Saturday, January 30, 2016

Scrape, Mud, Sand, Cry, Paint. Repeat.

So while Brian worked on the outside of our house, my job was the inside. Like most people, when first viewing our before photos, you may think there is very little work to do, but trust me when I say that the photos are extremely misleading.

I decided to begin with the bedrooms for a variety of reasons. First of all, I figured learning to scrape, mud, and sand walls would be a major learning process for me and if I were going to make mistakes I would rather have them in the bedrooms than in the front rooms. Also, the bedrooms appeared to need less work, and I really wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment sooner rather than later. Finally, we had most of our supplies set up in the front rooms, so the bedrooms were already empty and easier to cordon off then the front of the house. All in all, this was the right choice.

The first step in redoing the rooms was to decide whether we should start with the walls or the floor. The walls were lathe and plaster and had many, many, (so many *cry) cracks that would need to be fixed. The floors were absolutely covered in laminate glue and would need hours of sanding, staining, and sealing in order to be their best (if they would ever be their best, again). After reading different blogs and discussing options with the guys at Ace, we decided to start with walls.

Walls didn't seem like they were going to be that difficult. I knew they would be time consuming, since each layer of mud would need 24 hours to dry, but I thought I would have no trouble doing a step, or even two, a day (*oh, the innocence of the ignorant). Therefore my timeline was approximately 3 days a room, rapidly moving through the 5 steps for every crack: scrape, dust, tape, mud (repeatedly), sand. 

However, I quickly realized that those steps looked very different when I was performing them. And in reality, a room could take me a week, or even two. 

My steps were as follows:

Day 1: Scraping
  1. Scrape out all cracks in just one room.
  2. Feel that arm is going to fall off when you start ceiling. 
  3. Realize ceiling has more cracks then all four walls combine. 
  4. Sigh, repeatedly. (Not satisfying though, because no one hears your pain.)
  5. Turn on a This American Life podcast and challenge yourself to finish entire ceiling by the time the episode is done. 
  6. Repeat step 5 as many times as it takes to finish scraping ceiling.
  7. Convince B to come help once it is too dark for him to work outside.
  8. Celebrate the end of scraping (one room).
Day 2: Dusting/Taping
  1. Vacuum/dust all debris out of newly scraped cracks.
  2. Notice all debris is still in cracks. Try again.
  3. Realize there is still freaking debris in cracks - curse at worthless shopvac, what is the point of stupid shopvac if it doesn't suck up debris?!?! 
  4. Attempt dusting with damp cloth. (Youtube solution.)
  5. Discover still more debris.
  6. Determine that this is more of an optional step that you will now be opting out of. 
  7. Take lunch break.
  8. Begin placing joint-tape over cracks. 
  9. Celebrate total mastery of this step.
  10. Wish all steps were putting joint-tape over cracks.
Days 3-5: Mudding & Scrapping (1st, 2nd, and 3rd layers)
  1. Slather mud (joint-compound) thinly over cracks. Do NOT mess up tape. 
  2. When you do mess up tape, fight your tears, and apply again.
  3. Let dry and scrape.
  4. Slather mud over crack a second time. Spread it a little further out, but also keep it thinner so there is no hump.
  5. Curse when small hump appears.
  6. Curse again when you realize you have dried mud in your hair.
  7. Let mud dry while you repeatedly wash hair.
  8. Try to scrape down hump. Fail.
  9. Repeat application of mud one more time, but even thinner. This may seem impossible (because it is), but this is what Youtube experts say to do. 
  10. Pull trowel away from wall and admire. 
  11. Experience admiration quickly turn to shock as you realize a small piece of invisible dirt was on your trowel and has now messed up all previous layers.
  12. Get B to look at layers and tell you if it is as bad as you think it is.
  13. Deal with tarnished layers. Embrace imperfection.

