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Friday, December 16, 2011

Wrapping up the year!

I know, I just made a post about my visitors staying with me for a week (they're still here as I write this). However, as you know I am counting down the days until Wally's arrival back home here in Uruguay. Yes, we do think of Uruguay now as our home and Wally can't wait to get back here.

As a present to me he's going to turn this years blog into a book! ($59.99) The reason we want to do this is because it has been a landmark year for me.

I have now been here in Uruguay on my own without him for 8 months! He will have been gone a total of 9 months when he finally returns in January, on the twelfth, 2012.

 It has been an interesting year for me! We have been married now for 38 years and this has been the first time we have been apart for more than a week in all of those years! He once went to Florida to visit his folks and I joined him in the second week as my work allowed. Many people said that I was very brave to have stayed behind in a foreign country all by myself. Especially, without really speaking the language, (Spanish) all that well. I had to take on the role of maintaining the house, learning how to change out the gas tanks, clean out the sink trap and keep an eye out for all of the various devices we have hooked up, like our Solar hot water heater. I know that there are literarily millions of single women around the globe who have been doing these types of things for eons. Still it was a good experience for me to see that I was capable of handling,"come what may" on my own.

I wasn't really alone as I had my 2 dogs and 1 cat (Barney, Sheila and Nathan the cat) for company, as well as many loving and caring friends who watched out for me.

I took on new roles. For instance, since this blog is primarily about Uruguay I took over the brunt of posting new blog posts about various things going on here in Uruguay. So, I took over Wally's computer and blogged away for any readers out there.

 I learned that there are readers out there because so many of you kindly added comments of your own. Also, as a lark, Wally added (in August) a google counter to see how many "hits" we might be receiving. I thought that maybe, we might have up to 12 people who have checked in from time to time. Well guess what? The counter says that during the 3 plus years, we have been posting about Uruguay, some 50,000!!! people have at least stumbled upon our blog. That doesn't mean they actually read it but that 50,000 people know we exist or rather that our blog exists! Roughly a 1000 people a month cruise by. The countries represented by these people have circled the globe. Click on a counter and see for yourself!

Since it's impossible to add a live link to a paper book, I thought I would copy this weeks counter numbers to remember them by, as a fitting end to this year of 2011.

Worldmap Visitors

Total Pageviews



By now, you can see that this last post of 2011 is going to be a self-indulgent one. I wanted to use this post as a souvenir to remember this year. It was a milestone in my life. I was pretty proud of how capable I was on my own. Of course, I did have my "ups and downs", quite literarily in fact, when I fell flat on my face a few months ago. That black eye was immortalized for all to see! I also had to run to the medical clinic one day to fight an infection that my cat Nathan caused by scratching my arm. All is forgiven him on my account so I am now including a photo tribute to Nathan my "Beloved" cat!

See how sweet he can be?

Wally has been gone for most of the year but we did get to go to the department of Rocha before he left through the kind invitation of Gustavo and Silvia. I definitely want to go back there!  There is so much we still want to see! I liked a picture they took of Wally and I so much I am including it here.

Uruguay has an abundance of water ways, lagoons, rivers and coastline, so of course, I have to add a few water views here in this post. The combo below is from the lagoon in Rocha.

I am especially glad that each day, I get to see a great view of the water from my house. In fact, from inside my very living room and dinning room and kitchen! Yes, I'm using this last post to brag!!!

Speaking of my house, we're happy with our light, bright, open floor plan and yes the enjoyable view. Since Uruguay has some fierce rain and thunder storms, being able to stay inside on a stormy day and still enjoy a view is a real luxury for us. 

My outside front garden has really made coming home a treat. I like looking at the multi-tiered front garden along with my little personal "rose' garden.

Wally has missed Uruguay and me so much, that he says, he's even willing to talk about my garden with me! I had a large backyard garden in Seattle that I left behind so it was important to me that I could have a fitting substitute here, The idea was to really make Uruguay and this house feel like our natural home. In other words we don't want to be "homesick" or have a longing to return to the States (USA). We love the USA and nothing can really compare to the magnitude of having 50 separate States each diverse from the other and many as big or bigger than this whole country of Uruguay. However, we want to think of Uruguay as a comfortable place, you do come home to.

To test Wally's resolve to tolerate my gardening topics I'm adding more garden pictures of our home right now! I want them to be part of my book!

During this year I didn't drive our "Fusca" or VW bug because I'm out of practice driving a stick-shift. So it sat parked in our driveway for the year, I will have to quickly charge its battery up before Wally arrives. He has promised me that when he gets back a priority will be to make me practice driving it. I need to relearn how to drive a stick-shift. I have a Uruguayan driver's license and when I was younger I actually learned how to drive a stick-shift on a VW bug, so the knowledge is in there somewhere. You might say it's like learning to ride a bicycle, once you do learn you never forget how to do it. I definitely put that saying to the test when I started to ride a bicycle here, after a 40 year absence of use. 

Another reason, that I'm starting to feel more comfortable here in my house is that the many boxes of stuff we shipped here, have finally found a permanent place throughout the house. Some on walls, others on counters.

When we first came here we felt we couldn't afford a shipping container so we sold everything and came here with 66 boxes. We should have had 67 boxes but Wally miscounted in his haste and 1 box, that wasn't numbered, went missing. We never could claim the lost box although it was the only wooden box, (a small crate ) that was mentioned as a wooden box on the manifest. That was the price we paid for trying to settle things long distance. Of course, it was the crate with our new TV in it! It also had several large framed pictures in it. Along with various smaller items. Now, whenever we can't find anything that we thought we had brought, we say, "it must have been in that crate"! 

