“Has Payless Shoe Source got some cute staff or WHAT?” This is the question I find myself asking on Sunday afternoon after realizing that when Fina said we were going to Santa Clara to buy shoes for Miguel and Gabriel for school, she meant we were going to a MALL. I thought Santa Clara was a town, I thought we were going to a shoe-maker, I thought it would be dusty and dirty and full of cinder block houses— I did NOT think that I would wind up wandering through brightly lit, well-stocked aisles, trying on heels and modeling purses in the full-length mirrors, like I always do at home. I also did not think I would be getting anything, since I didn´t have a single cent on me, my thinking being that there would be nothing for me to buy in a dusty little town filled with cinderblock houses. As it is, and as it normally is here in Guatemala, I was wrong.
Once Gabriel & Miguel each picked out a pair of shoes, I followed obediently behind Fina & Omar as we walked down an aisle towards the register. At about every 3rd box, Fina pulls one out and exclaims “Mira estos!” (Look at these!) And at every box in between her boxes, I would pull a shoe out and exclaim “Y estos!” (And THESE!) I´m not just playing along, I am generally awed to be in Payless where every style comes in a plethora of sizes and colors. The “paca” method (I believe I´ve mentioned this before… donated American clothing, buy it in bulk & sell it to your neighbors?) has no opportunity to offer such selection… the motto is “if the shoe more or less fits, wear it.”
We come upon a pair of brown sling-back sandals, and at Fina´s urging I try them on. We discuss all the occasions they would be SUPER cute for as I prance around. I take them off and put them back in the box, and start to walk away when Fina´s says that my host-dad Omar wants to buy them for me. I protest the extravagant gesture, but finally Fina puts her foot down, gesturing to Gabriel & Miguel with their boxes and saying “You´re my daughter!” And my host-brothers stand there smiling and nodding, as if they´re saying “Yeah, Laura, it just wouldn´t be fair if your brothers got shoes and you didn´t.”
And now I have a new pair of shoes for Faviola´s baptism this Sunday and for wearing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when I teach my English class at the public school up the road. Oh yeah, and “family” status with 5 of the kindest people in Guatemala.