Search This Blog

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Good Thang

It would be wrong not to comment on Uruguay's standings in the FIFA World Cup playoffs. Before coming to Uruguay, I (like many Americans) knew little about fútbal (soccer). However, soccer is popular all over the world and especially here, in Uruguay. There are dozens of local teams and interplay between rivals. We have yet to see a local soccer game, but after being introduced to the World Cup games, I plan to see one when the regular season commences, again.

But back to FIFA. Everybody follows the games, here. We had a worker here the other day, and naturally they listened in on the radio. We were all pleased when we moved up to the next round. Today, when we played Korea, the gardener and his wife, though working, followed closely on the radio, and finished early enough to get home and catch the end on TV. Every broadcast station played the game.

When Uruguay scored a goal (2 in all), there were horns and fireworks all through our remote neighborhood, and I am sure throughout the country. I think many are planning some great fiestas, this evening. Uruguay's win over Korea was a great pleasure to watch, since the winning goal came within the last minutes of play.

So, Uruguay moves on to the quarter finals to play Ghana. Everyone has high hopes for this year's team. I think I will start planning next weeks festivities. Friday night will be big here, I am sure.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Containing It-Trash Talk #3

Despite, all eyes on the world cup this week, (the soccer playoffs) I promised a third part to my trash talk series. It's a fluff piece on the artistic side of home trash containers.

When we first bought our house here in Uruguay, we wondered where to put our household trash for the twice weekly pickup service. We were shown a little rusty wire basket on a stick in the ground.  The wire  basket had the holding capacity of two tiny plastic Tienda Inglesa bags (our local supermarket). We knew we would need something a little bigger because of all our unpacking trash necessary in setting up a new household. Looking around the neighborhoods, we started to see a pattern of trash on the ground 2 x's a week. People would put their trash out the night before for the next day's trash pickup and the dogs would stand up and open the bags during the night.

We knew we needed a covered can to prevent this. We bought one that looked like a 30 gallon drum cut on it's side, one half becomes the bottom, the other half the lid. The one we got was simply made and the lid hinges lasted about 6 months. The lid, then laid on the ground most of the time. Finally we saw an example of a better made one and so we hired an herrero (an iron worker) to make it right. Our can now, has a wide rim around it, instead of razor thin edges and puny hinges.

Here are some  more local examples and designs of home trash containers here in Uruguay. You've probably seen similar pictures before as this is a favorite expat subject for picture taking.

Notice the interesting tree straps used to hold this container up.

If our original basket was as cool as that spider web designed one I showed above I definitely would have kept it!

If you can't afford a can improvise, as shown below.

 It must be a challenge for the garbage people to find every-one's refuse during the week. 

I hope you enjoyed this series on trash in Uruguay.                                       

Friday, June 18, 2010

Town Meeting-Trash Talk, Part 2

 I previously promised/warned you that I would be making a 3 part blog on the subject of trash here in Uruguay. This blog entry is the second part of that series.

The only reason I'm covering the subject at all is because it was brought to my attention. Several newly installed signs were put around my neighborhood (see last post) announcing a change in trash management. Reading them in my limited Spanish made me wonder, ¿qué pasa? Then a number of local emails were sent to me, inviting me to come to a community meeting to discuss the subject.

  In case you were wondering Uruguay has internet, not lightening fast, but decent.  To also remind you, Uruguay youths have their ears glued to cell phones and make full use of facebook as well. I have been slowly adding my new Spanish speaking friends to my friends list on facebook. It's been a new experience for me to try and figure out their chistes (jokes).

Many of the coastal towns now have their own websites. The town of Salinas has one to promote it's history and businesses. Salinas is only 1 1/2 kilometers away from us and we use it as our support system. Post office, police station and medical clinic etc...are all located there.  My local restaurant also has a website to discuss issues involving Marindia. The restaurant emailed me of the up-coming event. I was also tagged on facebook as a tree under a local save the park banner, who knew?  The restaurant has a party/meeting room and so that is where the local community (town Meeting) met.

It seems that the acting members of City Hall (the intendencia) were invited to explain their part in keeping Marindia clean. A local park called "Parque de Los Pajores" (Bird Park) and the trench (Zanjon) is being used as a dumping ground. The trench in particular leads out to the sea and foul (not fowl, hahaha) water is reaching the beach. The debate was about who's responsibility is this mess. It seemed not really known, if this area is public land or private. If public, they owe the public to safety do something about it, but is this land privately owned? By the city? Or a little bit of both? Can you imagine, Wally and I trying to figure out this heated controversy in Spanish? We just nodded and smiled a lot. We heard the words, neighbors and neighborhood and the sentence "we must all work together" a lot!

