Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I hope you enjoyed reading about my Adventures in Peru. Now it's back to your regularly scheduled knitblog.

Except that today it's weaving. I finally finished warping my loom and am now able to weave on it. I find that I like weaving twill more than tabby, but I haven't done much more than that yet. There are six treadles (those are the pedals to make the yarns go up and down), but I only know how to use four at a time. I'm not terribly concerned about it yet, though eventually, I'll want to make more interesting patterns. Considering that when I got said loom, I started with parts and not even all the parts and some that had to be replaced, I'm exceedingly pleased and tickled and happy and joyful that I now have a working loom. The fabric I'm weaving was meant to be rather wider than it is, but I didn't correctly calculate how many threads I'd need and ended up about 14" short. I think I'll just go with it and not worry too much about it.

I'm using 100% handspun yarn, most of it my own handspun, but some from Andey on Ravelry and at least one that is definitely handspun, but I don't know the source. I also put in it the first yarn I ever spun. I thought it appropriate to use for my first weaving on a big loom. The bumps and slubs of the handspun yarn makes the fabric just beautiful. I just love how it looks.

This last weekend was the fiber festival here in the 'Boro and because I have this 100% handspun weaving project, I went on a holy quest for fiber. I came back with three bags full. I got one fleece from a sheep named Sophia, some purple something, and some grey something that I'm going to ply with the purple. We watched a sheep shearing, had some apple cider, and did not agree to help a farmer with his nature trail in exchange for wool. A good time was had by all (except the cutie little sheep who seemed mildly annoyed).

Oh - I do have a bit of knitting to show. These are socks I made for little one out of Tofutsies I bought for my birthday. The picture isn't very good because she absolutely could not wait any longer to put them on and I haven't had the chance to take another picture of them. I finished weaving in the ends on one and she put it on her foot while waiting for me to weave in the ends on the other one. I think this is a definite sign that she likes them. I'm also knitting a pair of socks for Kadollan's little man in a dudely green color and I finished one fine gauge washcloth in a blue mercerized cotton and one Warshrag ala Mason-Dixon Knitting. I don't have pictures of everything yet, but I have now made a whole stack of cotton washcloths for gift-giving purposes.

I long for a cardigan...

Speaking of which, the time to finish my ManSweater is NOW. It's frikkin' cold outside.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Adventures: Day 11 & 12

Sept. 12
There wasn't supposed to be a "Day 11" but there was. No breakfast. I ate a granola bar and some cranberries, but I wouldn't call that "breakfast" exactly. We went to the Airport to try and find a Delta representative - no luck. We were "very helpfully" directed to a travel agent who booked us a flight and wanted an insane amount of money in cash. A. We didn't have that much in cash B. Couldn't get that much in cash and C. Wouldn't give him that much cash, even if we could. It was something crazy like $5K. We were booked on an airline we'd never heard of that had a two bag per person policy. I'd like to note for the record that three traveling scientists will probably have more than two bags each. "No problem" says the travel agent. Just to be sure, we checked with airport information to see if the airline was real. It was...unfortunately.

While Andy went to downtown Lima to find a Delta representative, Josh and I entered locality data for some of our study species. No lunch. It's a tedious job, but it helped get my mind off of the fact that I missed my baby so much. When he returned, there was bad news. We would not be flying home on Delta because their flights were all screwed up by Hurricane Ike. We don't like Ike. So, off we went to the Lima airport, again. We went to check in and not only did we have too many bags, but we had to make sure they were each under the weight limit. There was cursing and juggling around of items and bags, but we eventually managed. Nobody was happy. No dinner. Also, no knitting. Apparently, I can knit on the flight *to* Peru, but not *from* Peru. I was not happy.

Having checked in with some time to go before our flight, we go to eat. At this point, I'm in the shaky blood sugar dropping no coordination stage of having had nothing but a granola bar and some cranberries early in the morning. We go to the food court and have some Peruvian fast food, including an Inca Kola. This stuff is really sweet and it's a good thing, too. As I sucked it down, Andy says "You're like a hummingbird!" True facts. I have a metabolism like whoa. Twenty minutes later, I feel much better, but I'm not quite in the place where I believe I'm going home.