My bathroom looks like a mini picture gallery. I have hung up all of the pictures I had brought with me from my last home in Washington State (that weren't in,"that crate"). To tell the truth my bathroom now looks smaller  because it's now very "busy" with everything hung up. However, I had those pictures up in my last bathroom and I wanted them up here too. One wall predominately has copies of Monet paintings. The second wall has pictures by my favorite artist, a graphic artist from the 1910s and '20s named Maxfield Parrish. He did artwork for famous companies and Magazines like Life. I have a copy of the book "Arabian Nights" that he illustrated and I did have a commemorated stamp set issued in 2001 by the US postal department. (I wonder if I brought that here?) The Irish singer Enya has a CD cover inspired by his painting "The young King of the Black Isles". I have that Print and that album. That picture is up on my wall. As is his most famous picture "Day Break". 


I now have a proper "Guest room" due in part to my surprise house guests! I admit that I hadn't planned on doing that room just yet and if Wally were here he might not have let me design it the way I wanted. Meaning, to buy the extra furniture, He did say it was good that I had free reign to decorate it as I wanted  because now the room is useful and more importantly done!

Here's an odd, interesting tidbit, I had to remove Sheila's (Shila's) Bed from out of our bedroom and into the hallway. Normally she keeps Barney up at night with her tossing and turnings so we had long ago separated them at night to give Barney some rest. Well since Wally was away, she took it upon herself to take his place in our bed. She has since learned a new word called 'Move!" She wanted to be right by my side and on me while I slept. She is normally my shadow during the day guarding me. She must have felt I needed even more protection at night what with Wally's absence and all. Well, I tolerated a few nights of sharing my bed with her but eventually (so I wouldn't be pushed out of my own bed), I moved her bed into the hall way. 

Barney then decided he liked Shila's bed better (though it's much smaller than his) so he claimed it as his own. It was a cold winter this year so he preferred sleeping with a blanket (a beach towel). Then Nathan, "the cat" decided Barney needed company and he started to sleep on a rug near Barney so I ended up putting Nathan's bed down, next to Barney's, in the hallway (Nathan loves his bed) and immediately accepted the arrangement. All of that will have to change though when Wally returns. It really isn't safe to have an obstructed hallway, in case of emergency. Normally, we keep the hallway pretty empty. We send the animals to the hallway when we eat and they accept that as a waiting zone but they will hang out there on their own sometimes just to relax or even play together. Now with everyone sleeping in the hall, it's a little crowed. My bedroom door is however, well guarded by Barney and Nathan. Shila now sleeps in the laundry room, in Barney's old bed.

Since I'm talking about pets and Nathan has already had his photos included, I'll give Mr. B. (Barney) his showcase.

Shila, was named so because I was trying to get the sound of Sheila from English into Spanish. Sheila sounds like Shayla in Spanish. I made a mistake because to get the sense of a very feminine name,  a very She, girly girl image, I tried a double female sounding name, like La, also is (She La) I tried for the "e" sounding "i" spelling in Spanish. However, to get the sound of the American Sheila, I should have spelled her name more like Yila or even Llila with the double L (ll) shh sound. That is the sound of Y or the double L down here in Argentina and in Uruguay. Mexico, for instance, does not have that sound when using Y or LL So the spelling is wrong but we pronounce her name Sheila though we spell it wrongly as Shila! Now that I have gotten you throughly confused, let's see how cute she was as a pup and how she has grown. She now has her "fringes" or long adult fur grown in.

My friends can't wait until Wally returns because we haven't had a karaoke party for over a year now. I just had too much on my plate being   on my own (read my years's posts) to host one. When we have a big group (over 20), we push the furniture to the walls and really open up the place. My friends say, they will let Wally rest and have 2 weeks with me alone and then we "must" have a "Welcome Home" Party!

All in all, I had an interesting time on my own this year in Uruguay but I must admit I'm looking forward to having Wally come Home!

Because I want to get this into printed book form, I'm quickly wrapping up the year and this will be the last post for 2011! 

You will just have to imagine the whistle blowing and me running after the garbage collectors to give them their year-end appreciation tip. 

You can perhaps imagine me walking my dogs to the vet's, to get their yearly rabies shots that are due in this month of December.

Finally you will have to take it for granted that the end of the year will be greeted with community fire works and that I will be watching them on my balcony listening to the sounds of explosions and surf!

But most of all you can imagine how glad I'll be when Wally gets back home, here in Uruguay, come January. Of course, that will be in the new year of 2012. So I guess you won't have to imagine that after all as it will probably be my first new post of the new year, 2012

See you next year!
Ciao, Denise D. Glass

Keep A Candle In The Window

On that note, I will make one last post from the good 'ole USA. After having spent the last 8 months here, I will be very happy to return "home". It is hard to believe that anyplace other than the US could be home, but Uruguay is our home, now. There are some things I will miss, but others that I definitely will not. One thing I have missed greatly are our friends that we made in the last 3 years. We plan a great BBQ and Karaoke party on my return.

However, my time here with my father has proved to be a positive experience. When I first arrived, just 8 months ago, he was deeply grieving from my mother's death. He had spent 5 years, visiting her twice a day while her capacities dwindled. Toward the end, she had a mere existence and not much of a life. All of us feel that her death was a blessing in many ways.