The restaurant had seats set up, a long table for the Authorities to sit at and a projection screen. We didn't know what to expect as a few protesters quietly came in with gas masks on. Several full protection suits were laid out on the floor before the projection screen.
We saw a short slide show with music showing trash and tractors around the neighborhood encouraging cleanup. The title photo showing bags of trash is what I shot from the slides.

Eventually as our Spanish challenged brains fried from, over input, we focused instead on the interesting way peace was kept. They allowed all who wanted to, to speak their minds but you had to raise your hand, be acknowledged and then you were given a painted staff ( un palo de mano) to hold while you said all that you wanted to say. No one was allowed the floor except, when holding the staff! Even the authorities needed the stick to talk!!! (SEE the Picture of the 3 counsel men?)

 I'm sorry, (lo siento) for all the blurry pictures! I didn't feel totally comfortable, obnoxiously shooting people as they spoke. Wally tends to be embarrassed by my taking photos of people.

So how did the subject turn out? Unfortunately even with the stick, not much was accomplished. The suits on the floor just laid there. Wally and I had thought, that they were going to ask for volunteers to clean the park up, on a set date. We came to the meeting in order to sign up for such a event (no Spanish needed to clean) but no. No volunteers were ask for. Several older gentlemen were disgusted that the meeting seem to be about politics and blame. One protester blamed all of Capitalism for the worlds pollution problems. The authorities said they couldn't handle the world, just Marindia. The protester later came up to us to say he was sorry,  just in case he offended us by his remarks (Do we look like Capitalists?) We said we were not offended!  He never knew how little, we really understood.  We left our phone number on a roster in case they come to some decision. No Attendance was taken. People started to leave. We were some of the last to go. Afterward we went next door to eat some pizza in the restaurant, they were smart to sponsor such an event. So for now, awareness is being raised at least. Meanwhile, we will do our part to help keep trash contained!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Trash Talk!

Let's face it, along with the beauty in life comes a little trash, it's what we do with it that counts!

Down here in Uruguay, the natural beauty of the countryside and the lovely coastline is a great source of pride. Many signs tout the slogan "Uruguay Natural" Or "Uruguay, Pais Natural" a catchy phrase created by the Ministry of Tourism. Uruguay is not a heavily industrialized country, it's main industry is agriculture and cattle.

So, why am I talking about trash today (Hoy)? I'm discussing the subject because in my neighborhood and nearby barrios it's a hot topic of concern right now and I am a full-time resident here.

The old ways of thinking that this planet is large enough to absorb all of our waste is wisely being challenged by the newer generations. Still it's a day to day battle of wits between this younger generation and  the traditional, old school of thought.  I must warn you that I plan on making a 3 part blog on the subject of trash. This subject maybe somewhat boring to you, but I like taking pictures and because I'm experiencing all of this controversy in another language and country, I thought you'd like to see through pictures what I see going on around me.

Signs are going up around our neighborhood of Marindia and nearby Salinas.

Podar is the Spanish word, to prune. Podas must mean your pruning (remember, I'm just learning) So this sign is now discouraging depositing your pruning waste,  for example, tree branches from being dumped along the street. This was an old habit of the people, however in the past this pile would have been gathered by the city trucks when you went and informed them of a pile pick up. The second solution to cleaning this up would have been to burn the pile of tree limbs yourself in the street, this is done a lot.  Now the city is encouraging you to be responsible for your own pile and to take care of it on your own land.

The towns are trying to put an end to this 

See what a nice residential street this is? This street is in the town of Salinas but has a mini trash dump on the corner because people are in the habit of hauling their pruning to the street.

Most home owners burn their piles of wood, sometimes in the middle of the street. This pile was probably added to by workers and gardeners dumping debris from various jobs and now it seems all too easy to add real trash in amongst the branches.  Let's look at this next picture.

The ironic part is the sign on the tree above this pile. 

The sign says it is "prohibited to throw trash" here and that it would be best to avoid the fines. Arrojar is the Spanish verb meaning, to hurl/to fling/to throw... Basura means trash/garbage.
I can understand piling up the tree trimmings it is organic and in the past was burned on the spot, trash added to it I can't understand.  Unlike my old neighborhood in Seattle, Washington (USA) my neighborhood here in Marindia has twice a week trash pickup. The trucks here even pick up extra bags that I leave leaning on the can as well. In Seattle I would have been glared at or even refused the extra bags and told to wait for my next weekly pick up. You'll be happy to know, I now no longer have extra bags or  even a lot of trash anymore because of learning to reuse and buy less of everything. We also have a fire ring to handle any tree branches on or own property as the new signs suggest and naturally, we burn larger pieces for heat in our wood stove. I am trying to learn how to blend the old Uruguayan ways with the new, all while trying to figure out in another language what is going on around me.

