Monday, April 25, 2011

Sponsor me in the Run for the World!!

Hello everyone!

Did you know that CUSO-VSO (http://www.cusco-vso.org) and I are the same age? Neither did I until last month. But it’s true. In 2012, we will both be 50 years old. Amazing!

As part of the festivities, CUSO-VSO has created the Run for the World – an opportunity for people to run and get sponsors to raise money in honor of the 50th anniversary of sending volunteers to share their skills with people and organizations in the developing world. Run for the World is focused around Ottawa Race weekend which is 28-29 May, 2011, when there will be a series of races in the city at its most beautiful time of the year.

Of course, I’m not in Ottawa, but I wanted to participate. It is, after all, the Run for the World, and I’m in the world, aren’t I?

So, I am going to run a half-marathon here in Katima Mulilo that same weekend – my very own personal Run for the World! Since there won’t be crowds lining the streets here to cheer me on, I am really hoping YOU will take on that challenge and cheer me on by sponsoring me!

My goal is to raise $3,000 which will support another volunteer to take the leap to share her/his skills with brothers and sisters here in Africa or in Nepal or in Papua New Guinea or in Honduras or any of the many countries around the world where CUSO-VSO works. As you know, I love CUSO-VSO and really believe that we are doing great, sustainable work in the world, that’s why I am on my second assignment with them.

To sponsor me, you can visit my personal page – I have two pages, one for US donations and a second for Canadian donations because I am lucky enough to have friends all over! Please visit the page appropriate for you where you can make a secure online donation using your credit card or paypal. Click on the link below:

 

You can leave me a message, make a gift or get more information on how YOU can participate in Run for the World - Friends of CUSO-VSO, please visit www.runfortheworld.ca.

Thanks for your support!

Adventure running in Katima

This was  a “low” week – just 5-6 milers each day for a total of 22 miles or so for the week (though you may not see this in my workout history yet because for some reason my Forerunner 410 is not able to sync with my computer. . .). Also, this was a 4-day weekend: both Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays here in Namibia. I don’t have any money to travel, so I just stayed close to home, but that was fine because Friday I moved into my “real” apartment and it’s been nice to be domestic. I finally unpacked everything and it was almost like Christmas – running shoes I haven’t seen in a month! Even a new pair of shorts I realized I’d never yet worn!

 

Sunday morning I went out for a 6-mile run and felt bored when I turned east on the B8 highway, just as I had the last time I ran. So, this time I decided to go down the dirt road that passes Zambezi private school, the Caprivi Houseboat Lodge and heads toward the now defunct Hippo Lodge. The last time I ran down this road, it was  flooded where there was a bit of a bridge over the river. This time was no different, but I didn’t feel like turning back and being on the same old road. So I just went for the adventure. That meant sloshing through no less than 5 river crossings, though happily the first was the deepest and only came up to my butt. I hemmed and hawed for awhile, looking at the family ahead of me who had just walked through the water themselves. Do I go for it or don’t I? Finally I plunged in and, of course, it wasn’t that bad. Once your feet are wet, they’re wet!

 

After the first two crossings, there was a path that wound around behind the houses and avoided another flooded area. That was appreciated. But of course, there was another flooded area. This time, I followed two boys who were following another sort of path (very tall grass that had been recently walked on). That one didn’t pan out and we had to backtrack and just plunge into the water. One of the boys said he had gone down this way yesterday and this was the end of the flooding (or that’s how I interpreted what he said), but this was not the case! The fifth crossing wasn’t very deep, but by the time I got to the sixth, 2.25 miles into the run, I was a bit fed up. And this one made a river of the road that stretched as far as I could see – at least 400m or more (the road curved), so I turned back at that point, though the boys went on, sure they would get somewhere.

 

But the run certainly wasn’t boring! I don’t think I ran more than a quarter of a mile before needing to cross a flood or find a path around. On the way back, behind those houses again, I was happily running along the path when I came face to face with a gang of cows. The path was not wide enough for both me and the cows and I have to admit that I don’t really know how to manage cows. I shooed the first one, a heifer, off the path, but then I was confronted by a couple of bulls with horns who were guarding a calf between them. Maybe the locals would think I’m an idiot, but I didn’t think my chances were good, so I decided that, 6 against 1, I would be the one to get off the path and go around. . .

