Amazing service, but for one detail

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I took a laptop body (no monitor; long story) to the local computer repair place. The worn-out power receptacle, they had told me, would ridiculously cost maybe a hundred bucks to procure. So this time I said I didn’t care what it looked like, that I wanted una solución Uruguaya. In other words, just make it work, as cheaply as possible. Any connector; I don’t care: it’s just a question of connecting two wires, on either side, no?

He indicated it might take a week, this being Semana Santa.

Less than 24 hours later, he calls to tell me it’s ready. Can it be?

I pick up a decidely funky, but perfectly aceptable, altered machine, and pay 500 pesos – 25 bucks. Can’t complain, if the thing works again and gives me a Linux play machine. ¿Sirve? I ask. It works?

Sí. (You expected a different answer?)

Back home, there’s a storm, but all high-rolling thunder, no ground strikes. I start to set it up, and it boots going beep- beep- beep- beep- beep like it’s got a stuck key. I plug in the monitor, and just then the electricity goes out.

But the neighbors’ lights are still on. I check the breaker box. Main breaker tripped; can’t turn the power back on. Unplug the monitor, try again – works fine. By now I’ve also unplugged the laptop and video cable. Plug in the laptop to power – no problem. Start to reconnect monitor and OUCH! nasty shock from the video cable. Ain’t right.

So somehow the process of replacing a plug and socket has resulted is sending 220 volts through the video output?

Five minutes before his closing time, I deliver it back to the shop. This doesn’t sound like it should end well.

Addressing complexification in Uruguay

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A bank far away wants confirmation that we live in Uruguay: an original utility bill with our names on it. Easy?


Utility companies in Uruguay will not allow two names on an account, even for a married couple.

No problem – put one bill in wife’s name.


Standard addresses outside of cities do not exist. Our house has no number, only a name – which we could change at will. Our street does not have a name – it has two, one of them a number. Some mail arrives addressed to our town; some to our section of the town. We receive mail with at least two different postal codes.


No two utility companies address their mail the same way. In fact, the water and electric bills have such different addresses that you would be nuts to assume they would arrive at the same place.


When I took three bills to the Post Office to ask how mail should be addressed, the postmistress looked at each in turn and said, yes, that’s correct, even though at least two bore no similarity. Had I pointed out that early in our stay, one of the bills arrived with handwritten notes from the PO telling the carrier where to deliver it, she no doubt would have replied, yes, but he knows where you are now.


Official property designations include numbers for padrón, manzana (yes, as in apple), and solar. Some of these numbers appear, in varying forms, on the bills. Some have no reference.

By now, you want to suggest, why don’t you ask one utility to modify their address? Well, chances are you haven’t tried to do that, and I wasn’t eager for an exercise in futility. But I did, in February, go to OSE, the water company and issuers of the most cryptic address, and to my amazement and delight the 20-something behind the desk said no problema and changed it, advising me that the new address would appear on our March bill.


It didn’t.


Returning to the same 20-something in April, he tells me it is not possible to change the billing address in the system. Had I pointed out that he himself claimed to have changed it six weeks before – sorry; not the best use of my time.

I photocopied the architect’s plans, in which he specifies every bit of data that could be used to identify the property, stuck it in an envelope with notations and the two bills, and mailed it off to far away.

Ya veremos. We will see.

A balmy start to Semana Santa

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Semana Santa – Holy Week or Easter Week – is also referred to as Semana de Turismo (Tourist Week): the last gasp of high season. Though shorts and t-shirt weather, time to start thinking firewood, chimney cleaning, and a passive solar heater I have in mind.

Garní in Solís, near Piriápolis

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Being the wife’s birthday, we had a ‘splurge’ meal at the Armenian restaurant Garní in Solís, near Piriápolis, where we’ve been going off and on for over a year. It’s about a half hour away.

  • If you don’t know Spanish, the accent indicates the accented syllable, and in Spanish only one syllable is emphasized, no matter how many exist in a word (it can be 7-8 easily)
  • If you don’t know Uruguay, this conversation does not exist: She: it’s my birthday – let’s go out to eat. He: Last time we ate out it was Thai. Do you want to do that, or Tex-Mex, or Chinese, or Italian, or…? It’s more like, what kind of meat do you want with your french fries? So an excellent restaurant with food with different flavors is remarkable.

Though we haven’t been there in a while, Michel, the waiter, knew exactly what we were going to order.