Unbelievably, however, just a month ago, my father met and started dating again. While some may feel that this is too soon after my mother's death- remember, she was "gone" long ago. Anyway, my 88 year old dad is now dating an 89 year old "girl". And they are sickeningly "in love". They go about holding hands, saying "I love you" and carrying on like a couple of kids. Both of them are in excellent health (they have more energy than me). They go dancing on Sunday nights at a club in Modesto that specialized in "Big Band" records. Anyway- I guess that you could say that my mission here is completed and time for me to move on.

Denise has done such a good job while I am away, that I fear she has finally realized just how useless I am. I need to get back before she sees that she doesn't need me at all. So I am starting to pack and anticipating returning home in a little over 3 weeks. After 8 months, I am ready.

Keep a candle in the window.... I'm coming home soon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Proyecto Visitante! (project visitor!)

I know a talented young man by the name of Fernando Rodriguez who has started a project called "proyecto 365".

 He is taking a photograph each day for a year and some of his photos are amazing! I particularly like the one he took of a lit candle.

That's where I got the idea for this post's title.

I haven't been taking photos but instead have been doing a multitude of finishing up projects or proyectos of my own around my house. As most of you know, my husband Wally is due back from the United States (USA) next month in January. I have been trying to use the money we normally use for him, like food and health insurance and instead using it to tackle problem areas that we have been neglecting. For instance, we had a past post that showed water almost entering our back patio door during a doozy of a rain storm several months back. So one project of mine was to put in a storm drain and have this work finished before Wally arrives home.

I finally saved enough for a second dog house, this time for Shila. Of course, she doesn't use it. Barney has used his from time to time but Shila (pronounced Sheila) is a little porky (like me, ha ha) and doesn't like the idea of ducking through that door, although Barney, who is taller does so easily! I used some broken concrete pieces to form a little garden planter around their houses and planted some lemon grass near Barney's house (the one with the blue roof). Lemon grass reportedly repels mosquitos and Barney has so little fur, hair really that he is prone to everything bothering him. Shila is like a tank and plows through life. Her thick fur keeps all invaders away from her body.

I have been threatening to turn our 3rd bedroom into a crafts room. I used to enjoy rubber stamping back in the States. Even though that sounds like a mindless pursuit, one can get really creative with cards. There's even stamping conventions that showcase some amazing creations. Well, while Wally has been away I have been slowly buying storage units and a desk for that purpose.

My dogs are diggers (out of boredom) because I don't go hiking and stuff with them. Maybe, when all of these projects are done I can turn to other pursuits. My point is, I understand why they do it. The challenge however has been to keep ahead of the holes and what better way to do that then to slowly concrete the back yard. Not completely, of course. I like them and me to have some grass to run and play on. Still, where I see a justification, I put down concrete or rather hire someone to help pour a concrete pad. For instance, I noticed that the space between my back (laundry room) door and the garage was a battle zone of "Fox holes" mounds, dug up by the dogs. In pictures it was quite ugly,  Oh, by the way the out building is too small to be a true garage, I just slip up and call it that sometimes. So, in other words, if I wanted to walk to our storage building from my back door, on a rainy day, I would have to cross mud. To pour a concrete pad between my back door and this building made sense!

I also, poured a walkway. It was done in 3 parts by two different people (companies). I tried to get one person to do it but he wasn't available and I didn't have the funds to do it all at once. The person I originally wanted to pour everything ended up doing only two sections of walkway, his sections butt up  against someone else's ugly section, one that I posted about before because I was so o disappointed.  Carlos was finally available again, so he poured my last section. You have to realize that here, if a worker returns your phone calls, he's cherished and passed around, expat to expat, like an inheritance.

Those have been some of my current projects underway while Wally is away. However, you may have noticed the title of this post is project visitor or in actuality I should say visitors!  I have to admit money has been tight this month. I had to buy bus tickets to attend a 2 day convention a few cities away. Both dogs need their end of the year, rabies shots and pills for parasites. They are due this month. That drain installation had cost me some pesos to put in and the last sidewalk section was accomplished along with the drain. So when I found out that our congregation was going to have visitors from the head branch, I kept my head low and didn't speak up to offer any hospitality in the form of meals. Yeah, me bad.

My good friend Carolina who speaks excellent English (most of the time) came up to me and said that the elders of our congregation (or Ancianos, in Spanish) wanted to know if I could have the visitors come to my house since they are from the USA and they speak English.They felt I would be able to converse with them. Since I happen to be the resident English speaker in our hall it was assumed that I would want to talk to them. So they asked Carolina to convey that thought to me.

Well, It seems that my lack of Spanish has finally caught up with me. Like the movie title "Lost in translation" (with Bill Murray)  I didn't know exactly what was going on with their visit. I thought they wanted me to have them come to my house for a meal. So I bite the bullet and told Carolina that yes I could host a luncheon for them along with a small group of congregation members at my house. I said I had room for about a dozen people for a sit down meal.

As a side note, being known as a native English speaker tends to mark you as a well known personality. Case in point, the post office recently delivered a letter to my door that had a return address in English. I had to explain to them that it wasn't addressed to me, as it was addressed to someone else who lived on another street, a different block, a different lot number and get this a different town! I live in Marindía and the letter was to go to Salinas, the town the post office is in! In fact that return address was from someone in Canada and I'm from the USA! To be fair, I had had several letters delivered to me that week and they just assumed this one was meant for me as well. I also don't have a mailbox up yet so all my mail is put under a rock on my meter box, why you would want to know that I don't know. However, most people know me as the English speaker.

