The Random Writings of Rachel: June 2016

What Courtship Looked Like for Us

What does courtship mean for our family? My parents are finding that as their daughters continue to grow up, it looks a little bit different each time, but what remains is the general idea of recognizing that, for us, marriage is not merely an issue that involves two people, but one that involves families. The "approval process" in our family exists for the purpose of allowing our parents to really get to know the prospective boyfriend, and challenges him to really think about his reasons for wanting to get to know one of us girls better. I suspect "approval process" isn't really the right name for it--as it's more of a get-to-know-you-extremely-well process, and I suspect that my parents will really avoid actually rejecting a young man's application unless absolutely necessary (i.e. the guy's career plans include being an axe murderer; his hobbies are illegal; he's 100k in debt with no way tp pay it off; he thinks black and white movies are stupid). We think it's valuable to make the goals of romantic relationship clear from the very beginning. I'm grateful for my experience of courtship  as opposed to finding my own way through the dating world. I'm glad my parents were with me every step of the way. You'll probably notice as I share mine and Angel's story...that I'm not too good at guesswork. Things need to be obvious and clearly stated.

.........................................

Because courtship isn't especially common in our culture, I thought I'd describe what it looked like for us.

{We call these our 'engagement' photos but they were taken when we'd been married 1.5 years...they just look like the kind of engagement photos we would have taken}

My parents, not Angel nor I, were the ones who came up with the plan of courtship--they decided long before Angel ever came into the picture that they didn't want any of their kids to get swept up into the date/break up cycle as teens and told all of us that if a guy ever asked one of us out or said he was interested in us, we were to direct him to our parents for an 'approval process' of sorts, and that if we weren't in a place in life where we were interested in getting married in the relatively near future, there would be no approval at that time, but potentially a "Just be friends for now, come back when you're a little more grown up" message. I was totally okay with that, I wasn't particularly interested in boys when I was growing up, and looking back now, I'm glad that I never had to deal with the "drama" which seems to be associated with dating, especially at a young age. I took the "Never have a crush on a real life human" approach to life, and everyone who knew me at the time knew that my 'best guys' were the Professor from Gilligan's Island, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Prince Caspian. (The key to my heart: a boat and a tropical island)

Angel and I met the first day of my freshman year of college when I was 17 and he was 24. We became friends because we went to the same Bible study, and made many good memories with our group of friends during that year. Towards the end of the school year, Angel's behavior made it increasingly obvious that he was interested in me, but I was spending the summer in Malaysia and Angel was moving to Texas after he graduated so the general consensus was that we were just friends. Angel somehow knew without me telling him that he couldn't simply date me for fun, that he'd have to be serious about it. Apparently I tend to have a "Don't mess with me" aura? He didn't feel ready to be serious at the time, and I never even knew for sure whether he was interested in me, so when my freshman year was over in May, we both went our merry ways, and didn't really expect to see each other again, though we emailed occasionally to keep in touch.

Turns out, Angel lasted about half a year in Texas before deciding that, in fact, he was interested in getting married, and to that teenager, Rachel, in particular. He started calling me around Christmas time, and called me nearly every day for the next two and a half months. I kept my parents informed that Angel was calling me. We just chatted about school and work and theology and family stuff, nothing that I wouldn't have talked about with any of my other friends. But he did call me every single day. And he did buy a plane ticket to come and visit me during my Spring Break from college. At that point, I got up the courage to ask him directly, "Angel, are you interested in me?"

He responded to that statement in utter shock--apparently, to Angel, if you call a girl every day for 2.5 months it's assumed that you're interested in her. I'm the kind of person who prefers to have such things spelled out. I then told him that he would have to have a Skype interview with my parents and fill out an application, and that I wasn't interested in pursuing a relationship with him unless my parents gave us their approval and unless we were already pretty sure we wanted to get married in the future. At this time I felt pretty strongly that I could go either way with Angel--I could be interested in him or I could just see him as a friend--and I wasn't sure which direction would be worth going yet.

Instead of running away...Angel said he thought that was an excellent plan. Shortly after he arrived for his visit in Michigan, we had a Skype call together with my overly bubbly, giggly parents who were extremely excited and told Angel how honored they were to meet him. Probably the most memorable line from this Skype call was Angel's awkward, "Mr. and Mrs. Spoelman, I'd like to say that I'm interested in your daughter...umm, Rachel, to be specific" (Because, as you know, my parents have a LOT of daughters).