Day 6: Sanding
  1. Lightly sand all layers.
  2. Lightly sand, damn it! 
  3. When you accidentally sand down to tape, realize you must mud again (all 3 layers!).
  4. Go to kitchen, pour glass of wine, wander outside to watch B work, take deep breath, and return to room.
  5. Re-mud.
Day 10: Done (Realize you are never done.)
  1. Feel success that all cracks are now scrapped, mudded, and sanded. Room is ready to be painted.
  2. Notice new crack. 
  3. Cry. Let it out. 
  4. Debate ignoring crack. 
  5. Realize you'll never be able to forget stupid crack, if you don't fix it. Repeat all steps. 
  6. Notice another damn crack. 
  7. Tell B you're quitting and going to the bar.
  8. Once at bar, watch a drunk, rather short, like we're talking 4 ft. woman, play recklessly with B's longboard until the bartender is forced to take it away from her.
  9. Return home and ignore any new cracks that have suddenly appeared.
Day 12: Start again on the next bedroom room.

Eventually, after what seemed like an epic period of time, I managed to finish mudding the three bedrooms and it was time to paint. Painting was a breeze compared to the previous 5 steps. Although my arm was exhausted most days and my hair was completely white, I became quickly addicted to the paint sprayer and its smooth application. I also felt insanely hardcore, since I was wearing a respiratory mask, work gloves, and wielding a power tool. Hell yeah!

Finishing the painting was definitely a huge rush. Suddenly the rooms looked so fresh and new. All the cracks were hidden, even the imperfections, and I was gifted the feeling of accomplishment I had been craving since day 3. 

The final step of the bedrooms was to refinish the floors. We were nervous about beginning this step. Until we began sanding, we could convince ourselves that gorgeous floors existed under the layers of laminate glue, paint, and carpet nails, but once we actually began sanding, we would have to face reality. It was a nerve-racking time. 

After a short discussion, it was decided that B would do the actual sanding and I would be responsible for corners, hard to sand locations, and all other steps, beside using the orbital sander. We were really worried about the sander kicking up dust and ruining my perfect paint job, so I covered all the walls in the first room. (We quickly gave this up though, as there was little need.)

The first and second pass of the sander presented minimal change, but by the third pass gorgeous floors began to peak out and by the fourth or fifth passes we were ecstatic. The floors were better (and lighter) than we had ever imagined!

By the time B finished sanding the bedrooms, we could not contain our excitement. We were head over heels in love with our new floors. The final decision we now faced was choosing a stain. We went to the hardware store and bought a variety of tester cans. B wanted to go light - like ash colored or even white. I wanted to go a deeper pine or even a red. And, of course, we bought a dark stain too, just in case that would look best. 

We applied all of the stains to a piece of test pine and were disappointed across the board. None of the stains were a color we wanted. I argued for a clear coat. I loved all the different colors already in the floor, and I thought a clear coat might just bring them out in the way I imagined. B thought the floors were too yellow and feared that polyurethane would just make him like them less.

In the end though, he agreed to let me clear coat one room, since none of the stains were any better than my idea. The results of the polyurethane speak for themselves:

We loved them.

As I finished up each room, I granted myself a day of celebration. All throughout the painting, everyone had doubted my white walls. Some people thought I would never paint all the walls white, others thought I would do it and hate it, and still others simply thought it would look weird or bad. But in the end, I loved them. 

However, I am still me, and I still craved something different and unique, and so I decided to paint each of the doors to the bedrooms their own bright color. To make it easy,  I used the original wall color as inspiration. Therefore, the front bedroom, formerly magenta, received a pink door, the middle bedroom, formerly sea-foam, received a green door, and the back bedroom, formerly cream, received a turquoise door (because I hate cream and love turquoise).

The bedrooms were now complete and they were awesome. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Before & After: The Earthquake Retrofit

Note: B and I decided to spit up the duties in hopes of keeping disagreements to minimum. This division of labour worked fairly well. B was responsible for the outside of the house (goals like foundation and porch) and I was responsible for the inside (plaster walls, sanding, painting). So all the work you're about to see was B (and Cruz), with just a few occasional assists by me.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the previous owners had begun the work of earthquake retrofitting. Although the actual foundation of the house was in pretty good shape (especially for being 110 years old) the lower wall of the house had termites and water damage due to the fact that the original crib wall touched the soil.

Therefore, we needed to take off the siding, pour a concrete footer, build a support wall in the basement, knock out the existing crib wall, and replace it with a new pony wall and crib wall. This whole process had already been completed on 1/3 of the house, but 2/3s hadn't even been touched.

This was B's first challenge.

He began by digging the trench that would become the concrete footer.

