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Friday, March 25, 2011

Propane Update!

Yesterday, I mentioned that the Propane worker's strike was over and we would have to "wait and see" when they would get around to filling orders again.

Well, you can imagine our surprise when the phone rang at 10:15 pm at night and they said "Garrafa!" That word, is what got through to us, while trying to figure out who was calling and why?

Oh! We finally understood, the company wanted to know if they could deliver our refill right then. So, at 10:25PM a motorcycle drove up our drive and by 10:30 we were gassed up. Oops , that didn't sound right, you know what I mean! The price of the refill was increased by UY $40 pesos (about $2 US). I don't know if this is the new increased price but the 3% increase in wages has to come from some where. For us, $2 is not too bad but I can see where that amount might be tough on some families.                                             

The funny thing is that back in the USA, 10:30 at night, might be considered too late to conduct business, but not here.  The company knows how important their product is and how their customers had been inconvenienced (without propane for a week) so here, they were taking the initiative in contacting  people and delivering what was needed. Wow! See, Uruguay can be customer oriented, I'm impressed!You can see in the photos how dark the nights are now. March 21, was the first official day of Autumn

 Forever, the picture taker and bold as all get out, I asked our delivery guy to pose with the tank.

Oh, was it too late at night to be calling us? Why no! We were just eating dinner! The 10/10:30 pm is a typical meal time here in Uruguay! See how well we are adapting?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

S#*%-!. It Happens!

Ha ha, count again! This is not the word my dad says, like the name of that new TV show. I just couldn't help myself. S#*%-! in this case stands for Strike.

It seems that in most expat blogs (ours included) we tend to concentrate on the upbeat, rosy colored expat life. So as to give a slightly truer sense of life down here, I'll mention 2 types of Strikes!

Labor strikes, we were recently effected by a propane shortage caused by striking workers. Most outlying communities rely on Garrafas (propane tanks) rather than on natural gas to supply our fuel needs. Our cook stove is run on such a tank. Ordering a new tank is fairly easy. You call and usually within 10 minutes they come to your house and bring you a filled tank to switch your empty one for. The basis for the strike was that the tanks are heavy, anywhere from 25-30 Kgs. (55-66 lbs.) Other workers for Ancap (the oil and a concrete company)  are prohibited from handling bags of concrete for instance, in excess of 25kgs but this didn't cover propane tanks.

The conflict and end of the strike was met by a shorter work week from 44 hours down to 40 hours and an increase in pay of 3%. The weight issue was bypassed in favor of the hours and pay.

Okay, This strike didn't really effect us. We were simply made aware of it. We, (read I) didn't ever want to be caught in the middle of dinner, waiting, for a refill to show up. So I insisted on buying and having a spare tank already filled with propane in our storage cabinet. That way in a minute or two Wally could change them out and we could continue cooking. Usually we would call the next day, for the now empty "spare tank" to be refilled.

Boy, am I glad we had 2 tanks because our gas ran out on day 1, of a week's strike. Hey, I know, what a wimp- only a week. Still had we only had the one tank, we would have had no propane to cook with at all. As it is, today, Thursday is the first day back to work for the strikers and they aren't up to taking orders yet. I'm glad our spare tank was full. We should be good for several weeks on this one tank until the other tank gets filled. In the past I had heard of a shortage that lasted so long they only filled tanks half full (way before our time). So in true expat style (read excessive) my "Costco" training kicking in.  I will be buying a 3rd tank. This way, one will be in use, with 2, to spare for future contingencies. Sorry, woman worry mode in action.

Lightning strikes, happen quite frequently in Uruguay. I've read about several other expats who have lost computers, and other items up and running during thunderstorms. Wally usually poo poos my worries but then last year I got up during the night and saw our cook stove sparking. While it runs on gas, the broiler is electric. I only knew it was on fire because I saw a strange reflection on a piece of furniture and followed the glow back to the stove. We never did fix that broiler. Now, whenever we are home and I see lightning flashes, we have a ritual of unplugging computers and everything else except the refrigerator, because of food spoilage issues. We also turn off circuit breakers at the main panel. If the refrigerator ever  goes at least it's only one big ticket item. Even our phone is pulled out of it's phone jack, transformers should be pulled out too as I heard of an Expat's house getting zapped through that.

