I Got Caught

Welcome to my random musings about the world, on a weekly-to-occasional basis.

Where we are: Bonaire.

I got caught

I need a pair of slippers. Our apartment here on Bonaire is only air-conditioned in the bedroom, so we keep the rest of the windows and doors open (yes, we’re basically living outside at this point—not an accident), and as a result, the floor is chronically dusty. I’m kind of bothered by the idea of putting dirty feet into the bed.

Unfortunately, there are no slippers on this island. None. I’ve been to every store. No one even knows what slippers are—they just point me toward the flip-flops. So that’s what I’m wearing around the apartment: a pair of rubber flip-flops that I bought for two dollars. The heel has already squished down to almost nothing. I’m so desperate I convinced Lee to try out a shipping service from the US: I ordered a pair from Amazon, had them mailed to an address in Miami, and hopefully they’ll make it here in the next few days. Either that or some scammer in Miami now has a nice new pair of fuzzy pink slippers.

This is a weirdly common and mildly annoying problem in our nomadding. I always want slippers, and I often have trouble finding them. Whenever we arrive in a new place, I go out and buy a new pair, then when we leave, I ditch them. No, I don’t drag them from place to place, because they take up too much room, they’re usually dirty, and I always hope they’ll be easier to find in the next spot. I am the eternal optimist.

Lane says I could fill a room with the slippers I’ve left behind, all over the world. That’s probably true. I’m sure there are worse habits to have than leaving half-used slippers in  apartments and hotels. For instance, when we left our hotel in Düsseldorf, I actually snagged a couple of pairs, and brought them with me for the plane. It’s very useful, on a long flight, to have a pair of those little disposable spa-style slippers for shuffling back and forth to the bathroom. Much better than having to fumble around under the seat for your sneakers every sixty minutes. (Yes, I go to the bathroom every sixty minutes—hush up. It’s deep-vein thrombosis prevention.) When we land, I just drop them into the garbage.

I developed my slipper habit in Asia, where they are ubiquitous. Every hotel room comes with slippers, mainly because it’s gross to wear outdoor shoes indoors.

At our favorite hotel in Bangkok, the Adelphi 49, the slippers are particularly wonderful—a nice thick, padded sole, with a chambray-blue cotton upper. There are always two fresh pairs in the closet when we arrive, wrapped in crinkly plastic.

Last time we were there, we stayed for a month. I went through several pairs; the housekeeper very kindly replaced them when they started to look worn—have I mentioned how much I love Bangkok? The Adelphi 49 is a wonderful serviced apartment/hotel deal: you get an apartment, fully furnished, with daily maid service, and all the perks of a hotel, and it’s all quite affordable. Plus, beautiful slippers.

The Adelphi 49 slippers are so good that last time, as we were leaving, Lee suggested—very practical of him, I thought—that I grab the unused pair (he prefers to wander around barefoot—so uncivilized). I tucked them into my backpack. I can’t remember where we were headed—it was probably another slipper-rich country in Asia, but you just never know when you’ll need some emergency slippers.

In all the time we’ve spent at the Adelphi over the last few years, we’ve never once encountered other Americans, until that last time we checked out. I’m always a little surprised word hasn’t gotten out, because it’s such a good bargain, but maybe Americans like a familiar brand. I can certainly understand that.

The Americans we met as we were checking out last time were a very nice young couple; I can’t remember where they were from. We were standing by the front door chatting with them, waiting for our Uber, when the front desk woman came running over. She bowed, in the Thai way, then said, “Madam, the housekeeper says a pair of slippers are missing from your room. Do you know where they are?”

I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. I had a hot flash. Beet-red, flop-sweat, the whole nine yards. That nice American couple just stood there, watching. I took my backpack off my back, set it down, unzipped it, and pulled out the slippers.

So now we can never go back to the Adelphi 49.

From my writer’s notebook:

The other day I bought some baking soda and baking powder—we have an oven here on Bonaire, and I’m enjoying making brownies and cookies. The brand name, because pantry items here mostly come from Europe, is Dr. Oetker. I used to see their products occasionally in the US. It’s a German company that has apparently been around for a long time.

In 2013, the company published a report acknowledging that during the Second World War, they had profited from their connections with the Third Reich, and intended to voluntarily start returning items to their rightful owners.

So they have done just that. It’s apparently a long, slow process, mainly because they have to figure out which items in their large collection were illicitly acquired, then do the provenance work to figure out who the rightful heirs are and contact them. I believe they’ve returned seven paintings thus far, including a Van Dyck.

Based on the research I’ve done (and a couple of exhibits I’ve been to), this kind of voluntary restitution effort is incredibly unusual—and admirable.

Take care,

Lisa

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