Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Finished Object #??

I knit this sweater for our accountant's baby girl, born last October. I found the buttons at a going-out-of-business sale in Harrisonburg, which, while sad, also netted me some amazing deals. Silver lining. Terry joked that the three yarn shops that went out of business in H-burg in the last few years are due to my moving away. Maybe? Anyway, I finally got the buttons sewn on just in time for baby Juanita to grow out of this...

This was a really fun knit. There's a cable pattern on the back as well. I've knit so many baby sweaters over the years that I don't use a pattern anymore, I just eyeball the proportions. I think the sleeves came out a little long but are easily rolled up.

Friday, April 24, 2015


The photo above popped up in my Facebook feed this morning, posted exactly four years ago today. I remember that day so well, I had seen the profusion of buttercups flowering in Parku i Madh (aka "Big Park") in Tirana and took the kids there for a combination Easter/Valerie turns 3 photo shoot. The exuberance of the blossoming seemed truly magical to me. 

I am still stunned sometimes by how much I miss Albania. I've been nostalgically reading Peace Corps blogs like this one (I look at the author's photo and see my dad 45 years ago! Kind of!) Our life in Tirana with two small kids was very different in some ways from what these PCVs describe, as young single people living in villages or smaller cities. But a lot of it resonates. I'm not sure if it's a form of escapism, to which I am far too prone, or what.  

The kids in Boyacá
Someone asked me the other day, how do you like living in Bogotá? I said, "on a scale of 1 to 10, maybe a 3..." (**I should clarify that I was having a bad moment during a bad day; it can range up to 7/10). We like Colombia so much better when we can get out of the city. At the same time I think it's important to try to live in the moment and be fully present. I need to remind myself of that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Work that is real

I come from a farming family. My kids are so very disconnected from the rural reality, they ask me questions like "are frogs real? I've never seen a frog." Someone was posting favorite lines from poems on Facebook today and it made me remember this poem by Marge Piercy, excerpted below. It made me think of farmers we have known all over the world - Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Albania, the US. Work that is real. 

To be of use

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry

and a person for work that is real.

Sometimes the work I do doesn't feel very real. Parenting does; things like knitting and cooking ground me. I don't think I'd make a very good farmer because I live a lot of the time in my head. It's always good to visit our partners here. It grounds and connects us to work that is real.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Snow Days

Just filling in with some photos from our home leave in December/January... the kids had a blast playing in the snow in VA, it was the first time Gabriel had ever seen snow - ever! - and Valerie hadn't seen it since she was a baby. 
Enjoying an Ithaca winter with Aunt Rosanne!
They had the most fun ever scraping ice off the cars, shoveling up piles of snow, trying to make snowballs...

Their assessment of what kind of winter wear they needed did not always match mine...
This has been a challenging week. Terry is traveling and I'm trying to wrap up my dissertation revisions. Tonight Gabriel has a sleepover with his school at the farm they go to. So tonight is girls' night at our house! I'm looking forward to some mother-daughter time! It's going to be a blast!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Crazy Cuy Lady

Grass we grew in the house for the guinea pigs
Last July, for Gabriel's 4th birthday, I bought him a guinea pig - or cuy, as it's known in the Andes. After bringing home the slate-colored female I read that cuys are social animals and it's best to buy them in same-sex pairs (unless you want them to multiply), and since males might fight each other we went back and bought another female. Gabriel named his Leona and Valerie named hers Brown and White. 

Over time we evolved a system of tubs filled with dirt and covered (usually) with sawdust, which we change once or twice a week. The tubs are linked by big PVC tubes that they love to hide in, and periodically we block off part of the complex to grow grass for them. 

They are way stinkier and messier than I thought they would be, but it's kind of fun to have pets. 

An early arrangement. These boxes were not hygienic.
Since I haven't found anywhere to buy timothy hay for them, the kids and I often pick grass in the neighborhood. The best places are along the university fence, although you have to be discerning and choose spots where drunk university students are not likely to have been peeing. Another good spot is an abandoned lot we walk past on the way to and from school, which has a raised flower bed border behind a wrought iron fence. The flower bed is nothing but grass, and it grows very long. Best of all I know that neither dogs nor humans are likely to have peed in it. 

A long time ago, in 1986 in fact, my 8th grade homeroom teacher (Mr. Jones) told me that all writers are weird. At that precise moment in time I decided not only to accept but to revel in my weirdness. I think it's pretty typical of third-culture kids to go through life always feeling a little out of place; some camouflage it (protective coloration), others revel in it, others are just selective about when and how they express that facet of themselves. 

So I've embraced the bizarreness of my public grass-picking practice. I'm the crazy neighborhood cuy lady. 

I've been thinking a lot recently about how our kids will learn to manage this aspect of themselves. This year has been a bit of a struggle for Valerie going to school in her second language. First grade is a whole new challenge of mastering language and content at the same time. I've been thinking a lot about the migrant kids I worked with in the US and the similar challenges they faced there, and strategies we used to help support them and their families, and how I might translate some of those strategies into our context here. 

Monday, April 06, 2015

Something fun

Here's something fun for a Monday, a short video of the kids dancing at a rest stop between Ithaca and Harrisonburg. Their dad logged a LOT of miles on this road so it was kind of poignant - is that the right word? I feel like there must be a better word to exactly express the strange mix of happiness, poignancy, and nostalgia that this evokes for me. There probably is in German (or here).

Anyway, here's the video:
(I also love the song playing in the background - Dream, by the Cranberries).

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Work in Progress

In January, when we were on home leave, I defended my doctoral dissertation. It's been a long and winding road to get to this point. I did have revisions to do but didn't get to them until this week. So that is what I have been spending Holy Week doing. The office is very quiet right now!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


The kids are doing well, despite March being a very irregular month - I think Valerie only went to school a total of five days, with all our travel, plus spring break and other days off. Traveling always messes with their eating habits, but Valerie especially enjoys going places - Gabriel is more of a homebody, like me. 

The main place we stayed at in Haiti had a great playground for the kids, and there were seven other kids there. The youngest was just 2 months old, and one girl was 14 - Gabriel had a huge crush on her and wanted to be wherever she was at all times!

It was fun taking them along on some of the site visits in Port au Prince, including this girls' school.

They also enjoyed the hotel there which had a giant checker board (here they are making pretend layer cakes, with bougainvillea for frosting):
and a pool! Valerie is very interested in taking swimming lessons so I just have to figure out when and how to make that happen.