Tuesday, January 21, 2014

你好 or Hello from Hangzhou!

Its true. We're in yet another country, though THIS one has a full four seasons so it is time to dust off the 'ole knitting blog and take on my knitter alter-ego persona. Snidknits is back in business!

China. I never thought I would live here. And I have to say that while I like it now, it would have been a very difficult place to move to six years ago, at the start of our expat adventure. The language is a huge challenge, but after about six months of class is feel like I can communicate. Converse? No. Communication basics only. The larger Chinese cities have a lot of English speakers (well more anyway) but in Hangzhou, where we live, it's far less common. 

But what about the yarn?! So, knitting is definitely more of a "thing" here. At a local mall I regularly see a group of Chinese women sitting around knitting but I haven't had the ability to talk to them much... But, thanks to Ravelry, I found another American knitter in Hangzhou! Last week we met up for lunch and yesterday we and another friend of hers (who is pretty fluent in Chinese!) went to see the yarn stores. 

Dude. Yarn. Wool. Cashmere. Mink (mink?!) yep. Mink. 

And the prices were quite good. 

A cone of Cashmere about the size of a small Watermelon. 

A lot of the yarn is sold by the "Jin", 1 Jin being 500 grams. I bought some yarn for a sweater I'd like to make. It was 50 RMB per jin. I bought two. That's ten 100g skeins and I paid 100 RMB = about $16 USD. I'll keep you posted on how it knits up. 

Here a clerk is winding yarn from one cone to another to get the amount that a customer wants to buy. 

Apparently many knitters here do machine knitting. Their items are, as they describe, "practical, not beautiful". Because of this, much of the yarn available is fingering, or even lace weight. They often combine yarns together when knitting, often times even using thread in the knitted fabric. A couple of the boxes of yarn I bought even had thread included in the same color. 
My partners in yarn, Kimber and MJ. 

After checking out all of the little shops at this "yarn mall" we then headed to the other side of the city to visit the "nice" yarn store. 

The quality of the yarns is a step up (prices a bit higher too) and here they actually had knitting needles and a group of women knitting in the back!

They were quite impressed with our knitted items and want us to come back and hang out with them! 

I can't wait. What a fun day!

Friday, August 05, 2011


Welcome! Yes, I am now in the Philippines and welcome you to a new chapter in my life!

We have been here for a bit more than a month now and while the first few weeks were difficult for me (they always are in a new place), I am starting to settle in a little and we have been able to expand our circle a bit and see some of the Philippines which I will now share with you.

First, where we live. Makati. This is the "center" of the city, well the business hub at least, and we live in a tall apartment building. Now, I have not lived in an apartment in quite some time so this is a different environment than what I am used to. Many of the residents going in and out are a bit dressed up. There is a "medical center" near our building that seems to do cosmetic surgery rather than true medical care. I kind of feel like I don't really fit in around here, particularly when I put on my camera backpack and flip-flops and head out the door while waving to the concierge. I kind of feel like a slob, but Bryan says I look "artistic". (I have seen some pretty sloppy artists - not sure that is much consolation!) anyway, we do have a nice view:

One direction looks inland towards the hills, and the other side gives us a glimpse of Manila Bay and the occasional stunning sunset.

It is a very different view from what we had in India!!

Bryan and I have been able to get out a bit and see a few things. First was Intramuros, the oldest part of the city that contains the remains of a fort built in Spanish colonial times. This is actually in the Metro Manila area and not actually so far from where we live, though with traffic... yes, traffic. We got it. Now, truth be told, we did not spend a lot of time exploring the area on this particular day as it was a bit hot. Like indescribably hot, humid and wet. It's like that a lot pretty much every day, but this day was exceptionally so! So, a little explore, Bryan got to try out his new toy a bit-

(yes, we now have twin cameras)

Hot hubby

and we did the barest bit of exploring before we dashed back to an a/c taxi. Interesting fact: there is a golf course that runs around the old walls of Intramuros, in what was originally the moat. Not sure you'll find that anywhere else!

Intramuros Golf Course

A couple of weeks later we decided that we really needed to get out of the city and see another facet of the Philippines. Like, how about exploring one of the over 7000 islands! A quick read of a blog-friend's post led me to book at - Coco Beach. It was close(ish), relatively inexpensive and available at short notice. Perfect! We had a two hour drive down to Batangas, and then a one hour boat ride to the island of Mindoro where the resort is located. We were lucky. The weather was cooperative with our trip over and we had no issues. Heard some horror stories from others who were less fortunate, but that's the adventure of traveling by boat during Typhoon-Monsoon season. The first day was relaxing, with a good meal at one of the restaurants. We had a conversation with the chef and it turns out that he drives a "tricycle" during the day, which is actually a motorcycle within a sort of cage that provides a roofed side-car for passengers as well as a cover for the driver. He offered to show us around the island some the next day, so we arranged to meet at 9am in Puerto Galera.

