Saturday, December 31, 2005

Last working day, throw your calendar away

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New year's eve at montevideo New year's eve at montevideoIn Montevideo's downtown the last working day of the year has it's traditions. Most of the offices work until noon, the after office is at "El mercado del puerto" or ciudad vieja and around 11:30AM an unusual show starts.

New year's eve at montevideoPeople start throwing shredded paper out of the windows, and buckets of water to say goodbye to the old year. Traditionally the papers that are thrown are sheets of the old year's calendar, torn out the last working day.

New year's eve at montevideoIt's fun, the space between buildings gets filled with calendar sheets with every day in the almost gone year dancing in an american beauty plastic bag kind of way. At the same time people rush out of the buildings to avoid unexpected showers of the randomly falling water, and the ocasional unlucky one gets soaked. It's an unusual and funny sight.

New year's eve at montevideo

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

News, Rapists ripping cellmate on christmas'eve

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Uruguay, rapists, el cosita Last saturday, on christmas'eve, in the Uruguayan prision of Libertad two prisoners butchered one third cellmate.

The prisoners known as "El cosita" (the little thing) and "el sapo" (the toad) ripped out the genitals, heart, and head of their cellmate nicknamed "El caramelero" (candyman) supposedly because candyman was bragging about how he'd rapped and killed his last kid victim. I must point out that "the little thing" and "the toad" are also convited murderers/rapists.

Now, I wonder, what's the deal with rapists killing rapists based on moral & ethical basis?. It's not like they have some code of honor that candyman broke. I mean what on earth were they thinking? like "he went too far, he said nasty things, let's butcher him" what!!!?? you piece of an animal kill and rape inocent people but when someone talks dirty...ahh, no, just can't stand it, and to set things right you tear the guy apart. Flawless logic.

There is some degree of speculation on whether the reason is what they say it was or if someone from outside the prison paid them to kill the third rapist, which seems more likely.

It is in fact the first time that a murder as brutal as this is perpetrated in an uruguayan prison. Sad news is that this country is bringing up this sort of animals.

This murder is now in everyones conversation in uruguay this week. Toad and little thing were given the maximum allowable time in prison by uruguayan law.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Uruguay

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Christmas fireworks Uruguay First of all, there is no such a thing as white Christmas in Uruguay, for two reasons. The first one is that in this hemisphere is summer time, the second being that it never snows in Uruguay (a great deal of Uruguayans don’t know snow), so even if it were winter, it wouldn’t be white anyway. In hot summers here is more like sweating Christmas.

Santa Claus here is called Papa Noel, and his associates here deliver all the Christmas presents at 12’ o clock sharp. So children expect presents to appear right away under their noses and they are a tough clientele. Yes, yes, HoHoHO! For some weird reason Santa Claus has this weird way of laughing over here too, although here is spelled more like JOJOJO ;)

There are no Christmas vacations, school period goes from March till December, school has already finished a month ago. For working guys such as myself, the 24th is workable only until noon, and the 25th is a non workable holiday. Unfortunately this year both days fell in weekend days which sucked.

Christmas holy mangerPreparations for Christmas’ eve and Christmas day include setting up your own Christmas tree. Some people like to have it natural, in such a case you have to go and get some pine tree somewhere, which is becoming uncommon. Another thing to do is to make one little holy manger usually within the fireplace, with ceramic figures, and rock paper. Some families also leave the little Jesus spot empty in the manger until Christmas day arrives.

Christmas fireworks uruguay

Christmas is celebrated typically in the following manner: families gather on a Christmas’s eve dinner, spend the evening together, until the clock ticks twelve. When Christmas day finally does arrive, everyone hugs each other, parents put up a children’s deceiving show telling them to look at some nonexistent star in the sky where Santa is supposedly coming from (here the north pole Santa’s elves factory thing is not very spread), also this scheme lends to several possible variations. While the children are looking at the sky after some decoy the other parent or some relative puts the presents beneath the Christmas tree, and shouts notifying of the sudden arrival and departure of Santa. Everyone else who is not involved in this children deceiving scheme may probably be playing with fireworks, making a lot of noise, lighting up the city, eventually getting a hand burned.

