speaking of making a spectacle

something that i’ve been meaning to mention is how much of a spectacle i am/make when i do my run/walk intervals. not necessarily because i’m running (but yes, that is a bit of an oddity) but because i’m a white woman running. one of the things that kept me from running or briskly walking for exercise outside in the united states was the potential of being noticed by others out and about. mostly i was worried about people judging my slowness or lack of form. however, i will say that these reasons are not usually what would have kept me from getting out and about. (the ipod is a magical invention that allows one to just disappear into one’s own world.)

recently the path that i’ve taken has been the more difficult one through the bush, off the beaten path, in an attempt to avoid people and vehicles on the road that stir up too much dust and make it difficult to breathe.

yes, i turn up my techno mix so loud that i can’t really hear anything people say/shout at me. sometimes i can’t even tell that people are talking to/at me. yes, i realize this is rude but have come to the conclusion that sometimes one has to be a little rude to keep sane. and these workouts have become something that is keeping me sane–and if this means that i’m not going to hear when someone shouts mznugu! at me as i am trying to get this body into shape–well then thats what it means.

this is not to say that i haven’t had some interesting interactions in these past three weeks. i’ve been followed by children who can run a lot faster, farther and better than i. once a child of about 8 chased after me pushing a child of about 18 months in a wheelbarrow. i didn’t hear them for a while (yes, my music is loud.) but when i finally noticed them i stopped and took my earbuds out and smiled turning my attention to the older boy, pointing at the little boy saying “your brother is afraid.” (as he was wail/crying.)

the older boy grinned a huge grin and said, “MZUNGU! YOU GREET!”
i demured, “um. i think he’s afraid…”
he persisted, “MZUNGU! YOU GREET!”
“um. okay.” i stuck out my hand to the little one offering my hand expecting the wail/crying to increase but was wrong. as soon as he grabbed my pinkie finger, hung on tight and the tears just dried up. after then greeting the older boy i was off again.

on a different day, a wednesday i believe, i encountered an elder in a magnificent headdress trotted after me until i stopped, again removed my earbuds–he was mid sentence. it took my brain a second to go from thumping techno music to fast flowing ngikaramajong but eventually my brain caught up and i understood that he was telling me that what i was doing is “good” and that i should continue to do that. also, he wanted tobacco and laughed with me when i turned out my very empty pockets. we went our different ways.

i wonder if i’ll encounter anyone this afternoon when i do my third week three interval… that is to say: a third post is pending later this evening!



mzungu, how are you?”
“mzungu, i love you!”
“mzungu! mzungu! mzungu! mzungu!”
“mzungu, bye!”

my friend heather has recently blogged about language, and mentioned two words that caught my eye– biligana (the navajo word for and anglo person, meaning one with whom i wrestle) and the ojibwa word for an anglo person- Chimookamonnug (“which means long knives, a description of the ones who came bearing swords.”) reading these words and their meanings has brought my mind back to the words to describe anglos in east africa.

mzungu the kiswahili word that the majority of east-africans use as a fall-back for naming an anglo (or more broadly, someone from “out”).  the name for an anglo in east-africa has more of a humorous meaning than the navajo and ojibwa words for an anglo:

a zungu is a circle. a mzungu is someone who wanders aimsly in a circle. so white people showed up in east africa, wandered around seemingly aimlessly in circles and we shall ever be known as those who wander aimlessly in circles.

it just strikes me as pretty apt considering the large influx of white skin in this part of the world during colonization when a lot of individuals and families did kind of wander about aimlessly making claims that they discovered things like the source of the nile. (yep, the people who live hear are the ones who “discovered” that. not speke. sorry, dude!)

this does not mean, however, that i like being called mzungu. its not the pointing out of my difference. while that’s not my favorite thing i can handle that. its not the actual word itself–i can attempt to find it amusing or see it as some sort of retribution for the pain and horror that white skin has meant to a lot of this part of the world.

a lot of the part that grates on my nerves is the decibel level at which its shouted at me by large groups of children “mzungu!mzungu! mzungu!” or the inappropriate oogling or touches that come with “mzungu, i love you!” in kampala (mostly from bodaboda drivers. and the marriage proposals are far more common than inappropriate touches. just to clear that up.) and the frustration of not really understanding why people are always saying “bye” even when its hello…

right. well i’m off to wander in circles so as to live into my name.

