Search This Blog

Thursday, December 25, 2008

4th of July in December

Question: What do the Fourth of July and December 25th have in common?

Answer: Fireworks (if you live in Uruguay, that is)!

Last night, December 25th, at midnight, we were treated with a fireworks display that would rival any neighborhood 4th of July in the States. We had little hints over the previous few days- stray firecrackers going off at odd hours. I think we had heard about this, but never really put it together. But the stroke of midnight settled all doubts, as firecrackers and lots and lots of rockets lit up the night sky.

I guess this explains why Santa stations himself at the North Pole- the danger of being shot down over Uruguay.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Learning to Live With It

We we finally got delivery of our custom desk, to fit in the alcove off of our dining area. About 6 weeks ago the carpinteria (carpenter) said it would be ready in 3 weeks. Welcome to Uruguay.

However, after it was delivered and installed we looked over the desk. It is really bad. I could have done a much better job (if I had been so inclined). The piece was not properly sanded, the finish was not properly applied. The stain is very splotchy and there are even some drips. Two of of the little door panels have the grain running in a different direction. The routing on the doors is uneven in places. There are screws showing on a finished surface!

Still, it is finished and installed. The black granite top (purchased from a different source) will be delivered Tuesday and then it will be usable. However, after looking at the piece and rating it 5 out of a possible 10, I really don't feel that bad. It looks like an old piece of built in furniture that we found in the house and decided to keep. And after all is said and done, it does fit perfectly in the space and it does give Denise and I all the desk and storage space we need.

So am I complaining? Actually not (to my great surprise). I am learning that as long as it works and isn't hideous- let's get on with life. We are getting everything we want. The quality might not be the best- but it is within our limited budget and everything is solidly built. So what is there to complain about? Sit back, enjoy the breeze off the water, pour a glass of wine (essential in these situations), cook up some dinner and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You Get What You Pay For

When I came back from shopping at Tienda Inglesa, today, Denise was fit to be tied. It turns out that the work we had completed did not meet her standards. And after looking at it, I could see why.

You see, we got our new front door security bars installed. They actually look great. However, we did not get them primarily for security. We got them because we wanted a secure front door that we could open during hot weather, with a mosquito screen. You don't see the screen do you? That is because the herrero put the screen on the outside. The ugly frame with a thousand pop rivets and screen were put on the outside. The lovely design of the door that matches the design on the gate cannot be seen- so we took off the screens and will pay to have it done the right way. We want the neighbors to see the design, not the rivets....

Oh well, you get what you pay for. The guy does nice work, a clean installation (within reason) but no idea what the finished job should look like. To be fair, however, even paying for a new screen will cost less than other estimates. But (and let's all say this together) "You get what you pay for!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Gate

"Friday's child is full of woe"... is how that poem goes in some versions. But here, Friday's child just keeps on keepin on. We are at the end of a very productive week and considering that a bad storm was predicted (it never showed up), we accomplished much more than expected.

I don't know about you, but I am getting tired of seeing and posting information about half-finished projects. I long to see something totally finished. Even the gate needs painting and a good solid padlock (hard to find, here). At this stage, however, things are moving along more rapidly. And each day sees something new accomplished, so I can hardly expect more. After all, we have only been in this country 6 months and what more could we expect? We don't even have our official residency, yet and we own a house and are well underway on the projects. Hey, let's loosen up a little, sit back and enjoy the weekend. Sun is shining, there is a pound cake in the oven and I am about to prepare some of the fresh strawberries Denise bought at the feria, yesterday. Then I'll whip up some whipcream with some of the delicious cream you get here. Life is not that bad. By the way, the other version of the poem reads, "Friday's child is loving and giving...." That's the version I like.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lesson Well Learned

Sometimes It Just Feels This Way
"I've got a 'what' pointed at my head?"
I have learned a valuable lesson when it comes to doing work on our house- actually 2 lessons.

Lesson 1- get all the particulars in writing. I have always been used to verbal agreements and it has usually worked out well. However, when you don't speak the language well, a verbal agreement might not be what you think it is. Point in case: the security door for our parilla area. I thought that it included the glass. Apparently it didn't, so we now have to get a window person to measure, cut and install the glass. I was a little angry at first (actually quite angry) because I thought it was agreed to have the herrero (iron worker) install the glass, but apparently I was wrong. And I am pretty sure the error was on my part, since an herrero probably doesn't install glass. Just a warning to get it in writing (so you can run home to the dictionary and look up all the words....).

Lesson 2- use professionals. I have a bomba de agua (pump operated well) for irrigation purposes. I needed to get pipes all over the yard so that we can water vegetables, lawn, etc. I arranged for a sanitario (plumber) to install the lines, but he couldn't get to it in time so I did a little section of the plumbing myself. However, I used 1/2" line (which is common here). When the plumber saw it, he commented that 1" is better to allow the pump to work freely and not labor. We tore out my section and the plumber is back today to install the line. I am glad I didn't do the job myself (I actually considered that) as I would have put in all the wrong line and eventually burned out the bomba.

So, lessons learned: get it in writing and pay a professional to do a professional job.

ps- the cannon was found near the port in Montevideo.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Don't DIY

I have always been a do it yourself kind of guy. In over 35 years of marriage I can count the number of times I have paid to have a car repaired, plumbing fixed, house remodeled, etc. I only paid someone to do things that I could not do (and I am pretty handy).

All that has changed since we've moved to Uruguay. I am now having more work done by other people than I have ever had done in my life. I often have 4-5 people working here at any given time and I just check in and see how the work is going. I am learning to delegate. And it's not easy. Take the new door the the parilla (BBQ). I had an iron worker (herrero) build it, but thought that we would install it.

When the door arrived, it had steel tabs welded to the outside frame. Normally you would set these tabs in cement. However, the door was to go inside 3 solid surfaces (concrete or brick), and I couldn't see how they could be installed. So I decided to ask the herrero to give me a price to install it and the large iron gate and decided to let him do it.

The first thing that he did was cut off those tabs (he also saw that it would be impossible to install it by that method). And this is my lesson for the day. Let people who make things install them. If they run into problems they know how to work it out. Anyway, they are about 75% finished and I am so glad that I let them do it. I never would have figured it out and it will be installed, cemented in, adjusted and the locks set for a total of $80 (US). You can't beat that and they have all the headaches.

He is also installing the gate. As you can see, he first has poured a nice concrete channel and set the steel guide for the wheels. After a few days, he will come back and set the gate.

One the of the advantages of having the manufacturer install is that if it doesn't work correctly, he can't blame the installer. I am getting smarter in my old age (I know- it's about time).