So, I dipped into my savings and agreed to host a lunch for 12, (13 counting me) on Wednesday afternoon.  I went up to the Elders and said yes to the meal. The next day, Carolina called and asked if I had spoken to the Elders about what she had asked me and I said yes, I'm having a lunch for them and she said, but the Elders had wanted to know if the visitors could stay at your house for the week, spending the nights! That's where the translation into English had broken down! I now was to have house guests and a luncheon. I let Carolina know that "having someone to your house" was a little different phrasing from "having guests spend the night at your house" or "live with you!"

So the upshot is, I now have a couple, Ken and Molly Heighauss staying with me for the week!
Again, the title of this post is project visitors! After saying, "Okay", (slightly begrudgingly) that I would host them for a week I then realized that although I have a guest bedroom, the only thing in it is a bed, literarily, one piece of furniture, in a very tiny room. I would be sentencing these people to a one week prison cell. So my next project would have to be getting this room up to snuff in a hurry or to a proper guest room worthy status. Not that these people (who I had never met before) needed anything elaborate but rather my sense of propriety kicked into high gear. I have always fancied myself to be the "hostess with the mostess"(an old, corny saying).

So visiting my bank for the first time since Wally has been gone Stateside, I extracted enough dinero, the bare minimum, for a proper guest room. The money would be used for the most needed amenities and that lunch. I read under guest room etiquette, that some people don't like to sit on a bed (ever) so a proper guest room needs a chair! I bought a chair! A guest room needs a box of kleenex so that guests can  blow their  noses or do whatever a guest might do with a tissue, that is a must! I bought a box of tissues! A guest needs someplace to put their personal items on like a table or a dresser or something other than the bed. That purchase would be a challenge for me. The room is tiny!!! I would have to measure well for a piece to fit. First I moved the bed from the middle of the room to against the wall (an old trick) That left the mini fireplace to be proudly seen instead of its view being blocked by the bed. It seemed to open up the little room immensely (okay a little)! I didn't know what I would find but it would have to be skinny to be able to still walk by it and the bed. I ended up finding a tiny little old fashion looking desk. So, I bought a desk! A proper guest room should have an alarm clock in it so your house guests can arise without depending on you to rouse them up. I read it should be a lighted alarm clock but hey, at least a clock. I bought an alarm clock!  I couldn't find a lighted version on my time schedule of  9 day's notice. I madly cleaned the house for 3 of those days. It had been a long winter and wood stove smoke was still to be seen. A proper guest room should at least have a radio. I went to Geánt, a large Walmart type store to purchase one but the radios were expensive $79 USA dollars for a simple small one. Then I saw "on sale" a tiny little black and white TV set with a radio in it for $34 (USA dollars). So, I bought a television! A guest room needs a trash can. I bought a trash can. Then I noticed that by placing the bed away from the fireplace it was now in front of a floor reaching window and that a person would be leaning against the thin glass. I pictured my guests ending up with terrible glass shards in them. So, I bought a head board! Then I realized, there was no way to mount the headboard without the rest of the bed frame, so I bought the bed frame! By now, I was down to the little things. I bought hangers, 4 pillows, a bedspread set and a bottle of wine. I never had time to find any hooks or a coat/towel rack to hang those things on. I looked for a luggage rack that all the magazine articles said I needed to put into the room so, I bought a small metal stool, that would have to do. I cleaned the house some more and learning that they were vegetarians for health reasons,  I bought some fruits and vegetables for the week. Others, like myself would be feeding them big lunches throughout the week. Then I waited for their arrival.

Meanwhile, I found out that our congregations here in Uruguay have been consolidated and put under the care of the Argentina branch. My guest would be the new Argentina District overseer along with his wife. So my guests, although originally from the USA have now been serving in Argentina for some 22 years! So, of course, they speak Spanish fluently by now and could have easily stayed with any of the other Spanish speaking members. The elders had thought that since Wally has been away for so many months that I might need some English company. Ken Heighauss and his wife Molly were originally trained missionaries sent to Argentina. Then they served for some 22 years (as mentioned) in the traveling work.
He as a circuit overseer over various groups that form circuits. Because of the organizational change he has now been assigned as a District overseer. He covers both Argentina and Uruguay in his travels. So it really is a privilege to have this husband and wife couple stay at my house for their first visit to Uruguay as its District Overseer.

Well, they arrived on a Tuesday and a member of the congregation dropped off some dinner vegetable dishes for them. I ate too. The next day, I had a group over to my house for "the lunch" including the purpose of the meal my house guests. Included in this group was the Uruguayan circuit overseer and his wife. I cooked chicken, leg/thigh combos for the rest of the group who definitely do eat meat and the various guests brought tons of vegetable dishes for my house guests. It went well, Whew!

 Surprisingly, despite the responsibility of oversight that Ken has he doesn't wear a suit 24/7. They actually act and dress like normal people on their down time. Molly and Ken take a brisk morning walk together everyday for 1/2 an hour and in the evenings after eatting. It allows them some time to themselves, It burns off the calories from their meals and is good for Ken's health. Here they are after their tuesday walk.

So far, things have been going smoothly, I haven't mentioned to them that Wally's bathroom sink and toilet were having plumbing problems and that I had to have a plumber come out to fix his bathroom 3 days before they arrived so that they could use his bathroom. Nor, did I mention the electrician I had come out on the same day to put in some new wall outlets in their guest room so that they could plug in any devises they might need.