My parents outlined the ideas behind courtship as opposed to casual dating to Angel and told him they'd email him the application for him to fill out and send back to them so that they could do an "official" interview.

Angel called me in despair the next morning, having partially filled out the 75-question, extremely personal and in-depth, application. He was pretty sure that my parents were not going to accept his application, and he was feeling very discouraged. I was more like, I'm pretty sure they're going to accept it. He sent it to them when he was finished, with great trepidation and I can remember him giving me a hug and saying, "Rachel, if they say no, I am so, so sorry...But if they say yes, then that's great!"

Meanwhile, I wasn't positive what they would say, but I had a much more hopeful outlook than Angel. Partially because I could tell from my Mom's demeanor at the first Skype call that she already loved Angel, and partially because she sent me an email that day saying "Take Angel and drive by our house. Maybe someday when you get married you guys will live there, so he should know what it looks like."

That's my Mom for you! I told Angel that Mom wanted me to show him the house my parents owned, so we drove out to their house and walked around inside the barn for a few minutes (little did we know we'd spend the first 3.5 years of our marriage living there). When evening came that day (and, therefore, morning in Malaysia), we got together for Angel's interview Skype call.

The purpose of the application and interview was so that my parents could get to know a lot about Angel and about his plans and goals for the future, and for us to start seriously talking about whether our most important values and goals lined up with each others. Probably if we hadn't all been long-distance, this part of the process would have been much less formal and my parents would have gotten to know him in a more normal way.

I mean, ya'll know how the story ends. My parents were incredibly impressed with Angel's honesty and clarity and values, and after talking about serious issues and plans for the future and where we saw this relationship going, they gave us the thumbs up to begin courting. That was March 23, 2010. At the time, Angel was suggesting a tentative wedding date in June 2011--he had already decided he wanted to marry me months before, anyways.

Angel left to return to Texas on March 24, 2010, and we kept in touch via phone and email. For the next couple of days we asked each other a lot of tough, important questions about what we wanted our future lives to look like. But it was clear to us nearly from the moment that my parents said "Commence courtship!" that we wanted to get married. Partially because Angel had already been pretty sure he wanted to marry me since December of the previous year, and somehow I felt comfortable going along with the plan.

My parents strongly approved of Angel, but they were slightly shocked when a mere two weeks after we officially began courting, he emailed them with his plans to buy an engagement ring and a plane ticket, and to fly to Malaysia to ask me to marry him while I was visiting my family for the summer. They had originally envisioned a somewhat longer courtship. Angel had told them that he wanted to be out of debt before getting married and imagined the process of paying off student loans taking a year, at least. However, working 5 12-hour shifts instead of 3 12-hour shifts per week at the hospital was taking care of Angel's debt much quicker than we had originally planned on. After talking with me about whether I was ready to get engaged to Angel, my parents emailed him back the news that they liked his plan very much.

We got engaged the next time we saw each other, July 2, 2010. We had an engagement party in Malaysia, and it then became pretty important that I spend time meeting Angel's family, so Angel bought me a ticket to fly to Texas once I returned to the USA at the beginning of September. I visited his family on a quick trip, three days, and then it was back to Michigan for school for me while Angel worked very hard at applying for jobs in Michigan so that we could get married as soon as he started working in my state. Him moving to Michigan for us to get married was always the plan because I still had to finish school. We didn't plan on living in Michigan forever, but it made for a good start.

He was hired in September for a night shift hospital job that would start in November, and we promptly attempted to plan a mid November wedding. The wedding date was pushed back two weeks by a lack of venue, till December 4, so we married about two weeks after Angel moved to Michigan, and just days after he finished paying off his student loans.

Whether or not the couple goes on any un-chaperoned "dates" before actually getting married is an issue that people who court often have strong opinions on. For us, my parents gave us permission to go on official "dates" when we got engaged and afterward. Of course, for us actual dates were pretty much a non-issue because of being long-distance. I can count the number of actual dates we went on before we got married:

1. A breakfast date the morning he proposed.
2. A Japanese Botanical Garden and Red Robin when I visited his family.
3. Wandering around downtown, looking at Artprize exhibits, and celebrating because he'd just gotten the news that he'd been hired at the hospital.