Christmas fireworks Montevideo

Ciudad Vieja Montevideo UruguayAfter all of this in Montevideo the two more interesting spots to be are “La Rambla” where people usually park their cars and put music real loud, dancing and drinking by the beach, or in ciudad vieja where there are a lot of pubs to hang out.


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Mercado del Puerto an uruguayan tradition

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Mercado del puerto Uruguay

Santa claus uruguay mercado del puertoIt’s December 24th, noon, and you are in Montevideo, Uruguay. What do you do? You go to El Mercado del Puerto” (translated would be something like the Port’s Market). El Mercado del Puerto is a recycled market from mid 19th century which now hosts grill restaurants, serving typical Uruguayan dishes, asado and relatives. The place’s been around for about 150 years and has seen guests such as Gardel, Figari and virtually everyone who ever lived in Montevideo in the last century. It’s a very picturesque spot, it’s one of the icons of the city, and it’s a must for every tourist wandering about. The place deserves a post on its own.

Mercado del puerto UruguayTowards the end of the year it’s the place of choice for lots of Uruguayans wishing to bid the year farewell, typically with office mates. It’s traditional to go and have lunch, and get dizzy or plain drunk on “medio y medio” (a drink made out of bubbling wine and dry white wine, medio y medio meaning half n’ half), a sweet deceiving thing that goes up ones head quickly.

Candombe at el mercado del puertoThe peaks of this celebrations are the 24th and the 31st when most offices work till noon and the after office traditionally is at El Mercado del Puerto, where people go to celebrate, eat, dance in the street, or just watch the live spectacle. It’s the kind of event you’d see on an E! Wild On show. There are music groups playing drums at Candombe and Samba rhythms, people spill beer and “medio y medio” over each other, (women are the most affected :) So if you go chances are that you will get wet and come back smelling, whether you drink or not. Movement starts somewhere around noon, and continues until around five.

Mercado del puerto uruguayAs the afternoon advances the place gets progressively crowded, noisy, wild, and even dangerous since it’s a drunken mob that we are talking about. The vibe in general is very, very good, but on a 24th or 31st the place is Armageddon, I don’t stay after three or four myself. Instead a few blocks away there’s the old city (ciudad vieja) where partying in the street continues.Uruguay mercado del puerto dec 2005

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Uruguay cost of life

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Uruguayan moneyFinally i'm making the big step, or one of the big steps, or one step in the way, or ... whatever. I'm moving with my girlfriend, and my budget is in crisis. I figured out that the info about how much does it cost to live in Uruguay may eventually help someone somewhere, or at least it will be fun to compare.

Here goes one table with prices for some consumption items, that I hope will serve as example.

Item Peso UY USD Comment
Lunch at restaurant from 60 to 150 from 2.5 to 6.25 Places where you sit, and there's a waiter
Dinner for two in a fancy restaurant from around 350 to 700 from around 15 to 30 appetizer, main course, dessert, good wine for both
Lunch at Mac Donald's 84 3.5 MD is not considered a cheap meal
Movie Theatre/Cinema from 50 to 105 from 2 to 4.4 105 weekend price
Theater around 200 around 8 pitty is so expensive
20km taxi drive in Montevideo around 200 around 8.3 from carrasco to ciudad vieja
Urban bus ticket 16 0.7 this is a very expensive price for a generally bad service
1 lt of gasoline 31.6 1.32 ooOOOUCH!
Renting a one bedroom apartment in a fancy neighborhood from around 4000 to 5000 plus common expenses from around 170 to 210 neighborhood being pocitos or punta carretas
Renting a two bedroom apartment in a fancy neighborhood from around 6000 to 8000 plus common expenses from around 250 to 330 Two years ago prices were half of what they are now
Electricity bill around 1000 around 40
Phone bill from around 1500 to 3000 from around 62 to 125 five person house, one teenager
Water bill around 300 around 12
cable tv bill around 500 around 20
internet broadband (256k download) from 800 to 1250 from 33 to 52 armed robbery
Renting a two bedroom apartment in a fancy neighborhood from around 6000 to 8000 plus common expenses from around 250 to 330 Two years ago prices were half of what they are now
Kilo of Potatoes around 10 around 0.42
Kilo of apples around 12 around 0.5
Kilo of bananas around 17 around 0.7
1 lettuce around 6 around 0.25
Kilo of fatless grinded meat around 80 around 3.3
Kilo of beef loins around 95 around 3.96
1 lt milk 10 0.42
1 loaf of bread 10 0.42

Is it expensive? cheap?

