Friday, December 23, 2011


Mexico - We Return!

Chiapas, Mexico
As "tourists" in Guatemala, we are allowed to stay here through the grace of a 90-day visa. Near the end of those days we must leave the country for at least 72 hours, then come back in and get a new 90-day visa. It' always the visa dance in our lives. There's always the question of where to go this time? It was Belize last year, Honduras earlier this year so how about Mexico! Ahhh...the land of Mexican Food and great beer.

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Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico
My head was spinning with visions of sheep and wool. Yes! In the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico are villages which tend sheep, spin the wool, and weave fabrics including some very bizarre fuzzy black skirts. I had just read about this in my SpinKnit Fall 2011 eMag so I was itching to go-see-do.We had spent 2 years in Mexico on the Pacific side of the country (in the hot no-sheep lowlands) when we first took off cruising and loved it.

So off we went on another bus adventure. From Guatemala City, we rode on a first-class "TICA" bus to the state of Chiapas, Mexico which is a one full-day trip.

As we descended down the western slope of the Guatemalan mountains towards the Pacific Ocean, we saw many raging rivers weaving around giant boulders. There were small waterfalls along the cliffs as we drove through coffee plantations and fields of rubber (latex) trees. The small houses we passed had flower and vegetable gardens and we saw whole fields of flowers growing. My nose was stuck on the window the whole way down and I didn't knit a single stitch.

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Tapachula, Chiapas Mexico
In the afternoon we realized that we were not on the route that we had expected (Jonesy always travels with road maps). Where the heck were we? No explanation was ever given, but we were headed in the correct general direction. You have to be flexible in Latin America after all. The highway was so smooth compared to the roads in Guatemala! What luxury! So what if we crossed the border at a different place? It was all new to us anyway.

Then we a line of traffic...for 3 hours as night fell. Nobody knew, or would say why. So, I went for a hike down the road to find out what it was all about. Great. They were doing construction of a pedestrian overpass so they had stopped traffic in both directions. Like I said, you gotta be flexible in Latin America. No biggie. Well, except I was thirsty and there was a mini-mart at the end of my hike but I only had Guatemalan currency and we were in Mexico - Jonesy, still on the bus, had all our new Mexican pesos.
Bus station anti-theft device - twine.

Eventually we got into the big city of Tapachula, found a hotel room and went out for our first real Mexican food and beer. Oh my! Just get across that border and suddenly you get the flavorful foods of Mexico! We spent the next day walking to the bus station to buy tickets for the next leg of our trip and eating Mexican food all along the way. We met some American tourists in Tapahula from a Holland America cruise ship! The Pacific Ocean is just about 15 miles away and they had taken a day-tour into this city. We were really surprised at that because it is really not a touristy area, but it is lovely.

LACE CUFF BABY SOCKSThese little Lace Cuff Baby Socks were part of my knitting work while on our travels. Just another pair of foot coverings for my niece's first baby (it's a girl).

So where's the sheep? Next blog...I promise; beautiful San Christobal de las Casas and the village of San Juan Chamula where the sheep live and give us wool.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Shetland-Style Lace Bonnet

Deep down in my collection of my "someday" patterns stashed on the boat, there has been this "Shetland-Style Lace Bonnet" pattern by Margaret Stove. Lovingly ripped from the pages of  the Interweave Piecework Magazine (Mar/Apr 1994 & Jul/Aug 1994 for errata) it has tickled me each time I've enjoyed an afternoon of rifling through my treasures.

Finally! We have a little girl to be born early next year to our family! My niece is having her first baby and it's a girl. There in my yarn stash was a ball of my hand-dyed sock weight wool yarn in mottled shades of lavender. Perfect.

