Thursday, December 31, 2009

Stupid Hippie Shoes

I have a problem.

I don't mean a problem like the kind that pops up urgently and can only be solved by immediate application of skill, planning, and martial arts. I mean like a "problem" problem. The kind that cuts into your daily life, preys on your savings account, and instigates the slow alienation of all of your friends. It raises concern among your loved ones; "Ashley, why are you buying that fabulous pair of heels when you are moving to Africa for two years?" They mean well, I know, but I already realize the depths of my troubles. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to recovery, I hear, so I'll say it again: I am obsessed with shoes.

My problem has actually led me to have a problem, this time the urgent issue kind. This particular problem stems from the fact that I can't possibly, in good conscience, spend money on a pair of drab, unimaginative mules. But let me back up for just a minute and explain so you can get the full scope of my problem(s). I love heels. The really cute, really high, really impractical, totally full-of-sass heels. I believe in good sue me. This is my Problem. The problem that my Problem has left me with is this: I need a pair of dress shoes for Zambia. All of my dress shoes are no shorter than 3" high, and totally inappropriate for bicycling around the African bush. But I still need a pair of professional dressy shoes. My heart says heels. My mind says mules. I cringe deep down.

This conundrum is what prompted the two-day long Footwear Research and Acquisition Binge that my poor laptop has recently been subjected to. I have good, sturdy work-the-land shoes which will last me, for all practical purposes, until Armageddon. After all, I live on a farm. However, I realized that in order to be sufficiently shod for all of my African adventures, I would need nice shoes, but not heels, and hard-core sandals (I suspect that my standard $7.99 flip-flops are sooooo not up to the task of my future safari-style living). Staring at my computer screen filled with shoes until my eyes bleed, I realize that my Problem is worse than I realized when I found myself Ebay-watching two pairs of Kate Spades, a gorgeous pair of retro Pradas and the most perfect ruby red Louboutin Rolandos...FAIL.

I decided in order to satisfy my Problem and solve my problem, I would compromise. Unflashy, boring, 1.5" heeled, black, all-purpose dress shoes...but they're used Salvatore Ferragamos. $300 shoes that I found for $37.00. I could feel a hint of a smile returning to my feet. Italian- made would definitely last long against the rigors of Zambian hut-life, but I could still slip them on my feet and feel smashing. Well, maybe not smashing, per se, but at least a darn sight better than how I would feel in generic Payless ballet flats. AND, they're definitely worn, so I won't feel so bad when I scuff the toe on my bicycle. Item one, check.

I figured while I was at this, I might as well focus on my second shoe situation: the need for a sturdy pair of work-the-land-last-til-Armageddon sandals. Ripping myself away from the Givenchy Fall '09 collection, I began my research on what might best suit my purposes. Upon delving into the depths of Birkenstock foot wear, I ran into another roadblock. My Problem, you know, that Problem, was writhing in demonic agony as if the specimens in front of it were a collection of crucifixes, like Balthazaar confronted with Holy Water. The words thundered in my skull like a malediction: Hippie shoes, hippie shoes, hippie shoooooooooes.

Not that there's anything wrong with hippies. In fact, I consider myself a neo-hippie (although I do bathe and plan on shaving my legs in my open-air, thatch-roofed bath hut, even if I have to use my new leatherman Crocodile Dundee-style). I even had a pair of Baby Birks when I was a wee tot, and they were quite comfy (incidently, my concern with good footwear comes from my mother). No, the issue was, as much as I have respect for hippies and the traditional foot garb of the hippie, my Problem abhorrs the hippie vibe. Boho? Totally cool. Funky retro? Also awesome. Straight-up, socially awkward, fashion-ignorant, BO-scented, Save-The-Spotted-Porpoises hippie? Not so swell. I was in middle school once, and I have no desire to return there in my twenties, Peace Corps stereo-type or not. Another compromise was in order.

My second dillemma was proving to be more difficult than the first. I read coustomer reviews, examined colors and tech specs, did price comparisons. Deep down, I knew that I needed a sandal that could stand up to the rough-life, not just "feel comfortable all day as I walked around Europe on our two week vacation." Two years in rural Zambia will take a toll on these buggers, and I need to be on my feet hauling water, gathering wood, building cooking fires and walking to the market. Despite my Problem, I'm a realist. And yet, I just couldn't bring myself to go the whole hog and buy the hardest of the hard-core sandals. I'm still at a stand-off with my Problem. I ordered a pair of Tevas, not the amphibious, trek-across-the-Sahara style, but the grade below it, which is still above the Oh-I-could-totally-get-used-to-these cute style. I read the return policy, and am prepared to continue my search should they arrive and my Problem doesn't feel like we could live and work in harmony...or if they don't fit. At this point, I know which option worries me more.

