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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Clinic!

I learned a new Spanish phrase this week, it's "No hay dos, sin tres" (there is no two, without a three) or in other words, bad things happen in threes. Some people may have heard the saying, sometimes when it rains it pours! I'm feeling a bit drenched like that just now.

First of all, now that winter has started and I really need to use my wood stove, the stove's handle decides to fall off. I can shove it through the hole again but it has to be finessed into holding the door closed now. The result is that sometimes I come back into a smoke filled room when the door slips open. There nothing like getting a house nice and cozy and then having to run around opening windows in the dead of winter, to quickly air out a smoky room, burr.

 Little things are starting to act up around the house now. For instance, the door on Wally's bathroom won't open all the way, for some reason it's sagging. I thought that one of the little rocks my cat plays with had possibly gotten caught under the door, so I gently lifted it up to free what ever was impeding it. There was nothing there but I did manage in that act to unhinge the door entirely. It took me 45 minutes to finally get the heavy wood door back on to it's hinges. The door still does not open all of the way. I'll have to get a carpenter to shave the bottom off for me one day. 

Another item under the "little things bugging me" category,  is that the internet is being temperamental. I seem to have a new nemesis name Justin in the neighborhood. I've never met him but whenever he's on line my computer can't seem to establish a connection, even though my router says I am connected. He must have a curfew because I can wait him out by posting at 2 o'clock in the morning! I really wish I could be sleeping at that hour instead of waiting him out.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention I had to go to the medical clinic this week? My last straw, so to speak!

Nathan my cat, has been an inside the house cat for over a year now, since coming home scraped up several times in the past. Well, normally he enjoys looking out through, the many animal friendly windows that we have here in the house. 

He sits with his buddies, my 2 dogs and watches the goings on of the neighborhood, but sometimes he escapes. He ran out of the house Monday and then jumped into my neighbor's yard. They have dogs that gather there, so I went around to fetch Nathan. Nathan has seen several of the dogs before but as I was holding Nathan to bring him back home a new dog came up to us (not a bad dog) but Nathan freaked, like I was going to feed him to the dog. Since I wasn't going to drop him he dug his claws into me, to force me into letting him go. I have never felt such excruciating pain before. I dropped him then dropped to my knees (un molested by any dogs). Both arms were now scratched but I also had one deep puncture wound across my wrist (the part where you have to flex it). I looked at that puncture mark and could swear I saw a tendon peering back at me! By now I couldn't care less about Nathan (he had made it to a shed's roof, out of reach by a 10 foot span from our wall). I just knew that I had better get myself down to the medical clinic in Salinas.

I walked into Salinas, cursing under my breath about my cat, the entire journey.  Fortunately the Clinic was open. It's walk in hours are from 9am to 12pm then it closes for the traditional 3 hour lunch break so popular in Latin American countries. The clinic then reopens at 3 o'clock and stays open till 6pm. Mondays through Fridays. Saturdays it's open from 9 am to 12 o'clock only and it's closed on Sundays.

For 24 hour emergencies you can call an emergency phone number and believe it or not doctors will still make house calls here in Uruguay. You have to explain over the phone what the emergency is for them to come. There are also ambulance services that you can get to bring you to a hospital. Any of you living in Atlántida will be glad to know that your clinic is open to walk ins 24 hours a day.

I arrived at 3 o'clock and went to the admitting window and handed them my all important cedula card or national identity card and my health insurance card. They wrote my numbers down and my name and had me take a seat. At 10 minutes to six, I was finally called into the doctors office. I had to figure out how to tell them in Spanish that I was attacked by my own cat!

I explained that I was mainly concerned about the deep puncture mark. They had me go into another room and they washed my arm with disinfectant and then bandaged my wrist. I didn't need any stitches since it was a small wound, just deep. They told me to come back to the clinic two days later, so they could check up on my wrist.

