Happy day in Uruguay

This is the third world cup since we’ve lived in Uruguay. While previous ones have been exciting, I was never impressed with the actual playing. Not so this year in Russia. Today Uruguay beat Portugal to move to the quarter-finals, and though I only watched the second half,* it was fine playing. Especially, from my viewpoint, considering how Portugal’s shots on goal almost all went spectacularly wide or high. The Uruguay defense was fabulous, and both its goals were scored, not by superstar Luis Suárez, but by Edinson Cavani. Of course a joint effort: the two strikers are quite amazing together.

Cavani
Screen shot from FIFA site

Since I haven’t been walking with Syd lately because of training issues with my dogs, I subsequently took them to our chacra (mini farm) and walked the property. This gave them a chance to run around like crazy in the muddy fields, splash into the stream, and further the transition of our new Renault Duster from “new car” smell to “wet dog” smell. Whatever.

When we returned to Atlántida, I had to go on side streets because the main road was still choked — almost two hours after the game — with cars full of people waving flags and blaring horns.

Uruguay next faces France, the leader in terms of salaries of players on the national team: USD 1.1 billion versus Uruguay USD 330 million or so. France advanced to the quarters after beating Argentina 4-3. I can’t speak for Uruguayans, but I think there might be a little schadenfreude at seeing Argentina eliminated.


When the game started, I was trying to collect yet another Western Union transfer I had sent myself. I heard the first goal — seven minutes in — on the radio while waiting for an inexplicable 15 minute delay from them. Then WU cancelled my transfer inexplicably. And locked me out of their site, and claimed-to but didn’t send me a chance to reset my password. I called them, then emailed a section with no phone access, for an explanation. I hate to come across as a grumpy old bastard, but after the recent experiences with Mercado Libre (previous posts), I’m getting pretty fed up with business that promise but don’t deliver. Add Western Union to the shit list.

Situational awareness (lack thereof)

I was talking with a woman in the feria (street market) yesterday, who wanted to know where I was from and what I thought of Uruguay. It’s very tranquilo, she said, a common theme and indeed what made the country so attractive to us, especially after the noise and chaos of Mexico.

But there’s a flip side to that tranqui attitude, which is a lack of situational awareness. People block the entrance and exit of the supermarket as they stop to chat, completely unaware of anyone else; drivers at speed follow the car before them at a distance of 1/2 second, guaranteeing catastrophe should anything unexpected occur; pedestrians step into the street and then look to see if there might be approaching traffic.

And I don’t know if this is uniquely Uruguayan — I can imagine it’s more a Latin American thing — there are the supermarket aisles. More than once I’ve tempted to tap the shoulder of a Tienda Inglesa employee stocking shelves, and point out that if they moved their shopping cart just 20 cm this way they could block the entire aisle, instead of just 75% of it. But alas, sarcasm is not a thing here.

Here’s a recent gem.

supermarket

A store employee has lost interest in stocking shelves, and despite the wide aisles of Tienda Inglesa (unlike Disco), manages to leave the shopping cart in exactly the place where it can maximally obstruct traffic. The fact that the store was relatively empty at the time might have influenced this “thinking.”

But more likely, there was simply no thinking at all. Just wandered off to some other task, or mate break, or ….

 

Troglodytes in Uruguay

I first encountered the term troglodyte when I lived in Malta, school year 1980-81. It connoted a type of brutish, neanderthal behavior of the lower-functioning Maltese, a connotation not politically correct in modern ‘Murkan Millenial Anti-Stoic society, but hey.

“Troglodyte” actually refers to cave dwellers, and in the sandy area we walk dogs, caves – despite the fixation of ever-digging dog Kiya – really don’t exist. Can’t exist.

Yet you encounter stuff like this:

trash, Uruguay

Appeared yesterday: three car windshields. a yellow funnel, a yellow play soccer ball, a few other bits of garbage. Fortunately, the glass not shattered as in the previous dump of household goods, but who knows – give it a few days?

Let me add perspective. This (Syd may correct me) is where this appeared:

trash, Uruguay

In other words, someone with a cart and horse took a deliberate 10-15 minute ride into “no man’s land” to dump materials that will not biodegrade, and which would have been removed, immediately or eventually, if deposited closer to dwellings.

What can possibly be the thinking here?

Troglodytes.

 

 

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.