Okay, 3 official dates pre-marriage. But I can say our relationship did not suffer for lack of dating. As a long distance courtship, our relationship took place over phone calls, emails, Skype calls, and hanging out with mutual friends and family members when we visited each other. (Warning: If you have 5 little sisters, they might possibly love your fiance more than you do, sit on his lap, and generally not leave him alone. And they will point their fingers at you and laugh when you kiss.)

Also, among those who court, whether or not you hold hands or kiss before getting married--there's different ideas from one family to another. There was a rumor started that we weren't going to kiss until we got married (actually, it was started by that mischievous Angel of mine, who posted on Facebook: "I can't wait to kiss Rachel for the first time on our wedding day!"....and when I called him to ask, "What???" he answered that he was talking about whatever kiss happened to come first on our wedding day, he was excited for that one, and he couldn't be held responsible if other people misunderstood.) Anyways, this rumor somehow got around to my grandfather, who didn't even have facebook, who called me in concern telling me he'd heard a rumor that Angel and I hadn't kissed yet and I had to reassure him that it was completely false. That Angel...man...he's been making my life interesting since before Day 1.

So that's it, our long-distance courtship story. We went from college buddies to husband and wife in an amount of time that startled some (8 months), but I've always loved that fact that we never had to worry about guessing or playing games. We knew we were in this for the long haul since the beginning.

Singapore in 4 Days

Last week, I did something pretty unusual--I went on a vacation where I was the senior adult, and totally responsible for everything. Lots of people talk about how fun it is to travel alone--I am not one of those people. I've 'traveled' alone, as in flown from one side of the globe to the other, many times, but I have never actually gone on a trip without other people, usually older relatives, or Angel, or college professors, or general responsible-ish people like that.

But Anna and I decided we need an extra-exciting adventure this summer, and so we planned ourselves a Singapore getaway. No husband, no parents, just two sisters, off exploring the world. Being the big sister, I was in charge. We planned an itinerary--we'd both been to Singapore before, but Anna had not really spent much time sightseeing, and my previous trip was a very short one, so I was excited to see more of the country. We left early on Wednesday, Angel dropping us off at the airport before he headed in to work, and our adventure had begun!

We arrived in Singapore before noon, and had time to kill before we checked in to our room, so we first stopped at:
Singapore Botanic Gardens



The skies were dark, and it was threatening to rain, but we wandered around, spotting some wildlife, like a very large monitor lizard that crossed the walkway just ahead of us, and then sat down to rest and picnic in the fragrant jasmine garden--snacking on crackers and gummy worms for lunch.

After killing some time in the gardens, we got back on the train, arrived at the place we were staying, stopped at the grocery store to get food for our breakfasts and snacks, and checked in.

We had no sooner checked in and dropped off our stuff before we rushed out on our next big adventure:

Macritchie Reservoir Park and TreeTop Walk

We'd tried to see if we could visit the TreeTop Walk (a suspended 250m bridge hanging high in the forest canopy) on our trip to Singapore back in January, but we'd arrived too late to attempt the hike. I knew it was a long walk, but didn't realize quite how long it was.

The hike was 11 km. round-trip and took us about 2.5 hours, since we didn't stop to rest. The lack of stopping to rest was because the park was close to a kilometer from the train station and I didn't want to be out walking after dark.




The TreeTop Walk was well worth the long trek out, but there were a number of monkeys perched along the railings. Being raised in Southeast Asia, we like to keep a healthy distance from monkeys, as rabies shots are no fun at all, and we know how aggressive they can be (will the tourists ever stop feeding the monkeys??? Please??!!). We used the umbrella we'd carried along not for rain, but as a just-in-case shield when we had to walk past monkeys that were just a little too close for comfort.


This hike had so many stairs that the next day, I avoided any and all stairs just because my legs ached too much! I thought we were in good enough shape to complete the long and steep hike painlessly...but apparently not quite. I guess I have to step it up on my morning workout regime. 

After stumbling home on aching legs, we ate nacho chips and cheese for dinner and fell asleep while browsing Reader's Digest magazines from 2001 that were in our guesthouses library (it's kind of really fun to read 15 year old magazines--you should give it a try!)

Palawan Beach

On our second day, we went to Sentosa Island--walking across the boardwalk to the island instead of taking the $4 train. Budget travelers unite!

I'd read somewhere that on Palawan Beach, there was a "Pirates of the Caribbean-esque" bridge leading out to a tiny island. It was obvious that I had to go there and check it out. I was worried that I was a little too excited about the bridge, that it wouldn't match up to my Pirates of the Caribbean-level expectations...but it did. Oh, it did. It was a glorious bridge, and it's the bridge I'm counting for my 25 by 25 challenge.