So, now you know a little of the down side of living here in uruguay! Did I mention the winds? Oh well, another time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Friendly Country

What a wonderful country this is. This is almost not to be believed. But here goes the story. A couple of weeks ago I posted "A Sad, Sad Tale", lamenting the fact that tequila (an essential element for successful karaoke singing) was so expensive and that we had been forced to drop down to cachaça (a relatively inexpensive Brazilian liquor). It was, of course, tongue-in-cheek, but nevertheless, sadly true.

However, a few days later, one of our readers (a doctor, living in Rocha, near the Brazilian border) emailed me and let me know that liquors, purchased in the duty-free shops of Chuy (a border town) were less expensive. He told me that he would check on the price, the next time he visited. We were surprised (to say the least), when he emailed that he had purchased a bottle of José Cuervo and was going to send it to us as a gift. Wow! The cost of the 750 ml bottle was about U$S 12.00. In our local store (Tienda Inglesa) it cost well over twice that (I don't even think they stock the "special silver") and in Seattle, it would have cost $20. Now, we honestly don't drink that much, at all, but we do "take a shot" before karaoke (you wouldn't want to hear us sing without a drink), so it looks like a visit to Chuy is going to be in our future.

So today, as we were leaving the house to visit some friends, we received a delivery from Tiempost. Now, Tiempost is like UPS in the States. I have shipped several things with them and they seem to be very reliable. The funny thing is, that one of our best friends, Luisa, just started working for them and told them "she knew us and knew exactly where we lived". It was she who delivered the box.

So, to sum it all up, isn't this just the friendliest little country?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Clear Skies and a "Supermoon"

Okay, this has to be one of the oddest ties-ins to a post of mine, but here it goes.

Yesterday, I was wandering around taking photos for a future post I am planning to do and I noticed how clear and blue our skies are here in Uruguay. After living in Seattle for 18 years and living with cloudy overcast weather (even in summer), I now truly appreciate the intense blue color above me.

So, upon coming back to my house and thinking about the spectacular day I had enjoyed it was just a natural progression to start thinking about how clear our nights are too! At night, I often enjoy looking at the Milky way that seems to hover directly above my house and also enjoy the fact that I now am quite familiar with the Southern Cross formation of stars. 

But tonight, I will be looking at the moon, the "Super moon" expected to shine!

The "experts" say this moon will appear 30% brighter and 14% larger to us Earthlings tonight because it is in a closer orbit than usual.  Especially, because it happens to be a full moon tonight, Saturday the 19th, 2011 and the sky is due to be relatively clear, it is a "must see" this evening.

The moon is due to rise at 8:10 pm so be ready and seated at 8pm.
At 3pm eastern daylight time the moon will be at its closest to earth since 18 years ago, at 221, 565 miles (356, 575 Kilometers) away. The next time this will occur is in 2016. Theoretically the moon is only truly full for a few seconds that's why you have to be ready and seated waiting for it to occur!

To have a moon become full within 50 minutes of it's also being so close to the earth is just Super or in this case a "Supermoon".

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Flora After The Fauna!

 Well,  after the great animal debate about whether we saw a comadreja or an opossum it seems that we saw both! A comadreja is a species of opossum (There are 60 species worldwide).  It is found in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay!  La comadreja in Uruguay is it's Spanish name. There are 3 types of comadrejas in Uruguay,  colorada chica (Monodelphis dimidiata), colorada grande (Lutreolina cassicaudata), and the most common, overa (Didelphis albiventris). Although if you hit a Google translation for "La comadreja" it only says, "weasel" for that name. The scientific Latin names are in parenthesis and are different in each case. La comadreja is a rather generic term. The Overa has white ears and I think that's the one we saw. The cousin of the opossum is called a possum and it lives in Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand. The North American Virginia Opossum is colloquially called "possum" for short, hence the word misunderstanding. Click on both of the above links for more information. See how informative our blog can be!

