There sits Erik, across from me. He is working with the sailmaker´s palm and heavy needle and thread. He is not repairing a sail. He is not mending safety gear.
He is sewing shoes.
You wouldn´t think that shoes would be much of an issue for us. We spend an amazing amount of time barefoot - we never wear shoes aboard. But for some reason, in the tropics, the girls´shoes dissolve. And I mean, fail catastrophically.
The Life Cycle of a Shoe, by Amy
1. Purchase sandals for children. Admire their thick rubber soles and tough material. Congratulate yourself on the wisdom of your purchase.
2. Wait three weeks.
3. Note, to your surprise, that the bottom sole has separated from the inner and is flapping in the breeze. Shake your head that the sandal was only glued together. Go home and sew the sole on with whipping twine.
4. Wait four days.
5. Discover that the upper has pulled out of the sole at the back of the instep. Sew it back on.
6. Wait three hours.
7. Now the middle part of the instep has pulled out.
8. Wait seven minutes.
9. Now the front. Give up and sew every point of attachment.
10. Wait sixteen seconds.
11. Aha. The velcro will no longer stick. Sew on new velcro. (If the shoe had a buckle or any metal bits, those corroded away back around step three. You already replaced those bad boys with plastic and twine.)
12. Realize you have, in effect made a new pair of shoes, and would have been further ahead to buy the basic pieces as a kit.
I could claim that we´ve been cursed with poor quality sandals since leaving Canada, but I don´t think that is the problem. It is just a fact that the sun and salt are death on clothes of all sorts, and shoes have a particularly hard job. Walking around on the coral rubble of the motus doesn´t really help the situation. Erik and I have made our Tevas last as long as we could, but the soles peeled off Erik´s a few months ago. He is now in search of a discarded tire with which to fabricate a new sole. And he´ll eke out a few more months of life on the old things.
But, as with all things boat-related, there is a trick to this shoe business. It is the same trick you need to use everywhere you travel. In short: What Do The Locals Do? Because they have feet, too.
And here is the answer. Leave your flip-flops back in central America. Save your US-style sandals for Miami. In French Polynesia, you need jelly shoes.
Do you remember jelly shoes? Those soft, plastic-y injection-molded creations of yesteryear? I coveted a pair when I was about six, and ended up with a pair of pink sparklies that I couldn´t have loved more if they were covered with diamonds.
Here, everyone, infant to grandfather, wears the jellies. They are white, sturdy, and perfect for the place. You can wear them in the water so as not to get stung by stonefish. You can toodle around town when out for a stroll. You can wander over sharp coral rubble with nary a murmur. And, if they get a split, you can melt the pieces back together using a heated machete blade. Hooray!
When we go to town today, it is my fervent hope we will all come back with jelly shoes. Because I will quite happily never sew up another sandal.
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