And when in Niamey, for whatever reason, it's important to take an extra day or two and run as many errands as one possibly can. Like taking advantage of having a small grocery store. Or checking out prices on garden hoses. Or eating in a restaurant. Or . . . well, all the things you can't do when you live in a big village.
My friend B. is leaving for a bit and was in need of some jeans. I needed to find some fabric for a friend, and so, together, we grabbed a taxi and made our way to Le Grand Marché (The Big Market). It's called Le Grand Marché because it's a huge outdoor market and you can find nearly everything imaginable (if you just look hard enough) as opposed to Le Petit Marché (The Little Market) where loud vendors sell fruits and veggies and bullion cubes and frozen chicken and plastic buckets and brooms.
|How's that for Pay-Less?|
But as is true to the nature of Open Air African Markets, Le Grand Marché is really just a crowded shopping-mall of stalls (instead of shops) . . . and the food court is actually kids wandering the street out-front selling roasted meat, bags of sugared peanuts, and an assortment of tomatoes, guavas, and onions from a tray carried on his or her head.
We weaved our way to the Mostly-Women's-Clothing Section. Stall after stall was wallpapered with slim-fit skinny jeans and tops most appropriate for a night club . . . not what one would expect from such a modest and conservative culture . . . but I guess that's the bottom layer under all the coverings.
My friend wanted jeans she could wear without having to paint them on in the morning, so it was continual strike-outs for the first half an hour.
Eventually we found a place that had a pair of what seemed to be almost-boot-cut. She gave them a try.
The man stepped out of his booth and pulled a rolled-up sheet down over the door to make her an improvised little changing room.
While she was in there, the vendor next door offered me some name-brand shoes at 'A Veddy Good Pryce.' I assured him I was only looking today, and turned away.
'Well, then, you need to look.'
'CRAP!' I thought, 'I need a better line! Like: Oh, I can't wear shoes like those, I'll break my ankles, and then my neck . . . but that may be a bit too complicated for my current level of Hausa.'
My internal dialogue was interrupted when the vendor insisted that I check out his 'name-brand' shoes. Feeling a little trapped, I glanced over . . . and nearly wet my pants.
|It's a pretty lousy shot, but not bad for being discrete|
with a camera phone!
Hanging there was a pair of women's shoes claiming to be Sketchers. What first tipped me off was that these weren't exactly Sketchers style . . . but then again, I haven't lived in the US in nearly 2 and a half years, and fashion changes.
So I moved in for a closer look.
The label was a fake.
It looked like it had been cut out from an advertisement . . . or maybe even a photocopy of an advertisement . . . and glued onto the inside of the shoe!!
I wanted to laugh out loud . . . but there are just some things that don't translate.
Being a native of NewYorkCity, I'm quite familiar with Knock-Offs . . . you know, brands like Prado and Catch and Okey . . . I mean, in ChinaTown they get it that we can all overlook a swapped out or dropped letter . . . in fact, it's what we've come to love and appreciate in our Falls-Apart-After-10-Minutes Knock-Offs. It's what we want. It's what we expect.
But a decoupaged tag?? That brings us to a whole new level of magic!