Sunday, July 20, 2008

Stranded Without Knitting?!?!

It's time for Secret Pal Twelve's Question #6, so it's time for me to relate a story that I've alluded to, but never quite told:

What is your favorite type of project to take along on holiday/vacation?
Tell us about a time that you packed too much knitting or were stranded without knitting.

My favorite project to take along is my favorite project - socks. I'm a little bit picky about vacation socks - they need to be simple, and they need to use only one or two colors of yarn. I want my vacation knitting to be something I can pick up and put down easily. They don't have to be quite as simple as the socks I carry around all the time and knit while waiting in lines, but the same sock usually serves both purposes, although I'll usually bring more than one project on vacation.

This is because of the second part of the question - the time I was Stranded Without Knitting (cue the horror music here).

It was right at the end of the school year, in spring 2005. I was feeling really good about myself, because I got all my grades and stuff turned in early before we went to visit Aaron's family for a few days. I was about to start a cool new job at the Indiana Historical Society. Then, on a Wednesday, I got this call from my adviser:

"Could you go to Turkey for me on Monday?"

Some people have cool jobs that leave them traveling all around the world to exciting places on a moment's notice. But I am not one of those people. And "graduate student" isn't one of those jobs. But my adviser had a family crisis, and wasn't able to lead a planned Study Abroad trip. So it fell to me.

The answer (after a frantic, pleading phone call to my soon-to-be new employers) was obviously "yes!" Who would turn down such an opportunity? I ran around for the next few days - gathering lecture material, doing laundry, visiting the doctor, and figuring out what to pack for a three-week trip to a really big country I'd never visited. ("Everything" would've been the right answer.) I spent every spare moment boning up on Turkish history, trying to learn a bit of Turkish, and worrying about writing lectures - it wasn't until I was packing that I thought about any other way to spend spare time.

Back then, I didn't have much of a stash. Not much at all, really. I think I'd made three pairs of socks. These were the first - my Turkish socks from Piecework magazine. Naturally they'd go on the trip - everyone needs wool socks when traveling in the Middle East in summer, right?

The funny thing is, I didn't see many socks like these. There were a few for sale in Cappadocia, but only in children's sizes, so I never bought any of my own. I never found a place to buy yarn, either, although I was given some beautiful silk.

Most of the socks I saw being made or sold were like these. In the rural areas, women tended to wear plastic clogs, with this kind of sock. I bought these in Canakkale, a town near the archaelogical site of Troy. I still haven't figured out how they're put together - I think there's some knitting and cutting and more knitting, but I don't know the details. I only saw Turkish knitters from a distance.

And now a brief interlude for my funny sock story: One of the participants on the trip, an older gentleman, knew I liked socks. So at one of our hotels he came up to me and asked, "Did you see the postcard with the socks?"

"Socks? No! Where?!?"

So he took me to the hotel lobby, and showed me the postcard. I looked, looked again, and said, "er....those aren't socks."

And then, so before I could stop myself, "and I don't think you'd want wool there."

The poor man blushed - at least until he started giggling along with me - as he realized that the postcard's image, captioned "Enemies of AIDS," was of colored condoms hanging on a clothesline.

But to get back to the yarn - there I was, packing in a hurry, with only a bit of yarn on hand - two balls of Sugar-n-Cream Sport, and a Roman Rib sock in progress. This was actually the first sock yarn I ever bought - although the first sock was abandoned due to boredom about an inch into the cuff. The toe-up technique was essential to my early sock success!

It's a 12-hour flight from New York to Istanbul, and Turkey's a big country, so we spent a lot of time on buses. I'd finished my socks midway through the trip - and never found a place to buy more sock yarn.

Not having anything to knit on the bus wasn't so bad - there was a lot to see, I still had teaching to do, and we were all tired all of the time, so sleep was always a good option. But not having anything to knit on the flight home was awful. 12 hours of afternoon sun - nothing to knit - I'd read all my books - no more lectures to write - and I had a painful sprained ankle (another aside - jumping from one moving boat to another is harder than it looks), so I couldn't even sleep.

So now I just don't travel without at least two projects. I keep a tatting project hidden in my desk. I know the closest yarn store to my parents' house. I know the closest yarn store to Aaron's parents house. I know at least three yarn stores in Oldenburg, Germany - which is 5,000 miles away and about the size of Lafayette (which only has one yarn store - albeit a very fine one!) I have shopped for fiber in languages I do not speak. I will never, ever, ever again travel without plenty of yarn. (Or an Ace bandage. See that bit about the ankle.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I would have unknit a sweater and knit with pencils!! So, are ya done with your top yet?? LOL... now I feel the urge to make one similar too! But must knit from stash before new purchases can be made....(SP12 budddy)

10:55 AM  
Blogger Isdihara said...

Ooh, a-NOTHER reason to fall in love with your blog! Anyone who keeps a tatting project stashed in her desk is a soul-sib. We should chat about tatting sometime.

Thanks for sharing your story, even if it was in response to SP12's question #6. It was very entertaining, as well as a good lesson in preparing for the unexpected when traveling.

I'm really enjoying reading your blog!

8:54 AM  

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