I think this little guy looks much better in the landscape of our neighborhood than all that trash anyway!

 Tomorrow, I'll show you what a local town meeting looks like. That will be the part 2 of the blog on trash.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Second look at CasaPueblo.

 This post started out as a mere addendum to our CasaPueblo visit. A friend of ours in Atlántida (Syd) , asked if we had seen the short film the museum shows upstairs about the artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. Yes, we did and we were quite impressed getting to learn more about this Uruguayan Artist, previously unknown to us when we lived in the States. Syd also asked us, if we had been wise enough to have saved our entrance tickets? Yes, to that question too. We are glad to now know that having paid for an entry ticket we can use that ticket for the entire season. Paying once per season not only is a great deal but means we can now freely (forgive the pun) accompany any other visitors wanting to see this wondrous residence, on a pensioners budget, this is important stuff to know.

So back to this addendum matter, what should have been a simple note to make sure you, #1 Keep your ticket, for the season and #2 See the presentation movie, (located up the stairs), has now, well, turned into a separate blog entry, another opportunity to see more of this amazing museum/villa.

Most of you may not realize it but Wally prefers to experience "the moment" sans/sin ( meaning; without, depending on whether you speak French or Spanish) picture taking. My constant mission on our trips is, to take and include as many pictures as possible to use on our blog because I'm a visual person. So here are a few more photos for you who cannot rush, right down here to see this place in person.

The artist Señor Vilaró"s favorite activity is mural painting. In the short film, he mentioned (English subtitles) that when he visited the Great Wall of China all he could think about, was how much he really wanted to paint it with murals (muros).

We saw from our visit that he also enjoys sculpturing a variety of alien looking pieces and pottery.  He works in wood, metal and plaster and with the help of friends, fishermen and his own hands built this place over a decade.

We decided against buying anything at the time but were duly inspired enough to plan a small wall design at our house in the future. I think this blue crab over our parrilla would go nicely.

The movie named many famous people he was able to get to know and work with. For you old timers,  the French actress, model and animal rights activist, Bridget Bardot's (pronounced Bardoe) name was shown, Also the noted 1952 Nobel prize winner, Albert Schweitzer. (1875-1965).  If you've recently read or seen "The Motorcycle Diaries" then Che Guevara is fresh in your minds and as shown in the title picture the famous artist Picasso were some of his friends.

A most surprising revelation  mentioned in the movie presentation was that one of his sons, Carlos Páez Rodriquez, was one of 16 survivors (out of 45) from the Uruguay Rugby team members aboard the plane that crashed (October 13th, 1972) over the Chilean Andes. Carlos (Jr.) survived for 3 months at an altitude of 11,800 ft in harsh conditions until rescued along with the other few, (December 22/23) in 1972. We recently saw the movie about that called "Alive: The story of the Andes Survivors". Carlos, the artist, always believed that his son was still alive.

So now, maybe you too are surprised about how interesting a world this artist moved in.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lunch At the White House

 Casapueblo from Punta Ballena

Today (Saturday June 12th) is our second anniversary in Uruguay. It is not a great time of year and we almost didn't do anything special, today, because of the dark and stormy skies. But Denise pushed and I gave in. So we headed up to Punta del Este to visit Casapueblo, at Punta Ballena.

Casapueblo is the house of noted Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. He has a place in Argentina, and this incredible house, built and designed by himself, over the years. In his youth, he hobnobbed with the great and near greats. There is a photo of him and Picasso from his time abroad, as you exit the galleries.

The cost of walking through the "museum" is 120 pesos ($6 US) and it is well worth it. The art was fantastic. But the house is another world. It goes on and on and on. Photos really can't give you a good idea of how extensive it is. And today was not even a great day. We were enchanted with the setting and could only imagine going there on a bright, sunny and warm day. We plan to do just that, because you could visit this place over and over again. You only get to see a small portion of the place, since the artist resides there still from time to time and a hotel has been added, as well.

We were hosted by that couple from Nebraska, Shawn and Mari. Their house is just minutes from Casapueblo. If location is everything, then their house has everything. After looking through the galleries and seeing some of the sights, we stopped into the little restaurant for a quick bite to eat, a coffee and then we were off.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Visiting Another Expat.