I don't have the mean income info, but if i have to guess it, i'd say for 70% of the population it's below 1000 usd, making everything rather expensive.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ricky Martin in Punta del Este

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Ricky Martin Punta del Este While zapping i discovered that Ricky Martin was singing in Punta del Este. It’s not like we are in 1999 and everyone is livin’ la vida loca, he's definitely not in his top moment, but still one has to acknowledge that the guy had the whole world shaking his bon bon some years ago.

Anyway, seems to me the concert got no diffusion, no press, in fact this channel informing of the event is not even Uruguayan. From what I saw, it looked like he was doing playback bigtime.

After some research it seems that the Conrad hotel opened the 2006 summer season with a Ricky Martin’s concert for 2000 thousand persons. I wonder if they managed to fill those empty seats.Ricky Martin Punta del Este

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Peñarol tied with Rocha FC 4-4

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Peñarol Rocha
In a narrow escape from humiliation Peñarol tied today with Rocha 4-4. Why is this relevant? Peñarol is one of the greatest football teams in Uruguay, in terms of history, number of supporters, and titles achieved (the greatest of them all is Nacional, but that’s off topic :), and it almost got humiliated today for the second time in a row by a much inferior team (inferior in terms of funding ;), since about a month ago Peñarol lost 7-2 with Danubio (that’s gotta hurt).

Today Peñarol has tied, from behind, thanks mainly to the red card shown to Rocha’s player Cardozo, leaving the game 11 against 10 early on the second half of the match, giving Peñarol time to recover from a three goals difference. It is in this way that Peñarol concludes a terrible year, winning nothing, going nowhere, relented to watch the Libertadores cup on TV.

On the other hand Rocha FC (football club) is barely a professional team, funded in 1999. It’s more of an amateur group invited to play the national championship. Miraculously Rocha entered in the history of Uruguayan football about a week ago, when beating Rampla Jrs, and obtaining the first half of the national championship (“el apertura”), consecrating itself as the first team coming from outside Montevideo to win a national cup. Rocha Peñarol

As a Uruguayan champion Rocha is going to play “La Copa Libertadores de America” cup, being the most popular South America’s clubs championship, facing the best of South American football teams, like Argentinean Boca jrs. The question is will it be able to sustain the success achieved nationally?

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Miami Vice is shooting in Uruguay

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Miami Vice movie set, Atlantida, Canelones, Uruguay Miami Vice, the movie, will be shooting some scenes in Uruguay, in three locations, Colonia, Atlantida, and Montevideo's historic neighborhood ("ciudad vieja"). The movie will be starred by Colin Farrel and Jamie Foxx, under Michael Mann's direction.

Colin has arrived last week to Uruguay. They are casting for extras, I've heard about 300 persons getting hired, at 90 dolars a day. Half of Atlantida's population will be playing cubans. Word is that some parts of Uruguay will be used to recreate "La Habana", after all the resemblance is stunning (...errr....mmm... weeeelll, how about.. no?).

I've a friend who'll act as a russian bodyguard, and driver, for a russian weapon's dealer (one of the movie's bad guys). He told me that they were looking for policemen, preferrably tall, blond ones, that could pass as russians, with very good english. When they found out that the cop fitting that profile has not been invented yet in uruguay, they hired my friend, who is a guns freak, and could pass as russian. My friend get's killed in a shooting (nico, don't forget us after you become a superstar! ;)

The pictures here are of the movie's set in Canelones, Atlantida.

