Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm sorry, did you say your head's off?

Yeah. I've been kinda busy and distracted. Mostly distracted, except when I'm busy. So, if your head's come off and I didn't notice, I'm terribly sorry. I will get back to Adventures in Peru pretty soon, I hope. In the mean time, I'm on a crochet kick for some bizarre reason. I'm working on a red and purple tacky crocheted something, some crocheted washcloths, and I've finished a tacky crocheted bag in green and red...you know, the kind of red that's blue and not red at all.

geez, I'm fried.

I'm working on the DNA scarf more frequently than I was before. I don't think I'll get it done in time unless I decide to give it to someone else. You see, I had intended to give it to Jill at work because she works with the DNA in mosquito blood meals. Then, I thought I might give it to Josh (her husband) because he was working on the DNA for our big butterfly project. But they are moving to Texas in three weeks. I'm not certain they have winter in Texas and I am certain that Chuck Norris is involved in the weather patterns of Texas.

The problem with a DNA scarf when you are a biologist is that there are so many appropriate people to give it to...

Speaking of Chuck Norris:
Chuck Norris as Hamlet, Cristopher Walken as King Claudius

(From a conversation with my dear friend Elflore)

So now I finish my wine and go to bed. I hope tomorrow is more productive than today has been.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Adventures: Day 5

Sept. 6
Iris's Birthday. I tried and tried and tried to call or email today, but with no luck. I finally managed a quick "I'm here and safe" email toward the end of the day, but communication was really dodgy. Today we had the pronopholine talks, but Andy was sick so I didn't understand about 90% of them. By the time we got to the conservation talks and butterfly house talks at the end, I was almost completely lost. Honestly, I don't think any of it really stuck with me. I did manage to do something much more important than sit through talks on pronopholines. I took sock photos of lepidopterists. This first one is Mitsi, who was just facinated by my knitting. I showed her how, which was only a little bit of a challenge considering that she didn't speak any English and my Spanish is quite basic.
No symposium would be complete without an after-party. For this one, the evening began with pisco sours and native dancing. Then on to a buffet, drinking, and more dancing. I skipped the last part since we were meant to go collecting the next day. Sr. Lamas, who was our guide/host in this endeavor did not.
Here we have Carlos Giraldo, from Colombia who studies Ithomiines. His sister, it seems, is quite the artist and painted hats and t-shirts to sell at the conference. I bought a black one with a little orange and yellow Ithomiine on it. He's one of those charming Latino lads that you just want to take home with you.
Next is Tomasz Pyrcz whose last name has no vowels. He's working on the same group I am and also doing morphological work. In fact, with any luck, he'll be sending me some specimens. He's got this stern "I'm a Polish dude" look about him in this picture, but don't let that fool you. He's actually a lot of fun to be around. When I started corresponding with him, I went and learned how to say "hello" in Polish because I thought it would be nice. He thought I'd had contact with Poles, but I had not. In fact, he's the only Polish guy I know, but he thought it funny that I had gone out and learned "hello" in Polish. He speaks Polish, Spanish, and English quite well as well as several other languages. He told me a story about the first time he'd left his home country. He was six years old and on a field trip with his class. They were near the border of Slovakia and crossed a few feet over the border. "Ooh! We're in Slovakia!" they said. It's much funnier when he tells it 'cause he waves his arms about and uses his best little kid voice.
Here's Angel Viloria. He's good friends with Tomasz and another Nymphalid person. He's got a big job as the director of the IVIC, Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigations, but he's really a creative and down-to-earth type. He likes bluegrass, so I've invited him to come visit. Maybe one of these days, but the big job does keep him busier than he'd like. He seemed quite impressed with the fact that I knit. We are eccentrics among eccentrics.
Next up is Gerardo Lamas, another Nymphalid person and works at the Museo de Historia Natural in Lima. You wouldn't think from looking at him that he likes to party, but dude likes to party. I'll tell you more about the Museum later. Needless to say, they have a real insect collection that makes ours look amateurish. Okay, so it is amateurish. It's kind of awful, really.
<--Here's Blanca of the Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project, who helped put on this shindig. She also gave a talk on conservation.

And Keith, also with TABD, who was very confused about the Sock. He's an assistant curator at the McGuire Center in the University of Florida.-->

<--Then we have Kayce, my hero from before. She's at UC Davis. We heard of each other by way of Ravelry. She doesn't knit, but one of her labmates does. We were introduced by way of SquidWidget, who was suprised to learn that there were two bug bum-lookers on Ravelry. After I took this picture, she asked, "Does it look like I'm knitting?" Nope, it doesn't. Maybe one of these days you'll join us.

