Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What I think about when I think about running through Bukoto!

Yesterday the Hash ran through one of Kampala's worst slum areas, built on the swamps of Bukoto.

I live in this area, but not in the slum...just round the corner! When I drive past the outskirts of the slum,on the by-pass,I'm not ashamed to say that I just hold my nose and put my foot down (I bet you would do too...so don't act righteous!)

As you can imagine, the run was not a pleasant one. Jumping over sludge and mud and things you don't even want to think about. My trainer scraped the inside of my leg and I nearly cried at the thought of catching cholera...(I have been reading Shantaram at the moment...so I got a little carried away with myself!).
About 70 hashers scrambled through the slum for about 50minutes and I am sure we have been the best entertainment there for quite some time...70 Hashers, some fat, some thin, some Ugandans, some Muzungus-jumping over sewage and under hanging underwear, hordes of children running to beat us in this race to nowhere. (Unfortunately running in flipflops through mud and rocks -there was tumbles and tears!). We even were stopping in our tracks by a camel at one stage!

When the run had finished and we gathered at a local bar, I apologised to the new-comers...who may never come back to the Hash after such an experience! A regular runner then threw in the comment and stated
that it made a change from the wide leafy avenues of Kololo
(or the golf course!) and
that we needed a reminder of how our neighbours live.

This is true...but I make no pretenses about my reasons for being in Africa. I am not in fact here to save the world; just myself perhaps from the life of rushing home to the sofa for the daily offerings of soap (the kind on the TV)! I am not 18 years old on a gap year; here to make the world more colourful with by bleached blond hair and my over-enthusiastic smile. (The sections of ex-pat life in Kampala-la need a whole blog to itself!I am somewhere between VSO worker and NGO worker-with dreams of a yummy-mummy status!!)

I do what I can to help those I know that are in need of support to get a leg-up during these tough times. My job pays me and I don't feel guilty about the way I live. Ok, running through may not be as bad as going on the new craze of 'slum tours' that they offer tourists in Mumbai or in areas of South Africa. As I said, the book that I am reading at the moment gives me more than enough of my share of 'slum life' at the moment. When I have had enough I close my book and am happy that I don't have tidal waves of rats sweeping through my flat; just mice and grasshoppers! I don't feel the need to run around the homes of people in the slum, who wouldn't themselves be there if they had any other option.

My response to the fellow Hasher...
"Give me leafy Kololo any day!"

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Half-wit, half...

This blog is not going to turn into the tales of a novice runner, but it feels like it is all that is going on in my life at the moment. If I am not actually running; which to be honest only takes a bit over an hour a day, then I am talking about it, reading about it and thinking about it… when I am trying to sleep! The later getting me stressed out; so that I have to read even more about running to answer questions…or text people at unsuitable hours to bug them about half-marathon queries. I am blaming this stress on two things; 1. My copy of RW magazine has not yet arrived in the post and reading on-line is just not the same! 2. One of my running buddies has recently left the country…think she had enough of my running stress…so that makes two of us running next weekend.

My buddy and I went on our usual 12km mid-week run on Thursday…and things didn’t go so well! I think I was having a panic attack; I couldn’t breathe, thought I was going to be sick, then just tried to hold back the tears, (this is actually NOT what I normally feel like when exercising!!). Ah- more to stress about…! “What is the worst that can happen? Its not like we can drown”, my buddy states, rightly so. Well, my nerves tell me, a lot!

