Surprise Visitors at our Gate

Yesterday afternoon about 15 riders surprised Joe and I at our gate. There was a parade in San Jacinto the next town down from us and our dear friend Patricia and another long time friend Pablo, decided to bring their crew to our home for a visit.  After a short welcome, we brought out the beer for our dusty travelers and shared a laugh or two.

The most amazing thing besides the beautiful horses and some pretty fancy silver harness sets were the wooden saddles.  In my life, I have never seen a wood saddle and it was amazing how many were form fitted for what looked to be a very comfortable ride.  Our friend Pablo was riding bareback, he is such a wonderful horseman I guess he can do that. I am sad that the photo of him was just too blurry for me to post, I am sure they will be by to visit the next time they are coming by our home. The great thighs are Patricia’s by the way.

Enjoy, just another glimpse of the beauty of Ecuador and our own Manabita people.

Thoughts of a Uruguay Fútbolista

Joe found this wonderful letter that Uruguay football player Edinson Cavani wrote to his younger self,  it is worth a read.

Dear nine-year-old Edinson, 
I am writing these lines to the boy that everyone in the neighborhood calls “Pelado”. 
When you were a baby you did not have too much hair. And it grew to you very little by little. A shit, but there was not much you could do about it. So, thanks to the creativity of your family, you were always “Pelado”.
Well, I’m happy to tell you that in the next 20 years, football will change your life in many ways. Some very good, others not so much. But football is going to help you get rid of that tedious nickname. 
There is a player named Gabriel Batistuta. You still do not know, because the only program you have the patience to sit and watch on TV is called Tom & Jerry. Your eldest brother, Nando, will be the first to be inspired by Batistuta. He will start to refuse to go to the hairdresser. And to use the conditioner for your mother’s hair. And little by little, it will begin to look like the magnificent Batigol every time. When you are running on a playground, with your long hair pulled back and held by a rubber band, it will be the best you have seen.
The time will come when it will be you who will tell your mother: “No more haircuts.” 
You live your life outside, with a ball in your feet. In the South American way. You do not know anything else. And also, what is there to do inside? Nothing funny. Nothing interesting. There is no PlayStation. There is no big TV. You do not even have to take a hot shower. There is no heating either. In winter, your heating system will be four blankets. When you need to take a bath, you will have a thermos with water that you will heat in the kitchen to kerosene. It is very important to understand how to combine cold and hot water. Standing in the bathtub, you will learn to be an alchemist.
And yet, this will be a luxury for you. Or do not you remember your first house? The one that did not have a bathroom. That house where every time you had to relieve yourself, you had no choice but to walk outside and go to the small shed! 
Can you let me tell you a secret? When I remember that image now, I do not feel bad at all. For some reason, it fills me with energy. It gives me courage. It is a beautiful memory. 
Do not worry about what you have in the house. You have to keep living your life in the sun, Pelado.
Also, what is the reason for having soccer posters stuck on the wall? Every two or three years, when you change jobs or your family can not pay the rent, you will have to move to another place. But do you know what is best? That in every new house, no matter where it is located, you will always have a little field outside. And there will also be a ball. There is no owner in the world that will be able to remove that, I guarantee it. 
What matters most in your life at this moment, if I remember correctly, is the Ice Cream Goal.
The Ice Cream Goal is something magical. I need to talk to someone from PSG about the Ice Cream Goal. It’s great. It is pure motivation. The idea was for the organizers of the Salto youth championship. How do you get motivated to a bunch of six-year-old gurises no matter how the game goes? 
Putting the rule that the boy who makes the last goal of the game takes an ice cream.
The result could be 8-1, but it did not matter. It was a race against time. Mark the last goal of the game. And the feeling when listening to the technician who blew the whistle to mark the end, when you had put the Ice Cream Goal … incredible! An immense joy. Will it be chocolate? Are you going to get one of those from Mickey Mouse? Whatever it is, throughout that day, you will be the king.
Of course you’re not a kid from the capital, Pelado. The boys of Montevideo live in a different world. A world that you do not even know exists. A world of Adidas boots, car trips and green grass. In Salto, everything is different. For some reason, everyone wants to play barefoot. Some children start the matches with shoes, but then, at halftime, all the booties are stacked on one side and everyone will be running barefoot. If I close my eyes right now, I can still feel the mud on the soles of my feet. I can still feel my heart beating, chasing the ball, dreaming of ice cream.
You will carry these feelings with you throughout your life, because you are South American. From Uruguay. Of Salto. You live football in a different way. 
The blessing and the curse for the Uruguayans is that we can never relax. It is the history of our football, it is the history of our country. When we put on the blue, we feel the pride of our history.
We have to go for all, give, give, give. And there we go. 
What are your dreams, Pelado? 
I do not even remember them exactly. Time transformed them into diffuse memories. 
Is your dream to play in Montevideo, like Nando? You’ll get it, and when you do, you’ll feel like you’re playing the Champions League. 
Is your dream to play in Europe? You will also get it, and you will make enough money to change the life of your family.
Is your dream to play for Uruguay? You will do it, and you will have experiences that will make you cry with joy and also with sadness. 
Is your dream to play a World Cup? (I’m not going to ruin the surprise, I’ll just tell you that 2010 will be El Loco). 
Your dream is to have a lot of money, drive nice cars and sleep in elegant hotels? Well, Pelado, you’ll have all those things.
But I have to tell you something. They will not necessarily make you happy. 
What you have now, with 9 years old, is something that I miss very much now. 
You do not have a hot shower. You do not have a weight in your pocket. You do not even have good hair. But you have something else. Something that has no price. You have your freedom.
As a child, you live your life with an intensity and a passion that will be impossible as an adult. We try to hold on to that feeling when we grow up, but it starts to go away. It slips through our hands. There are too many responsibilities. Too much pressure. Too much life lived in. 
Do you know what life is like now, at 31 years of age?
You go from a hotel to a bus and from there to a training camp. After the training camp to a bus and an airplane. From the plane you go to another bus. From that bus you go to a stadium. 
In many aspects, you are living in a dream. But in many others, you are also a prisoner of that dream. You can not go outside and feel the sun. You can not take off the booties and play on the ground. Things will happen that will make your life complicated. It is unavoidable.
When you are a child, you have this feeling that the most successful person is the one who has the most things. 
When you grow up, you realize that the most successful person is the one who has the wisdom to live life. 
When you achieve it in professional soccer, you will have everything you can dream of. And for this you will have to be extremely grateful. But I have to be honest with you, Pelado. There is only one place where you can have that total freedom. And it lasts 90 minutes, if you’re lucky.
When you put on your boots, no matter if you’re playing in the Salto field, in the green grass of Napoli or in front of millions of people in a World Cup … I want to remind you of your father’s words. 
What does it always tell you, every time you go to play a game? 
I know that you know it. 
He says: “The moment you cross the line of lime and enter the field, it’s just football. Nothing that happens outside that line will help you with what goes on inside. Nothing else exists. “
If you listen to those words and really believe in the spirit of what they say, then, even if the pressure is immense, even if you are playing in front of millions of people … you will go out on the court and you will feel like you are playing barefoot. 
You will feel the mud stuck on the soles of your feet.
You will feel your heart beating and you will run looking for the ball, as if it were the biggest trophy in the world. As if you were playing for ice cream. 