It took B a couple days to dig the trench to the right depth. There were three rosebushes along the side of the house and he carefully transplanted them to the backyard, in hopes we wouldn't lose them. He also went through three shovels, though luckily, the hardware shop was only five blocks away, so this wasn't too much of an inconvenience. Halfway through the second day, he had a finished trench and he was off to purchase bags and bags of concrete.

My dad happened to stop by just as B was unloading the bags. He began to laugh as B explained his plan of mixing the concrete in a bucket and then running to pour it into the trench.

Instead, my dad advised, get a friend and use pre-mixed cement. This was a sage piece of advice. The next day, my dad, B's good friend, Cruz, and B slaved away in the hot sun pouring concrete. By the end of the day they were successful, but B assured me it would've never happened without them.

The next step was to expose the original crib wall and begin ripping it out. Cruz offered to come help during this process, as it would be necessary to again use concrete when laying the blocks and B had already learned how important 4 (or 6) hands was in this process. He gladly accepted.

Cruz and B worked hard to get all the blocks laid across two days. It was especially time consuming because every block had to be laid perfectly parallel to the ground and at the exact same height across. It looked like an exhausting job, but in the end, it was perfection.

The next step was to put in the crib wall. Construction had been flying along nicely and B and I decided to celebrate with a night out. We came home pretty late and fell asleep on our air mattress in the living room. Just a few hours later there was LOUD knock on the front door. We both leapt up, unsure about what was happening. B rushed to the door and spent a few minutes talking to a man who was practically yelling, by the time B returned to the room, I had heard the whole thing. We had been red-tagged.

B and I had not done our homework and not pulled the proper permits for all the work we had been doing. The building inspector had noticed and we were now officially warned. We could do NO work on the house until all permits were granted - this could take weeks. We were properly bummed.

We spent the rest of the day applying for permits and hoping the inspector would come and sign off on the work. No dice. Days stretched into a week and we began to get really worried. Our plan had not included a week-off due to permits and the end of summer was quickly approaching. We absolutely needed to have the house closed up with a solid, supporting crib wall, before we flew back to Kuwait.

B filled his time as best he could. He helped me with chipping plaster, power-washed the siding, and built a gorgeous dining room table out of the scrap wood he had ripped from the house. He checked in with the inspector (still no word) and went mountain-biking for 3 days, just to escape the waiting. Finally, just when we'd both begun to give up hope, the inspector came. He quickly approved our plans, accepted our payment, and we were back in business.

B's next goal was the porch. He had finished the crib wall, but before replacing the siding, he needed to straighten and secure the porch.

In order to do this, B needed to take all the pressure off it. His solution was a bit unorthodox and involved two bottle jacks, four 2x4s, two 2x8s, and a huge bit of luck. He bolted the 2x4s together to create two 12-foot struts, he then attached the struts to two 2x8s that were nailed to the roof of the porch. Finally, he drilled little circular holes into the bottoms of both the struts so that the two bottle jacks would sit snuggly and then he slowly used the jacks to raise the attic off the porch. He was successful.

Over the next 3 days, Cruz and B continued to build the pony wall and crib wall around the base of the porch. During this time, I had to be very careful working in the house, as they were in constant fear that the struts would snap or the jack would tip over and the whole thing would crash in around (or on) them.

Eventually, all of the support and walls were complete and B moved onto the final steps: sheer wall, tar paper, siding. He moved quickly through these, racing the clock, and, just one day before we flew out, the base of the house was complete and our porch was secure.

It looked (and felt) awesome.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Home Tour: First Look

When we bought our house, we only really ever got one chance to walk through it, before we boarded a plane and flew back across the world. Therefore, as summer approached, we were both anxious and excited to really see what lay inside.

For almost a year, our family and friends did an amazing job of keeping tabs on it. They did drive-bys, walk-throughs, check-ins with the neighbors, and my mom even hired landscapers after the fire department threatened fines for our overgrown yard.

Because of this, we were fairly certain the house was still standing, but not very sure about anything else. We couldn't wait to get inside and poke around. And the day after we landed, that is exactly what we did.

Here, without further ado, is a tour of our new (old) house.

