HOW WE DO IT
I want to explain with this blog, how we buy the Nepal necklaces and how we support a clinic in Nepal. Which we started to help after the big earthquakes they had in Nepal, but we continue to support them with small amounts when we can.
In a way we do twice a donation to Nepal. The first one by buying the necklaces directly from Nepal. They are all pre-owned, used, vintage and have some small imperfections and wear and tear signs. Not everybody likes that, but to me they come with a certain energy of previous owner(s), with authenticity and originality.
It brings a little bit of Nepal to your life.
They are all made of glass, ceramic, wood, seeds, yak bone or shells.
They are all handmade.
They are all vintage.
We sell only one of them, so you can not order more of the same design.
By buying the necklaces, we support with money. That is the first time.
AND WE KEEP SUPPORTING
Then after selling a necklace, we donate the full amount to a charity which supports a clinic in Nepal, the name of the charity and volunteer group is Fundacion Privada Vida Util.
They work together with Hari Bhandari, the founder of Clinic Nepal (in 1997), located in the area of Terai. He decided to start a small clinic to improve the sanitary conditions and he started projects to promote education. Also are they working on projects to create drinking water and to build water wells in the whole region.
After the earthquakes they have been working hard on supporting the people and start rebuilding.
Click here for the Vida Util web page
Click here for the Clinic Nepal Facebook page
Each necklace is spectacular. The designs and colors are special and the necklace can even be used as decoration in a ceramic or wooden bowl, or just hanging somewhere.
We will frequently buy new ones and upload them to the shop.
Help Nepal and make yourself happy!!
If you want to have a look at the necklaces, click here: Sun Sand Salt shop Nepal Necklaces
WHERE TO LOOK FOR PRODUCTS?
During both our trips to Marrakech (March 2015 & March 2016) we booked a Riad (Boutique hotel style in a traditional Moroccan house with interior patio). Both times they were located convenient close to the Souk of Marrakech. And besides doing business and looking for products, we also checked the Museum for Photography (with beautiful old black and white photos) and the Gardens of Yves Saint Laurent ( a lush garden in stunning colors), we booked the Hamam treatment in the Riad, we had some excellent home cooked dinners and one nice dinner in Le Foundouk, which everybody recommended to us. But to be honest, the dinners in the Riad fresh and handmade by some lovely local ladies (most of the time already starting to cook in the morning) while you are sitting in nice areas of your own accommodation...........to me that was even better and more original!
With menus, plates and tastes that keep surprising you. And yes, wine is available, but quite expensive.
The Riad houses were nice oasis type of places, to come back to after a day of heat, people, chaos, traffic, sounds, colors and many other over-stimulations which you get in the Marrakech square, streets and souk
BACK TO BUSINESS
During both Marrakech visits we went to the Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech. I have read the below text on a site and I could not explain it better, so please find here a copy of that text:
"The Ensemble Artisanal (Handicraft Centre) in Marrakech is a government sponsored complex of artisan workshops established to teach their trade to apprentices and who at the same time also sell their creations direct to the consumer at fixed prices that are deemed reasonable.
It is located on Boulevard Mohamed V just a few minutes up from the Koutoubia Mosque and Jemaa el Fna if you are heading towards the new town of Gueliz.
The best artisans are selected to work here – inside the complex you will find more or less one artisan representing each specialty you would normally find in the souks. (leather, jewelry, felt, ceramics, glass, tassels etc.)
The variety of choice for some items is smaller than that found in the main souks, and it also lacks the vibrancy, smell and atmosphere of the souks, but on the plus side, the quality is excellent and prices are fixed at a reasonable price, taking away the hassle and element of awkwardness that many people experience when it comes to haggling over the price of something. The artisans also benefit directly from any sales they make."
(Source: Dar Zaman page)
WHAT DO WE BUY THERE?
Both times, we mainly bought Tuareg and Berber jewelry and leather products in the Artisan Center. Also did we see the place where they work with Sabra silk. We sell small cosmetic bags made of Sabra silk, from another supplier in Morocco, but it was nice to see this atelier. Sabra silk is made of the Agave Cactus and is not made with animal products, so it is a 100% vegan product. And the fabric is beautiful with a special shine.
The people of the shops, ateliers and workshops are very friendly, happy to show their work and skills, happy to tell about the business and yes, the prices are in general a bit higher than in the Souk, but at least you know that what you pay is reasonable, the people are checked and protected by Government so it is not the crazy zoo like in the Souk. Which of course has its own charm, but so many "original Moroccan products" are now made in China, better to buy it directly in China, together with all the standard souvenir products of Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris etc. Also when you have a business and want to resell products, you need to have invoices or official receipts, which are harder to get in the Souk.