Now, that Winter is a creeping in, I am faced with ways to keep myself from feeling house bound. So I emailed another expat that I would like to come a calling! I didn't realize that she doesn't have internet yet and that she wouldn't get my self invite but that's okay because unlike the States (USA), Uruguay really is about friends and family keeping strong physical ties. People here really do enjoy each others company, they share ideas, stories, recipes, recipe books (thanks, Gundy), novels, movies and lots of food. On any given weekend I am surrounded by yummy asado aroma from all my neighbors. Visiting with friends is away of life here in Uruguay and it is great!

Even people coming to scope out Uruguay as a possible retirement destination seem to know the importance of visiting with people. We have had more visitors from other states here, than we did when we actually lived in the USA. People from New York, Hawaii, Georgia and a few days ago a couple we posted about from Memphis Tenn. are just some of the different States we have seen represented. Still it is always good to give a holler out to the ones who have actually taken the plunge and moved here, lock, stock and barrel.

As a side note, if you're wondering why I'm suddenly a talkin' like a hillbilly, (not that there's anything wrong with that) with such phrases as"a creeping in, a come a calling and a holler out to" I think it's because with the winter comes heating the house with wood fires and we have just started to have a few cold nights where we needed to keep a fire burning all night! I feel like we're real country folk (just another country). So I apologize for the venacular. Wally was about to caerse de risa so I need to stop.

Back to my expat visit, I decided to visit Candi despite the fact, she probably didn't know I was coming. She had no clue but welcomed us with open arms and amazingly with hot from the oven chicken wings! We really didn't have ulterior motives by dropping in around lunch time, honestly but what great timing! She even had an expat specialty Ice Tea. I have asked many local people and while tea and of course maté is drunk a lot, drinking cold/iced tea, sweetened with sugar and lemon juice is considered a North American drink.

Candi moved here from Washington State as we did and she (like us) is still learning Spanish. She lives in a balneario outside of Atlántida. She bicycles everywhere and doesn't intend to get a car. She loves that her local store delivers to her house the giant bags of dog food she needs to feed her huge Mastiff puppy named, Honey. I am glad we stopped by and she was too despite not having advance notice of our visit. She's fitting in just fine people-wise. I mentioned to her my newly learned Spanish word for the day, anfitrión a noun meaning host. It comes from a Greek word. In Greek mythology Amphitrion was the King of the Greek city of Thebes and he was famous for his lavish banquets.Spanish adopted this word. Anfitriona (without the accent) is the female form. This word might be hard for me to remember as I haven't heard it before. Candi was una buena anfitriona yesterday. Can anyone please tell me the word we use in Uruguay to say host/hostess? Is it el anfitrión?, if so I'll start practicing now. Spanish language insight needed por favor.

I recently provided an interview about our blogging experience to a website called You can see some of the reasons why we started to blog by reading my interview. I want to thank Mike and bloginterviewer for this opportunity.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Talk To The Hand

Visitors from Tennessee, this week, forced us to finally visit Punta del Este, after being here in Uruguay for 2 years. Imagine, being less than 2 hours away from one of the most desirable vacation spots in South America and not even visiting there once, in two years. I think this gives you some idea of just how lazy I am.

David and Debi from Memphis, Tennessee have come down to "scope out" Uruguay as a possible retirement destination. We met them and had dinner at Don Vito's (an expat hangout in Atlántida). They are spending 6 days looking to see if this is a country that would provide a safe and stable environment for their later years. They tell us that Memphis is not as secure a place to live as you might think and that "after dark" it is best to stay at home, rather than roam the streets of their city.

The next day we met and drove with them in their car up to Punta del Este. After putting this trip off for 2 years, I was amazed at how quickly we got there (embarrassingly so). And Punta is really beautiful. We came in the back way, through Maldonado (the nearby city) and immediately we could tell when we had entered Punta. It resembled any resort town in the US with luxury condos and lovely shops lining the roads.

We stopped at the famous "Hand In The Sand" monument. According to one site"

“The Hand”, as it has come to be popularly called, is a concrete and plastic work standing here since the summer of 1982, when the Chilean artist Mario Irrazábal was invited to take part in the 1st International Meeting of Modern Sculpture in the Open Air held in the City of Punta del Este.

 Naturally, they were working on the beach and heavy machinery has pushed the sand away from the base, and also there were chips missing from various parts of the sculpture. We will have to visit in "high season" and find out if it has been repaired.

As you can see, the water is a sparkling blue. Punta del Este is the first point where the River (Rio Plata) officially ends. From this point onward, the Atlantic Ocean begins. In actuality, even in front of our house, on nicer days, the water is nice and blue, even though we are classed as being on the "Rio".

You can see picturesque Isla de Lobos (Wolf Island) just off the coast. All in all, we had a fantastic trip and after seeing how easy it was to get there, we will be visiting Punta del Este more often.