The pattern is written in line-by-line, i.e. stitch by stitch fashion and ya'll know by now that I prefer charts. No, I didn't send away for the charts when I stored the pattern, nor did I ask for the matching booties pattern. No worries, I plodded along.
Eyelet Lace Booties
Oh my! There were stitch gymnastics in this design that I had never come across before! Thankfully, the instructions were clear and I continued on, counting, counting. Unfortunately, this is the type of knitting project that requires intense concentration. So much so that I had to ask Jonesy not to talk to me. That's kinda hard to do when we are both sitting on the sailboat facing each other and only a few feet apart. We are both used to just blurting out our thoughts at any time. But, Jonesy has lived with me long enough (36 years!) that he has learned when I need quiet knitting time.

After a dinghy trip to town and a walk down to the fabric shop to buy some ribbon, I was able to finish the set today. The color in the booties alone photo are closer to the correct shades. The improvised booties? Yep, that will be a new pattern for the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo group next year which has already been sent to the test knitters.

Friday, December 02, 2011


Sumpango Kite Festival, Guatemala

Guatemala Travel 016Can you say "Big Kites"? Throughout Guatemala, folks celebrate the Day of the Dead on November 1st by flying kites up to the heavens to be closer to their ancestors. Up in the highlands in the village of Sumpango, these kites have inspired a competition and festival. For many months, mostly young people craft these kites from bamboo, tissue paper, glue and some plastics and show them off at the festival. Yes! They do attempt to fly them and some actually do fly.

Guatemala Travel 010A group of us traveled up to Guatemala City, then out to the village to experience this annual event. Amazingly everyone was allowed to walk right up to the kites! so that we got to really check out up close the handiwork that went into making these monsters. Here is a photo of work being done on one of the smaller kites and one of the giant beauties! Check out THAT giant framework! After the frame is assembled, the tissue paper covering is rolled out underneath the frame, then the edges are seals and the fringe is applied.

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All this work is making me hungry! No worries, there are plenty of good eats being grilled on the open air wood fires.

There was plenty of corn to eat - this is Meso-America after all which is the home of maize. You even get to choose your colors - white, yellow, blue, or mixed colors. And then if you want it steamed on the cob, grilled on the cob, or processed into tortillas. Yep, those are blue tortillas that these women are cooking over their wood fire, and they DO taste a little different, perhaps sweeter and earthier (if there is such a word).
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Blue corn tortillas
Here in Central America, everyone is quite comfortable in knowing exactly where their food comes Mr. Pig roasting over the fire. YUMMY!
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Mr. Pig - pick your portion!

If you have a need for a sweetie, there were ice cream vendors pushing carts full of frozen treats, tables laden with fruit, and these delicate twisted and fried concoctions covered in a sweet syrup of honey and local semi-processed cane sugar.
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Let's look at some more of those kites...
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Back strap weaving and Farming
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Guatemala Travel 040Guatemala Travel 041 An important part of the local tradition this special day is to visit the graves of family members. Not just a short how-you-doing visit, but a day filled with decorating the graves and having a full picnic meal at the grave site. The flowers were stunning and we found out that many are grown in the area for sale/export so the quality and variety are excellent. As I love color, my head was spinning from all of the hues. The women were dressed in their finest traditional clothing so I got to spy plenty of beautiful weaving and embroidery handiwork up close.

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Selling steamed corn

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All around the festival kids were selling handmade kites and vendors were selling cheap plastic commercial ones like my kids used to fly. In the open air fields lots of little kids were flying (or trying to fly) their own kites.

craft day 005So what do you think we cruisers did on a Craft Wednesday event later in the month? Yep. We made our own little kites. Michelle from the sailing vessel Enchantment ventured into the small nearby town of Fronteras and bought all the necessary materials; tissue paper and bamboo skewers. The kids in the shop even showed her how to make the kites!

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So we made our frames from the skewers and some sewing thread, then cut and glued designs to them. Cheryl from the sailing vessel Interlude even added the thread harness assembly so she could actually fly her kite from her boat. As per Michelle's idea, I'm going to simply display mine from the ceiling of my boat as a reminder of another interesting adventure into the culture and people of Guatemala.
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