Monday, June 15, 2015

The Run, Tanzania

Hearing his wife leave to go to work, the old man rolled over on the mattress on the floor, got to his knees and then to his feet, and then sat down again to pull on his running shorts and shirt. It was cool in the bedroom with the air conditioning on, and he could feel the outdoor warmth and humidity as he went downstairs. He made himself a little tea and checked his email briefly to allow his body to wake up a little. He picked up his keys from the table, let himself out the door, locking it behind him, and sat down once more to put on his running shoes.  The sun was shining today for the first time in more than a week and he felt the heat of it, even at 7:30, on his face.

Nodding to the guard, he went through the gate and then picked his way around the puddles on the path to the main road. It had been raining for days (it was the rainy season after all), and he decided he would run along the main road again. He had tried last week to run on the back roads and came back with squishy feet and shoes from sinking into unexpected mud-holes.

He walked to the corner, turning down the invitations from the bajaji and piki-piki with a couple of waves, and started jogging.  As usual the first few minutes were hard as he tried to get into the rhythm.  Running against traffic on the right side of the road, he saw mostly solid SUV type vehicles and a few bajaji's with one or two people inside heading toward town to go to work. The shoulder, like the road, was fairly smooth, with stretches of soft sand where the water had flowed across and left a track of fine sediment.
Bajaji - also known as Tuk-Tuk in other countries

As his breathing settled into its regular 3/2 rhythm, his mind started to wander back a year or so, comparing running here in the Bahari Beach area with running in Mumbai.  It was so much less crowded here in the almost country-side environment 45 minutes ride from downtown Dar Es Salaam,  than it had been in Kohinoor, also 45 minutes from downtown Mumbai.  He could run much more smoothly and evenly without having to dodge the holes and piles of debris in the roads. Sure, he sometimes had to wind around a muddy depression, but the edges were smooth and rounded, unlike the sharp lines of tilted, broken concrete in the big city. 

He turned the corner off of the main road and on to the side residential road.  He liked this route because of the lack of traffic and the shade. He was close to the ocean here, too, and often the cooling breeze felt good on his face, though he was sweated profusely after five minutes.  He waved at the car containing a parent and a couple of kids from the school - no doubt he would hear from his wife this evening that her students had seem him out running on their way to school.  He neared his favorite area where someone had planted a number of Baobab trees years ago, reached the end of the dirt road and turned around for the run back. He liked those trees - so different from other trees with their fat trunks and upside-down feel.

Picture from :
The first time he had come this far, more than a month ago, he had had to stop and walk several times, and he felt good that he could now simply keep putting one foot in front of the other now.  Back to the main road, he started to pick up the pace a little and pushed himself for the last few minutes.  Finishing his run in what, for him, felt like a sprint, he slowed to a walk, put his hands on his hips and caught his breath. He walked back to the compound, knocked five times for the guard, and walked to the back of the apartment, where Joyce, the housekeeper, had begun doing the laundry.  After exchanging greetings with her, he walked around to the other side of the apartment to sit in the shade and do his after-run stretches.  His sweat dripped from face and elbows to create small puddles, but the breeze in the shade was cooling. He felt good.

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