Sunday, September 27, 2009

We Love You Like Fried Chicken (ing'okho) (Edited)

(Picture from Public Domain Image)

[Bear with me -- once I got started, this turned out longer than I anticipated.] Great cultural tidbit this morning in church. When they sang to those having birthdays this week, one phrase was "Tunawapenda kama ing'okho." The pastor explained that ing'okho (I suspect it's a Kikuyu word. EDIT: Wrong! It turns out to be a Jaluo word.) are the free range chickens that run around in African city or town streets and you have to chase them down to catch and cook them, but when cooked they are oh so goooood! So, they were singing, "We love you like sweet-tasting chicken" -- somewhat akin to a Southerner (US) saying "I love you like fried chicken."

Language and how it's used provides so much insight into culture. Would Linda (my wife) appreciate me telling her I love her like fried chicken? I don't think so (wrong culture). Western cultures have romanticized love (not a bad thing at all, even if I have trouble verbalizing that). That's perhaps typified best by this:
SONNET #43, FROM THE PORTUGUESE
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints!---I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!---and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
But in a Kenyan context, saying "Tunawapenda kama ing'okho" made sense. Not that a Kenyan man would say that exact phrase to his wife nor would a person say that to a close friend, but the analogy was completely understood. For many urban and suburban Kenyans, meat protein is a rare thing -- it's just too expensive. Even in rural Kenya, many don't have the luxury of meat every day -- only on special occasions. So to get meat is a really good thing. Though it's changing with the under-40 generations, for many Kenyans, love is practical.

There's still a touch of that practicality in our culture. Remember the joke?
Wife: You never tell me you love me.
Husband: I told you once. If I change my mind, I'll let you know.
One of my favourite scenes in Fiddler on the Roof involves love as a practical thing.
(Tevye)
"Golde, I have decided to give Perchik permission to become engaged to our daughter, Hodel."

(Golde)
"What??? He's poor! He has nothing, absolutely nothing!"

(Tevye)
"He's a good man, Golde. I like him. And what's more important, Hodel likes him. Hodel loves him. So what can we do? It's a new world... A new world. Love. Golde..."

Do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I what?

(Tevye)
Do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I love you?
With our daughters getting married
And this trouble in the town
You're upset, you're worn out
Go inside, go lie down!
Maybe it's indigestion

(Tevye)
"Golde I'm asking you a question..."
Do you love me?

(Golde)
You're a fool

(Tevye)
"I know..."
But do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?

(Tevye)
Golde, The first time I met you
Was on our wedding day
I was scared

(Golde)
I was shy

(Tevye)
I was nervous

(Golde)
So was I

(Tevye)
But my father and my mother
Said we'd learn to love each other
And now I'm asking, Golde
Do you love me?

(Golde)
I'm your wife

(Tevye)
"I know..."
But do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?

(Tevye)
Then you love me?

(Golde)
I suppose I do

(Tevye)
And I suppose I love you too

(Both)
It doesn't change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It's nice to know

(Lyrics from St Lyrics)
So, is one better than the other? Is western culture superior to Kenyan culture in this respect? While there is much to be said for some romance in love, I don't think one is inherently better than the other (I may get in trouble for that comment) -- they're just different.

So, how would you complete the phrase, I love you like....?

Run -- and live -- well, y'all,
Bob

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Racing Trucks

I was up early this morning. Something woke me up at 4:00 -- I mean ain't-no-way-I'm-going-back-to-sleep awake. I stayed in bed for another half hour just to see and then got up, made a cup of chai, and read some e-mail. Figured I'd be too tired to run, but around 6:00 I wanted to hit the road.

Headed out my normal route for Nairobi (have I ever said how much I like running different routes each day?). There's one road where I run about half the length and turn around -- right at the top of a short but very nasty hill (it drops from 5767' to 5729' in 0.085 miles). This morning, though, I thought, Why not? Nothing better to do. If it kills me, I'll just run shorter. Down I went. What in the world was I thinking? I have to come back up this monster! Since there's little worse than turning around in the middle of a hill and running back up, I kept going.

After turning around and heading back (flat section), I misjudged the height of a small tree limb and it caught me right in the head. Owww! Is it bleeding? Wiped my forehead with my fingers and, Yes, it's bleeding. Rats! I'm a mile or so from home so nothing to do but keep going. I kept checking -- not bleeding badly and after a half mile, it quit. Sorry, I digress.

Anyway, I had to run back up that nasty hill. Just before I got to the bottom of the hill, a truck passed me -- a bit smaller than a dump truck but definitely bigger than a 1-ton pickup. Well, it hit the hill and I heard the driver downshift. He ended up practically crawling up the hill while I caught up to him and passed him. That was a good feeling. Seems like running all the hills in Short Pump (far westend, Richmond, VA) has done some good after all! Score a point for runners!

I ended up running just over 6 miles -- my longest so far at this altitude. It wasn't fast and I was tired at the end, but it was good. Very slight bruise on my forehead and a red dot of dried blood. Just another runner's trophy to go with my missing and black toenails.

Maymont X-Terra Half Marathon started just a few minutes ago. Here's a shout out to all my running partners in Richmond who are running the race -- Go get 'em, PHHM Training Team!

Run well, y'all,
Bob

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Urban Trail Running

No, I haven't found any real trails in Nairobi, but while I was running this morning, it struck me how much running on Nairobi streets is like trail running. I get a lot of trail-like training here dodging potholes, uneven surfaces, loose rocks (not always gravel or stone-sized), jumping ditches. It's probably pretty good for the muscles that control stability in my ankles, knees, and hips. One stretch of road is so bad that I can run it faster than cars can be sensibly driven on it.

