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Monday, February 22, 2010

Freak Storm

Today was the freakiest weather I have seen. It was overcast, most of the day. Then it started raining- pretty hard. Then the wind started to blow.

But this wind was stronger than anything we have seen, short of a super typhoon we experienced in Guam, many years ago. It was only a burst of wind, not lasting long, but it must have been near or over 100 mph. It could have been a tornado, but since we had the shutters closed, I couldn't be sure.

It blew down 2 metal trusses that spanned our back patio and held up a very nice shade vine. That came crashing down. We had actually debated taking that down, but decided to wait. I guess the decision has been made for us. Note the before and after

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"We're Going to Get Tutored"

I have used this cartoon, before, when Nathan was "tutored", but today we took both Barney and Sheila to get "fixed".

There is a clinic that operates once a month in each area. Today, in Marindia, starting at 3:00 pm, the clinic performed services on cats and dogs. Since it is a "mobile" clinic, the charges were much less than getting it done at a veterinary office. It cost us 200 pesos each (about $10 US) and it was done very professionally. A lady that picks up strays and has them done regularly told us that the doctor was one of the best and Denise told me the same thing(since I really didn't want to look at anything)- that he worked skillfully and quickly.

Pictured above left is Mario & Diego (shirtless) with his dog, Kaira, Valentina, bending over her dog, Maia and us, with Barney and Sheila. In the second picture (right), Luisa is holding Valentina's dog. Luisa, our good friend, who lives nearby had called and told us about the schedule just a few days ago, in time for us to take advantage of this bargain.

Our dogs are about 6 months old. Our vet wanted us to wait until they were over 8 months, and would have charged 4 times as much. However, Denise, researching the process, found that in the US, vets have started spaying and neutering pets as early as 2 months and almost always from 4 months on. This was done, initially, because many people taking pets from animal shelters failed to comply with the agreement to have them fixed. So animal shelters started doing the operation at a much younger age than practiced at the time. However, after years of doing this, the procedure proved not only to be successful, but also beneficial, the earlier it was done- helping females to avoid some tumor problems and males to avoid prostate disease (over 80% of unaltered male dogs develop some sort of prostate problems). So we were very pleased to have Sheila and Barney fixed before the onset of reproductive activity.

The "clinic" was actually a private house and the equipment was set up under a covered patio. You got a number and waited to be called. There were dozens and dozens of pets waiting with their owners. Luisa showed up with her niece, who was having her dog spayed, and stayed with us throughout the long wait, and even went home to get a camera to record the event. You can see some of the people waiting to be served, and a few animals already "sleeping" from the preliminary sedative, given before the full knock-out anesthesia. You may also notice that one lady brought her dog in a wheelbarrow- great idea. It was 3 hours before we finally got to the surgery, but it was over in minutes and we stuffed their little limp bodies into the car and took then home to recuperate.

Now, all of our pets are "taken care of" and we don't expect to be taking a box of puppies down to the feria to find a home for them- there is enough of that already.

A Tale of Two Parties

Last night, Denise was invited to a bachelorette party. While the women were thus occupied, it was decided that the "menfolk" would get together at another house some distance away to do whatever it is that "menfolk" do (apparently watching futbal, talking and eating asado).

Denise's night was quite interesting. They were outside, in the beginning. After a couple of hours it started raining and they moved the party inside. They played party games. One of them started off as you entered the party. You were given a name tag. But the tag indicated an action that you couldn't perform (i.e. couldn't touch your hair, couldn't raise your arm above your head, couldn't cross your legs, etc.). Then, during the evening, if you caught someone doing the "forbidden" action, you took their tag and put it on yourself. However, once you got a tag, you could no longer perform that action. So if you were successful, you might have to end up in one immobile position the rest of the night.

Denise was instructed to bring a roll of toilet paper. Later in the evening, the purpose was revealed. The group was broken up into teams and each team was to make a "wedding dress" from the toilet paper. Three single girls were selected as models. They actually looked quite nice, as you can see. Denise's crew went with an "off-the-shoulder" style. The bride-to-be, also, was one of the models, and quite coincidentally (?) the dress that she modeled won the contest.

