It has taken two weeks to get around to posting something concerning what is surely the biggest news from Caravansarai since our opening: We have officially closed our doors! Of course there are new owners of Caravansarai—but if you have plans to do a residency with them, you should be ready to hang out with two dudes with no interest in “culture” unless it involves supermodels and fancy nightclubs.
The selling process began more than six months ago, but it didn’t reach the crucial money-exchanging-hands moment until the first week of March. I (Anika) flew to Istanbul to be there for all the negotiating, logistisizing, notarizing, and tea-consuming that we knew would ensue. We were unprepared for how time and energy consuming this task would be, and we were expecting A LOT!
I wish that Julie had one of those pedometer apps (I wish I had a smart phone) that would clock how many steps we took down Istiklal Caddesi in the course of 4 days of running around! I would estimate our steps would be somewhere close to a bajillion, but I wasn’t really counting. I was concerned with more pressing issues—like, “Why did I wear these white high-heeled shoes in the rain?” And, “I wonder at which tax office you pay the Environmental Cleaning Tax?”
The reason that we had to put in so much walking time just to sell the business is the same reason that everything in Turkey takes so much effort—inefficiency, bad attitude, or lack of communication. Or all three. Thank goodness for our fantastic lawyer–the wonderful Hasan Çarpar! But even with his awesome skills of grace and timing, we spend an inordinate amount of time doing all the legwork necessary to make this sale legitimate.
Timeline to Freedom:
February 26: Anika arrives at Julie’s flat at 6am, promptly goes to bed and wakes up with a migraine. We spend the day fueling up to face the upcoming days of confusion.
February 27: We have a preliminary meeting with our lawyers to strategize about what needs to happen in order to make this sale go smoothly. Although we can’t say that it sounded straightforward, it did not sound impossible to accomplish in a day or two.
February 28th: 6-hour long meeting at Hasan’s office with the buyers, their lawyer and their accountant in which we negotiate the terms of the sale. Truly a ridiculous display of the absolute NEED for Turkish men to at least TRY to get a bargain or otherwise feel like they are coming away with an advantage in the situation. Also in typical fashion, the buyers tried to stall the sale (for no discernible reason other than they could) by asking Anika if she could change her return flight back to Sweden. She answered them that she could, but she won’t. That got across the point that we weren’t really into dragging our feet on this matter.
At this meeting we established that we had to:
- Get a notarized signature from our renters that they would pay us their back rent personally
- Pay two different and completely random taxes (the Environmental Cleaning Tax and the Lease Tax)—which must be paid at two different tax offices.
- Get the ‘books’ from the accountant
- Transfer all of our accounts into Turkish Lira and close our foreign currency accounts
- The buyers had to get their money together, because, yes, in Turkey you still pay for buildings in cash!
March 1st and 2nd: This was a weekend and there was nothing we could do. We just prepared ourselves for the rush of stuff we would have to do on Monday.
March 3: We walked from home, to the tax office off of Istiklal, back to the tax office in Şişhane, stopped for an enforced lunch hour (the offices all close for lunch), returned to the first tax office where we met our lawyer and laughed over the fact that for this particular tax we were classified as an amusement park, fair, or carnival! Then we had to go to the noter to prove, for the 500th time, that we can speak and understand Turkish. After that, Julie and Hasan went to do something at the bank and I went and picked up ‘the books’ (which was actually just a blank school ledger notebook with a noter stamp on each and every page) and then met them at the bank. I don’t remember what we did there, but it was not fun. The day ended at Hasan’s office for a bit of de-briefing.
March 4: The Big Day! The noter’s office had prepared our documents and everything we needed to sign and we were altogether supposed to meet there at 10am—after ‘the Boys’ (as we had taken to calling the buyers) wired us some money and got money orders from their respective banks. But of course, they were late. Some problem with exchanging money, etc. So we went and sat in a çay house with our lawyer and their accountant and wait for them. Julie and I got antsy and went for one last trip to the building to take any remaining belongings. We took a slow-cooker, the vacuum cleaner, and some curtains and dropped them off at Julie’s studio. We then got the call from Hasan that they were now at the Noter, and we could go do this thing! However, one of the guys spelled Anika’s name wrong on his cashier’s check and had to journey back to Maslak to have his bank cut it again. Geez! So once again, we had an enforced lunch hour, did a little shopping and then returned once again to the Noter. After almost an hour of sweltering in this tiny space with our wet coats on, it was done! Papers signed, money transferred, checks handed over! But we still had to get to the bank to deposit the checks. So all 6 of us walked back up Istiklal for what we hoped was the last time. At this point the Boys were getting super antsy like small children, fidgeting in their chairs and playing with their phones.