Eventually, we made our way to the gate and I took one last look at souvenirs. There's one shirt that has a cartoon alpaca, Incan dude, and conquistador lined up hip to hip. This was the funniest damn thing I'd seen all week. At this point, I was out of cash, so I didn't buy the shirt. Oh, I wanted it, though. "Perhaps they're conga-dancing..." says I, grinning.
"Yeah...they're 'dancing,'" says Josh. I've never heard him say anything funny before or since, but this made me laugh. I take final peek at the overpriced get it while you can alpaca store, but just for purposes of window shopping. I'm twitchy at this point 'cause I have no knitting. Josh could tell. It was like going through withdrawal. I saw a woman winding yarn into a ball and considered doing something... I'm not sure what, but something. We'd already been through security, but they searched our bags again before we boarded. I'm not sure what that was about, but whatever. I just wanted to go home.

This flight was as awful as the flight to Lima was nice. No beverage, snack, or dinner, unless I wanted to purchase something. No, I did not want to purchase something. No little pillow, no movie, no sleep. I can't sleep in a moving vehicle. At best, I kind of close my eyes and half snooze. I couldn't see the ocean until we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, but at some point during the flight, I finally feel like I'm on the way home. At this point, Day 11 fuzzes into Day 12. We go through customs and as the lady stamps my passport, she says "Welcome home." Never in my life have those words meant more to me. I almost cried, but didn't because I didn't want the guys to think I couldn't handle the tough stuff. I'm of the opinion that crying doesn't mean you can't handle it, but rather that it's okay to have emotions about the tough stuff. In customs, there was this poor stupid man with limes in his bag and a number of other food items. The customs dude tried to explain, "We regulate all of this stuff! No, you can't have this! No!" We re-check our bags and get ready for the next flight. No coffee. Josh bought a pack of gum and shared to get that "God, we've been traveling" taste out of the mouth.

Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta was a short flight and we ended up on the exact same airplane we'd just flown on. They changed flight attendants and they seemed nicer than the Lima to Ft. Lauderdale crew. The plane was not nearly as full, so that was nice, and because they booked my seat twice, I had to move to a vacant seat. No problem. I picked a row with nobody in it so I could have some time to myself. All the being jerked around for two days, the crap flight, the "Welcome Home," everything, came out at once. I cried quietly almost the entire way.
I sucked it up before we landed and really did start to feel better once in the Atlanta airport.

Collecting our baggage took for God and Ever, but at least there was coffee. I was so happy, I drank it with no sugar. There were giant fire ant sculptures on the ceiling of the baggage claim area and finally, I had my knitting again. I chatted with random woman #3 as we waited and eventually we had our bags and a rental car to drive from Atlanta to Murfreesboro. It was cheaper and quicker to do it this way than to try and book another flight into BNA.
Remember in Cusco, when all they had was a tiny little compact car at the rental place? This was the car we took up and down mountains, around winding gravel mountain roads. In Atlanta, when we would be traveling on paved highway and no more up than Monteagle, all they had at the rental place was an SUV. I was amused. It wasn't the kind of vehicle I'd do any actual mountain driving in, though. This thing was big to be big. It was the epitome of conspicuous consumption and I think it would cry if it got its tires dirty. It was that kind of car.

We stopped a couple of times, once for Taco Bell and once because traveling is rough on the intestines. The Appalachians looked different to me. They were tiny, small little hills, hardly mountains at all. Everything looked different, too big, too much, too wasteful. Damn but aren't we a fat, rich, spoiled country and most of us don't even realize it. I didn't understand myself, really, until we were on our way home. I felt really rich, really fortunate to live in the US, and a little spoiled.

