|Charles and me|
These flip flops were about three years old. They served a good purpose and I was not particularly upset that one broke because they had a good run, but I was inconvenienced. At the time of the breakage I was in a parking lot. I had just finished chatting with my friend Charles (pronounced to rhyme with house) a car guard who works in the shopping centre across the street from where we live. I have known Charles since we moved here and I see him several times a week. I know all about his life and his family because of our many chats. I have given him some (nice) old clothes that belonged to Mr. Deep and I have also bought him some groceries a few times. I had just said goodbye to Charles and when I tried to walk away, the plastic piece between the toes broke. It didn't just come out of the hole, it actually broke in two. The flat, nail head like piece that sits under the hole in the bottom of the sole broke off the stalk like piece that goes between the toes.
"My shoe just broke" I told Charles, mostly because I felt I had to explain why I was stumbling around. I showed him the shoe and he kindly offered to try to fix it for me so I left the flip flops with him. Luckily, as I mentioned, I was at the shopping centre at the time and I walked (barefoot obviously) to a store that fortunately sold flip flops and I bought a new pair.
Walking barefoot isn't so strange in South Africa but you don't often see adults doing it. And, I had two reasons for being in the shopping centre. I was getting a manicure and then I needed to get a few things at the grocery store. I wouldn't have minded going to the nail salon without any shoes. I am in there often enough and I would have explained what happened and gotten a few laughs over it, but the grocery store could have been problematic. Not that there is a no shirt, no shoes, no service rule here, there isn't. But you generally don't see barefoot adults in the grocery store. Barefoot kids are seen all the time.
When I got back to my car I saw Charles again and proudly showed him my new shoes. I was feeling pretty good that I was at a shopping centre at the time of the break, that in the shopping centre was a store that sold flip flops and that the store was open and had flip flops in my size.
And then Charles told me that he had fixed my shoe. He somehow found a piece of strong wire and threaded it through the plastic stalk. The wire, placed on the bottom of the shoe was now holding the plastic piece in place. "How did you do this?" I asked him, meaning, how did you happen to find a piece of strong wire in the parking lot? And, even if one was lucky enough to find wire, threading it through thick plastic must have been difficult.
"I used my brain" he said.
This incident, although kind of silly, perfectly communicates what it is that I love about living in South Africa. I love that I can walk barefoot if I have to and people just have to deal with it. I love that I have a friend who is so kind that he would want to try to fix my shoe for me. I love that he was actually able to fix it. But mostly I love being reminded how many people in this world live differently than we do. They can't (and won't) throw something away just because it is broken and damaged but instead they will try to fix it.
I will continue to wear my newly repaired flip flops. Granted, I will only wear them around the house because they certainly will break again, but I will wear them until that time and when I wear them I will be reminded of Charles, his life, his brain, and his kindness.
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