Wednesday 26 December 2007

A Turkish wedding

One of Estella’s friends got married the other day. A Turkish wedding is, of course, similar to any other wedding, but some oddities make it worth to share in a blog post.

Here is the bride gathering her strength for the ceremony, with the omnipresent Ata Türk looming in the background.

The bride and groom make their appearance at the wedding place accompanied by confetti and party crackers.

They give each other their ‘yes’ in the presence of two witnesses, a wedding official (in purple gown) and all the guests.

Then the happy couple opens the dance. The red sash around the bride’s loins is a virginity symbol, as is the white dress.

The male friends of the groom dance around the couple.

The most awkward part of the ceremony is the pinning of money or gold coins on bride and groom. Somebody holds a dish with pins and you fasten your offering without sticking the pin in human parts. Because the gift is openly displayed, thriftiness is out of the question!

The fastening of presents is accompanied by happy drumming.

Exhausted by all the festivities, the bride badly needed an smoke. That had to happen in the bathroom, because well brought up Turks never smoke in the presence of their elders, no matter how old they have become themselves.

She also needed a pee.

Greatly relieved, she goes back to the festivities.

The cutting of the cake. The knife is very similar to a Turkish scimitar. If the girl has second thoughts, this is the moment to act upon them, one should think.

The couple, tired and happy, at the end of the evening with the friends of the bride. As the Turkish say: ‘That they may grow old on one pillow.’

Monday 3 December 2007

Little visitor

This little guy was playing with the keys at the back door of our studio.
There are thousands and thousands of feral cats in our small town. In summer, they find plenty of food in the waste of all the hotels and restaurants. In winter, when the tourists have mercifully left and the town is deserted, well, than is survival of the fittest.
It is a blessing in disguise that we are both extremely allergic to cats, otherwise we would probably end up with fifteen cats as well.

Sunday 25 November 2007

Shit happens

Last Sunday, an hour long downpour was enough to swamp the lower parts of the town, where the insufficient or not existent canalization could not absorb it. The biggest supermarket, really a big one, was flooded and won’t open in three weeks.
Our studio, also downtown, was flooded as well. Many pieces got damaged, some of them beyond repair. Shit.

In such situations, I have the greatest admiration for the Turks. They are stoic and laconic and convinced that some good will come of it.
If you travel through the poorest parts of Turkey, you can find always some little old man in rags, obviously at the end of his tether. If you ask him, as is the custom, ‘uncle, how are you?’, he will smile a big toothless smile and answer, ‘very thankful’ (to God). I am always moved by this faith, by the ability to find thankfulness where there is nothing to be thankful for.

I simply envy the ability to disconnect reason and simply believe. We, the infidel, can only say, well…shit happens.

Saturday 17 November 2007

The mail blues

I think I could write a book about the Turkish mail services. I imagine the main post office in Istanbul as a big, crumbling, ill illuminated building. Well, that ill illuminated is probably inspired by the fact that I am writing this post by candle light on my laptop. It is rainy weather, and when that is the case, we have no electricity, sometimes for hours at a time.

Well, in that big darkish building I imagine an enormous pit, where the sacks mail coming from the plains are emptied. Once in a while, a foot dragging, tired civil servant, grabs some mail and put it on the bus to some remote destination, for instance, Marmaris, the small town in the outmost South West, where we live. There in the post office, big baskets filled to the brim wait the whim of another bored civil servant to be distributed. This is no fantasy, the tale telling baskets are in plain sight. The post office employees drink gallons of tea in the mean time and hope that the mail evaporates.
So, it should be clear, that receiving mail is erratic at best. The record of tardiness rest with a post card coming from Holland, that took a year to arrive. Of course other pieces of mail unbeknownst to us could be still very well at the bottom of the pit gathering…experience.
But, because of this, you are grateful and pleasantly surprised with any small mercy coming from the post office. The post office makes you humble and teaches you not to take any thing for granted. Did you know that the post office could do that for you?

We rent a P.O. box in the main office in town, not to over work the mail man. Seldom any thing ever lies there, but once I found the box overflowing with mail. Briefly I thought the improbable thought that we had won all of a sudden a popularity contest. But of course, it became very soon clear that it was wrongly delivered post, puzzling enough it was outgoing mail, that the tourists in Marmaris had written to home, in the United Kingdom, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, etc.
I queued in the post office and tried to give the mail to the employee, telling him it wasn’t mine. His baffling answer was: we have a margin of error of five percent. And with these words he refused any farther dealing with it, leaving me with almost four hundred post cards in my hand. I told you, life is never boring, here. Routine? ...never!

Sometimes, mail do arrive, and brings wonderful things, like these unbelievable little mermaids, a trade with a lady on Etsy that makes this delicate little gals full with great details and grace. You can find them in her shop, along with other whimsical jewelry for a steal. Go quickly and shop!