 

As I passed through the first flooded area again, 4 helicopters flew overhead. At the other side, there was a guy on a bike hemming and hawing about crossing. I asked him what he thought of the helicopters, but he had no idea. 4 white, unmarked helicopters flying over the middle of nowhere. A few minutes later, there were another 3 white and 1 blue helicopters. It struck me that this guy had no idea whose helicopters they were and I realized, like crossing the border to Zambia, this is probably a symptom of living in a peaceful society. When I was in the DR Congo, anyone on the street could identify any airplane or helicopter that flew overhead. They had to – their lives depended on it. Planes and helicopters brought soldiers or food or weapons or aid. Here, who knows? But it probably doesn’t affect my life.

 

Back on the paved road, there was a gaggle of small children who were beyond excited to say hello to the “mukua” (white person). I waved and asked “how are you?” (the typical greeting) and a few of them replied “fine” (the typical response). They were happy and their excitement gave me a boost. Otherwise, it was a sleepy Easter Sunday morning.

 

I wore my Vibram Five Finger Bikila LS shoes. I think they are my favorite “minimalist” shoes. Easier to get on and off than the original Bikilas. My feet have taken a bit of a beating this week. I have some funny sort on the top of my right foot, just below my pinky toe joint. I’m not sure if it is being caused by the New Balance Minimus shoes or by my Olukai sandals. It only seems to hurt when I touch it, though, not when I’m actually walking or running. The other day I ran in my Luna Sandals (http://www.lunasandals.com) which was wonderful. I really, really love them. Just a thin piece of rubber between me and the road. Unfortunately, they gave me a nasty blister on the inside of my left big toe, which I didn’t even realize until it popped of its own accord when I was walking back to the office after lunch the same day. Then today, I wore my Merrell Pace Glove trail shoes. The first time I wore these shoes, I wore them sockless and ran in Wunderlich park and they gouged the back of my heel so deeply that it caused me ongoing Achilles tendonitis, so I haven’t worn them in a couple of months. I did go out again without socks (largely because they are advertised to be for minimalist folks and to be worn sockless), to my detriment. I didn’t reinjure the Achilles tendon again, but they rubbed me raw under my left ankle bone. Why always the left while the right is fine???

 

Though I love the fit and feel of the Merrells and it was actually great to wear trail shoes, I’m really disappointed with the design of the women’s shoes. The men’s version are soft and sweet on the inside, but for some reason, the women’s model has a sort of elastic heel counter and there are seams with stitching and much less soft material on the inside. Why? If I could have found a pair of the men’s in my size, I would have bought them before I left the US. Now, I feel like demanding my money back from the company. . .

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Scenes from a run

I took my camera with me, again, for my 14-miler on Saturday morning. Last week, I was never particularly inspired to take photos, and I thought the same would be true this time, but as soon as I was up on the bridge crossing the Zambezi, it was so beautiful. So here's a treat for you all, some scenes from my run!

 

My route was pretty boring – straight out the B8 highway from Cheshire Home, where I live, to the border. I run past one area with most of the local Ministry offices and past the Zambezi Waterfront Development project (oh, that’ll be another post – a project which has been under development for many, many years) and past the Total petrol station. But there are some vast stretches of not-much-ness. The last photo is the final 1.5mi/2.5km stretch near Cheshire Home, which can feel pretty desolate at the end of a long run.

 

I had this idea I my head that I would try to cross over and run in Zambia. I thought this would require some border negotiations. (I had heard that a Peace Corps used to cross over and run over there.) But when I got to the border, I ran into the border post, through to the other side, looked at the guards, said, “Hello, how are you?” and they didn’t wave me over or give me any signal or anything. They looked bemused/amused both at my running and at my taking the time to say hello. A few feet later, there was a small sign, “Welcome to Zambia”. Hmm. Could it be that easy? Shortly after, I came upon all the trucks waiting in the Immigration/Customs area on the Zambia side and the approach to the bridge. But no officials anywhere to be seen. So I just kept going.

