The Shoe Project


Shoe Story 10: My Nike Running Shoes

Nike Running Shoes

While I was preparing for my journey from Eritrea to Sudan with my family I bought a lovely pair of Nike shoes, so that they could console me during harsh times. I was 16 years old and passionate about my looks. I spent a lot of money on them. Then I was stuck with that pair of Nike running shoes, shoes that gave me remarkable memories, shoes that kept me warm during the chilly weather, shoes that tortured my feet during the hot weather, shoes that did not, after all, get a chance to immigrate with me to Canada.

My mom, my brothers and I finally decided to flee to Sudan because the Eritrean government refused to give us exit visas. I was sad to leave my home country but at the same time I was excited to be reunited with my dad, who had been living in Canada for years. When he left Eritrea in 2001 I was eight years old. My height was 4.1ft and probably my shoe size was 4. By the time I fled Eritrea, I was 16 years old and my shoe size was 8. I prepared myself for the journey by shopping for a pair of Nike shoes. 

I went to a shoe store with my best friend. We marched straight to my favourite aisle. I saw a beautiful pair of Nikes, and I picked them up and tried them on my feet. They were fantastic. “That’s it, I don’t need to look at other shoes. I’ll take them,” I said. My friend gasped. “Are you crazy? This is very expensive. You don’t need to spend so much on running shoes.” She was right, but I preferred to ignore her opinion and bought them anyways. 

We started our journey from Asmara by bus on May 1st, 2009. We reached Teseney, a small city located near the border of Eritrea and Sudan. The temperature was about 45 degrees Centigrade and I felt as if a glass of water had been poured into my feet. I didn’t have any other shoes that I could wear. I was stuck in my Nikes and my skinny jeans for about 5 days. The shoes that I bought to comfort me became my torturers. 

After tremendous struggles, smugglers helped us to cross the border on foot and finally we entered Kesela, Sudan on May 7. I felt great relief that our family managed to flee safely, but we still encountered challenges. We had to wait for few days in Kesela until we got a permit paper that would allow us to enter Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan. The smugglers put us in huts with other people who lived there, and told us to camouflage ourselves. I had to dress like a Sudanese girl. It would look very bizarre to wear Nike shoes with an abaya (a Sudanese traditional long black dress) and many people were coercing me to get rid of them. They had no clue how much I paid for them, how much they meant to me, or how they helped me cross the border from Eritrea to Sudan. No one understood that the Nike shoes had left me unforgettable memories. However, because the weather was too hot and Nike running shoes don’t go well with an abaya, I placed them beside the door until I got to wear them again. 

A few days later, while rearranging my stuff expecting news of our trip to come, I realized that my Nike shoes were gone. Someone had stolen them! I could not believe it. I was so disappointed, and I asked neighbours to help, but my efforts to find them were useless. I just sat down to remember the good memory I had. I played it in my head like a motion picture: I saw my best friend who accompanied me to go to the store; the cashier who gave me a discount of 10%; of course, the times the shoes made my feet sweat and the times they comforted my feet. I remembered one by one what I had experienced with my Nike shoes. I felt as if I was burying someone without the body. It was one of the most depressing days during my stay in Sudan. 

I didn’t expect to find my shoes, but somehow until I left Sudan, I found my eyes staring at people’s shoes. I arrived in Toronto on May 5, 2010. I met my dad almost after 9 years of separation, and it was the happiest moment of my life. Of course, soon I had to go to the store to buy a new pair of Nikes that looked like my former ones. Actually, these are even prettier than the ones I lost in Sudan, but fortunately or unfortunately, they lack the experience of crossing the border from Eritrea to Sudan.
FREWEINI BERHANE is in grade 12. She is from Eritrea and arrived inCanada in May 2010. She loves to play basketball, read books and watch movies.

More Shoe Stories from Session 1, Toronto

1: My Great Grandmother:
The Wartime Shoemaker

2: In My Red High Heels

3: A Conversation Starter

4: Mother's Work

5: Skiing

6: The Wind Beneath My Feet

7: Canada, Olé

8: My Aunt’s Memory of Shida

9: Cooverji the Village Cobbler / Baby Black Shoes

10: My Nike Running Shoes

11: My Funky Shoes

12: My Blue Wedgies

Back to Table of Contents, Shoe Project Stories Archive