On my last visit with my parents before I headed for Kingston they slipped me this awesome card:

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The sentiment has proven to be prescient. In the process of packing to live in the tropics for 6 months, I did a lot of sorting and re-sorting and shopping and packing and unpacking, and then giving up and figuring I could buy anything I really needed once I got here.

There haven’t been a great many things I’ve been really missing, but I dearly miss my shoes, for reasons of both style and utility. I am not the shoe horse I aspire to be, but I am definitely not used to getting by with only 5 pair. However, shoes are heavy and my size 9’s take up a lot of space, so I made the sacrifice and edited the list down to basic shoes that would work for multiple uses. I brought with me

I have since bought cheap black flats and flip flops at Payless here, a store I no longer shop at in Canada but that is the number 1 shoe purveyor in Jamaica. It is everywhere. I suspect I will be back since anything that’s not Payless is almost double what I would expect to pay at home.

I question if the hikers were a huge waste of money, space and luggage weight. I bought them specifically for this trip and have yet to wear them. I am going on my first Jamaican hike tomorrow and will try them out on that adventure, but I really think that if I’d bought the hiking sandals first I would have skipped the hikers altogether. With the weather cooling off to a crisp 27 degrees who knows – maybe I will yet want closed shoes and even socks! 😉

I wear the hiking sandals A LOT*; they are dirty but show almost no wear. The sidewalks in parts of my commute are atrocious, the closed toe has saved me numerous times from stubbing my toes or having them squished, the sturdy wide sole keeps me from twisting my ankles, they can be worn in the water and dry quickly, and they are almost nice enough to wear with pants to work. Almost. I just try not to look at my feet on those days. I also try not to look at my feet when I wear the hiker sandals with skirts on the way to work and change into my pumps when I get there – there’s no way these sidewalks are passable in heels, and karma is rewarding my years of judging women who wear sneakers on their commute.

My beige pumps need to be thrown out, and it is harder than I expected to find decent leather pumps here to replace them. They are so basic I figured it’d be a snap. Yes, the variety of shoe selection is one of the things we were warned about, but I am still surprised. However, with the local heat and humidity a ‘pre-existing condition’ has grown intolerable: they are, frankly, the most disgusting shoe I’ve smelled – though they otherwise look almost new. I have tried Gold Bond powder, baking soda, and Lysol spray. Nothing will kill whatever bacteria is at home in those insoles. I suppose I will have to settle for some cheap, uncomfortable pleather pump from Payless and hope they don’t hurt too much during office hours. It’s such a shame when I have fantastic brown, beige, leopard print, mint, blue, red and magenta leather pumps wasting away in storage at home.

My poor lovely black pumps are off at the cobbler’s this weekend. I had the heels re-tipped right before I left home and they need doing again after just two months. That says much about the kind of wear and tear shoes get here, especially since I only wear them outside at lunch or if I’ve taken a cab somewhere. As the lady said when I dropped them off, they are lovely shoes and worth taking care of.

I have re-glued the soles on my black leather sandals thrice already and spots are coming loose again. Since I already own the tube of rubber cement, I will continue re-attaching until the glue runs out. Then I will sadly look at replacing the most rewarding sandals I’ve owned. They are adorable, comfortable and work with every outfit. I paid $20 for them last summer and have worn them multiple times per week both summers (and now an autumn) since. They own me nothing and are well into the realm of .001 cents per wear. I will miss them, but they are definitely not handling the stress well and owe me nothing.

This might seem like a silly post, but when I was reading blogs before I left home I really hoped to find some ‘bring this, don’t bother bringing that’ type advice. I’m sure there’s a huge personal element, but if you are reading this considering making a move – even a temporary one – to Kingston or another tropical location, take your shoe needs seriously. There really are limited options once you get here (unless you like stripper shoes, from which there seems to be an unlimited variety to choose).

One final tip – if you are at all prone to swollen feet, make sure your shoes are forgiving. The heat, humidity, and lord knows what other factors mean your feet will balloon. A cute pump that just fits at the beginning of the work day may be unwearable by the time you’re ready to head home.

* PS – ‘big ups’ to more experienced Cuso volunteer Jody Paterson for telling me to buy sturdy, closed-toe sandals. I did so on her advice and am so very glad I did!

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