Let's just say, I'm very tired but interested to see how this project visitor turns out.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Emergency Hospitalization!

What is it like when the worst happens and your all alone in a foreign country?

Imagine this scenario; you're away from family, long-time friends and associates. You don't speak the language of your new country fluently just yet and then a medical emergency strikes. How do you cope? What happens in such a situation here in Uruguay?

This post is a narrative about a true, life threatening medical emergency requiring hospitalization. It did not happen to me. This is not my account of what happened but rather that of a Single woman who wishes to remain anonymous so we'll call her "Missy' for the purposes of this post.

"Missy" is a fairly new expat to this country. She's been here a little over 3 years. She was hospitalized for a sudden and surprising case of acute Pancreatic infection. She had no such prior history of this. She didn't know what she had or why she was in such pain until it was discovered during the hospital stay.What happened to her, happened at the beginning of this year in January, 2011. She is now finished with the ordeal and is fine.

I thought that most of my readers but especially other expats and those considering moving here would like to know what happens in such a medical emergency. I asked Missy some questions and her answers are in the narrative she wrote for this post.

Missy, do you have medical insurance? Do you have an ambulance rider attached to your insurance or in other words how did you get to the hospital? Since women tend to ignore aches and pains, what made you realize something was really wrong and when? Did you go to the hospital right away or did you go somewhere else first? What tests and procedures were done to you to determine what condition you had?

You can find out her answers to those questions and more in her following narrative. Please note that she tells what happened to her in her own words. I have added nothing except having bolded a few words and italicized a few others to emphasize some points I thought were unique.

Missy tell us what happened!

