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Author Archives: Joy Owango
The Nomadic Urban Swara- Dubai and Rwanda: Of African Cultural Practices and Relativity to Time and Distance
Aarrgh Africans. That’s it! Our concept of time and distance is relative, nay notorious! Well, before I get ahead of myself, let’s start with our cultural practices. So I am Luo, and we children of the lake are known for one thing, well, at least according to the author, Evans Pritchard- Tough, resilient, deeply democratic, easily aroused to violence and immensely proud. Oh! We strut about as the Lords of the earth, which indeed we consider ourselves to be (If you have lived in Kenya you will get the gist and giggle). But what he failed to note is that we have deeply rooted cultural practices, which is humorously related to my tale- night running.
How did I get here, well, I fell and injured myself in May. A running injury is the bane of any runner, a sprained ankle, wounded ball of my left foot and sore knee had me grounded for two months. While I hobbled about with a walking stick and enjoyed the privileges of the disabled parking in Nairobi, I had two concerns, how soon do I heal and when do I begin wearing high heels again. Yeah, I do have my shallow moments.
Three pairs of worn out running shoes, grumbling running partners (that woman is too stubborn!), blisters and limping into the spa barefoot because my feet are sore and I am too worn out to be bothered for a massage and mani-pedi after every major run. It’s amazing how much mileage you burn when you put your head to it and the year is not over. I have been running a minimum of 50kms a week since January to date, regardless of where I am in the world. Below are some of the highlights:
MT KENYA ULTRA RUN
So here I am bright eyed and bushy tailed as the Bush Babies are screeching manically in front of my log cabin somewhere in Happy Valley, right in the middle of the Rift Valley. I have this amazing view of the valley, it’s a warm night, the stars are sparkling in their full glory and the moon is shyly creeping out of the clouds into the sky.
Since I am awake the only thing that can go through my mind is my bull headed , borderline fool hardy hike and eventual run at Elephant Hill in the Aberdare Ranges last week.
As always, it was a hair brained, not thoroughly thought through idea. I was going to run the Mt Kenya ultra marathon. My objective was simple; I wanted to kill two birds with one stone, join club 42 and if I survive it, join the exclusive ultra marathon club and pull in bragging rights like Loise, Mitch and Raoul and thump my chest with pride and say I am an Ultra marathoner, and just annoy my friends every time I say it. Guess what! I did it! And I am such an annoying muppet!
Commitment to running is still going for a run, regardless of the weather ( To the Swaras, who I have given flimsy excuses about not coming to your runs as it’s raining… well let’s just say, I will kick off the warm blanket with enthusiastic ferocity as I come for your run)
“Joy, you are Captain!” An undignified, “ Eh”! was my response, followed by a plaintive, “why!!” “Gender diversity!” responded the Chairman with a straight face and all I could say was, “really… Ajaa, you will pull gender diversity on me?” Well, by then he was gone and, that , Swaras ,was my baptism by fire into the Naivasha Relay.
“I run because it keeps me balanced as there is a thin line between spiritualism and sanity, which running places in check, plus I plan my day, all my To do lists and work diary and above all it’s a confidence booster.” “I get the same feeling when I wear a good pair of high heels and carry my favorite handbag and I just know I will nail that board meeting.”
There is a Swahili saying that goes Kingereza ilukuja na meli (English came by ship). The saying forgives us hapless Africans, when we speak or write poor English. I grew up watching TV shows like Mind your Language that emphasized on the importance of speaking proper English. Prior to the Children’s Act and the term spare the rod spoil the child was used with relish, my elementary teacher put the fear of God in me, every time I failed my English test by reminding me with every whack on my hand, “Joy, English IS the QUEENS’ language!” and in tears I grudgingly acquiesced and wanted to know who this Queen was who made my life very miserable. Then later in my career working closely with academics and researchers, it was further reinforced that English IS the language of Science. So armed with this knowledge and ready to do my English teacher proud, I landed in Heathrow and discovered ….Cockney ! Don’t get me wrong I have been to London a number of times but in the soft bubble of my academic peers, and I never quite had the privilege of being spoken to in Cockney.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We are approaching Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, it is a beautiful morning with clear skies and temperatures of about 28 degrees and if you look through your windows, you will see the beautiful undulating, Ngong Hills, which , means ‘knuckles’ in Maasai.
This is the soothing Disneyfied sound of every Kenya Airways captain as you land in Nairobi.