Saturday, August 13, 2011

omg shoes

I’m a girl.  In a nutshell that means (stereotype alert!) I like bad reality TV, Gerard Bulter and can be a little crazy-pants sometimes.  It also means I like shoe shopping – as evidenced by the 5 ½ inch pink patent slingbacks I bought for an upcoming wedding. Oh boy, are those great shoes... But when I walked into Fleet Feet this afternoon, I knew I was in over my head.

Just a few hours after getting back into the states I was eager to get going on the marathon prep.  I went for two things, a new water bottle and a new pair of shoes.  The water bottle was easy, the shoes, not so much. 

First thing first, they had me run so they could watch my gait. For the rest of the time in there the man would not stop talking about how I run.  He tells me he hasn’t seen as pronounced of a forefront striker as me in a long time.  Well shit, am I running wrong?  I don’t know what else to do.  I went from a heel-striker, which led to shin splints after a mile and a half that would leave me laid up for days if not weeks to basically tiptoeing through the run.  Since changing how I run I’ve been shin splint free and happily logging the miles.  The man tells me, its probably fine, if that’s how I am most comfortable, but that he’ll be surprised if I can keep that up for long distances. Great. I haven’t broken it to him that I’m training for a marathon. 

Next we talk about what I’m looking for in a shoe.  As little as possible is my answer.  I may not be a minimalist in all aspects of my life, but its what I want in my shoe.

He pulls a few out in my size for me to try on.  Two from Saucony – the Kinvara and Cortana.  After slipping both on the Kinvara won out.  It felt good.  It fits well.  I jog around the store a little and am quite pleased with them.  

Next up, the Brooks Green Silence.  While it may look like a skateboarding shoe from the early 90s, this shoe has more than a few things going for it.  Scott Jurek, vegan ultramarathoner extraordinaire had a hand in the design.  And it’s about as eco-friendly as you’re going to get in a running shoe.  Less energy to manufacture than the average shoe, 75% recycled materials, breaks down in a landfill in a fraction of the time.  It feels just as good as the Kinvara and makes me feel just a bit better about the environmental impact. 

I finally told him that I was training for a marathon and asked if this would be a good shoe for the task.  An emphatic no from the salesman.  I must say I was a little surprised, and a little crushed.  He told me it just wasn’t enough shoe.  That if I was going to be doing that many miles a week I really needed “more shoe.”  But I’m trying to avoid “more shoe.” More shoe = more injury in my mind.  He brings me back over to the wall and started pulling out shoes that look like they could be classified as lethal weapons and starts talking about heel stability and my over-pronation, etc etc. He starts to lose me. 

I look back over at the Green Silence. Not enough shoe? But wait a minute.  Didn’t Scott Jurek run over 165 miles in 24 hours in these shoes?  Now I’m not pretending for a second here that I’m on par with that man.  But if its enough shoe to run 165 miles in one day, and its comfortable on my feet, shouldn’t it be enough for my measly little first marathon. 

Isn't shoe shopping supposed to be more fun than this?  Overwhelmed I left without new shoes, but I’ll have to figure it out sometime soon.  I've been running in Keens for 3 months. Not exactly an ideal. My long runs are getting longer and I need to try to avoid injury in the next couple months. 

Maybe I’ll just go barefoot.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

malaria trial field visits

The second day I spent with the Malaria Vaccine Trial was out in the field with the community health workers.  Over the course of the trial participants are required to have over thirty monthly visits, most of which take place at their homes. Field workers spend hours each day travelling by car or bicycle to reach all of the participants.  The following photos are just a small glimpse of the hard work these people do day in and day out. 

A woman sits with her child as other neighborhood children gather during a field visit.

Stagnant water near the village provides the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos, which transmit the malaria parasite.

