Thursday, August 13, 2015

Laying down the pieces

It's been ages since I last posted anything on this blog...  I've occasionally felt guilty about that fact. I mean, if you're going to start a blog you better be ready to keep posting, right? People aren't going to follow you unless you have something to share...

But for a number of months now I haven't felt like I could put my thoughts into words or my experiences into stories... The thought would cross my mind but I had difficulty unraveling what I was processing and so I went silent... choosing to honor the season I was in and the lack of creative juices.

I now realize I've been in the midst of a major transition - trying to understand what took place during my first 2+ years here in Uruguay and searching for a vision for the future. 

And today it dawned on me - I've been trying to put together a puzzle!

I don't know which "method" you might use when linking all the little pieces together in order to "create" the picture that's been glued to the surface of the cardboard. For me, I've always followed the same pattern:

  • First, find the four corners. (I've never attempted to put together any round puzzles - there's no way to start!)
  • Next, pull out all of the edge pieces and slowly link them together. (Yes, straight edges are a must for me!)
  • Then, sort the remaining pieces by color and other details...
  • And then begin the hunt-and-peck process...
  • Until the last piece is laid!!
I must confess, I'm not much of a puzzler... I usually bow out of the process for the most time-consuming fourth bullet point and re-emerge for the last twenty or so pieces. I don't naturally have the patience or perseverance that a good puzzler needs to have... 

And that also translates into the fact that I often struggle when navigating a transition. It can take me awhile to find the corner pieces... and place the edge... not to mention the entirety of the remaining "puzzle"!

But eventually the understanding and clarity fall into place. I am able to recognize what I have learned from the past and begin to identify what I hope for the future until...

The picture has taken shape, the puzzle is complete and I can move forward.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Life on Sesame Street

The other week my friend and teammate, Matt, stopped by to help me with a home repair - my front door was scraping the floor whenever I opened and closed it which produced a horrid sound. The wire he brought for the job wasn't thick enough so he went to my friend Angela's plumbing supply store on the ground floor of my building to see if she might have something we could use. When he returned with the necessary item he commented to me, "You live on Sesame Street!"

And I have to admit that he's right! I DO feel like I live on Sesame Street! 

No, there's no Big Bird walking the streets nor an Oscar the Grouch hiding out in the trash can!  You won't find Elmo or Cookie Monster here, either (although my neighbors are starting to love the cookies and cakes I'm sharing with them).  :)

But after a year of living on Orinoco Street I'm starting to develop some really good friendships with my neighbors and it's starting to feel like home. 

The street is kind of the shopping street of the neighborhood. There are several bake shops, multiple restaurants and cafés, a grocery store, numerous hair salons, a fresh pasta shop, a laundromat, several hardware stores and a handful of other small shops scattered among homes and apartment buildings along a four block segment. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the ice cream shop!!  And Kadee's veterinary shop is just half a block from my apartment too!

The ambiance is delightful and it's the "happening place" on fair-weather-days. The fact that we're less than a block from the beach helps as well! 

When I moved into my apartment fourteen months ago, I knew I wanted to invest in building good relationships with my neighbors. And I marvel at how wonderful and life-giving that process has been!
  • Dardo and Janelle and their dog, Olivia, live in the apartment next to mine. They've invited me into their home on several occasions and we chat several times a week as we see each other on the sidewalk.
  • Angela runs the plumbing supply store on the ground floor of my building and she has become a dear friend. I stop in to say "Hi!" every day and we spend time together one evening of the week.
  • José owns the electrical repair shop directly below my apartment and he and his employees greet me when our paths cross and I enjoy sharing my latest baking project with them fresh from the oven. Plus, they came to the rescue when my front door was accidentally locked from the inside several weeks ago.
  • Monica and her husband, Señor del Pianno, live in the house next to my building and I have been spending an hour a week visiting with Monica so that she can practice her English. She has been an English teacher most of her life but her memory and speech were adversely affected after a brain injury several years ago her. We talk about life as we combine English and Spanish, laughter sprinkled among our profound conclusions.
  • Rosa, her husband and middle-aged son live next to the del Piannos. She used to be a librarian and enjoys using her English with me whenever she can. Our faces light up when we see each other and she always says the kindest, sweetest things to me that just make my day.
  • The staff at the veterinary practice have been so helpful as I added Kadee to my life several months ago and she loves to visit them. Their friendliness and availability have been a blessing to me as I adjust to being a pet owner.
  • The managers at the neighborhood supermarket greet me as I enter the store - I am now one of their recognized "regulars".
  • Each morning when I take Kadee for her first walk of the day, a doorman at one of the large apartment buildings on our route greets us with a broad smile and a gregarious wave of the hand that warms me from the inside out on a cold day.
  • Several fellow dog owners always stop for a chat when Kadee and I are walking down the street - comments regarding the weather or how we're doing fill the quick but friendly interactions.
Yes, I feel like I'm living on Sesame Street. And it feels GOOD! 

My building - my apartment is on the top left half of the building.

Kadee enjoying a walk on the beach.

My friend Angela with the coastline of my neighborhood in the background.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

XXOO -- Besos!!

