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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Necessary Evil!

CHEMICALS! I'm talking chemical warfare but no, not against people but against Mosquitos!
We haven't had this bad of an attack from Mosquitos since we first blogged about it back in March of 2010. Back then, the capital city Montevideo sent workers around in haz-mat suits (protective clothing) and they sprayed the parks and a few people (waiting for the bus as the trunks went by) spraying street curbs as well. I should have gotten pictures of that but Wally did that post. So far, we haven't heard of any Government response to this flying hoard of insects but yesterday Monday, December 17th, was bad, really bad and today as well.

How bad, you ask? Read some amusing comments from what other expats had to say about the onslaught, I'm quoting them word for word.

If you heard somebody in Atlántida hooting and cursing in Spanglish today while swinging shopping bags around madly, trying to slap himself while not dropping the beer, soda, meat, and bagful of insect killer and repellant, that was me. The blasted things were even attacking the hand carrying a bagful of bug death, even with my hand wrapped with a mosquito repellent moist cloth.

They [mosquitos] are so bad here... The neighbors across the street left to go back to Montevideo like Armageddon was happening. Fast acceleration while not holding the wheel, still one passenger half in, holding a suitcase,yelling, go go (well it was something in spanish) 15 hours ago.

Mariellen, a neighbor of mine in Marindia:

OH MY GOSH......yesterday morning I went ouside in shorts and I looked down at my legs and they were COVERED with mosquitos....was like something out of a B rated old sci fi movie. Imke my housekeeper and I were trying to clean up after Busters 10th birthday party  from the day before, and we were getting eaten alive. I was ready to go to the hospital for a blood transfusion! They sneek into my house too, they are all lurking on the walls,  up high enough I cant reach them. I think I counted 15 just in the kitchen. We do have one of those plug in things I think Raid makes in our bedroom. Not quite sure how it works, and right now dont care! But it works, didnt get bit once last night.

While not a fan of chemicals we couldn't stand it any longer and Wally armed himself with bug spray in hand or in this case a giant spray container full and went out to spray our yard and window ledges. He looked like an Arab sheik since he wisely covered his head with a cloth to protect his head and neck. This was a picture I took of him while I stayed safely inside with my dogs and cat.

We would have been happy to stay holed-up inside but the poor dogs have to go outside for their potty breaks several times a day and the amount of flying predators waiting for them at the door was just too great! So we felt we were forced to spray.

We have also tried to seek alternate, natural solutions to these flying menaces for our indoor use so here is a recipe and project we tried.

This bottle was our first attempt. It was too big! It was not cut properly in-half.
Follow the recipe and use a 2LT. soda bottle, cut the bottle in half unlike this picture.
Mosquito trap:
200 ml of water
1/4 Cup (50 grams) of brown sugar,
2 1/4 tsp (1 gram packet) of yeast
and a plastic bottle of 2 liters
black or dark material or plastic, something to cover the bottle:

Here are the steps to follow:
1. Cut a plastic bottle in half and keep the bottom, but do not throw the top.
2. Cover the bottom part of the bottle with Black Material or whatever you have.
3. Dissolve brown sugar with hot water. Then let it cool. Transfer to bottom section of bottle.
4. Add yeast. DO NOT mix. It will be creating carbon dioxide.
5. Remove bottle cap, insert the top of the bottle upside down into the bottom section, forming a funnel like.
6. Place it in a corner of your home.

I think that the bottom part of the bottle being covered in black is to hid the dead bugs from your view. Don't cover the whole bottle, just put a strip of black on the bottom part. Put 1 or more of these traps around your house. If you don't want your children or animals getting into them or spilling them over, hang them up or put them up high out of reach.

If you are bitten here are some natural chemical free home remedies to help with those bites. Some of these are to help with the itching and others are to help keep them from getting infected because of your scratching them. 

