After flying out of Istanbul we arrived in Izmir where we plan to stay for the next 2 or so months. After landing we were greeted warmly by our host Erdem and his identical twin brother Levent, visiting from Germany. We immediately felt comfortable and welcome around them and spent our first evening in Erdem’s home with lots of laughter and a delicious dinner on the 5th floor terrace. The next day we traveled to his recently purchased plot of land located 40 kilometers from Izmir in the mountains near a small village where we will volunteer.
We toured the land and Erdem proudly introduced us to his realized fantasy/exciting new project: the earthship (or Erdship, as he calls it). There will ultimately be two structures: one small house and one larger house that can also be used as an event space. The earthship is a low-cost, ecological building concept that utilizes reclaimed/recycled materials (namely old car tires filled with rammed earth, cement, deconstructed ship wood and glass bottles). From what we understand the earthship can be an accessible way to create a home while minimizing production costs and impact on the earth.
Erdem is building the structures to fit into the landscape. Before our arrival he hired a backhoe to take a big bite out of the earth on a south facing slope of his property. He then began to make the walls of the structure, packing tires with earth using a sledgehammer, with help from Levent and some local laborers. The home is built into the slope of the land which will keep the structure at a constant temperature year round. This is where we came in, just in time to continue sledgehammering and stacking tires.
Currently the land is in need of some loving attention. There are grape vines, quince, and beautiful fig and olive trees, but the dry heat of the summer and heavy rains of the winter have washed away ground soil leaving only dust and rocks. Erdem has plans to plant soil-enriching flora and manage the land in a way that will restore its health.
We both find inspiration in Erdem’s excitement about this project and his ability to take action, to create and keep moving forward even though he’s never built a house before. It’s like he’s unburdened by a need for perfection or fear of making mistakes and isn’t afraid to learn as he goes or not be an expert. It is heavy work, but we do it together and the emphasis on fun and learning makes it lighter.
We’ve spent the last week in a tiny village called Emek on the Marmara Sea. We are enjoying a mini-vacation with Levent and his mother at the cottage where Levent and Erdem spent their summers growing up. Austin thinks this is heaven. We have been hitchhiking to nearby towns, snorkeling, harvesting figs from trees, meeting so many kind people and we even went skin diving for a dinner of mussels!
We will catch a midnight bus tonight back to Izmir and in the morning when we arrive it’s back to work! We are excited to begin the next phase of the project: it is time to build the roof of the Erdship.