Wednesday, December 26, 2012

June Through December

The second half of 2012... in pictures.

Summer Fun In Ithaca!

jumping for joy on summer solstice
enjoying the sunset at stewart park
not-so-clandestine waterfall jumping at buttermilk falls
sciencenter fun for my 30th birthday (is that what our kids will look like?!)
being temporarily homeless (between apartments) & camping in danby state forest
radishes from our garden
A Visit to North Carolina

mother/ daughter portrait
mummers walking in the gardens
That One Time I Got Stung By A Bee On My Morning Run
& Turned Into A Baby Dinosaur
 Then It Was Autumn

autumn's colors at thatcher's pinnacles
autumn walks with diane and fudgie
city and lake views from the top of the maple tree in our backyard
hiking mt. mansfield in burlington, vermont
  Lots of Trips to the Gunks

more climbing
 And Also A Trip To Rumney

climbing again
more climbing (nice red shirts, guys)
climbing dolt and jolt (no really, that's what the routes are named)
A Late Autumn Trip To Poke-O-Moonshine

it's a gonna be cold, need my finger warmers
adirondack autumn

pano stolen from timo
A Kentucky Thanksgiving At The Red River Gorge

finally on the sharp end
also doing some bird flipping. what?!... it was cold.
Hello, 2013.  :-)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Home Is Here

After climbing Santa Maria and saying "hasta luego" to our friends in Xela, we started the 60 hour journey back to Ithaca.

Long trip:  
bus from Xela to Guate;
overnight in Guate;
attempt to fly out the next morning;
my flight is majorly delayed while Dave's was not;
consequently I miss my connecting flight in Ft. Lauderdale and spend the night in Florida while Dave continues on to NYC;
good thing I packed lots of food (Spirit gives you nothing) and my toothbrush (Dave had the rest of my carry-on);
realize once again that America is SO unfriendly to newcomers and visitors (so much for "give me your tired and poor");
fly to NYC the next morning (thankfully I didn't have to wait until the following evening);
Dave and I get horribly lost leaving LGA and end up in Staten Island (!);
arrive in Ithaca 60 hours after leaving Xela.

And now I'm home...'s been AWESOME.

We took a climbing road trip up to Rumney, NH over Memorial Day weekend and climbed until there was no skin left on our fingertips.  Dave had some impressive leads (I <3 my rope gun), as many of our other climber friends.  I redpointed a few routes I had flailed on last autumn.  Maybe I'm finally getting stronger.
this doesn't suck. top-roping the 5.11 at 5.8 crag
Random aside:  I've now surpassed the climbing goal I wanted to achieve when I first started.  Within another year, I think I will surpass my revised goals.  The funny thing about goals is that they're always a receding target.  I am thankful I have become wiser to this phenomenon.
this route kinda sucked.
What else, what else.

Ithaca Festival.  Yay, the students are gone, let those freak flags fly!
make art!
goats on cayuga street
We found a new apartment.  Not quite downtown, but a short uphill bike ride to South Hill.  Even though we don't move 'til August, the landlord is allowing us to garden all summer.  Score.
paste tomatoes plus six different open-pollinated/ heirloom tomato varieties, peppers, zukes, cukes, green beans, purple beans, radishes, lettuce, spinach, kale, strawberries (if i can keep the damn squirrels away), basil, thyme, oregano, stevia, chamomile, chives, mint.
wanted pea pods/ snow peas but couldn't find seeds.
I guess that's all:  here I am.  And for the first time in a long time, it seems right to be here.

I joke about the "Saturn Return" with my friends.  Every 27-30 years, Saturn returns to the position it was in the sky when you were born.  Supposedly, the late twenties are a period of significant change and upheaval in people's lives--getting married (or not, if the State doesn't allow you that right), having kids, major life transitions, career struggles, existential questions.  I put zero faith in astrology, but I surely don't doubt the concept of the Saturn Return.  For me, ages 25 to 30 was wild!

But after all of the upheaval, the here and there, the newness and change, I've found myself living about 2 miles from where I lived in August of 2000, when I first moved to Ithaca.  And for all of the changing that's happened in the past 12 years, I'm more myself now than ever before.

For the first time in a long time, it seems right to be here, on all levels.  In a town that I love, with a guy whom I love, with friends whom I love, doing things that I love to do.
I'll probably continue to update this blog periodically, especially for trip reports or travels.  I'm thinking about migrating over a few posts from the old Peru blog, just to have them all in one place.  Might write a little about the garden or share some recipes (how to make super easy, super delicious, super cheap yoghurt, for example).  I start my new job on June 18th, though, so who knows how much time I'll want to spend on the computer.