Street-View: Front-of-House

The house is on a gorgeous block. It is by far the ugliest, most run-down house on the block, so we did well, at least according to the saying. It has lots of trees and a large yard. It is only one story, but has an unfinished attic and basement (you can even see directly into the basement above). 

Eight years ago, a family bought the house with plans to fix it up. They began by building a pony wall and pouring a footing, but only got as far as one side, before facing foreclosure. The man who then purchased it from the bank had plans to flip it, however, he never did get around to doing so, and the house ended up sitting, open to the elements, for almost a decade.

We bought the house, knowing that some of our first priorities would have to be finishing the footing, completing the wall, and earth-quake retro-fitting the entire foundation. Another major priority would be straitening the porch. Even though it doesn't look bad in the photo, the left column is badly tilted due trying to support the weight of the attic. And both columns have begun to sink through the wood due to rampant rotting below.

Alley-View: Back-of-House

The back of the house looks much, much worse than the front, although it does include a large back yard and total access to a private alley. From the back, it is easy to see the layers of shingles peeling away from the roof as well as to notice the shoddy stairs and awkward double screen doors. (One of which leads to literally nowhere.)

The back porch was a later addition to the house. (We have no idea why they added two doors.) It is completely closed in and simply adds a small storage room and an extremely tilted bathroom. Neither is welcoming or anyplace we feel safe standing in for long. 

Looking at the back our priorities definitely include replacing the roof and securing the stairs as soon as possible. (I would honestly love to rip it off and start again, but B is very against that.)

The Salon (aka Living Room)

This is the room that made us fall in love with the house, no question. As we walked through the front door we instantly swooned. The columns, the window seat, the picture rail, the wood floors, the pocket doors, the list could go on and on. We could totally picture ourselves reading and talking and hosting our friends in this space and we basically didn't need to see anything else, we were already sold.

The Parlor (aka Dining Room)

The dining room has the potential to become my favorite room in the house. It is somewhat narrow, but very long. It has 3 doors coming off of it - to the kitchen, hall, and middle bedroom, as well as a set of pocket doors between it and the front room. 

We absolutely love the wainscoting around the four walls, and dish rail around the top of it. The built-in cabinet is amazing and B is already referring to it as our bar. 

There are a few major issues with this room, however. First, there is a massive stovepipe sticking out of the wall near the built-in - it appears to go nowhere. Second, I really, really want to add a pass-through between kitchen and dining room, but B is firmly against this, due to unforeseen structural problems and his lack of experience knocking through walls. Third, the vent in this room is huge and if you step on it you will fall straight though to the basement. So all of these issues will need to be resolved in the near future.

The Kitchen

The kitchen has the worst floors and the best walls in the house. The walls are the only ones without major visible cracks - it almost appears as if someone attempted to drywall only this room. Fingers crossed it holds. The floors are the total opposite. They are absolutely covered in linoleum glue. All the floors are covered, but the kitchen layer is so thick it is impossible to even imagine wood underneath. Unless a miracle happens we will probably tile the kitchen rather than trying to sand.The kitchen is quite large but the space isn't used well at all. There is very little cabinet space and even less counter space. There is also only one window - I am hoping adding the pass-through from the dining room will let a little more light in. 

The kitchen also has 3 doors coming off of it (remember, this is a really old house and every room connects to every other room). As well as leading to the dining room, it is also connected to the bathroom and back porch. We have a lot of dreams for this space (butcher block countertops, subway tile backsplash, retro stove and fridge, ripping out that ugly florescent light), but no money for it, so it is on hold for now.

The Teeny-Tiny Bathroom

The bathroom is tiny - as in itty-bitty. Our best guess is that this was once a pantry and was converted into a bathroom at a later time. The shower is old and leaks, as does the toilet and the sink. Literally, every time we shower we create a giant pool of water in the room, so we are fairly positive that the floorboards underneath will be rotted out. 

Despite its tiny size, it still manages to continue the pattern of 3 connecting doors. In this case the bathroom connects to the kitchen, the back bedroom, and leads to small storage closet under the stairs. I have already begun begging B to convert that closet to somehow make better use of the space in the room, but he simply shakes his head. Much like the kitchen, this is an expensive remodel, and so will be tabled for the foreseeable future.

