ti si bos

The bare feet cry freedom!

For some reason, being barefoot in Croatia can cause all kinds of illnesses, such as rheumatism, the flu, the common cold and bladder infections (or so I’m told. Frequently). When I traipse around the apartment in my bare feet, my relatives and some neighbors look at me like I’m a mad man who has wandered out into oncoming traffic. My bare feet are loaded guns and I’m playing Russian roulette.

When I was first in Croatia the sound of my foot steps were echoed by an omnipresent voice saying: Ti si bos (you are barefoot). Ti is bos, in the living room. Ti is bos, in the kitchen. TI SI BOS! BOŽE MOJ! on the balcony.

This concern over my bare feet was in sharp contrast to how I was raised in America. As a kid one of the best days of the year was when the temperature first hit 22 degrees centigrade (72 F). That meant we could kick off our shoes and run around, not just inside, but OUTSIDE, barefoot! There was nothing better than sitting on the porch and stripping off your stinky, sweaty socks and shoving them into your pair of Buster Browns. Your toes wiggled in gratitude. They were free! You were free! It was summer!

In fact, running around barefoot in America is the definition of summer. See:

summer 1 |ˈsəmər|
the warmest season of the year, in the northern hemisphere from June to August and in the southern hemisphere from December to February. In America it is a time when you can run around barefoot both indoors and outdoors.

Even today I can still recall the specific bumpy cracks and crags I felt underfoot when running down the length of my driveway.

What I don’t understand is why it is that in Croatia you take your shoes off at the door of your house, and then put on other shoes inside. While in the USA, we wear our shoes inside and outside of the house and go barefoot inside and outside of the house. If there were a shoe-wearing spectrum we would be solidly placed at both ends: ALL or NOTHING.

What qualifies as a “slipper” in Croatia is very, very broad. Sometimes it is a slipper (soft and fuzzy), other times it is a sandal. I even have a pair of Crocs that someone bought for me as “slippers.”

What is even more confusing is how the one place Americans think we shouldn’t go barefoot is the one place Croatians insist we go barefoot: at the sea side. On the coast, when I want to wear my Crocs into the water there is some amused laughter and embarrassment in the eyes of my Croatian companions. Pointy rocks? Yes. Sea urchins? Sometimes. Wearing shoes to protect my feet from those things? NEVER!

I can’t really understand where all these differences come from. All I know is that being barefoot inside and outside in the summer is one of the most memorable experiences of growing up in America. It is necessary since the distinction between the indoors and outdoors is much greater in the US. In the summer months we have air conditioning running most of the time, we shut the doors and windows to keep the cool air in and the hot air out. But, being able to be barefoot in and out in someways reconnects us with the reality of nature. Under the bare sole of your feet you can feel the searing, sun soaked pavement and the coolness of the grass you’ve just jumped into.