You are currently browsing the archives for May, 2007
I might have spoken too soon: the temperature has climbed up a few degrees since I celebrated the chilly wave sweeping Delhi. But it’s still not as insane as it can get. I’m eyeing the Cascade Fixation I brought with me… stay tuned.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the high-rise density of Hong Kong; you keep looking up at the buildings rising majestically in front of you, and your neck hurts after a while. The hills rising from the sea along with the buildings sharpens the sense of sudden height and you can’t help but draw in your breath. I have little technical knowledge of architecture or architectural history, but I love photographing buildings when I’m travelling. Hong Kong is a wonderful place to indulge this interest, but also frustrating, as the structures very easily resist capture in a small Canon camera. Here’s one of the iconic buildings of the Hong Kong skyline, the Bank of China building in Central, by day and night:
It rained incredibly heavily for a couple of days when I was there – glorious, sheet-like warm tropical rain. It left everything looking green and almost sounding squeaky clean, even as the mist lingered around the buildings and softened their sharp edges.
This second picture (a 19th century colonial building in Central with the more recent landmark, the IFC II building disappearing into the mist at the back) is a perfect snapshot of the Hong Kong of my imagination before I left. Old and new, side by side. This was created mainly through Modern China and British Empire histories as a classic crossroads site where peoples, languages and goods met in a remarkable marketplace, and and imperial ambitions clashed violently, but also through the films of Wong Kar-wai, whose Chunking Express and In the Mood for Love I absolutely adore. I had heard the saying that the skyline changed if you looked away for a while; the old was swept away for the newer and shinier whathaveyou rather more quickly in Hong Kong than in many other places. And yet I wondered how pervasive that was. In wondering what traces still existed of the worlds of the East India Company or of the romantic and lyrical ’60s inhabited by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung in In the Mood for Love, I was fully aware of being a rather predictable and tiresome Orientalist, all the more ironic for the number of times I have ranted about clueless tourists who come to India seeking some imagined and ahistorical, essential civilizational traces.
After a lazy moment of trying to turn this ironic realization into a clever, generalized theory about the poverty of all touristic urges, I settled on the hope of finding none of what I had imagined, wishing for it all to make no sense to me, a sense of history and preservation that evaded all my efforts to temporalize, categorize and parcel it. I continued to try and map the old and the new as I saw them, but with some comfort that my efforts would yield little by way of explanation or representation:
That’s me with my godson, the young intellectual Samar (who was a trooper for spending the whole day walking around town with four adults without complaining), with a friend who not only showed us around but helped me get some great bargains in Stanley. It is also thanks to her suggestions that I had some excellent food in Hong Kong.
But lest you think I threw up my hands in postmodern defeat, I did to go to the Chungking Mansions where Chunking Express was filmed, and smelt the paneer butter masala from all the illegal desi corridor restaurants that fold up midway through your second naan when the inspectors suddenly turn up.
The sense of Happy Bewilderment as foil for the Angst of Representation, I must confess however, was cold comfort in Macau, where beyond the regulation Portuguese announcements and touristy restaurants, there was scant everyday sense of the long colonial history of this place, now a gambling and construction paradise. I wasn’t complaining for the most part, but I was a little disappointed that I got lost and was unable to find the Quartel dos Mouros, (Moorish Quarters), military barracks in the main hill-fort with Mughal architectural influences that I had read about. In the 19th century, this apparently housed Indian policemen from Goa working for the Portuguese. I wanted to get a picture especially for Sepoy, but alas, this serene image of the Four Wise Men of Macau will have to do instead:
They sat on the ledge of the fort quietly, gazing at the South China sea as a breeze blew gently across to them. When I walked past them a couple of hours later on my way back, there they were still, not saying a word, reminding me of the three old men in Asterix in Corsica.
Of all the Hong Kong districts, I think I liked the area around Kowloon’s Golden Mile the best. A lot of time was spent walking up and down and around Nathan Road, checking out various markets and small eateries. Once, however, we took a cab because we were late for something, and the map wasn’t very clear about how to walk there (aside: avoid the Fodor’s guide at all costs.) As it turned out, the cabbie wasn’t so sure either, and it was a hilarious moment when my husband tried to reach over and show him the location on the map. In the middle of speeding traffic (we were still moving fast as I clicked this), you can see the attention he paid to the map with both hands while still driving down the busy Nathan Road:
But I will be eternally grateful to this man. My camera slipped out from my pocket as we hurriedly got off at a crossing, and he was gone before I could slap the pocket and realise the camera was gone. But even as I wrung my hands in despair, he was back with it, actually finding me in the chaotic traffic. Little did he know the importance of the digital camera for the knitblogger!