Yesterdays game was a very big deal for the people of Uruguay. Cavani scored both goals for Uruguay, beating Portugal and advancing to the final 8. Guess he got his ice cream.

Things I Have Not Seen Before

You would think by this stage in our lives that we would have seen just about everything, well we haven’t…..So this store was a shock to both Joe and I. Sure in college we saw stores that had a few items for sale but to see a store just for marijuana paraphernalia – never before. It is legal to buy marijuana in Uruguay, if you are a citizen. It is controlled by the government and there is a procedure you must follow to buy it. I do not know what the process is and because it is not “our thing” we will probably never know it. But when you are walking down a very busy street in Montevideo you must stop and take a look at what items are sold here. JUST because it is so unbelievable. Sorry the pictures are not that clear, I would not go inside the store, if felt a bit uncomfortable to me. We had no idea what we were looking at but it was a happening place for sure.  Here you will find locals smoking in public, at the beach, sitting around with friends and it is a normal occurrence.  We are still amazed when you can smell it right out in the open.  Okay, we’re kinda sheltered I know – commuted to college, missed out on a lot.  We like beer, though – does that count? You can also legally grow a few plants and there are many grow stores, they call them – set up for that.  Again, for us, beer and an occasional shot of rum will do it.  Brain function is down enough as it is!

Food Treasures from Montevideo

While in Montevideo we spend many hours searching for spices and food items we are not able to find here in Atlantida. Things like fish sauce, miso paste, whole coriander seeds. So our searching was fruitful as you can see from all the goodies in the above picture.

On our one outing we visited Bosque Bambu. It is a store in front with a buffet style restaurant in the back.  It was wonderful, we shopped and filled a bag and then settled down for a wonderful vegetarian meal. One of the selections was a stir fry with what looked to be shredded pork, it was really shredded wood ear mushroom. I had to have a bag of that.  When we got home this was one of the first things I tried. I made steamed dumplings with some of these mushroom and they did not last long.

Also, I met the loveliest woman on Facebook Uruguay Expats Gastronomia. Ce Zuanich answered a post I had made, right before our trip, asking if anyone had kefir grains.  Well Ce had milk kefir, water kefir as well as scoby for kombucha.  What a find, she offered these to me as well as filling a goodie bag with spices like Mrs. Dash and a bottle of Coconut Aminos…what a wonderful surprise when I opened this package.  Thanks Ce for your generosity.  My cooking can only get better with the addition of new spices. Thinking of all the great meals I can cook with this stuff.

