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.


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The retiring executive we bought furniture from in Montevideo a couple years ago, whom we introduced to our town and who now lives a few blocks away, mentioned to my wife the other night a book he thought she’d enjoy.

A couple days later, I saw written in her calendar, A Deadly Affection, by Cuyler Overholt. That’s not a name you forget, but I hadn’t thought about it in probably four decades. We went to junior high school together in Connecticut a third of the way around the planet from here, even hung out with the same kids. She was cute. 😉

I left after 9th grade, and didn’t stay in touch with anyone at the high school, but someone from my prep school and her college connected us. Delightful to make contact – turns out later in high school she and my 8th grade girlfriend became best friends, and in their calendars is a trip together next week to enjoy Anchor Steam and sourdough bread in San Francisco.

The Argentinian we met in Buenos Aires through friends in Hawaii told us that our house name ‘Caviahue’ (houses here have names, not numbers) refers to a small town in Patagonia with ski resort and thermal baths. She used to have an apartment there. For all the mentions of Bariloche, also in Patagonia, I’ve never heard anyone mention Caviahue – oh, except for the owner of a excellent nearby winery – who also had a house there.

It looks like a cool place to visit. Unfortunately, the government’s latest plan to destroy the Argentinian economy tempts me to wait before thinking about it.

Culture, language, and cooking

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Yesterday, we spent a pleasant afternoon and early evening in the campo, at the chacra of friends, having an asado on their parilla.

campo = the country
chacra = ranch (in their case a bit less than 30 acres (11 hectares)
asado = traditional BBQ, also called parrillada, also the name of various cuts of  grilled meat, including carne de asado, which is ribs cut the ‘wrong way.’
parrilla = grill, adjustable and relatively elaborate cooking part of the parillero, which, when enclosed, is called a barbacoa. (Got it?)

You build the fire in the grate to the side. As embers drop below, you rake them underneath the meat, which cooks slowly. Very slowly.

The wrong way to cook meat, according to South Americans
The wrong way to cook meat, according to South Americans

Key point for Norteaméricanos::

If the flames touch the meat, you’re doing it entirely wrong.



Tiny Coke bottles

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When I was a kid, a ‘Coke’ meant a six-ounce returnable glass bottle. Recently, these 200 ml* returnable glass Coke bottles showed up here. Hard to imagine a kid these days being satisfied with a drink that small, but somebody bought them.

Behind them is a 2-liter bottle, plastic, also returnable, meaning that all three have a deposit paid on them.

Beer bottles half-liter and larger, and wine bottles 1.5 liters and larger, all have deposits and are re-used.

I like that.

*approximately 6.762805 fluid ounces

Tali lights, schmail lights

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Neighbor’s gardener is here. I note with respect the safety precaution he has taken, seeing as the original lenses from his trailer’s tail lights are long gone, and it’s a good bet the lights don’t work anyway.

No, I’m serious. It wasn’t that many months ago that I was able to avoid – with perhaps two seconds’ notice – slamming into the back of a motorbike with no tail lights and no reflectors. This was on the main highway to Punta del Este, on a pitch black and rainy night. In general, people here – on the road or casually blocking an aisle or only exit from the supermarket – display a stunning lack of situational awareness.

But perhaps I could say that anywhere.

No, not THAT Texas.

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Our first friends here (who have since left the country in disgust, having learned virtually no Spanish) went searching for a computer part. Long story short, they were told they would have to go to Texas. Hard to imagine the average Uruguayan hops on a $1,500 flight in order to get a computer part.

Turns out there’s a computer store called Tecsys.

– – – – –

Here’s a Tecsys flier:

Note the banner item. Today at Best Buy in the USA, you can buy a Playstation 3 for $300 with goodies. Here, it costs double. Welcome to Uruguay.

On the flip side, you can find a Verbatim 4GB pen drive for $13.90. Find the same thing under $10 on Amazon, so ‘only’ 40% more here. But look closely:

Here, you can buy it with six monthly payments of $2.31 each, and actually save four cents! I suppose a person buying on credit would have other items as well, but still, the thought of a monthly payment of $2.31 boggles my mind.

Welcome to Uruguay.

Cutting-edge lighting in Uruguay

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Modern LED light bulb, Uruguay

Behold an 8 watt bulb twice as efficient as the toxic and wretched compact fluorescents, which seldom come close to their promised eight year life span. This could have a life span twice that or more (according to the guy who manufactures them, ahem). And it runs on 110-240 volts! What’s not to like, even at 18 bucks a pop?

When one blinks out after five months, and the supermarket doesn’t give refunds on light bulbs, that’s what.

However, the store promised to check our repairing it, and call me back. In Latin America, when a business promises to call you back, it generally means we’re through talking. Go away. Knowing the distributor of these lights (who also replaced all the store’s fluorescent bulbs with LEDs), I figured I had a fallback plan.

A couple of weeks and a few in-person inquiries later, the store really did call back saying they had una solución. They gave me a credit for the full price – nice! I promptly bought another.

I note with interest that some of the first light bulbs manufactured are still burning 100 years later.  Why can’t they last that long now? The bottom line: it really is a conspiracy.

And another nice thing about Uruguay

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From George Ure:

I’d write something clever about the primary voting today but just can’t bring myself to waste your time.  And I’m gonna puke it I hear another Newt ad.

No Newt ads here. Especially since our only TV is devoted to zombie-killing and we rarely watch it, and the car stereo system has locked us out of it as a security precaution. (More fun tidbits about the Mercosur Chevrolet we’ll save for another time.)

Two (admittedly trivial) reasons to prefer da Spanish As She Is Spoken Here

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In México, I occasionally posed the following to a local: If I don’t wear a watch, so don’t know what time it is, how do I know when to stop saying buenos días and start saying buenas tardes?

Invariably, the answer came back: at noon. To which I invariably replied, but if I don’t have watch and don’t … never mind.

Here, say buen día and you’re good all day long. (At least in our area of México, that was – rarely – used in parting, as in have a nice day. Blech.)


How ya doin’? In México, that simple question involves determining whether your relationship with the askee is formal or informal. ¿Como esta? or ¿Como estas? Here, the second can be the same as the first thanks to the Uruguayos’ habit of dropping The letter S.

Better still, ¿Que tal? works just fine in all but very formal situations.