Another thing that overwhelmed me is the sheer range and extent of the public transport available. Ferries, buses, trams, cable cars, the wonderful MTR trains; nothing like rushing in and out of these to give you a heady sense of being part of a bustling urban space. I like how the card you use to pay for transport everywhere is called the Octopus. Very apt image! This is my friend, her son and I in the subway, looking quite beat at the end of a loooong day (we were happier than we look!):
Finally, food. I could spend a month detailing the dim sum I had, which was, seriously, a.w.e.s.o.m.e! Way way better than any I have had even in San Francisco, and it is a serious incentive to return. But instead of showing you pictures of dumpling after dumpling, let me leave you with two pictures of rather unusual desserts that I had. One is a kind of jelly with flowers in it, which was very tasty, and crumbed most delightfully in the mouth. The other is durian and sweet glutinous rice globs in vanilla sauce. I was very curious about the durian, having heard that it stinks to the high heavens. Let me just say that I now know why Singapore bans the consumption of this fruit on the trains! It was tasty, but boy, oh boy.
In Delhi, after a wonderfully decadent week in Hong Kong. I have lots to tell and show about it, but something else first.
Everybody around me is begging me not to jinx this by talking about it, but I cannot help it: Delhi is actually tolerable right now! I know, I know, it’s the last week of May and those of you who have ever been in the vicinity of 110-115 degree weather are probably shaking your heads with some sadness that the heat has made me delirious so soon after getting here. But it’s true, and I too cannot believe it. I woke up from a nap yesterday afternoon and realised that there was something else adding to the hum of the madly whirring ceiling fan and cooler. Rain! Sweet, sweet heavy rain.
I went out into the balcony and smelt the heady wet earth scent and dig
a mad jig. There was actually a cool breeze that blew all evening, and right now, it’s midday and barely in the 90s.I was marvelling every stitch of the way as I sipped some tea and bound
off these this morning:
It’s apparently been raining quite unseasonally every few days the whole month, and kept the temperatures from being brutally high for days on end.
So, the sock specs:
Claudia Handpainted socks in the "Just Plum" colourway.
Pattern: Generic toe up, with 52 stitches, my first pair on size 1 needles. I did the heel flap toe-up, which I learnt from Cabezalana. If you are bored of short-row heels but still want to do toe ups, check her generic pattern (the link takes you straight there), it’s great. Thanks, Mel!
Needles: size 1 bamboo, now slightly plum in colour. This yarn stains the needles like mad! At first I thought it was only the needle all my friends used to stir their coffees at the baseball game (yes, I allowed them to!), but later I realised it was the dye on all of them. I need to wear these socks to see how the relaxed gauge feels on my soles, but 52 stitches sure beats 60 or 64!
More soon on my Hong Kong trip. Agnes, I wish I’d known earlier that you are from there, I’d have asked you for tips on where to eat and stuff to see! It’s a stunning, stunning place.
Keep your fingers crossed that the weather remains like this for a few days at least…
It’s that time of year again, when I scramble madly to throw things into a suitcase and make a mad dash for the airport, amidst wrapping up a crazy semester. Am leaving in a short while for India, where I will spend the next three months. My itinerary is even crazier than last time, but I am hoping to actually do less, even though I will have more time overall.
My priority will be to stay cool (not merely a fashion anxiety, but a serious survival skill in the oven that is currently New Delhi, or the wet sauna that is Calcutta). Also on my agenda are a few weeks at the archives in Pune taking lessons to improve my speed at reading Modi documents. I have to start a new research project this fall and this will be an initial archival trip trying to see what is out there and might be useful. Am psyched!
Other than that I’ll mostly tear around the country meeeting family and friends. Some of these, poor souls, will peddle substandard varieties of
mango as being the best. I have decided to be sensible about this
problem. I will pig out on the Devgad Hapus and Pairi,
(Hapus is Alfonso in English, but I don’t know if Pairi has an English
name) but also eat some Chausas, Dussheris and Langras, just to keep them happy!
The heat, however, means that not much knitting is going to get done. But I’m not sure how much wool, or indeed any yarn, I’m going to want to hold in my hands when it’s 111 degrees, air cooler or not. So we’ll see. I’m taking the Cascade Fixation skeins I bought sometime back with me, so am hoping my summer of stockinette yields something. Otherwise, this blog will turn into a bit of a travelogue until the fall.