 

The breeze on the bridge was beautiful. It wasn’t very hot out, maybe 65-70F/18-21C? But the sun is very strong and gently moving air is always appreciated.

 

When you look across a wide river, it’s pretty impressive, but being up on the bridge and being able to look up and down the river really shows its strength and magnitude. The Zambezi is in the same class as the Mississippi, I would say. They definitely feel similar to me. And the Connecticut. When I was standing on the bridge taking this photo – seeing the river with the tree-lined banks – I had a moment of space/time shifting and felt for a moment that I was standing on a bridge somewhere looking at the Connecticut River. I almost expected the trees to start changing colors!

 

The Zambian side is a bit hillier than the Namibian side. The land rises away from the river (though we’re talking an elevation of what 50 feet, 100 feet?) which means that all the water that rains onto the Zambian side flows into Namibia. We get flooded, they don’t. Katima hasn’t been too badly affected by the flooding, yet, though there is a camp not too far from Cheshire Home with about 50 or so tents for flood refugees. Also, I was speaking to a woman at the taxi stop the other day who said that near her home a bit further east, there has been a lot of flooding and now the town population has ballooned with flood victims.

 

Because the road for the bridge was built up, as I approached the river on my return, I could see this lovely swampy area down below filled with snowy egrets. You can see a few in the photo, but there were probably 20 of them there, but just walking around getting some food, so in a photo, they just look like little white slivers! You can really tell that the river has greatly overflowed its banks. On the Namibian side, the water is now about 200m from the B8 in a lot of places. But the rains have now ended, so perhaps we will be okay.

 

My return through the border post was equally as uneventful as my departure. It sure is nice to be in a peaceful country, bordered by peaceful countries with whom it has good relations.

 

As I was getting near home, I saw this rather bright green spot on the road. Approaching it, I realized it was this totally cool lizard! I approached him carefully, thinking he would run off as soon as I got close, but he didn’t move an inch. He seemed to be rather frozen in place, though he’s clearly alive. Maybe he was just really grooving on the heat. I got a bit worried though, because he was sitting literally in the middle of the road. It was amazing that he had not yet been run over. After taking his photo, a small truck came by and then turned around and stopped. A stocky Afrikaaner guy got out and picked up Mr. Lizard and moved him off to the side of the road. I thanked him, then he asked why I hadn’t done that. “I’m new here. I didn’t know. They don’t bite?” He responded, “aw they bite, but only softly.” So now I know. In all my experience in Africa, my general stance has been to not touch wild things, but maybe now it’s time to learn to be with the wildlife more closely. . .

 

My long run was quite slow for me, but that’s probably good. It’s hard for my head to believe, but logically I know that the point of a long run is not to go fast. Unfortunately, I’m not exactly sure of my running time because I stopped a lot and when I got back to the house, I realized that I couldn’t find my connection cable (for a Garmin Forerunner 110). So I know the total time, but I can’t connect the watch so SportTracks can calculate the actual run time vs. stop time.  I don’t know what happened to cable, but I’m afraid that it fell out of my bag into the rental car that Otilie had last week. I thought maybe it fell on the ground, but I asked around and no one seems to have seen it. Fortunately, I have another Garmin, ‘cause it looks like the Forerunner 110 will be useless in about a day when the battery runs out. I’m really sorry about that because I find this one most comfortable on my small wrist, even if it doesn’t have all the functionality of the 405/410. Of course, I just saw that there is a new watch coming out – the Forerunner 610 – which looks beautiful and perfect for me – all the functionality of the 405 (maybe even of the 205/305!) and smaller with a more flexible band. Ah well, there’s something to look forward to in a year or so when I’m back someplace where such things are for sale.