mzungu, bye!”

c25k: six

rather than venture out during the elections on friday i decided that it would be in my best interest to wait until post-elections to run. therefore, i went saturday. i spent the first part of saturday outside trying to finish up the ugly-as-sin compost bin that i’ve been working on, watering the garden, washing a TON of laundry and then lounging in my hammock.

it wasn’t until i was starting the first running interval that i started to think about what i’d eaten that day. and the list wasn’t spectacular. coffee, water and potato chips. yea, thats it. i didn’t think about what i was eating or think about what would be good to eat if one was going to workout. oops.

needless to say, that first run was HARD. but i’m happy to report that i powered through and did the whole thing even though i kind of thought maybe i’d die out there in the bush. (okay so thats an exaggeration, but, it was HARD!)

week three was supposed to start yesterday (monday) but i had a small bought with what i think was a parasite from my rain water tank and spent a lot of the day feeling dizzy and having blurred vision. all is well now (tuesday morning) and i think that i’ll be back on track this afternoon for the first run of week 3.running of course, with my techno podcast that i have grown to really love. huzzah.

perhaps you, faithful reader, are wondering why i insist on posting about every run that i make. let me tell you why: i need community to keep me honest. and when i know that if i skip or slack off i’ll have to confess it to this nameless-faceless mass of people. and while i don’t suspect that any of you are going to be terribly upset with me if i do skip or slack off, it is what keeps me motivated. knowing that there is a community out there who knows what i’m up to and what i’m trying to do pushes me. and for that i’m grateful.

c25k: four & five

the techno mix this week is fantastic. so fantastic in fact that i’ve decided to use it all three days rather than jump around between the three.

this also means that i only had to babysit one download and only used that many kb from the per/kb modem. (i saved time AND money!)

monday’s (four) run was good. before i left i debated if i wanted to redo the week 1 intervals, but decided to give week 2 a shot. it was a good choice.

today (five) was less-good-ish. and yet good-ish at the same time. i left the house for today’s intervals about an hour earlier than normal. concentration was totally failing me and my body was itching for exercise, so i went early.

this turned out to be a funny mistake. today is wednesday, as you have probably noticed. wednesday here in kotido is the cattle market day. TONS of people bring their cows, goats, donkeys, fruits, blankets, sandals, stools etc. to the cattle market for a day of selling. around 4:30ish as i was running that direction i almost ran into a huge group of karachuna (young people from the village/”warriors”) walking towards town.

i spotted them before i branched down toward the road, and not wanting to literally wade through them (there were 150-200 people!) i followed a random path into the bush.

as i was plugging along my merry way, ipod cranked up, i heard a cheering noise coming from their general direction. glancing toward the road where they were i noticed about 20 of them break off from the large group- who were indeed shouting in my general direction-and those 20 started sprinting. at. me.

okay. so i didn’t immediately panic. but when my interval went from the running one to the walking one…i kept running.

the 20 or so gentlemen caught up with me and starting running with me (slowing their collective pace. sigh.). they were SHOUTING and grinning and jumping around me as we ran along. all i could hear over the raging techno went something like this: “iyong a….jie…iyong a…karachuna…” translated roughly is ‘you are a jie (which can mean a part of this tribe. jie also means war so thats hazy) you! warrior!”

they ran along with me for a bit, as i laughed and responded to the best of my ability, and they sprinted back to their original group.

so, file that under things that happened to me today that probably didn’t happen to you.

whilst running through the bush i realized that running on the “established” paths is actually a lot harder than running through the un-pathed bush. the paths are deceiving during the walking portions of the intervals. the land is flat and the path is wide enough. but once you start to run…all the ruts and holes suddenly become treacherous!

this doesn’t mean that i won’t be running through the bush in the distant future–but it does mean that i will probably be taking the unestablished paths rather than the actual path…

c25k: three (egypt edition)

i’m scrapping my promises made wednesday (maybe they’ll be fulfilled tomorrow?) to blog about running and egypt…

while i was out finishing the third day of the first week of the c25k challenge the VP of egypt was announcing that mubarak was stepping down.

as i ran across the kotido-kanawat bridge the people of egypt exploded with joy, excitement and victory.

people are chanting “egypt is free! egypt is free!” and the world is cheering back with them!

yes there are questions about “now what” “how is it going to go?” but, the people of egypt have been waiting 30 years for their chance to dance and sing in the streets: so i think we should let them.

