Jacarandas, Sneakers, and Heat

For BS and SBK, who share my love of Kenya.

When I was a little girl living in Kenya with my parents, we lived in a compound set up for the company employees. Many of the memories from those days have faded, but a few vivid ones remain, and I realise now that visual and olfactory memories do remain stronger than the verbal ones. In any case, the main road of the compound was lined with Jacaranda trees on both sides of the road, and they met in the sky to form a fairy tale canopy of lavender. The little flowers always floated down and at some point the road looked as though it was draped with this silken tapestry. Many an afternoon was spent with the neighborhood children running up and down this floral carpet and that is something so deeply ingrained in me that I never forgot the jacaranda tree even though I didn’t encounter it again for the next few decades. At some point I began to wonder whether the jacarandas were purely a figment of my imagination!

Much to my delight, there are jacaranda trees all over Portugal, and it makes Vila Franca de Xira even more charming when I get to walk under the jacaranda trees again. It’s been 50 years since those Kenya days, and I have come full circle! Talk about messages from the universe!

While standing under one such tree the other day, I did something that I haven’t done in ages – I watched the people passing by. Unlike previous times, I didn’t focus on body language, conversations or their faces. Nope. I observed footware. I love the fact that I am back in a country that celebrates and embraces colour and variety in every wearable form, and the choice of shoes fascinates me. I know for a fact that heels are a veritable impossibility to wear here, with all the cobbled pavements. I’ve tried it twice and regretted it profoundly, understanding why most women prefer sandals, moccasins or sneakers.

Sneakers have come a long way since my youth, when they used to be primarily a sport-related fashion accessory. Not anymore, It is perfectly acceptable now to pair it with suits, skirts and dresses. I still have issues with this and I can’t seem to get over the fact that I don’t have to be going on a hike or a run to wear sneakers. Maybe it’s a German thing, where we have categorically designated walking shoes, sport shoes, working shoes, seasonal closed shoes, and so on. So to have fashionable multipurpose colourful sneakers unsettles me. Not to mention that I feel a bit insecure about wearing them at my age. But when I watched the women pass the jacaranda tree, about 85% of the women older than me were wearing the coolest sneakers! I just have to get it out of my head that just because I am in my mid-50s I have to start wearing the old-lady orthopedic shoes. Hell no! I recently jazzed up my dreary predominantly black and white wardrobe with blues, greens and pinks, so why the heck not go down the funky sneaker road? Any violent objections? I know RF reading this will not object in the least!

It’s Freaky Friday again in Lisbon and guess what – the metro is on strike this morning, and this afternoon the CP Trains go on strike again. Double whammy, just my luck. It should be interesting going home this evening. Oh, and we are supposed to hit 37C this afternoon as well, so I see ice cream in my immediate future.

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