**I was at a New Year's eve party in Atlantida when I started to feel "not quite right". I had eaten a lot and had quite a bit of alcohol, and I don't drink very often. I felt as though I needed to either throw up, have a bowel movement or pass gas. I was finally able to have a BM and eventually I started to feel normal again. I went home that night but didn't go to sleep because the feeling persisted. It was a sort of pressure, and when I took Pepcid A/C it tended to go away. I felt uncomfortable off and on Saturday and Sunday, and by Monday afternoon, it had developed into an excruciating pain in my abdomen. I couldn't take it any longer so I called a friend, who came right over. By then I could hardly walk. She took me to the Medica Uruguaya clinic (this is my health provider) in her truck. They put me on a gurney and tried different IV's but couldn't get the pain to subside. They recommended I go to the hospital and called a taxi for me. Ambulance service is included in my monthly premium, but I've been told there is only one ambulance, and if it isn't available, you take a taxi, which is paid for.
All the way to the hospital, which is on Avenida Italia and 8 de Octobre, about an hour ride, I lay with my head in my friend's lap. When we got to the emergency room, it was quite crowded. My friend went to the desk and told them I was in terrible pain (her Spanish is excellent!) and I was moved to the head of the line. They took me in, put me on a gurney and gave me morphine. They took blood, and when the pain finally eased, took me to have a CT scan of my abdomen. These two tests confirmed that I was having an attack of acute pancreatitus. I had never heard of this and didn't know how serious it was.
I sent my friend home, as another friend was on the way who would spend the night with me. I was taken to Intensive Care and hooked up to four IV's. It was January 3, and one of the worst episodes of my life had begun. I would not be allowed to eat or drink for the next three weeks! This was horrible. I had no energy, I couldn't get out of bed, I had to wear a diaper because of constant diarrhea. I think I was on pain meds because I don't remember what I said to people or who came and went. And I had a catheter. They did give me a sponge bath every morning which felt really good. I had to wear an oxygen mask for a period of time as well.
I shared a room with another woman, and this was difficult because they let family visit any time and stay overnight as well. There would often be five or six people in the room at the same time, and the television was often blaring until 1:00 am or later. My doctor moved me the first time because I couldn't get any rest. I was moved a couple more times, once out of Intensive Care and once more because someone else needed my room.
The rooms were fine, each patient had access to a TV with cable which had a few English stations,  but you had to pay for it. Most of the nurses were nice, There were several  that were really kind and thoughtful, but there were a few who were arrogant and brusque. Some spoke English, but not most. There was an en suite bathroom with a shower, and the rooms were cleaned twice a day. There was no call bell, so when you needed help, you had to clap your hands until someone heard you and showed up. I thought this was strange, especially when I was later moved to a room that had a call bell when I was doing much better and hardly needed it! The rooms had big windows and a fan which contributed greatly to comfort
Two weeks after I arrived I had a procedure to remove two cysts that had developed. My surgeon attempted to drain them by puncturing them, but was not successful, so he put in a drain in each of my sides. I was awake during this procedure and even though he used a local anesthetic it hurt like hell. I was no longer going to be able to sleep any way but on my back because of these two drains.
Three days after this I went into surgery to remove my gall bladder and the section of my pancreas which had died. The cause of my illness was gall stones which had formed and blocked the duct leading to the pancreas. This caused the pancreas to begin to die, which was why I was in such pain. It can be compared to kidney stones, which I have heard are very painful. You can't live without your pancreas, and I found out later I lost nearly half. I also found out later that people can die from acute pancreatitus, about 30% don't survive. No one told me this while I was recovering, because they didn't want to scare me or stress me out. Just as well I think. With my gall bladder gone, this wouldn't occur again.
I had blood taken every week, and I was tested for diabetes often. It often hurt, because I have small veins and they were clumsy. I had lots of bruises and was often in tears. I was often in tears anyway, just because I was so miserable and I didn't want to be in the hospital. When I was recovering I begged the doctor to let me go home but he couldn't and I cried a lot because I wanted to go home.
I had CT scans and ultrasounds regularly. Medica Uruguaya is a big hospital and all the tests and procedures are done on site. They would just wheel me in my hospital bed to the appropriate room, or bring the equipment to me. Everything was covered with my insurance, and I am so glad I had it, as I was there almost eight weeks initially, 25 days in Intensive Care.  
Eventually I was allowed ice water, and what a blessing that was. I had been craving liquid and was so envious of all of my roommates who could have whatever they wanted. It also made me sad because they got to go home and I didn't!  I had no appetite, so not having food didn't bother me in the same way. When I finally got food, it was so disgusting I couldn't eat it anyway! It was the same thing every day, pureed squash I think. When I recovered enough to eat solid food, it wasn't so bad. I had rice, soup, chicken, potatoes, ham, pasta. I just couldn't have fruit, or anything with sugar. But I was allowed tea and ice cream with artificial sweetener. There was absolutely no spice on the food, it was completely bland.
Breakfast was served at 8:00 am and consisted of a piece of bread or crackers and a cup of tea or coffee. Later supplemented with sugar free jam.  Lunch was at noon (see above), then another cup of tea and piece of bread at 4:00 pm, and dinner (see above) at 8:00 pm. Before breakfast our sheets were changed and we were given whatever meds we were prescribed.
My doctor finally let me go home on February 25against his better judgement. He thought it was too soon, and I still had both drains in place. I think he got tired of listening to me cry, ha ha. I had to follow a diet with no fat, no sugar, no fried food, no alcohol, no fruit, no spicy food. I was glad to get home, but I had no energy for the simplest things, all I could do was sit in a chair and watch TV. I had no appetite, even for my favorite foods. I had lost about 16 pounds. A nurse from the clinic in Atlantida was sent to my house each day to clean and change the drain sites (included in my treatment). I couldn't ride my bike or even walk very far. Being in bed for so long had weakened my muscles. I had to take a nap daily and couldn't lift anything.
On March 8, I was feeling very weak, dizzy and just not well. I called the clinic and they sent an English speaking female doctor to my house. She took one look at me and said I must go to the hospital immediately. I called a taxi, and she told them to take me to emergency, no charge. When I got there I was given a blood test and put in a chair to wait for ages. They finally told me I had low potassium and I was admitted to the hospital. It was too late to see my doctor that night, but I saw him in the morning. He said I needed to stay for "a few days". I ended up staying 18 days! I never knew why my potassium was so low, but I know that's not a good thing. I was eating vegetables, and I think I wasn't supposed to. I was resigned to my fate, though, and didn't cry this time. I felt much better quite soon, so this wasn't the hideous experience the last time was. I could get in and out of bed, take a shower, walk the halls, eat regular food, etc. so it wasn't so bad. I realized though that the doctor had been right; I had gone home too soon, and this was my punishment! They were able to remove one of my drains, so that was a bonus. I wouldn't lose the other one for almost two more months, however.
I went home for the second time on March 26, and I haven't had a relapse so far. I had a few followup appointments and scans afterward, but haven't seen a doctor since beginning of May, seven months. The doctor followup visits are free, but I had to pay for additional blood tests and scans, which weren't expensive. I am eating normally now, and have gained back the weight I lost. I feel fine and am back to normal activities. I am taking no medication.
There is no doubt in my mind my surgeon saved my life. He was excellent and even spoke English. He was very patient with me and came to see me every day, even though I got upset at him often. When he went on vacation, he had another doctor visit me, who also spoke English. I received good care at Medica Uruguaya but it was certainly no frills. You had to bring your own towels, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, tissue, for example. My long hair was ruined while I was there when they tried to wash it in a small bowl and didn't get the soap out. I had to have it cut off when I got out because it was snarled and damaged beyond repair. It's growing again now and is in good health.
I don't have any family here, and that might have made my stay more pleasant. I did have lots of visits from good friends, which helped a lot and gave me something to look forward to. The early days passed verrrrry slooooly! It got better as I got better, and I had books and my laptop brought in that helped pass the time. I didn't take any pictures, it never occurred to me. I am grateful to be alive. I thought I would never be back to normal, it seemed to take forever, little steps at a time. Patience was never one of my virtues. I just turned 62, and have always had such good health which I took for granted. This came out of the blue and hit me very hard. It was so unexpected and so shocking. I'm so very glad it's over.**

I want to thank "Missy" so o much, for taking the time to write about her painful ordeal and allowing me to post it! I wanted to be sure her story got told. 

"Missy" you are one brave lady and you have survived one of the worst situations imaginable. I know you will enter this coming new year of 2012 not only as a much stronger person for having survived all that you have but with a renewed appreciation and zest for life. May you enjoy life here in Uruguay for a long time! Good health to you! 

PS. I realize that I didn't include any pictures of the Medica Uruguaya hospital or the clinic. Missy was not in the position to take any photos during her stay. I have not had a chance this month to go down to Montevideo to take any of my own. However, I believe her story is riveting enough to have been posted sans pictures.

PSS.  There are many large hospitals in Uruguay and several in Montevideo. Missy went to Medica Uruguaya because her insurance coverage is with that hospital as is mine. However, the best hospital, a private one is reportedly the "British hospital" for care and being upscale. Click on the link for a list of hospitals and for information about them.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Radio Marindia!