Miami Vice movie set, Atlantida, Canelones, Uruguay


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Places, Canelones, Atlantida, El águila

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Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águila The eagle shadow There is one weird building standing in the Uruguayan coast of Canelones, Atlantida.

If you have time to do some beach walking, starting from Atlantida’s calm beach, (“la playa mansa”) and heading west you’ll notice after a five minute walk, this rock among the pine trees coastline. In no time you’ll realize it’s the head of an eagle you’re looking at.

This building is one of Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águilathe typical sights of Atlantida, and in my mind it’s been there since forever. The whole construction is shrouded in a haze of myths, about its origins and purposes. The most spread one is that it was built as a Nazi watch post, in the Second World War to monitor the river plate river. It’s a known fact that there were Nazis in the river plate region during the Second World War, and the eagle shape help the mystery gain credibility.Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águila the eagle I must admit that there’s something elegant and surreal to an eagle shaped rock constantly watching the horizon, it feels as some old civilization ruin left over (it helped the fact that until one year ago the place actually was in ruins, the thing was a wreck).

Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águila the eagleOne year ago the national tourism office realized something had to be done about it falling apart, and restored it, at least partially. In restoring it, they also killed the myths as now you can read posts telling the official construction’s story. It seems in the year 1945 one Italian rich guy called Michelizzi owner of one seaside house, ordered the construction of a small shrine by the beach, to consecrate it to the virgin. The constructor in charge, named Torres, built something twice as large as indicated and when Mr Michelizzi saw the place, and the view it had, he decided to dedicate it to reading, and painting instead, and as a whim he ordered the construction of an eagle on top of it, covered in stones as feathers. When it was finished he liked it so much that the he told Torres to continue his work building something in the shape of a naval ship underneath. Michelizzi died in 1957, and the sea completely destroyed the ship part of the building, leaving only the eagle.

Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águila coastline

Although now I know the true story, I can’t help thinking of it surrounded in mysterious plots of war, spies, and a time that is no more.

Uruguay Canelones Atlantida El águila the eagleNow it’s open to the public, you can go in it, walk up the stairs and appreciate the view from within the eagle’s head. They even light it up at night, in a way that it seems it has its eyes opened.

Uruguay Canelones Atlantida view

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Human rests were found in Pando

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After four months of digging and a lifetime of waiting

Uruguay march for those who disappeared
Twenty years after the finalization of the dictatorship in Uruguay the left party has won the elections and is now the ruling government. The tide has changed, former Tupamaro guerilla activist are now government senators, the once prosecuted are now in power.

On a controversial initiative the government has requested the military forces to provide reports on the locations of the buried political prisoners in the de facto government, and the explanations on the main events that took place related to the 150 persons that went missing, 30 of them said to been buried in Uruguay. The request was made on august the 8th. Four months of digging in the signaled locations have passed with no results, at least until very recently.

Last Tuesday human rests were found in one farm in Pando, one of the places signaled by the air force report. The rests are presumed to belong to José Arpino Vega, a construction worker, which militated in the communist party, who disappeared in 1974.

The place declared by the army (which is the force responsible for most of the disappearances) stills shows no results. Some think that the information provided by that force is untrue and misleading. Word on the street is that if there are no results the higher hierarchies in the army will be uprooted and replaced. Some even go as far as saying that the recent findings were planted by the government to appease the population. I guess only time will tell, the findings will be studied by a team of anthropologists from Uruguay and Argentina, who will define their validity.

Among those that are against this process the claims are that it’s unwise to open old wounds. Others think that until this matter is settled there will be no peace of mind for some sectors of the population. Others think that the will be no total forgiving and healing until the protagonist generation passes away.

Anyway, I’m optimist and I like to think that what’s been found is for real, that these findings have shed some light in the investigation process, and renewed the hope in everyone in Uruguay who wishes to end this black chapter in Uruguay’s history once and for all.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Why the heck is called Uruguay anyway?

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Uruguayan passport picture
The name Uruguay comes from the Guaraní language.

The Guaraní language is originary of one of the native tribes populating what is today know as the south of brazil, paraguay, part of argentina and uruguay. It is in fact, paraguay's second official language.

