This week I went out into the field to meet some of our partner organizations and observe two of my staff lead an orientation for them. This took me to the hill towns of Kaziba and Luhwindja. During the day, the weather was quite pleasant – a bit cooler than Bukavu at noon, but sunny and somewhat warm. But at night, holy cow! Literally as soon as the sun started to descend, the temperature plummeted. I slept deeply buried under a wool blanket. And getting out of bed in the morning to go running – soo difficult! I brought a good windshirt so the top of me was warm enough, but I wished I had brought my Capri running pants rather than just shorts. And GLOVES. The second day I went running, I wore socks on my hands so they wouldn’t become totally numb. Don’t be fooled, Africa can be awfully cold.
Running around Kaziba was nice, though. Oh, well, except the other thing was the dust. The first day I went up to the village of Lukuba and there wasn’t as much dust. In some places, the road was very hard packed and smooth which was really nice. But the second run, I went the other direction and went through dust that was easily 6 inches deep in places. I shudder to think what the rainy season must be like there.
It’s beautiful up in the mountains. Kaziba is actually in a valley, surrounded by hills and even in the dry season, things are quite green. The altitude is pretty high, though, as the tops of the hills were treeless not from cutting but because they were taller than the tree line (that’s what we call it in the US – the altitude above which trees can’t grow). And I was quite the amusement for everyone. I intentionally wore my IRC cap rather than my generic grey one (which I would never do in Bukavu) because I knew I would be the talk of the town and I thought I’d just let everyone know why I was there. The older women walking to their fields in the morning were the most astonished, I think, to see a woman running, and a white one at that.
Saturday I went for my “long” run. 8 miles which is long for me at the moment, but it still feels odd to call that long. Next week, I’m going to up it to 10 miles, which really seems like the entry point for “long” to me. The great news about Saturday is that a) I ran the whole way, including up, up and up the hills and b) I did NOT get lost. Victory! Ah the simple joys of life. My route was safe and boring – straight up and into the neighborhood called Kadutu and out the road we had gone on to Kaziba. The road is pretty busy in one section – there’s a big roundabout that seems to primarily function as a truckstop, and just beyond that is a fork in the road known locally as “Essence”. This is the fork where last week I turned right and got lost, because turning right avoids the thickest part of the crowd. But this time I barreled on, happy that something rather loud was playing on my headphones to at least modify the many, many comments I got from onlookers. I really had to be nimble on my feet to avoid running into people, but it was fun to be able to move at twice the speed (or faster) of any vehicles. Oh, why is it called “Essence”? Because there are about 50 guys there selling illegal petrol/gasoline (essence in French) in plastic bottles. Reminded me of Maroua.
The whole first 3 miles of this run is mostly uphill, with some flat parts for relief, which I didn’t really register until I was coming back and got to just fly downhill. That was great and very relaxing! And I really noticed the difference in running on pavement. About 1/3 of this route is on pavement. It is so nice to not have to keep my focus on the ground the whole time and my pace was faster. Maybe next week I’ll do the local traditional “border to Governor’s office” route which would be tarmac the whole way once I get out of my neighborhood.
This week I did all the runs on my schedule (though Friday was a bit short ‘cause I was late and had to get to work) and it feels really good to put in a good solid week and not feel exhausted. I’ve lost some weight since I got to the Congo and want to lose another 10lbs (5kg). I can already feel the difference, though. Things are definitely looking up!