The Three Bedrooms (Back, Green, and Pink)

The house has three bedrooms, although only two of them are large enough to hold a queen size bed. The back bedroom connects to the back porch, the bathroom, the middle bedroom (aka green room), and the attic. It is really small and has no closet, but I sort of love its quirkiness with its set of stairs and absolute lack of wall space - all doors and windows.

The middle bedroom connects the back and front bedrooms a
s well as giving access to the dining room. It has the worst lighting in the house (only one window) but the best walls (barely any cracks!).
The front bedroom is my favorite and not just because it is bright pink. It has great light with two large windows. It looks out into the front yard and connect to entry way. It shares a closet with the middle bedroom and has plenty of space.

All three rooms run parallel to the living, dining, and kitchen areas and are all easily accessible through the hundreds of doors throughout the house.

The Attic and Basement

Both the attic and basement are unfinished. The attic appears to have not been used for a long time, although at one point someone was definitely using it as a grow room, due to some clues found on the walls and floor. It could be a pretty sweet space, but the ceiling is low and the temperature is wicked hot. If we ever finish it, it will be much, much further down the road.

The basement was full of junk when we arrived, but sadly I never took a picture. It is large, with 7-foot high ceilings, although the beams that intersect the room will never allow it to become a really useful space. B plans to build a workbench and use it as a pseudo-garage once it is completely closed back in.

Impulsive Home-Buying

B and I bought a house on the last day of our 2014 summer. It was an impulsive purchase (in my mind) and the culmination of a life’s dream (to B).

We had discussed buying a house before, but it had never seemed real, at least to me, and it definitely wasn’t something we were actively pursuing. Everyone I knew who had purchased a home, had seemed to do tons of research, talk to many experts, spend hours filling out paperwork, and spend months looking at different properties, whereas the furthest we’d gotten was agreeing that if we were to buy one we would look in the United States.

We’d done no work and had no plans. And yet, in the summer of 2014, I would realize that all of the conversations I’d had with B over the past 6 years had been preparing me for this moment.

Here is a snippet of our conversations over the years, leading up to purchasing our house. Hopefully, you will see what I missed, B’s intensity and my obliviousness.

2008 - On a Bus, Honduras
(We’ve only just met - this is something he mentioned in our 1st ever convo, scouts honor.)

B: Someday I’d love to own property and a house and just have a place to call my own.

Me: Hmmm? Ya… sure. That all sounds good. You’re really cute. I’ll agree to whatever you say.

2009 - California
(Doing the long distance relationship thing.)

B: Northern California is probably the best place I’ve ever lived. I’d definitely like to come back here and settle someday.

Me: Only if it could be in Chico. I love Chico! Go Wildcats!

B: Sure, Chico or even more North. Like near Lake Shasta.

Me: Umm.. No. Just Chico. Yay Chico! I mean if we’re dreaming, why not dream for the best?

2010 - California
(Planning to move to Honduras together.)

Me: Oh my gosh. We are moving to Honduras. We can visit the place we met. And the place we shared our first kiss. And I can show you all the other places I loved.

B: We met in a bus station. You picked me up on a bus.

Me: (grimacing) I didn’t pick you up on a bus. It was way more romantic that. This is going to be amazing. And you picked me up.

B: (snorting) Uh… no. You definitely picked me up. This is exciting though. Do you picture coming back here someday? Maybe buying property?

Me: To NorCal? Definitely someday. But a long ways away someday. (Like so long…)

2011 - Honduras
(B hates Honduras. I love it. We get engaged.)

Me: Eiii!!! We are engaged. Amazing. Incredible. I never even pictured this. Ahh… we’re getting married.

B: Yep. And we only have like one year left in Honduras. Maybe we’ll have enough money saved to put a down payment on a house.

Me: Umm… maybe. But we have to plan a wedding and I kind of don’t want to move back yet. I’m just not ready. I need one more year. One more place. You can pick. Anywhere except the continental United States and Hawaii.

B: So Alaska or the rest of the world?

Me: Exactly.

2012 - California
(Got married. Moving to Kuwait.)

Me: I cannot believe you chose Kuwait. This is crazy. We are moving to Kuwait?!?

B: Its cool. Its safe. I swear. Make your parents read those statistics I send them. It is much safer than Honduras and even safer than most US cities. Trust me.

Me: But its Kuwait. Q-8.