Lastly, we have Jason Hall-->
<--and his wife Alma. He works on Riodinids and gave a talk on mimicry. I don't remember what she studies because she didn't give a talk this time. She was quite pleased, in fact, that she could relax and enjoy the trip for once. Believe me, I understand.
Not pictured is Carlos Peña (how did I miss him?) who is another Pronopholine person (like me).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Adventures: Day 4

Sept. 5th

No pictures today. Having recovered fully, I attended the conference and sat through many many butterfly talks (with my knitting). These kinds of talks are difficult to keep up with in your own language, let alone in a language in which you are not fluent. My Spanish is fairly basic, but passable. Fortunately, there were a couple talks in English and lots of pictures.
I met some native craftswomen of the area who are part of an association to preserve native crafts. She showed me several weaving patterns and their meanings and sold me S/ 60 of stuff. She was good. She was really good. I was really impressed with her English, which was way better than my Spanish, especially considering that her first language was Quechua, followed by Spanish, and then followed by English. I was going to buy some yarn from her, but never managed to hook up with her again.
I finished sock #1 of the Maizy socks, had some Peruvian fried chicken, and missed my baby girl.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Adventures: Day 3

Sept. 4th

The hotel we stayed in was really nice. I mean, I've stayed in some nice hotels, and that is a nice hotel. It was a monastery that was converted into a hotel, but they preserved the chapel. I don't know if anyone worships there, but it was really neat. This picture is from just outside my room into a little courtyard. The tree on the right hand side of the picture is an avocado tree.
We registered for the conference at the other nearby hotel and my poster was tacked up next to all the others. Mine wasn't nearly as slick or shiny as some of the others, but it wasn't a bad poster. I like it. I neglected to trim off the white borders before we left, but that's not a big deal. Most everyone who was interested in looking at it was more concerned with its content. I sat through the welcome speech, but I could tell something was wrong. I didn't feel like knitting.
I had altitude sickness. My stomach was sour, my ears were ringing, my head hurt, and I felt really really tired. Kayce was my hero. Her roommate hadn't arrived yet and her room was closer than mine. She even gave me water and put a vomit bucket nearby. There was no vomit at that time, thank goodness. There will be a picture of her later. I later made my way back to my own room and slept the rest of the day. All day long. I'd get up for a couple minutes, think I was okay, and then I'd go down again.
I had dinner at the hotel with Andy & Josh and did vomit a little afterward into the poor chrysanthemums, but only a little. I went back to sleep and decided I'd think big thoughts the next day.

Sorry, folks

My internet is really really slow lately and Blogger seems to be having some issues. I apologize for any wonky formatting and the slow speed at which I'm posting. I'm not sure what the issue is, but I hope it's resolved soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Adventures: Day 2

Sept. 3rd
So, we arrived in Lima, but since it was just a short layover in the airport we weren't really "In Peru" yet. It's on the coast, not that you could tell, but there's an ocean out there somewhere in the grey. It turns out that Lima is always this color. Anyhow, we had a cup of coffee in the airport and then off we went to Cuzco. Yes, that's a Starbucks. They don't have real coffee in Peru (with the exception of the airport Starbucks). If you're lucky, you get a syrup to which you add hot water. If you are unlucky, you get Nescafé. Most of the time, you are unlucky.
The Andes Mts. are mountains like they mean it. The Rockies look up to them and say "We're not worthy." The Appalachians are too old to care and too busy telling stories about "Back in my day, we didn't have people climbing all over us. And we liked it!" Only the Himalayas are like, "Bitch, please."
Once again on terra firma, my first impression was along the lines of "Wow, this is going to be an adventure," followed shortly thereafter by "Oh, God, the sun!" and "There's no air here!" All of these statements turned out to be true. The city is in a valley at over 3400 meters in altitude - that's 11,000+ feet for you gringos. Murfreesboro is at about 200 meters or 656+ feet. We were 3200 meters closer to the sun and farther from where the air is. Forget culture shock, try system shock. We did *not* buy a can of oxygen at the airport. That's just silly. Instead, we tried to take it easy until we got used to the altitude.
Note the word "tried." It turns out that the day we arrived, there was a transportation strike, so the taxis couldn't take us to very many places. There were big rocks in the road and a parade and we had to walk many several blocks with all of our luggage to find the Avis office. In said parade, some people were waving this flag (not my photo). "I bet that means something different here," says I to myself. It does. That's the Cusco city flag. Don't make fun, they're kind of sensitive about it. Anyhow, as we walked around, there were these bike carts all over that descended on us like vultures, but we respectfully declined and eventually found the rental office. They took us to the lot (which you could fit maybe three cars in, if you were a really good driver) where we stuck our luggage in the rental car until the strike officially ended. I searched for yarn, but to no avail. The shop was closed for inventory. We kind of tooled around the city being tourists for awhile, had some lunch, found our way back to the lot, and then left for Urubamba where the conference was to be held.
It was a lovely drive and I got to see the big white Jesus statue. Also, they like to write things on the sides of mountains. I am told that this is a habit that is an extension of the Nazca lines and that you really can see something of them from the ground. They just like to write and draw big things on the Earth. They also seem to compulsively build little walls everywhere. I'm not sure what that's about. The drive was pleasant and pretty and we arrived at the hotel later that evening. There was dinner and beer and all was right with the world. I had a coca beer and a Cusqueña at this little place down the road and I think that was the evening that I had alpaca steak. It tasted like alpaca fiber smells. I didn't order it again.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Adventures: Day 1