One final picture.  This one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on the drive out to Minnesota.

P.S.  Honeymoon in Patagonia?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I'm Not Leaving Until I See That Damn Volcano

Volcano Santiaguito is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, burping out smoke and farting out gas every 20-40 minutes since 1922.

(Considering the state of my stomach in Guatemala, let's just say that I can empathize with Mother Earth's indigestion.)

Santiaguito is stuck to the southwest flank of Volcano Santa María, less than 10 km from Quetzaltenango/ Xela.  With a real, live volcano practically in our backyards, how could we leave town without seeing it?

There are two ways to see Santiaguito:  hike to an overlook/ mirador on the side of Santa María, or hike all the way to the top of Santa Maria.  Dave and I did both.

Hiking (Independently) to the Santiaguito Mirador

I put the (independently) in parentheses because you will probably get lost and might get robbed on this hike.  If that's intimidating, never fear--you can always hike with Quetzaltrekkers!

Dave and I did this hike with a few people we met through QT.  We did get lost, a bunch of times, though we didn't get robbed.  Along the way, Dave was smart enough to take some photos for trail notes to share with other independent hikers.

First, take a bus from the Iglesia El Calvario near the cementerio to the village of Llanos del Pinal, at the end of the line.  You might have to get on a bus headed into the city of Xela, toward Minerva terminal, because it seems like sometimes the buses take different routes into and out of the city.

When you get off the bus, continue up the main road in the village, toward Santa María.  At the end of the village, the road will appear to turn right--you want to continue straight, up a drainage, through agricultural fields.
go straight here, into the fields
Follow the drainage as it gently ascends, always aiming for the cone of Santa María.  After a while, you'll pass some "spiky trees."  There will be a few paths branching off to the left--these go to Santa María.  Stay straight.
spiky trees: go straight on
Within a few minutes after the spiky trees, as you pass a wooden fence on the right, the path will split.  Take the right junction.  Based on the contours of the land, it almost feels like you're going straight.  This is the only real junction on the entire hike.
wooden fence: go right, which sort of feels like going straight
From this point, you are no longer traveling directly toward the cone of Santa María, but rather traversing across her flank, always gaining altitude slowly.  Continue on the path, which will become a dirt road for a while.  When the dirt road opens into a grassy area, again continue straight through.
dirt road to grassy area: continue straight through
After this section, the trail gets overgrown and messy.  If it gets too crazy, though, consider whether you're still on the main trail.  You shouldn't feel like you're bushwhacking into a jungle.  Always follow the major herd paths.  At a few points, you'll need to cross makeshift fences of sticks.  Please don't disturb the fences, as they keep livestock in place.  We had to cross two makeshift fences, and I get the impression these fences are put up and taken down regularly.

By the time we got to the mirador (after several wrong turns and some crazy bushwhacking--remember, if it seems like you've taken a wrong turn, you have), the clouds had rolled in and there was no volcano to be seen.  We did hear it, though, rumbling like distant thunder.
no views. wahh.
Try again next time.

Climbing Volcano Santa María

In order to beat the clouds that roll in most mornings during the rainy season, we had to be up, literally and figuratively, early in the morning.  And what better way to be up and up than to climb Volcano Santa María under the light of the full moon and greeting the dawn from her summit!  We signed up for our hat-trick third hike with Quetzaltrekkers, the Santa María Full Moon hike.

The hike itself wasn't that hard.  We piled into the back of a delivery truck for the drive to the Llanos del Pinal trailhead and started hiking at 11:58 p.m.  The only less-than-agreeable part of the hike was a 45 minute break after only an hour of hiking to wait for a lone straggler, way behind the pack.  I wish the whole group didn't have to wait, because she ended up turning around at this point and we were all super cold and tired by the time we started hiking again.  Nonetheless, we had a pretty strong group and the first of us reached the summit by 3:40 a.m.  By 4:00 I was fast asleep in my sleeping bag.
Dawn brought us a decent but not spectacular sunrise.  It's always hazy and cloudy here, definitely not a great place for views.
snuggled in the sleeping bag--it's cold at 12,375 feet
But fortunately, we were able to look down directly over Santiaguito!  And we got to see two fantastic, loud, dramatic eruptions!
KA-BOOM!!! grumble rumble smash
As we turned our backs on the summit and started our descent, Dave commented that every step we took would bring us closer to home.  I liked that thought.  It reminded me of the moment during the roadtrip out West in 2011 when I turned around in California and, for the first time in a long time, started traveling east instead of west.  That time, I knew I wasn't ready to be home.

