If the shoe doesn´t fit... keep on looking, gringa!
"Do you have these in 39?" I put the shoe that I hold in my right hand in the air. Between all the hearts, bows, flowers, gold, silver and glistening little stones I found a pair of shoes that you could call "normal". To compensate that normality though (I'm sure that "normal" will be out of fashion for a few more decades here in Ecuador), most simple models are painted in orange, light green or in any other spectacular variant. I look questionning at the salesgirl while I try not to look to desperate. She shakes her head: "Solo hasta las 38." Hmmm, which ones do you have in 39? She hesitates before she points at the three most horrible shoes on the shelf, all combinations of the decorations and colors I mentioned earlier. No thanks. "Gracias," I sigh and quickly I step out of the store. With no shoes. For about the seventh time today.
Ecuadorian feet don't get bigger than measure 38, which is perfectly well in proportion to the bodies that they belong to. Walking around in shoe shops, you continiously have the idea that you are looking at children's shoes with an average measure of 35.
Not bothered by any expectation I enter a little market stall, one of the many squeezed into the total length of this street, though I see that most of them show lots of sports shoes. To my surprise I can continue walking cross the stall, where I find a true labyrint of about fifty stalls: no bows and little glistening stones here, but lots of shining white from nike, puma and adidas. But here and there I find a shelf with "normal" shoes that gives me hope. In 39? No.
In front of one of the bigger stalls I stop; this looks promissing. In 39? Yes. Really? Yes? Yes... but only in circus-red or radiating blue. Sigh. Well, I'll give it a try anyway. The woman sends the boy next to her away to find a pair in 39. There's no more of these in radiating blue, the boy says, and then he disappears in the narrow alleys to get Circus-red Simple measure Foreigner. About five minutes later he hands over the box to the women who gives it to me.
They fit, I conclude happily, but then I also see how red they are and I realize that I haven't asked for a price yet. The woman must have seen my short moment of relief before, because she answers "32 dollars" without blinking an eye. Eeerm, no. "28 dollars." No again. "I can't go lower than that." That's a pity. With my surely-not-more-than-20-dollars policy (I'm not sure if they'll fit in my bag when I leave in 3 months) I decide that it's too much of a difference to bargain. They really are stunning red too. Specially for more than 20 dollars.
When I point at another pair with the 39-question, she confirms my presumption that all the little stalls draw from one big collection of shoes, by asking the salesmen around her if that model is still in stock in that color. The salesmen think it is, and the boy leaves again to the common mountain of shoes, wherever that may be located. This time he takes longer to return and he turn up with empty hands. Ok, I'll just keep on searching a little longer then (sigh).
I stroll further down into the depth of the shoe labyrint and once in a while I stand still to ask the 39 question, without success. I continue my way along the hundreds pairs of shoes, and just when I decide to return to the daylight, I see a whole collection of normal shoes in normal colors and I ask for measure 39. "Sure," the lady says, as if that's normal, and she disappears behind a curtain. Probably she hides her own little mountain of shoes there. She comes back with the two colors I asked her for.
After one hour and a half of shopping while climbing, on my travel sandals, it's a challenge to get my feet into those shoes, even if they're supposed to be my measure. But it fits, though they're quite tight around the instep. That part of the shoe will enlarge anyway, says the woman, and another costumer nods approving. Sure. But I've had enough anyway. I'll have plenty of time to break them in.
I pay 18 dollars and I climb back home with my new buy in a plastic bag.
Not before I arrive I see the two little white round stickers on the heels. With in black the measure. 38. Ha.
I couldn´t be more determined to make it 39.