Every woman has “her thing”. My mom for example loves shoes and clover leaf-shaped jewellery. And pashminas. My grandmother, a diplomat’s wife, collected hand fans- she has one made of sandalwood, a Chinese and a Japanese one and apparently one made of peacock feathers.
I don’t wear make-up. I couldn’t care less about shoes as long as they’re comfortable and allow me to walk from place A to place B. Dresses or hand fans are not my thing either.
Earrings are my thing. I have a collection of earrings from all over the world. I bought most of them myself, but these ones from India were a gift from a friend who studied there,
and those were a gift from my father’s Yemeni PhD student.
How it started
When I was little, everyone was getting them- ear piercing is a customary gift for first communion in Poland. I decided I’d have earrings as well. However, my mom said she’d prefer I’d wait. Allergies run in our family and she was afraid I may get it as well.
She was right. When I was 12 I got a bad case of eczema and realized that getting my ears pierced wouldn’t be such a good idea. Even now, I can only wear golden earrings.
For that reason earrings didn’t happen until I was 23. I was going through what I liked to call mid-of-studies crisis and didn’t really know what to do with myself. My studies were boring. I was considering quitting or changing majors. My life was boring but I wanted to do something out of it.
One day, when I was walking down the street, I had an epiphany that stopped me in my tracks. Yes, I thought. Getting my ears pierced will solve all my problems forever. When I was at the mal with my English teacher and a friend, I told them about my plans and off to the store I went.
“No ducking out of this”- my English teacher told me, teaching me a new expression.
I didn’t duck out. 5 minutes later I had my earrings: simple and made of surgical stainless steel. I thought they were very pretty.
But at the same time, another decision was made: I would go abroad to study for half a year.
On October 1st 2004, I said goodbye to my friends and boarded a bus to Hamburg, Germany. I think this is what started my idea of buying earrings from every place I visit. In Hamburg, they were blue and made of glass, rectangular shaped, beautiful. I bought them before I left Hamburg to go back home.
I was sad. I made friends, I had fun and I learned a lot. I had a boyfriend and I felt conflicted between going back to finish my studies and staying with him. But the earrings would always remain a reminder.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
I knew from the beginning that my boyfriend would go to Canada for a year to work on his PhD project. But before he left for Winnipeg, we would maintain a long-distance relationship, with me either flying to see him or him coming to Warsaw.
One day, when I was visiting my boyfriend in Germany, he suggested that I join him in Canada. And hence begun a process of filling in forms, doing interviews, reading about Canada, getting a new passport (mine was so rugged from all the travelling that they wouldn’t accept it for a visa). I even had to get a chest X- ray to prove I didn’t have TB and an examination showing that I didn’t have a STD.
And so I left my call center job (seriously I don’t even know why I took it as I hate phone calls) and went to join my boyfriend in Canada where I soon found a job, at a call center of course. I bought two pairs of earrings from a street seller: dream catchers and a pair of wooden African-inspired earrings which I could never put on properly.
Canada was a great experience- not only did I prove to myself that I was able to find a job in a place I’ve never been before but it was the first time my boyfriend and I actually lived together. But after four months, I had to go back as my visa was expiring and they wouldn’t expand it.
Hamburg, Bremen, Warsaw, Kiel
After a year, my then-boyfriend-now-husband went back to Germany. And a few months after my graduation, I moved in with him. I started a new MA degree in media and communication at the University of Bremen because I thought I’d have better chances to get a job with a German degree. In theory, the degree only took 2 years but I didn’t know it would take me almost double that time to finish. Then we got engaged. I wore my blue Hamburg earrings for the occasion.
And then several things happened at once: I got pregnant, my fiancé applied for, and got a job in the Netherlands, and towards the end of my pregnancy, I moved to Kiel to live with my parents-in-law. I also had a short stint in Warsaw because I was doing my internship there. These amber and turquoise earrings are from Warsaw.
We got married in May 2009, with my daughter kicking me from the inside of my huge belly. I had a white dress, a bolero, and of course, earrings, which I bought in Warsaw where I was doing an internship for my studies. Sadly, I don’t even know where they are now.
When my daughter was 6 weeks old, we joined my husband in the Netherlands. At first, I wore little golden butterflies my mom bought for me in Warsaw a while back but I never wore for some reason. Then I lost one and couldn’t find the other. My mother-in-law bought me new earrings, little golden hearts. But then they broke and I bought myself little shiny studs that I never took out. Then they caused some kind of allergic reaction and I had to take them out too.
After a while, I had two more children and a blog.
At some point, I started making money as a writer and bought myself a pair of beautiful handmade earrings with green Swarovski crystals. They’re a delight to watch although I’m afraid to wear them because of the children. But I will, one day.
What I’m wearing now are these simple studs, made of stainless surgical steel. They’re comfortable, they don’t cause problems. They’re simple and practical- but they’re still pretty.
Sometimes I open my jewellery case and look at it, and I’m overcome with memories these little blings invoke. And then I ask myself: “What kind of earrings will I buy next and where?”