This seems to be the quickest of all home remedies for mosquito bites. Simply moisten the bite area and then rub table salt on the moistened area. Itching should cease immediately. 
Apple Cider Vinegar
To relieve the itching, rub apple cider vinegar directly on the mosquito bites. (Note: this is an old snorkeling and scuba diver's trick to take the sting away from Jelly fish stings) (that or urine!)
Toothpaste is another one of the fastest home remedies for mosquito bites. Just dab a bit of toothpaste onto the mosquito bites and the itching should stop very quickly. Peppermint toothpaste is by far the best.
Ammonia is another one of the home remedies for mosquito bites this is very effective "itch eliminator". Apply ammonia on the bites. 
Aloe seems to top the list of all home remedies for mosquito bites when it comes to both    eliminating the itch and healing the wound. You can grow your own aloe and use the gel from the leaves, or you can use a commercial aloe gel product.

The biggest problem derived from scratching one's itch is the threat of infections. So, for itching that just won't stop, and if you just have to scratch, cut a lemon in half and scratch your itch with the soft pulpy side of it. This will reduce the chances of getting an infection from scratching with your fingernails. 
Sheila from Lynchburg, Virginia writes: "Rub deodorant on the bites and the relief will be almost instant. This also works for other types of itchy bites.
Baking Soda
Sarah from San Francisco, California writes: "After trying many other home remedies for mosquito bites, I tried my own."
"I was bitten numerous times on my feet. I mixed baking soda and water together until I had a paste like substance. Then I covered the bite areas. Itching stopped within a few minutes!" 
Garlic Salt and Seasoning Salt
Stacy from Benton, Missouri writes: "I have a huge problem with mosquito bites! The quickest, simplest of all home remedies for mosquito bites that I have found that works on me, is a mixture of one part water, one part seasoning salt and one part garlic salt. It burns for about 5 seconds and then it is cured!" 

Whether you are using chemicals or trying to go the natural route, I hope this helps you win the war. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Clinic Update!

I must admit, I don't like going to hospitals or doctor's appointments. My last visit to see one was when my cat (Nathan) scratched me about a year ago. I'm glad that I did go then because my arm got infected and it was quickly caught and cured. However, despite having medical insurance here in Uruguay, I have been very bad at taking advantage of any preemptive health care services. This is foolish because with my insurance and the excellent health care here, there is no excuse not to avail myself of this care.

What actually, got me to go recently to our local medical clinic was not the 3 separate new things wrong with me, ranging from a bent finger, some lady issues and a sore shoulder but the fact that we have started to watch the recently ended TV series "HOUSE, MD"starring Hugh Laurie. For some reason when the show was in vogue, a big hit (for 8 years), we never watched it. Now that it's over, we have just gotten 8 seasons worth of these medical drama/comedy shows and are hooked. Watching the medical mystery show with its sarcastic, egotistical doctor going about treating someone new per show several times each week, got me to admit, it was high time that I should go to a doctor and address my new problems.

Reception room at the MEDICA URUGUAYA Salinas clinic
Salinas, the next town over from me just got a new MEDICA URUGUAYA CLINIC building. It was built (less than a year ago) and the new building is pictured above. The clinic originally was located in Salinas proper. It moved from Julieta Ave. the town's main street to out on the main highway. It's now next to another clinic named Clinica Español, a rival mulista or hospital group association ( ??HMO). What's interesting is that my husband was thinking about switching to that one (Español) not only because their healthcare is notably well spoken of but it is also slightly cheaper in payments a month (so far). However, we found out something very interesting, at least for us, which halted our decision to change to this other medical association's group.

In the clinic 2 signs prohibiting smoking and drinking Mate!
As most of you regular readers know, my husband and I are Jehovah's Christian Witnesses. That means that besides going to weekly meetings at our Congregation and preaching, often from door to door (which yes, some people find annoying and others don't), we are also people who stay away from Blood products whether additions into food like blood sausages etc... or Blood Transfusions. No vampires in our religion!  Staying away from eating blood can be easily done by reading labels or asking questions like, why is it called "Black pudding" or why is that called "blood sausage"? We base this on scriptural history starting from a command to Noah after leaving the ark allowing him to eat meat but not it's blood, to the Jewish people (Leviticus Chapter 17 verses 12 and 13 ) up to Christians receiving a similar command in the Bible book of Acts Chapter 15 verses 28 and 29. So Wally and I eat meat, yes, it's permitted as a choice in the Bible but we don't eat added blood or meat not properly bled after hunting. All 8 million of Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide follow this standard.