Wednesday I repeated monday's experience (another 3 hour wait) this time however my hand was a little puffy and red. That caused some panic and I was told I would need to take some oral antibiotics and come back the next day to see a different doctor. I was given a "she's not to wait" note. So tomorrow I'm to be seen right away. They drew a line around the red spot and since I take the pills starting tonight, they will then check the outline and see if the red spot has grown or receded. If that red spot travels or  grows then they have to be more aggressive with my treatment.

I am glad, that I had the good sense to go to the clinic and that I have health insurance. The first visit was free and I only had to buy the pills on my second visit. I will see what tomorrow will bring me.

There is some good news/ bad news (for me) regarding the Salinas clinic. They are soon to be moving to a new and bigger facility near the current Español clinic on the main highway. The good news is that that new facility will be opened 24 hours unlike now, but it is also much farther away (the bad news). I won't be able to walk there any more.

Nathan the cat, spent all night and the next day, on the neighbors shed's roof (serves him right). He finally came home when the second night was about to fall. The first thing he did upon entering the house after two days stuck out in the cold was.... to use his cat box! Yeah, thanks a lot Nathan, for your concern.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Great Squab Calamity 0f 2011

It has been some time since I posted, since coming to California to visit Dad. But I thought I would share an experience I "enjoyed" while visiting.

A couple of weeks ago, Dad decided that he would like to have squab, for dinner. Probably many people might not know what squab is.  It is a baby pigeon. Two And A Half Men had a cute episode worth watching, that mentioned squab. The Wikipedia has a nice article here. While baby pigeon may not sound like an exotic food, it is well know in French cuisine, as well as Chinese restaurants. My grandfather raised pigeons back in the 1930's and 40's. My Dad grew up eating squab on a regular basis, so it has a sense of nostalgia for him.

In the early 40's (in California) squab sold for about 15 cents a pound (a squab averages a pound), and so a group of squab raisers formed an organization called the Squab Producers of California. Grandpa Glass was on the board of directors when it was formed. They were able to band together, and standardize conditions and delivery methods and command a better price. This organization still operates, today.

So Dad drove into Modesto (the the Squab Producers of California) and purchase a dozen squabs. They are going for about $8 per pound, today and are sold frozen in shrink wrap packaging. He intends to host a party, featuring squab, so, as a test case, we decided to fix a few, and invited over a friend to act as test case. We decided to use a glass convection oven to cook the squab. This was a Galloping Gourmet" product that does a great job on chicken and would cook the squab, nicely. It leaves nice drippings in the bottom, for a fantastic gravy.

The fateful evening arrived. We had a little before dinner drink. I made a Southern Margarita (a margarita made with Southern Comfort- try it!). Soon the squabs were ready to be taken out of the cooker. The rest of the meal was ready, now I just needed to make the gravy. I had simmered the neck and gizzards for a long time, to produce a nice broth. Now I just needed to add the drippings to the pan. As I upended the heavy glass cooker (very thick glass), it slipped out of it's white handles (who knew they came apart) and I spilled drippings over the counter, cabinets, floors, myself and hardly any made it into the pan. Needless to say, I was upset. Denise, who knows just how serious I am about cooking, would have admired my reserve. I did not throw away the dinner, or set the kitchen on fire. I merely stepped into the shower for a quick cleaning, mopped up the kitchen and continued on. Everything turned out very nicely (with the exception of a very, very thin gravy).

We are now prepared to move onto a nice dinner, with some of Dad's friends. Dad has volunteered to cook the squabs, and I will take care of the side dishes. I'm kind of finished with cooking squabs. I wonder why?  I am sure that our future dinner will be nothing like the "The Great Squab Calamity 0f 2011".

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Today, we are taking a short break from the traveling in Rocha series, to remind myself, why I like my town. Fall is just about finished here and I wanted to quickly capture my favorite street in all of it's glory. This street is called Pearl (Perla in Spanish) and the trees pictured here are commonly called Paradise trees (Paraíso). The streets are all named after things belonging to the ocean or sea in my little town.

I travel down this street once a week, on my way to the Feria (farmer's market). Today I brought my camera! 

Looking around my town, I suddenly remembered a post I had planned to do around the time Wally went back to the states to visit his dad. It's about camping.