Anyway, everybody is free to buy where he / she wants but I prefer to support the people of this center and to interact in a more personal way.
To hear how much time it takes to make the product, how they treat the materials, what they think about tourism, the sellers in the Souk, the copy & fake -products etc. It is interesting and gives an extra dimension.
The center has a small bar / restaurant where you can eat a very tasteful and cheap lunch, there are good toilets and there is an ATM.
Discounted prices are still negotiable when you buy bigger quantities.
It is worth the visit, even to just see what reasonable prices are for good en genuine quality products, so you do not step in all the tricks and cheating later on in the Souk, where you have no idea if the price is reasonable or if the Berber rug is original or not.
AND THERE ARE ALWAYS SURPRISES
One time, while walking back to the Riad - we were passing this little shop actually every day - I saw the most stunning leather tassels. It was a standard souvenir shop, with for sure many items made as mass production. But these hangers looked different and were made of nice and soft leather. I asked the boy who worked there if I could buy them all (around 12) and he looked surprised. He explained to me that he had made them himself. That he tried to sell them in this souvenir shop where he was working. He said that his father had a leather workshop and that the left over leather was great to make the tassels. He was proud to tell me this, the price was good and I left with all the tassels.
A shop full with cheap souvenir stuff and postcards, had also these stunning handcrafted tassels.
You never know!
Let life surprise you, wherever you go.
MY FASCINATION WITH JAPAN
When I was a young girl, I always said and imagined that when I would be older, I would move to Japan and live there and become a teacher. Probably my parents were quite amused by hearing this, it was like other kids saying "I want to be a police office, vet, nurse etc.".
Now - being 51 years old - don't ask me why I said and thought that, but I was quite convinced that that was the direction I would go. To be honest, based on nothing. But it was a red line in my life.
Then for a long time I completely forgot about it and my working career started at a Notary office, wholesale companies a bank and an agency for sports promotion.
Till one day, I started working for Yamaha Racing Team and to be more detailed, for the group of Japanese Engineers from Yamaha, who were based in Iwata - Japan.
And one day my mother said " do you realise that you are doing what you were saying for years, you work for Japanese people, visit Japan every year, got to know a lot about the culture, visited Japanese colleagues their family at home etc.".
And the circle was round, my connection with Japan was there, without planning, without realising, without organising anything..............suddenly it was there.
ART, CULTURE, LIFESTYLE, VALUES
My fascination was with many things. I love how organised they are - well, maybe a bit over-organised sometimes - how sophisticated, civilised, polite and patient the Japanese people are, how they love systems, routines, rules, how the people have so much respect for each other. Yes, I love Japan and the life in Japan.
And then, I love weathered items, seawashed, broken, imperfect, incomplete items. So that is where I learned about Wabi Sabi and Kintsukuroi.
Wabi sABI - THE ART OF IMPERFECTION
This Japanese term means “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.”
Does that not sound beautiful? To me yes.
And also it looks beautiful. If you look at the photos in this blog, you can get an idea.
When my partner Alejandro wanted to buy me a black pearl in Kauai - Hawaii ( one of my dreams was to have a black pearl) I choose the imperfect shape one with stains and damage. To others, not the the most beautiful one, to me the BEST one. As this one was unique, one of a kind and had beauty because of being imperfect. All the perfect round pearls look the same. Have no character. This is my opinion and I respect everybody else his opinion, but to me "a beautiful thing is never perfect".
KINTSUKUROI - A PIECE IS MORE BEAUTIFUL FOR HAVING BEEN BROKEN
Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.
And another definition: "to repair with gold", the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver laquer and understanding that a piece is more beautiful for having been broken.
How I love all these ideas which the Japanese people value and treasure in their culture.
I still have no idea why I got this invisible or red line connection with Japan, but I do know that it feels good. And about that red line connection, I could write another story.
The legend of the red string of Japan.
One more reason to love that country, their culture, legends and stories.
WHAT I FOUND TODAY
I simply LOVE Pinterest!
I am a person of words, but more than words, a person of images. And of course I am looking for summer, beach, ethnic , food, surf etc. images, but then while looking for things, you get derailed and find so many other nice, funny and good looking other images.
(See above photo)
Pinterest brings me to another world, like reading a good book and it brings me to other places, other worlds, new ideas, new energy...........INSPIRATION.
Today I found the cheese-plate idea with a mini surfboard. OK, done with Taco's. but can be used for so many other things.