Home. I was finally home. I walk in and the house is clean, dear husband is folding laundry, and dear daughter is so excited, she shuts the door in Andy's face (we opened it again). I had missed her so much that I just hugged her for a very long time. That evening, we went to D&D as usual and I kind of verbally vomited out an account of my trip, distributed gifts, made a first level character, and promptly fell asleep.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Adventures: Day 10

Sept. 11
I'd forgotten completely what day it was and now that I think about it, perhaps our trip home was jinxed somehow. So we got from Cuzco to Lima just fine and had several hours to kill before our flight home. Here's Andy trying to work with Peruvian bureaucracy and failing. Kieth (redheaded English dude who was confused about the sock before) had a projector confiscated, so we were trying to get it back for him. I knit while Andy took care of this and Josh just sat down and people-watched.
Since that was an exercise in fail, we hung out with our friend Gerardo at the Museum of Natural History in Lima. They have this big reproduction alligator (note the sock) and where they found the fossils of this guy, they also found a tortoise shell with a bite mark on the shell that matched his teeth. In the background of picture #2, you can see an artist's interpretation of the 'gator vs. tortoise. They had big whale bones and other such interesting things, too, but I didn't get a picture of those. All of what I saw was outside, which I thought was weird, but they don't get much rain there, so weathering from rain is not much of a problem, I suppose.
There were also a number of interesting plants and trees. The one pictured below was my favorite. It's a coffee tree. If there is ever any tree that should be hugged, it's this one. I love you, coffee tree! I still don't get the thing about instant coffee they have in South America. I mean, they have access to the good stuff, so why drink the crap? Anyhow, it was neat to see a coffee tree with beans on it and banana trees with bananas on. It's like the thrill of going to the farm where your food is grown, except times a thousand. Right after my imaginary fiber tour of South America, there will be an imaginary culinary tour of South America wherein we sample all the wonderful things that grow there. Coca grows there. Whenever I had coca tea with breakfast, I'd get this feeling that I was doing something harmless, but slightly naughty like staying up past my bedtime or having ice cream for breakfast.
Gerardo took us to this fancy place for dinner where we had pisco sours (I had two, which was more than plenty) and really really good food. I tried some ceviche and had some seafood thing for dinner. I was so stuffed and schnockered by the time dinner was done.

I was wearing the happiest sweater ever that I described before, so Gerardo says, "You know your sweater is like the flag of Cusco..."
"I know." says I.
"...which is very similar to the homosexual flag."
"I know." says I.
And then while I looked over the menu, I saw several items with "bruja" in the name. "Do you know what bruja means?" says Gerardo.
"Yes, it means 'witch'" says I.
"...it means 'witch'" says he.
"I know." says I.

I told this story to dear Husband who then says, "I'm a gay witch in Cuzco, okay?!"
-which is not entirely accurate, but damned funny.

Anyhow, after dinner, we whiff over to the airport only to find that the check-in counter was only open for an hour...which we missed. Our plane was still physically at the airport, but we could not check in. The customer service people tried to explain this to me in Spanish while I am schnockered. I'd like to state for the record that this is not the best way to deliver bad news. Long story short, we were stuck in Lima. So, we got a hotel room. I'd like you to note the heart-shaped headboard and the fact that this picture was taken from a strategically placed mirror - one of many. Classy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In other news

My loom is very nearly up and running. I'm waiting on delivery of a part and I need more yarn - a lot more yarn. The project I'm working on is hand spun yarn only and I have a deadline. ACK! Anyhow, the loom takes up a fair amount of space in the office, but it's totally worth it to me. Dear Husband isn't as sure about it as I am, but we made a deal involving video games, so it's all good.
In other other news, I met Ann and Kay of Mason-Dixon Knitting! How cool is that? They are made of awesome and I want I want their new book. Husband, Daughter, and I all went to the Southern Festival of Books "for his birthday." Yeah, that's it. We were going for his birthday. He caught on pretty quickly, but had a good time anyway. I'd like to go next year just because - whether or not there are any knitting authors there. I keep meaning to link them in the sidebar, but I haven't yet. I generally click on BFF Jill's link and then on her Mason-Dixon Knitting link. Btw, Kade, you totally should blog. Like, seriously. Go now.