Now for the Flora! 

This plant is commonly called, "The Swiss Cheese plant" because of the natural hole design in the leaves (also known as a split leafed Philodendron).  It was growing on the property when we bought our house but I had to dig it up so that our patio could be poured. It then sat in a plastic bag with soil for several months waiting for me to plant it somewhere. Well, I finally did and almost 3 years later, this year it surprised me by flowering! Someone once said to me that under the right conditions, everything blooms even people. So I'm guessing that I put this plant in the right spot!

The leaves of this plant are poisonous and will cause skin irritation ( handle with gloves) also causing mouth irritation, sick stomach aches and even temporary voice loss if ingested. Children and cats should be watched! Yet, the Wikipedia article I read said that sometimes Mexicans make a sort of tea out of the roots and drink it for arthritis??? I think I'll pass on that.

The plant flowering really surprised me! It is a very thick, pure white petal. It's probably not even called a petal as it's very rubbery and sheaf like. It seems to have several coming up and they are rather large.

On closer examination, the inside of the petal is embossed with the design of that huge center stamen. The interesting thing is that I had heard years ago that this plant also produces an edible fruit! The wiki. link shows that the fruit is green and cob-like (like maize). It can take up to a year to ripen. The fruit, until then, can cause stomach aches.

You will know when the fruit is getting ripe because it will produce a pungent odor, some say it's even a slightly cheesy smell! Then the scales that cover the long fruit start popping off. You can then cut it off the plant and put it in a bag to help ripen it. Why would you want to eat it? Well the flesh tastes like a cross between pineapple and mango! The texture is of pineapple others say it tastes like Jackfruit but I don't know what that tastes like. Check the above wiki link to see what the fruit will look like. So I will wait and see if my flowers produce any fruit. If so, maybe next year, I'll be able to wait and sample it.

Always something new to learn about here in Uruguay.                  

Saturday, March 12, 2011


We had a little visitor, this morning. When I went out to open up the shutters, lo and behold, there was a little possum who had snuck in behind the shutters- probably to escape from the neighborhood dogs. He did not seem to be hurt, and has moved behind the open shutters and taken a little bread. I am sure he will find his way home, tonight, when it gets darker.

I also got a new one peso coin and this now features the armadillo (which in Uruguay is called a "mulita"). I have always thought of armadillos as being desert creatures, but apparently they can be found in Uruguay (I don't know where, however).

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Sad, Sad Tale

This evening, we decided to do a little Karaoke (just the two of us). Normally, we "warm up" with a shot of tequila, salt and lime. For those of you who have never done a tequila shot (all 4 of you), here is the routine:

     1. Lick the back of your hand, then shake or apply salt to the wet spot.
     2. Take the lime in that same hand
     3. Take the shot glass of tequila in the opposite hand

     Now (in order):  1) Lick the salt off the back of your hand  2) Down the shot of tequila  and  3) Put the wedge of lime in your mouth and suck out the juice. This is one reason why tequila "shots" are such a safe drink. As long as you can remember the order, you are OK. When you begin to think, "Let's see.... which come first????"- then you've had too many.

Anyway, back to Karaoke night. It has come to this. Some months ago, I stopped buying tequila. Because it is in import, it is expensive and I cannot justify paying the price. So I have substituted Cachaça (a Brazilian liquor), which is acceptable. However, tonight we ran out of limes and had to use lemon wedges. So it has come down to this: instead of tequila shots and lime, we have been forced to rely on Cachaça and lemon wedges. I can tell you that the karaoke suffered.

But don't feel sorry for us. We'll survive, somehow. People all over are having to make sacrifices and we are no exception. So we will struggle on through, doing our best with what we have.