In my last post I mentioned something called "Glamping", that's a new term being used that combines the idea of glamour and camping together. Basically it's room service, private baths with showers, all the amenities you could want, while sleeping in a tent (the camping part), that's the gist of the plan.

Well, we're not talking about that today, rather I'm bringing you another option, the typical Uruguayan way of vacationing. It's no secret that Uruguayans love the beach and value their coastline. I once overheard a conversation about a typical Uruguayan vacation , they said that, "the rich Uruguayans go to their second house, on the beach, the well-off rent a house at/or near the beach and that the rest go camping, close to the beach!"

 I once had a worker excitedly tell me he was going camping with his family the next week, when I asked where they would be going he mentioned some town nearby me. I was puzzled, there was no lake, mountain, canyon or national park nearby in that town (my idea of going camping) Instead, he started talking about staying there because of the microwaves and the nice swimming pool there, something that not a lot of the typical campsites had! I was still kind of puzzled but didn't think much more about it until I started noticing the many signs in the various towns along the coast offering camping!

Finally, when a camping sign went up in my neighborhood, I just had to go and check it out!

Camping in Marindia!

The beach is about 2 blocks away from this site. What's so unique about these vacation sites is that they are located in among the regular town, up ordinary streets. Follow this street up, with its interesting planting strip and you will find a blue administration building. I went inside to find the manager and ask about prices.

Adrian is a very friendly man who speaks some English. He gladly answered my many questions. I'm rather bold so I had him troop me around the property and of course, I made him pose next to this bougainvillea  for this blog post.

You have to bring your own tent or camper to sleep in but the camp site offers 2 separate bathrooms, one for males (or caballeros in Spanish) and one for females (Damas). They have shower facilities in the bathrooms. I asked if they had hot and cold running water in them or just cold. Yes, they have hot water, so that was good. There is a little outside covered area to wash your dishes in and on the other side are old fashioned laundry sinks to wash and scrub your clothes in. It's nice that they keep the two functions separated!  In addition there are little grilling stations for cooking. Electricity is also available! 

Mondays through Saturdays there is a little onsite store providing some of life's necessities. It's open from 9:00 am to 6pm and sells various sundry items, soap, salsas, sodas, beer and wine among other things. I took a few photos of the offerings. I believe that anyone in the neighborhood can go and shop at this little Autoservicio.

I managed to take a few candid shots of some campers using this camping park. Some were in tents while others had trailers and campers.

So, what does it cost to stay over night in such a camp site? Bear in mind, this park was a no frills site. It doesn't have a swimming pool or any microwave ovens but for only $50 pesos per person, per day. That means, it costs under $3 dollars a night (per person) to stay there. How about that for a cost effective vacation? Remember, your only two blocks from the beach! Before the dollar became so weak, it cost under $2 a night to stay. The advantage of these, in town camping sites, is that you are in a local town and a part of it's infrastructure, yet you and your kids are away from home enjoying a break from your normal routine. 

 I guess, I get the idea now, of camping in town. This was Marindia's little campground. The town of Salinas only 1 1/2 km s away, has it's own campgrounds, as do many other beach towns. So, now you too can be on the lookout for your neighborhood camping site!

Note; this camp site in Marindia had closed down but is now reopened, the local cell phones for information are 098 141335  or 094 141335

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

La Pedrera!

This week, Wally and I are continuing up the coast for our travel series. We are leaving "The Dove" (La Paloma) to go to "The Stone Quarry" or La Pedrera, which is what that name means in Spanish.

La Pedrera is located in the department of Rocha, 230 Kilometers from Montevideo (a 4 hour bus ride from MVD) and is located just 10 kilometers up the road (Route 10) from La Paloma.

As the name suggests, this small town is built along an area of an ancient rock formation (not a mining quarry). How ancient? It is said, that they are the oldest rocks in the Americas (North, Central and South America). The area is also known as Punta Rubia named for the color of the rocks. Paleontologist are somewhat enthralled with the area as it is said fossils can be found in the rock crevices and sandy beaches. Does anyone know what a glyptodonts is?

