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We are Familia FIG. We are a bi- lingual, blended family. Belalu was diagnosed at 9 months with hypochondroplasia.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Buenos Aires, Argentina

This was my third visit to Buenos Aires, and I was so excited to spend a few days here because it is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is also an important place for my dissertation, as I am writing about two authors who lived here during the first half of the 20th century: Victoria Ocampo and Norah Lange. I love the mix of old and modern elegance, the bohemian spirit, the melancholy of its music and literature, and especially how you can be at a bookstore crowded with people at one in the morning.

Let's start our journey to some of the places and things that you would definitely see as a tourist in this lovely, hectic city.
George Bush has the White House (though not for much longer!), and Argentina has the Pink House. And a woman President at the moment, though a good many people are not happy with her right now. (And no, there is no correlation between her sex and the color).Buenos Aires is situated at the mouth of el Río de la Plata, which in Spanish means "river of silver" because it was believed to have run through fertile areas for mining silver. The English translated the name as the River Plate (a common word back in the day for silver). It is brown because of the sediment having traveled from deep in the heart of South America to spill out into the Atlantic. In reality, the river is the largest estuary in the world, being the place where the Uruguay and Paraná rivers converge.The buses in Buenos Aires are what we would call in the States, vintage. Each one is painted different colors with lots of personality. Borges, a resident, once wrote about the painted carts he would see in his youth on the streets of city. I think the buses have filled that role nowadays. The Recoleta Cemetery has been called the city of angels, because it really feels like a city, only much quieter. However, like a city, some of the mausoleums are better taken care of than others, and I was shocked to see broken windows, partially opened coffins and garbage-strewn floors in some of them. For the most part, though, they are in fairly good shape to immaculate, as these belong to some of the most important people in the history of the country. Evita's grave was definitely the most popular with the tourists. (Sorry no pic)San Telmo is a bohemian neighborhood with a famous market on Sundays. There are lots of cafés here, as well as antique stores selling anything you can image. Lately, some more hip, artsy botiques have moved in, too. I loved just wandering the streets and peeking in the windows.
These glass bottles are called sifones. You fill them with still water, press the metal lever and out comes bubbly water! I love sparkling water, so I appreciate their use, but they are also gorgeous items that I would love to have decorating my kitchen. Next time, I am DEFINITELY bringing some home with me. (I say that every trip, but this time I mean it).These are mates, gourds that you fill with hierba mate, a tea-like herb that is similar to green tea in taste and health benefits. Unlike green tea, though, you sip this through a metal straw called a bombilla. Passing the mate is a social activity that inevitably happens whenever you are with Argentines and Uruguayans.Everyone associates Buenos Aires with tango. And yes, you can see men and women on the most tourist-populated streets all decked out and dancing, but I actually didn't get a picture of any. Nor did I go to La Boca, this time, as seeing it once was plenty. I'm much more interested in how the real people dance, and we went to a milonga one night where we could watch, though some of us got dragged up to dance, too. I thought someone took a picture with my camera, but I couldn't find any pics, so if I come across some later, I'll post them. I remember another occasion when I was in a shopping mall and they had a space cleared so people could dance, which was cool to see as they were mostly older couples there. Here, a group plays tango music for the tourists shopping in the market.I hope you have enjoyed our walking tour of the city. My next entry will cover my favorite part of Buenos Aires, the people.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Traveling and knitting

Summers don't see a whole lot of knitting compared to the fall and winter months, but I have gotten a couple of projects done and a couple others started. I'm still on my use-what-you've-got kick, trying to whittle down the stash a bit. So, I brought two leftover yarns and an incomplete project with me on my trip to make things that could and needed to be used.

I started with the Rowan Tapestry yarn that had been part of my mom's plaid xmas scarf. I guessed that there would be enough to make some Fetchings. I even gambled that I'd have enough to make finger holes, since the Fetching pattern has you bind off at the knuckles. And wouldn't you know, I had JUST enough yarn. I think there was a three-inch piece left when I was done. The yarn isn't great for gloves, as it pills A LOT, but the more I used them the less that seemed to be a problem. Somewhere in the Andes between Argentina and Chile, I also whipped up a Koolhaas hat using the charcoal grey Cash Iroha that went into Juan's Central Square hat a few months ago. This came just in time, as we spent three days driving through the Bolivian desert. I took a pic of the hat during my knits photoshoot:But then I remembered that I would have some trip shots with the hat on, and thought it would be fun to post those, as I haven't gotten around to doing that yet.This is in front of la Laguna Verde. There are tons of colored lagoons in the desert, of such varying colors as white, green, blue, and most spectacularly, red. The wind here was brutal and the temps got down to below 0 night, so I had my hat on for three days straight. Since I even slept with it on, it got very stretched out by the end of the trip. A run through the dyer last night took care of that problem.Here we've stopped at a refugio (shelter) for lunch. During this part of the trip, we had a cook with us who prepared amazingly delicious meals.
Another thing about Bolivia was the altitude (which contributed to the cold temperatures). Even though I took medication and was spared the raging headache my travel companions suffered, I still noticed the altitude in my face, especially my jaw. It would get all tingly and almost numb at times. Some of us also acquired a cough that wouldn't go away, and which I later learned was a symptom of the heights.In order to cure all these ailments, the locals use coca leaves. While it is the basis of cocaine, the leaves themselves only provide positive effects of reduced nausea, alleviation of headaches and other side effects of altitude sickness, and increased energy, which feels like a caffeine kick. You can chew the leaves, stick them to your temple with a little spit, or soak them in hot water and drink the resulting tea. We did all of the above. You can also buy candies in various forms that have similar effects with better taste. The toffees were my favorite. The taste of the leaves/tea are similar to Sencha green tea or hierba mate.

