Thursday, April 20, 2017

A lesson in Turkish rugs

Last week we got the opportunity to see how handmade Turkish rugs are made. I never knew how labor intensive making a quality rug can be.

While visiting the Goreme Open Air Museum, our tour guide told us about a place near by that you can see locals making rugs, from the spinning to the final rug. It's a cooperative, Matis Carpet is the name (I think). 

We arrived at the end of the day, but there were still 3 ladies there, as well as 1 guy who spoke English. I hate not being able to speak Turkish! I can understand a little. In specific settings I understand quite a bit, like when my friend was telling the waiter to put her order on a separate bill at lunch last Sunday. I was able to argue enough in Turkish to tell him 1 bill, but she won in the end by threatening to never eat out with us again (and she's so stubborn like me, that she would stick to it and not eat out with us E.V.E.R. again).

I digress, where was I? Oh, yeah, not being able to communicate in Turkish. I'm studying it. S.L.O.W.L.Y.

They only use natural dyes. They crush various plants, boil them and then soak the yarn in it to create such beautiful colors.

There was a guy who explained to us how they collect the silk from the silk worm cocoons and spin it. First, the cocoons are soaked in hot water to loosen the fibers. Then, they take a straw brush and beat the water with it several times in order the catch the fibers. Once there are about 25 strands on the straw brush, they are attached to the spindle and spun around and around, creating silk thread. There is about 1 mile of silk in 1 cocoon. After the silk is spun into thread, it needs to be boiled because it is coated in a layer of glue type stuff. Once the thread has been boiled, it is silky soft and oh so luxurious. After that they dye the thread.

After learning about how silk is produced, we got to learn how rugs are actually created. The ladies have a pattern hanging on the loom (the blue and orange thing above their heads in the picture) which shows them the design. It said that just by looking at it, they tell where they left off the day before. They also don't have to count squares, they can tell what goes next just by looking. The rug they were working on will have over 6 million knots. For 1 person working alone on it, it would take about 2 years to complete the rug. For both of them working together, it will take about 1 year to complete the rug. 
The girls even got to knot a few knots on a rug.

There are different ways to knot, like single knot, or double knot. The double knot is stronger. As years go by, the knots will actually get tighter from use.

The design that you see, it composed of individual knots! 1 square centimeter can have up to 100 individual knots! That's roughly 100 knots on your thumb nail!

In 1 day, they will complete about 1 row of knots. Silk yarn is finer than the wool yarn. Here they are working on a silk on silk rug. It was so so soft! And the colors was just beautiful! I'm a sucker for blues for sure.

The ladies loved showing the girls how they do their work. And even though Little Man was running around like a crazy man, everyone just found him adorable. In Turkish culture, kids can basically do no harm...even when there are expensive things around.

Take for example the picture below.  Little Man and Princess are wrestling on thousands of dollars worth of handmade Turkish rugs! The blue rug on the right costs $13,000 USD ALONE! Daniel and I kept telling the kids to stop walking on the rugs, to stop wrestling and rolling around on them, to just look at them. The guy showing us the rugs kept telling us, "It's no problem. They are kids, let them be. They're fine." I kept thinking, "Yeah, they're fine until they ruin something." I mean, if you've met my son, you know that he is a wrecking ball in a china store. He is a tornado and hurts himself, or something, on a near daily basis. But we let them roll around, ate the man's insistence, while we talked about Turkish rugs and life in general.

We learned that how to tell the quality of a run, you must flip the rug over to examine the back. You can see the amount of knots per square cm more easily. Ones with fewer knots are more pixilated in design. The more knots a rug has, the clearer the design is. For the most high quality rugs, the design on the back is almost just as clear as on the front! You would hardly be able to see where the knots are.