Adventures: Day 9

Sept. 10th
I woke up to dear Aunt Flo and insufficient equipment to handle her. I had some, but not nearly enough. Claudia had already gone back home, so it was just me and three guys. Andy's Spanish is quite good, but dude - he's my boss. I can't be asking him to go get supplies for me. Josh doesn't speak Spanish at all and I really don't know Gerardo well enough to ask him to get feminine products for me, so it was all me. I asked for directions to the pharmacy, found out what time it opened, found the pharmacy, and managed to communicate (though not well) what I needed - in Spanish, by myself. WOOT! Victory!
I returned victorious and we soon left for a collecting day.
Or shall I say a not collecting day. We were at about 4,000 meters or so (12,000 feet) and we found a spot that looked promising. After running around for a bit unsuccessfully, it started to hail and rain. And it was cold. Running at 4k meters is not ideal, by the way. So we piled back in the car and drove some more. And then we kept driving. We drove almost all the way to Lake Titicaca (snicker) but not quite. At one point, I say to the guys "Okay, I have to stop now." Not only did I have to pee, but was in danger of leaking. We stop at a gas station and as I go in, Andy says something like "Fortify yourself," as though to suggest that the bathroom might be below my expectations. Actually, it exceeded my expectations. It was a clean hole in the ground.
This was the kind of toilet where you squat to pee. I've been in outhouses more advanced than this, but it was fairly clean and there was a trashcan. The odor of the place wasn't vile, either. I thank the Gods for small favors.
So, we drove back to Cuzco. The countryside was lovely and reminded me of pictures I'd seen of the American West (having never been there myself). We saw flamingos and we considered stopping in this one town where the specialty was cuy. I never did have any cuy while I was there. Maybe next time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

And now, for these commercial messages

So, first I was a little weird about buying shoes online because you like to try them on to see if they fit and so on and so on, but
I frikkin' love these shoes:

I've had mine for about two months and I got a pair for Iris as well. They're no more expensive than a pair of shoes at the shoe store (particularly when they have a good sale like...now. Go now.) and they're wicked cute.

Also, I want some of this.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Adventures: Day 8

Sept. 9th
No pictures from today, unfortunately.
It was nice to have a warm shower in the morning after having been on the road for a bit. We had a modest breakfast at the hotel, which was blessedly included with the room. I ate fruit and bread with coca tea and that seemed sufficient. There was no collecting to be done, so we had a day to be tourists. My first stop was Michell for some alpaca yarn. I really wished I'd been able to purchase some from the lady before, but this would have to do. It was clear that they cater to gringos, but I was determined to purchase some nice yarn in the land of many alpacas. I got a kilo of a natural tan colored yarn in a light fingering weight, possibly lace weight, for about S/ 100 - which is 2.2lbs for $30-40 USD.
I split it with kadollan when I got home 'cause I promised her yarn.
We went about town, looking at old Incan walls and shopping. I purchased the happiest sweater ever in rainbow colors, a bag for collecting, and a used bottom whorl spindle that the person tried to pass off as "antique." I only paid S/ 10 for it (about $3), so that was good. Andy bought for me a wee llama finger puppet at lunch. They were adorable and he insisted. That went to kadollan's eldest who has a thing about llamas.
There was dinner and then bed.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Adventures: Day 7

