I’ve been reading The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify, a needful reminder.  We may have moved to Uruguay somewhat minimally — ten suitcases and a pallet with sixteen cartons, a BMX bike, and a floor lamp — but oh my, how stuff has collected since! Some of the ideas in The Joy Of Less I had come up with on my own. In the 1980s, I parted with my yearbook collection and (worthless, seriously) old journals in Germany by putting them in a box with a “dispose” date. In 1997, when my father died, I took all the tools and materials in his workshop I’d known inside and out for over thirty years and laid them out in the “wrong” places, making it simple work indeed to sort trash from treasure the next morning. It was like walking into someone else’s garage sale.

In the past week, several boxes, some with perfectly good stuff, have gone to EMAUS, the local thrift store. For example, the electric buffer I bought, thinking I would assume a more conscientious attitude toward our car’s appearance. I didn’t. A nice hard shell suitcase that became “oversize” after its first trip when the airlines changed their specifications. A heavy-duty hoe that I thought just the ticket for cleaning the ditch in front of our house. Wrong. It’s simply taken up space in the garage for over six years.

And for almost two years I’ve had the uncompleted, last work of Tex Farrell stored with our suitcases above the stairs. Haunting as it is, and fascinating a glimpse of his technique as it is, there’s no really good way to display it. And what to do with some large pieces of his leather he left? Aha! Knife and straightedge and now we have dog protection for our “new” leather couches, recently purchased from a couple who moved back to Europe.

leather protection for leather couch
OK, not particularly fashionable, but neither is a 4′ x 8′ painting I did when I was 17

But what exactly to do with this?

The last, uncompleted leather work of Tex Farrel

Today I took the scraps from the couch pieces to Carlos, shoe maker and repairer who has a tiny storefront in Atlántida. I also took the incomplete head, figuring he could at least use some of the leather.

To my surprise, he was absolutely delighted to receive it, and explained that it was of his friend Tex’s nieta — granddaughter. It wouldn’t mean anything for anyone else, he explained in Spanish, but it means a lot to me.

Another de-cluttering win-win!

Another one bites the dust

Summer traffic — and we’re now in peak summer season — tends to be horrific.

Motorcycle wreck, Atlántida, Uruguay
Though other vehicle is removed, not too hard to parse: note the skid mark. Posted speed limit: 60 km (36 mph)

convergence of eastbound traffic

We live at the convergence of Punta-bound traffic from all points west. Punta del Este is the glitz capital of the southern hemisphere in January. We avoid it like the plague, but people who want to be there don’t want to be anywhere else. Especially slowed by congestion in Atlántida.

Prime accident location: Atlántida, Uruguay

As I pointed out almost four years ago, the new overpass in La Floresta means pretty much open road after Parque del Plata traffic lights at the river. However, everything between Ruta 11 and there is pretty much one huge clusterfuck: a densely-populated area with numerous intersections. It very much merits caution. But don’t tell that to people racing in from sparsely-populated rural Ruta 11, or the Ruta Interbalnearia from Montevideo, who have just passed through several sparsely inhabited kilometers. Don’t tell that to the Porteños (Buenos Aires) or the BS drivers (see previous link) or testosterone-stoked motorcyclists, all of whom consider it their god-given prerogative to drive as fast as possible, regardless.

Because of the distance between traffic lights, in Atlántida the stream of traffic has often merged into a continuous flow, and trying to cross here can be an exercise in patience with small margins of safety. But crossing options exist: the Ruta 11 bridge is only 800 meters away.

One person tweeted that a motorcycle was run over:

IB accident tweet

No, sorry. Someone going way the hell too fast on a motorcycle slammed into something considerably larger, and possibly became an organ donor in the process.

It’s been over 30 years since one similar slammed into my BMW in a construction zone in Germany. Hast Du mich nicht gesehen?* he asked, lying on the ground a dozen meters from the point of impact. As if I, driving especially cautiously because my parents were in the car, should be responsible for his (typically reckless, according to neighbors) behavior. No sympathy. Even later, hosing off from the crumpled fender a tiny piece of flesh.

* Didn’t you see me?

UPDATE: same time, 24 hours later, a few hundred meters up Ruta 11, another fast bike — bright green — splintered into pieces on the road. Had to keep moving, did not see other vehicle/s involved. Two ambulances on scene, another coming quickly with siren as I drove on.

Impala, Méhari

Like the fuel to run them, cars are ridiculously expensive in Uruguay. I’ve talked about that before.

1960s Impala, Citroen Méhali in Uruguay

Here’s a decades-old Chevy Impala (I have been unable to determine the year) for sale. Not in very good shape; I don’t even want to know what they’re asking for it.

Approaching is the quintessential cheap-ass-looking Citroen beach buggy, called a Méhari. They were actually produced in Uruguay from 1971 to 1979. So you can probably pick one up cheap, right? As we say in Spanish, jajajajajajaja!

Interestingly, both are named after African animals, albeit two unlikely to cross paths.



