Morning Jog

Bouncing and bumping in hospital transport on our way to work this morning, we saw a sign suspended between two trees in the main street. Unexpectedly, it advertised a fun-run this coming weekend. P1020995 modified modified The idea of running for fun seems curiously out-of-place here, like a string quartet at a rugby match. I haven’t heard of, nor can I really imagine, people here having the luxury of enough time, money and concern for future health to invest in the effortful expenditure of excess energy. But Rob tells me that there is an active aerobics group and running club at the sports club in Blantyre, and we did read about the Zomba Walking Club in the local paper. (It has six members, one on crutches, but they all attend regularly.)

So this morning Sue and I went for a brief run, perhaps encouraged by the reminder of what is possible. Sue is a serious runner in the UK, and I find her in the kitchen stretching, wearing black and pink lycra. I’m in shorts and a long-sleeve T-shirt which I slept in. We’re not sure how people will react to seeing white people running, so my sleepiness is edged with a slight feeling of excitement and apprehension as we emerge from our gate and begin plodding down the road. There are few cars on the road at this time, which is great. As always though, there are many people and bicycles. I’m soon aware of people staring at us more than usual, without shifting their gaze, but we plod bravely on, passing one of the ubiquitous coffin shops. P1030144 The air is still cool, and the morning sunlight is bright but not yet too hot. We pass some ramshackle brick houses and huts with morning smoke rising from chimneys. A few people sit outside around open fires, boiling water. They stare at us and I wave back, which they enjoy. Clutches of cyclists peddling and chatting fall silent and stare as they pass us. I nod to them and smile, and they suddenly break into enthusiastic smiles as they are reminded we too are merely human. The road is flat and the jogging easy, and I’m pleasantly distracted by the reactions of those we pass.

P1030145 The adults are more guarded than the children, who have no hesitation in showing their interest. We pass a large open dusty playground in front of a school, fortunately still fairly empty, but kids are already meandering schoolwards clutching dull grubby workbooks. Two girls in dirty blue school dresses turn their heads to stare. The front one stops to get a better look, and her friend behind her crashes into her, both barely taking their eyes off us. I continue to wave and smile, though it is becoming tiresome. For some I shout a quick “Muli bwanji?” (How are you?) greeting and there is always a reply. We leave the school behind and start a very slight uphill towards the military airfield. I feel unfit, and am tempted to stop and take a photo of the old airplane standing outside, but the uniformed men lounging around – coupled with the memory of my recent near arrest for taking a photo of a police car (Oct 4th) – dissuade me. After the airfield we come to the circle at the end of the road, where we turn round. There’s only a pub there, called appropriately “Muli kuti?” – “Where are you?”. Very funny.

We start the jog back. Sue has been talking intermittently thus far, but has now stopped and we’re concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. I feel it’s going to be a respectable run of thirty minutes – not to be sneezed at. The gentle downhill back past the airbase goes easily, and we pass a group of boys walking barefoot with books. They are delighted and start to jog next to us, shouting amongst themselves and looking sideways at us. They soon tire, all except one guy of about six years old. He carries on with bare feet, beaming at us with a broad grin, as if he barely knows he’s running. I do some funny robotic swings of my arms, which he imitates effortlessly and with obvious delight, waiting for my next move. I’m impressed, and just a little bit irritated, at how easily he’s keeping up with us. I pick up the pace with some big comedy strides with straight legs and arms, which he follows easily, his grin even bigger. He hasn’t said a word yet, but we’ve definitely got something going. Then he peels off from us unexpectedly, we’re obviously now too fast for him – “Hah! We’ve left him in the dust!” I congratulate myself. Only then do I hear the accelerating patter of bare feet as he sprints off at twice the speed across the dusty playground to school. He’s had his fun with us, and has no more use for us. We are tossed away, and are left, ahem, in the dust.

[For the follow up, a really crazy jogging incident in the same place with more kids and photos, see October 15 Racism isn’t always bad.]

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3 Comments »

  1. […] malawi, visitors, zomba [This entry should really be read after reading the entry for 9 October Morning Jog. It’s a follow-up to […]

  2. […] October 8th Morning Jog. October 9th My Racist Haircut. October 12th Lake of Stars. October 15th Racism isn’t always bad. […]

  3. Sue said

    Glad you’ve been having such a wild time lately and am not at all envious!!!!!

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