Chimney Sweep

Guy shows up at the door. He was here a year ago, but we had just replaced our wood stove and stove pipes. Clean it? Why not. Gives me a price of $2800 (bit over USD 125) to do it three times this season. Turns out it’s pretty clean right now; he ended up treating rust (with stuff I happen to have) and sent me to the ferretería (hardware store) to get stuff he mixes with Portland cement and patches cracks and gaps on the bricks inside the stove.

By the time he finishes, he’s invited me (well, just about) to go dorado fishing in the western part of the country, made a mutual connection through the owner of the butcher shop in Estación Atlántida, en route to our chacra (country place a few km out of town), and told me exactly where he lives (three doors from it) in case I should need him. And I already knew he cleans the chimneys of our neighbors.

They always say in Uruguay—well, everywhere in Latin America for that matter—that you shouldn’t pay in full until the work is complete. I gave him $2800. He’ll be back.


Hangin’ out

guy playing guitar
Mauro, back from over a year in New Zealand, surprised us with some intricate Beatles’ songs on the guitar Santi loaned me. Actually his sister’s, but hey.

guy with dog on floor
His fraternal twin (mellizo) Rodrigo, lounging in front of the wood stove, got something interesting going on with Gita (full name: Doguita), the poorly drawn dog.

guys on couch
Then Santi apparently morphed into the equivalent of human catnip, and had the crazed cat Oscar going wild.

Mauro and Rodrigo had their horoscopes read earlier, our birthday gift to them, by our friend Hazel, who turns out to be an exceptional astrologer.

Then we talked about psychic protection, lucid dreaming, clairvoyance…such a treat to be around young, curious minds.

Día del Padre


Father’s day meant to me finally, a circular from Tienda Inglesa whose front pages are filled with cool stuff instead of women’s clothes and processed food products.

It took on new meaning when Santi arrived waving a paper, which I took to be a bill he’d seen in our mailbox. But no, instead he gave me a father’s day note and a very nice bottle of wine I’d never had before. Sweet! (The P.D. says The bus was moving a lot [when he wrote the note].)

Particularly unexpected since he has a father and father-in-law living nearby. But that’s Santi; he bought a Hibiscus for my wife on mother’s day.

Rodrigo’s back!

I hear a yell from my wife upstairs, and look to see Rodrigo, who left for New Zealand over 18 months ago, strolling up the driveway! Seems he likes surprises; he told no one but his brother (since he needed a ride from the airport) that he was arriving. Serious noise at his parents’ house: what are you yelling about, his mother demanded of his sister, who saw him first.

New Zealand gives out 200 work permits per year for Uruguayan kids; he left last year ahead of the others. Great joy to see him back.

Elsewhere in the news, we had chivitos today. Big deal? At Marcos, yes. Big. When we moved to Uruguay, I promised myself I would not have a chivito more than once a month. This is my first (I think) this year. What’s a chivito? Watch.

Those puzzling 9s of Uruguay…

What is it with the way people write 9s in Uruguay?

I’ve mentioned it before. These recent examples came from two hardware stores:

Somebody’s got to be teaching kids in school to write 9s backwards.

For the record, this are ‘real’ 9s: 9 9 9 9 9 9

Further confusing the issue, some Uruguayans write 9s correctly.

What decides how you’re going to write a 9?

Are both equally acceptable during early school years?

Curious minds want to know.

Strange handwritten numbers in Uruguay
Now can we talk about those 2s?

In which I become an herbalist

Ten days ago I posted a short video about comfrey.

Five days ago, my son stumbled steps in the centro (at 5 AM, ahem), creating what turned out to be a nasty fracture of the tibia that required surgery and several screws.

x-ray of broken ankle
Did I mention nasty?

He spent three nights in the hospital, during which he spent some money for outside food and TV rental in his double room. Retrieving him, I paid 719 pesos (USD 38.45) for at-home anti-coagulent, antibiotic, and pain meds, and 1,410 pesos (USD 75.40) for 15 daily in-home visits to administer the anti-coagulent shot. That was it.

What would this cost in the USA, $25-30,000?

Today I made a poultice for the first time, using comfrey I transplanted from a friend’s place over a year ago. He said it felt good!

Also interesting: we’ve been here over three and a half years; he’s only had medical insurance in the last six months or so.

Ahh, the little fashionistas…

Tienda Inglesa student uniform ad, Uruguay

In this back-to-school season a couple years ago, a friend of our son went to Tienda Inglesa with him, and apparently got a brief look at a ubiquitous Uruguay tradition through a newcomer’s eyes.

I’ve never thought of it before, but the uniforms we wore in primary school really do look kind of stupid, he confided to us afterward.

Couchsurfing redux, redux

We got involved in Couchsurfing when we lived in Mexico, and hosted a number of interesting, and fun, people.

One time it was Sara and Sébastien from Paris, en route by bicycle from Anchorage Alaska to Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Argentina and the southernmost city on the planet. When we hosted them, we had no thought of moving from Mexico. When they learned we were in Uruguay, the became our first return couchsurfers before heading back to Paris.

Similarly, Marjorie and Jörg, retired five years and traveling extensively in the Americas from their home in Lörrach, Germany, stayed with us in Mexico, and when they learned of our move promised to include us in their South America trip. We shared their delightful company for a few days as they got ready to head home, while this rather impressive refitted Toyota Land Cruiser parked in our driveway.


As an added bonus, they taught me some new German words: Grünschnabel, Quatschkopf, Quasselstrippe, and Frostmemme. You’re on your own for the first three; the last means someone who’s always cold. I’m not sure I’ll be using them any time soon, but you never know.

They are, after all, kind of catchy.