The problem comes about with our strictly following the thought not to add it to our bodies in any way. ***This post is not meant to preach it's just informational in that we found out that the medical association of MEDICA URUGUAYA CLINICA "respects" our stand on BLOODLESS SURGERIES and the Español Clinica does not!!! In fact, we were told the Español clinics get very testy with Jehovah's Witnesses and our desires. That's why when you are most vulnerable after some accident or life threatening illness it's important to know ahead of time which hospital is willing to treat you and respect your wishes and which isn't.

The double picture above was taken from a brochure in the USA from the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle,Washington. They are a hospital that has made great strides in Bloodless surgery which was important for us to know about when we lived in Seattle Washington. The picture used in their brochure is of a dear friend of ours who has an amusing last name, he is Jim Pickle. Swedish hospital did a quadruple heart by-pass surgery on him that was completely bloodless meaning he received NO BLOOD TRANSFUSION during the 5 hour and 5 minute operation! That was back in 1998 and Jim is still alive and well! So such surgeries can be done without Blood transfusions and technics have been pioneered for our use in such situations. I also had an emergency operation once (not heart related) and I too used Zero blood in my operation. So the bottom line is that we are staying with the MEDICA URUGUAYA CLINICA! I'm glad they respect our wishes.

Hospital in Montevideo

We had to go down to Montevideo to that associations' hospital and sign up with a "Solicitud of Afiliación" and get added to the group representing our Faith (our choice). We signed liability wavers.

On the plus side, belonging to a large groups' plan means we will get a few extra benefits that we wouldn't have gotten by just signing up on our own. Of course, it only took us 4 years of enough Spanish to learn all of this just now.

Meanwhile, I finally did go to my local clinic in Salinas to get a blood test (note: going out is okay just not added in!)  and also a urine test. The combo of tests cost about $273 (pesos). An Ultrasound only cost me 57 pesos or about $3 US. Then I was sent to another branch located in the town of Solymar (pass the toll bridge).

That is one place to get X-RAYS taken. The other choice would have been MVD.The cost of the two X-RAYS was $330 (pesos or under $18 total US). The interesting thing is that they are developed while you wait and you get to take them home with you. I will bring them to my next doctors' appointment.

Mammogram information. Since this post has been about medical information I will mention that while we were in Montevideo for our paperwork, I spied a mobile Mammogram unit. I've seen the giant trailer before, parked across the street from the Tres Cruces Mall but this time I went in to check it out.  It was commissioned to promote the fight against Cancer by offering FREE Mammograms (mamografías) to women over 40. THE SERVICE IS FREE!!!

The prerequisites are : *You have to be over 40, *You can not have had a mammogram during the last 11 months. *You can not be pregnant (no estas embarazado). * You can not be breast feeding/Lactating (no estas amamantando) for the last 6 months. *You can not have a pacemaker (marcapaso).*You can not have any visible breast maladies, nor been operated on for breast cancer.*You can not have breast prothesis/implants as this would interfere with the diagnostic. If you do have prior mammogram results bring these with you. Bring your cedula ID. If you don't fulfill these prerequisites you will not receive a mammogram!

Mobile Mammogram Unit parked across from Tres Cruces Mall
The day and time for this service is Monday through Friday from 1:00PM till 5:00pm (EL lunes hasta viernes de 13 a 17 horas),  You can make an appointment by calling the Telephone number 2409 40 68 or  2409 43 66 Another unit is often located in front of City Hall (Intendencia, MVD). You can find these mobile units 6 months out of the year in these locations.