Uruguay is guaraní for "river of the birds", or "river of the painted birds", or "river of the snails" depending on the interpretation. The most accepted is river of the birds. And the whole name of the country is República Oriental del Uruguay, meaning republic at the west of this river. Before the creation of the republic this chunk of land in the world was known as "Banda Oriental" (oriental band? oriental stripe? i dunno), so it was already named in reference to the river. This is why sometimes uruguayans are referred to as "orientales", which can be sometimes confusingly funny, because it's the same term used for talking about asiatic people, orientals. ...

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Uruguayan stories, Dionisio Díaz

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Uruguayan stories, dionisio díaz statue
My grandma used to tell me the tale of Dionisio Díaz when I was a kid.

Once upon a time, one night, somewhere in the region of Treinta y Tres, within uruguay’s countryside, one old drunk man returned home to beat his daughter, and grandson, with whom he lived. Being a not very populated area, the noises disturbed no one. That particular night the drunk man snapped, went crazy, and attacked his daughter, who was holding his little baby girl in her arms. Dionisio, the nine year old grandson, woke up with the fighting noises, and the drowned shout of his mother, killed by his grandfather. He lit his candle, grabbed his bible, and went for his little sister. The madman caught him in the run and slashed him with a knife in his belly. He freed himself from his granddad grip, caught the baby from the floor, by his dead mother's side, and escaped mortally wounded in search for assistance.

The ranch was close to a creek, and the story goes that nine year old Dionisio walked eleven kilometers by the creek’s shore with his baby sister in one arm, and the other one getting a hold on his wounded belly. He survived only enough to deliver his sister to the local police office, where he arrived carrying only his sister and his bible, where he passed away.

When I first heard it from my grandma it really disturbed me the idea of a dear one going nuts, and attacking everyone, being the elder an all, I pictured myself trying to save my own little brother. Doing some research I found that this actually happened the 9th of May,1929. The creek is called “Arroyo de oro”(golden creek, or creek of gold), and since then the story is known as the story of “the little hero of golden creek”. I’ve heard that there are still descendants of the surviving sister living in the region of Treinta y tres.

(the picture was taken from here)

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Getting a university degree in Uruguay

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Uruguay univesities law
Uruguay univesities engineer
University studies in uruguay are free, there's no entrance or monthly fee. If you have your high school studies finished it's ok to register, attend courses and take exams. A long time ago in galaxy far away this made uruguay stand out from other south american countries and people would come to get their medicine degree from places like colombia, bolivia and paraguay, mostly paraguay. There is no career quota and the trendy careers get crowded, actually today all careers get crowded :( There are also private universities, which are about ten or fifteen years old, but they do not cover all careers, and still the public degrees remain the most valued at least in the national job market (IMHO this is wearing off).

Being a poor country and all, infrastructure it's not what it used to be, worst of all it's not what it ought to be. I've heard that a couple years ago psychology classes where given on a church (the irony is great :), and the place used as classroom would leak on rainy days. Today classes get crowed, it's rather normal to see people arrive early to classes and make "reservations" for friends, by leaving notebooks on the classroom seats, or using clothes or whatever.

Uruguay universities medicineThe notion of university campus does not exist, the university of the republic has specialized schools for the different careers distributed in the capital city montevideo. This forces people living outside the capital travel frequently or move into the capital. About half of the university students are'nt from the capital, and are informally called "canarios" by the inhabitants of montevideo (i remember one graffiti on a classroom desk saying "canarios go home" ;)

One cool thing about university in uruguay is that it's a self managed, state independent entity, with it's own government formed by one third of representatives of the students, one thirds of the teachers, and one thirds of professionals, former students.

Due to the economic situation in uruguay the usual thing is for students to study and work part or full time, which leads to an average of more than eight years for people to get their diplomas.

