My Nike Running Shoes

Freweini Berhane


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 anyway. 

We started our journey from Asmara by bus on May 1, 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 five days. The shoes that I bought to comfort me became my torturers. 

After tremendous struggles, smugglers helped us 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 a 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 nine 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 from Eritrea, who fled the country at 16. She arrived in Canada in 2010 to reunite with her father. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a double major in Human Biology and Health Studies. She also obtained a regulatory affairs certification from Algonquin College. She worked as a clinical research coordinator for a few years at a family medical centre and is looking to pursue further education in the medical field and public health.

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