Sept. 8th
We collected some moths on our way to breakfast at the tiny little restaurant in Quincemil. Gringos, it seems, get cheese sandwiches while everyone else gets vertebrae with rice or omelets. It could be that we simply arrived too early, but breakfast was sparse nonetheless. There was instant coffee and Claudia, my roommate, had acquired some bananas, which she shared with us. She's an undergraduate at a university, I forget where, and she has this crazy hat that looks like a sleeping animal on her head.
Anyhow, we loaded up and left after breakfast, stopping to chase butterflies just a couple km outside the town. We didn't find much, probably because it was too early, so when Gerardo and Claudia caught up with us, we moved down the road a bit. There's a picture from this site with me and my net, but I don't have it. I'll post it when I get it, though. The jungle is just gorgeous during the day. There are banana trees and all kinds of interesting plants besides. I recognized the banana trees because they had bananas growing on them. I hadn't seen bananas growing ever before, so I just thought that was the coolest. It would have been awesome to have a plant press, but probably difficult to bring back specimens.
Our second stop was so much fun, I can't even tell you. There were so many butterflies that at one point, I had one that I'd just caught in an envelope I held in my mouth and another in my net. Again, no pictures because we were too busy chasing butterflies.
The third time we stopped, it was because Andy had seen some Heliconius butterflies, his favorite group, and he just couldn't stand it any longer. What he found was a Heliconius and it's mimic in the same place. I promise you that it was a wicked cool find. I didn't catch much at all, but it was kind of fun to watch the guys running around. That's Andy in the 1st picture and on the left in the 2nd picture and Josh on the right in the 2nd picture.
Since we were in the Amazon Basin, there was nowhere to go but up. So, up we went.
We stopped at another site where I managed to snag a couple butterflies - even in the group that our grant is paying us to study! I was kind of excited about that. It was a bit too cool for them, so again, we didn't find much.
About two in the afternoon, we stopped in this one town to try and find a place to stay. Gerardo talks to the children in the town to locate someplace with a couple of rooms where we can stay. They had this wicked statue (I don't have a picture of any of this) of a condor attacking a cow. We were directed to another part of town where there was supposed to be somewhere we could stay. Gerardo went down the hill to investigate, so we waited at the top of the hill. While we waited, we saw a family slaughtering a cow. It was kind of interesting to see. I'll see if I can get Andy's pictures - his are better than mine because he kind of doesn't mind looking like a gringo tourist. Gerardo comes back up the hill, shaking his head. "Not to be recommended." he says, and we move on.

And up we went some more.

...and up some more.

...and after that we went up some more.

I can't very accurately describe how much up this is. It feels like you're at the very top of the whole world and then drive up the mountain. The haze in this picture is not just fog, it's a cloud. It's not even a low cloud.
As you can see, there's not very much here, but there are people and animals living even at these great altitudes. It's not the most robust existence, but they're there.
After a while, it became apparent that Gerardo's truck was not well. He ran out of gas far before he ought to have. At this point, it was beginning to get late and the temperature was dropping. Josh stayed with Gerardo and Claudia while Gerardo's driver, Marcelino, went with Andy and me to get some gas. It was about 55km to the nearest gas station. 55km is a long way as I soon learned. It's an even longer way when half the distance is one lane winding mountain roads with rapidly diminishing daylight and then dark. It must have taken an hour and a half to go from hither to yon and another hour and a half to go back again. I tried to stay awake, I really did, but between the altitude and the fact that I hadn't had a good night's sleep in some time, I ended up kind of awake, but unable to open my eyes for most of the way back.
We all managed to get back to the gas station together and we once again tried to find a place to stay. We once again failed. At least from here, the rest of the road was paved. We kept driving for most of the night and finally found a small hotel in Cuzco so late in the evening that it was beginning to get early. There was talk of getting something to eat, but I was so tired that I faceplanted in the bed and didn't get up until the next morning.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Adventures: Day 6

Sept. 7th
Wherein we start our grand adventure.
We drove and we drove and we drove out on our grand adventure over hill, over dale, etc. etc. across a pretty good cross-section of Peruvian landscape. Our destination was Quincemil. I had no idea where Quincemil was on the map and so contented myself to ride along in the front seat ('cause I get carsick) and take the occasional picture out the window. I couldn't knit, so I just kind of watched the scenery and took pictures.

Anyhow, there was a weird Incan wall...thing. We weren't sure what that was about. I'm just certain that building walls is some sort of compulsive Peruvian thing because the entire country is made out of rocks. You know, more than usual on the surface.

