Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What it's like to run in Buala

My alarm goes off at 5:15am, but I usually dont get out of bed until 5:30a. It is so dark here when the sun is down there are not really any outside lights except on a few houses and no one leaves them on all night. Even though I know, intellectually, that the sun comes up very quickly, I still have not really adjusted to that. I go to the toilet and, sure enough, a little before 6 it is light outside. I thought it was raining but I look outside and it doesnt seem to be. Its a bit hard to tell because the river that runs by my house is so loud that it generally drowns out the sound of rain falling and there are so many trees around that its difficult to discern whether rain is falling or it is just trees dripping from rain overnight.

I get dressed and decide to wear a hat just in case it is raining cause the thing that bothers me is when rain falls on my face. I sweat so much that rain on my body wont make any difference. I walk downstairs and am happy to find my trail shoes are dry. I step outside so my Garmin 405 can catch the satellites while I lace up my shoes. Turn on the iPod nano, push the start button on my watch and Im off on todays 4-miler.

I run down the path from my house, appreciating the sticky soles on the trail shoes (La Sportiva Sonic TRs I bought in Boulder this past July) because the wet rocks are quite slippery. I turn right onto the main road (a wide dirt/rock road, what youd call a fire road in California) toward Jejevo. The shop where I bought my canned tuna is already open for business, I notice, but not many people are out yet. I hear people stirring in the staff houses as I pass by. (Housing is a huge issue in the Solomon Islands due to the way land rights work, so businesses, including the government, must provide housing if they want to employ someone from a different area. These staff houses are owned by the Provincial Government, where I work, for their staff.) I jump over a large puddle as I get to the clearing where the main road and the village path meet. As I crest the short hill, I see an umbrella approaching from the other side David, one of the honourable members of the Provincial Assembly, returning from an early morning trip to the shop. I almost dont recognize him in his t-shirt and shorts because Im used to seeing him dressed much more business-like.

As I descend the hill, I pass the generator which drowns out any other sound, including my iPod. Since the supply of fuel for it seems to be so erratic, I am surprised that they ran it all night when everyone was sleeping. But, of course, Im surprised its running at all because before I went to Honiara, we were lucky if it ran 4 hours a day. I am a bit worried about what will happen over the holidays since I wont be able to rely on the office generator if the town generator is not operating and Im quite attached to electricity!

I cross the bridge by the Mothers Union guesthouse and slosh through the field by Jejevo primary school, quiet now because school is out for the holidays, and past the Anglican church where a small contingent is participating in morning prayer. Shortly after this, I reach the creek which I usually cross, but last nights rain has swollen it and I decide not to run through since my turnaround point is only another couple hundred metres along.

On my way back, I pass another couple of people up and out early. When I get to the clearing, I turn down to go past the market and through the village. No one is in the market yet, but I hope some women show up later because I have no vegetables in the house.

The village is pretty quiet this morning, though I see a few children wandering between their outdoor showers and their houses. The path is quite waterlogged and many spots take a bit of jumping to keep from getting soaked. I notice that Barclay has framed the second floor of the house hes building. At the other end of the village I have to abandon the path and jump down to run on the beach for a few metres because a pond has formed. Back on the path, I pass the fuel depot and get to the part of the path where the mud starts. It takes a lot of concentration to constantly scan the road to see where I might be able to go that will cause the least amount of mud buildup. I do pretty well and am happy when I pass the really bad patch and start climbing the hill. On the way up, I greet Richard and three other men walking to work. I feel pretty good and make it to the top of the hill without even thinking about stopping. Coming down the other side is another exercise in concentration because now the mud is the red stuff that sticks to my shoes like glue. I decide to stay to the middle where there is some grass growing and this seems to be a wise move. I pass a woman who is shocked and amazed to see a runner, and a woman at that! I smile and say good morning, she laughs. Down at the bottom of the hill I approach Kubalota village, but the last couple hundred metres are under water and so I turn around there, checking my watch to see that Im sure to make 4 miles by the time I get home. After passing the laughing woman again, I hit the steepest part of the hill and walk a few yards. At the top, I remember the recent rockslide and look to see what theyve done. A couple of weeks ago in a hard rain, an enormous rock slid down and was blocking ¾ of the road. The rocks was the size of a small room! When I get to that part, there is the rocksomehow they managed to push it back into the side of the hill enough to clear the path. I wonder how they did that; the heaviest piece of equipment on the island is a tractor.

At the edge of the village, I bypass the pond and stay on the main road. With all this water, I really appreciate the work people have done to put rocks in the road so that there is some drainage. I ascend one more long sloping incline and come down to the bridge near my house. I glance at my watch as I turn onto our path and it says 4.1 miles so I stop and use the walk to cool down. Washing my shoes off I am pleased with my relative success in avoiding getting too caked with mud.

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