مصر الحرة‎
الله أكبر‎

Crazy Dreaming: an invitation and a start

the diocese has 13 church founded schools in 3 districts–all of which are primary schools and all of which i’ve recently visited with a base-line-type survey to assess all sorts of needs. (infrastructure [buildings,latrines,water etc], classroom performance for pupils and teachers and materials assessment (desks, chalk, food, clean water etc.)

in short they are all in pretty bad shape structurally and materially. (for the most part, morale is high among the teachers, head teachers and pupils i spoke with. the teachers and head teachers are repeatedly voiced their concern that they weren’t providing for the children like they would like to.

over and over a lot of the same needs came up when i asked the head teachers the following question: “if money was not an issue what the first three things you would do?”

and i have to tell you, these teachers make next to nothing. several keep gardens just to have something to eat, and they also struggle to pay their children’s school fees.

these women and men did not request higher pay, or transfer, or things for themselves but asked for the lives of the children who are trying to learn be improved.

a lot of primary schools in the region are trying to shift into all boarding rather than day and boarding schools as this encourages higher retention numbers and (hopefully) therefore a more solid education for the kids. when kids go home to the village every day it is a lot easier to miss a few days a week. if kids come and board, they are more likely to at least get an entire term’s worth of education before missing something. (i will admit, this also has its issues, but, this is what these teachers want–and i’m inclined to listen.)

some common answers from head teachers when we were dreaming together:

*desks for the children (on average these 13 schools are short several hundred desks. most children sit on the floor.)

*better floors “if the children are going to be on the floor, at least they can be on a concrete floor.” one teacher said. the majority of the classroom floors are either broken concrete or totally dirt. there is nothing romantic about a dirt floor. especially during the dry season. the little kindergarten’s dry-season coughs are enough to rip your heart out.

*fencing of schools 100% of the schools asked for a fence at all, or improved fencing. they pant gardens and orchards that are destroyed by goats or pigs. anyone can wander through the school compound (where students are sleeping in classrooms at night–often with no door or window shutters) and anyone can wander off fairly simply. there is also a problem with “land grabbing” where someone comes and builds a hut on the school property just past the marker stones- moves/destroys the mark stones and puts up a huge fight that the land was theirs all along.

*dorms for the children with the number of boarding students increasing schools are running out of places to put them. most sleep in classrooms that turn back into classrooms during the day meaning the move their things twice daily. in one school girls are sleeping in a classroom that has been condemned by the government and can no longer be used for lessons. at least two schools have classrooms and dorms with asbestos.

*teacher and staff housing its typical for teachers and school staff to live on the school compound. teachers can be posted anywhere in the country–not necessarily where they are from. this is part of their payment and a way to make sure they stay, too.

*text books, paper, chalk, pens and pencils (do not send these in the mail…we make them here…) that’s pretty self explanatory. no money = no books, paper chalk or writing utensils for pupils or students.

there is some NGO assistance in some of these schools, but its spotty and not terribly reliable. UNICEF used to supply a “school in a box” once a year full of paper, chalk and other supplies for the teachers and pupils. then they just stopped. WFP provides food for 100% of my schools. one teacher said “we eat it because it is what we have. but many times it is spoilet food. we are thankful for food, but want good food for the children.” the beans have weevils and the posho gets sour.

GOAL has recently been building new latrines in some of the schools and providing handwashing stands. some schools still have too few stances of latrines for pupils and teachers–and some of the structures create more sanitation problems than they solve.

i work for the church (and the Church)…who has been known to do things in a different way. it is not my intent to demonize NGOs, their well meaning nor their work. but it is my intent to do things differently. to involve the community (that includes YOU!) to make a better future for these kids that is more sustainable than a one time gift. that lasts longer than concrete or a touchy borehole pump.

some crazy dreams:

as far as building teacher’s houses, latrines, dorms, store-rooms or other structures goes, i’ve recently come across an organization IN UGANDA called Buvad who has learned from eco-tech how to build structures from plastic (PET) water bottles. its eco friendly, involves the community and is basically the coolest thing since yoghurt. (check out the link above and it will take you to the page on buvad’s site with their first project in uganda/on the continent!)