There were a number of "Urban Zones" with big speed bumps, presumably for the Enormous Fuel Trucks of DOOOOooom (more on that later). They use the term "Urban" really loosely. Pictured here is one such "Urban Zone." This one is one of the larger ones. Wherever there stood two buildings and more than one chicken, there was an "Urban Zone" and a dead policeman. No, not an actual dead police officer, a really big speedbump. They're called dead policemen in the vernacular.

We went up the mountains and just when I thought there wasn't any more up to go, we went up some more. You can really feel the change when you go up so quickly. At 15,000 feet, I fell asleep for just a minute and woke back up on the way down. The view was breathtaking, and not only because we were way up the mountain and there was no air. It really was beautiful. Never have I been so close to the clouds and still on the ground.

There were alpaca everywhere. Even where there was apparently nothing else, there were alpaca. There were also sheep, but mostly alpaca all over the place. Peru is silly with alpaca. I hadn't found any yarn at this point, so I made up a little rhyme:

Fiber, fiber everywhere
and all the wool did shrink
fiber, fiber everywhere
and not a stitch to tink.

I saw women there with their herds carrying (and using) drop spindles, though I didn't take pictures of them. I just feel weird about taking pictures of people without asking their permission and I didn't want to be disrespectful. Anyhow, it was really kind of awesome to me to see people living this very simple life and making yarn like people have done for thousands and thousands of years. One of these days, I'd like to do a fiber and fabric tour of Peru. There is so much to be learned here.
Also, there were quite a few horses, though Andy couldn't fathom why. I'm not entirely sure myself, but he asked me kindly to take a picture of them for him, so I did. You can see the shape of the earth behind this one where animals have been walking up and down the mountain for gods only know how long. It seems on the surface that most of the animals were quite healthy and while we did see the occasional mangy sheep, it was a rare occurrence.

There is a huge project to pave the road we were traveling - I'm talkin' HYOOOGE - as in, there's a city that was built just to house the road crew. While we were traveling, we had to stop for about thirty minutes or so while some enormous machinery was moved up the narrow gravel road. We did get the opportunity to see the beautiful cloud forest. This is not just a name. It is literally in the clouds. It kind of reminded me of the Smoky Mountains, except...more up. Much more up. I got a good chance to look at the vegetation and realized that I recognized absolutely nothing. I found something in a family I recognized, but that's it. It was a weird feeling not to know the plants.
So, the fuel trucks of doom... DOOM I tell you! And on such a narrow road, there's extra doom. Have you ever been on a narrow mountain road where one side is sheer cliff and the other side is mountain? It's like that, only x1,000. So, one of these fuel trucks is coming up the mountain as we're going down the mountain and we, being in a tiny little compact car, were obligated to move aside. Bigger gets the road. So we move aside to a tiny bit of space on the cliff side of the road, but we were not quite far enough over. So, Andy backs the car up and we feel a little bump. We're stuck. The fuel truck guys get out and try to help. Josh gets out to help. and we manage to get the car back up on the road. We thank the fuel truck guys, Josh gets back in, and we go on our merry way. "Do we want to know how close that was?" says Andy. "No. No you don't." says Josh, who at this point has the big eyes. You see, we had one wheel off the cliff and it was nothing short of a blessing that dear Josh didn't go tumbling down. There are times when you pray, like when someone you know is sick or when you have a difficult exam coming up, and there are times when you pray, like when you almost drove off a cliff.
Having narrowly averted danger, we proceeded down the mountain into the jungle. We hadn't really intended to go to the jungle, but there we were anyway. We finally found Quincemil at night in the jungle and managed a place to stay. It was a little hostel in this backwater town and to say that the room had four walls would be exaggerating. It was more like a stall with two beds. We had some dinner and beer before we bedded down for the night. Dinner consisted of french fries and microwave pizza, but it was hot and it was food. We walked back to the hostel and as I climbed into bed, I thought to myself. "Gee, I hope there are no bed bugs."