The guys enjoyed a more predictable and traditional evening. I think one thing that should be mentioned (though it has been touched on before) is that even men, who are close friends, greet one another with a kiss on the cheek. Now, that having been said- I think it should be a rule that men shave before coming to any large gathering. Kissing men on the cheek who have not shaved is disgusting- I don't see how women do it! Anyway- moving on.....

We watched futbal (not to be confused with football- this is the real deal-soccer!). Some were fans of River Plate and some of the Nacional team. I was for Nacional, until the fans from River Plate showed up and River started to score goal after goal. Then I switched (hey I want to be on the winning side). Now the Nacionals will head to Mexico, where they will play the "Monarcas" in Morelos Stadium, but unfortunately with a redounding defeat at the hands of the River team (futbal is fun!).

Meanwhile the host was out at the parrilla starting his fire. Like many Norte Americanos, he uses charcoal briquettes. This is not the traditional parrilla, but, as he said, it is faster and the coals last longer. The game was winding down (the Nacionals weren't going to come back from a 4-1 deficit with only minutes left to play) and so we adjourned to the covered barbacoa area. We had massive amounts of hamburgers and chorizo on buns. Then, when I thought we were done, he lifted off a hefty slab of meat from the end of the parrilla (which I hadn't seen before). My neighbor started cutting it in strips and we all started taking pieces. It was great tasting. I asked what cut of beef it was. "Carpincho" was the answer. So, I thought, "bifé carpincho" was what I would ask for at the butcher. Well, no, I was informed. You couldn't buy this meat at a carniceria, because "carpincho" wasn't beef. It was a large (very large) rodent. At first, I thought they were pulling a joke on me. But they insisted. These rodents can be from 10-20 kilos (easily) and they are hunted for food.

Anyway, I did some research after coming home and they weren't kidding. The carpincho (see wikipedia) is common in South America. In fact, the largest rodent ever discovered (actually a rat fossil) would have been over 2,200 lbs. And you think you have rat problems!!!!

The meat tasted delicious, however, the smell of the meat was a little "gamey". So I would recommend cutting the meat in the kitchen area and serving up away from guests- that is, if you serve rodent.

By the end of our nights, the rain was coming down and lightning and thunder were crazy- so I went back, picked up Denise and we came home to unplug our electrical items and were pleased to see that there was no flooding. It was a very fun and instructive evening.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Talk In The Park

We went back to the Assembly Hall, this morning for a special talk by a traveling representative of the Watchtower Society. He lives at the Bethel Home in Mexico and is traveling throughout Latin America, giving encouraging talks and sharing information about the rest of the Spanish speaking witnesses.

And this time the little fusca (VW bug) made it without breaking down. So I guess the problems with the brakes are really cleared up. We arrived slightly late, however (this time we forgot the map, and ended up in Pando-a detour that cost us time), but were in time for his talk. He spoke passable Spanish and for us it was a treat, since we could understand almost the entire talk. The local witnesses were probably thinking "speed up and get on with it", but his slow and deliberate pace helped us to comprehend easily.

Since the hall has limited seating and the attendance was over 4,000- most of the attendees found seating throughout the expansive, nicely manicured grounds. There were numerous shade trees, garden benches and ample chairs set out for us. Well positioned sound system speakers carried the program clearly. With a bright sunny day and nice cool breezes- this is one of the nicest assemblies we have ever enjoyed.

When we parked and went to find seating, out of the thousands present, we came upon a seating group from our own congregation. In fact, they were most of the ones from our karaoke party. So they welcomed us with open arms and some kisses and we sat with them until it was over.

Then we took these pictures. The interesting thing is that instead of using the phrase "Say cheese!", they use "Say Whiskey (pronounced 'weekee')! I asked why and they said it is because "whiskey" is just funnier than "cheese" and gets more of a laugh. Try it sometime. Apparently this photographic technique has variations from country to country, says this wikipedia article.