That morning brought some rain, well - a LOT of rain. We took a boat to Puerto Galera anyway,
brave good-swimming souls that we are. By the time we arrived we were wet, but that was just the beginning. We got soaked as it rained and rained. But we trudged up the hill to see the waterfall (hah! water was falling alright!)
And by the time we were finished there it stopped raining for a bit and we were able to actually see some sights!
Bryan and I are definitely not the same size as your average Filipino, but we managed to enjoy our cozy space anyway...We got a quick look at the market...
And greatly enjoyed our tour with "The Cook".
The return boat trip was much drier and more enjoyable and we took a little detour to enjoy it a bit more... really was incredibly beautiful out there.

An enjoyable weekend at a fun and laidback place, we would definitely go back!

So, that's a quick synopsis of our first month. Soon I'll post about my first photo shoot here with a wonderful NGO called Sambat Trust.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mother India

Today, while sorting through and packing things up I came across a brass bell. This is a bell that came from my parent's arts and crafts store from when I was a kid. I seem to recall that it was made in India. I remember when I was a child I thought of India as a very far away and exotic country. Another world from the California suburban neighborhood that I grew up in. I can recall looking at Time-Life picture books that featured images of "native" people from all over the world. I poured over these pictures as a child growing up. Fascinated with the colors of traditional costumes and the wide variety of facial characteristics... human beings were so different the world over! But it was the India books that really grabbed me. There was a richness and beauty there that was captivating.

I know, I am using a lot of flowery language here, but you are going to have to forgive me. For this week is a major one for me and I am grasping at my words, trying to explain how I am feeling. You see, in one week I will leave the place that has become my home over the last 3 1/2 years. My dear crazy India. I may have been captivated with the pictures as a child, but I have fallen in love with the place as an adult and to say I am going to miss it... words can't explain.

The people, its culture, the noise, the cows, the traffic, the autos (rickshaws)... all weave together to create a country that really is like no other. Some don't like it, but I have grown to consider it a part of my daily life. I now get nervous when it is too quiet and the chaos that greets me as I walk out the door soothes me truly.

So, before I wax on to the point of using every literary catchphrase that exists to mankind, I will sign off and simply share some of the faces and places of my dear India. Enjoy.

Oh, and next stop on our life journey? Manila (in The Philippines).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Just Another Day...

...in a helluva year.

So, my oldest daughter is getting married in July, to an Australian that she met in India (his mom and I are friends) and as part of the immigration stuff she had to get a health check up. After her chest x-ray she was told that she had an enlarged heart, then it was a mass, then a cyst.... Now, after several more checks, CT scans, and MRI's she has been diagnosed with a rather large neurogenic tumor that will have to be removed surgically. Dude. Enough already. Now, I should say up front that she is likely to be just fine post-surgery so I am not too worried, but the surgery will be two weeks before her wedding. Can you think of a less opportune time?! So, just think about pre-wedding stress and add all of this into it and, well - heck, maybe it's better. There is SO much that we just will not be able to worry about. So we will go with the flow.
On the good news front, my son graduated from high school and I was there to see it! He's the one in the middle with the unmistakable smile.

So yes, I am back in the states - again - and enjoying the sunshine, the sun setting late, the flowers and all of my favorite summer fruits (peaches, strawberries, plums, apricots, nectarines!!! Yum, yum, yum!), my family, BBQ's and all of the other quintessentially Californian enjoyments that can be had in June. My son has graduated from high school, my eldest daughter has graduated from university (though was not able to attend said graduation due to the aforementioned medical issues), and several family members have had birthdays. A good life.

Stay tuned for more philosophical mutterings.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Goodbye for now...

Where she was

It has been over a month now. My mother passed away on March 28th. I feel like I had a good chance to say goodbye to her and I am grateful for that. Even before she passed I missed her, but having her really be gone is a different thing entirely. I am comforted in the confidence that I feel that I will see her again. Still, it hurts.

Back in Bangalore, I am picking up the pieces of my life here. The house hunting resumed as we have to vacate this house. Really we are glad to as we have grown tired of the never ending leaks, too-close construction noise and hassles. The good news is that we did find a new house, just-right size (felt like Goldilocks looking at houses, most far too big, or small!), nice open kitchen with lots of counter space for Maya, a garden that is a usable size. We couldn't be happier! Other aspects of my life are slowly coming back as well, though it is a sad thing that so many friends have left or will soon be leaving Bangalore. I have to edit the contact list in my phone again. Still, I am not entirely alone and I am getting back into the swing of things. But normal, after what I have experienced in the last 5 months, is different. I am changed.