Fort Siloso

We then took the beach tram to the far end of Sentosa Island to visit Fort Siloso, where we learned a great deal about the Fort's role when the British ruled and later, when the Japanese occupied Singapore.




There were drawings about life in the Changi POW camp that were very interesting.


In my history classes, I'd learned along about how Japan treated Mainland Chinese people and Koreans during the occupation years, but I'd never heard before of what they did when they occupied Singapore. Between 6,000-20,000 Chinese men were killed during this "sook ching". War stories are so sad, but I am so glad that they are told, that we don't hide from the dark truths.

VivoCity Mall

After a day exploring Sentosa island, we walked back across the boardwalk (again, free!) and did a little shopping. Anna was pretty excited to find a Build-A-Bear Workshop in the mall, and I thought this Lego Merlion in the Toys-R-Us store was pretty cool. In addition to bridges, I'm always looking for Merlions. And pineapples. Hey, we all have our favorite things...


Universal Studios

Day 3, we were up bright and early and walking back across that boardwalk to Sentosa, because we were going to Universal Studios! We had bought discounted tickets through Klook before leaving on our trip, and Anna was especially excited because she'd never been to Universal Studios before.







The Crane Dance

After walking out of the park, we were about to head home for the night when we saw a bunch of people sitting down and seemingly waiting for a show. Obviously, we did the right thing and just joined them, not even knowing what show there would be or how long we'd be waiting. We were treated to a viewing of the "Crane Dance", which was one of the strangest things I've ever seen in my life--two giant mechanical cranes (over 10 stories tall!) who dance, fall in love....and there's a firework finale. It was quite bizarre and very cool.


Singapore Zoo

Last day!! We packed up our bags and headed to the zoo, which had been highly recommended by our little sisters. It was a brutally hot and sunny day, in contrast to the more overcast days before, and carrying heavy backpacks made the zoo trip more of a workout that it otherwise would have been, but we were very impressed with the quality of the zoo.

As a general rule, I tend to avoid zoos in this part of the world. Zoos in China often have very bad reputations, and the zoos I've visited in Malaysia in the past have been rather depressing. But the Singapore Zoo seemed incredibly well-designed, and every employee we met or heard speaking seemed very knowledgeable about and caring toward the animals.




Anna said, while we stopped in the cafeteria, "That white guy in that picture looks a lot like the Crocodile Hunter." I turned around and was like, "Anna, it IS Steve Irwin." Her excuse was that it's been a long time. Any other 90s kids out there who miss the Crocodile Hunter?

Changi Airport

After the zoo, we navigated back to the airport via 2 hours' worth of bus rides, checked in, and found our gate. We had some time to explore the famously cool airport, visiting the lily pad garden and the cactus garden, and we did sit through a full 15-minute foot massage at the awesome (FREE!) foot massage chairs throughout the airport. Afterwards, Anna said she thinks Angel needs one of these at his house.


Our plane left about an hour and a half after it was scheduled to leave, with Angel picking us up at the airport at 1:20 in the morning (what a good husband!) and me falling into bed at 2 a.m. It was a fun and very memorable trip for the two of us, and I'm glad we took on the adventure. As far as traveling without any male bodyguards....I missed my male bodyguard very much, but mostly just out of affection than actual need. There was only one occasion when I felt I changed my behavior based on the fact that we were two women alone--on the first evening, we were going to use the underpass to cross the street after returning from our hike, but when I looked in and saw a guy sitting in the middle of the underpass, I decided to skip it and cross the street on top, by all the traffic lights and witnesses. It just seemed safer. That was a bit of a funny experience, because I reflected that, being in Singapore, if I were with Angel, I would have walked through that underpass without a second thought. But if I were in Grand Rapids or Flint or Detroit back in Michigan....even if I was with Angel, I wouldn't have walked into a nearly-abandoned underpass at all. Singapore's a pretty safe place.

What safety measures do you take when you're traveling alone? What kind of food would you eat on a girls' trip? I thought it was pretty characteristic of us that we thrived on bagels, sandwiches, tortilla chips, and fruit juice for 4 days.