Before we visited this place, I thought Turkish rugs (well, most all rugs) were so expensive; so over priced. After this learning experience, I see the time and effort that goes into creating such works of art. Imagine sitting at a loom every day, for 1 year, tying knots and making such a beautiful rug, just to sell it for like $300. I'd be appalled too! Sadly, that's what I thought I'd be willing to spend on  a rug before seeing the work that goes into it. I mean really, imagine working on something for 1 year, and only receiving $300 for it. Your yearly wage of $300, absurd. So no wonder handmade Turkish rugs are worth thousands of dollars.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Letter boxing

Today the kids and I went on our first letter boxing adventure. It was fun. It was cold out. It was a hike. We got to see some unexpected sights too on the way to the location. We came across a market that reminded us of Tongbak Market in Pyeongtaek, South Korea; weird animal heads and all.

I found out about letterboxing from a friend on Facebook. They were letterboxing while on vacation in New Zealand. It looked fun, so I went online to see if there were any near us. Turns out there was one.

Letterboxing is like a treasure hunt. You go online, find one in a location near you, or where you'd like to go, and then print off the clue. With clue in hand, you then embark on the adventure of trying to find the buried "treasure". The treasure is a hidden stamp that you stamp in your notebook. You also carry your own stamp (homemade or store bought) and stamp the notebook (or whatever it is that is hidden with the stamp) to prove that you found it.

We wrote down the date, location and time of the find in our notebook. We then stamped our notebook with the letterbox stamp and each of our own stamps. After that, we stamped our stamps on the burlap that was hidden in the letterbox. Being burlap, we couldn't write our trail name on it, but oh well.

I hope to go on more adventures to find hidden letterboxes. If you are interested, you should check out Atlas Quest, or some other letterboxing website. They are free to join, free to find, and who doesn't like a little treasure hunt every now and then?

I mean, if we can find one in Ankara, Turkey, you can probably find one in a location near you; so go out and start the search!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Raufarholshellir- A Lava Tube Cave In Iceland

Iceland is a magical place. It is full of so much natural beauty. The kids and I got to experience a brief taste of that beauty when we flew there on a 3 night stopover this month. Two of the kids ended up getting sick 1 of those days, the only rain free day we were there, but that didn't keep us from being able to explore a few places our other two days.

The first day we landed at 6:30am, got our rental car and were on the road before 7:30am. We drove from Keflavik to our hotel, halfway between Þingvellir National Park and Selfoss. We took a nap and then drove to Geysir and Gullfoss. Day numero dos two of the kids were spewing what little food they had eaten, so we played around at the hotel. Our third, and final full day, in Iceland we went to the Secret Lagoon. Afterwards, we stopped by Raufarholshellir Lava Tube Cave on our way to the airport hotel.

I missed the pull off for Raufarholshellir, not once, but two times! It wouldn't have been so easily missed had there not been such thick fog, but fog there was. Oh, and the road is a typical Icelandic 2 lane road, except this one was going up a hill with steep embankments on either side. So we just kept driving on up the hill looking for a place to turn around without being hit by an on coming car in the heavy fog. We eventually did find a place to turn around at. Going back down the hill I was going extra slow and straining to see the turn off for it. That fog was something else! I did see it, but not until I was already at the turn off, and not slow enough the stop with cars behind me. So we looked for another place to turn around yet again. Thankfully there was a wide enough spot on the side of the road to do that a few hundred feet away. 

The parking area is just a large gravel area. You park and then walk a few hundred meters in the direction parallel to the road (north). You'll see a bunch of rocks; the opening is in there.

The walk down to the opening is a little wet and slippery, but nothing my 9 and 6 year olds couldn't manage. I had my 4 year old on my back the entire time. Just remember to wear sturdy shoes. The kids only had their Bogs boots, and I only had my Keen hiking sandals, while we were in Iceland. That is all we needed:)

Once inside the cave, there are some stone steps down and then back up to the area that exposes the first opening in the ground above.

After that, you just meander along until you reach the opening to the part of the cave that is dark with no natural light.

