparse and I will have a chance to get accustomed to riding again before the "high season". I haven't ridden a bike in over 25 years. Yikes!

Safety equipment is important. So far I have located an HJC, DOT compliant helmet for myself, at the cost of $340. That sounded high for me, but I needed one to start riding. Apparently it has this cool feature that make it more expensive. The full front flips up, as you can see from the pictures. If I could have waited, they will have more reasonable priced ones (still as safe, with DOT) for about $160. I'll get one of those for Denise.

Now- onto the house. It has been a whirlwind of activity, just getting utilities changed into our name and some installed. Ordering furniture and trying to arrange for delivery. This stage of the game is just like opening your wallet and letting everything flow out. But it must be done. We bought couch, chairs, dining table, bed, stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer. Coming back, today- Denise spotted a local clothes dryer. Ours will be installed in the house and the neighbors won't have to see our undies flyin' in the wind.

Getting all of these utilities hooked up presents quite a hurdle to the language challenged. It really makes you appreciate just how well foreigners adapt to the English language when they move to the US from other countries. I never really appreciated it until now- Now that the "zapato is on the other pie", so to speak. Telephone was hooked up and one of the guys noticed my old metal fireplace (which we have plans to replace). So he arranged to come back and take it out for me in exchange for the stove. Good deal from my standpoint and it took them several hours of hard work. Then the cable guys came. True to international trade agreements, the cable guy did not make his appointment on the day they specified. I think there is some law against being on time. However the next day (only a couple of hours late) they arrived to hook it up in a most professional way. Now if we only had a television- we could watch it.

This is the soon to be lovely kitchen and on the right is a picture of our soon to be luxurious living and dining area. Below, Denise is pictured in our soon to be well appointed office area. Just how soon all of these things occur remains to be seen. However, our shipment from the US is scheduled to be delivered possibly as early as next week. Then we will finally have all the junk that we couldn't or wouldn't sell on Craigslist. Even as we packed it up, we realized that it was stuff we didn't really need, but you can't help yourself. Sometimes you just can't bring yourself to throw those old belongings away. Anyway- we will soon have the mishmash of things we shipped. But there is a TV- so that is a plus (if it comes in one piece).

Tomorrow is another round of registrations (bike), deliveries and we will start work on the house. We have opted to have a Chinese made solar water heater installed. We are going green. The architect (Carlos, whom many of you know as "Solarch" on the Southron website) will have it installed on Tuesday, so 9 months out of the year we will have free hot water, and the other 3 months it will be partially subsidized. Will post pictures of the installation when it is done. More as the week proceeds.