Right, calm down; remember to relax your shoulders and speak positively to your buddy , “oh, look at the beautiful view of Kampala from the top of Kololo hills…oh, mind out for the dead dog thing…”-you get the picture! We are actually both hilarious ‘runners’ - this half being the first for both of us. Hilarious in the fact that we are pretty much clueless in what we are doing. (I am actually in stitches of laughter as I write this!) Neither of us (up until yesterday) had a watch-we did try to figure-out how long we had been running by looking at the sun…that didn’t go so well, so we would have to plan our route to pass a clock tower in a market town! Anyhow, this morning we did our last long run before the big day…new $10 watch on wrist, newly found energy sweets at hand; we chatted, we paced ourselves, we shouted our mantras and we ran REALLY well! Jinja, here we come!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Behind the Times

The other day, my running buddy and I were talking about a recent comment I made on my blog, about ‘jogging’; that nobody ‘jogs’ anymore, now that we are in 2010,we are expected to run. We laughed at this because we had just recently saw an advertisement for a new ‘jogging track’ in Kampala. Uganda is also hitting the world-wide headlines because skateboarding has found its way here…apparently, in the rest of the world, the sport hit its peak in popularity in 1963! This, along with the shell-suits, headbands and ring-pulled Mountain Dew cans, is truly another sign that I am living in a time-warp! Play-list in bars here, usually only consist of Abba ‘The Gold Collection’, Michael Jackson and Kenny Rodgers! Even Elvis hasn’t yet made it onto the scene!!

There is this pressure in the Western World to wear the right clothes, listen to the right music and here it is so nice to not worry about such things…sometimes! Ok, I suddenly care when I’m home on holiday and already am panicking about my summer packing…but only a little. I don’t want to be introduced as, “This is Robyn, she lives in Uganda’ and having sympathetic nods as a reply…like that is explaining me! I thought I stayed comparatively ‘up-to-date’ in Kuwait, but when teachers that have just come out from UK start talking, I feel that I have been away a lot longer than 5 years! Who are these people they talk of…does it matter..do I care!!?? When mum was stocking up on magazines for me, I had to ask her to stop buying me ‘celebrity’ magazines as I just don’t have a clue! My life is no poorer for it!

I am happy driving my Prada (o), circa 1980 and wearing the same clothes all year round, no matter what the fashion is. When people, however, start going on about TV shows on Facebook, I suddenly feel very left out! I recently found out that Flash Forward is not a magazine! Then… all this hype about Glee!! Well-I just had to go out and buy a pirate copy on DVD! Oh, but I do know that K’naan has made it to #3 in the African music charts….I love that song! So, when I head back to see you, be it on holiday or to live, all I ask from you is …go easy on me!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Yoga Zen

Wednesday is my hump-day. By Wednesday I have lost patience with my class, I have started to raise my voice and usually forget to smile! Thankfully, I have yoga on a Wednesday evening, this somehow transforms me into a better person...for 2 hours or so…and I am left refreshed to finish the week smiling…it usually lasts till Friday night when it is time to open the wine!

I choose to battle against potholes (craters better explain their size!) and traffic every Wednesday, making my way across the other end of town, but after each session I am thankful I made the journey! My yoga class is amazing; the teachers are very special and the space is beautiful…on a hill over-looking the city. We yogis are made to work hard and we sweat buckets, but as soon as the words, ‘aannd, prepare for Shavasana’ are said- my body (which is usual still shaking from hard-work) happily takes on the ‘corpse pose’ and I make a contented sigh! Our reward for making it through the week, traffic, yoga session; is a little rest with eye cushions on…where I either fall asleep or start dreaming about my dinner…!On a very good day we get a foot massage!

This Wednesday was no different. My friends and I left the class counting our blessings. We were happily munching on our delicious post-yoga workout meal…yummy Indian food and discussing our new book club novel, ‘Shantaram’, when…"ops I left my wallet in my big beast of a 4x4 locked car. Oh no, I can’t find it! Oh phew, I’ve got it. Oh no-the wallet is absolutely empty and my phone is missing!” And then the realisation of what had happened! Dang and blast!

Ah-the thieving buggers ruined my Wednesday night zen! My class were more upset than me when I arrived in school on Thursday…!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Run For Your Life!

It took me quite a while to say to people that I ran. I have jogged for a while now. I think it was destiny…it runs in the family! Hohoho! But people don’t ‘jog’ anymore; it’s an 80s term that was put on the shelf along with the shell suits and the legwarmers. There is no ‘Joggers World’ magazine that I can subscribe to, so my subscription to the well known RW magazine is helping me take my feet shuffling to the next level. I was once told from a my good friend and running buddy Kirsten, that once I did my first official race I could call myself a ‘runner‘, so if that is the case I will have been a ‘runner’ for about a year and a half.