Uruguay universities chemistryWhenever someone gets a college degree tradition in uruguay says he or she must be exposed to humiliations of sorts. If you are male, forced head shaving it's mandatory, and no matter your sex you get the usual flour bath, with eggs (preferably rotten) crashed in your head, along with yerba (the stuff for mate, remember?), and pretty much whatever the imagination of you college mates dictates. Some schools have more specialized traditions, like in architecture they new architect must be thrown to the pond of the mutant fishes (that eat cigarettes), in the chemics school they throw to the victim radioactive components with smells and colors that won't go away for days. In engineering the brand new engineer must sit on a stone seat, mortally cursed for any nonengineer.

Uruguay getting a degree celebration

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Political prisoners

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Uruguay political prisoners march Two weeks ago a group of left extremists demonstrating against the american president, Bush, and american imperialism, did graffiti painting on buildings, and burnt cars, using molotov bombs in the city's historical neighborhood ("ciudad vieja"). See pictures. This actions were performed in response to Bush presence in Mar del Plata, Argentina, at the summit of the Americas. The police had to intervene for the incidents to stop. There were many prisoner's taken, most of them released within the following hours, but four of them kept inside.

Two weeks have passed and at least two marchs protesting, demanding the release of the prisoners, have been made. One last friday, and the other one today. The prisoners may spend from 3 months to 3 years on prision, if the release demand is not granted.

I would like to point out that demonstrations in uruguay are usual, but demonstrations resorting to violence as a means of protest are definitely not, and this is what makes this one so particular.

Last march a leftish government took office for the first time in uruguay's history. This is a good opportunity for the new government to prove it's worth managing this situation. The dilema faced is that if actions are not taken, this could be interpreted as legitimization of the use of violence in public demonstrations, on the other hand if punishment is severe support from the hardcore leftish wing will be lost.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Uruguay is out of the world cup

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Uruguay world cup classificator, street crowd watching the game on tv
Uruguay Australia, second leg game, in australia. The whole country woke up early, the match started 7:00 am local time, public schools granted permission for children to arrive late, this was announced on the news yesterday. Companies let their employees arrive late as well. That’s how much it meant for us.

The first half was even, Australia managed to score though. I felt that from the beginning the socceroos where cutting the game’s rhythm with faults. Kewel entrance made a big difference. The second half Australia played better, there were some goal opportunities for both sides, but they were in control most of the game. The referee didn’t do a good job, he let the game get too physical, I feel he should have taken measures before.  

Penalties mean nothing, it’s like coin tossing.

We only needed one goal to make it, and we didn’t score it. Shame on us! The best team is going to the world cup. It’s a pity to have made it this far only to stop here. As we say, it’s like swimming a lot only to die on the shore.

Now it’s national day of mourning

I advice ozzies staying in Uruguay at the moment, no to go out. (much stronger adjectives come to my mind right now towards ozzies, but I'll just keep them to myself)

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tristan Narvaja, the largest uruguayan flea market

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Uruguay tristan narvaja, largest flea market in uruguay Uruguay tristan narvaja, largest flea market in uruguayEvery sunday morning takes place the largest flea market in Uruguay, named after the street where it's located.La feria de tristan narvaja is the kinda place where you can find everything, ranging from tarantula like spiders, parrots, old comic magazines, groceries, books, arts & crafts, old vinyl records, old tv and radio sets, antiques, to the latest pirate piece of software. I guess, "eclectic" is the most suitable word for the place.

Uruguay tristan narvaja, largest flea market in uruguayIt's the land of the collectionist and the pick-pocketer, a place where you can find the neighbor buying the week's stock of groceries, the ocassional madman shouting, the street beggar begging, and the reseller looking for some undervalued item. A human zoo of sorts, a uruguayan gallery of sights, sounds and scents. It's in some way the negative of a shopping center.

Uruguay tristan narvaja, largest flea market in uruguayThe market is placed all along the tristan narvaja street, which is about one kilometer, and extends to every crossing and paralell street. While the backbone of the market takes place in tristan narvaja st, it is in the periphery where it is more likely to find hidden "treasures", laid on blankets on the street. It is also in the periphery where is less secure, and is a more fertile ground for street scams.

