Monday, June 23, 2008

My last few weeks in Cameroon

Yesterdays long run was out past Bambui 4-corners to the Seminary and back. And Im beginning to realize that Im soon going to be in this is my last run here territory. Next week Im planning to be in Bafoussam for  a big celebration at the partners organization of another volunteer, so I wont do my long run in Bamenda. That means only one more long run in Bamenda. Yesterday was a good run. I did both Bambui Hill and Guinness Hill without stopping. It was quite foggy and cool basically perfect running weather.

Emmanuel came over in the evening and I loaded him up with some more stuff Ben-Gay and Tiger Balm patches and Clif Bloks! When the Mezam Stars get injured, they usually just tough it out, so Im happy to pass on common drugstore items that will help. I also gave him the backpack Id bought in India (just to transport all the books and stuff I bought there home!) and he was quite happy about that. When weve traveled, he and Benedicta have shared a bag, which can get tricky if they dont stay in the same place (which happens often as women often go to one persons house and men to another). So now they can each have their own.

Emmanuel was sad. Me too. The Mezam Stars are my best friends here in Cameroon and they definitely made my time here really great. I appreciate it tremendously. I told him he needs to learn how to use a computer, but I think its too daunting for him. He doesnt even read all that well and hes never touched a computer. Still it would be great to be in touch over the Internet. I told him Id send him a text as soon as I was wherever I am going to be and have a new phone number.

Now Ive got to figure out how to make it through the transition. Im planning to leave all my running shoes and all but two sets of clothes with the Mezam Stars. But Ill be in Yaoundé for most of a week and then London for a few days then I get to California. I have a pair of Merrell sneakers that I think I could run in a few times without much trouble, but I may have to stop at Metrosport on the way from the airport. . . I could buy a pair of shoes in London, but they cost twice as much there (thanks to the dollar), so thats not my first choice!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

100 Pushups

Running is good for you in so many ways. But not in the upper-body strength domain. It really has nothing to offer there. And yet, having good upper-body strength actually helps long distance runners a lot (by helping us stay erect and be less tired).

On top of that Ive gained some weight when I was actually trying to lose a little. Im not actually sure why I am gaining weight, but its enough that I have very, very negative conversations happening in my head. I realized this morning when I was sitting in the taxi I saw a young man without a shirt on who was talking to a whole group of people and I thought, he looks so unself-conscious in his body. I wish I felt that way that I can literally feel the judgments I have. They feel like an extra layer of skin or a coat that I am wearing. I know this may sound strange, but I can literally feel it on my skin.

And then this morning I saw a link to a program that says you can do 100 pushups in 6 weeks. Ha! I thought, Im a girl. But I went to the site and the guy (Steve Speirs) says anyone can do this (it may take a bit more than 6 weeks though). Heres the site:

So, I downloaded the program for each week and Im gonna take the challenge. If I even got up to 50, Id be stronger than Ive ever been in my life.

Besides, I need a project to keep me in the present because my mind is already sitting on the beach in Aptos, California on 16 July. . . Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am returning to the States in mid-July (my plane arrives at SFO on the 15th) for at least 6 weeks. Im not completely sure because I dont know where Im going next. The three current possibilities are: Zambia (another assignment with VSO), the Solomon Islands (as a UN Volunteer if I am selected, I have an interview next week), and Jerusalem (to work for Tiri if I get the job, I have an in-person interview in London on my way back). So, pretty soon Im gonna have to answer YES when my Garmin Forerunner 205 asks if Ive traveled hundreds of miles since I last synced up with the satellites. Yippee!

Monday, June 09, 2008

A break in the rain

Allowed us to run Sunday morning. It rained cats & dogs (hmm or goats and sheep may be a more understandable metaphor here) Saturday for about 12 hours, but Sunday morning it was quiet as could be. So we ran two hours out past Bambui 4-corners towards Bambili (each of us going as far as 2 hours took us). Of course, as these things go, it was market day in Bambui and our route took us right through the market, which is amazingly crowded at 7am, I thought. I was a source of many, many comments that day, Im sure. It still surprises/annoys me my teammates are invisible to those who stand by the side of the road and comment, but I am not. . .

The run was pretty good. I walked about 100m up Bambui hill and then about 200m up Guiness hill. And I stopped and got a glass of water at one point. I at a GU gel before going out, which Ive never done before, and it bothered my stomach some. And my right hip was bothering me. It gets really tight. I should not have skipped my yoga on Saturday morning. (I was seduced by having just received gigabytes of podcasts that I wanted to listen to and adorable little kittens lying on top of me in bed. . .)

Well, I think I may be back in the US as early as the middle of July for 6-8 weeks. Then I am most likely going to take a new assignment with VSO in another country. So now I’m considering the possibility of running a marathon somewhere in late July or mid-late August. San Francisco would be an obvious choice but its a darn hilly course. Although the second half is almost all downhill (if the course is the same as it was a couple of years ago when I ran the half). Im planning to be in Boulder, CO the first week of August, so might try a race there either the first or second weekend of August. Anyone with recommendations?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Doing better

The Mezam Stars met up yesterday (Sunday) morning around 5:45am and did a two hour run out Bafut Road. Everyone seemed to do well, even Emmanuel whose plantar fasciitis has been taking a long time to heal. This   morning I stopped by his shop and he said it seemed much better. Tomorrow afternoon, we decided to get together and go to the stadium and try out some of the exercises in Evolution Running and Building a Better Runner. That will be good. I was just watching the Evolution Running exercises and knew they would be good for me, but Im unlikely to do them on my own. Thats what a team is for!

My thoughts are almost totally on the future, or more specifically, my future. Applying for jobs, though nothing has been forthcoming yet. Getting a lot of rejections for various opportunities. Considering extending my time in Cameroon after a trip back home. And now considering doing a new assignment with VSO somewhere else. I like the work and realized yesterday that Im at a big disadvantage in my quest to get a permanent job in Africa because there are so few international NGOs operating in Cameroon (literally something like 15-20 compared to most countries in Africa where there are hundreds or thousands).

I get frustrated and discouraged and that tends to depress me. Which then makes me feel like not running, which is exactly what I need to do. So I push myself and try not to discourage myself more when it is pouring buckets of rain. At those times, I remind myself that it is a great opportunity to do yoga.

I thank God that I have running. My natural anti-depressant. Much cheaper and healthier than the alternatives. And my always-handy backup plan yoga!

In a meditation a few days ago, I was able to let go of my identification with my feelings of frustration and discouragement which allowed me to see that my underlying feeling is one of heartbreak. It breaks my heart to feel like my life has no meaning or that I cannot be of service to God and the world (which are the thoughts I have when I am rejected). But I realized that these feelings are part of the human experience. They are not unique to me. Somehow that gives me some space, some breathing room, and allows me to lift the feelings up to God in prayer.

So I thank God also for prayer.