Singapore in 4 Days

Last week, I did something pretty unusual--I went on a vacation where I was the senior adult, and totally responsible for everything. Lots of people talk about how fun it is to travel alone--I am not one of those people. I've 'traveled' alone, as in flown from one side of the globe to the other, many times, but I have never actually gone on a trip without other people, usually older relatives, or Angel, or college professors, or general responsible-ish people like that.

But Anna and I decided we need an extra-exciting adventure this summer, and so we planned ourselves a Singapore getaway. No husband, no parents, just two sisters, off exploring the world. Being the big sister, I was in charge. We planned an itinerary--we'd both been to Singapore before, but Anna had not really spent much time sightseeing, and my previous trip was a very short one, so I was excited to see more of the country. We left early on Wednesday, Angel dropping us off at the airport before he headed in to work, and our adventure had begun!

We arrived in Singapore before noon, and had time to kill before we checked in to our room, so we first stopped at:
Singapore Botanic Gardens



The skies were dark, and it was threatening to rain, but we wandered around, spotting some wildlife, like a very large monitor lizard that crossed the walkway just ahead of us, and then sat down to rest and picnic in the fragrant jasmine garden--snacking on crackers and gummy worms for lunch.

After killing some time in the gardens, we got back on the train, arrived at the place we were staying, stopped at the grocery store to get food for our breakfasts and snacks, and checked in.

We had no sooner checked in and dropped off our stuff before we rushed out on our next big adventure:

Macritchie Reservoir Park and TreeTop Walk

We'd tried to see if we could visit the TreeTop Walk (a suspended 250m bridge hanging high in the forest canopy) on our trip to Singapore back in January, but we'd arrived too late to attempt the hike. I knew it was a long walk, but didn't realize quite how long it was.

The hike was 11 km. round-trip and took us about 2.5 hours, since we didn't stop to rest. The lack of stopping to rest was because the park was close to a kilometer from the train station and I didn't want to be out walking after dark.




The TreeTop Walk was well worth the long trek out, but there were a number of monkeys perched along the railings. Being raised in Southeast Asia, we like to keep a healthy distance from monkeys, as rabies shots are no fun at all, and we know how aggressive they can be (will the tourists ever stop feeding the monkeys??? Please??!!). We used the umbrella we'd carried along not for rain, but as a just-in-case shield when we had to walk past monkeys that were just a little too close for comfort.


This hike had so many stairs that the next day, I avoided any and all stairs just because my legs ached too much! I thought we were in good enough shape to complete the long and steep hike painlessly...but apparently not quite. I guess I have to step it up on my morning workout regime. 

After stumbling home on aching legs, we ate nacho chips and cheese for dinner and fell asleep while browsing Reader's Digest magazines from 2001 that were in our guesthouses library (it's kind of really fun to read 15 year old magazines--you should give it a try!)

Palawan Beach

On our second day, we went to Sentosa Island--walking across the boardwalk to the island instead of taking the $4 train. Budget travelers unite!

I'd read somewhere that on Palawan Beach, there was a "Pirates of the Caribbean-esque" bridge leading out to a tiny island. It was obvious that I had to go there and check it out. I was worried that I was a little too excited about the bridge, that it wouldn't match up to my Pirates of the Caribbean-level expectations...but it did. Oh, it did. It was a glorious bridge, and it's the bridge I'm counting for my 25 by 25 challenge.





Fort Siloso

We then took the beach tram to the far end of Sentosa Island to visit Fort Siloso, where we learned a great deal about the Fort's role when the British ruled and later, when the Japanese occupied Singapore.




There were drawings about life in the Changi POW camp that were very interesting.


In my history classes, I'd learned along about how Japan treated Mainland Chinese people and Koreans during the occupation years, but I'd never heard before of what they did when they occupied Singapore. Between 6,000-20,000 Chinese men were killed during this "sook ching". War stories are so sad, but I am so glad that they are told, that we don't hide from the dark truths.

VivoCity Mall

After a day exploring Sentosa island, we walked back across the boardwalk (again, free!) and did a little shopping. Anna was pretty excited to find a Build-A-Bear Workshop in the mall, and I thought this Lego Merlion in the Toys-R-Us store was pretty cool. In addition to bridges, I'm always looking for Merlions. And pineapples. Hey, we all have our favorite things...


Universal Studios

Day 3, we were up bright and early and walking back across that boardwalk to Sentosa, because we were going to Universal Studios! We had bought discounted tickets through Klook before leaving on our trip, and Anna was especially excited because she'd never been to Universal Studios before.