An interesting thing to note however, is that a sign painted on the rear of the trailer mentions a name some of you might have heard about, that of The "Late" Reverend SUN MOON. He was a very controversial character. He was Korean and had followers known by some as "Moonies", He did not believe Jesus was a saviour, rather he proclaimed himself, the Messiah and humanities savior. He was known for his odd mass group weddings (often of virtual strangers to each other). For example, in 1982 he performed a mass marriage ceremony for some 2075 couples all at once, this was held in Madison Square Garden, New york, USA (a sports arena).  He was also known for his business empire and controlling interests in many newspapers in several countries, including Washington DC (USA), Argentina and one here in Uruguay. He liked to make a name for himself and his church by supporting non-profit organizations. I didn't see any religious tracts inside the trailer, Whew! I just found it interesting that somewhere along the way, he and his wife donated this Cancer detection service to Uruguay and it's women.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


On almost any street corner in Montevideo, you can enjoy the aroma of vanilla and sugar coated peanuts being roasted on little carts, where you can buy a small "tube" of garrapiñadas for about 20 pesos (one US dollar) that will serve 2 nicely.

I have been here 4 years and until a few weeks ago, didn't realize that I could make them at home, and with almost no effort. You can caramalize almonds and walnuts, as well, but the peanuts are most common.

Here is what you need: sugar, water, vanilla and peanuts. Not much, huh? I buy raw peanuts (mani crudo) from the local feria and roast them at 350°F (176°C) for about 15 minutes. Then I use them in the recipe for garrapiñadas, below.

1 Cup Water
2 Cups sugar
2 Cups roasted peanuts (300 grams or 11 ounces)
2 tsp vanilla

It couldn't be simpler. Mix water and sugar together in a large pan (I used an old frying pan, but make sure it is generous size), and mix over medium high heat until dissolved. Add peanuts and vanilla and you are on your way. Keep boiling and stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken.

Eventually (after about 10-12 minutes), it will produce a white foam. Then you can take it off the fire and stir vigorously, and the mixture will literally dry up before your eyes. The coating on the peanuts will be white and there will be sugar "dust" in the bottom of the pan.

Return to a lower flame and work the peanuts and sugar until it begins to caramelize. When they are a rich brown color (but not burnt), take them off the flame, turn them onto a non-stick surface and make sure they are separated. Voila! You have garrapiñadas.

I thought I should add this warning that a thoughtful reader passed on:

One must be EXTREMELY careful when working with candy made from caramelized sugar.  Once the water boils out of the sugar, the temperature quickly goes WAY above 212 degrees, the boiling point of water.  And sugar is like oil in that it holds much more heat than water.  So sugar burns are much worse than burns from even boiling water.  When sugar just BEGINS to turn golden, the temperature is around 350 degrees.  So one must never even THINK of testing the temperature of melted sugar with a finger, or of licking the spoon!!

You may not live in a Spanish country, but you can enjoy garrapiñadas wherever you live.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Uruguay,Umbanda and something else.

This is an Updated posting! Thanks to all who read the blog and commented!!!.

November 2, here in Uruguay, is called "Día de Los Difuntos" or "Day of the Dead". It coincides with All saints day in some churches. It seems that here in Uruguay some people go to the graveyards and clean up the graves and decorate them with flowers on this weekend.

But there is another ritual that one can run into that's a little scary.
I only mention this because I tend to write about things that I stumble into or observe here where I live.  This weekend I literally walked into or came across a tradition tied to a ritual of voodoo.

