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We Went to Slovenia

I decided I needed new shoes.

All but one pair of my shoes are sandals. I was going to be traveling to Slovenia, so I figured I definitely needed another pair of closed-toed shoes.

That was a week ago Friday, and Gil and I were scheduled to leave for the ACSI administrator's conference in Slovenia that night. But I didn't think about my shoe deficit until a few days earlier, and market day is only on Fridays. Which meant I had to go to the market to find shoes just a few hours before I got on a plane.

The Friday market is just down the road from our house. So after school last Friday, I dropped off Gil and the kids at home and rushed over to the market.

As usual, hundreds of vendors were out. Some had set up tables, but most used large pieces of plastic on the ground. Some were selling vegetables, kitchen supplies, toiletries, or school supplies, but most were selling piles of clothes and shoes, second-hand cast-offs from American thrift stores.

I pushed my way through the crowds, my eye out for black shoes. Luckily, about half of the shoes for sale in the market are black. Not because they originated that color, but because the vendors dye as many shoes black as possible. It's the color required for school uniforms.

You look beautiful, the vendors would tell me every time I tried on a pair of shoes. I shook my head. These are too small, I would complain. Like Cinderella's step-sisters, they would insist, No, they're not! See? They will stretch!  

Finally I settled on Aerosole flats (dyed black) that would have to do. I wove my way back through the crowds, finished packing, and left for the airport at midnight.

Fourteen hours later, I was standing on the canal-lined streets of Venice, Italy.

The conference took up a good portion of our time, which meant we had just four afternoons to cram in as much European sight-seeing as possible. So we spent an evening in Venice and visited the famous Postojna caves. We toured the Slovenian town of Piran with its medieval architecture and stepped into the postcard that is Lake Bled, complete with castle and lake island church.

We stuffed ourselves with grapes and pasta and salami, and ate dessert way too many times. We walked along cobblestone streets with flowers poking through wooden fences. We delighted in the glass trinkets in Venice, the gelato shops on every corner, the pristine beauty of the Adriatic Sea.

And it all seemed like a universe away from the market down the street from my house in Tanzania.

I loved this trip. The conference was energizing, the weather was incredible (I could have worn my sandals after all!), and we were with best friends. The beauty filled our souls and we joked repeatedly that maybe God was calling us to be missionaries in Slovenia.


Piran, Slovenia

Postojna caves, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia

It was amazing.

But you know what?

I love the market down the street in Dar es Salaam. I love treasure-hunting there; I love the friendliness of the people; I love the unpredictability. I would much rather buy one dollar second-hand shoes at that market than the designer high-heels that are standard for European women.

Europe is extraordinarily beautiful, but so is Tanzania. Dar es Salaam can be dusty and humid, but Venice was covered in graffiti. Beauty and brokenness always live side by side. On any continent.


Home--Dar es Salaam.

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