In other news, this has been, thus far the biggest challenge in my preparations. Christmas was a success, full of used and sustainable goodness, and I am one retro messenger bag, Solio charger, Zambia guide book and several journals more prepared for my departure. Can't wait to ring in the new year. I have a feeling 2010 is going to be more awesome than I can possibly imagine!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

T-minus two months!

Holy moley! I'm not sure how it happened but a whole month+ has flown by since I last posted. Sorry to all my faithful readers, I'm sure there are legions of you out there who are sooooo dissapointed by my lack of communication.

It's hard to believe almost. I feel as though nothing truely noteworthy has happened in the past weeks enough to warrant a post, and yet reading through my last one I realize that my state of being has changed dramatically. The funniest thing has happened to my sense of time; I feel like my existance has entered a state of stasis. Every day is pretty much the same routine. I'm savoring the little moments as they come. There is no longer this looming question mark as to my future and I feel like I can just enjoy my time home with my parents. Relief might be the proper word for it, but there are definite undernotes of peace, happiness, bordem, and restlessness in there too. Typical two-faced Gemini, if one part of me is happy, the other part(s) are just whining and looking forward to something else. As such, I feel as though each day is a continuium of distraction and focus, with the minutes, for some strange reason, passing more slowly than the hours.

As if to illustrate this fact, my mother reminded me this morning that it is exactly two months until I leave. The funny thing is that I spent the whole previous day shopping and crafting a x-mas present (which, due to it's super awesomeness and confidential nature, I can only say it concerns my not being here next year at this time), and all the time I was thinking about living overseas (and how great this present is going to be!). However, the biggest, most exciting significance of today in my head is that my sister comes home for Christmas break, not my countdown. It struck me as evidence of my state of mind right now. Zambia is totally in my head, and yet I'm not obsessing about it right now. This realization is HUGE for me! I, much to my chagrin, tend to daydream and romanticize the future, and it is a big step of personal growth that I am not allowing myself to go there. I think I know that my success in this venture is dependant on me not having any preconcieved notions or expectations. I already know that this is going to be unlike anything I have ever attemped before, and so I have forced myself to give up trying to imagine it. Instead, I am focusing on capturing moments that I can keep for the future and pull out when necessary (the good ones and the bad ones). I remind myself that I am not there to travel and vacation; I am going over there to work and live. Moreover, I keep trying to put things in persective, recognize moments as they come and acknowledge how I might be feeling six months in, 10 months, 20 months, ect. This is a long haul. I think my mind and body know this and they are forcing me to get as much emotional rest as possible.

Therefore, I pass the time now with things like making gingerbread houses and playing Candy Land. Am I regressing? Probably, but after my four years of undergrad, I feel like I deserve a little bit of a break from thinking and being responsible. AND, I know that I won't have this same opportunity once I start my big-girl job in a foreign country. So you see, I am in stasis. Recouping, recovering, regressing, and resting. I feel almost like a warrior meditating before battle, doing things like sharpening my sword and snatching up all of the fabulous holiday deals on extra bras and socks (I do feel bad for all those poor people leaving in August-ish. I've gotten some killer deals...)

As it is only a little over a week until Christmas, I have now finally allowed myself to get in the spirit. I'm not normally a big Christmas person. I find the holidays dark, stressful, gluttonus, and hypocritical. And cold. In many ways, I will be glad to not be here for the next two. I can only imagine how nice it will be to be in a place where x-mas is simple, loving, and more of what it's supposed to be, and not be assaulted with obnoxious music for the 45 days of Christmas. However, the time has come to celebrate. Mostly because I realized I only have about a week to finish all of my gifts that I have been making! Eeeek! (On a side note, you all should check out this movement called Advent Conspiracy. Totally sums up what my family has been trying to do by scaling back and buy used/sustainable gifts, and I love, love, love that other people are having the same idea. Plus the guy who got it started is in Portland! Way to rep counter-culture, west coast!) With that, I hope you all relish this holiday with your loved ones, remember those who have left, don't buy too much crap, and....umm, do something you've never done before to send off 2009 in a stylin' way. It's what I'll be doing any way. :D