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Click on this link to read the review:

<a href=”http://www.prlog.org/12440447-travels-with-charlize-in-search-of-living-alone.pdf”>Travels With Charlize; in search of living alone</a>

We discovered veterinary medicine in Uruguay is alive and well. Their College of Veterinary Medicine was started in the second decade of the 20th Century, and is part of the Universidad de la Republica, the National University. It is the only veterinary school in the country. We discovered it while on one of our extended neighborhood walks, an easy twenty-minute amble from our hotel

Here is a photo of my bearded self with the sign for the veterinary school.

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After meeting and talking to both students and faculty I discovered all education in Uruguay is free. Primary school for six years, secondary school for another six then a choice between a variety of trade schools or university. I neglected to find out if that choice is determined by an examination, as it is in Europe, or is just a choice by the student. Entrance to veterinary school is directly from secondary school and it is open enrollment. Anyone who graduates from secondary school, on the academic track, is admitted if they apply. Currently anywhere from three to six hundred students enter the program each year. The two faculty members I talked to both said they never know until the first day of school how many students will be present. The second year they lose quite a few students by failing exams or giving up but still have a heavy load for faculty. Each year the number of students who manage to stay in the program decreases and after five years plus one more year of “thesis” work they usually graduate about a hundred students with a dual degree in veterinary medicine and animal husbandry. The “thesis” work involves doing a project, sometimes what we would call research, and writing a paper about what they accomplished.

The good news is there is full employment for the graduate veterinarians. During our extended walking tours in Montevideo, usually four or more hours each day, we seldom go more than eight to ten blocks without encountering a veterinary clinic, almost always associated with a pet store and boarding facility. We have not seen a pet dog here that was not well cared for. Even the street dogs and cats appear to be in reasonably good shape. Many of the veterinary students find work in the agricultural industry, family farms and ranches that they go home to manage, large agribusiness companies that employ them as managers, plenty of small and large dairy farms both cattle and goats, that provide employment in addition to the pet practices, “mascots” they call them.

Dr. Rodolfo Ungerfeld is the Head of the Department of Physiology. A very kind and friendly Reproductive Physiologist who does some interesting work

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Here I am with Professor Ungerfeld on my right and one of his graduate students on my left.

One of his many project involves reproduction problems in Pampas Deer, a species that used to number in the hundreds of thousands in Uruguay and is now down to only a few thousand. A herd of several hundred are kept in La Reserva de Flora y Fauna del Cerro Pan de Azucar, a zoo/reserve near Sugarloaf Mountain. Pan de Azucar is the third tallest mountain in Uruguay, about 500 or 600 feet above sea level). The place is only a couple of hours from Montevideo by car so we rented one and took a road trip.

Here is one of the tiny but magnificent Pampas Deer.

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We also walked part way up the mountain and got an overview of the reserve.

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The other faculty member I had a productive afternoon with is Professor Alejandro Benech. He is in charge of the small animal clinic but taught cardiovascular and respiratory physiology for many years and does some interesting research on ischemia/reperfusion injury of the heart using a sheep model. From the data he showed me he could be looking at some very important results.

We only have three more days to enjoy Montevideo and we plan to make the most of them. My new friends have graciously invited me to return and give some lectures to their graduate students. We couldn’t do it this trip because next week the whole country shuts down for “Easter Week”. They call it “Tourist Week” because of the serious legal separation between church and state. I hope I will be able to return and give those lectures.

Here is another photo of the band and dancers we saw on our visit to the Mercado del Puento described in my last posting:

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The music and dancing is called Candombe originating with African slaves it has become part of the culture and heritage of Uruguay. The style of music features three different drums, chico, repique and piano. Candombe refers to dancing societies founded by persons of African descent in the third decade of the 19th century. The term is from the Kikongo language and means “pertaining to blacks”. The dance originated as a local Montevidean fusion of various African traditions. It features complicated choreography including sections with wild rhythms, a plethora of improvised and intricate steps combined with energetic body movement. Each year there is a special parade in Montevideo called “Desfile de Llamadas”, that winds through the Sur and Palermo neighborhoods with prizes awarded for the best new song (music), dancers, costumes, etc., etc. We are told it is very competitive with many different categories so there are lots of winners and lots of entries. Got to get back here to see it!

This is one of many Sycamore-lined street we’ve walked down, …some up. We were told there are well over 400,000 trees in Montevideo, one for every three inhabitants.

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Here’s a friend we made while walking through the all but overwhelming granite and marble monuments of the Buceo Cemetery, a weird mix of a short-hair and long-hair.

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Here is a worker power-washing the side of a skyscraper a couple of blocks from our hotel.

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My oversized ego makes me believe this first separation from Charlize has made her very sad. When I left her with the young couple who agreed to care for her while we are gone she was so busy investigating their home and their two cats she didn’t seem to notice when I left. A text message the next day, with a photo of her enjoying herself, indicated she is doing just fine without me. Predictably, I miss her more than she misses me.