Your listening to the smooth sounds of 88.9 on your FM radio dial. Reaching out to our listeners down in Pinamar and all the way up to Parque del Plata. This is Radio Marindía saying, "Good Morning, Uruguay"!

Okay, I guess that's the extent of my radio career. I just couldn't help myself! I had better leave the disc jockeying to the professionals, like El señor Mario Mautone, the Director/owner and D.J. of the radio station Radio Marindía. To be fair, I hear that his wife, Ana María Alvarez also shares in some on-air announcing.

Just around the corner from my house is a radio station. I didn't notice, it was a station, when I first moved here. At first glance, it just looks like an ordinary house. Then I noticed the "name" of the house, written in iron scroll letters.  I saw that the sign said, FM 106.3 with the word, "señales" under it, meaning, "signal" in Spanish. When I asked my friends about it they said yes, they do listen to the station. Well, that's the great thing about having a blog, your constantly on the look out for more things to post about on your blog. So, I decided that an interview with my local radio station was needed!

One of the first things I learned, was that the call numbers or frequency had changed! In April of this year (2011), after applying for a license, the licensing board upon approving their station, changed the frequency from 106.3 FM to 88.9 FM. Mario said you have to apply to the President of the Republic to get radio stations licensed. They (Radio Marindía) just hadn't changed the house name yet to the new dial number, even though it changed 8 months ago. Welcome to Uruguay!

I mentioned that they needed to change the house's name and get new numbers to advertise the change. That same day, when walking past the station I saw a new banner hung on the gate with the new station dial numbers advertised. They had the sign already but it was nice seeing it up. I guess loyal fans knew all along, where to tune into, despite the change.

I asked Mario, what his job description or profession is called and he said that he is a communicator or comunicador in El Español. He explained that, that meant more than just announcing things but involved a two way line of communication, a give and take, an interactive form.

He first became interested in radio and announcing when he was just a boy, at 5 years old. He used to get the family records out and set up a pretend station. Using a microphone he would introduce the songs and talk away, playing at being a DJ. He has been at it for 40 years!

The station here in Marindía or Radio Marindía as it's called, has been here in town for 5 years. It's more than just a hobby, it's a passion! However, Mario currently works in Atlántida. In 5 months he will be retiring and can devote his full time to what he loves, his wife Ana, his daughter Leticia and of course this station.

Mario has that typical smooth sounding announcer voice! Not so much in person but over the radio he really pours it on.

The station's broadcast hours are from 7AM (in the morning) to 12PM (midnight) a nice long day. The programs are set up on the computer and pre-recorded. With advertising, announcements and music preselected.The station is set up in his garage. He says the whole neighborhood, as well as, his individual neighbors, help to contribute to the station and it's programming.

I asked about advertising and announcements. He said that community events and clubs or any news worthy items can be mentioned over the radio and are announced for free. Businesses can advertise on the station for a small fee. Recently the station asked for donations to upgrade their equipment. This station uses a very large antenna on their garage roof that reaches the airways of this and the neighboring communities previously mentioned. They also use the internet. So their listeners are far flung. The whole world can hear using the internet says Mario. Their site is  It claims to be the first on-line radio station in the area.

He believes his audience is in the 30 year and up age bracket. He loves all music. His lineup of music includes melodies, music from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Also, Brazilian and Jazz! Music International is included because he loves all types of music.

His daughter, Leticia, I met on a previous visit. I haven't gotten a chance to meet her mom, his wife, Ana yet. However, the whole family is just charming, you can tell.

Reaching out to people is something I do via the internet (our blog) and meeting them face to face, door to door. Reaching out to people using the internet and via the airways is something that Mario Mautone does very well! I was happy to have the opportunity to get to know my local radio station, Radio Marindía!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hiring Buses!

November 2nd (here in Uruguay) was the day of the defunct or Día de los Disfuntos. Isn't that an odd way of saying dead, that a person is defunct? Really though, the word defunct means "no longer exists". Well, my existing friends and I are very much alive and we don't celebrate the day of the dead.

That calendar holiday, did however mean, that most of my friends had the day off from work. So why not do what the dead cannot (see Ecclesiastes 9:5,6) and that was to enjoy a picnic!

It was decided that we should make the most of this mid-week day off and go somewhere special, so the Hills of Minas became our destination.

How would our group get there? Well, we hired a bus, 2 of them! One large commercial tour bus or "Omnibus" as it's called here and a smaller van normally used as a school bus. We ended up having a group of 61. An old fashion congregation picnic.
I was impressed with the size of the big Omnibus and always curious, I just had to ask how much it ended up costing, to rent these buses. The big tour bus was $9000 (Pesos) and the smaller school van $3200. The total of $12,200 was all inclusive meaning it included the gas and the drivers for the entire day. Since it was a calendar day off, everyone had advance notice of the trip. We all chipped in by paying $200 pesos each, putting down half, up front about 3 weeks before the date. Forty-six people fit into the large bus and the rest or 15 (not counting the driver) went via the van.

The one bummer for me was that I'm not a morning person and the pick up point was at our congregation in Salinas at 6:50 in the morning! I didn't want to leave my bike unattended in the back parking lot all day so I walked, instead of riding there. That meant a 45 min. walk, leaving my house at 6 o'clock in the morning! I did however have a game plan and that was to ask if our bus could stop on the way home that night by the highway near my street, which it did end up doing. That would later prove to be a wise decision on my part.