Sitting in their shaded outdoor area a block form the ocean, we started with a meze of tsatsiki, hummus, tabouli and a delicious eggplant concoction, with pita bread and a half-liter of white wine.  We shared a lamb shish kebob and enslada belen, a wonderful mix of eggplant, apples, red pepper, cashews and prunes (I think). And another half-liter of wine.

I got a laugh out of him with my comment (actually no need for Spanish; he speaks English and French as well) comimos como Uruguayos – we ate like Uruguayans! Servings can be HUGE here. He repeated it and got a laugh out of the chef Ani (who also speaks English, and also Armenian and Turkish). We normally don’t eat dessert, but when Michel came out and started talking to us in a low, conspiratorial way, we figured they were going to offer us a free dessert since it was the wife’s birthday, something that had come out earlier in conversation.

No, not that. The entire meal was on the house.

In Uruguay? This app’s not for you.

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We bought a Kindle Fire from Amazon. Turns out to be useless for much more than reading books, but that’s OK because it’s good for that. And it promises more, like Android apps you can download for free.

It occurred that it might be useful to have a little note-taking app on the Kindle. You know, waiting for 50 people in front of you at the bank, reading a book, get an idea…. You can find plenty of free note-taking apps ready to download. So I tried.

It told me it couldn’t download because I didn’t have a credit card on file (which I do), then it wouldn’t allow me to enter a credit card.

So I tried on the computer – sorry, the Amazon app store said, your region can’t buy apps from us. No problem; logged in through a USA VPN, only to find it wouldn’t accept a cookie that Amazon requires.

So where to find Android apps? Google! Alas, Google and Amazon do not play together – the Amazon Kindle is sort of a bastardized Android device, and to keep the price low they didn’t get a Google license.

So this morning I delved into a murky world of Android dead-ends and non-starters, rapidly realizing it was not the best use of my time.

The original note-taking app

And realizing as well that I already have a perfectly functional note-taking app. That even works when the Kindle’s battery is dead.


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gas tank delivery truck, Uruguay

The obstructed store to the right is the Supermercado de Carnes – yes, the Supermarket of Meats.

Uruguayans are the world’s largest consumer of beef per capita. ‘Meat consumption in Uruguay is on the rise reaching 94.7kg per person per year in 2011,’ says the Meat Trade News Daily. Just five years ago, the per capita annual consumption was reported as 54 kilos, and five years before that 40.

At some point, enough is enough – and too much is too much.

It’s March – autumn returns

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Cool wind this morning. Time to wear shoes and socks again after happy months of flip-flops.

As a kid, I loved autumn crispness, new clothes and return to new adventures in school. Now it seems more a chore: order firewood, figure out how to clean the stove pipe, clean up garden. Stay warm. Wear shoes to the beach.

Autumn in the months that ~should~ be spring — still weird, the third time around.

Frogs, toads, and bees

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At times here, you’ll hear a frog chorus sounding like the ‘mew, mew’ of cats. Confuses newcomers used to croaking. Last year we had many, many frogs – but also many, many mosquitoes. This year less. On the decline, or just an off-year?

Yesterday, our friends’ afternoon asado of suckling pig turned to evening with fat toads hopping around the parrillada.

This morning, the honey bees are busy on the basil plants I’ve let go to seed.

Good to see the indicator species – and the bees – thriving. From what I understand, that’s not the case elsewhere.

Will kill for food

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All my life, so disconnected with the meat part of my food supply that I’d never killed anything other than a fish to eat. Yesterday changed that. The three boys of friends’ seven suckling pigs were destined for the parrilla.

Click (or don’t) to enlarge images.

These three pigs brought their total to five so far. With experience and other adults the process went faster – but still very time-consuming. Removing the bristles is a lot of work.

Fresh pig ears and tails for the puppy.

From anus to windpipe, everything must go. Weird at first; by the third, I was used to it.

Liver and heart examined by kids. Quite an education.

Not curbside, but yes, they recycle

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I got inspired to cut bottles, but so far have ended up only with a bucket of broken glass. Dumping that that into the trash seemed a dangerous idea, so I took them where the garbage trucks go.

There, huge plastic bags lie as far as you can see, awaiting their turn to be clasificado – sorted out. Yes, there’s a person who goes through everything, finding and sorting the recyclables

Asking to take a photo, I got a tour instead. Unprepared, it didn’t occur to ask about the most ubiquitous item of all: plastic shopping bags.

Next time.

I expect a few more broken bottles.