During one of the scheduled visits field workers inspects the mosquito net that has been provided to the participants as part of the study. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

someone hold me to this

Dropped some serious cash today on registering for some upcoming races. If thats not incentive enough to actually keep doing this, I don't know what will be but I could probably use some encouragement along the way this fall.  And lots of good vibes/prayers/whatever you do in hopes I don't get sick or hurt before these. The schedule so far...
Carrboro 10K – October 1
Duke Medicine Ramblin' Rose Women's Half-Marathon – October 16
City of Oaks (Half) - November 6

Outer Banks Marathon – November 13

Monday, August 1, 2011

hash house harriers

I write this post, mildly intoxicated from the beers I was forced encouraged to chug. I have just come from my first hash. And am a bit sad there is only one more to go before heading back to the states.  This was the most fun I’ve head running… ever.  The group was mainly made up of Brits, South Africans, Dutch and Aussies and we were scolded more than once for our American accents.  Rightfully so. The required calls on the trail, like “on, on” and “falsie” sound so much better from everything other than American accent. It really is quite ugly. But, I digress. 
We met at the Lilongwe Wildlife Center.  And split into groups.  Walkers, a short run and a long run.  I decided that because of my recent long run accomplishments I would go with that group.  Turns out there is a difference between running long and running long and fast. And the latter I cannot do.  But I took off in the woods with a bunch of British expats.  Long story short I pretty much got my ass kicked.  But I managed to not let that show too much.  We ran through the woods, ducking under trees, climbing over fallen branches, crossing rivers, not on bridges but on huge sewage pipes, occasionally stopping to let some folks catch up. 
They try to pace the runs so all the groups meet back up around the same time and then the drinking commences.  My friend and I each grabbed a beer and chatted for a while until we were all called to circle up. Various groups were called into the middle, and the newcomers were one of those groups. We were all made to chug a beer whilst the other sang a song of encouragement.  My friend was driving so beer was stealthily poured into my cup so I would be the one drinking instead.  Then again I was called into the middle. This time for a penalty. Apparently Keens are deemed inappropriate footwear and I was scolded for not wearing socks on top of that. My punishment. More beer.  Good thing my days at Michigan paid off, eh mom? 
According to Wikipedia, the constitution of the Hash House Harriers goes like this:
·         To promote physical fitness among our members
·         To get rid of weekend hangovers
·         To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
·         To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
These things they certainly did.  I’ll be back next week for more fun, though hopefully less beer. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

born to

As if the run the night before weren’t enough for this week, I decided to go for a long run this morning.  I think this was my longest run ever in my life.  Its hard to tell what my pace is at this point because, while I think I’ve greatly improved on an easy, flat course, the hills, the higher elevation, and the smoke in the air make this a very different run than Mombasa.  But I’d say I did 8ish miles.  I’d done 10ish in one day in Mombasa but always split into 2 runs.  I ran in the heat and the hills for an hour and a half today without giving up. And I did it, mostly, with a smile.  Maybe we all were really born to run. Even the ADD, asthma ridden, weaklings like me. 
In the evening I went to play ultimate frisbee with a bunch of other UNC folks and expats.  Many of the players were really intense which I was a bit unprepared for. I certainly got some speed drills in in those two hours. 
The best part of all of this exercise. Eating whatever I want.  I’ll work out like that every day if it means basically doubling my food intake!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

my new run here

My run tonight was not what I thought it would be when I headed out.  I was going to do a quick 3 miles. I got a little bit of a late start and wanted to get back before dark so I could talk to my parents for the first time since getting here.  Instead of turning right out of our street ,as I have every other day here, I decided to see what was to the left.  The road ended a few blocks down and I found myself on a path headed downhill.  On either side of me there were fields and in the distance I could see plumes of smoke.  The light at this time of day is stunning here.  The orange light from the sun hitting the red earth is like nothing I’ve seen before.   At the bottom of the hill I hit a small river with wooden bridges over it.  They looked a little iffy so I walked across them, each wooden cross piece bending and shifting under my weight.  As soon as I got across the shouts started. Small children chased after me yelling “azungu, azungu!!’  Men yelled at me to stop and talk to them. They said they liked talking to white women and I should come back another day and talk with them. Women outside were doing laundry or cooking dinner.  From them all I got were confused stares or the occasional laugh.  I ran through the neighborhood, with kids laughing and skipping behind me. 
As I got to the end of the neighborhood my internal compass, which apparently needs some tuning, told me I’d be hitting the main road again.  When I didn’t see that road I thought for a minute about heading back the way I came.  But I wasn’t looking forward to the same attention so I pressed on.  When I hit the next intersection I again realized that I wasn’t quite sure where I was. Again I thought about heading back but my stubborn streak started to come out.  The sun was going down quickly and the last thing I wanted was to be stuck in an area I didn’t know, in the dark. I tried to remember which direction the sun sets when I’m at the house to get my bearings. I should have stopped to ask directions a dozen times at this point.  Or turned around, though at that point I wasn’t even sure I could find my way back the way I came. 
If this had been just any run I would have stopped to walk long before this point.  I would have found my way home and taken it easy.  But when necessary the body can do things the brain doesn’t want to do. I knew I needed to get home before dark so walking was not an option.  I finally found a main intersection but the trouble is there are no street signs.  I had no idea where I was.  I had been winding for so long I didn’t know what direction to turn. Again, directions would have been good at this point.  Oops.  I ended up picking the right way and after another 20 minutes or so started to recognize the landscape.  A man stopped me to ask for the time and I finally asked if the main hospital was up this road. He confirmed and I trekked that last uphill climb, my lungs burning from the smoke that filled the air, making it home just in time to see the sun set behind the hills.  I’ll be trying that one again, maybe with a little more daylight next time.

