Shopping sneakers in Benin is not nearly as much fun as shopping for bras. It’s a hassle and I don’t like it at all. It sucks every single time I go out.
The first go around took several weeks, and I ended up with sneakers that are too damn narrow for my very wide feet. My feet start hurting after 15 minutes and they don’t stop hurting for a day. Right price, wrong size.
Clothes shopping is kind of fun. I don’t mind second hand clothes, and I don’t mind cheap Chinese knock-offs. Although I have to convince vendors that I’ve been in Benin long enough to know the right prices, I’m generally able to find what I want.
I found cheap work-out clothes in my size (I am not a small girl) on the first trip out. I had to go to a couple of different stalls in Missebo (aka the second hand market aka the “Dead Yovo” market), but we were arguing over price and quality, not origins. Not whether I knew anything about buying clothes. Not whether I was capable of judging which clothes fit. Not whether I was picking the clothes most appropriate for sweaty exercise. Not whether I even needed clothes. Because seriously, what’s a fat woman like me doing buying workout clothes anyway? Hahaha. Hahahahahaha. Ha. Ha. Fuck you, buddy.
But sneakers? Shopping for anything workout related as a fat chick is hard all over the world. Shopping for sneakers in Benin as a fat white chick? Humiliating nightmare.
I could go to a fancy store and pay $50 for something from China that looks really nice, but feels like crap when I run jog walk on the treadmill, or I could spend another week negotating the diverse sneaker markets in Cotonou, letting Beninese and Nigerian men make me feel like crap because I’m fat and I’m rich and why the hell won’t I just pay the foreigner premium and get out of their stand anyway?
I need wide sneakers that will last a few months until I get back to the States and I need them right now. But I’m not going to buy them right now. I’m going to wait until the weekend to gather up my courage.
Sneaker shopping is not going to get in the way of the great momentum I’ve got going, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to go when I’m in less than top form mentally. It’ll still be a humiliating experience, but at least I’ll be bringing my A Game.
In the meantime, if anyone’s got a secret sneaker shop in Cotonou, please let me know!