The Crane Dance

After walking out of the park, we were about to head home for the night when we saw a bunch of people sitting down and seemingly waiting for a show. Obviously, we did the right thing and just joined them, not even knowing what show there would be or how long we'd be waiting. We were treated to a viewing of the "Crane Dance", which was one of the strangest things I've ever seen in my life--two giant mechanical cranes (over 10 stories tall!) who dance, fall in love....and there's a firework finale. It was quite bizarre and very cool.


Singapore Zoo

Last day!! We packed up our bags and headed to the zoo, which had been highly recommended by our little sisters. It was a brutally hot and sunny day, in contrast to the more overcast days before, and carrying heavy backpacks made the zoo trip more of a workout that it otherwise would have been, but we were very impressed with the quality of the zoo.

As a general rule, I tend to avoid zoos in this part of the world. Zoos in China often have very bad reputations, and the zoos I've visited in Malaysia in the past have been rather depressing. But the Singapore Zoo seemed incredibly well-designed, and every employee we met or heard speaking seemed very knowledgeable about and caring toward the animals.




Anna said, while we stopped in the cafeteria, "That white guy in that picture looks a lot like the Crocodile Hunter." I turned around and was like, "Anna, it IS Steve Irwin." Her excuse was that it's been a long time. Any other 90s kids out there who miss the Crocodile Hunter?

Changi Airport

After the zoo, we navigated back to the airport via 2 hours' worth of bus rides, checked in, and found our gate. We had some time to explore the famously cool airport, visiting the lily pad garden and the cactus garden, and we did sit through a full 15-minute foot massage at the awesome (FREE!) foot massage chairs throughout the airport. Afterwards, Anna said she thinks Angel needs one of these at his house.


Our plane left about an hour and a half after it was scheduled to leave, with Angel picking us up at the airport at 1:20 in the morning (what a good husband!) and me falling into bed at 2 a.m. It was a fun and very memorable trip for the two of us, and I'm glad we took on the adventure. As far as traveling without any male bodyguards....I missed my male bodyguard very much, but mostly just out of affection than actual need. There was only one occasion when I felt I changed my behavior based on the fact that we were two women alone--on the first evening, we were going to use the underpass to cross the street after returning from our hike, but when I looked in and saw a guy sitting in the middle of the underpass, I decided to skip it and cross the street on top, by all the traffic lights and witnesses. It just seemed safer. That was a bit of a funny experience, because I reflected that, being in Singapore, if I were with Angel, I would have walked through that underpass without a second thought. But if I were in Grand Rapids or Flint or Detroit back in Michigan....even if I was with Angel, I wouldn't have walked into a nearly-abandoned underpass at all. Singapore's a pretty safe place.

What safety measures do you take when you're traveling alone? What kind of food would you eat on a girls' trip? I thought it was pretty characteristic of us that we thrived on bagels, sandwiches, tortilla chips, and fruit juice for 4 days.

What I Wear to the Beach





First of all, a swimsuit? No way. Perhaps that's not the normal reaction, but when your nearest and dearest ocean is mostly famous for its pollution and swarms of jellyfish, you don't really tend to think things like "Hmmm, I ought to go swimming in that water."

Otherwise, it depends on the day's activities. If we're hiking to a beach, or planning to be active and play games when we get there, shorts or capris and a t-shirt are perfect.

However, if this is not such an active beach trip, more of a stereotypical "Let's go walk out there and watch that cool sunset before we get dinner at market!" kind of outing--I'm more likely to switch the shorts/capris for a comfortable long skirt. This one is made from local batik prints--to me, it just screams quirky kindergarten teacher, and that pretty much describes me perfectly, so you'll understand why I had to buy it.

Footwear on the beach is a funny thing. I usually wear Chacos, because I can wear them even while wading, and they won't get pulled off my feet by the current and they can be washed and dried easily. Chacos don't look great with skirts, though, so I borrowed a pair of flip-flops for this outing. Yeah, I've lived in the tropics for year now and have yet to invest in a pair of flip-flops...somehow, they just never really seem like an urgent need, you know? We loved visiting the beach in China, but that's when I really saw the full span of footwear at the beach--every time we went, we'd see at least a couple dozen women wearing platform heels or even heeled boots, and men wearing sneakers or leather dress shoes, walking around in the sand. That takes dedication!

What's your preferred footwear at the beach?