Day 368: Runners and the People who Hit Them

by lara,

Today, we spent the day working. All day. We felt like bad residents of the orphanage, as we really didn’t leave our apartment or our “offices” (read beds), though plenty of knocks and distractions managed to find our door.

But happily, when Rhoda and Jane came to take our compost to the cows (a fought-over privilege—we weren’t enslaving them), they also decided to see the “rooms of Crale and Rola.”

They were, however, rather freaked out at this chance to see how the visitors lived. Rhoda wandered around Claire’s room, exclaiming “Guy!” (translation: God!) everytime she saw a toiletry item, which—since it was Claire’s room—was quite frequently. She even pulled out a “Master Jesus!” or two for the occasional big-ticket item, like the red light that emits from Claire’s computer mouse.

Discussion wandered in the way that it does with 8 year olds, and particularly eight year olds with limited English who are AIDS orphans. We went from “sweetie is NOT a bad word, Rhoda” to tales of how Jane’s mother left her at Tumaini, to discussions of whether or not life is fair like football games, to an outline of the different times Kenyan women wear “eye pencil” and “ripstick.”

This time with primary students was long overdue, as this week has been primarily secondary school focused. This is because the last couple of days have featured the Extremely Un-Official Tumaini Kids’ Nearly-Half-Marathon.

This just means that we are about halfway through our marathon training, and so this Sunday’s run was supposed to be 12 miles long. But of course, we did not do it Sunday because there was an 8-hour-long church service to attend. Then Claire did it on Monday with 7 people (5 of whom had declared in the beginning of the run, a la Sam-I-Am, that they could not, would not run 19.7 km). They all finished, some after dark, and we were immensely proud and hung a sign for them.

Word had gotten out that running 20 km was indeed possible, and more importantly, that any interest in a half or full marathon in June meant you had to actually train, and so yesterday, Jonathan and I started out to complete our own Kenyan-escorted 12 mile run. Lara made it to mile two before remembering that she had been feverish the night before and paused in some greenery to feel sick. However, when a small, fairly dirty, four-year-old Kenyan came over to point and yell “Mzungu! Sick!” at the top of their lungs, I felt inspired to at least get back to Tumaini. But Jonathan—and 18 more of the secondary students—completed the full 20 km. Much to the delight of the primary students who were there to provide water, cheering, distraction, and “biscuits” (pronounced bees-quits) for the impressive runners. These littler ones were also meant to wave a flag at the finish line; but this instruction got lost in translation. Instead of waving the flag, the students ran out to the runners and excitedly hit them with the flag until they got to the finish line, at which point we could save the poor exhausted older kids who were too nice to say anything.

Some of these runners were expected to finish—the un-official running captain, or the star of the football team—but many, like the 11 girls who completed the run, had thought it impossible to run 5 km only a few weeks ago. These girls all strutted home to dinner that night, and only one of them knocked on our door later with a request to “please help me with some deep heat.”

Claire and I were so proud.

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