I am not quite sure if I enjoy running, sometimes I do; the finish of course being the highlight! I do enjoy listening to conversations between friends when I’m running , on rare occasions I have enough breath to join in the conversation in broken sentences. I enjoy spotting Lake Victoria when we are running on the hills in Kampala. I enjoy the guilt-free breakfast after the run; although Le Patisserie is not quite up to Kuwait’s P&Qs. I enjoy buying new running gear, every time hoping the new leggings/top/shoes will make me run faster! But mostly I enjoy talking about running! Most of my running stories/facts etc, are in fact not mine, but come from the RW magazine; usually positive mantras that I can share with my running buddies…although my new buddies in Kampala quickly found the one about ‘how lucky we are to be running up this hill’ rather annoying! But I do have one story of my own that I enjoy sharing…here it is…

My favourite running story
I was on safari in Uganda from Kuwait in December 2008 with good friends -we soon named ourselves ‘Sven’s Tours’. Jane, was training for the Dubai Marathon and Sven and I were aiding in her training and getting ready for the 10km, also in Dubai. Jane and I had gone for a couple of runs in the city before we left on safari, Jane using the time to prep me for my job interviews that I was having..which I then got…thanks Jane! Then..safari time!!
Our first stop on ‘Sven’s Tours’ was the beautiful Mhingo Lodge at Lake Mburo. We arrived in the evening and as always wine was opened for sundowners and promises were made for the early morning run through the National Park to get up close and personal with the hundreds of zebra which Lake Mburo is famous for.
Morning coffee arrived waking up the keen runners…Ange and Scott made the sensible decision to stay in the their beds! Mhingo is especially special for Jane and Sven as they are close friends with the owners…so Ralph was also roped into going for the run - so we were 4.
Usually on fast runs, (as well as slow runs, long runs and short runs!!) my buddies would do dog-legs, as I am still progressing from ‘jogging’; this is when the fast runners go on ahead, then double back and we meet etc. This particular morning though, we all were pretty much together at the start; Ralph and Sven were happy catching-up with the year’s news and Jane was letting me get excited about the fact that we were running through the park with zebras, past buffalo and jumping over hippo poo! Then the run progressed as we were nearing the lake, wading through marsh lands and the group starting to break away a little - so the dog-legs began. During the times when we were together I was grilling Jane and Sven about animals that may want to eat me. All the questioning was found very amusing for the African Adventure Pros, but not for the novice; I thought it was ‘need-to-know’ information! Ralph decides it was time that we should know that there had been the first lion kill in the area for 20 years. I then had my ears pricked and eyes were darting all over the place; so no time to worry about how tired I was. Jane continued to tell me how I should be more aware of the lone bull buffalo than the groups, or try to dodge the hippo (not run from it) or how leopards would only go for the small and weak…oh like the one at the back of the running pack…!!
I am sweating profusely (and I don’t think it was because of the rising sun or the long run!) and decide that I must keep up with the others. We had a few minutes rest at the Lake, but then as we spotted fresh hippo poo, thought it was best to keep moving! This is the time in my run when I begin to think of what I will eat for my breakfast...but all I could think about was survival! When I was not thinking about the hippos, lone bull buffalos, leopards, recent lion kill etc etc, mantras were running through my head “know your own strength Robyn”, “running with zebras-wow” etc, but then the other bloody negative thoughts kept popping up…“lion kills, lone bull buffalos, the weakest in the pack!”
Oh yes, how enjoyable it is to run through a game park. The end of the 15+km run is near, we are heading back up the trail to Mhingo…Sven pipes up in a good humoured and surprised voice, “Robyn, you’re running really well today!!!!” Yes Sven…why do you think that is..!!!???

Our running route - the view from Mhingo to the lake.