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Friday, December 31, 2010

I Heard the Whistle Blow!

I heard the whistle blow and I came running!  

The end of the year means tip time, here in Uruguay! It is probably the same where you live. You may wish to show gratitude to people and services who have been especially good to you during the year. Maybe it's your favorite coffee barista or the mail man who went out of their way to be kind and helpful to you, etc... maybe, no one stood out?  It's usually up to you. Here in Uruguay, there is often a gentle reminder that it's the end of the year that "Hey, we served you well". The garbage pickup crew starts to blow a little whistle at this time of year throughout the neighborhood on your trash day!

They start around Christmas but then they keep on blowing it through the last day of the year (today). Wally and I didn't give them anything on Christmas (since we don't celebrate that) and we were broke the beginning of this week but I know that they keep lists of "who is naughty or nice" oh, I meant to say who is appreciative or not (they check off your name on the list when you "donate"). So it was up to me to keep an ear out, to listen for the whistle and make sure that someday during this last week of the year we ran and gave them a little envelope, a token of our appreciate for their services. They have been friendly and never complain if we have a lot of trash! Whew! I finally heard the whistle today! It was cutting it short this last day of the year but I heard the whistle and I came running in time to give it to them.

As you know, this is the last day of the year, December 31st, 2010. We have been in Uruguay for 2 years and 7 months. My, how time has flown by. Looking back over the last twelve months worth of blogs I am struck with how busy we've been for supposedly retired people. It all started with Wally wanting to get "Early Retirement" which means at age 62 not 65. We think it was a smart move to choose an earlier date. In 2008 the housing foreclosure debacle hadn't quite impacted Seattle, Washington yet. That means we were still in a favorable market for selling our house. Wow, if we had waited too much longer and put off retirement until say now, I don't think we could have gotten such a quick and meaningful sale. I've since heard from others (still back in the USA) on  how the banks have devalued their properties. Houses no longer have large portions of equity to cash in on. Our little cottage wasn't worth much, at all in fact, we lived in a lower end neighborhood because that's what we could afford. Still, we got the most we could, out of the sale.

I laugh when I hear of people looking for retirement spots when they are still, say, 7 years until retirement. In that time a lot can change in a country or a life. Wally and I have always been impulsive, quick deciders. For us, it seems to work only because we get a "Gut sense reaction" to a situation which ends up being truer than if we over-analyze something to death. The saying used to be "Your first choice on a test is usually the correct one" Also we find that if we don't act at once we will probably procrastinate and not do it at all.

Today, Wally turns 65 years old. Yes, he was a year end birth baby- a great tax write-off, for his parents back then! I only mention this because, what if we had waited for full retirement age 65 to kick in, then decided to move to a foreign country? We would have had a slightly larger monthly check but with all of the lay offs back in the USA would he have been able to keep his job? Would we have been able to sell our cottage back in Seattle at a decent price? Would this house, still have been on the market here in Uruguay? Most important, would we still have been brave enough to pick up and leave the United States and come here or anywhere else for that matter? Who knows? What ifs are just that, what if! All I know is I am glad to be here in this gorgeous summer month. Having the seasons reversed and starting a new year in summer is somehow very up lifting. Tonight, Uruguay will have their country wide New Years Eve fire works display (the second such, this month). This time to view the display, we will go down to the beach at around 11:00 pm. set up our Costco double-wide folding chair and look towards Atlántida (the larger city/town nearby) and see if we can see the display from the beach. We will keep the front porch lights on and the pillar lights on at our house and in that way we'll be able to see our house from the beach and keep an eye on it.

Since I don't want to leave you with a picture of a garbage truck, as your last image of the year in Uruguay, I am including a few random photos taken during these last 2 years of our being here. Enjoy!


I hope everyone will be safe and keep reading along with us in the 2011 year!


Anonymous said...

Denice and Wally,

Thank you for taking the time to write so many interesting articles!
We are coming down in just over a week for three months and hope we will get to meet you both in person. We are looking forward to exploring the country you now call home, it sounds a wonderful place.

Janet and Wayne

Geraldo said...

The only place we lived where government employees like trash haulers and mail carriers are not tipped is Norway. Somehow Norwegians think that it ought to be illegal – who wants a country where you have to bribe officials to transact business?
In France, as most of the countries, it is completely the opposite. Actually there is a kind of end-of-year tipping unofficial rules to be observed in order to keep you on the good list. You “have to” give something extra at the end of the year for services such as your hair stylist, mail carrier, garbage man etc.

Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday Wally,
Happy Birthday to You.
From good friends and true,
From old friends and new,
May good luck go with you,
And happiness too.

Uruguayan Explorer said...

Happy, Happy Birthday Wally!

Thank you both for such an interesting blog. I genuinely enjoy every single word of it.

God bless you both in the New Year.

I hope one day to retire in Uruguay!


Christina said...

Hello my name I am a Bible Student attending Apex, north carolina Congregation. My Husband is originally from Uruguay. And Unfortunetly Because we have not always known the Truth and let our lives be Molded by Jehovah we are in a hard situation form wrong choices made in past. Basiclly we have decided my husband needs to return to Uruguay to fix past mistakes he has childern in montivideo I hope to follow him eventually. I was trying to locate a Kingdom Hall in Montivideo, and I found your blog. It would mean a lot if I could chat with you through email
Your Sister

Charrua said...

I am Urguayan (Montevideo, barrio Aguada) and I left my conuntry 8 years ago, since then I have been living in EEUU, Maryland with my husband y my daughter that was born here. Is really interesting to see how people form a different culture perceive our costumes. I heard one time that Uruguayans are sad people, I don't think so!
and if you like music, don't forget to lisent Jaime Roos and Alfredo Zitarrosa.
I hope you are having fun, my conunty is small in size but big in heart.
Un abrazo grande de mi parte a todos los Uruguayos!!!
P.S. Sorry if my English is incorrect, I am still learning!!!!

Wally said...

Charrua- thank you for your post. I have to laugh, though. I don't think Uruguayos are sad, but they don't smile too much. And then I looked up Jaime Roos and the first song I found was Carbon y Sal. Then I looked up Alfredo ZitarrosaI with Adagio a mi Pais and I laughed. I think this was a chiste, no? Both of those singers are not very happy. So good joke.

Many of our friends, though are very happy and smile a lot.

Seamus said...

Denise, you and Wally did the right thing taking retirement at 62. I get my first check in a few days. You gotta do the math. When you do, you find that if you take retirement at 65 or 70, you do get a bigger check. And you do soon get more money in total. But when you ask the question, "Soon enough?", the answer is that you break even in the year you are expected to die according to Social Security's own longevity tables. On the average (note, that's on the average, not a specific case) no one gets the 'More Money'. That would be a wash, but when you consider the improvement in quality of life the earlier money makes, unless you have NO need whatsoever for the money, it is NOT a good idea to take later retirement IMHO.

And as to finding a comfortable retirement in another country, I won't EVEN get started on statistics showing where the US is behind many 3rd world countries (Just Google the US infant mortality rate if you doubt), or the parallels between the US today and Germany in 1939. The US is my homeland and I love it, but this isn't the US some of us were hoping for in the '60s. If giving the garbage men, mail men, gardeners, grocery delivery boys, the 10 different guys who watch your car when you park in different places, the 3 guys who wash your windshield at various corners, the large lady who cleans the house once a month and the small lady who cleans the house once a week, a tip of USD$5 or $10 once a year (about $200, or about USD$16.50/month divided among all those people), I can live with that. I like it when the people I depend on smile when they see me coming.