We got home safely, as well- a very pleasant day, indeed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Paperwork II

Today I actually accomplished 2 things! The small motorcycle was sold and transferred successfully. Of course, it took 3 hours waiting and waiting and waiting- but I'm retired. What else do I have to do?

The second thing is that I finalized the peaje (toll booth) account. They accepted the documentation. Now, they send out an inspector to the house and verify the distance from the peaje. If you are under 10k's, you get an 80% discount and over 10k's, you get 60% discount. I will get the 80% discount. After they verify the location of the house, I will come in and they will install the little electronic chip. I will credit the account, and thereafter, when I pass through the toll booth- instead of paying 45 pesos each way, I will pay only 10 pesos! Of course the discount is only good at the local toll booth (Pando), but I can still use the electronic scanners to pay at other peajes, only I pay the full amount, with no discount.

It just goes to show that things work here- if you have lots and lots of patience.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Today was like Charles Dicken's "A Tale of Two Cities"- "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times".

In the morning we went to Géant (a very large super store) and purchased a bed for our guest room. Now we will be ready for visitors (in case anybody just pops into a car and drives from Seattle to South America).

But after that rousing success- the day deteriorated. We went to Medica Uruguaya and tried to get Denise's tooth filled. We now have 4 appointments (March, April and May). Remember this all started on Dec 9th, last year. Eventually that will get taken care of.

Then we went into town and stopped at the Plaza Fabini (where the lovely fountain resides) off of 18 de Julio, the main street in town. Denise had read an article in the NY Times ("36 Hours in Montevideo, Uruguay") which said the La Pasiva across the street from the plaza had the most magnificent hot dog for only 18 pesos. It was not to be missed, was the report. Anyway, we scanned the menu and the hot dog had increased to 19 pesos (naturally), so we ordered one. I can only say that it was the sorriest excuse for a hot dog I have ever seen. Either that, or we got the runts of the litter. But we noticed others ordering and receiving the same tiny hot dog, with only mustard or ketchup to adorn it. Obviously the writer of the article either had very strong bifocals, or they had ingested large amounts of psycho pharmaceuticals. Anyway- save your money, avoid La Pasiva for hot dogs and stop at any of the many vendors selling hot dogs out of mobile trailers. They offer you all of the trimmings, including some pretty spicy peppers.

Then we went to the escribano to get a second copy of the Certificado de Domicilio (a document to establish residency). The first one that I tried to use to get a electronic peaje account (the toll booth gives you a significant discount and you go through automatically) was rejected because it did not include the phrase "Permanent Resident". So the escribano made the document again (for free) and we paid another stamp tax (170 pesos) to validate the document and I again went to the peaje.

This time, they felt that everything was OK, but I needed copies of license, cedulas and also a current UTE (electric) bill. I had December's bill, but they needed January's. OK- I head back to the house at a mad pace, copied up the documents, but couldn't find the January bill. So I took down all of last year's electric bills and the needed copies to see if I could get the account. This time, I was told that the Certificado de Domicilio needed to include the phrase "Personal knowledge" of the individual (which is no problem, as we have known the escribano for 2 years). The additional text could be added to the bottom of the page, without issuing a new stamp (probably could have done that the first time).

Back to the house, where I looked at the document and determined that the phrase is actually there (buried a little, but present). Also, I found the missing January UTE bill.

Now, here is the problem. On each of the 3 visits, I was served by a different girl. One accepted the certificate, but needed current UTE bills. Another gave me a needed change to the certificate (which was done) and would have accepted that. The third needed something else. So the key in getting paperwork done in Uruguay is not having the proper documents, but finding the person who will accept what you have.

Anyway, I will try again tomorrow. It should be a big day. The bed will be delivered. The small motorcycle is sold and I will go down to the Intendencia and transfer ownership (I wonder how that will go) and I will try a 4th time for the peaje account. I've stopped banging my head against the wall, finally, and I feel much better.

Wonder what tomorrow will bring.