This is not the norm for Uruguayans as shown by some comments.
As an Uruguayan I'm a little offended that we could be seen as a country filled by Umbandist practitions, since this is NOT the norm for our society.
Another commenter wrote:
Of course those things on the beach were not offerings to the dead. These kinds of offerings of food and liquor could be offerings to Lemanjá, the goddes of the Sea of the afroamerican religion of Umbanda. It is a mix of beliefs of the african slaves with the catholic religion. But the presence of chicken can be a signal of black magic rituals...the day of the dead has nothing to do with this offerings, you can see them all the year long in places like parks and beaches and another commenter wrote:
Those beach offerings are part of Umbanda (a religion with african origins)

It was a beautiful clear day and hot! Kinda of muggy hot where you tend to sweat when exerting yourself. So I broke down and took my dogs to the beach after a self-imposed ban of it because it was a mess from the last wind storm. The beach looked a little better, not much but a little, so we went into the water, dogs and I (legs only). On coming out and walking along the sand I began to smell an odor which of course, dogs love to check out. That's when I saw the cause. An offering of some kind.

2 dead chickens were laid on a Styrofoam plate each, along with 2 bottles of Alcohol (1 whisky, 1 Sangria wine) and a jar of honey.

There is a Umbanda spiritistic religion (of African-mixed origins) practiced here in Uruguay. Also there is a separate cult practice, a following to a "goddess or Virgin of the Sea" called Lemanjá. I've seen a stature set up of that on the beach at Punta del Este. It's a pagan nature religion celebrated on February 2 where little boats are floated out to sea asking for wishes to be granted. However, these two cults don't offer up animal sacrifices as the chickens would indicate. So it's seems that I stumbled into something else entirely.

In the future I won't be reporting on anything like this again. I would never have reported on it now, except for the fact that I ran into this scene. While learning about people's customs and traditions is interesting and I freely share what I learn about them, I can only go so far into certain types of them. I have to remember that I have important lessons learned.  Wherever I go in this world I must remember this warning about Spiritism and magic practicing beliefs and the dangers of them. Please look up in the Bible book of Deuteronomy Chapter 18 and verses 9 thru 13.  *** Start with verse 13, then go back and read verses 9 10,11,12 and 13 again in that 18th chapter. Among the many types of religions here in Uruguay, Christian or otherwise, there are over 11,000 Jehovah's Christian Witnesses also, here in Uruguay. Native Uruguayans born here who like me stay away from Spiritistic practices because we were warned to keep free from them. If you have any questions about why it's a good idea to stay free from this, feel free to ask any of Jehovah's Witnesses for a free home Bible study or even a simple discussion.

I just thought you'd like to know what's happening.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tornado! October 22rd.

Okay, it happened 4 days ago. I should have blogged about it sooner but after my Sept. 19th post called "Gone with the wind", I wondered if anyone really wanted to read another weather post. Then I remembered, hey, some of you readers like to keep up with what's happening here in Uruguay so here it goes.

Only 1 month after our big wind storm of September, the Meteorological department started to issue, on Saturday, some warnings of an impeding storm due in a few days. Heavy rains and winds were forecast.

Satellite Image of the evolution of the storm.
Alerts! For the departments of Colonia, San Jose, Canelones (our community/county) Lavelleja, Treinta y Tres and Montevideo that meant being on "ORANGE" Alert. The worst was expected from 0 hours Monday night (Military time) to 21 hours. About 5 inches of rain fell in Colonia on Monday.

Due to winds and torrential rain, in the town and area of Artigas, 30 people were evacuated along with a long list of other people in other places. 

Piriápolis,  main road/rambla washed over by waves.
However, "RED" Alert warning status was given to the Departments of Maldonado and Rocha! It was predicted that winds from between 75 Kilometers (46mph) up to 120km (75mph) and occasional gusts higher than that would hit those 2 counties/departments.

Despite being on "RED" alert, nobody could imagine that on Monday the 22nd of October, Rocha would experience the phenomena of a Tornado touching down! According to the newspaper EL DIARIO, at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon a 300 meter wide (1/5 of a mile) tornado appeared. It broke 2 houses apart and caused a horse to fly away! Sadly it crushed a calf as well. 14 people were left homeless there. Amazingly despite much destruction, no human lives were lost. Hurricanes and Tornados are not usually experienced down here in Uruguay. Strong wind and gusts, yes. We also experience short bursts of heavy rain sporadically, along with a lot of frightening thunderstorms, but a tornado and last month's Tropical storm were unusual.