they are a “you learn it you teach it” type of project. i learned from buvad a few weeks ago in gulu and am ready to pass on my knowledge (with their help.) (also, i’ll post about the workshop soon!) this is also a great way of breaking down tribal differences in uganda–as buvad is based in the south and karamoja is…well…not. at the end of the gulu workshop one of the members from the central region admitted he was nervous to come to gulu and was told that he would be unsafe. “but,” he said, “i have seen that i have friends here. i have nothing to fear.” beautiful!

my thinking here is that if a project is undertaken at a school, that the entire community is invited to participate in some way. donating their plastic bottles, time, expertise etc and their curiosity can be a conduit for environmental education and a healthier earth.

what ideas do you have?
how can our global community work together to create relationships and better schools? how can my schools and churches partner with your schools and churches to enrichen all of our lives?

dream with me!



other ideas kicked around with head teachers, well wishers and church members:

-energey efficient stoves built by local secondary students who have learned how to construct them in an mcc program/community projects where the community learns to build them,too and practice in their local schools before (hopefully) constructing them at home, too.

-biogas digesters and stoves. several communities here keep cattle…

-rain catchment systems for when it does rain. some of the northern most schools do get enough rain, but lack ways of catching and keeping the water for later use.


(still not the Crazy Dreaming post, its still in the works. patience, dear ones, patience.)

let me just start by saying: LETS GO DUKE! GTHC!

moving on.

if you have a keen eye and actually visit my page and not just have googlereader or some other rss-feed-fetcher pull your blogs and news for you perhaps you’ve noticed that there are two new blogs on my blogroll. i never posted about the first three and will now remedy that by introducing all five of these delightful blogs to you:

in no particular order:

come and see is thoughtfully and beautifully written by my good friend heather. she lives in shiprock, nm (usa) and shares life with the navajo nation there.

extending the table is one the journey of one fantabulous-tfba-woman, her sous-chef/husband and we readers along for the journey of cooking through the mennonite cookbook “extending the table.” a personal favorite!

bumfuzzled in a hospital near you written by J, native texan, MD resident, and delightful human being (whom i met quite a long time ago!) honestly blogging from the “land of fruit and nuts” [california] about what its REALLY like to be an MD resident.

from one great lakes region to another written thoughtfully by a new friend and fellow mcc-er living and learning in burundi.

…ubuntu… our paths crossed in uganda when both working for mcc where we became fast friends. she’s now back in the u.s. blogging about life, students and sometimes blueberries.

who do you follow?


another day of running, and more lessons learned:

1. so, i wear these beads around my waist. they are your basic colored glass beads on a string and there are three circles of them that i always wear under my clothes. here in karamoja (and i think some other parts of uganda, but don’t quote me on that) women wear these beads under their clothes. they are generally a secret. no one (except your spouse, i suppose) is meant to see them. so me telling you fine people that i wear them is probably a taboo. please forgive me.

anyway the point: so i wear these beads around my waist. the other day i made sure to tuck them up into the waistband of my running trousers, but today i forgot. they’ve stretched out a bit since i tied them around my waist, and were therefore a little lower than i would have liked for the duration of my run. that was less than comfortable.

2. something i forgot to mention the other day: regular ole earbuds that come with one’s ipod are woefully inadaqute for running in my opinion. i should have kept track of how many times i had to put one or both of them back in my ears. having learned this lesson, i used my awesome-in-ear-earbuds today. i only had to put one back in the whole time, and they cancled out the noise of the 10 men in the riverbed shoveling sand made. from their gestures i suspect they weren’t complementing my brilliance.

3.something else i failed to mention the other day: if one is planning on using ones pedometer, they should turn it on. for real. i remedied that today as well. 4,845 steps, 56 minutes, 228 calories burned.  bam.

there was a lot less hacking on my part today as the cough is dying down. (ptl.) so that was nice. its funny how much breath one uses to cough. i felt stronger today–i hope saying that doesn’t jinx friday’s run…but, well, i’m kind of proud of  myself. i went farther in the same amount of time and felt markedly better during and after the run. (this is me, patting myself on my back. :pat pat pat:

friday’s post will have some “end of week one” reflections, including but not limited to the interesting things i see/encounter on my runs that you probably don’t on yours…or in your everyday life, either.