Friday, July 29, 2011

malaria vaccine trial clinic

 I spent a day at Malaria vaccine trial clinic, offsite from the main Kamuzu Central Hospital.  Here are just a few photos of a typical day at the clinic.    

Many women walk many miles to make it to these appointments.  They are required to come to the clinic for the first several visits to be enrolled. After that, the field team visits the family once a month to follow up. A total of 35 visits are required, proving a huge amount of dedication from the participants and the field team.

Mothers and their children wait in the corridor, sometime for many hours for their appointments.

 A young boy plays outside while waiting for this mother and younger sibling to finish with their appointment.

 A staff member gives a sensitization talk, reminding the mothers about malaria, the purpose of the study and  the rights of all of the participants.  This speech, which ends in songs and chants, will be given at every clinic appointment.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

home for the next few weeks

Just wanted to give you a little tour of my home for the next few weeks while I'm in Malawi. I'm staying at the UNC guest house.  The hot water, satelite TV and full stove have been pretty great changes from my time in Mombasa.  Though I do miss the sound of the ocean and the whole being able to speak the language thing... small tradeoffs I suppose.  There's a car (which I will not drive in this traffic), a graden full of greens, full kitchen, a dog, who is very cute but very flea ridden, and well, you can just see the photos. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

never go back

“Sometimes I think I’ll never go back to the US. The words are seductive, and once in a while I play with them in my head, a tantalizing refrain: never go back, never go back. Of course it’s all drama, because what do you fill that “never” with. You still have to spend the rest of your life somewhere.”
There is a bookshelf here in the guest house with tattered, worn books that have been left here by all the students before.  I flipped open the book Someone’s Heart Is Burning to the page with that quote.  And that is exactly where my head has been for the last month or so.  A few weeks ago, after I got past the halfway funk (I’ve spared you all that post), I started to feel like I didn’t want to go home. There is too much to do and too much to see here to leave right now.  Burundi or Rwanda would be a pretty easy plane ride from here and Eastern Congo would just be a thrilling motorcycle ride from the border there.  I started to look at how much money I have sitting in my bank account and fantasizing about how long I could wander before reality would set in and I would have to start paying on school loans.  The more I have a camera in my hand the more I realize that it is all I want to do.  And the more I realize that I’m in grad school because I didn’t have to balls to just do what I wanted to do in the first place.  It’s not that I don’t love public health – I do. And you can believe I still occasionally contemplate medical school – maybe in another life.  But I’m having a hard time convincing myself that another year – and a lot more in school loans – is worth it right now.  I’ve spent hours thinking in the last couple of weeks.  Ultimately I bet I’ll cave and find my way back to Chapel Hill.  I’ll spend the year doing what I want and need to do. Focusing on my photography/journalism classes, yoga, running, rock climbing in my free time (if there is any). I’ll have plenty of other classes to do too.  And a good deal of work work in the office, but I’m going to take the advice I was given last year to heart.  Take what you need and leave the rest.  If I can manage it I’ll travel again over Christmas and then it’ll be time to look for a job abroad.  I’m a wanderer.  That much will never change. But maybe it’s time to go back to home base for a little while.