Alexis and I are adventuring in Argentina and Uruguay. We flew from Seattle to Dallas the morning of March 10 then from Dallas to Buenos Aires, arriving the next morning. Alexis visited Buenos Aires in 1989 so we spent two days revisiting sites and places she had been and remarking on all the changes. I’m getting along reasonably well with what is left of the Spanish I learned during the twelve months my young family and I spent in Mexico City forty-eight years ago. I manage to make myself understood in most situations and with the help of a Spanish/English dictionary I’m starting to remember vocabulary and even some conjugations, but my rough efforts do bring some puzzled frowns and indulgent smiles. Most of the people I try to talk to are happy I am making the effort to speak their language and even when their English is much better than my Spanish, they are patient with me.

The people of Uruguay seem much more relaxed, friendly and patient than those we encountered in Buenos Aires. The latter is a busy, big city whose inhabitants display the same attitudes toward strangers as I have encountered in New York, London, Paris and other big cities. The entire population of Uruguay is only about 3.5 million people and Montevideo seems smaller than Seattle.

Here is Alexis visiting with two immobile new friends in Buenos Aires.

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We took the ferry from Buenos Aires, an hour-long trip across the huge estuary of the Rio de la Plata to Colonia del Sacramento. Colonia was founded in 1680 by the Portuguese Governor of Rio de Janeiro as a headquarters for the smuggling of manufactured items. This was done to counteract the monopoly run by the Spanish rulers of Argentina and Buenos Aires to control the importation of these goods. After leaving the ferry we took a two and a half hour bus ride to Montevideo, a good way to get a feel for the agricultural economy of eastern Uruguay. We passed many small dairy farms. It’s early fall here and some crops are just starting to ripen. It was also interesting to see date palms, evergreen trees and Eucalyptus trees all growing in close proximity.

The plan for the next couple of weeks is to return to our comfortable hotel in the Buceo neighborhood of Montevideo each evening. We are only a couple of blocks from the Puerto del Buceo, a marina with a small beach. The plan is to return  each evening. after day trips to various locations in this wonderful country. For the past four days we have wandered around the city, mostly walking and trying to meet and enter into conversation with residents. Saturday we were in the Ciudad Vieja, the old city, in the Mercado del Puerto. Crowded into an amazing wrought-iron superstructure is an even more amazing collection of parillas, relatively inexpensive restaurants that specialize in grilled meats, huge portions of grilled meats. This particular place on Saturday afternoons, we arrived about 3:00 PM, is filled with artists, craftspeople, musicians and a few, but not too many, tourists this time of year. Crowds of artistic folks were eating lots of meat, drinking wine and beer and having fun. Many joined the festivities created by a street band of youngsters playing and dancing.

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The band consisted of an older gentleman, in the blue shirt, playing the trumpet, three teenaged drummers, the youngest no more than thirteen, two beautiful young ladies in bikini’s and high heels dancing and a leader who played tambourines and collected from the appreciative crowd.

“I want to go to Marfa,” Alexis said, “ it’s on my bucket list.”

“What and where is Marfa?” I responded.

“Marfa, Texas, it’s an artists’ colony and has a hotel from the 50’s completely retro but renovated. That’s where I want to stay. There is also an art installation outside of town, a fake Prada store. I want a photo of me in front of that. Marfa was written up in Dwell magazine and it was also on Sixty Minutes. It’s supposed to be like Taos was for artists in the 50’s. If you Google Prada Marfa you’ll see the art installation.”

So I said: “Sure why not, I’m into art and artists and I’ve never been to Marfa.”

Marfa is not someplace you go to on the way to someplace. South and east of El Paso, sixty miles north of the border, not too far, by Texas standards, to the Big Bend National Wilderness area where my sons and I went backpacking back in the day.

So we drove to Las Cruces and stayed overnight, not much to comment on. Have you ever been to Las Cruces? The next day on to Marfa with the fake Prada store about 35 miles from town. We went past it at 75 mph. Two carloads of people were stopped to take photos. Alexis said; “Let’s go on and come back tomorrow, I want to clean up before the photo and there is a crowd now. We don’t want strangers in the photo.”

Today we went back. The big Prada-Marfa signs above the door on either side were gone. Ripped off during the night? The online photos of the installation show it with the signs in place. The displays of shoes and purses inside were still intact but the magic was gone. It’s all about the sign!

Here is Alexis, being held up by the sign thieves. IMG_0020

Charlize with her friends Alexis, Mimi and Zsa Zsa near the pool at the Thunderbird Hotel.

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I left a copy of Travels With Charlize at the local bookstore and during lunch had a nice conversation with Ken Whitley, another writer, retired from Shell Oil and a Marfa resident for the last seventeen years. He stopped by our table while we were eating lunch to compliment Alexis on her jewelry and her shoes. Not an uncommon event.

