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Author Archives: Joy Owango
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.
The East African coast, and I say this with confidence from Mogadishu (oh yeah, I was told I looked very ‘womanly or really feminine and grown up …., when I was wearing a niqab’, it is one of those statements you hear from men and you wonder, where on earth did you get that from… anyway A for effort!) to Maputo has in common…. Beach boys! For reference, I was given stony silence on attempting to run on the Mogadishu coast so I took a walk (http://urbanswaras.co.ke/running-tales/the-nomadic-urban-swara-somalia/) hence my experience with the said boys.
South Africans have this colloquial high-life term called Phuza Thursday, loosely translated from Zulu meaning Alcohol, but in a sentence it denotes to Drinking Copiously and Thursday is pretty much reserved for this. So, after 4 days of board meetings, I was deaf in one ear and a bit cross eyed from the presentations and when Thursday came, the office was abuzz because it was Phuza Thursday.
Whoever came up with the adage Ignorance is Bliss is a genius! And trust me it has everything to do with my run in Ghana this week. Now let’s rewind 48 hours before I left for Ghana … I went hiking up the Aberdare ranges on Elephant Hill. Not only was it tough, forcing me to sleep on the way twice (don’t underestimate the strength of a 10 minute power nap), but I had to pass through two types of forests and use paths used by elephants. As adorable as they are, and I support the Hands off our Elephants campaign… passing through their routes was rough. So that was Saturday through to Sunday morning and that night I flew to Ghana.
I have reached that age in life where I no longer put candles on my birthday cake and dramatically opt for a firecracker and my parents have handed me over to my aunties and grandmother to ‘talk to that modern daughter of yours’. To have discussions on, ‘it’s okay to bring anyone home, even if he’s white’ (and that was my grandmother lol)
So what has this got to with running? Well thanks to Mitch ( for the newbie Swaras, Mitch is one of our star runners and mention an Ultra marathon, particularly the Two Oceans Marathon, the verb to the sentence is Mitch as the noun is Urban Swaras), my running route in Capetown was the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
Allow me a moment of village excitement. I was in the US (… and I have this toothy smile as I say this) !!!! and in typical I believe very African fashion, every time I mentioned that I was going to the US, I was asked to come with something or visit one’s relative or I was introduced to someone who will ‘take care of you when you are away from home’. So why is it that I never get such treatment when I go to other countries, what are they chopped liver??!!
Ah Nigeria… In the five years I have been traveling to this country one thing is constant. It never disappoints with the manic chaos and melodrama. Mention Nigeria and one feels an overwhelming sense of emotional overdose. It has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, despite this the melodrama is infused within individuals. So your average Nigerian has two Masters or Doctorates, he is very spiritual and goes to church or the mosque, will drive the latest car in the market, conscientiously follows his cultural leaders (Obas-Kings), plus will swear in the belief and existence of witchcraft! That is a lot and I ALWAYS have a stupefied look when I converse with my Nigerian colleagues! And yes there is never a dull moment in this country, it is your cinema and you will have the proverbial popcorn in hand to watch drama unfold. And you thought the Kardashians were interesting?!
With absolute lack of imagination, it was truly a tale of two cities . Unlike Charles Dickson’s version, which, focuses on the major themes of duality, revolution, and resurrection , mine focuses on two cities with similar topography and every runners nightmare (Kigali and Addis Ababa)
It was one of those days, where I had a 12 hour stopover in Nairobi before gallivanting between two countries and yes I ran in both.
So, it’s official the universal uniform for runners is spandex, and the brighter the color the better and it is that uniform that creates some sense of familial bonding regardless of race, color or nationality . And it is in this spirit , that , after I landed in Gaborone, checked in my hotel and changed into my running gear and started running in the streets. 2 kms into my run, I saw a large group of people running in spandex and I took a chance.
So, I joined them.
Eh!! Tho yaye! ( Loosely translated to Oh… My word !).At this point allow me to go native. Asking for directions in Africa is a palaver , regardless of region. I will give a tale of two cities in South Africa.
1) I am not a technorati, I stuck to my $10 practical thief proof phone for 5 years, until I actually got an Iphone two months ago as a gift, which, I must say I just charge and continue using my trusted development phone .
2) That goes to say stuff like google maps is an exciting new technology, which, I honestly never use, but stick to asking directions