I'm slowly getting acclimated to the altitude and the hills.

This morning: 5.2 miles at a pace of 8:46 mpm.

Run well, y'all,
Bob

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Running in Nairobi 2009

Running here is going to be very different than running in Richmond, VA. I was really spoiled by how easy that was. Several differences:
Altitude is certainly one: going from 150' to 5700' above sea level is a huge difference. I'll reap the benefits later and this will actually become a Nairobi advantage but starting out is tough.

Road conditions: Short Pump/Richmond has nice wide, smooth roads; Nairobi -- well, let's just say they leave something to be desired. They're not runner-friendly -- narrow, mostly in very poor condition for either running or driving, little or no verge, very dusty (even when tarmaced). Friday, one one stretch of road, I was running faster than drivers were able to navigate their cars over, around, through the potholes.

Running time: Because the road surfaces are so irregular, I don't think I'll be able to run in the dark. That means waiting to head out until almost 6AM -- it's light at 6AM almost year-round. My normal Richmond starting time was 5:15-5:30AM. Factoring in cool-down, showering, breakfast, etc., an 8AM meeting is much more likely to interfere with running here.

Runner-aware drivers: Richmond is a runner-friendly city. In 4 1/2 years of running there, I think I was run off the road only a couple of times. Here, because of the amount of traffic and the generally poor driving, drivers are not watching out for me. In a country that produces the greatest long-distance runners in the world, you would think that would generate some respect for runners. NOT! by drivers. When you're fighting the traffic in a 4+ million person city where good infrastructure is either non-existent or deteriorating, you're not paying attention to runners.

Route variety: in Richmond I had a couple of hundred different routes mapped out. Some were only minor variations of others but I almost never ran the anywhere near the same route twice in a week. Here, I'm limited -- there are lots of dead end roads and I'm somewhat hemmed in by a major thoroughfare. So, without driving somewhere else to run (which I hate to do except infrequently), I suspect my routes will be much more repetitive.

Climate: While I enjoyed the change in seasons in the US, I didn't enjoy running whenever the temperature was above 70° and the humidity was 90%+ -- that was most mornings between mid-May and mid-September. Here, early morning temperatures will rarely be above 62° and the humidity is closer to 50-60%. I'll miss the crispness of running in sub-freezing temperatures but overall the climate will be more conducive to running.

Friday, my first run here since getting back, the temperature was something like 55°. I was able to do just under 4 miles at a pace of approximately 8:30 mpm (if you want the exact figures, see my Running Log on the right (scroll down a bit). It's good to be home!

Run well, y'all,
Bob

Wright Socks: Running II -- Second and Third Runs

I was really disappointed after my first run in the Wright Socks, Running II. However, after washing them a couple of times, I think they're going to be a regular part of my sock rotation. They're still a bit large and I don't know if they'll work for a long run, but they are comfortable.

Friday morning, I got in my first run since moving back to Nairobi, Kenya. Jet lag has really hit me hard and I haven't felt like running any of the other days (we arrived Tuesday night). But Friday, I wore the Running II socks for a 4-miler. Frankly, my feet felt as good on that run as on any in a long time and I think the Wright Socks were a part of that. Of course, it's also possible that I was distracted by the fact that breathing at 5700' above sea level was a little tough!

I would still buy the socks in a size L rather than XL, but I would now recommend the Wright Socks: Running II as a good choice.

Run well, y'all,
Bob

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kill Devil Hill -- Wright Brothers Memorials



I'm spending the week on the No. Carolina coast (Kill Devil Hills, Outer Banks) with my wife, our 2 adult kids, and our daughter-in-law. It's been relaxing and a great chance for us to all be together before Linda and I head back overseas and Stephen and Anna head back to Boston for their 2nd year of graduate school -- our daughter will continue in her current job in Richmond.

The weather has been cool and the wind pretty strong for the last couple of days so we haven't spent a lot of time on the beach. Actually, the red flags were out today, warning people to stay out of the water. So, we went to the Wright Brothers Memorial -- the site of the first powered, manned, heavier-than-air, sustained airplane flight.

I was pretty impressed -- not so much by the exhibits, etc. but by how quickly air flight developed. Unpowered, manned glider flight was still fairly new in 1900 when the Wright brothers decided to give it a try. The technology was way underdeveloped, to the point that Wilbur and Orville were ready to call it quits after their first attempts -- it was too dangerous. But, something turned things around for them and over the next year, the Wright brothers actually developed much of the control technology that is still used in the modern aviation. Another year later, they had built their own, aluminum block engine and perfected their propellers and flew 4 successful flights within a period of about 2 hours on 17 December 1903. They would have flown more, but a strong gust of wind flipped the plane and basically broke it. From that point, technology developed at an almost inconceivable rate -- the first trans-continental flight (across the US) took place only 8 years later.

After the presentation, we wandered out onto the grounds. It was amazing to see the difference in the distances covered between the first 3 flights and the 4th flights:
1st flight -- about 120'
2nd flight -- about 175'
3rd flight -- about 200'
4th flight -- about 852'

Then we went up to the monument. Being the beach, the 90' high Kill Devil Hill gives one a pretty good panoramic view of the area. The picture is a stitched composite of 9 pictures that I took.

A fun afternoon!

Running here has been interesting. I don't really like running a perfectly flat course. While hills are not necessarily fun, they do provide some variety. Plus, the wind is interesting. The wind was the primary reason the Wright brothers chose Kill Devil Hill as their testing ground. The 10-25 mph winds do make it a challenge. If you're interested, here are my routes:
5.48 miles
6.11 miles
5.14 miles
Run well, y'all,
Bob