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Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Kitchen is completed!

Drum roll please....... Our kitchen is done!

A good thing that results from expecting visitors is that I have to get my house "visitor ready" in other words, super duper clean. So, I couldn't help but take advantage of that sprucing up by also taking some photos of my cleaned kitchen. The reason I wanted some good photos of my kitchen is that while Wally was away, I finally finished our kitchen remodel! I had tile back-splashes installed! Jorge Rodao (originally our plumber) does great tile work.  The name on his business card is OkTUbre, his cell number is 094 561 194
He has done a lot of tile work for us and I have always been happy with the results. The week before Wally arrived I did have to scramble to get the kitchen done. The tile company made a mix up on our order and only gave us 1 meter of tile, instead of 2 and then they ran out of that pattern and had to order more to complete the job. So it came right down to the wire, time wise, to get the "surprise" kitchen back-splashes done.

Trends come and go in the fashion industry and that includes the newest home decor designs. One year it's dark wood kitchen cabinets then the next it's white and painted. The same goes for tile and surface materials. For a few years now glass tiles  have been in vogue for kitchen and bath use, versus ceramic. I don't really care. I just wanted something I could live with for a very long while, meaning it needed to look good and be functional. I looked around at the available ceramic tile here but my neighboring shops only seemed to have large square tiles, the kind I would use on the floor. There weren't any "cool" subway tile designs or ceramic mosaics (that I could find). They did however have a variety of border tiles that were made up of glass tiles. I looked online and found out that back in the USA designers were using these glass tiles as whole wall coverings. So, I took the plunge, a glass tile backsplash is what I wanted. The color is a rich mix of browns.

Jorge tried to tell me that in Uruguay they were only using these tiles as a thin border band mixed into regular ceramic ones. Yes, I knew that and I liked that look very much. It was just that I couldn't find any ceramic tiles for my kitchen, that I liked. Since I was trying to get this done in a hurry before Wally's return, I didn't have the time to go searching through stores in Montevideo. Plus, how would I carry home heavy boxes of tile, since I was not driving? So, I asked Jorge how much I needed to buy and he said 2 meters. He drove to the tile store and  I bicycled there to meet him. He put them in his car for the job later. They were kind of expensive because I thought I was getting the 2 meters for $2750 pesos but I was really only quoted the 1 meter price, so double that amount and the job proceeded.

Jorge brought his son Jorge Jr. along so he could see what tiling a kitchen was like. Since it was a small job he thought his son would make a good helper and could learn something. Also, using the border tile as a total wall covering was just odd enough that he wanted him to see the completed job.

Here are some "before" and "after" pics of my kitchen.

The area behind the stove definitely needed a back splash. I would have loved to have put a tile mural behind this area but not finding any for sale, I settled for the tiny glass tiles instead.

I decided to extend the backsplash under the hanging cabinets as well. Wally wouldn't have done that do to the expense, but he wasn't here, so having saved up the money for the job, I indulged myself!

Wally originally wanted the backsplash only above the sink, taking the word "splash" literarily. He had mentioned that he wanted the tile to wrap around the sink window ledge so I took his words into account. I ended up going with that idea and tiling the little window niches as well. As mentioned before, I had talked about tiling the stove area and  had wanted a tile mural but since stoves here in Uruguay come with a hinged glass lid that you lift up when cooking, he didn't see a "real need" to tile that area.  Again, I know it was the expense of the materials that he was thinking about. That is why I secretly saved up some money. I knew I had to complete the job before Wally's arrival.

As regards the finished job, I love the way the glass tiles pick up the light and shimmer. The brown color makes us both want to sink into the kitchen and let it surround us with dark coziness, yet it's also bright, as it sparkles with the play of light bouncing around off the tiles. I'm delighted with the results!

As I predicted, Wally loved my vision and the completed kitchen. Wally loves to cook and he was glad that I had free reign to tile away.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

AdSense Is Nonsense

Well, after almost 2 months of parading ads on our blog, the AdSense team (the portion of Google that provides the ad service) has determined that the "clicks" on our ads were invalid. I don't know what that means, and they don't explain. We feel used (and not in a good way).

However, after "earning" $50 over the two months, which they didn't pay, we were very disappointed. I actually got into the habit of checking the account each day and being excited to learn that we had earned 70 cents or so. But that ended when, out of the blue, they cancelled our account with no warning. Suffice it to say that we have removed the ads and have joined the numerous people who are disenfranchised with Google AdSense. After canceling our account, they would have left the ads on, so I had to remove them, myself. You can read some other complaints here and also here.

So for all you purists out there that felt we were "selling out" by allowing crass materialistic ads to appear on our pristine blog, you should be very happy. We have learned our lesson and would not try and use an ad program, especially AdSense, again. Except for the powerful name backing them, it would seem to be a scam.

Twenty-five dollars a month would not appear to be a large amount, but we could have enjoyed a dinner at our local restaurant. So I will have to content ourselves with an ad-free blog and homemade tacos.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jumping Through Hoops

Well, to finish the story of the problematic driver's license renewal- I finally have it in hand. However, it was not without a lot of work and I didn't get a 10 year- just the 3 year. Here is why......

I didn't realize that my license had a restriction. I don't wear glasses and that is the only restriction I am familiar with from the U.S. However, Uruguay also has medical restrictions, among them high blood pressure. So if you, like me, have hypertension, and it is reported when you apply for the license, you will have a number "2" restriction. The complete rules and regulations are laid out here.

