Once upon a time there was a boot.
Legend has it that this boot first came into existence in the southern United States sometime in the early 90’s, but since that time, it has traveled far and wide, eventually finding its place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Just one year ago, the boot protected the injured foot of a middle school principal, before being handed off to a Zimbabwean teacher, and then a grade 7 girl with a broken toe, an ever-active YoungLife staff member with a crushed foot, and even a high school basketball star with a sprained ankle.
Each time, the boot faithfully performed its duty–protecting the wearer’s leg, ankle, foot, or toe with pride. But as it did so, especially in the tropical climate of coastal Tanzania, it became old and dirty, worn down by dirt and sweat. Occasionally, the boot got a bath, whether by drenchings in puddles and rainshowers, or by soaking in Dettol and antibacterial soap. And then, after a drying, it went back to work, always protecting, always staying strong, and constantly getting passed around to a new foot. Eventually, the boot found itself on the leg of one English and Physical Education teacher at HOPAC. And thus began in earnest the “adventures of the boot.”
This boot had walked on dirt and gravel and pavement, it had ridden in cars and busses and bajajis. But never in a million years did the boot expect to be riding a motorcycle, much less, being the one in charge of using the rear brake. Yet that is exactly where the boot found itself every morning, every afternoon, and most evenings: careening through traffic on the right side of a Honda 250 XLR, doing its very best to bring the bike to a halt when needed, and not cause too much skidding. Riding the motorcycle was exciting, and dangerous, and mostly fun. Except when it rained.
Rainy season provided a whole host of adventures for the boot. On the motorcycle, it was inevitable that the boot would get wet, muddy, and entirely covered with the filth flying up from the road. When trudging along, there was always the risk of stepping in a puddle or sliding in a patch of slimy mud. Perhaps the dirtiest day of all was the day that Dar flooded. Yes, in some ways, that happens every time it rains, but on this particular day, schools let out an hour early to give the busses a chance at getting students home before dark. True to form, the boot readied for the after-school journey home by taking its position on the right side of the motorcycle. Usually, the 6km trip took no more than ten minutes, but on this particular day, traffic was jam-packed into a standstill. Mud, water, and terrible driving combined to create a “fuleni” (traffic jam) that even motorcycles had difficulty navigating. After spending nearly 40 minutes creeping through and around the edges of traffic to go only 1km, the boot, the motorcycle, and the tired and ill wearer of the boot, chose the off-road route: up and over the curb onto the grass (mud) median, where motorcycles and 4x4s carved a muddy off-road path through the grass and past the stopped traffic in the street. The boot had to strain and push to get the bike over the large curbs, and then cringed in disgust as clumps of mud covered it from head to toe. Gross. A shower with Dettol was definitely in order after that ride.
On another rainy day, the boot found itself once again drenched after yet another rainy motorcycle ride, but this time, the drenching had just begun. After a short trek through the sand, the boot was awkwardly perched on a large Stand-up-Paddleboard (SUP), then paddled out into the Indian Ocean. There, two girls and the boot attempted to fish despite rain that blurred the shore from sight, the occasional tangle in fishing lines, and even one paddle-bludgeoning. Surprisingly, the boot was only hooked once or twice, and despite its awkward and uncomfortable position on the board, enjoyed the paddling and even some swimming. That was not to be the last time the boot found itself in the sand and water of the Indian Ocean.
Perhaps the greatest threat to the existence of the boot was a giant dog named Kweli who found special delight in nipping at the loose velcro on the boot when walking, just as she nipped at the crutches used as an alternative to the boot. Because of the boundless energy of said dog, eventually, the boot found itself on a marathon-walk to the beach that included splashing through plenty of puddles, trudging up and down a steep hill, and moving awkwardly through the deep sand. It wasn’t that the walk was that long, but the boot returned to the house sweaty and exhausted from the effort of walking and balancing and controlling the excited dog on the end of the leash.
After only two of the six week indenture to the HOPAC English and P.E. teacher, the boot’s lifetime of adventure stories had increased exponentially. Who knew what the other four weeks would hold?