Moonlight on Construction

Somehow going through something like this adds a depth to your life, another dimension and perspective, you can no longer "fit" into your previous self. I am still processing what all of this means to me, still discovering who I have become really. I have had days filled with tears, I have had moments when I wanted nothing more to do with the world, but I am now at a place of equilibrium. For the moment at least, I am okay. I take comfort in knowing that life goes on, that there are celebrations to be had and friends and family to enjoy them with. That is the good stuff of life.

Quiet Night in Bangalore

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day by Day

We are still here.

My mom is a wonder.

I am soaking up the beautiful Spring weather - so incredibly gorgeous. The hard part is trying to decide whether I can be happy (so hard not to with beautiful weather) or if I am sad. I think I am both. Watching someone die brings out all of your feelings and beliefs about spirituality, religion, etc. I am a believer. I believe in God (though not a personified one necessarily) and I can feel happy that my mother is going to pass from this world into another realm of experience. I know that she believes that as well and it is an incredible comfort. But that does not mean that this is all easy.

I really did not expect that I would still be writing about such things, I would have imagined that my mother would have passed by now, but the human spirit and its will to live are incredibly strong in this woman. Could be some of that famous stubborn streak that seems to run thick in our family (I'm told we can thank the Irish for that). We are now at two weeks with no food and a few days with virtually no liquid due to her inability to swallow without coughing and hacking for 5-10 minutes - and that is when I can get her to open her mouth. Really, how is this possible?

Now all of this is not without rewards though. At first glance she can appear to be completely unresponsive, but spend a bit of time with her and you will notice the little expressions - the raised eyebrows, the pursed lips, the smile and sometimes even a wink. She is still there. The other night as I was going to bed and turning over her care and attention to Ari and Brenton I called from the kitchen on my way to my room, "Good night mom, I love you!" and I heard her say from the other room "I love you too". I stopped dead in my tracks and felt such joy and gratitude. I know what it takes for her to speak and to do it so clearly is not easy for her. It was a gift I will cherish for all of my days.

So I am still here, as I have said before, watching every breath and the increasing spaces in between.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dusting off - press reset.

I have a confession to make.

This is no longer a knitting blog.

I just don't really knit that much anymore. I occasionally pick something up and work on it, but it really hit me when I went to Stitches West a couple of weeks ago and very easily breezed past booth after booth of lovely fiber and yarn. There was no yearning to stop and touch everything, no dreaming up of projects, no drooling over the cashmere (though this is the one thing that I did actually purchase). I still knit, but I can no longer define myself as "a knitter".

I think part of it is that since taking up photography again, my artistic-creative needs are being met in that way. It is possible that knitting was a placeholder for this part of me. I still appreciate patterns and textures, I just find/create them with my camera more these days. It is certainly a shift in my identity, in a way. But, it also made me realize something; knitters, crafters, spinners... you are all artists.

Now, on to other news. So, above I said that I was at Stitches. Well, the astute or "in the know" among you will realize that this event takes place in Santa Clara, California. Not Bangalore. So, yes, I am in Santa Clara. Many of you reading this will already know, but for those who don't I will give you a short run down of what is going on in my life.

I came here with my family at the beginning of December so that we could be here for the holidays. One week before we left I spoke to my mother on the phone and she had just been diagnosed with cancer. By the time that we arrived her diagnosis had changed from stage I and highly treatable to stage IV and not curable. Now, it was treatable, the idea being that she could prolong her life by doing chemo, so my mom was ready to get started right away with treatment. The short version of the story is that she had a really bad reaction to the chemo which lead to her having a couple of strokes. This made her go from a fully functioning, still working, driving and living independently human being to an invalid. She lost all movement from the neck down excluding her left arm and hand. She was still able to speak, but did not always make sense.

After one week in the hospital, they transferred her to hospice care and we had to move her to a convalescent hospital. Now, I have to say here that I NEVER thought that I would put a family member in such a place, but there was no other choice. We did find a nice place for her though and I really have no complaints about the care she received there (not sure about the food though!) After 7 weeks there I was able to have her moved to our home in Santa Clara. Our tenants had coincidentally moved out recently and she had become stable enough to care for her at home.

We have been here two weeks now. We miss some of the characters from the convalescent hospital (there were some great ones!), but here it is peaceful, the garden is blooming, we hear birds chirping and we can relax a little more. Mom is dying. I know this. She knows this. At this point, she is not really eating or drinking anything, so I really don't expect her to last too long. I am just grateful that she is here, that things are calm and peaceful and she can go at her own pace.

So I am here caring for my mom. I am occasionally overwhelmed. I am sometimes in awe. I am amazed by how beautiful she is, how gloriously strong her body is, and how "present" she is when I least expect it. My mom is an amazing human being and I am so incredibly grateful to be able to be here with her through this.

So, more another time, and it is good to be back.