As mentioned we were only on Orange alert in Canelones so thankfully for us it wasn't as bad. Wally can sleep through anything but since we still have 3 tall pines trees right outside our bedroom window I found it hard to relax and sleep during some of the powerful wind gusts that came during Monday night.

The beach by our house showed the effects of the wind and rain. The water was blacken, full of wood bits and who knows what. While I didn't see a flying horse go by, the odd sight of a dead chicken being washed back and forth by the surf made me stop and pause (later, Wally made a lame joke about "Chicken of the Sea" the name of a North American canned tuna brand).

Dead Cat fish, from some stream were washed onto the shore and sadly lots of discarded used plastic bags which was proof that using canvas/cloth tote bags for shopping can help the environment. What surprised me was that we've never been as fully warned about the use of and proper discard of string and rope as an environmental aid. I have never before seen as much jute, string and rope as I did laying on the beach after the storms aftermath.

My normal route to the beach using a little foot path had to be circumvented because the wind and waves of the storm had caused a sharp sand-shelf drop off.  I was too much of a wimp to go leaping off the short ledge. About 2 houses further up the street away from me is a concrete set of stairs built by the city down to the beach so I decided to used those.

I realize that I must still have "a glass half-empty" mentality left over from North America. After a week of moping inside because of rainy windy weather, I was delighted to be walking in the sun shine again. However, I just couldn't enjoy this nice day at the beach as littered and kinda stinky as it was. Still the Uruguayan people have a way of enjoying what they can, where they can.  I couldn't help but take a photo of how many were really enjoying the day at this same beach. The difference in attitude must be the result of all that mate drinking, which I haven't gotten a taste for yet.

The beach littered with after storm debris
 Summer season is about to start and the city always bull-dozes the beach to clean it up from trash. I will enjoy the beach after cleanup. With my snooty attitude, I went home and gave my dogs a flea-shampoo and bath knowing that it would be quite awhile before I would be taking them back down to the beach and swim in the blacken water.

The town of Atlántida in the background
Still, I couldn't help feeling a little guilty when I thought back to how much someone else's dog (a Golden Retriever) was enjoying the beach despite the mess. Maybe, I need to start drinking a little Mate and appreciate that after a storm, even a tornado that in Uruguay life goes on, and Uruguayans enjoy life!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Real de San Carlos

Real de San Carlos is just a stones throw away from Colonia del Sacramento where we spent our Anniversary weekend (about 5 kilometers away). I wanted to give it it's own post because this area has a unique history.

This area, called Real de San Carlos, was built at the beginning of the 20th century by Nicolás Mihanovich a real estate promoter as a tourist complex. It cost him an investment of some $1.5 Million (US), A lot of money in those days and it included a luxury hotel, a casino, a jai alai court, and a racetrack. Most interesting of all however was that Mr. Mihanovich built a Bull Ring into this tourist complex. Only the race track (horses) is still is up and functioning (People say entrance is $1 for men and women are free) I'll have to check that out next time. The Plaza de toros (bullring) opened on January 9th, 1910. It could hold 10,000 people. Bull fighting was outlawed here in 1912.

So you can see that the bull ring was only open for 2 years, it held only 8 bullfights in total. Urban legend has it that the then President of Uruguay, President José Batlle y Ordóñez once took his daughter with him to see one of the bull fights held there. Upon seeing how the bull was treated and then finally killed in-front of everyone she cried and complained so much to her father that the sport was then banned throughout Uruguay. He was an interesting President who fought for unemployment compensation, 8-hour work days, universal suffrage and many other things.

The design of the building is in the Moorish style with key-shaped entries and arrow shaped window and stairway openings. The building like so many other unfortunate ones here in Uruguay has been left to neglect and decay. The crumbling building seems to have been made of brick and cement with a fantastic iron structure holding it all up.

Of course, it has fallen into such a dangerous state that it is now closed for safety issues. Being the photographer that I am I shimmied under the chain link fence and took a look inside watching all the while for falling stones from above.