 

Unfortunately, I got a splitting headache after the run, and this “cotton in the head” stuffed up feeling that I associate with allergies. This actually happens quite often after a long run (not so much during the week). I’ve always attributed this to something like hayfever – that I must be allergic to something in the air, but it’s odd to me that it only happens on long runs. And I wonder – this day, after the run, I drank fruit juice which is something I haven’t done in a couple of months on the “don’t drink your calories” principle of Paleo eating. But I’ve been reading The Paleo Diet for Athletes, by Joe Friel and Loren Cordain and Friel basically recommends some straight fruit sugar right after a workout for recovery (with protein -- I ate 3 scrambled eggs, too). But I wonder if I’m having a reaction to the fruit juice. Anyway, as I write this, it is Sunday morning and I still have the headache, even after drinking a cup of Traditional Medicinals Breathe Easy tea which usually makes a difference in sinus pain for me. I may have to pop some paracetamol.

 

One more thing to share. When I left the US, I weighed about 133lbs/60kg, which was down from a high of 141lbs/64kg in December-February. This was the beginning of results from starting to eat Paleo. Now I am down to 125lbs/56.5kg which has always been what I consider my “ideal” weight, though I have been down to 120-122lbs/55kg from time to time. This was not only totally effortless, but while eating food that has been so much more satiating than what I have been eating for 35 years. Many folks who move to eating Paleo are primarily interested in lowering their bodyfat, but I’m a bit addicted to the scale, so that was my first focus. However, last year I bought a skin caliper fat measurement device (FatTrack II by AccuFitness, www.accufitness.com) mostly because one time a few years ago, I got a body fat test at a race which indicated that my body fat was much lower than my fancy Tanita scale was telling me. At any rate, I just used the calipers, after reading and rereading the instructions to try to be as accurate as possible. My body fat came in at 15.7%. That was actually the highest of 4 measurements (3 out of the 4 were 15-something). Holy cow. I do have to say that the only place I see any fat on my body is my triceps (eegads, I hate that. The worst inheritance I have from my mother and my least favorite thing about getting older. . .) and my “love handles” which actually are not nearly as visible as they have always been in my adult life. 15.7% for a 49 year old woman. Pretty awesome. Ha! Just wanted to do some BSP there (blatant self-promotion).

 

Finally, I have a question, in case anyone actually reads this blog (I have my doubts). I am a big fan of many podcasts. There are several running podcasts I listen to regularly plus a bunch of health/fitness ones and then a bunch of NPR shows. Now I am sort of kicking around the idea of starting up a podcast myself and so I was wondering what might people be interested in hearing about? If I were to do a podcast, what would you like to hear me talk about? Give me your feedback in the comments. Thanks.

 

Monday, April 11, 2011

From the hills to the flats

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had started marathon training back in California. Menlo Park, where I was staying, is flat enough itself, but the Peninsula south of San Francisco is lined with a range of mountains between the coast and Silicon Valley and many of my runs, particularly long runs, included trips into the many parks in those mountains. The Menlo Marathoners are in training for the Big Sur marathon, which has some significant hills on the course (or had – due to a massive mud slide in February, the course had to be changed), so we intentionally headed into Wunderlich, Redwood, Windy Hill and the Stanford Dish, to ensure we were in shape for that.

 

Now I find myself on the other side of the planet between the hilly copper belt of Zambia and the Kalahari Desert and it’s nearly flat as a pancake. (I have noticed, as is often the case, that “flat” from a driver’s perspective often includes gradual inclines and descents that are easily felt by a runner, but honestly it is pretty flat.) I haven’t seen the approach yet, but I think the bridge between us and Zambia, 5km from where I am staying, does have a bit of an ascent, and I have found a nearby neighborhood (called a “location” here) that has a 20 ft “hill”, but that’s about it. For reasons of staying in shape and wanting the change of gait and pace that hills provide, I intend to look around for where I could at least simulate hill work (there is a stadium in town, which I haven’t yet visited, which might have bleacher-type seats, I hope).

 

So, I’ve gone from very hilly and very wet (and cold – at least to me) to very flat and very dry (and blessedly warm). Even though the rainy season is just ending (and it actually rained in April for the first time in people’s memory), the terrain here is all sand – a fine white sand – and the water just disappears within hours, except for a very few places right near the river, which has greatly overflowed its banks.

