POST BY ANNE STANTON
Saturday January 15th, 2011 DAY 07
I was going to write a whole funny report on the bathrooms here in Africa, because while the landscape is gorgeous, the bathrooms leave much to be desired, and you just have to laugh (or, um, curse). My new best Ethiopian friends, Fenet and Su, our translators who I want to bring to TC, always say, TIA. “This Is Africa.” But tonight we are at the lovely Aragash resort outside of Yergalen (sp?), and talking to the three Ethiopian women who are running with us gave me perspective on toilets that don’t flush and showers that won’t turn off the entire night and sockets that don’t seem to deliver any electricity (some all at the same time). And drawers that have used condoms in them (YUCK!)
But after I tell you about my conversation, I will describe getting locked in a bathroom yesterday. Too funny.
Anyway, we had dinner tonight with Fenet translating, and we sat with Bechala, Zehnash, and Meron (the three Ethiopian women) along with Mary Moore (Traverse City, who is actually a Spanish interpreter and has learned enough words to communicate with the Ethiopians), Claire, the pretty blonde from Ohio who is a great hit among the Ethiopian boys running alongside her), and me.
Through Fenet, we asked them about growing up, and all of them are from very large families who grew up on farms. Meron almost got engaged at the age of 7 and married off at the age of 12 (at which time the happy couple moves out of the paternal home and sets up shop themselves), but her brother stepped in and stopped the process early on. I asked them how they felt running on this highway seeing all these very poor children run alongside us. As I mentioned before the kids don’t seem to be unhappy, but they wear shredded clothes (I saw a shirt that said “Michigan Loves Gore) and they want food. One old woman, I bet she was 70, gave Dan Zemper kisses on both cheeks and then asked for food. She kissed me too!
Meron, 19, and Zenish, 23, said they weren’t so poor, but Bekalesh, who is very thin with a pinched face, said she grew up very poor and was often hungry-her mom died and her dad raised her five brothers and one sister by himself. The run, she said, gave her bad memories—she’s only 19 so the memories are fresh. And she began crying, and then we did too. Mary told them she came to Ethiopia to meet the Ethiopian runners, and that she didn’t make much money back home, and was only able to come because so many of her friends helped her. And she told the women not to give up on her dream. The women all work cleaning houses, and earn the U.S. equivalent of about $10 a month. I’m thinking they must get help from their families because rent is about $20 a month. Zenish said the trip has been exciting, but also hard because she is seeing how the other side lives. And this all goes back to my complaining about the bathroom at the last motel, where the ants crawled up my top sheet to bid me goodnight.
I also closed the door completely at this other motel-resort place in Awassa (which was at a gorgeous lake) so no one could peek in from the unisex washroom, but then I realized there was no door handle. I knew no one would miss me (because they were down at the lake), so I felt a little panicked. I tried to edge a credit card through the gap, and then my reporter’s notebook, and then I started knocking. No one came. Finally, I thought I could edge my motel key card through the gap to unlock it, and it didn’t work. So then I put the key into a hole, turned it, and the door opened. I have never felt realized, because I swear I might have had to have spent the night in the bathroom, and it was not nice.
Fenet (after laughing hysterically when I told her about it) mentioned it to one of the hotel workers about it, and she said she didn’t have enough money to fix it. TIA.
Doug asked me to give him an idea of the basic schedule.
We begin breakfast as early as possible to take advantage of the cool weather. We take turns making it, and I volunteered yesterday morning because we had to serve it very early (4:30 a.m.) and the runners needed all the sleep they could get for the 30 mile run that day. We make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and serve boiled eggs (lots of salt) and oranges.
The runners did four straight 30 mile runs and had to get on the road as early as possible to finish about 1:00 p.m. or so. During the run, the “bus people” (I am one of them ) hand out water every 30 minutes, and food every hour. At the half-point of the run, lunch (again peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), bananas, popcorn, etc. is served. The runners, not unreasonably, are eating fewer and fewer pbj sandwiches. Joyfully, it was announced after the run today that we would eat breakfast at a restaurant this morning since the run is only 15 miles long. I jump on and off the bus to run along and get color.
We then get on the bus and ride back to our motel and often have St. Georges beer, shower, and then eat dinner at 4:30. Early on, we’d have a runner’s meeting to discuss low and high points, then something fun, like Seth and May playing a concert tonight, or watching a hyena getting fed tonight. Or a boat ride on the lake.
The runners get around fabulously. All are well, and all ran today. No one is sick, and the injuries are healed or are manageable. We are ahead of the original running schedule, and Chris was worried that 15 to 20 miles a day was too easy. I said, Chris, what is it about you and suffering. He admitted being brought up Catholic (okay, name of book if you write about Treter: Beer and Suffering).
The crowds of kids and grown-ups have gotten really big the further south we go. Lots of applause. The kids love to shake hands with you, giving you these wide, often yellow-teeth smiles. They look at us like we are aliens.
Well, I should head to bed. We are meeting up at 6 a.m. for breakfast. Love to all and thanks to all of you who helped support the runners.
To return to our website please click this link, www.runacrossethiopia.org