I am too much of an animal lover to ever want to visit an actual bull fight. To hurt the bull with lances is just cruel and mean. Just make the bull a little mad and maybe it's a fair sport but wounding it and killing it is awful. As some recent visitors to my house who have actually seen a live fight in Spain said "Yeah, We'll never go again, it was bad". When I entered the abandon ring  Wally saw that I hadn't been shot or killed so he ventured inside too for a photo opportunity. When would we ever be in the center of a bull ring again? Both Wally and I remarked how little maneuvering space was really there imagining that a wounded pissed-off bull was charging at us. Little wonder that bull fighters need a special breed of courage or insanity to face a charging bull. Their fighting costumes alone can be worth Thousands of dollars. For only 8 exhibitions, this bullring in Uruguay had some famous fighters of its time appear in this ring.

Real de San Carlos has a tiny railway museum across the street from this bullring with some restored rail cars. The sign for this museum says to keep your ticket, so I don't know if maybe this museum might be a part of the circuit of the ones in Colonia or not. The bus route of sightseeing that I mentioned in my previous post about Colonia stops here at the bullring and the train museum. It's 1 of the 10 points of interest. That's how we found out about the bus circuit.

This post should have been called bullring and sunset because of all the pictures I wanted to include. After wandering around the bullring we noticed that the sun was soon to set. We headed to the beach to join the many others with the same idea of seeing the sun set over the water.

Slowly people gathered as the time grew nearer. Wally and I decided to go a little farther up the beach away from the others and we were rewarded by a memorable sight. A man was exercising his racehorse in the river at sunset. I snapped away!

Then as the sun finally set, we watched a small rowboat paddle off into the setting sun.

A fitting memory of a happy Anniversary weekend well spent in Real de San Carlos.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Gone With The Wind!

Well the Santa Rosa storm that usually occurs in the last week of August never materialized but the month of September more than made up for it weatherwise.

The first week of September started in dense fog. For several days it thickened and a strange erie glow settled down upon us. Fog has a way of darkening the day but at the same time like frosted glass it diffuses light, so the days were incongruously dark and light. Air traffic was delayed, some planes were rerouted through Chili and for a few hours the airport closed during the thickest part of the day.

Days after the fog we had a reprieve with some very warm days that reminded me summer was just around the corner. Wally even bought a fishing pole and had some great ambitions (dreams) of catching fish but that's another post! Oops! No summer yet. The weather took a turn for the worse and it poured and poured down rain which proved to be a problem later on in the month.

After a few days when the rain finally stopped a beautiful double Rainbow appeared! This rainbow was so spectacular that photos of it appeared on many a Facebook site. Our neighbors took turns taking photos of each other with the rainbow behind them. It was so oo the thing to do that I couldn't help but snap a photo of Wally in front of it. He even hinted that we should run down to the beach and start looking for the fabled "POT OF GOLD" supposedly located at the end of every rainbow. The rainbow was that close to our house and bright that we thought it ended on the stretch of beach right in front of our house.

Usually a Rainbow comes at the end of a storm but as to weather, the big news out of Uruguay for September has been a fierce Tropical storm, a spring cyclone originating from Brazil. Almost hurricane strength winds blew for 2 days, howling away while trees swayed. During the worse of it we watched the TV news along with many others. The News warned everyone to stay home in their houses. Emergency telephone numbers were flashed. Scenes of Montevideo, the countries' Capital City showed firemen battening down the hatches. Later reports from people who work downtown in MVD said it was too dangerous to walk the streets as many high-storied apartment buildings windows' burst, raining down broken glass below. Cars had debris crush their tops from loose flying metal and garbage can lids. I have now learned that 2 people died in that storm, a father and son crossing a bridge. Many people were injured and even the President of this country, President Jose Mujica had his nose cut by flying debris.

