Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Winter blues

Finally, this morning the sun is out again. We had a week of snow, followed by a day of rain. At some point the council stopped clearing the roads and so the only way to get to the village - or to get out of it - was to walk, or to wait for the village-jeep-owner.

Not yet a month ago it was impossible to find clothes which were flimsy enough to help me cope with 36C whilst protecting me from the sun :(

Monday, 2 February 2009

Dulce de Leche recipes

Having been quite taken by Dulce de leche ice cream and alfajores, I'm keen to make them myself. Dulce de leche is available here and here, and I'm quite certain I've also spotted it at Lidl, but apparently it's also easy to make yourself:
"Just put the can of condensed milk, unopened, in a saucepan with boiling water and simmer with the lid on for about 4 hours. Don't let the water boil dry though or the can is at risk of exploding!" (Emmario, UK Parents Lounge)

For further processing, the following recipes look rather good:
Scoopalicious Dulce de Leche and Chocolate Chunk
Cafe Johnsonia Dulce de Leche

Sunday, 1 February 2009

More on Buenos Aires

I had a fabulous time in Buenos Aires. Predictably, both B. and I were - I sheepishly admit - always especially happy when we had a reason to hang out in Palermo Viejo. I'm sure everyone who has read or heard anything about BsAs knows about the delights of this leafy neighbourhood. And yes, it is unabashedly middle-class, full of nice restaurants and cafes and even fuller of trendy clothes shops. It's like being back in my native country, plus great weather. I did almost all my shopping there - one can get both designer wear (see here for anything new and interesting) and cheaper items, such as the latest poopy pants (needless to say I didn't buy any).
Also predictably: there is a lot of good dulce-de-leche-icecream around...
And there are lots of doggies.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Buenos Aires

At the beginning of January we finally went on our long postponed trip to Buenos Aires. We had booked with Iberia because it was a cheap flight and it promised us a 2h transfer to Madrid followed by a 12 hour non-stop stretch rather than a 16 hour non-stop stretch from Heathrow. We ended up with what looked for a good while like no non-stop stretch at all because Iberia was struck by strike action. After missing the connecting flight (even though they had reassured us we wouldn't) we had to queue amongst aggravated Spaniards at Madrid airport to beg for transfer. We, and some 5 Brits, queued patiently for 6 hours whilst the overwhelmed and decidedly unfriendly Iberia staff served the people who pushed past us. In the end I had to summon all my half-forgotten Germanic powers to jump the queue myself before all was too late. We were sent back to Heathrow that afternoon and got put on the 16h flight we had refused before. Of course Iberia lost our luggage on the way...
I don't think I want to fly with them again.
When we finally stumbled into the heat and sunlight of Ezeiza Airport it was just like heaven. We had booked our airport-transfer in advance and so we were met by the great Dante who took us to our destination in no time:

Sunday, 25 January 2009

2008 - All Change

The last time I added an entry is more than a year ago.
Almost everything has changed since then. We've finished the restoration and started living in our beautiful old house.

I gave up my Peruvian project because funds were sorely lacking. I started working in a new group on an old subject: microbial communities. I started having some sort of life again. B. discovered he had arthritis in his foot and needed to dance less tango, so we postponed our Buenos Aires trip. I needed to dance more tango, and so started going to the continent at least once a month. The only thing that hasn't changed is that I'm still teaching what feels like too many tango courses per week.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Mercury Retrograde

In the last two weeks my fieldwork laptop got stolen, my colleagues in the field didn't manage to connect to my dataloggers to download my data, and a major design flaw was discovered in our still not working heating system in the old house. I had been warned by somebody less astrologically-challenged than myself that we were in a period of Mercury retrograde. Now I wish I had taken good note of her words and spent more time in bed whilst everything collapsed around me anyway. I hope now that mercury moves forward again I will too.

Sunday, 28 October 2007


I have spent the last Aeon tiling. And I'm still not finished, even though the kitchen looks as if all necessary tiles were in place:

But I am painfully aware that there is a gaping hole under the window. I know that we work with lime to keep the house breathable, but I don't know why everything one does with it has to take extremely long.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Summer break perhaps over

I felt sufficiently bad tempered about almost everything in the last 5 weeks that I saw no reason to blog. We have, however, for quite some time now finished the dreaded lime screed. It took almost three weeks and was quite back-breaking. The result seems to be worth it though - the house is deliciously cosy and warm and quite unlike anything I have experienced in the UK in all the 15 years I have been here.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Some success

The first layer of our beautiful,insulating and moreover all breathable lime-screed-and-leca floor has been laid in our historic building. Now the old ground floor will hopefully stop having problems with damp.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007


We didn't get flooded after the recent downpours, so, in a fit of flood-envy, the husband and a friend and builder ripped the mains water pipe in our house creating an artificial flood just for us. To save our floor, which in its current stage is nothing but a layer of clay, this got diverted onto the road from hence it flowed downhill through the village to join the big lake that is under normal circumstances the river at the valley bottom. This, I assume is the reverse of rainwater harvesting.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

tango etiquette

Here are concise-ish musings on the perennially frightening aspect of asking people to dance at a milonga.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Holidays - hm

The last month was filled by a trip to San Francisco, a trip to the Netherlands, several decisions which will hopefully change my life, a cracked wall in our house and a computer disaster over there in Cuzco. The latter struck a few hours ago and looked like this (at least in the subject line):" PROBLEMAS CON EL LAPTOP"
I hope somewhat that this is easier to solve than a malfunction in the plot. Probably even easier than a crack in one's wall...

