An Ode to My Tevas

One of the weird subjects you end up discussing when backpacking are your own feet. Specifically, you talk a lot about footwear. For example, I figured out many years ago that I hate flipflops and would rather go barefoot than wear uncomfortable shoes (which I have done many times). Nothing ruins a trip faster than blistered feet.

The best travel investment I ever made, hands down, was my pair of Teva Women’s Tirra Athletic Sandals (which I have conveniently linked here for you in hopes of getting a kickback from Amazon. Just kidding.) I actually didn’t buy them at Amazon but at a local store in Princeton. I’m sure you can find them at boutique shoe stores and most outdoor stores, too.

The same pair of shoes lasted me through all my hiking in Israel, my fall break in Europe, my walks to class in the US, and all over Southeast Asia until the very last trip I took, to Myanmar, where they finally said “enough.” The stitching between the sole and the ankle strap on the right shoe had unraveled. Even so, I managed to wear them for the remainder of my trip by just velcro-ing the ankle strap around itself. But I decided to leave them at my hostel in Shwan State in order to save room in my backpack. I still think of them there, stuffed in the trash can. It was a very poor ending for a very noble pair of footwear.

I really can’t recommend these shoes highly enough. Many people over the years have asked about them, and I always say how much I love them. We’ve been through a lot together. They are currently in five of my facebook profile pictures. Clearly, I’m obsessed.

So here is one final eulogy to the most comfortable, durable, reliable shoes I’ve ever had. Rest in peace, Tevas.

Dancing with my Tevas in the Golan Heights.

I found you in style, inside a new store
Where brown paper shoe linings littered the floor.
You cost me much more than I then could afford
Yet you tempted me, won me
With cushy, soft soles.

Your velcro and criss-crosses gave me a tan
That’s stayed on my feet through summer and winter,
tatooed shadows reminding me
of hot afternoon climbs.

With socks, you warmed me
in Autumn in Prague.
In water, you carried me
through rocks and through fog.

Up mountains, down valleys,
down cobblestone alleys,
Your grip made me sure
I’d not slip nor unravel.

We spent four long years
foot by side,
we saw ten fine countries,
and a lot of goodbyes.

Till one fine day in May,
your crevices caked with clay,
your velcro delayed
and—riip

Farewell, dear friends,
my trusted travel companions.
I’ll miss your reliability,
your light-weight portability,
your eternal tan-lines.

I hope you enjoy retirement in Myanmar.

With love,
Melanie

PS-Sorry for the stinky feet.

Picture Highlights So Far, Again!!

Ā A trip to the Communist Museum (Prague, Czech Republic)

Hungarian Sweeties šŸ™‚ (Budapest, Hungary)

The Parliament Building overlooking the Danube (Budapest, Hungary)

Full Moon #3 of my time abroad. It rose over Budapest as I waited outside St. Mathius Church to hear Requiem (I did, and it was beautiful. Budapest, Hungary)

Carthusians conquer the Golan (Israel)
Ein Gedi mountains (Israel)

A feast of pork goulash!!!! (Czech Republic)

15th Century Castle, the significance of which slipped my mind because it’s so darn BEAUTIFUL. (Czech Republic)

Prague!!!! I’m in Love. (Czech Republic)

Traditional Hungarian flat bread, cooked in a warm oven (Hungary)
Tour boat on the Danube (Czech Republic)

View from St. Charles’ Bridge (Czech Republic.)

As I sipped red wine, my future husband serenaded me with a beautiful rendition of Zhivago. I’m in love. (Budapest, Hungary)

PRAGUE! Can you smell it? (Czech Republic)

Budapest (Hungary)

Long, LONG overdue pictures šŸ™‚ Europe and such!!!!

It’s Time To Check In

Check: still here. Check: still breathing! Check: still a beginner. Still struggling, but who isn’t? I’m okay with that. And I want to share this passage, which, save for the last sentence, I have never really heard before. I may have heard it in passing, but never really listened to it.

“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:10-13

I can’t believe that my answer is here, in the Epistles. Of course, it always is, I’m just too stubborn to look all the time. It seems to me there comesĀ a point when we let go of our parents’ lifelines and then all of a sudden are in too deep or not deep enough. Many, many times since I’ve been in Israel (and truth be told before Israel, I guess) I’ve felt like I’m either “too full or too hungry”: not getting enough or getting too, too much. Why can’t I be content somewhere in the middle? Well you can; that’s life.

It seems to me that there are two ways to do things: either to read adventures in books, or to go on adventures with your own two feet. Both ways have their benefits. I sat last weekend in the Golan Heights (and hiked, of course) in a Moshav (a small community). The quiet became my quiet and I felt very much at peace. But I just came back from a trek over volcanic rock, up and down hills and jumping into cool, clean water pools. I don’t know why, but sometimes I think I have to have everything figured out. (Okay, a lot of the time I think this.) I don’t. I can’t. I get so afraid ofĀ putting myself outside of my comfort zone. I think of myself as a stuffed shirt, an office box, a pale-bellied fish: an unwarented slave to something,Ā  someĀ demonic force at work against me (of course) that wants to keep me in a box. But life begins outside this box of vanishing complacency. It used to be a world I only read about in books. And still, sometimes my imagination gets the better of me and alters my perception.

Sometimes I think I see illusions–or maybe I’m dehydrated. I always used toĀ dream as a kid, outloud in broad daylight. Really. My life was spent in pretend lands, and sometimes I still think parts of Israel, my time in Israel, is one of those pretend lands in my head that I will write down in between classes in the sixth grade in my black and white composition notebook. Will someone pinch me, please?

The funny thing is, I did just come back from a pretend land. I swam in waterfalls. I walked along the edge of a mountain while overlooking towers of trees that slope and ascend in curvatures unheard of by the artist. I several times had to stop myself and stand and stare and the vast, misty foreground opening itself to me like a warm embrace. How lucky I am. How incredibly, incredibly blessed!! Is life seriously THIS beautiful???!

I used to be a total cynic. I used to read about magical lands and dream myself away from reality instead of opening my bedroom door and extending my toes over the line of complacency. Now I know that that door is the doorway–the portal, to a bigger, better, more beautiful world that I get to live and play in!! It’s like my backyard suddenly became the world. (And hiking is my “kick the can” :))

I still love books. Nikolos Rostov is still my dream guy and I still think I”m part hobbit. But my alter-egoes have to rest on the shelf for a little bit, along with my old diaries and Harry Potter books, I guess, while I go and try and figure out this life. I never believed I’d be here. I never believed I’d be living here, reading and dreaming and inhaling and exhaling sweet Middle-Eastern air. I can’t believe I just wrote that down. (I don’t care if it’s been three months; I’m still in shock.)

It exists! And the cool thing is, somehow, I am existing with it. And I think if I can do that here, assuage my life into the messy, crazy, “balagan” of a culture (really, cultures) that operate here, and somehow take care of myself and prosper a tiny bit in the middle of the desert, in a place completely foreign to me, then I think I can do this pretty much anywhere. That’s a tall order, but who knows?

God bless you all. You mean so much to me. Also, remember to dance!