After roll call, we boarded our assigned buses and took off for the hour and 15 min. ride. As a side note, buses here have some of the steepest boarding steps I've ever seen with no low handicap ramps that meet the street or wheel chair access (that I can see). However, old people and crippled alike take this in stride and just seem to hop on up somehow while I "cringed" climbing aboard. The bus had a TV screen and it played music videos. I saw and heard a few Spanish ones but what always amuses me is the prevalence wherever I go of English songs playing, in particular old 1980's "hair band" music. I did enjoy hearing Peter Frampton and Toto again after all these years. Of course, this being Uruguay and all, everyone pulled out their mate gourds and hot water thermoses and settled in for the ride.

 Our first stop was to the "Salus Park". It's a park built around the spring water of the Salus bottling company. They bottle the natural spring water and also bottle flavored waters like lemonade etc... The Patricia beer plant also uses the Salus mineral water in their product, so it's located in this area as well. Wally and I went to this park last year on our Anniversary. It is a conservation area and botanical garden that tries to educate people on the native flora and fauna. It has a section where the trees have identifying signs. I saw a cork tree that I noticed this time around.

The buses let us off to see the famous Puma fountain at the spring's source. We posed for pictures. My friends LOVE taking photos and goofing off in them as I saw later in some of my face shots.

Next, we climbed back on board and were driven to the family park portion where the kids aboard squealed with delight on seeing the play ground equipment.

They actually applauded which humbled me a lot. You see compared to the USA, with it's steel play ground equipment and plastic tube structures the parks here are, shall we say, very "rustic"(with humble structures). The slides here are made out of wood, I'm talking about the seat portion you slide on as well!

Here the children really appreciate special treats. On seeing their enthusiasm, even the grownups were soon joining them in hoots and hollers of merriment. My thirty something, Forty, fifty and even sixty year old friends were soon running around playing and climbing on things. Two friends did a reenactment of the movie "Titanic" on the bow of this ship-like structure. Soccer and Volley balls suddenly appeared and games of dodge ball and volley ball were played and we swung on the swings. I have the photos to prove it!

After a few hours, we boarded the bus again and visited a confectionary factory, in an area called Villa Serrana that made "alfajores" a local sweet layered cookie thing and some meringue treats. I watched, while a woman frosted by hand, one at a time, each little "ding dong" sized treat. I bought a few at 10 pesos each.

Back on the bus again, we were taken farther into Minas about 20km more to a municipal camping and picnic area by a stream called Arequita. There we spread out to eat our self packed lunches. I always seem to bring a ham and cheese sandwich with me on outtings. I tried to analize that once and I came up with the thought that since ham is such a heavily processed food I must think it keeps better in a non- refrigerated situation, besides I like ham.

After eating and stretching out for a while someone said that our group was going to climb a nearby hill.

 Hills are very rare in this flat country so that's why Minas (meaning Mines) is such a valued place. I heard some kids ask, in a sort of reverential way, "daddy that's a hill (cerro) right?" One young 18 year old turned to me and said "you probably don't have areas like this one in the USA, do you?" I had to remind her that just the one state, of Washington, was almost the size of the entire country of Uruguay and that we have 50 states in the USA. So yes, we did have places like this. Thinking to myself of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite valley. Yes, we have hills and we have mountains galore. To soften the blow, I did say that depending on the state you lived in, you might not see a place like this (Kansas comes to mind). For instance, if you lived inland you might never even have seen an ocean! Still the hills of Minas are truly lovely and we were about to climb one.

Most of our picnickers joined the hill climbing party and old and young alike took off down a road following someone, who seemed to know where to go. We followed a park road and aimed toward the hill. Soon we were passing by cows and into fenced land. We shimmied under fencing and took a group picture in a field.

I saw huge birds (bigger than hawks?) circling the hill. I don't know whether there are condors here or not? These birds were really large. We walked toward a grove of or Bosque de Ombúes trees. The Ombu tree is the national tree of Uruguay! These trees, also found in Argentina, are the romantic subject of several books, such as, "Meet me under the Ombu tree" by Santa Montefiore and another book called "Far away and Long ago" by W.H.Hudson. Hudson recalls these trees from his youth growing up on an estancia (ranch) in Argentina. Inside the shade of this wooded area we saw a path.

Soon we were walking, as they say here, Indian style or one at a time, following behind each other up a steep rocky path. For some reason I thought I needed a walking stick so I grabbed a fallen branch. It was very flimsy but I went up the entire hill carrying it. Others saw me and found truly strong sticks but once I had found my stick, I held on to that same ridiculous branch without letting it go.

The path got rockier and steeper but everyone found their own footing and all made it up to the top! The view from the top was sweeping. You could see how green and pretty the surrounding area of Minas is. Also in the distance, you could see other hills. Most hills here are named. The name of the hill we climbed was called Cerro Arequita.

After climbing back down again we went back to the picnic area and the more energetic (not me) took part in sack races and a friend made fresh "Tortas fritas", a fried dough snack.

At about 6:30pm, we boarded the buses one last time, for the ride home. We had spent a 12 hour day! We saw several places and had a great time among friends!  Boy was I tired! How glad I was not to have to, bicycle all the way home after such a long day or to walk a long distance home. My asking the bus to stop on the highway near my street paid off big time! All in all, I would say, that hiring buses for the day was a great bargain for our group at $200 pesos per person!