B: Yes. And it pays well. And has no taxes. And if we save, we can actually buy a house. Property. We can have renters. We can make passive income. It would be incredible.

Me: So you’re serious about this house thing, huh? This wasn’t just some passing fancy. Damn. Alright cheers to Kuwait and savings accounts!

2013 - Kuwait
(Experiencing all Kuwait has to offer.)

Me: Wow. It is incredible how little there is to do here. I mean you can’t help but save money.

B: I told you. It's phenomenal. We are going to do it. We can buy a house this summer!

Me: I don’t think buying a house is the same as buying a plane ticket. I think there is more to it than that. I mean where would we even buy it?

B: Who cares? We can own property! We can buy it in Detroit. Or the Midwest. Or the south. They are all very affordable.

Me: Wait. I’m sorry. Did you just list a bunch of places I’ve never been?!? Why would we buy a house in a place I’ve never been? I don’t even know if I could get a job there.

B: It’s not about that. We’ll get renters. Passive income, babe.

Me: Umm… Buying our first house is romantic. It’s our first house. I want to love it. I want it to be ours.

B: Oh no. That is not what I’m picturing. Just a simple house to rent. That pays for itself. That is easy to maintain - maybe with a renter already in it.

Me: Well, I’m picturing us, in an old house, a fixer-upper, in Chico?

2014: Still Kuwait
(Year 2, beginning to consider life after Kuwait.)

B: I sent you a bunch of houses in Northern California. Do any of them interest you?

Me: Are you kidding me? We can’t buy a house unseen. I mean I looked but - no way.

B: Why not?

Me: No way. We can look this summer and if we find one we like we can start the process.

B: The process? If we find one we like and we can afford it, we’ll buy it.

Me: Buy it. Ha. We’ll be lucky if we even find time to look.

But B was right, as he often is. 

We flew home for 5 weeks. We spent one day looking at houses in 45-minute radius around Chico, because there was no way we could afford Chico. We saw lots of houses we loved, but also knew we could never afford or actually make a life in (man, do I still dream about that purple hexagonal one in the forest, though).

Then a friend recommended Craig’s List.

We found an old Craftsman that was built in 1905. We also found one that had the words “Meth Lab” spray-painted across the front. They were both fixer uppers, but the Craftsman definitely had more street appeal. We stopped at the Craftsman, peeked through the windows, and fell in love. It was gorgeous – or at least it could be gorgeous (the back definitely left something to be desired). We contacted the bank, right then, but it was a no-go, the house needed too much work.

B was not to be deterred, though. He had found a house. A house I loved. A house we could afford. He was going to buy that house. Therefore, on our last day in California, we found ourselves making a deal with the seller. And, because there was no bank and only 3 people, we were able to complete all the paperwork that day, in one day, just hours before heading to the airport.

So, after years of banter, it sure felt like we bought our first home on an impulse.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

That Time a Guy Tried to Buy My Boots at the Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar was massive - much, much larger than I had anticipated. In fact, when I later researched it, I learned that it had over 60 covered streets and 3,000 stalls. It really was grand.

And bizarre, too. (Nice play on words, right?) The shops and corridors were full of eclectic people, colorful goods, and enticing smells. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to take it all in, especially, in just the few hours we had available.
Jule had been here before though and knew exactly what she wanted. So, as soon as we stepped through the doorway, she was off, diving into the crowd, and I didn’t have time to get overwhelmed or distracted, as I scurried after her, determined not to lose her in the masses.
As we rushed down aisle after aisle, weaving through bags and bodies, on a mission to find Jule’s ‘Turkish towel guy’, I was amazed at the wide variety of goods available. Beautiful, stained glass lamps hung from the shops, rich, wool tapestries were draped over tables, and multitudes of ceramics were heaped in precarious piles all along the passageways - there was even a shop selling luxury saddlebags for camels. It felt like I could spend days in the bazaar and not get close to discovering all it had to offer.