 Once you've reached the dark part of the cave, you can continue on in as far back as it goes, but BE SURE TO BRING YOUR OWN SOURCE OF LIGHT! We only enter into the dark part a little ways. We had 1 headlamp and 1 flashlight, but I was concerned about one of my kids tripping over rocks, or not keeping up. If I had had a headlamp for each of us, we may have ventured in farther.
 The hike to the dark part of the cave is fun and totally worth it, even if you don't go into the dark part of the cave! There are places for your kids to romp around and let their imagines run wild. The wind was something fierce the day we went. Down in the cave it's pretty much windless, but you'll want to remember to pack a sweatshirt, raincoat, hat and gloves, in addition to your sturdy shoes! And don't forget your flash light (if you're going deep into the recesses of the cave)!

This is a picture of where Raufarholshellir is on the map. It's about an hour drive to the airport, so even if you only have a few hours for a stopover, you could totally grab a car rental and go! It is off of highway 39, just north of the the highway 39 and highway 38 intersection.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Yellowstone National Park

Our summer adventure was centered around a trip to Yellowstone National Park. We've spent over 5,000 miles driving across the United States, with 2 nights spent camping at Canyon Campground in Yellowstone. This stop was going to be epic. It was going to be amazing.

It was not.

Yellowstone, though pretty, and even beautiful in places, is a big land of too much driving and too many crowds. I did not anticipate being in the car for the majority of our stay in Yellowstone. I drove us out there so we could enjoy God's creation, not so we could spend all day in the van driving from place to place! I mean, it was so much car riding that by the end of the afternoon, we skipped some pretty cool looking things (like the terraces) to just be done with being in a vehicle.

The campground was massive and not very pretty. We much better preferred our time at West Tensleep Lake Campground in the Big Horn National Forest, a few hours east of Yellowstone. They make big deal about bears and your food, so I was annoyed to be constantly worrying if my messy kids were going to attract bears due to their eating habits. Come to think of it, there were probably more bears at our previous campground, but I wasn't overly worried about attracting them.

Another thing that caused much stress, well probably this is the only one that actually caused me stress....the bear thing was just an annoyance really, was the fear of my extremely active and wily 3 year old son would run off and end up being scorched, boiled or scalded to death by breaking through the thin crust of land surrounding the hot springs and geysers. This was a relevant fear because he is fast, *usually* does not instantaneously obey the directive to stop, he's fearless (until scared), and did I mention he is fast?! I mean, you all remember hearing about the kid that fell into the gorilla pit. Well, that so easily could have been my son, in a split second.

Case in point, he was up and almost over the railing of this waterfall in literally 1 second.
I had just turned around to help one of my daughters get the crayons out to draw a picture of said waterfall when I turned around to see Little Man getting ready to climb up and over the top rail; without regard to the steep drop off down the other side.

The walks on the boardwalks were unenjoyable due to the crowds of people and the lack of a leash for my son. I don't like kid leashes, so I'm not sad I did not have one. I think they are despicable. but one would have been nice to allow him a false sense of freedom. Instead he was free to walk/roam, until he became disobedient. At that time he was forced to hold my the rest of the way. This led to being dragged at points because I don't coddle him. If he wants to go limp and throw himself down while we are walking, and I'm holding his hand, I just keep on walking, still holding his hand. Ain't no one got time for that crap. He learned real quick not to do that.

Learning about the caldera of the volcano. Yes, Yellowstone is comprised of a super volcano.

Old Faithful was neat, but not as great as I was expecting, or maybe I was I already beat and ready to go. It was right before we left and headed south to the Tetons.

The Grand Prismatic Spring was cool, but it was so steamy, and crowded, when we went that it was hard to see the cool colors.

We did make it to the Boiling River, but my oldest was let down because it wasn't what she had envisioned. The hot water is nice and hot, but the cold water is cold. And, it's not very deep. Oh, and like always, lots of people. In addition, it is a mile or so walk from parking to the swimming spot.

Camping fun:

The kids got their Junior Ranger badges for Yellowstone, so that was fun. Another one to add to the list. All in all, Yellowstone would be fun for a day trip from some other destination, like the Grand Tetons just south. Or if you have older kids (or a good adult/child ratio) going on hikes through the park, as opposed to drive-park-boardwalk-drive-park-boardwalk-repeat. I was greatly outnumbered with 3 kids to 1 adult. Such is life.
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