Let me set the scene.
It was a sunny autumn morning in Amsterdam. Paul and I were cycling around the neighbourhood called De Pijp, deciding to jump off our bikes for a stroll through the Albert Cuyp street market.
(The Albert Cuyp street market is actually very cool, but that’s for another blog.)
As always, I gravitated towards the jewellery stands.
Actually, I’m going to need to explain the whole jewellery thing. Those who know me are well aware that I’m very particular about my jewellery, especially earrings. I’ll only ever wear silver (fake silver is fine), they’ve got to be a bit quirky and they can’t be over ten euro.
Which means I’ve bought a lot of earrings over my time.
And I have another one hundred and fifty or so pairs back in Melbourne.
But this is what I collect. I hardly buy any souvenirs when travelling, but I buy bucketloads of earrings. They’re small, light and my self-imposed ten euro rule means that they’re cheap.
But most importantly, each of them tell a story. The pink ones on the bottom were bought at a gorgeous little boutiqueI found wandering the streets of Salamanca. The black and white ones are made out of nuts and bought in a hippie shop in Krakow, escaping temporarily from the cold outside. The red and black wooden ones were made before my eyes at Chatuchak Market in Bangkok. And my twisty honeycomb-like swirls are firm favourites, found in a little trinket store in Adelaide.
I try not to get too attached to any one pair, as earrings are known to go walkabout. They get caught in scarves and fall out in changerooms. This means I have a small, but growing army of orphan earrings.
One of my favourites was the one in the top right hand corner. I found this little beauty (and its twin) at a quiet little market during my time in Guilin, China.
I fell in love with these earrings, and so it was always going to end badly. I wore them semi-daily, and ultimately lost one a few weeks later.
I abandoned all hope. When was I ever going to be in Guilin again, and even if I was, would I ever find that little market again?
Slowly, I forgot about those earrings from Guilin. I kept the orphan, and would come across it every so often, reminding myself of how lovely it was. But I’m really not cool enough to wear only one earring.
And then today, in that cheap little jewellery stall in De Pijp, a miracle happened.
There they were, my Guilin earrings. They were even hooked onto a cheap little plastic backing, just like so many in Chinese markets. At three euro, they were in no way going to trouble my ten euro rule. The lady sitting behind the stall couldn’t understand my jubilation.
I know it means that they were mass-produced. That they weren’t unique at all. The horrors of globalisation, all that. But I didn’t care. My Guilin earrings now had two stories.