Whereas, La Paloma is a larger seaside community, La Pedrera is a sleepy little Pueblo. There are no Banks, ATM machines or Government buildings (post office etc..), there is a Police station. So what does it have? Why visit it?

The first memorable feature of the town is it's cliff view of the Atlantic Ocean. The bluff wraps around to the East and West so sunrises and sunsets can be enjoyed from this point.

There are two notable beaches surrounding the out crop there. One is called El Barco meaning boat, ship, or vessel in Spanish and yes, there is a shipwrecked boat in the sands of that beach. It was a Chinese trawler named the Cathay that sank in the 1970's. You can walk right up to it on the sand. Only a rusted corner of the hull is still visible, jutting up above the sands.

El Barco, as the shipwreck announces is what is known in Uruguay as a Bravo beach (a rough beach). It sits to the west side of the rock formations. Facing as it does the full fury of the Atlantic ocean coupled with Uruguay's winds it is a surfers beach (and good for kite boarding). However, only experienced surfers should brave it! Wind, deep water and big waves make it a good challenge for a seasoned surfer.

El Desplayado beach, sits on the other side of the rocks. It is a beach suitable for families as there are hardly any noticeable swells.              
Fishing! I don't know much about the subject in general but this area is suppose to be particularly noted, as a fantastic fishing spot! You can arrange for a charter boat to take you off shore for sport fishing or you can stay on shore and fish the surf or in the deep holes and crevices in the rocks, just knowing that there are "Groupers' and "Sole" fish swimming in these waters is a worthwhile excuse for a fisherman to visit here!

Bird watching! La Pedrera is part of the "Eastern wetlands" area of Rocha. There are woods or "bosques" surrounding this zone (see a google satellite picture) which not all of Uruguay has in abundance. So this provides a diverse atmosphere for a variety of birds like the Oyster catcher, Lark and Red etc... Oh, and although they are bigger than birds, you can also whale watch during their season and see whales going south.

Okay, if you are getting the idea from this list of activities, surfing, fishing, and bird watching that this is indeed a laid back restful place, then I've made my point! It's quiet and peaceful here, except for, wait for it, fiesta time or holiday time!!!      

Fiesta! The biggest fiesta of all time would have to be the Mardi Gras season around March. Uruguay has one of longest festival seasons of all countries, a full month long celebration. That allows many towns to have their own days for celebrating it. La Pedrera has a carnival costume parade down it's streets and parties throughout the night!

Another Festival held in La Pedrera is a Jazz festival during the "Week of Tourism" (Easter) in April.

Each January, since the year 2004 an annual film special has been held in La Pedrera. "The La Pedrera Short Film Festival". Films featured are from several countries.

Where to stay? The town has two, 4 star accommodations. One is a small boutique hotel, a favorite on facebook called "Brisas de La Pedrera". The second 4 star place, is an apartment hotel called "Terrazas de La Pedrera" with suites and also apartments available. Neither is cheap but both have nice ocean views. Other places to stay are individual homes that rent out for the season. There are also some rental cabins, and there are 2 Hostels (one is called La Casa de la Luna) available in town but always call first to see if they're open as even Brisas is closed till September.

Finally, have you ever tried Glamping? Glamping is a term that implies you can go camping without actually roughing it, a combo of glamour and camping. Located just before La Pedrera proper, Go to the 227.5 Kilometers mark on route 10, then head towards the ocean, Here you will find an echo friendly project (responsible tourism) called Pueblo Barrancas, in San Sebastian. Military style tents (with bathrooms and showers), yurts and cabins are built on stilts in a natural ravine that leads to the ocean. On weekends visitors can visit the "Town's" bar from 11:00 to 2:00. They also have another bar on the beach with a DJ in the afternoons, where of course, Caiprinhas, Mojitos, wine and fruit shakes are available.

So if you like either extremes, quiet and solitude, (notice how empty the streets are in this photo) or crowds and partying, then come to La Pedrera!