Having stuck, more or less, to my new year’s resolution of eating less and exercising more (with results!!!), I am hoping that, older and wiser, I will not slide back into eating obscene amounts of food like I usually do at home. But I fear that this resolution might be seriously threatened on my very first stop: Hong Kong! I’m spending a week there on my way to Delhi, and along with hiking and kicking back with an old pal from college who lives there now, dim sum and all kinds of street food are high on the agenda.
Oh well, hopefully the heat will take care of my appetite once I’m in Delhi.
(with apologies to Robert Darnton!)
This is not a good time for knitting here chez Desiknitter. Sweaters are on life support, with no prospects of immediate recovery. In addition, here’s what I have to show for hours of sock knitting in the last week:
The Jaywalker sock, above, coughed and spluttered its way past the heel, but the prognosis, after several early froggings and expensive treatments, aka efforts to learn a new heel flap method, was never good. Somewhere up the cuff I realised that I couldn’t stand the pattern. Actually it was when I knit my Chevron eyeshade that the boredom of the zig zag pattern hit me. Yes I know, it’s supposed to enliven the yarn and do wonders for stripes, but whatever. I frogged it down to the toe. The blue one next to it is Claudia, leftover from my Spiral scarf which I tried to start into a striped sock after Eunny’s but everything I striped it with was either thicker or thinner, resulting in an unhealthy, mottled look. That is now languishing at the toe as well. The other maroon Claudia looks like it might survive, although this was after several attempts to start these which went nowhere. So now all I have is a bunch of sock heads that look like they got decapitated rather messily.
I think the magic medicine is simple: stockinette. With this simple diet, my socks might yet survive the summer. But when I am ready to tackle a pattern again, it’s going to be Pamela’s Marigold Socks. I missed seeing her today as she’s on a busy tour of the Bay area, but will hopefully see her sometime soon.
A second opinion, however, suggests alternative treatment: lace. And seeing no harm in combining these, one of the two is currently under consideration from the book I recently bought: Stahman’s Shawls and Scarves.
This book has some fairly straightforward patterns in the Faroese construction, and each motif is also adapted to a rectangular scarf, which I really like. I will likely use the book quite a lot, even though some bits are odd: no yarn estimates or finished dimensions are given. You are in a Zimmermanesque universe, figuring it all out yourself! Aside: do buy this book from Schoolhouse Press if you want to; there are some absurdly high prices on Amazon for used copies, but I got it for a standard price new within a week from them. I was afraid it was dreadfully back-ordered because I saw the Amazon prices after ordering it, but seeing it in my mail was a pleasant surprise yesterday.
Thanks folks, for the positive feedback on the weird little eyeshade, which is working out quite well. I have to wash it to see how much it snaps back into shape, but it hasn’t stretched all that much in the first place, which is good news. For those of you visiting this blog after a long time or for the first time, this cotton eyeshade (eyemask?) is what I’m talking about. Here is the pattern (links to .pdf file). It’s also available on the sidebar on the left under "Free Patterns." As always, do let me know if any of you make it! ET, if you’re reading this, the original blue I made is yours! I’ll bring it for you next weekend when we meet.
Classes are over!! I cannot believe it has been two semesters, a full academic year already in my new job. I must say this year has been exceptional in terms of student quality, and my barring a couple, most of them have been a joy to teach and work with. And no, this happy assessment is not entirely to do with the fact that I have a grader this term! May this warm and fuzzy feeling persist in the years to come (grading help, too..)
So E, a close friend and former colleague, visited this week and I went shopping and dining and fooling around with her. Napa was part of our plans, as was an outlet mall, and Stash, my local yarn store. I saw her after almost a year, and we had a blast. I gave her my red Rangoli hat, which looked gorgeous on her. We sported cool eyeshades as we walked around in the sun and felt very chic overall, I must say. Spudsayshi, we missed you very very much, and have decided that the next get-together is going to be in Toronto. We will descend on your fair city with money and determination, and paint it red with you. How about it? (you can see the rangoli hat and my north sea shawl in the picture below):
The only thing missing from this picture (which totally sums up my simple yet decadent week) is my knitting. I had temporarily set it aside for a lunch of Moroccan olives, gouda and local chevre, fresh wholewheat bagels and pear jam and fresh apples from the farmer’s market. And a superb Spanish white rioja.
Now that I read so many blogs regularly, I’ve become familiar with my blog-friends’ colour preferences. I find that when I go to the yarn store and browse through the different colours I’m thinking, hmm, Pamela or Megan would like this green, or Spud would have loved that grey and so on. When I picked up a purple Claudia yarn the other day, I thought of Alison of Alianneknits. She would totally have picked this colour, right, A?