Sept. 2nd
All packed and ready to go with my enormous suitcase of doom (you could pack me in there, for goodness sakes), Josh, Andy, and I are chauffeured to BNA by Josh's lovely wife, Jill. She's kind of awesome. She works with mosquitoes and you can't help but dig a chick that smashes up mosquitoes for the DNA of the critters they bite. Having made it through security with my knitting needles (and TSA guidelines in hand, just in case there was an issue - there wasn't), I waited patiently for the plane.
We got on said plane and began to take off when there was a disconcerting kthunk sound. The passengers looked around at each other as though to say, "Is that normal? Should we be concerned?" Turns out that it was not normal and we should have been concerned. One of the cargo doors malfunctioned, so the plane returned to the airport and we had to catch another flight. This was problematic. By the time we'd have gotten to the next airport, we would miss flight #2 and each flight following. On the way back to the airport, I spoke with a Danish pastry chef who was going home after a convention in Nashville. No, danishes were not his specialty, he was from Denmark and made awesome sculptures with chocolate. He was terribly worried that he wouldn't be able to get home. I do hope he got home okay. Fortunately for us, we had Mr. Mullett as our customer service dude. He'd helped us check in before and recognized the three of us. When he got to the counter, I think he must have called almost everyone in the whole airport and at one point had a phone on each ear. It was nothing short of amazing. Not only did he get us a new series of flights, but he got us a really nice flight from Miami to Lima on an airline called LAN. We each had our own personal video screen and could watch one of many movies. There was a little pillow and blanket, real food, and even tiny glasses of wine for no extra charge. Other than the fact that I can't sleep in a moving vehicle, this was a very very pleasant flight. Thank you, Mr. Mullett. You are my customer service hero.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I'm back home!
I haven't had the chance to upload pictures from the trip, but I will soon. I may have to do it in installments 'cause there were lots of adventures. Anyhow, the trip was awesome, but I'm very very glad to be home. I can drink the water from the tap and flush the TP down the toilet. Also, I missed everyone - especially my little one.
More soon! I promise!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Dear friends, strangers, acquaintances, etc.
This will be my last post before Peru. I'm pretty much packed and set to go. My poster is printed and extra knitting and needles are packed (as well as my drop spindle). My travel sock will be the Maizy sock I'm working on. I've got the foot done and since these are going to be tallish socks, I'm knitting the leg 'til I'm almost out of yarn or I get sick of it, whichever comes first. Hopefully, I'll have some wicked cool pictures of Peru when I get back. The camera is coming with, of course.
The good Gods have seen fit to give me the challenge of a head cold before flying, but I'm armed with some Claritin, meds for altitude sickness, immodium, sunscreen, antibiotics (just in case), and tylenol. The altitude meds make me feel weird an tired and sodas taste bad. I don't like them, but I'd rather not have altitude sickness, really. Of all the interesting diseases I could get, that's the one I'm worried about. I'm so weird.

So, tomorrow we jaunt off to chase butterflies in a foreign country! I can't believe I'm getting paid for this shit.