In looking for some of the stores and restaurants we wanted to visit, we found other places to try. One morning we walked to breakfast to a recommendation of the people who owned the studio apartment we were renting only to find it closed. wound up across the street having cappuccino and some of the best cheese scones ever – think Red Lobster cheese biscuits folks.Another day the taxi could not find a store we wanted so we got out to look about.  Found a better one, and then found the original store.  Good day for spice hunting!  Montevideo is really a great town with a lot of as yet hidden surprises for us.  Can’t wait to return.  Guess we will just have to learn the bus system!



Casa Quinta – Museo Juan Manuel Blanes, Montevideo UY

This was a great afternoon visit. The Museo Juan Manuel Blanes is a beautiful old home filled with a variety of artwork from paintings to sculptures.  It also has a beautiful Japanese Garden donated and built by Japan to thank Uruguay for 40 years of friendship.  I took many pictures so this will be a two-part post.Many of the painting filled an entire wall with the subjects being almost full-sized.  They were very impressive. The house itself has high ceilings with beautiful parkay flooring, tray ceilings, crown moldings and extensive use of intricate tile work on the porches and staircases.  Maintained in pristine condition and has an attentive staff to help with any questions you may have. This is not the only museum in Montevideo, the guide books say there are fifteen.  We will need to make several trips to take in more of the beauty of this city.

Myeong Ga Korean Restaurant in Montevideo

One of the great finds on our trip to Montevideo was the Myeong Ga Korean Restaurant near Plaza Independencia in old town. We have had few opportunities to try Korean cooking and this was a fabulous restaurant to cut our teeth on.

The menu was filled with dishes from soups to beautiful meat dishes that several could be made vegan if that is your thing.  We had a wonderful super spicy beef soup and a chicken, vegetable and noodle dish that we shared. You can order almost everything from not too hot, pretty hot to scorch your mouth hot. We also ordered the steamed dumplings and were so surprised to see 7 or 8 additional tapas style dishes served.  When you look at the pictures it looks like the food was ordered for 6 people and it was just Joe and I.  What a feast!

The side dishes included eggplant, kim chi, a lovely egg dish, cucumber salad as well as cooked peanuts and, a few more I can’t remember. All served with a hot barley tea, also something we have never had before.

We are looking forward to another trip to Montevideo just so we can have lunch or dinner at Myeong Ga.

Bar Facal and The Locks Fountain

Bar Facal was founded in 1882 in downtown Montevideo. We stopped there one morning for a quick breakfast on one of our outings.  This the Italian Cappuccino and was served with churros.On the sidewalk outside the bar near to the fountain, is a full sized bronze statue of Carlos Gardel, a French composer, singer/songwriter and actor and the most prominent figure in the history of tango.

The Locks Fountain is located at the corner and was an amazing site.  Couples take a padlock, marked with their initials and lock it to the fountain. They say if you do this you will stay together and come back to visit the fountain.

Starbucks First Store in Uruguay

Starbucks Coffee opened their first Uruguay store in Montevideo Shopping in April of this year.

We happened to walk by and saw this incredible line out the doors waiting for a cup of coffee.  Good luck, the last time I was caught waiting in line was at Disney World in the 90’s.  Never again.

Uruguay Playing in the World Cup

It is big deal for Uruguay to be playing in the World Cup again. For such a small country of less than 3.5 million people they have qualified and participated in 12 of the 20 World Cups. They won twice and came in 4th on three different occasions the last in 2010.  Again, this is a huge accomplishment from a country with a population of under 3.5 million people.

Everyone in this country is excited about qualifying again for this years World Cup. It is being held in Russia in a few short weeks.

While Joe and I were out shopping we took the opportunity to get in the spirit.

A Long Time Coming

To say that 2017 was not our favorite year would be an understatement. Making a move is always difficult but in this case it was terribly difficult as we were pretty settled in our minds that San Clemente, Ecuador would be our last home, last hometown, and we would be buried there. We felt almost betrayed that the earthquake and its many aftershocks had caused us to make the move.  Uruguay was okay but we had to start all over again, I mean from scratch, it was an emotional upheaval on many levels. But we are troopers and made the best of it, in our minds moving has always been an adventure so that is how we looked at it.

Then while Joe was having a routine physical he had a cardiac episode. This happened in April 2017 right as we were moving into a new home in Atlantida. After waiting for a medical procedure for 9 months he finally is recovering and we have our lives back.

That is my explanation for no blog posts for almost a year…. but I’m BACK!!! 

With Joe’s health improving daily we are back on track and starting to do things that were not possible the past year. So get ready….more to come!