The trail goes cold

This month marks ten years that we’ve lived continuously outside the US (this time ;-). That means ten years since we’ve received junk mail or catalogs* in our physical mailbox. In 2016, I mailed one letter and we received perhaps five. Though we maintain a physical address in the US and have a couple of phone numbers, this is what comes up (without paying) through internet sleuthing:

When you leave the US, the traces begin to fade

Another site offers this:

outdated info

And while we still have a business in the US, we have no utility bills in our names going to an address there. Seeing the way things are going with financial institutions, this could become a problem at some point.

But hey, we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it. Meanwhile it’s lovely to be obscure.

* do they still exist?


Tiza means chalk in Spanish, and for several years the local Rotary Club in Atlántida has held an event called Atlantiza, where they close off a street and provide chalk and a 3 x 3 meter artist’s space. Some people use the chalk to draw; others mix it with water and paint.

Atlantiza 2017

With rain threatening, this year featured a significant number of no-shows. While some of the creations were nice enough, I saw nothing outstanding. I expected at least one convincing 3-D rendering, but saw only unconvincing attempts, like the one in the photo. It might have been fun to participate; I indicated interest but when I got no response decided not to pursue it.

Incidentally, if you’re curious how artists create magnificent 3-D street art illusions, here’s a clue:


Bee attack

I did everything exactly wrong.

First, I wore a dark shirt. Most days I wear T shirts, and since yesterday was hot and muggy, I chose one with the thinnest material — which happened to be dark blue. Of course, I had no reason to anticipate what was coming. Have you ever seen a beekeeper’s outfit? No doubt you remember what color it was. Hint: opposite of dark.

Second, I did not immediately identify the insect that was buzzing me. This happened a couple months ago, and then I also did not identify the molester, but that passed with no harm.

Third, I did what most people would do without thinking: I swatted at it with my cap, then with a branch from a bush. I knocked one to the ground and stepped on it. It looked like a honeybee, and there are hives nearby. We’ve walked right by them at times.

When the first sting came, I kept walking. I had the urge to run, but I was with two other people. Gotta keep cool, right (as if swatting at bees with a branch from a bush is cool)?

Eyes after bee attack

This morning, over twelve hours later, I awoke with my right eye swollen almost half shut. I might have gotten as many as three stings in the right temple area, definitely my left ear and perhaps another on the neck nearby, and up to three on my left shoulder and back.

So this morning I did some research. When bees start hassling you, they’re telling you to go away, which is a good idea. When you wave your arms around, they take the motion as a threat because they use vision primarily to detect motion. And then —

Once embedded in the skin stingers also release tagging pheromones, potent chemical signals that attract and arouse other bees. When released near a colony, these pheromones can provoke a massive defensive swarm from the females guarding the nest. “The chemical signal says, ‘Here, sisters, here is where I found a chink in the armor of this big attacking predator,’” Schmidt says. “It really arouses them.”1

So more bees will be drawn to sting in the same area as the first stings. And the dark color (bees see red as black btw) reminds bees of dark-furred animals they have evolved to recognize as a threat.

What I should have done:

  • worn a white shirt
  • not automatically swatted
  • gotten the hell out of there
  • and, after being stung, gotten the hell out of the as fast as I could

I enjoyed a dollop of local honey (this area is big into bees) in my oatmeal this morning, after getting up early and walking Benji on the beach at 7. I think that will be my dog-walking routine for a while. Once stung, twice shy.


1Summer Safety: How to Avoid Bee-Swarm Attacks.

Digging it

As far as I can see, there’s no telling why a dog chooses to dig a hole. Kiya (pronounced KEEsha) decided on one particular spot in the trail, and has been working on it sporadically for months. Benji, who has only two speeds — ON and OFF — spotted Kiya taking a break yesterday and charged into the hole at full speed, half of him disappearing under the exposed root you can see.

dog hole, Uruguay
Alas, I didn’t catch his entrance.

While certainly enthusiastic, he lacks Kiya’s finesse. She first excavates, then backs up a bit to clear the hole. Benji’s approach is more bull-in-a-china-shop. Kiya doesn’t seem to mind. Or even notice, for that matter. When it’s time, she’ll start another hole somewhere else, equally for no apparent reason.

And Benji will be there to help.

Little things

A bird in our backyard pine tree, which is not particularly attractive but, as Syd told us long ago: “In Uruguay in summer, shade is good.”


Volunteer squash plants from the mound of dumped non-composted compost, taking over the side passageway of our house, fortunately not otherwise needed. Slightly wilted in the midday sun.

volunteer squash plants

Caribbean signs

Syd sent me photos he took recently of signs in the Caribbean. Nothing to do with Uruguay, but too good not to pass on.

Sign in Granadines

Nailed to a tree in front of a rather simple house in Bequia, Grenadines. Don’t trouble with trying to parse it.

pharmacy sign in Grenada

All’s ill that ends L?

sign, Grenada

That awkward moment when you realize your drink’s been drinking. In the morning, no less.