Walk a mile
On Saturday afternoon, ER and I zigzagged between jewellery stores, clothing stores, and markets selling vanilla pods by the dozen, before turning a corner to end up in a small dark shoe shop. The shoemaker, with his white hair and unsteady hands, offers custom made leather sandals for $15. His designs decorate the four walls of his shop.
Although his own feet were bare, the shoemaker told us that anything was possible. He offered to replicate any of the samples on display or any other design that we could imagine and articulate to him.
The shoemaker’s young granddaughters sat quietly on the front steps and watched expectantly as we walked around the store. Slightly more wary, the shoemaker stood and gently prodded for a decision.
I found a pair of sandals available in my size. The shoemaker knelt and measured and adjusted the length of the straps to make sure they fit snugly. His son, younger and with stronger hands, helped by glueing the straps down and then forcing the needle and thread through the stiff leather soles. The shoemaker traced ER’s foot onto the back of a magazine to make a pattern for the sandals she had chosen. His son helped cut the leather.
We were told to come back the next day to pick up the completed shoes. Unfailingly polite, the shoemaker-without-shoes stood to shake our hands and to suggest that we could stay in the guest room of his family’s house the next time we are in Stone Town.