Besos!!  (i.e. "kisses")  

You hear it and see it all of the time here in Uruguay. People greet each other with a kiss - placing right cheeks next to each other and making a smacking noise in the air. Men to women. Women to women. Men to men. One kiss. A clasp of the arm or a hand on the shoulder. It's the standard way to acknowledge someone and give a greeting. And when you arrive at someone's home, or a meeting, or a restaurant - almost anywhere, really - you have to great EACH PERSON with a kiss on the cheek.

In the U.S., we shake hands and give hugs.

In Holland, they use THREE kisses - right cheeks, left cheeks, and finally right cheeks again. (whew!)

You also say "besos" to each other here in Uruguay as you say good-bye to each other - in person, over the phone, in a message or letter.

Everything's "BESOS!!"

In the beginning I didn't quite know what to do with all of these kisses. It seems rather intimate for someone who's used to thinking of kisses in a romantic way. Luckily I had twelve years in Holland before relocating to Uruguay so one kiss now seems easy.  ;)

I had two aunts who always signed x's and o's at the bottom of my birthday cards when I was a kid. Kisses and hugs... A symbol of warmth, of affection, of care and concern. I think of these symbols when I place my cheek next to someone else's or say at the close of a conversation "Besos!"





Upon greeting...

And in parting...

Think you could do it??  Give it a go! :)

Friday, June 27, 2014

San Geronimo: Yeah you guessed it -- by Becky

During lunch, we left the house waiting for the spackling and concrete to dry. (It had nothing to do with the fact that Uruguay was playing Italy in The World Soccer Cup.)

Side note: The World Soccer Cup means Soccer teams from all parts of the globe will play various teams who are also from all over the globe, unlike certain countries who have "The World Series," when it is really, "The State's Series."

In order to get an accurate flavor and charm we go into town to a small community building to eat and watch the game. Upon arriving we are greeted by one brown, black and white dog that sits by the door wagging his tail and squeezing between our legs in an attempt to enter the building.

Inside their are several men watching soccer on a t.v. We join in and order ravioli, and pizza, cokes and fanta (The pizza here is similar to toast with tomato sauce and a slice of mozzerala cheese cut into rectangles.) After taking a few sips from my soda a large fly appears out of no where (its winter time for pete's sake) and immediately begins swimming in my soda bottle. Do I need a new bottle?

Phil grabs a fork and manages to nab the drenched bug. I decide soda is too expensive and I'll drink it floating bug or no floating bug.

We continue watching the soccer game until Uruguay bites their way to victory.

San Geronimo once again by Becky Hess

Tuesday we hope to prep and patch the walls in the main room in order to begin painting. 

We move all the furniture into the middle of the room which requires big muscles. Which one of us has the muscles? Phil, the teacher, with the mind of an engineer helps us stack all the items as though we are completing a puzzle. Afterwards he brings in a tarp which he found in the work room. This fits over the piled furniture as though it was custom made. We do a jig and a high five.  

Hoping to get the spackling and concrete to dry Phil tries to get the fire place going. < All you boy scouts would be proud of Holly's wood carrying skills.> Along with Phil's ability to get wet trees to burn. On a side note someone with the initials of MP threw a dry gourd into the fire creating a blast that made my guitar sing and me scream. Will the concrete ever dry?

Life in San Geronimo by Becky

Monday night, 11:15 pm time for bed, unfortunately the bathroom began spurting water all over the floor, fortunately Marilyn is a get-her-clean- type of woman. 

Fill up warm water bottles as our bedtime heat source and try to begin snoring. Awake before the sun, which isn't difficult as the sunrises at 7:45 am. 

Will we have water and a working shower?

No. Grab a bucket. It works just like a good Haitian shower. 

For some team members it becomes the first shampooing in a sink. 

This trip has been good for exercising creative problem solving.   

Monday, June 23, 2014

San Geronimo: A Note from Becky Hess

Monday's here. Time for San Geronimo. Awoke before the sun, packed up, checked out the ATM for pesos. For you banking folks, the ATM's in Uruguay are inside a small room. Once inside the door locks.  Imagine needing to take out $3500. My hands shook as I typed! (Don't worry Jack it's basically $150 US.)  Transaction completed? The switch at the side of the door is key to get back to the car.    

After exchanging money we stopped for groceries for a variety of foods. Around here we have enjoyed lots of roasted meat minus vegetables. The idea of 5 fruits and vegetables a day isn't characteristic for Uruguay. Yes Mom, we grabbed broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes, bananas, mandarins and apples.

Here's one of the meats for an Asado (barbecue). 

 At the grocery store one can buy rugs, electronics, and earrings along with all the food. After loading the groceries we high tailed it to San Geronimo (Phil's driving so he's not afraid of all the local drivers who decide stop signs are optional).

Eucalyptus trees shedding their bark line the driveway, Holly and I hop out of the car to smell the flowers, and take pictures. In the midst of winter, arrays of colors catch my eye. Yellow, pink and  red pops out from the green background. A German shepherd barks protecting her pups and the house. I keep hoping she won't decide to take a bite out of me. 

Today we began prepping for tomorrow's work, moving furniture, made beds, cleaned the kitchen, and bathroom, cooked and cleaned again. Sang, prayed and ate together. What will happen next? 

Demolition Begins. Good night!