Thursday, 14 June 2007

donkeys and fairies...

...is the motto of this year's summer ball:

I'm grateful to the model.

Monday, 11 June 2007


They don't just have an important public loo (past the musicians, up the stairs and to the right) - they also know how to dance in Paucartambo:

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Fifa ban

Fifa has decreed that - for health reasons - no international football games should take part at high altitudes, thereby prompting protest from a number of the more mountainous Latinamerican countries and praise from some of the flatter ones, such as Argentina. Fifa is concerned about the effects of altitude sickness but given the enthusiasm that all Cusqueño taxi drivers I spoke to had for soccer this ban seems very cruel. I was often greeted with special warmth simply because there is a Peruvian player in the team of my hometown (which is located maybe 2m above sea level - will he feel unfit if he ever returns to the Andes?).
Maybe fear of altitude does not only stop Argentinians from bringing their soccer teams to the Andes ?
If the protests are successful I will consider similar measures - this might tackle the lack of Tango in Cuzco.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Cuzco - Plaza de Armas

Having been uninspired for more than 10 days, I thought I can at least share some moving impressions from the Plaza de Armas with you:

Click To Play

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Back home

There was a lot of work to do the last morning and it rained cats and dogs. It felt absolutely ridiculous to connect the last few cables to the datalogger literally under shower-conditions. I had brought some handkerchiefs but they had dissolved after some minutes. In the end I collected a days worth of data and took a very hasty leave. I hope I will have some more data sent to me later this month...
And then the journey home was a long one.
From W. to Cuzco to Lima to Miami to New York to London took 3 days. And now I have been back for another three days. Today I went to the travel agent to book the flight back to Cuzco.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

early night

It is 9pm and I'm sitting in the dark - hopefully for the last time in the next two months. It is slightly annoying to have no light if one isn't tired but it is more annoying if things keep flying into ones face while one is sitting in the dark in front of the computer. Tonight I had moths of various sizes, a grasshopper, some mosquitoes and numerous flies.

Hyperactive moths are the most pestersome, of course, and the one on the photo has been tonight's star of bother, closely followed by a small moth which likes to hang out on the keyboard.

Friday, 4 May 2007


Cusco is definitely for tourists, and I finally managed to do some touristy things - such as going to the Museo Inca and buying some Alpaca pullovers. I even bargained to get a better price for the latter. A nervewrecking undertaking which I had to make up for later by going to the supermarket were prices are fixed and nobody wants to talk to me. I was quite touched to see the pullover-vendress bless the money she got from me, though - explaining at seeing my surprised face that I was her first customer of the day - at noon. Her shop was in a touristy-purchases-mall located next to ten others of the sort. Maybe things are better for the shop-keepers if the tourist-season is in full swing but life in these malls is certainly different from the bustle in the markets in which I normally buy my stuff for the field.
The museum yielded an interesting discovery, too. More than half my life ago somebody sent me a love letter which started with the photo of an emaciated male mummy, who had his hands raised up to his cheeks and his mouth wide open, like an uglyfied version of Munk's 'Scream', followed by the words 'if I don't get to see you soon I will look like this'. As I turned one corner of the museum I stood in front of this very mummy - very exciting to meet an old acquaintance so unexpectedly.
Another moment of excitement was when I arrived at the Plaza de Armas. A further military parade! This time just by schoolchildren and their shouty teachers.

Later on, when I was driven home in a taxi I saw the same children arrive back in their school at the end of my street. That explained the military music nobody knew about yesterday. They were rehearsing.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

nothing much

I have done nothing exciting in those last two days. I have written many e-mails to probe and datalogger manufacturers, used many handkerchiefs, washed my clothes, went to bed early, drank tea and was treated to some more excellent mournful Andean brass music from a little military band that marched up and down the road both last night and then again at lunchtime today. A little later some cannon shots were frired from a hill not far away, but nobody in the office took any notice and so I will never know what kind of national celebration it was.
People here work long hours - it's 18.23 and there is no sign of anybody going home. Most of them seem to get up around six and are in the office by eight. Times are flexible, though, and some go away to have a long break in the middle of the day.
I also went to the supermarket where the security guard wanted me to hand over my rucksack. Since that had my computer inside I was very unwilling and did what foreigners do in such cases - I looked stupid until he gave up.
My most exciting entertainment was a visit to Wanchaq market to have some keys made. The markets here are great, at least for people who like bargains.