On the dog walk

dog watering hole, Villa Argentina, Uruguay

Several months ago, Ralf and I (if I remember correctly), wandering far from the usual paths, encountered a little pond, apparently where someone at some point dug sand for construction. We’ve been fortunate to have decent rain this summer, so on this very hot and muggy day the dogs loved the stop. From left to right: Leah, Kiya, Sofia, Jordan (front), Benji, and what looks like a black lump in some grass, Lorena.

Trash in Uruguay

Further along, from one day to the next — in the middle of nowhere — appeared a pickup truck load of construction trash. Yes, even with abundant trash collection containers everywhere, some troglodytes decided the best way to deal with their trash would be to drive into a large empty area and start a trash pile there.

Which reminds me of a story. In nearby Parque del Plata, when the trash containers first appeared a few years ago, my friend Carlos and his wife embarked on the project of cleaning up the trash-dump empty lot diagonally across from them. They filled the “dumpster” over and over, until finally the lot was clean. Then Carlos spots a middle-aged man carrying a bag of garbage to the container. No, right past the container, to the middle of the lot, where he drops it on the ground. Carlos screams at him to use the trash container.

“But this is the way I’ve always done it,” he says.

Welcome to Uruguay.

Carlos, who is Uruguayan, tells me they did eventually “toilet train” that troglodyte.

It took the better part of a year.



Benji’s 4 seconds of fame

Tiranos TembladTV posted four days ago its first Summary of Uruguayan events in seven months. The narrator explains that during this period, more than a thousand videos have accumulated, too many to show all. And then — drum roll — starts the summary of events with a dog barking at a balloon (1:40).

Dog barking at a balloon, Uruguay

In case you’re new here (or to refresh your memory), here’s where that clip came from. The Summary is fun to watch all the way through. Even if you don’t understand the narration in Spanish, you’ll get the drift. There are a few bits in English.

So — if one dog year equals seven human years, Benji should have gotten 2.14285714285714 minutes (128.5714285714284 seconds) instead of 4 seconds. But the clip I posted originally was only 24 seconds long, and it was the “lead story” here, so good on ya, Benj. You’ve still got potential years of silliness ahead to claim your remaining 124.5714285714284 seconds of fame.

The art gallery

We normally don’t spend a lot of time in art galleries.

Contemporary ceramics on display, Montevideo, Uruguay

Yesterday was an exception.

Contemporary ceramics on display, Montevideo, Uruguay

The current show features five contemporary ceramic artists,

Contemporary ceramics on display, Montevideo, Uruguay

Contemporary ceramics on display, Montevideo, Uruguay

each with a unique “voice,” as the introduction states.

each with a unique “voice,” as the introduction stated.

The gallery has a skylight, which casts dramatic shadows.

Mexican Embassy, Montevideo, Uruguay

The setting, an old building with exposed brick and very old beams, is quite lovely. Not a bad place to spend an hour when you have no choice.

And we had no choice. We were waiting for legal papers. Specifically, a power of attorney to sell some property in Mexico.

What’s that got to do with an art gallery?

All the pictures above are from the ground floor of the Mexican Embassy in Montevideo. When we arrived, the receptionist remember who we were, and why we were there. The consul was gracious and welcoming.

Mexican Embassy, Montevideo
The Mexican Embassy in Montevideo: warm and welcoming.

Now, I have nothing bad to say about the US Embassy personnel in Montevideo. They were in fact surprisingly accommodating when I recently renewed my passport.

US Embassy, Montevideo
US Embassy in Montevideo. Not warm and welcoming.

But one can’t help but notice the contrast, even without surrendering all personal possessions and passing through several bomb-proof doors for the privilege of entering.

Construction symbolically started on July 4, 1966. US Independence day. At that time, the diplomatic pouch from Washington, DC, sometimes included fine wires that could be inserted between teeth, in order to apply an electrical charge to the gums. No, it wasn’t for oral hygiene.

Not a pleasant story, but essential reading: Uruguay, 1964 to 1970: Torture—as American as apple pie.

Things you would NEVER see in Uruguay

Still there after five days, Prescott Valley, Arizona. In a relatively poor neighborhood.


A small child’s bike, apparently fully functional, left by the trash container.


A large-scree CRT TV, with remote, apparently fully functional, left out for anyone who wants it.



Flasher frog in Parque del Plata

Frog sculpture for tourists in Parque del Plata, Uruguay

OK, I’m just guessing. Maybe I should say “secret agent frog.” Or maybe it’s not even a frog. When I first saw it, I thought it kind of tacky, then realized it had a constant flow of people having their photo taken with it , with the lovely river Solís Chico in the background. Good idea!

Update 20170202: “One of the most striking features of [Parque del Plata] is the monument to Sapo* Ruperto, character of children’s stories created by the Uruguayan writer Roy Berocay, who tells us from his work that his birthplace is precisely the stream Solís Chico. The person responsible for the sculpture was Nelson Capote and the monument was placed there within the framework of the 75th anniversary of Parque del Plata.” (source)

*Sapo means toad, and yes, he’s a detective.


Uruguay factoids

Squinting at coffee packages in the supermarket the other day triggered this train of thought.

  • Unless you look very hard for otherwise, the coffee you buy in a supermarket will have sugar in it (“glaseado”)
  • cuts of beef are at right angles to what northerners expect
  • It is almost impossible to buy a long-handled shovel (“you can buy a regular shovel, remove the handle, and put a long handle on it” – yes, I was actually told this)
  • A vehicle with automatic transmission is considered a luxury and taxed higher (in one instance, a mechanic refused to drive a customer’s car onto the rack in the shop because he “didn’t know how to drive an automatic.”)
  • (For North American drivers) Right on red can get you an expensive ticket (I just added to Wikipedia that right on red is not allowed in UY 😉
  • If you take driving school in Uruguay, you will not be told:
    • you should stay in lanes / that lanes have any significance (seriously)
    • what distance to maintain between vehicles
    • after passing, that you should wait until you can see the car in your mirror before pulling back into the lane
  • If Uruguayans say they lived in the United States, you can almost never go wrong by asking “New Jersey or Rhode Island?”
  • If you miss Uruguay in the United States, go to Elizabeth, New Jersey
  • If Uruguayans say they’ve recently been to the United States, you can almost never go wrong by asking “How was the weather in Orlando?”

Feel free to add to the list. I expect I will.

Halloween in (non-urban) Uruguay


I stopped a posse of trick-or-treaters with ¿puedo sacar un foto? (Can I take a photo?) It took none of my school-picture-photographer expertise for them to expertly group. In response to my ¡Perfecto! Muchas gracias I heard several de nadas.

OK, still broad daylight, but here are unaccompanied kids, acting “abnormally” (in other words, as kids), and it’s all OK.

Which is not say I saw no parental guidance (but certainly none distrusting or fearful!). Just that adults had to be there only for the really little kids.

After I took this picture, I assumed that Junior Senior (left) had been distracted. On the second take, I realized his mother was telling me in heavily-accented English that he doesn’t like pictures. Cool. Gracias. Cooler: an advanced soul recognizing the danger of facial recognition technology? LOL. Maybe.