These cute do it yourself floats or mini buoy made with winebottle corks. Great beach house decoration.
And then that boat as a bench on your terrace. Amazing. Love to see that.
AND THERE IS MORE.....
I absolutely adore the looks of this blue door with fishes.
And what about a surf board as wine rack? Great idea.
And this old lady, who is decorating her own house and the houses of her neighbours by hand. In the stunning color blue of Sitges, Ibiza, Greece etc.
Make a menu sign of a surf board. But you can also use a decorative surfboard to let party or wedding guests write messages. So many things you can do with a (decorative) surfboard.
If you are not already using Pinterest, have a look, play around a bit and lose yourself in this world of images and inspiration. And if you want to check our Pinterest boards, this is our link:
Sun Sand Salt Pinterest
THE SPICES SOUK IN MARRAKECH
This morning I had to go to the Correos (Spanish Post office) to arrange a Western Union transfer to my Moroccan supplier Youssef.
I can not pay with credit card or bank transfer to him, so we only have the cash or Western Union options.
And this brought back memories of how we met and how we do business together.
In March 2015 - I just started with the business (how that all happened is good for another blog!) - and did not have the first web-shop creation on-line yet. But I went together with my mother - who is meanwhile running my office and business in the Netherlands - for a midweek to Marrakech / Marrakesh.
Planned as a birthday gift for her, not yet as the business trip which it eventually turned out to be.
During one of our days of wandering through the labyrinth style Marrakech Souk, we ended up in the tiny little shop of Youssef in the center of the spices soukl. We entered with a question about a product and we ended up spending several hours with Youssef, who explained us in detail about the benefits of his products, got us excellent and very sweet Moroccan mint tea and slowly we tried and bought more and more products.
Then with full bags we left, promising to come back the next day as we did not have enough cash with us to pay for everything and we also took already the daily allowed limit from the ATM.
To get this trust from Youssef, for total strangers, was special and we treasure that relationship. Also the exchange rate between Euros and Dirham made that we talked about a considerable amount for him.
AND THEN THINGS GO WRONG
So we went back the next day, paid for the products which we already had in our suitcases in the Riad (guesthouse / hotel), bought a little extra and said goodbye with the promise to stay in touch. And off we went, on the plane back home with a suitcase full of Argan oil, Rosewater, Menthol crystals, Scrub gloves and the indescribable handmade Amber and Musk soaps that reminds me of trips to Qatar.
So here I suddenly had a new collection of products for my web-shop, Hamam & Wellness. Maybe not really related to Beach life, on the other hand, to take good care of skin and hair after a beach day, is not unimportant.
After some time I decided to order more products from Youssef and we tried to do that by mail, not huge quantities, but some Argan oil, Beldi black soap - you have to try it, it is amazing to exfoliate your skin - and some soaps.
And that went completely wrong.
I paid Youssef for the products and shipping costs with Western Union and waited and waited and waited.
After some time and still no package, I tried to chase the shipment with the number. And I got my information. The package was stuck at customs in Madrid, nobody ever informed me about it and I had to get paperwork filled out (needed to show all my business papers and to organise an import license). After organising all this, they wanted to send the package, but I had to pay, 150% of the value of the shipment. That means that for me it would be impossible to make any profit on the products and it would actually have been cheaper to buy me a ticket to Marrakech again and get the stuff. So I refused the shipment and they returned it to Youssef. This whole process took 6 months. Ridiculous.
Lesson learned -> to send cosmetic products and liquids etc. between Morocco and Spain is a big NO NO.
BUT THERE ARE ALWAYS SOLUTIONS
I will spare you all the details, but I got the shipment which got returned to Youssef, through another new Moroccan friend Salaheddine, who came by car from Morocco to the Jerez Moto GP, where I was working one of my last races and for that occasion I decided to help someone who is a big fan, with passes for the paddock. And that was Salah.
And when he asked if he could bring something for me from Morocco, I thought about my shipment in Marrakech.
Then Youssef put the package on a bus from Marrakech to Casablanca and Salah brought it to Jerez.
Isn't this a lot more romantic than a boring Correos package?
Last year in March we went again to Marrakech, now 100% as a business trip. And we stayed again many hours in Youssef his shop and saw Salaheddine who came all the way from Casablanca to meet me for a tea in my Riad.
Isn't this what the business is all about? The connections, the international relations, helping, sharing, enjoying, friendship...........no matter how crazy the world and its humans is becoming right now,
I treasure how I meet people, how they come in my life and also how they stay in my life.
Not on a daily base, but with a genuine base of friendship!!!
My name is Anneke AND I STARTED in January