Uruguay tristan narvaja, largest flea market in uruguayThere is even one uruguayan urban myth that talks about one "torres garcia", a painting from one of the most famous uruguayan paintors was actually found and bought here for nothing. There is also another myth about an stradivarius being found here, but the latter I find harder to believe.

Uruguay tristan narvaja, largest flea market in uruguay

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Football, don't be a kangaroo

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Uruguay world cup championship, garat kangaroo, street banner Football is the opium of uruguayans, and this is one good example of it. Right in front of the school of engineering of the university, I came across this banner. Translated it reads something like:

"Garat: Don't be kangaroo, and change the exam's time.
Your students"

Uruguay engineering schoolToday, uruguay plays against australia for the world cup classification finals. When the national football team plays for the world cup the country freezes, everybody watches. It's kinda an unwritten law. Seems that some bitter college teacher, named garat, is taking exams at the same time as the match, and students don't take it at all well. They are right to complain!

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Truco, the most uruguayan of card games

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Uruguay playing truco
The most emblematically uruguayan card game is called "truco", or "uruguayan truco" to be accurate. Truco means something like trick, as in: to trick someone in doing something. It's played by four or six players, in two teams of 2, or three players, with a spanish deck without the 8's, the 9's and the wildcards.

Uruguay truco cardsThree cards are handed to each player, and one card is left upside down under the deck, this card is called "la muestra", which would be something like "the shown" (don't worry; it makes as much sense in english as it does in spanish ;). Every player plays one card at a time in three "rounds". The game is based on betting points on each hand, and the team who wins two rounds out of three wins the hand and the pot of points of that hand (well, sort of, it's a bit more complex than that). The team to reach 40 points first is declared the happy winner.

Every card in the game has a value assigned to it, and one of the cool things about truco, is that most of the cards in the deck have one or another value depending on the "shown". All cards are given a value, some cards don't depend on "the shown", but the most valuables are the ones which do depend. This set of most valuable cards is called "las piezas" (the pieces). Remember I said it was played in teams, well, one of the funniest things about truco is that there is a language of facial signs meant to communicate what cards you have to your team mates. And part of the game skill is to communicate the cards you have without being watched by your opponents, you will try to cover your face with your arms, or wait till no one’s watching to make the signs.

Good players, and good teams are those who make the most out of the cards they have, and when they don’t really have valuable cards, they act, and trick the other team into believing that they do, and when they do have good cards they act as if they didn't laying out a trap for the other team to fall into. So there's a lot of acting involved, I guess while in poker is more natural to stay calm, and not to show emotions whatever is your hand, in truco there's a lot of team acting and outspoken speculation of the cards the other team might have. Add a bit of alcohol to the situation and you will get Shakespeare like interpretations.

Uruguay truco card gameThe betting mechanism is based on a set of reserved words: "truco", "retruco", "vale cuatro" to raise the bet one point, and "envido" to make a special bet, or "flor" if you have a certain combination of cards. All these reserved words you just can't use them in your conversation, which sometimes does happen, being the name of the game one of the reserved words, if you do say any of them your opponents may hold the bet as made, and you will have to prove the worth of your hand of cards. One very common act is to say one reserved word and pretend it to have been a mistake, good acting is required. Another thing that is cool is to say some kind of poetic verse ending with the reserved word, to anger the opponents, typically used with the "flor" (flower), which informs the opponent team that you have a certain combination of cards that entitle you to 3 points per se.

Uruguay truco card game, in your face winner typical celebration pictureThere are a lot of subtleties to the game, like the fact that you can say any of the reserved words if you place your hand or one finger on top of the deck (for the deck not to listen), or traditions like carrying the score on a napking using squares, where each line is a point, or carrying the score with beans, and using beans to represent the amount of points in the pot of the current hand, or like licking your fingers, and wetting your forehead to place one card on it when you won the hand with the most valuable card, and fooled the other team into believing you were out of good cards, like some kind of "in your face" sort of thing.

The game is played also in argentina, the uruguyan version of the game is called uruguayan truco, or truco oriental, while the argentinian version is called "truco ciego" or blind truco, since they dont play with "la muestra", much simpler, all cards have the same value always, also much boring if you ask me.

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