While we are working with the boys on their English skills, we are also teaching them games that we hope will stick around the center for years to come. Exercise is something that naturally occurs throughout the life of a Rwandan. Exercise isn't something they have to go out of their way to accomplish. Elena and I have been on a few runs together, and it's been awesome. Despite it's awesomeness, it's also made me think about America's customs of exercise. Seeing someone running purely for exercise is a normality within the borders of the United States and other advanced, westernized countries.
Being white in this country makes you stand out a lot. Practically everywhere we go we hear "muzungu" (meaning white person) yelled out at least once. Now imagine what it would be like to see a parade of circus clowns wandering down main street. We get similar crowds when we go running down the streets of Rwanda.
It was a warm afternoon, around 4:30. Elena and I planned on running when we got home from work. Our walk home is all uphill, and we are normally in a solid sweat by the time we reach our gate, which is sometimes very difficult to open. It was a tough day at the center, and we were feeling pretty fried. As I lay on the couch, Elena walks into the living room all dressed in running attire. "I suppose this means I should go get dressed, huh?" I mention.
As I lace up my shoes, I begin to get excited for some exercise. I pull back my new dreadlocks with an elastic headband, and we're off.
We decide to run 15 minutes out and turn around. We've had a long day, and this should be all we need to get out blood flowing. We run up our rain-damaged dirt road to a main road. We instantly draw the eyes of anyone in our sight. As we travel down the sidewalk, we begin to notice the local children peaking outside their gates. Of course they yell out "A MUZUNGU!" We pass off a wave and move on.
We pass through multiple bus stops, occupied by people of all sorts including a few moto guys here and there. They are normally the ones who crack some joke in Kinyarwanda, making others around laugh and stare. We keep going. We hear conversation from people we pass. They give away their subject when we hear them say "muzungu" amongst a slew of words we don't recognize.
As we come to our 15 minute turn-around, I'm feeling good. We have traveled about a mile and a half from our home. Shortly after our turn-around, a man with clunky rain boots runs in front of us. We look at each other with a face that clearly says, "he's crazy!" He throws his hands up in the air as if he is dancing in celebration as he continues to run in front of us. We assume he is umusazi (crazy) or just drunk. Surely he'll tire in either case and stop to let us continue on our way. He begins to slow down, and just when we think he's had enough, he glances over his shoulder and jolts ahead again. He does this one more time, and this time I get the whiff. I turn my head towards Elena and say "He's drunk."
Our drunken tag-along creates even more of a scene. More people laugh. As we near the turn for our street, we begin to strategize about how we are going to make this turn without him noticing. To avoid a drunken man knowing where we live, we decide to slow down a little before our street. As soon as we round the corner, we lengthen our stride and fly down the hill of our street. We look back and see nothing. The plan worked, and we cruise down to our house with no one following.
We reach our gate, and it opens with no trouble. We instantly begin to laugh about our whole experience. With sweat dripping from our faces, we finish up with some sets of push-ups and sit-ups to round off our exercise. No three mile run in the United States could ever be as eventful as this one.