I am in Reutlingen, attending a 4 week class on software programming for Stoll Knitting Machines. Just wanted to update you all at once to how things are going for me on this trip.
Stoll's NYC headquarters called me about a week before my trip and told me that despite having made arrangements in JULY, I had not taken the "machine handling" class that was a pre-requisite for the software class. Therefore, I would have to wait until next year to take both classes over the course of 6 weeks, or I would have to rush to NYC and take the class one on one in a compressed time frame.
With many loose ends that I still needed to tie up, I scrambled to prepare to leave early, and flew out to NYC a couple days later. I arrived absolutely exhausted, hanging by a thread and struggling with jet lag. I stayed with Melissa and George and Baby Felix the first night. We had "Chexican" for dinner. There are Mexican restaurants in NYC operating by Chinese folks. The fajitas were seasoned a little like stir-frys. It was interesting, tasty and super duper cheap! Felix is teething which equals interrupted sleep. I press on!
Stoll was kind enough to provide me with accommodations for the rest of my stay, but they were in Queens, about an hour train ride each way to and from Manhattan where I put in 9 hour days on the equipment. The first night was Halloween. There was all kinds of noise from the street as people partied. Sleeping problems! The next night, a couple NYPD officers spent about an hour chatting about strippers right outside my window until I finally got out of bed and told them to leave. Oh, sleep, what are you?
The good part about Stoll putting me up in Queens was that the apartment also housed two of Stoll's knitting techs. Henry, a young guy from Shanghai, and Stuart, a seasoned tech originally from England. Stuart was a verbose and jolly guy who had studied and worked everywhere, done everything knitting, knew everyone, and even invented a way to do circular 2x1 rib on a v-bed Shima machine (rather mind-blowing and I am still trying visualize how he programmed this feat). He lived with his family in Quebec on three day weekends and worked crazy 11-14 hour days at Stoll all week. Henry didn't speak much English but was super nice. I showed him how to take the express train to get to work a little faster. The Colombian grocery stores and bakeries in Queens kept me well fed on the cheap.
My instructor, Eddy was excellent, kind, helpful and encouraging. I was surprised at my ability to control the complex machinery and even to understand it's inner workings. It is just like my knitting machine, only bigger, stronger and faster with about 10 times as many moving parts, features and a touch screen computer that controls its EVERY move. Okay.
Stoll NYC was in the busy season for building Fall 2012 samples and Stuart was knitting a run of about 200 sweaters. It was hard to get access to a machine sometimes. It was great to check out the Italian yarns the big name designers were using and see the tech's trouble shoot the machines and programs until everything was running smoothly. Alexa, a young, sassy tech from NYC who studied textiles at Kent State--or was it Bowling Green . . . anyway. She let me help her thread up a couple machines to run overnight (they were behind). They were samples for Calvin Klein, so we had to check to make sure that we got the right "gray" yarn out of this huge box (of course there were FIVE different ones mixed in there, each designated by a 9-digit code, cross referenced to a color card and the tech pack). The next day, I asked how the run went. She said all the yarn was breaking in the machine. Still behind . . . and there I was taking up a machine. Errrr . . . but everyone was really nice to me, and took time out of there day to explain things to me and answer my two-year-old questions. "What are you doing? What's that? Why?"
I was able to connect with Sachem, who has a ridiculously awesome flat in Brooklyn now. We ate some sushi. Then, I was riding the train to JFK at 9 at night on Thursday. I arrived in Germany Friday morning, now it's time to cope with jet lag! Despite a truly lovely weekend with my Uncle Steve and cousin Ania's family, I was starting to get a bit grim from sleep deprivation. We ate delicious Vietnamese food on Friday night at Ania and Oli's. Their 2 year old daughter, Paula, is gifted for languages, speaking both Polish and German constantly and picked up some English from me and Steve during dinner. Steve and Ziggy provided me with an exquisite bed where I slept deeply that night.
The next day, Steve fed Ziggy and I an absolutely divine salmon omlette, then Ania and Oli and I took a walk in the forest. The fall colors were popping everywhere. The forest was full of mushrooms, moss, pine cones and birds. Paula needed to help teach Oli all the German and Polish words Momma had been teaching her. "Koch, Oli! Pilzen (mushrooms)!" Ania and I were able to connect. I am so grateful for my lovely family!
I spent that night in absolute despair freakout on the phone with first Isaac and then my parents, in tears. "Nothing is working and we're all completely F&@$#KED!!!" Then I took an Ambien and conked out. Sorry guys. I was having a moment.
The next day Ziggy, Steve and I took a bike ride along the Nieder. It was a crisp but sunny day. Frankfurt is a BEAUTIFUL place to visit. We had so much fun. We ate a delicious lunch in Bad Vilbel. Then it was time to get on the train. Yay! I love the hauptbahnhofs in Germany. I got a lovely sandwich for E1,50 to eat on the train and settled in with some knitting and Dalai Lama on audio book.
I arrived at my sad little apartment in Betzingen, got the wifi connected, and prepared for class the next day. More on that later.
A little gray raincloud has attached itself about a half meter above my head, and irritability sizzles my manner in the afternoon now, but I feel that I am getting back on track.
[Isaac, I told you about how small the motorcycle engines are in Europe. This one was parked outside the Bosch headquarters in Reutlingen. Look closely, it's a 125!!!]
I promise to write more about what class, Stoll Germany and the other students are like watch the ridiculously bad video of our sing along last night, but that is quite enough for now!