An Open Letter to Old Navy

Dear Old Navy,

I am a Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in Vanuatu. Chacos and Tevas are somewhat of a staple here for volunteers, due to the amount of hiking we do through rivers and up mountains, in endless heat. When I first arrived at the airport almost two months ago, I found that my bag had been split open. To this tragedy, I lost all of my sandals except one lone pair of your flip flops. A lot of volunteers have favorite things they’ve brought with them; their hammocks, kindles, or headlights. Mine has become these flip flops.

Although my mom got in touch with Teva and they graciously mailed me a pair at 50 percent off- to replace the ones I had lost- they have yet to arrive here, so I’ve spent the last month and a half wearing my one pair of Old Navy flops.

In these, I’ve walked through the streets of Port Vila. In the Pacific ocean, I’ve swam clutching them tight with my toes. In the bush of Malekula, I’ve waded through three rivers and hiked many dirt roads, in many hours. On a platform of mud, caked with thousands of crab holes, I stumbled in those flops, under a sea of stars, chasing crabs with flashlights and bamboo pinchers. And eventually, digging one sandal out from the mud it had sunk beneath.

These flip flops cradled the edge of a pickup trucks trunk as I sat on piles of bagged Copra and held on for dear life over roads devoid of flat surfaces. These flip flops have given me the most ambiguous tan/dirt line in the world. They’ve flown in 17-seater planes. They’ve stepped on the billions of pieces of coral that litter the ground here, and they’ve guarded my feet against their sharp edges. They’ve seen the dirt of a garden of yams, the harsh onset of pounding rains, and the daily rinse of my morning bucket showers.

My flip flops have the imprint of my feet etched firmly in their soles, like pockets. At the toes and at the heals, they curve upwards. My feet no longer put on my flip flops, my flip flops put on my feet.

Frayed and cracked bottoms are layered in greying dirt and they just barely protect my feet against the coral. But I choose them over the sandals that eventually arrived courtesy of my aunt. They aren’t cute. They aren’t colorful. But no one can ever deny that they aren’t resilient.

So, Old Navy, in conclusion, I’d like to thank you for that quality pair of flip flops that traveled across the world with me and will remain on my feet until they fall off.

With best regards from my feet to yours,


P.S. My current favorite skirt that traveled with me is also a product of Old Navy, though its battle scars are less noteworthy… and mostly involve pineapple and mango juice.