Tuesday 6 November 2007

European Dream list!

I'm so happy to be among so many talented European artists in our Street Team at Etsy! Altought we laught alot I'm sometimes sad that I can't buy everything I want...
Here are some of my favorits, they fit perfectly together and are so beautiful on there own!
If you would like to see more of there work you can click on the link below the pictures or you can visit our European Street Team to find many more talented artists!





Wednesday 31 October 2007

Turkish spiders

Today was a funny thread going on the European Street Team on Etsy, about Turkish spiders. Apparently arachnophobia is very common. We have no problems with spiders, we have other phobias (that we keep secret).

But, did you know that spiders have a kind of holy status here in Turkey?
According to the legend, the prophet Mohammed fleeing for his enemies through the dessert, took refuge in a cave. The spiders immediately wove a dense web at the entrance of the cave. Mohammed’s enemies noticed the cave, but because of the web assumed that nobody had used the cave in a long time, and continued on. The prophet was so saved by the spiders.

By the way, exactly the same legend exists with turtle doves building their nest at the entrance of the cave. Turtle doves or collared doves come originally from Jordan, but are very common in Turkey as well, beautiful birds with pinkish brown feathers, always in twos, faithful for life.

When I was a civil engineer working for Amsterdam’s city hall we had two lady visitors, two architects from South America. In Amsterdam, pigeons are a plague, their detritus causing severe damage to buildings, because of its acidity, so that many historical buildings have to be wrapped in metal mesh, to prevent the birds letting their droppings on window sills and so.
I was explaining to those ladies what a big nuisance these pigeons were, and they started to giggle uncontrollably. Asked what was so funny, they say: How can something that you can eat, be a nuisance?

Tja,…how indeed?

Monday 22 October 2007

The life of the goat


Being born on a year of the goat, it is not surprising that stubbornness is one of my most prominent character treats. I consider it a life saver, but it is cumbersome at times. At times it is just funny. I’ll share with you a little piece of the theatre of my life:


Driving from home to our work place, through a small one way street, I come nose to nose with a guy driving a jeep (the wrong way) that gesticulates irately that I should go around him over the sidewalk.

I point to the street sign and stop the engine.

The guy stops the engine.

(Glenn illustrates)

Time goes by and several drivers behind me, either back away or go around us over the sidewalk.

A friend of the other driver comes by and starts remonstrating with me, telling me that his friend only lives a block away in my direction, implying that is for him very logical to ignore the street sign.

I don't bulk.

(Peculiar Pet Portraits)

The man then starts wrestling with his friend to get behind the wheel in order to move the car without his friend loosing face. The guy doesn’t give up.

I am enjoying this.

After twenty minutes, a street cop strolls to us at a leisure pace and gestures to me to go back.

I point to the street sign.

The cop tells me that I am obstructing traffic. What a wonderful men’s world this is.

I ask the cop his civil servant number.

The cop gesticulates to the other driver to go back.

He does, but only enough for me to go by and clearly with the intention of continuing in the wrong direction after I have passed.

I don’t bulk.

The cop finally, fed up, indicates to the guy to back out the street. That he does, parks his car around the corner, gets out –a little guy with O legs- and directs his fury to the cop that has let him down.

I drive on. My day is good.

I really don’t know if I do right or wrong with all this. Estella tells me that it is not worth the hassle, and she is probably right. But standing my ground in a men’s world, gives me a kick.

Blame it on the goat.

Saturday 20 October 2007

Air mail

When we started selling jewelry online, we never dared to send them by mail, but used a carrier. Very expensive, but reliable and fast.

Recently, we have started to send smaller items by registered mail, and I must say that we are pleasantly surprised. The packages arrive within a week in Europe, twelve days in the USA. Also the delivery confirmations arrive dutifully back.

Receiving packages takes longer, three or four weeks, but we haven’t lost a package-yet.
Some time ago a friend from Holland had to send me a document that was important and urgent for me to get. So, to be sure, asked hem to send it to me twice, once by express mail and once by registered mail. Having to sign for the latest, should prevent it from getting lost.

Almost a month later I sow the postman finally arrive on his bicycle. With a flourish, the two thick envelopes flew over the garden wall and landed with a thud on the grass. Not per express, not registered, but air mail all right.


Monday 15 October 2007

Unique selling proposition

We are in financial dire straits. That is a fact that can not be denied.

When we came to Turkey ten years ago we sold the house in Amsterdam, we bought a house here with the half of the money and we thought, or I thought, my daughter was very young at that time that in time we would find a job or create a job of some sorts here.

Finding a job was very easy, we discovered. Getting paid at the end of the month is not, we discovered as well. In a country where the judicial system simply doesn’t work, the temptation for the bosses just not to pay the employees is often too great.

