Sunday, September 25, 2011

Do you have size 41?

My shoe size is 9 1/2 in the US, which is a 41 here in Astana (also in Europe, that's my shoe size). Although slightly larger than the average American woman's shoe size, I usually don't have a problem finding my size in the US.

But here in Astana, it's a different story.

Sophia was at a 24-hour birthday party/sleepover, so I decided to use the time to go shoe-shopping. I'd already looked briefly in some stores in the nearby malls Mega and Sariarka; the one shoe I'd found that I'd like was not available in size 41.

This time I went to Artyom, the large, crowded mall, with 6 floors. The bottom floor is an overcrowded food bazaar--mostly fruits and vegetables and spices, very mouth-watering to observe if the crowd doesn't bother you. The top floor is mostly furniture, two restaurants, and a bunch of tailors and hair-cutting places. (A co-worker had her hair cut for 800 Tenge - about 5 1/2 dollars.) The middle floors are full of stores that look like glass-walled cubicles--tiny, cramped, hundreds of them. And at least one full floor devoted mostly to shoes, with other shoe stores on other floors.

Next to Artyom is the remnants of what used to be one of the larger, outdoor bazaars. I learned that several years ago, as Astana grew larger, the bazaar was moved further away. But pieces of it remains, in crowded one-story, shack-styled buildings, and next to the parking lot, and even sellers on the streets. I've found better deals there than at the actual bazaars.

I went first to the place where I'd had luck before finding shoes. Two years ago I bought comfy, somewhat fashionable, fur-lined size 41 winter boots, which lasted a full year before falling apart. For under 6000 Tenge - $40 - they were worth it.

I was looking for shoes to wear as my indoor shoes at school during winter, something fashionable and nice. There were plenty of options. But I soon learned that no one had size 41.

As I went from store to store, I became much more adept at saying, "U vas yest sorok-pervy?" Or "Do you have 41?" (Actually, I said 41st, for some reason when I said 41, they usually answered me with the word for 41st.)

Several sellers found me a shoe, insisted I put it on, and when I did and noticed it was too tight, I checked the size--they had given me a size 40. This happens all too often. One seller even sprayed some foamy stuff into the shoe, swearing that this would make it fit.

Artyom must have hundreds of shoe stores, and none that I found had my size in anything remotely attractive. A few did have one or two hideously ugly shoes in size 41.

Really? Is my shoe size that hard to find?

Last year at the big outdoor bazaar, I'd run into the same problem--sellers attempting to sell me size 40s. When I'd finally found what I wanted in size 41, I was thrilled--and bought it immediately.

This time, I left Artyom and headed in the direction of Zhannur, a mall. On the way I stopped into a shoe store that was advertising 50% off. The prices were rather high, so even with 50% off, they weren't that cheap.

They found an okay-looking size 41, but it was much too large. So I tried on a size 40, which actually wasn't too tight. The man gave me a greater-than-50% discount, so for about $40 I picked up a pair of shoes.

If my feet were a half-size smaller, I could have found something good for $20. Oh well.

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