My emotional attachment to flip flops

I love flip flops. Actually, that’s not true. I love my flip flops.

And I love them because they are mine. I wear them exclusively when I am travelling and as such they are a link to everywhere I’ve been and everything I’ve seen.

There’s an emotional attachment there that can only exist between, and be understood by, a man and his flip flops.

Look at them, all indented at the back where my heel has pressed against them a million times. Look at the front where each toe has left its own dark little signature.

And look at my feet. Are they heavily tanned? Or just filthy dirty? It’s another facet which adds to their majesty and it doesn’t matter because they are my badge of honour. Oh, the things they’ve seen, the places they’ve been…

I look up from the floor –  as is the convention when walking – and snap out of the inner monologue of infatuation going on between me and my footwear.

Worn: I miss them.

I watch as the turban-wearing, electric guitar playing, roller-skating man cleverly weaves in and out of the people of Los Angeles’s Venice beach and I wonder if there is a better demonstration of multi-tasking anywhere in the world.

Then, I am back to marvelling at my flip flops and I wonder if they remember our first adventure together in Mexico, before reminding myself that most inanimate objects are incapable of such a thing.

But I could hardly have expected we’d spend so many wonderful moments together, experience so much, and yet here we are, over a year and 12 countries later and – OW! What was that?

I feel something sharp against my heel. I angle my leg up so I can see what the culprit is. A small stone falls from the sole of my foot to reveal… skin. I can see skin even though my flip flip is still dangling from my foot.

It is then that I notice the rest of my flip flops are suffering from the same ailment that has befallen the heel of ‘righty’. I guess it’s true what they say, love really is blind. How could I not have seen this coming, how can I have failed to notice such… such thinning.

Quickly, I revert to a state of denial. It’ll be fiiiiiiiiiiine, I think. They’ve got some mileage left in them yet. I can’t discard them just because I can feel the concrete underfoot along with every little lump and bump, can I?

Don’t pack moisturiser too close to your flip flops. Oh, how we laughed.

I owe them more than that. They were there when I taught my first English lesson; when I rode my first elephant; when I drank my first Singapore Sling in Raffles; and when I made my first bet in Las Vegas. We’ve done too much together to give up now.

I take a seat on the beach to examine the damage more closely. The evidence is damning and I realise I have to face facts. Our time together is set to come to an end.

I reluctantly amble into a nearby beach front store and look at the array of flip flops on offer. Row upon row of soulless, lifeless, flip flops. I feel a connection to none of them; there’s no electricity, no chemistry between us. How can I make this relationship work, when there’s no chemistry?!

With zero enthusiasm, I decide upon a pair, take them to the checkout and the young girl begins to put them in a bag for me.

“Actually, don’t worry about the bag. I’ll wear them.”

I make the exchange between old and new. I instantly feel uneasy. Oh, the betrayal.

“Would you like me to take the others for you?”

I look at the young girl, then at my weathered, worn, dying flip flops, and then back at the girl.

“Sure”, I say.

I place them slowly, carefully and deliberately on the counter. With a heavy heart, I take one step forward, look back and then walk away.

A new adventure is about to begin.

Does this resonate with anyone else? I don’t mind if it doesn’t but I would be very interested to know if I’m the only one… Do let me know in the comments section. 

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Teaching English in Mexico: a day in the life

I was standing up in front of about 20 Mexican students reading from a script I had prepared which explained exactly what a 21-year-old lad from England was doing at their university.

The palms of my hands grew sweatier by the second as I told my students-elect what my role would be for the next three months and when I got to the end I looked up to see a potent combination of raised eyebrows and tilted heads.

The former signifying confusion, the latter in recognition of the fact I was trying my best. Anyway, it ended well because lots of people signed up to my classes which meant one of two things: they were blown away by my enticing speech, or they were so desperate to learn some English (for free) and decided I would have to do.

See, in my head I was going to Mexico to teach and that was it. Little did I know the project would become just a small, though still significant, part of my experience.

It was strange because on the face of it my daily routine was no different from that of an employee back home. I got up, showered, breakfast, got the bus to work, worked, had lunch, worked some more, got the bus back home, went out for a beer at night.

But underneath that exterior lay a complex web of bewilderment and fear. But for whatever reason, and this isn’t just looking back and idealising, I found it exhilarating.

There was the massive cockroach I had to share a shower with on many a morning which initiated a paralysing fear of these ghastly creatures.

The failure to communicate to my host family on day one that I was not too fond of papaya (thank you, lack of Spanish) which lead to almost daily doses of papaya with papaya juice for breakfast.

The straining of the eyes as a bus appeared on the horizon. You see, there were no bus stops, no timetables, and although there was a vague bus route, it was lottery as to whether or not a) I would be able to read the number on the front as it blew past me in a blaze of black smoke, and b) simply whether or not the driver felt like stopping that day.

The constant risk of eating street food for lunch and wondering, with every mouthful, whether or not this particularly spicy taco would be the one that killed me. Or at least lead me to a diet of Imodium.

There was the casual nature with which my students would sometimes turn up late, incredibly late or not at all and think little of it as they introduced me to ‘Mexico Time’ and a land where the clock is of little relevance.

Finally, meeting up with other volunteers from all over the world to indulge in a couple of drinks, perhaps a little salsa dancing or some live Mexican banda music ending the night by gorging with the locals at late night taco stands.

Living the dream? It certainly felt like it.