This time, I think I am.
from this point forward, every step brings us closer to home :-)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

It's Just As Tiring as Climbing: Weaving on a Backstrap Loom

In Guatemala, textiles are everywhere. Especially in the highlands, where I've spent nearly all my time, the majority of women still dress in traje (traditional clothing). Men generally dress in western clothing.  It's definitely common to see a woman dressed like a photo in National Geographic walking around with a guy wearing Levis, a tee-shirt, and a baseball cap.  I guess it's because there has been more pressure on men to assimilate into western culture in order to work, whereas the Guatemalan woman's domain has remained at home.
women in traje selling flowers on the stairs of san tomas church in chichicastenango
Anyway, each place has its own style of corte (skirt) and huipile (blouse). Many (most?) of these pieces are still woven and decorated by hand, and they're beautiful, intricate, and colorful. It's mesmerizing, especially for me, because I enjoy dabbling in fiber arts and have a wardrobe of mostly earth-tone, solid color, boring clothing (no blingy flourescent pink or sequins).

I love traveling because I love learning/ experiencing/ appreciating things that I can't really learn/ experience/ appreciate at home. One of the things I wanted to do in Guatemala was learn how women make these beautiful textiles. I hooked up with Trama Textiles, a cooperative of women tejedores (weavers) in Xela for a 10-hour crash course in using a backstrap loom for weaving.

It took about three hours of prep work before I could even start weaving, then about six hours to weave a simple six-foot scarf. And let me tell you, I am so glad that I have well-developed shoulder and back muscles from climbing big rocks, because my arms were tired by the end!

Here's how the entire process of weaving a scarf, from start to finish.  If the text and pictures don't make any sense, just skip to the video at the end!

Step 1: Select your colors, one main color (green) and two contrasting colors (white and gold).

Step 2: Put the skeins of thread onto two rotating arms (known as a devanadera) and wind two threads together into a ball (devanar, to wind).

Step 3: Make your design. In my case, I had 180 threads to divide into a pattern of stripes.

Step 4: Wind the threads around a warp board (urdidor). Looking down at the urdidor, start at the upper right, cross down the inside, wrap around the bottom, and cross up the outside to the upper left. From the upper left, cross down the inside, wrap around the bottom, and cross up the outside. This is warping, or urdir.

The number of threads of each color in your design corresponds to the number of wraps you make. You'll end up with a stack of threads crossed over each other at the top pegs of the urdidor, like this:

Step 5: Set up (armar) the loom (telar de cintura). Apparently this takes a while, and can be a bit difficult, so my teacher did it for me while I went to lunch.

The top loops of the thread are wrapped around two dowels. There is another dowel, called a pulito, that holds up half of the threads. Beneath the pulito there's another dowel called a laviadura, whose threads hold up the other half of the threads.

Step 6: Strap yourself into the loom by putting the belt (cintura, though I think there's another name for it) around your waist and wrapping its threads around the bottom of the loom.

Step 7: Weave! ¡Teja! Weaving is divided into two processes, proceso uno and proceso dos.

Proceso uno:
Lift the laviadura, raising one half of the threads.

Insert the torpidor, an oblong piece of wood, under this half of the threads.

Pack down the threads already woven.

Rotate the torpidor, raising this half of the threads.

Pass the trama, a baton with thread wrapped around it, under this half of the threads. The thread on the baton becomes the weave threads (in contrast to the warp threads, which go lengthwise along the scarf).

Remove the torpidor.

Proceso dos
Slide together the laviadura and the pulito. This raises up the other half of the threads! Neat!

Insert the torpidor under the other half of the threads.

With the torpidor, pack down the thread that you just placed with the trama in proceso uno.

Rotate the torpidor to lift the other half of the threads.

Pass the trama under the other half of the threads.

Remove the torpidor. Start from the beginning of proceso uno again, using the laviadura to lift the first half of the threads!

If that didn't make any sense, here's what the sequence looks like when you put it all together:

Step 8: When you reach the end of the warp threads, cut the piece from the dowels and tie the lose ends in decorative knots.

All done!