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The Great Shoe Delivery: The Final Chapter

Here are some pics of the final stop for 30 pairs of new and used boots/shoes thatDsc01936 have traveled a long road.  Most of them had been in San Francisco on my friends' feet, or in the Dsc01932closet after only being worn once.  After a month waiting to be collected from Peter's living room I packed them into one giant dufflebag as my 2nd checked bag for my flight from San Francisco to Sincelejo. The first leg to Miami required some sweet-talking to avoid incurring an extra fee (I didn't realize how heavy 30 pairs of shoes are until I slung that bag over my shoulder the first time).  The 2nd leg, from Miami to Medellin, was eventful in that the bag didn't come off the plane with the others in Medellin.  I had to discreetly inquire if anyone had seen a giant bag of shoes since Dsc01937importing clothing & shoes is illegal in Colombia where they protect their textile industry with import restrictions.  I had no qualms about claiming on the customs paperwork that the shoes had no commercial value since I had in fact not paid anything for them, but it was a little tenuous watching the Avianca baggage handler walk around in front of the heavily armed customs officers yelling, "HAS ANYONE SEEN THIS GUY'S GIANT BAG OF  SHOES FROM AMERICA?"...while I was standing in the "Nothing to Declare" line.  They ultimately found the bag, and I got the lucky "green light" at customs so I just walked through without saying anything, staring straight ahead without making any eye contact. 

Dsc01947 But by then it was 10pm, and I'd been traveling for 13 hours straight, so I took a taxiDsc01944 into Medellin to find a hotel...ultimately finding one but absentmindedly leaving the shoes in the trunk of the taxi.  I spent some more time tracking the shoes down, got a few hours sleep, and then got back up to navigate to a different airport to catch a flight to Corozal (nearest airport to Sincelejo).  But since only puddle-jumpers fly into Corozal they refused to take the impossibly-heavy bag.  However Colombia is a problem-solver's dream since there's really no such thing as an absolute "no" here.  A compliment about the baggage handler's favorite soccer team (Nacional) and 30,000 pesos ($12) later my bag was being loaded onto the plane.


For these Colombian laborers a $100 pair of boots is equivalent to 1 month's wages,Dsc01939_4 thus the smiles of disbelief and happiness you see in these pictures.   Every pair of shoes has a story, including those donated by the kind family who'd recently lost their husband/father to a long illness and chose to donate his new shoes in a way that would truly make a difference.  For those who kindly collected shoes on my behalf, please forward this url to your donor-friends so they can see the joy they've created.  Sorry I couldn't get pics of all the new owners but they were so excited most of them ran home immediately to show their families.

(Julia: your gym shoes, which accidentally ended up in the pile of donated shoes, went to this little guy who is very excited to grow into them in a couple of years!   I owe you...)



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