The Phoenix I knew, before leaving in 1970, is no more. The northern suburbs now stretch all the way to Cave Creek. My brother and sister-in-law moved to Cave Creek eleven years ago. When I practiced veterinary medicine, never certain I practiced well enough or long enough to really be good at it, there was nothing between my clinic on 32nd St. and Bell Road and the town of Cave Creek, seven or so miles north. I had a few clients in Cave Creek so I drove those miles on a two-lane road full of drops down into washes then up again. Today the road is divided, two lanes to a side, no dips and the previously empty desert is full of subdivisions and strip malls. Compared to the eclectic neighborhoods of Seattle and Edmonds, the subdivisions are monotonic, ersatz adobe style, flat or tile roofs, varying shades of tan. It is early spring in the Sonoran desert and the cacti are getting ready to bloom, some already have. If I lived in one of those subdivisions, even though I still have positive feelings about the desert, I think I would need a trail of bread crumbs to find my house after a couple of glasses of Malbec.

 

The biggest change though is the shear number of people and the resulting traffic. I took Alexis to see where my clinic was and the building I built is still there. Here is a photo of the Paradise Animal Hospital in 1962:

My beautiful picture

Now the place is a Mexican furniture, knickknack and pottery store. We went in and most of the rooms of the clinic had been reconfigured and obviously repurposed. The indoor kennels have been removed and the openings to the outside runs closed. The outside runs have been removed. My old reception area is now a private office, my old office full of knickknacks for sale. Just for fun I peeked in the restroom. The fixtures have been replaced but the door to my old darkroom was still there, closed. I opened it and the room was empty but still painted black! Here is what the place looks like now:

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Charlize couldn’t have been less interested.

We’re on the road again, Charlize and I, this time with company. Alexis and her two Yorkshire terriers Mimi and Zsa Zsa are making travel even more fun. We left early Wednesday morning, the 4th of February. We crossed over Snoqualmie Pass in spitting snow but the road was clear. On the eastern slope the snow was heavier with spotty dense fog all the way to Yakima. Near Cle Elum in a patch of light fog the traffic was heavy and moving too fast for the conditions. I moved into the passing lane to get around a slow moving semi. A car came up fast and tailgated me. I watched in horror as a black SUV traveling west veered onto the median and went airborne flipping sideways at least three times, with parts of the vehicle separated and airborne. It landed on its wheels shuddering. There was only the soft median to pull onto and the car was still on my tail. There was a long line of cars on my right. I slowed and the traffic following swung around me. I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw that three cars had pulled off onto the right shoulder and all the drivers were on their cell phones. I was already too far away to get off the highway safely then get across to the median to offer any aid. I have Googled several times but can’t find any reports of a fatal accident at that location on that date. It was not an auspicious way to start our trip.

We pulled into Boise, ID that evening and checked into our first of many La Quinta Inns booked because of their dog welcoming policy. The receptionist offered dog treats, we call them “cookies” and at the mention of that word all three dogs commenced spinning. We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Alavita an Italian restaurant in downtown Boise only a few blocks from the State Capital Building. We decided that all the customers in suits and ties were lobbyists. If you are in Boise this restaurant is worth the effort and then some. Alexis and I always order different dishes and then share, it doubles the experience.

The next night we were in Ely, NV after a day of empty highways and empty spaces. We gained an hour back after losing it in Idaho. We got settled in the room then caught up with the local Ely Times and the Sherriff’s blotter, interesting stuff going on in tiny Ely. We tried to identify a place to eat but the choices were so limited we elected to eat some fruit we brought from home; the huge salads we consumed at lunch would tide us over.

All three dogs are now experienced car travellers. Whenever we stop they stay in the back of Whitey until their leashes are in place then take advantage of the first non-paved location we can find to do their business. Charlize taught the other two to take advantage of every opportunity.

Las Vegas, after a short drive, was Las Vegas. We walked the old part of downtown experiencing the low-rent Las Vegas. Then checked into our La Quinta before cleaning up and going to the “Strip” for some serious people watching and dinner. We discovered Vegas people watching to be a unique experience, on many levels. The casino staff people are interesting to observe since it appears their every action is calculated to obtain a gratuity. The slot machines draw an intense set of focused characters mesmerized by computerized spinning, flashing images. Blackjack players seem more social, more relaxed but still focused. All excitement focuses on the craps tables.

We wandered through the Cosmopolitan, where we took advantage of their free public parking, then the Bellagio. Mega casinos but we were there just observing. The problem was to try to escape the cigarette and cigar smoke. Apparently the people of Nevada are in denial about the adverse health effects of second-hand smoke. Maybe the casino workers have to sign some sort of legal document recognizing they are working in a hazardous environment and give up their right to sue. Our hotel was non-smoking though so perhaps the casinos have special dispensation.

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