Attack of the Ուրուգվայի ձեռագիր

Since it’s been a while, I’ll give you a little cheatsheet: review the various Uruguayan handwriting numeric reversals and inversions.

Now, quickly, read this:

Did you immediately say, Thursday, August 29th at 10 AM?

Of course you did – congratulations!

A package arrives

Residents of Uruguay can bring in some things duty-free. I think currently it’s three times per year, has to be by courier or Uruguayan Post’s program, and value limited to USD 200, including shipping costs. I used it recently to ship down a refurbished Macintosh keyboard. The day after it arrived my wife’s Macintosh keyboard started to fail as well. So I ordered another for around USD 50, again with some clothing items my wife wanted, keeping under $200 and under 2 kg (courier service charges by the kilo).

The same keyboard new in the US is USD 163 new, which is quite ridiculous. I don’t want a wireless keyboard – not long ago I wired our two computers with ethernet and turned off wifi – but even if I did, what Apple offers, USD 99 in the US, is ridiculous here:

ad, Uruguay

And Apple is “different” enough that anything else I can buy locally will only work with Windows. I tried. Keys all jumbled, regardless of computer language settings.

To get here, the goods had to be shipped to Florida, consolidated, cleared through Customs here, and delivered. Today we discovered the sodden delivery notice in our mailbox:

delivery slip, Uruguay

There is no date. Apparently it was from yesterday, telling me that since nobody was home, we won’t do that UPS/Fedex thing and try again. You have to come to our office (oval: what?) hour on the seventh of January two-thousand-backwards-nine-nineteen.

I went to the DAC office, less than two kilometers away, and was told by a lady with a broom there that I would have to go to Montevideo. I pointed out that we were standing at the intersection of Artigas and Circunvolación, as indicated on the slip. She then went inside and asked the girl, who recognized the name and directed her to a top corner shelf, which she could barely get to through stacks of boxes.

As she did that, I scanned the shelves, immediately spotted the USPS Priority Mail box and retrieved it.

delivered package, Uruguay

So, another “something actually accomplished” in Uruguay, something that those living in lands of consumer convenience probably can’t even begin to appreciate. And on a further ‘Murkan note, I got a kick out of the receipt: when was the last time you got a receipt with “God bless” handwritten on it?


No doubt the last time you ordered from Saved Computers.

Christmas Eve

Our first Uruguayan passports, good for five years, were expiring. Arranging to renew them turned out to be relatively easy; done and paid online. When we got to the passport office, though, we lacked our credenciales civicas, which after a trip to the Corte Electoral, turned out to be big pieces of paper we got with our citizenship.

So, the next day we returned with those. No, they were supposed to be renewed after three years. Though an Uruguayan friend told me the credencia civica is nothing more than a voting card, it was indeed required for a passport (which she doesn’t have). The clerk this time had a printed paper we could take to the Corte Electoral, where the same friendly person said no, that’s not here, that’s a block away. So we went a block away, got numbers, and started the process until we got to the address part. We don’t have/can’t invent an address in Montevideo? Then we’ll have to go to the office in our departamento, Canelones. After a nice lunch in a new restaurant (rated #1 in Montevideo), we found the office, and got everything done – until my wife’s fingerprints. They just weren’t sufficient on four or five fingers. So: make appointment with dermatologist, come back with doctor’s note if this can’t be fixed, and we’ll proceed from there.

Booking a doctor appointment online with Asociación Española is also quite easy, but the soonest we could get to a dermatologist was a month away, in Montevideo.

Which is how we ended up there on Christmas Eve. Would there be such a thing as a routine doctor’s appointment on Christmas Eve up north? It somehow strikes me as unlikely.

Anyway, it was a snap. We returned the way we came, which involved me making a left turn at a traffic light which invoked a chorus of blaring horns: yeah, OK, don’t turn left in Montevideo.

Nice lunch at Lo de Mónica, near Géant and Macro Mercado supermarkets, where we spotted this.

I’ve posted many times about Uruguayan handwriting, how 9s look like Ps or lollipops, but this a first: a Y written as a 7.

OK, that’s anticlimactic. So here’s a cool Dodge Power Wagon we then saw in the Géant parking lot.

The retrograde mattress

Three or four times a year, an astronomical event occurs that I’ve learned to take seriously: Mercury going retrograde, meaning it appears to reverse its course for three weeks.

Mars retrograde – source:

It’s not because of the astronomical aspect, but the astrological. It’s a good time to make plans, but NOT arrange them, a good time NOT to buy anything mechanical or electronic, to be prepared for all kinds of communications snafus, on and on. And good luck if you sign a contract without reading the fine print five times. Here’s more.

In the early 2000s, I had two distinct related experiences.In one case, I had been on the phone with customers all week, but Thursday afternoon, all of a sudden I might a well have been speaking Urdu: communication simply ceased as conversation continued. Sure enough, Mercury had gone retrograde.

I had become frustrated with the limitations of my Macintosh, poring over the monstrous Computer Shopper magazine every month. One day I said to myself, just pick up the phone and order a PC! No sooner had I picked up the phone than I put it down again, checked online, and sure enough, Mercury had just gone retrograde. The purchase would most likely have been a disaster.

Similarly, friends here suddenly felt compelled to plan a holiday in Europe during the last retrograde Mercury period (22 March – 15 April). I warned them, but they were thrilled how easily all the plans fell together. Less thrilled when the plans started falling apart within a few days: rail strikes in France coincided with their bookings to and from Switzerland, and to add injury to insult, they were only able to get a 65% refund. Then airline strikes in Latin and America loomed, and Air France strikes threatened the flights they had booked in lieu of train tickets. Alas, all seems to be going well for them now.


Anyway, also ignoring my own advice, I purchased a mattress online during retrograde Mercury. It arrived two days later, and we struggled up the spiral staircase with it, started to remove the plastic, only to realize it was not what we ordered. And in fact, an un-flippable “pillow” mattress that we specifically did not want. The man who we phoned at the vendor’s showed absolutely no interest in finding a solution. Finally I reached a woman there, after seeing that a flete to return it would cost 1,500 pesos (USD 50+). She helpfully connected me with their flete operators, who quoted me 650 pesos. Mercado Libre was now involved, and assured me that the flete expense would be reimbursed. I wasn’t so sure.

The nice couple with their miniature van showed, strapped the mattress on the roof, and drove it back to Montevideo between rain showers. They assured me I didn’t need to pay, since it wasn’t my fault. So far, so good! I was a little concerned by the almost complete illegibility of the receipt they left.

illegible receipt, Uruguay

But it worked! A few days later, they showed up again, mattress strapped to the roof. And – drum roll please – again not the mattress we ordered! Knowing my wife didn’t speak much Spanish, the woman called the vendor, and hung up rolling her eyes. The “no help” man wanted her to convince us to accept the wrong mattress.

Finally, a month after the purchase, we did get a complete refund (less $17 exchange rate loss; the USD had gained in the meantime) with the help of Mercado Libre.

So, I hope I’ve caught your attention. Next occurrences of retrograde Mercury:

  • 26 July – 18 August 2018
  • 16 November – 6 December 2018

You can easily find them online.