After ten years of service, my Chacos appear to have done themselves in.
I bought those shoes in year 2000 and tramped across the Grant Elementary School playground, feeling like such a trendsetter in my criscrossing Grecian-style sandals, regardless of how much I tripped over their then-too-long toes. Those shoes became a part of me over the years, or rather, I became a part of them as sweat and dirt dug deep into their crevices, congealed, and reemerged as the reeking stench of active feet. My mother bleached them that one year because she couldn’t find any other way to get rid of the smell, but then the straps turned an ugly brown. This summer on Samos, Anna told me they were hideous things, but I loved them nonetheless.
In year 2003, those shoes travelled across Canada with my family and me, and I wore them up a a glacier where a marmot tried to eat my mother’s sweatshirt. A year later, they walked up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, and my freshman year of college, they carried me out of Yosemite’s Pate Valley when my unfaithful boots started to bruise my ankle. Nine miles and 4,500 feet of elevation gain in what one passer-by dubbed my “glorified flipflops.” It was those shoes, in fact, that got me into college to begin with—I was wearing my Chacos in the photo I sent Stanford University to accompany my college application. Just think how different my life might be if I had never taken that photo of my dirty feet and their trusty shoes. My Chacos have been to Australia, to Mexico, and all over Europe and served me faithfully in adventure after adventure and travel after travel. But after ten years of service, it appears that the hot sun, swirling red dust, and deep muddy bogs of Madagascar are just too much for my tired, old shoes.
My Chacos broke early on in our séjour sur terrain, but I have continued and will continue to use them in a semi-repaired state. I’ve strung a line of pea cord through the toe holes where the now-broken webbing used to be, and stitched together another stretch of webbing that wraps around the heel. My left shoe is still intact as ever, but my right shoe looks something like a supremely ugly Christmas present, wrapped up in dirt and tied with a strip of bright red climbing rope. But the ingenuity of the repairs, I am sure, would make my parents proud. In Madagascar, “broken” takes on a whole different meaning. One learns to make the most of any given situation.