Saturday, February 20, 2010

Adventures in Running

You know that your life has changed and that worlds are colliding when during your daily morning jog you are stopped on the trail by the sight of a man, in nothing but loose fitting shorts and flimsy sandals, with a shotgun aimed intently into the jungle at some unseen animal. Not only you do you stop with minimal concern, but also out of habit reach down to pause the timer on your watch. This is exactly what happened to me earlier this week. It wasn’t until after the shot had been fired (and missed), I had exchanged a few pleasantries with the hunter and some of his friends, and continued on my way down the path (and restarted my watch timer) that I recognized what a bizarre encounter it really was. I’m not sure if this story is a good indication of what my life is like here in Suriname, but it makes a good story regardless: getting accustomed to things, trying to “fit in”, and also holding on to pieces of myself from home.

I haven’t posted updates here recently. The reasons for not writing being many, but mainly just simply that there is often too much to write and not enough time with electricity or internet. The last several months have been intense, emotional, overwhelming, and wonderful. Getting settled into my new community was both harder and easier than I thought it would be, and there were (and will be) a lot of ups and downs. Trying to find my place in the village is teaching me invaluable lessons about myself, and life in general.

On the day to day basis most of my time is spent is spent doing little daily chores. Cooking, eating, and washing manage to take up a fair amount of each day. As I mentioned, I do manage to go for a run most mornings, but this was only after the first couple of months. The people in the village were already trying to get used to me and understand why I was there, so I figured recreational exercise might push the limits too much initially. The day I finally decided to suck it up, and deal with the stares and questions, and laced up my running shoes also makes for a good story.

The first time I went running I tried to get up early enough that not too many people would be witness to the spectacle, but most people get up with the sun so it is hard to avoid. I made my way through the huts towards the back of the village stopping to explain where I was going along the way. There was some confusion, but mainly just amusement and a little disbelief. Most of the women just chuckled and shook their heads, “What is the Bakaa doing now?” (Bakaa is a word they use to describe “outsiders”, but generally means white person). I reached the path the goes for several miles into the jungle to family farming plots, and set off! The trip on the path was uneventful. I had left early enough that I didn’t encounter any groups of people heading out to grounds for the day. As I was heading back into the village I was cruising along and feeling that it had been a successful first run. As I came a little closer I saw a woman with a giant bowl, filled with tools, balanced on her head. She was walking along the path towards me. As soon as she saw me running towards her, she froze. She took a couple of half steps backwards, and before I could flag her down or call out to her she threw the bowl off her head, onto the ground, and started running full speed the other direction! Fortunately, I was able to call out to her and get her to realize that everything was actually ok. She turned around and came walking skeptically back. “What are you doing!?” she asked. I tried to explain that I was just running, just to run, but I’m not sure she really understood. However, the next couple mornings as we passed each other on the trail she would nod to me and say good morning and ask, “You’re running?”. I would say good morning back and “Yes, I’m running”. We would both smile at each other and continue on our ways. Whether or not she understands why I am running, she (and the rest of community) have gotten used to this part of my daily routine, and some of the women even joke about coming with me.

This post has turned out to be mostly about running! Shoot. Well it’s a start in the right direction. I will promise to be better about posting updates. I miss family and friends immensely. I know that I have been a terrible correspondent, but please know that I think of you all often.

Sending my love from Suriname!