Happy in Uruguay!


I am delighted to see photos of these smiling men and to know they have finally been freed from Guantanamo prison in Cuba. All were arrested following the 9/11 attacks of 2001. Although they were never charged with any crimes, they sat for years in black holes in Cuba.

Muchas gracias to Uruguayan President Jose Mujica who offered them freedom, education, and a home in Uruguay. He also demanded that they arrive in Uruguay free of shackles and take their first steps on Uruguayan soil as free men.

Bravo, Mujica!

Día del Patrimonio

04-05 October, 2014

This weekend is Día del Patrimonio (Heritage Days) in Uruguay and many buildings are open to the public. Our quiet beach town of Atlántida, Uruguay has a significant collection of quirky, cool buildings featuring a variety of innovative architectural designs.

One of the most famous structures was designed and engineered by Eladia Dieste, an architect who made his reputation by building numerous elegant structures from grain silos to churches. His buildings are a fusion of cutting-edge design and functionality featuring self-supporting double curved arches, built without any structural columns. We see this fine example often as it’s located near the butcher shop we frequent. It’s a must-see to share when we have visitors from abroad.


Iglesia del Cristo Obrero, designed by Elasio Dieste was built in 1958.

Another must-see favorite for originality is El Águila – The Eagle. In 1945, Italian millionaire Natalio Michelizzi, commissioned an Uruguayan builder (Juan Torres) to build him a statue of the Virgin Mary. Tores instead built a place where Michelizzi could read, paint and entertain. This meeting place for friends has given rise to several legends—from a Nazi observatory, a cosmic energy center, to a smuggler’s hideout.


We have, over the years, viewed several of the fine, old and restored buildings in Montevideo during Día del Patrimonio. So this year, we decided to venture inland, along country roads, and visit some unusual buildings in villages nearby.

Our first stop was lunch at the Parador (truck stop) Fito. Next we drove along a dirt road to see the offerings in Soca. We followed signs to a strange, wing-shaped private Soca Family Chapel. It was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Bonet Castellana in 1959. Although it was scheduled to be open to the public, a handwritten sign and padlock on the gate indicated it wasn’t. We took photos from the dirt road and drove on.


Next stop, Santuario Virgen de las Flores. It was open and warm, welcoming us inside to view its spacious beauty.



While there we discovered why the Soca Family Chapel was closed. Seems an infestation of honey bees were busy buzzing about inside the chapel. Perhaps the family will consider setting up a sanctuary for honey-bees.

Tranquilo is nice!



“Wherever you go, there you are…” is a quote attributed to the teachings of Buddha. No matter how far away we go in hopes of finding greener grass, there’s no getting away from ourselves.

My husband and I moved to the mountains of central Mexico in 2006 and immediately got to work designing our dream home on an extra large lot in the small village of Tzurumútaro, Pátzcuaro. We lived in the small casita while our big house was being built. Our Mexican contractor decided our dream home should be even grander and built us a beautiful Mexican colonial mansion with illegally cut pine beams (which we learned about much later, that’s another story …), baldosa floor tiles, beautiful stone arches (noticeably lacking the keystone), three fireplaces finished with elaborate wood mantels, a circular staircase, new windows to accent exquisite views, and French doors opening to the closed courtyard on one side and the large garden with pond on the back side. It was beautiful and spacious. Perfect for indoor and outdoor living.

But after the sledge hammers stopped pounding from gutting old walls and the concrete mixer’s revolving drum stopped its noisy spin, we began to realized the noise wasn’t going to stop.

Trains rumbled through our village up to ten times a day and blew their horns repeatedly to caution pedestrians to move off the tracks. Since our property line was less than 70 meters from the track, the noise was unavoidable. In addition to the rumble of engines and screeching or axles, the incredibly loud train horn: LOOONG LOOONG SHORT LOOONG preceding the town’s two level crossings. One of which was, you guessed it, one block from us, or 15-20 seconds before the train arrived, which is exactly when a train is required to blow the signal. Opposite us, a couple houses down, periodically we’d hear frantic, very loud squealing of a pig. We never found out for sure what that was all about. I wore ear plugs to muffle that. And, every time someone died, the local religious rites included fireworks set off every twenty minutes to commemorate the life of the deceased. The fireworks, rockets that went up 100 meters then exploded with deafening concussions, continued until the body was taken away. In the meantime all dogs for miles around howled and barked for hours on end, making it difficult for me to sleep at night and to concentrate and write by day. A writer friend of ours, doing research for a book on the culture of Mexico, came to the conclusion that Mexicans were actually sleep deprived because of noise.

Mexicans do know how to celebrate and do it often. There are official holidays observed nationwide and numerous local festivities to honor religious events or public celebrations. In 2008, I counted forty-four holidays that were celebrated with rockets (cohetes), firecrackers, sparklers, rattles, drums, loud music, a parade, and lots of noise. Numerous times, in the middle of the night, I was jolted awake by aerial explosions. And after experiencing the war in Cyprus in 1974 where the bombs bursting in air were real bombs, I cringed at the cacophony of any nerve racking noise.

In 2009 my husband and I traveled from our small village in Mexico to a small country in South America which was getting good reviews, and seemed like it might be a quieter place — más tranquilo. Although we loved many things about Mexico (the customs, the traditions, the art, and the delicious food), the constant noise was wearing us down.

While vacationing in a small Uruguayan beach town, we often sighed and smiled at each other realizing we had found a quiet place. By day, we walked the beach and explored other small towns and villages nearby. All seemed tranquilo compared to our village life in Mexico. Each night we slumbered deeply, lulled to sleep by the soothing sound of waves lapping and swirling along the sandy seashore. By the end of our first stress-free week, we decided to move to Uruguay. My head tingled with excitement, knowing I would finally be able to finish an important project I had been working on for many years—my memoir.

We moved to Uruguay end of 2009. I felt a flood of creative energy wash over me as I walked barefoot along the sandy beach near our new home in Atlantida. I could hear myself think. Aah! Gentle waves tickled my toes and senses, and writing became a joy again. I finished my book, “The Lullaby Illusion,” in 2013. Happy to say in that same year, I only counted seven noisy holidays in Uruguay. Tranquilo is nice!


Susan Joyce on Epicurious.com

Susan interviewed on Epicurious.com

Initially, the web site editor picked a photo of American barbeque to represent Uruguayan asado, which is almost sacrilege! (Quickly corrected when we pointed it out 😉

Apparently Uruguayans and Argentinians get great amusement out of seeing North American ads for “flame-grilled” steaks. In Uruguay and Argentina, flames never touch the meat. The wood is burned on the side, and the coals raked underneath the meat, which cooks at surprisingly low heat for a not-surprising long time.

You can see an explanation in this video, from 0:45 to 2:45.


Uruguayan Asado, kid style

By Fedaro (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Fedaro (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Except for the green paint and floor, this could be our parillero. Well, that and the fact that it’s stocked with wood and actually being used. 😉 Two hours is an awful long time to cook a meal …


… unless you’ve got plenty of beer, friends, time, …


… and perhaps a Playstation and flat-screen TV ….