My other travel-related knitting project was the cowgirl socks I started back in January to wear with my birthday boots. It was a toe-up, custom pattern combined with the jay walker pattern, and I had lost the calculations. I took it along thinking I would be forced to finish it, but just wasn't into it. So, I tried a couple of other things and was convinced that this would be another dead-end yarn I just couldn't work with. Then I went surfing in Lima. And discovered that night the Morning Surf Scarf I had admired in Ravelry was available for free and in varying gauges. And I cast on. And it was magic. Everything came together, the yarn, the colors, the pattern, the context. So, I now present to you, my Lima Surf Scarf:The yarn, by the way, is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport superwash.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I was checking out what I've been missing this summer in Winona, and came across this cute little promotional video for the town. Funny, they show all the seasons but the one we know best: winter. Just follow the link if you want to learn more about the place we call home:


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Old Orchard Beach

Yesterday was another day spent by the seaside. We headed over to OOB for some sun and fun. First off was Pirate's Cove mini-golf. Julian donned the t-shirt I got him from there last year, when he was still living in Germany and we had no idea he would be soon living a couple of hours from here.Golfing pirates arrgggNext we strolled along the pier and couldn't resist getting some pier fries in all their greasy glory.They are hand-cut, and must be accompanied by lots of vinegar, salt, and ketchup. Julian also got some cotton candy, and I tried funnel cake for the first time. So, I think we managed to cover all the food groups in the end. This oceanside town is a hot vacation destination for French Canadians, especially, so there is lots of bilingual signage, arcades, tattoo parlors, fast-food and ice cream counters, bars, and a plethora of cheesy stores.In high school, once in a while after work we'd drive the couple miles from Salty Bay Seafood Take-Out (my place of employment) to here for some jumbo pizza slices and pier fries, watching the cars and motorcycles cruise the strip and marveling at the incredibly short cut-off jean shorts the Qubecoise men would sport. I'm pleased to report that there wasn't a single pair of cut-offs in sight yesterday.We did see this nice sexist sign, though, at the amusement park.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Creature comforts

Many conversations on the trip centered around things we missed from home, especially in the food realm. I have to say that I ate amazingly well the whole time, much better than expected, so I didn't really have any one thing that I was dying to eat once back in the States. I did miss preparing my own food in my own kitchen, but that will have to wait another month or so yet. I did prepare dinner for everyone the other night, and fell back on an old standby, pesto pasta with grilled chicken. Always yummy.

The past few days have been filled with getting outside as much as possible. We took Mobi for a walk along a local trail here in Scarborough that goes through woods, a golf course, and the salt-water marsh.We have also been spending time with the Sponsellers. Being a gorgeous sunny day, we hit the beach first. Even though in typical Maine fashion it was foggy on the water, we all had a great time.Amy and GrahamThe boys

Dinner was at the lovely home that Amy and Steve have worked really hard to get this beautiful. The brick walkway is the latest addition that Steve has been completing, and a nice compliment to Amy's gorgeous flowers.The food was delish And the company even better
Thanks guys, we all had fun!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I have missed this face SOOO much

I know she was being taken care of to the point of spoiling, but I still believe my puppy is glad for us to be reunited again.
We've been running around all day, enjoying the lovely summer weather. I'm also working on uploading and organizing all my photos from the trip. There are A LOT, and looking at them, it's just starting to hit me what an amazing experience it really was. (Though you're all probably getting sick of me talking/writing about it).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


When I arrived at the Minneapolis airport at 11:00 pm last week I had about seven hours before I hopped on another plane to Virginia. Needless to say, I felt I had roughed it enough, so I had reserved a hotel room a very short shuttle ride away, where a hot shower and real bed with fluffy pills were waiting for me.

In spite of all my previous travels abroad, I still felt "reverse culture shock" when I got back. In fact, I think I'm still getting over it now. It just felt so weird to be in familiar surroundings, with everyone speaking English. One of the students had mentioned something similar in Miami- she was so used to not understanding the signs around her that when she saw them at the airport she thought to herself: "I wonder what an escalator [insert Spanish accent] is". I also really missed the group. They were so positive and fun, and I really had a great time traveling with them all.

In Virginia Juan was waiting for me with a bouquet of yellow roses (my favorite, though I don't think he knew that, we'll give him credit anyway). We spent the first couple of days in Charlottesville, VA, a small well-to-do university town. Again, it felt weird to be in a nice hotel surrounded by posh restaurants and shops with everyone all dressed up. It seemed like a Disney version of life compared to where I've spent the past month and a half.

We spent the next night in Lynchburg, which was a bit more "real." We stumbled upon a weekly summer tradition, "Friday cheer." There were people of all ages there, and a really good cover band that played everything from country to hip hop. They had almost everyone dancing by the end of the evening, which was a lot of fun.

The last couple days of our little get-away were spent at the Wintergreen Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains. While it was yet again a Disney version of life, it did me good to just relax and take it easy for a while. I got through two really good books this past week: Turpentine and Mirror, Mirror. The first is a tale of the Wild West, which I enjoyed immensely. (Honestly, I think because it was written by a woman). The second was a revision of Snow White, by Gregory Maguire, of Wicked fame.

Now we're here in Boston until tomorrow when I can finally see my dog again!!