The shopkeepers embraced the craziness of the market. They knew they had to stand out among the multitudes of people and products. And after years of practice, they each seemed to have their own signature strategy for capturing people's attention.
At first, wandering along, it sounded like the sellers were just hollering at the general public, but then, we began to realize that many of the lines were specific to Jule and I. Even more surprising, the lines often worked, causing us to stop and smile or even shop for a few minutes.
“Can I sell you something you don’t need?” one man shouted, laughing as he pointed to the many t-shirts hanging on his walls.
“That is a beautiful purse you have, can I show you one even better?” another man offered, motioning to Jule's purse.
“You are both very pretty. Shop?” said a third, managing to make the compliment sound sincere, even as he gestured to his wares.

Or, my favorite, a lamp dealer who caught my eye and asked, "Mets or Yankees?"

Smiling, I threw my fist in the air and cheered, "Giants! All the way!" but this was simply met with a head shake and a finger wag.

Some shopkeepers were less funny and more sleazy, though. One such guy, a tapestry dealer who had earlier shown us his gorgeous, handwoven merchandise, caught us on our way out. Stepping between us, he turned to face me and asked for a date - trying repeatedly to convince me to go to dinner with him.

When I said that I couldn’t, and explained that I was married, his face suddenly split into this giant grin. Taking a step back, he whipped his hands out of his pockets and wiggled his fingers just in front of my nose.
”Me too!” he shouted excitedly, “I'm married, too!” He flashed his gold wedding ring in the lamplight and jumped up and down, laughing. I wasn't sure what to make of this reaction, I guess I was happy we both had someone, so I just smiled and nodded and we continued on, just a little disconcerted.
A few minutes later, another, much more timid, man approached Jule. Sidling up beside her, he looked her over appreciatively and then hissed annn-gggeee-lllll in a way that sent shivers down both our spines.

But, the most confusing and captivating seller caught us just after we had successfully purchased our Turkish towels and were about to exit the market. As we walked past, deep in a conversation about how amazing our towels would feel, a man stepped out, grabbed my arm, and excitedly gestured to my short, black boots.
“Where did you get those boots?” he asked.
I smiled and said nothing, well used to the way this worked now. I knew that this was just a ploy to get my attention, and I also knew that we were in a hurry to get to the Blue Mosque before dark, so I thought the fastest way to deal with the seller would be to say nothing and let him move on to the next shopper.
He wasn’t so quickly appeased, though. “Those boots,” he tried again, “where did you get your boots? They’re very nice.”
I laughed and shrugged, honestly a bit confused. Why was he still asking? He already had my attention, was he serious?

“My boots are three years old," I responded, "I bought them at Aldo - a shop in Kuwait. I like them very much,” I added, half laughing, half trying to untangle myself from his grasp. Jule had wandered ahead by now and was looking in a ceramic shop a few stalls down.
“I like them, too,” he responded. “I will buy them, ok? I will buy them from you for a hundred euros. You will sell them? Right now - a hundred euros,” he said, letting go of my arm to enthusiastically motion at my feet again.
I gave an awkward laugh. He couldn't be serious, I thought, and anyway I had no other shoes, and I really loved my boots, but still, the offer of one hundred euros stopped me from responding too quickly.
“No,” I said slowly. “No, I don’t think so. I like my boots. Plus, they are my only ones. What would I wear?”
He shrugged, seemingly unconcerned with the plight of my feet. I began to wonder if he had some sort of bet with the other shopkeepers, like how long he could keep a tourist talking or if he could really convince a tourist to part with her shoes. There were a few people watching us now, and even Jule had returned to see what was taking me so long.
“No. No.” I tried again. “I think I will keep my boots. Thank you, though.” I smiled and laughed, reaching out toward Jule, hoping she could pull me away from this surreal conversation I seemed to be having.
The shopkeeper suddenly let out a huge belly laugh and threw his arms in the air.
“Okay, okay, you keep your boots. I would like them, but you keep them. Remember, I offered a hundred euro,” he said laughing. Then he turned, still laughing, and waved to his shop, “Would you like to come in?”
I had to laugh, too, but politely declined. I wasn’t sure what would happen if I entered his shop. It was quite possible I would end up selling all of my belongings to him, or maybe, buying all of his. He was a smooth talker and I was already deeply confused.
Jule started down the aisle and I turned to wave goodbye, still not sure what had just happened. Had I really just passed up a chance to sell my old boots for one hundred euro? And what would he have wanted with them anyway?

This last question would provide hours of good fodder for a feisty fetish conversation later that night.