Plastic sandals and plastic flowers



I traveled to Honduras with my expensive sandals imported from Israel, and another pair from Italy. Leather straps over cork and suede footbeds. I love shoes, especially sandals, and I must admit I I am a sandal snob. Buy Plastic? Not since my daughters were young and wearing jellies. And never plastic for me.

Of course Hondurans always wear plastic sandals. On the island of Amapala where we were visiting our daughter, there were countless varieties of plastic sandals- thick strap over the arch, thin straps in curlicue designs. Royal blue, turquoise, brown and pristine white.

And as I trudged unpaved streets, accepted hospitality from folks in dusty yards and sometimes in packed dirt floor homes, my lovely sandals started looking not so great. Sweat rimed, dust covered, grimy. Our host sported pretty white plastic sandals that could be washed any time and regain their good looks. Plastic can be kept clean, in a hot climate. It can wade in the surf to meet a boat. My attitude took a shift.

Last week I took another trip, this time to the Gulf Coast of Florida. A rural place of a few short streets of of trailer homes nestled in the sandy yards, amidst pine trees. My relatives sheepishly explained, the woman they bought their trailer home from had lined the yard with plastic flowers. Sure enough, a plethora of faded plastic petals on falsely erect stems, some tilting at unrealistic angles. And also many, many tin butterflies, dragonflies, fairies, on spikes stuck into the ground.

Why hadn’t they pulled them all out, I admit I wondered. Then Kathi went on to say, “she put them there so the town wouldn’t mow too close here.” Why? Well, I learned something new. The houses were across from the Carabelle river, and the river across from the Gulf of Mexico. Along the street edge there was a gully dug, and then a ridge built up. All to accommodate flooding. As hurricane winds blew water, as rain raised the river, the gully could hold the excess water and the raised ridge help keep it from the house. If the grass was mown so close it fell in the gully, then the ditch got filled with grass and became too shallow to protect the house. So the plastic flowers and other yard tchotchkes remain.

In fact, Hurricane Michael had swept through there only months ago and the roads were still being rebuilt along the Gulf coast just feet away, the twisted piles of torn down pines not yet cleared. And the new little trailer home had come through unscathed and unflooded- cozy, dry and safe. All for the addition of some tastefully questionable yard décor.

Mark Twain said that travel is fatal to prejudice. In my travels I have learned lessons large and small. I learned that people are smart and know how to make a good life where they are. I learned to appreciate plastic sandals and plastic flowers.


8 thoughts on “Plastic sandals and plastic flowers

  1. What a thoughtful post! I love how you came to see the wisdom in the choices people made. I love the line “I learned that people are smart and know how to make a good life where they are.” I’m not a traveler- a homebody by nature and disposition, but I enjoyed reading the lessons you learned.

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  2. I am learning to see things with a less critical eye–it’s not easy for me. My brain is drawn to the critical–old habits die hard.

    There’s a reason for everything. Great slice–thanks for sharing!

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  3. The Mark Twain quote you use is perfect for this piece. I like how you connect two disparate experiences, completely different places, to get across the message of facing our prejudices when we travel. There is so much to learn when we travel. Will you wear plastic sandals next time you go to Honduras, or will the leather sandals still make it into your suitcase?

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  4. Of course,loved this about my little trailer protected by tacky plastic flowers. Thankfully the view of the river is all natural. It’s as they say, “all relative”

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