Creating a job was not that easy. The bureaucracy is overwhelming, the foot traps countless and I think I just miss the perkiness or fearlessness or what ever it is that takes to be an entrepreneur. The vision and feeling for the golden opportunity.

So, for ten years now we have been slowly eating the proceeds of that house in Holland. It was a nice house, but now the very bottom of our reserves is in sight.
When we started making and selling fashion jewelry, and loving it, we thought that we had found our niche. And that is of course so. We are proud of what we do and we try to get better at it. So is Estella, for instance preparing her admittance exam to study metal smiting and jewelry making at one of Istanbul’s universities.

But in the mean time we simply don’t make enough money out of it to be able to go on this way. We are thinking very hard what else we can do. Something less glamorous than jewelry making but easier to sell.

(lisa hurwitz)

The brilliant architect that builds extraordinary houses rarely becomes rich. The one that becomes filthy rich is the one guy with the cement factory.

In this spirit, we made a quick survey of what is selling well on Etsy. One thing is clear: you need to specialize, to find your thing, your UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION, to use that very helpful term from economics.

Shops that are doing well sell mostly one item in all variations. Digital collage sheets for scrapbooking, for instance, is a topper. Brilliant too that such a shop can do all the business from home. No shipping costs for the buyer and no queues at the post office for the seller. Mmm…

A single item, in many variations, very well made, is always good. So are, for instance the beautiful leather bound journals made by our friend Kreativlink.

Knitting and crocheting do well on Etsy too. But my bookbinding, crocheting and knitting days are over, not that I was that great at those anyhow, I always was a mere pattern follower, and know I can not muster the patience either.

What else?
Continuing our search on Etsy we make a discovery:
Other ‘power sellers’ make cloth sanitary napkins and…crocheted tampons.

Oh dear…

I am old enough to have used during my first menstruating year terry cloth sanitary pads. The raspiness of those and the following washing (by hand) is one of the most ecofriendly and disgusting chores there are.

The tampons are awfully colorful, though. And no worries about my neighbors gossiping if they sow those drying on the line. Nobody here would guess what they are and think they are some eccentricity due to our being foreign and weird. Mice for the dogs to play with, maybe.

Please, please, I don’t want to offend anybody here. I admire this lady’s commitment to the environment AND her entrepreneurship. Just not my thing.

What else?

We are not sure. We think we try something not far of what we already do and start selling jewelry and other supplies on Etsy. Not very original, maybe, but think ‘cement factory’.
Anyhow, because the place we live in, we have access to stuff not available in other countries or at a much higher cost, so we try to offer those in our new shop.

Also we have made some scrapbooking kits with a ‘theme’, vintage, Christmas or a color theme. They were fun to assemble and kind of creative too, with digital prints and so.

And now we’ll see what happens…

Friday 12 October 2007

Family Album

Last week, we found another dog. Some terrier mix, with big eyes, funny ears and very short legs, a very lovable hair ball.
Estella, who is much more sensible that I am, beg me not to take her, but to no avail. Not that Estella doesn’t love dogs, she does, but this little one makes number fifteen and they are a big financial burden.

This begun six years ago, with our first stray. Before then, we never had dogs and I never thought we would. But this lovely and opinionated cocker spaniel choose us by simply coming into our yard and refusing to go. After a couple of days, we found the owner, but she was happy to get rid of her dog, she had clearly grown tired of it. And that is the big problem here, and I suppose in other places too.

People get dogs, often buy dogs for a lot of money, without realizing how much work, expenses, and commitment a dog costs. Often are puppies bought as a toy for children and get thrown out when they start chewing the furniture or peeing in corners. Also there is a general believe here, that a dog is a health hazard for a pregnant woman or a baby, so well loved dogs go out when a baby is coming.

There is a shelter in the town were we live, where they are well fed and well treated, but it has a capacity of about 150, and they are much more dogs coming in than out, so they get killed after a while. It is a shame that people don’t want grown up dogs. I would always prefer a grown up dog, what you see is what you get. A very cute puppy can grow too much, or become very ugly. With an adult dog you can see much better if the dog suits you, and if you have any luck the dog will be already house trained.

All our dogs are ‘second hand’, they have been given to us or we found them, some times in very bad shape, they all have a past, often a hard one.
In the mean time…dogs have changed our lives, totally. Our house holding is not similar to any other house holding that you may know. Overall where you look you see dogs, every chair and settee is occupied by a doggie, very busy sleeping. Our furniture is in tatters, we spend much more on the dogs than we do on ourselves, we can not go anywhere overnight and the neighbors hate us.

But ah, the joy! If is true that people with a furry pet live longer, we will be a hundred and ten. They are truly lovable, and loving, creatures, and they are always happy to see us, longing for a cuddle. It is amazing to see how they make place in the pack for a newcomer. By the way, they are all neutered, of course.

And the new girl? We are bonding famously. Not surprising, considering that we share the same hair color and the same hair dresser…