Not knowing this, however, I went to a clinica for the medical test, that I was expecting. After the doctor filled out all the paperwork and I paid ($560 pesos), he slid another form across the desk and let me know that as soon as my doctor filled that out, we could proceed. Since my Medico Uruguaya membership doesn't start until next month, I was stuck. I went to several hospitals, 3-4 clinics and walked around all morning, trying to get a general examination and medical diagnosis for hypertension. Finally, completely defeated, I returned to the clinica and told them I would just have to get my money back and try another day. The assistant said that the doctor could take me on as a "patient" and sign the paperwork. Obviously this was not something that was done regularly.

After some discussion, and a brief examination (and a $300 peso fee), the doctor filled out the paperwork and I was able to show up 20 minutes before my appointment at the Intendencia (city hall). You can make an appointment online, here, or go the the Intendencia in person, as I had. I went into the room about 10 minutes before my appointment, and was curtly told to wait outside until my appointment, at which time I could come in and wait for my name to be called. When my name was finally called, I showed them the paperwork and the lady told me to go upstairs and pay first. She said most people forget, anyway. That was when I found out I could not get the 10 year license. With medical restrictions, you are limited to a 3-5 year license (so they can check your progress, no doubt). So I paid the $371 pesos and after that, I returned, handed over my paperwork, was electronically fingerprinted, photographed and within 10 minutes, walked with a brand new license, good for another 3 years. Coincidentally, it will expire right after the new cedula expires, so that will be a convenient reminder.

So, another hoop jumped through. Uruguay is the land of hoops, so you better get used to it. Now, the next hoop is getting a matricula (auto registration card) in my name and new plates. I can hardly wait.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Trying Day!

Today was a day of tests!

Wally and I had to go into Montevideo today. It seems that Wally suddenly realized that his Drivers License was not valid for 3 years like he thought but was only good for 2 years! So, it was off to the  Capital to get a new one. Our first test of the day happened when we were passing through the toll booth (the Peaje in Spanish). Our discount tag didn't work. The toll normally cost's $50 pesos each way. With our discount it only costs us $10. So rather than shelling out $100 pesos for a roundtrip we pay only $20. That's quite a savings for us. We still had $200 p. left on our account. The problem was the tag had expired. The tags have a small chip in them, allowing them to be read by radio and thus passing the tagged cars through gates faster than a cash transaction would take. The tags have to be renewed every 2 years.

It costs $160 pesos to replace the tag if it becomes damaged or lost. Still even if your tag is okay, the account needs to be renewed every 2 years. That sounds simple enough to do. However, this being Uruguay the land of "red tape" and bureaucracy the answer is, Nooo!  If I've never explained how hard it is to get that discount let me say so now. You have to give them a copy of your House Title or rental agreement, notarized!. You need a copy of your property tax bill. A letter of residency stating that you are a "permanent" resident here. That letter has to use the word "permanent" in it! We had to take our letter back to our notary so he could add that word! That letter has to be notarized! You need a copy of your Car Title. Initially you need a current electric bill with your name and address on it. All of this is kept on file.

When Wally went to ask them to sign us up again/renew it, they said we needed a new (current) electric bill which of course we didn't have on us! Also, upon reviewing our file, it seems that they felt, we were missing 1 page from our vehicle title's paper (a car's title has as many or more pages than a house title does) and suddenly, this time around, they didn't feel, they had a proper house title on record from us for our house. They gave Wally a list of things to copy and bring back. They also said they wanted to "see" (again) all of the original titles to verify the copies we would be leaving with them. Many Uruguayans we know have given up on trying to get this discount. Being retired and poor as we tend to be, it is "Vale la pena" (to be worthwhile) to us because of the money saved! Needless to say, that day, we paid the $50 pesos each way. What an annoyance. What a test!

Another test came when our cars's brakes seized up. It was so hot, 93.2 degrees fahrenheit (34C) that the heat combined with  the stop and go city traffic caused the (too tight) brakes to expand and bind up. The car wouldn't budge in any gear. We were afraid we would get stuck in the middle of traffic and that we'd have to have the car towed. Fortunately for us when Wally "had" to pull over, we stopped right in front of a parking garage. Wally inched the car into a stall and we parked it with the company.

We then walked to where we were originally going to, a health clinic. At least, we were able to see this lovely tree in bloom. The day was bright, the sky was clear and a deep blue but did I mention it was hot, hot, hot! What a bother. What a test!

To get a driver's License here, you have to get a simple health test in an approved clinic that is set up with the proper paperwork needed by the Driving license board. Not just "any" clinic will do. In the past  Wally just walked into the "approved" clinic, waited and then was examined right away. This time he was told that he needed an appointment, Okay, but when he tried to schedule one, even though he was standing "right in front of them" he was told that he had to call in the appointment! We didn't have our cell phone on us. Now this day was really testing Wally's patience! What a challenge. What a test!

We then walked to city hall, and found the drivers licensing department and asked them what Wally might need to get his license besides the health test. They said he would have to make an appointment with them first! However, unlike the health clinic he could schedule one right then,Whew! By now, Wally's feet were beginning to ache. He had made the mistake of trying to look like Don Johnson from "Miami Vice" remember that old TV show? The character wore no socks. Wally had thought he would be driving everywhere instead of walking. Now it was a test of his pain tolerances!

Then, it was time to go home but how were we going get home? What would we do about our car?

 After 4 hours of sitting in the garage the car's brakes cooled down enough to get us out of the city. A few times, we had to pull over to let them cool again. On our last pull over and cool down, we stopped at a gas station and there was a mechanic shop next to it. They didn't do brakes but the mechanic agreed to look at them anyway. After a few pokes and some adjusting by him, the brakes worked fine! No more troubles at all! When we asked how much we owed him he said nothing! He saw how, "out of sorts", we had been and he just wanted to help us!

It seems like, just when the red tape, bureaucracy and tests in Uruguay start to overwhelm you, the Uruguayan people come to the rescue! They make it all "Vale la Pena". Uruguay is a great place to live!