shoes i’ve worn in africa



Dear Shoes,

You don’t know this yet, well, you don’t know anything but I’ll forgive you that.  What I want to tell you is that soon you’ll be in Africa.  It’s been 10 years since I’ve been.  Which seams strangely ridiculous.  10 years.  It was just yesterday.  It was a lifetime ago.  It was a dream.  So I guess it makes sense after all, 10 years gone.


The last time I was in Rwanda I wore your cousins except they were red.  I brought them as my shoes to wear after my tennis shoes gave way.  I had not counted on loosing my tennis shoes next to a river in Kenya.  It was the middle of the night as we were crossing it.  That might not sound so harrowing to your western ears, but we were driving through said river and we didn’t make it to the other side.  Well, hours later, just as the sun was coming up, we were pulled out and then we had to pull our rescuer out.  The river water was murky, cold and swift.  Your imagination might be tempted to be carried away on it’s current to what was below the surface, but there was no time for that.  As soon as I stepped out of the car and into the river my shoes were soaked and instantly heavy.  We had to unload the vehicle because we thought it was going to be swept away.  A few trips from the middle of the river to the shore carrying everything out I decided to take my shoes off and go barefoot.  It wasn’t particularly a bad idea.  But perhaps not the best idea either as I ended up stepping on a thorn.  Which later was dug out with another thorn by a Kenyan man.  It was there, on the journey to Turkana, by that river in the middle of who knows where, that I lost my tennis shoes.

If you are wondering what I wore when I had no more tennis shoes, I had a pair of blue plastic sandals that I had in my backpack.  But I didn’t wear them often.


I actually mostly wore these in Kenya.  Pretty much every day.  To school.  To church.  To walk to hospital on Wednesdays to visit the children.  In the star grass field.  To Poa to teach swimming lessons.  Down the hill.  Up the hill.  To Nakumatt.  On the mutatus.  You get the idea.

But soon, new shoes, it will be your turn.  Your turn to go to the land of a thousand hills.  To find the red dirt.  To crunch along the roads, the markets, the streets where all the sounds, smells and sights will be like walking back into a dream of living a world away, once upon a long time ago.  Your turn to be the change at the school where 10 years ago it was all just starting.

People keep asking me if I am ready.  Yes.  And if I am excited.  Yes.  But can I tell you something?  It feels strange, this preparing to go back, to return and not have you step on the soil of Kenya.  To not take you to all the places I know so well.  How random bits of Swahili and Kalenjin keep popping back into my head and I have to shake my head no.  Iko wapi wewe?  Where are you?  Here you are.  Getting ready to go back.  To go again.  To go for the first time.  To revisit a land of contradictions, memories, dreams and hauntings.  To join the growing list of shoes I’ve worn in Africa.


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