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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Master Gardener

We took advantage of the lovely sunny day and the fact that for the first time, Denise and I are mobile in a little car. We went to our favorite vivero (nursery) in search of a plant that Denise needed and we would (for the first time) be able to bring it back easily.

Vivero Myosotis is right near the well known PachaMama's vivero. While PachaMama's excels in fruit trees and food bearing plants (as well as a few ornamentals), Myosotis specializes in landscaping plants. I have never seen a more complete display of such plants, here, before. The vivero is worth a visit, if not to buy plants, simply to wander through the parklike setting. What makes this place really unique, though, is the proprietor, Horst. Yes it is a German name and while he was born in Uruguay to German parents, he has lived here all his life.

Horst knows just about everything there is to know about plants. He is like a walking encyclopedia of plants, and loves to talk about them and explain their uses. Beyond that, however, he is quite the character. He speaks Spanish, German and English fluently and understands about 11 languages. During his working years, he worked for a German company that exported wool from Uruguay and travelled widely to service their international customers. So, besides speaking English and German, for example, he also can mimic the dialects. He does a great Brit, a tolerable New Yorker and a very funny Chinese guy speaking English- beside many of the German variations.

We only went for one plant, but came away with 1/2 dozen. Besides anything else, he is quite the salesman. It is a good thing he doesn't sell dogs- or we would be maxed out.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hell Week

No, I am not pledging a fraternity, this week, but we have finally started on the rest of the floors in the house. This means that for the next week, our finished living areas will be confined to the domestic wing of the house, namely, bedrooms, hall and bathrooms (glad we have the bathrooms). But the office, dining room, living room and kitchen will be in various stages of construction, so we (including the pets) are confined to smaller spaces. We can use the kitchen to cook (for now), but we eat on plastic chairs and folding wooden tables. However, it will be worth it to finally have all of the house completely tiled, removing the last of the old asphalt tile squares. The photo at the left is our floor after the tiles have been taken up.

At least we have our bedroom finished and can use the TV and DVD player to keep ourselves entertained, while work goes on. If the weather were better, we would love being outside, but this weekend was dreary and wet. In fact, last night we had the most severe lightning storm (though brief in duration) that we have experienced, here. One strike came so close, that it might have actually hit some house circuit. Can't be sure, but after the lightning had moved on, Denise noticed a weird crackling sound and light coming from inside the stove. She got me out of bed and I unplugged the stove, after finding out the the electric element for the broiler in the over had melted! Can't actually figure out how that could work, since the electrical outlet showed no visible darkening and nothing else was affected. However, we did unplug everything immediately. I will have to figure that out later, but for now, I was able to disconnect those wires in the stove and we can still use it (actually never did use the broiler, so it wouldn't be a big loss if it never gets fixed). The photo at the left is our pet's cramped quarters in the hallway. Still, with lots of fluffy pet mats and loads of sticks and chew toys, they seem to be adjusting well.

The Fusca (VW beetle) has finally come back from the 2nd mechanic. The first mechanic that we used (at the recommendation of our vet who owns a superb show quality beetle), was good for brakes, bearings, new tires and such- but was sadly lacking in expertise on motors. He rebuilt the carburator without finding the broken acceleration pump and never mentioned the fact that the choke cable was missing. When I got it back from him, I was barely able to start it and it ran horribly. However, the 2nd mechanic we found (Steve in La Floresta gave us his mechanic) was a master worker. The owner was a trained VW mechanic who set up a small shop when he retired. He, his son and another mechanic work there, in what might be described as a hole in the wall. Very out of the way, with little indication of the business. A very large work space, but off the ruta. When I got it back from him- the motor was noisy, it had little power and a very rough ride! In other words, it ran like a proper VW Beetle. He fixed everything the first mechanic had missed. I would heartily recommend him.

The pets are getting along wonderfully. Nate (the cat) has integrated with Barney (the black dog) and Shila (the brown furry, cute dog). They enjoy playing together, and it was a wise idea to get a 2nd dog- to keep Barney company.

Our tile guy says that we will have the house back together after this coming weekend. Tomorrow we will actually see some tile going down.

This will be our second summer. Last summer we had workers here every day for 5 or 6 days a week. No privacy and little chance to enjoy the house. This summer should be different.

Hell Week- your days are numbered.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

That's Why I Hate Doctors

We are members of Medica Uruguaya, a local health care provider. Many people cite affordable health care in Uruguay as one of the reasons to retire here. Being relatively healthy, I have mostly looked at health insurance as "catastrophic coverage", only to be used in worst case scenarios. In fact, I had probably only gone to a doctor a few times in my life, until the last couple of years, and then only because I had contracted pneumonia. I had a hernia operation just before leaving for Uruguay (getting that taken care of was mandated by my wife), and other than that, I have not had much use for doctors. So, while health care insurance is wise, it probably would not be the highest consideration from my standpoint.

My wife and I receive complete coverage for 1,363 pesos/month each or about $128 US for us both. That entitles us to consulations and major surgeries such as hip replacements and heart operations, etc. Several expats that we know have had full hip replacements, very successfully. The doctors are knowledgeable and the facilities are modern and well kept. Interestingly, when you are hospitalized here, there are a few things different than the US. For instance, there needs to be a family member (or you can hire someone) to care for your patient needs during your hospital stay (water, helping you to the bathroom, etc). That is considered your part in the process. They also make an "in home" inspection of your living arrangements before admitting you to surgery, to make sure that you will receive sanitary health care after leaving the hospital.

In the outlying communities, health care needs are met by smaller clinics, where doctors rotate through the week. We see an English speaking doctor who was born in the US and returned here after medical training. Medical tests and visits to specialists cost extra. I recently went in for a complete blood analysis. The battery of tests costs about $10 US, and was very thorough. When I went in next week to get the results, the doctor went through the various parts of the report. Hemoglobin- OK, Platelets-OK, etc., etc. In fact, most everything, including the urine sample, tested out OK- except the cholesterol levels. I was at 226, while 200 is the target here in Uruguay. I have been told that the US is now wanting to see a cholesterol level of 170 achieved (bad news for holders of MacDonald's stock certificates).

Anyway (and here is the reason that I hate doctors)- she wants to improve my health. She actually wants me to do something about it. That is because Uruguay is very much into preventative medicine. I assume that most of the world's medical profession is into preventative medicine, I just never took much note. She wants me to cut out butter (using plenty of olive oil), whole milk, fats, etc. Then I have to come back in a couple of months, let them take another blood sample for tests and see where we stand.

I DON'T WANT TO GET BETTER! Oh well, having said that, I am starting to cook better meals. Avoiding fats where I can, not using salt. Boy if this trend keeps up- next thing I will be exercising. But lets not get carried away. Let's see what happens in a couple of months...