I packed a pair of wellies, shower shoes, tennis shoes, and wore my black round toe ballet flats to Georgia. However, no one told me how serious Georgians are about their shoes.
On our first day of exploring Georgia, I decided to wear my grey and light blue tennis shoes with a skirt and a top. Grant it, I thought the combination was a stretch, but it was a comfy choice that I knew my feet wouldn’t regret… if only, I had considered my pride. I definitely knew something was wrong as I walked down the streets and people would not stare at me, as we had been warned, but they were staring at my shoes! In the metro, an older woman glanced down and shook her head. As I walked down a tree-lined street, a group of men sitting on concrete benches nudged each other, pointed, and snickered.
Well, clearly something had to change. In my search for shoes, I asked the native TLG representatives where could I find appropriate shoes. My choices were expensive department stores like Zara, a Walmart-ish store called Goodwill, a bazaar, or a second hand shop.
On the last day, our group of volunteers went to a bazaar/mall (which resembled the malls in Manila). The bazaar was what you would expect, small alley ways created by vendors ‘stalls with a roof made of tarp. Wandering through the bazaar, there seemed to be some organization as to which section certain items were sold. With my broken Russian, I managed to get 10 laris ($8) off of two pairs of shoes from a female shoe vendor.
Now, I have two lovely pairs of pointed ballet flats that are Georgian appropriate. My current shoe conundrum is how to keep them clean. Somehow, I imagined Georgia to be covered in hills full of lush grass and large deciduous oaks; however it’s more like Tatoui from Star Wars. Dust is everywhere and constantly getting on my new shoes. In Tbilisi, I was always baffled looking at people’s immaculate shoes on the metro. How do they do it?
The other day when I made the mistake of rubbing my shoes on my pants, my host sister pulled a wipe from her purse and told me to use it on my pants. So my task today is to go into town by marshutka (local bus) and buy some wipes in my mangled version of Georgian.
After all my shoes issues, I can’t help but think how much my grandmother would enjoy this land of fashionable pristine shoes.