Our power was intermittent during Wednesday, with lights flickering. Finally during the night on Wednesday September 19th. the winds blew so hard that havoc struck. Many trees came down with a roar. Thursday morning we awoke to no electricity. It was like the movie "The day After". The day itself was strangely calm because the winds had cleared the skies but the ground was littered with debris and trees branches.  I discovered that the lone pine tree in my neighbor's yard, a subject of many of my photos including the title photo of this post had broken in half taking down both our neighbor's and our power lines (the telephone line was dangling but working).

Since we had no power I went around the block checking on the damage to our neighborhood, taking photos. Across the street a neighbor who lives in Montevideo had their neighbors tree fall down in front of and blocking their house. The driveway way now blocked. I called them to let them know. The husband was worried about their newly installed Swimming pool but in my broken spanish I assured them the tree had fallen outside their property they just couldn't use the driveway. Of course that tree took out more power lines.

The wind Wednesday night was so strong that huge trees were simply uprooted and fell down along their entire length. One neighbor, a couple of blocks away, said she had quince trees (15 trees) come down! I had guessed 5 large ones but no, 15 she kept saying! It was a miracle that her house was still standing! All of the trees surrounding her house fell toward the street and not inward. Of course they brought down more power lines! After getting estimates for removing the fallen trees the cheapest she got was 800 pesos per tree and she had quince/15! However she was able to trade the work for the wood itself and thus save a small fortune. The sound of Gardeners and chainsaws filled the air on Thursday.

One house towards Salinas (the town nearby me) did have a tree fall on it's roof. I didn't see a crack in any of the walls though. I think the tree was just short enough to not have it's full weight land on the house but just it's top. Still, how scary to live through that!

Not since the year 2005 has such a strong wind storm occurred. It is said that Brazil knew before we did that we would experience the storm but that because of antiquated equipment and little money our weather-forecasters were not equipped to give an advanced warning. So talked about going on strike in protest.

About 10% of Uruguay has lost electric Power because of the storm and fallen trees. While most of my neighbors on my street seem to have power, we are in that 10%. It has been 5 days now that we are without lights, TV and yes internet! I have written this post on my portable laptop on battery power.

Crews are out fixing downed power lines as quick as they can. We do have telephone service so we were able to report our loss. Our refrigerator and freezer has now been emptied of food. Fortunately the storm hit the day before our feria food run so that we didn't have a weeks worth of food go rancid. The dogs enjoyed the last of our hamburger. The good news is that for a couple of days it's been sunny so that our Solar water heater (which didn't blow away) has provided us with hot showers. Our wood stove works with an electric blower so we can't use that but I bought last year a portable gas heater so we are keeping warm with that unit. Since we use tanks of super gas to cook with we can go to the store and buy food to cook with for the day, and of course, we have flashlights and candle power.

Still we can count our blessing! If you remember in earlier post our next door neighbor put a new roof on his house and he was concerned about our 2 towering pine trees. Well, he agreed to pay for their removal, and now how glad I am that they were gone before this storm arrived! Also, 2 visitors from the States, Lauren and Tim gave us a little gift of 3 candles when they left. Lauren had remarked how expensive they were and that since they were leaving the country to return back home they thought they'd give them to us. Well, little did we know then how much we would be grateful for that gift! While our other candles burned down in just a few hours those little candles in their holders lasted for 4 days! I guess you do get what you pay for! Many a neighbor has offered his house for cooking or showers but we had that covered. A bag of lemons mysteriously appeared on our doorstep. We were able to make cold tap water lemonade. So a big "Thank You" to whoever left that bagful.

Also, we are Thankful that we were able to attend our 3 day District Assembly smack-dad in the middle of all of this. We had our bus tickets prepaid and the Assembly Hall (several cities away) had heat and lights and Bible discussions all day so we were surrounded by our Christian friends.

The power just came on in our house but it's still iffy. When more than two lights are on they start to dim and flicker. I am publishing this post as quickly as I can while the power holds. Tomorrow, the 25th of September we are expecting a smaller wind storm. The winds have already started so let's hope we weather through this one as safely as the last.