oh yes, and today’s soundtrack was the techno podcast mix. the music was great–especially with my fantastic earbuds–and i appreciated the beeps rather than the talking. i think they’ll be my favorite running podcasts during this endeavor. i’ll be trying out the hip-hop version friday. should be…interesting.  (yes, yes, i went back and downloaded it. i wanted to listen to a different podcast each day to keep the unknown unknown as i struggle through the first week. STOP JUDGING ME FOR LISTENING TO NSYNC ITS AGAINST MY WILL!!!!)

until then…happy running!


well, day one of running has come and gone.

lessons learned in this first day:
1. i probably should have waited until this hacking/tb-esque chest cold/cough was done. oops. about half way through i had to stop, put my hands on my knees and just cough. ouch.

2. choosing to start said program in the peak of dry season = less than awesome. its hot, and unsurprisingly dry. with dry season in this part of the world mother nature gifts us with gale-force wind. which is fine when its at your back, but less so when its coming at your face. this would have been less problematic/discouraging if i’d ended with the wind at my back.

3. if you have to pee when you’re starting your 30 minute walk/jog, you’ll be practicing your sprint when you get close to home.

all in all, it was okay. today i listened to the indie mix from the chicago tribune and rather enjoyed the music and the voice overs telling me when to walk and run. my biggest qualm with this podcast was the cheer-leading at the end. cheer-leading during  physical activity/sports just makes me angry–and not in a “i’m going to run super fast and beat all ya’ll” kind of way. but in more of a “i’m going to come over there and kick you in the shins” kind of way.

and this is why yoga is one of my choice forms of physical activity.

anyhow. day one: check. more to come wednesday…

maybe you noticed…

…that i’m a little riled up as of late. this is still the case, and i’m still unapologetic about that. however. this righteous indignation fueled energy is only burned up so much through my work (which is mostly done in an office) and my current “exercise program”. basically i have left over energy that leaves me fidgety at night and i find myself lying awake longer than i should.

perhaps you are wondering why “exercise program” is in quotes. well, let me tell you: currently said program consists of yoga. hatha yoga, to be precise. hatha is great for flexibility, strengthening and calming the mind and generally has been enough to make me happy and sleepy at night. however for the past few days i have found that i’m clenching my jaw all the way through–even in shavasnah–and this just won’t do.

so i’ve decided to Do Something About It and, starting tomorrow (monday 6 feb 2011) will be working towards becoming an Actual Runner using the c25k (couch to 5k) running plan. through a set of intervals and in about 9 weeks, i will be running (at least) 5k, or if nothing else at least 30 minutes nonstop. (which is also fine.)

i made this decision…well…friday. and today is sunday. i spent most of today searching the internet for playlists or podcasts that would tell me when to switch from running to walking as looking at my ipod whilst doing these things to determine if i should be running or walking is just a serious headache and would probably discourage me from Actually Doing It.

there are fewer options than i was hoping to find, but at least two of them seem like they have potential…one is techno music with some cartoon-like beeps that signal the run/walk switch and the other is from the chicago tribune that promises to be indie. (i’m pretty sure i saw deerhoof, bitter:sweet and gossip listed, so thats a good sign.) there was a hip-hop themed podcast, but i saw NSYNC and quickly “x”ed the window. (albeit faster than the “christian indie” podcast i found. it just looked…far too saccharine, and i’d rather not get a cavity while running. i get the feeling that jesus would understand.)

why didn’t i think to make my own playlist before doing all of this searching? i thought this would be easier, but i probably could have spent today making my own awesome list rather than poking around on the intertubes, but, well, live and learn i suppose.

i will not be watching the superbowl (again) this year, as it occurs in the middle of my night. to celebrate this Great American Tradition though, housemate made a football-esque-themed-lunch as powered by one of the best foodblogs maybe ever…we had meatball subs with caramelized onions. (well, meatball open-faced sandwiches as we have no hogies. and our cheese of choice was cheddar with peppers as that was all we had.)*

oh yes, and: GO PACKERS!!!





*just so the awesomeness of such a meal being made in this house sneaks past you let me just say how rare it is that we have mincemeat OR cheese. let alone at the same time. we just happened to have come back from the capital of uganda, kampala, all loaded up on supplies. we usually have to do some prety extreme substitutions or completely rework recipes from anywhere let alone smittenkitchen. so. know that.