 

Also as I mentioned, my first week running here in Katima was difficult – anything over 4 miles felt like pure drudgery. Doing some reading and podcast listening on various Paleo sites, I thought maybe I either wasn’t eating enough generally or maybe I wasn’t getting enough carbohydrate energy. So I bought some sweet potatoes – abundant here – and made sure I ate at least 3 meals a day. (When I started the Paleo thing, I had about 10 lbs I wanted to lose which I gained while in the US, but by the time I arrived in Katima, I clearly had lost those pounds.) And it worked! Now I feel back on track and things are humming along.

 

I also stepped back and reworked my training plan since I’m not going to run a marathon on 1 May and I really lost momentum in the whole moving across the world thing. So, now I am focused on the Safaricom Lewa Conservation marathon which takes place at the end of June in Kenya. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to go – I can’t actually afford the plane ticket and the registration fee is very steep – but there is a chance and I would LOVE to run this marathon. It is run in the Lewa Conservation area and in past years, they’ve had helicopters fly over to keep animals (elephants, giraffe, zebra, etc.) clear of the running route! It’s supposed to be quite a tough course – trails, hilly and under the sun with little shade. But it is definitely on my “must do” list. So now, it is at least my training impetus.

 

Yesterday I ran 12 miles, for a total of 28 for the week, and it went pretty well. I had wanted to run on a road I saw on Google Maps that runs south out of Katima but is a secondary (and I think sand) road, rather than on the B8, the tarmac highway. However, I missed the place I should have turned to get on that road, so I ended up circling around town and meeting up with the B8 and needing to run a couple of miles on it. It wasn’t too bad, though because there weren’t many cars.

 

Namibia has a very sparse population – between 2 and 2.5 million people in the whole country. So, even though many people have cars, and the B8 is *the* road between Caprivi and Windhoek (and therefore, from Zambia and Botswana and points beyond), it’s not even as busy as a typical street in an American suburb. I do appreciate the fact that the paved roads here, particularly the highways, are wide, because the cars and trucks drive very, very fast.

 

I headed out for my run wearing my Camelback. In the press to pack up and leave the US with a limited baggage allowance, I somehow left behind any water bottles that could be carried. I can run 10 miles without carrying water, but not further, so I donned the Camelback. Overnight the wind had been quite fierce and as I started out at 7:30am, it was pleasantly cool and still very windy. The wind was at my back as I headed out (which I didn’t really realize until I was coming back and had to run into it) until about mile 2 when I turned off the highway and headed down the road that forms the eastern border of town and goes past my office. All the locations (neighborhoods) in Katima Mulilo have names and I am beginning to learn them because this is how you tell a taxi driver where to go. I am currently staying about 5km out of town in “Mission” – so called because it is the location of a Catholic mission, a Catholic school, a hostel for girl students, a parish church, a convent and Cheshire Home – a home for children with disabilities – which is where I am staying. When I turned off the highway, I ran through Boma (the “nice” part of town), then New NHE (Namibian Housing Estates, I think – a development of houses built in the last couple of years), NHE (20-30 years old, I think), Choto (a poorer location of mostly self-built mud houses) and Greenwell. It was there at the border of Choto and Greenwell that I should have turned and found the other road, but I missed it. Altogether it was quite a pleasant run. The sun was out and strong, but my eyes were well-protected by my Livestrong Oakleys and it wasn’t very hot (maybe upper 60s, lower 70s). I had to run probably 3 or 4 miles directly into the wind, which was a bit tough, but at least it wasn’t cold or rainy. I got a lot of strange looks, of course. So far, I’ve not seen a single Caprivian running, though one guy I ran past said hello and said next time, he’s going to join me. <g> Several taxi men called comments – “run, run” and such – which seemed benign and even encouraging.

 

This kind of run is both typical of my experience generally in Africa and quite comfortable for me. I have to say that it was odd for me when I was back in the US and everybody and their dog was running (I was in San Francisco, Ashland, and Menlo Park – maybe not indicative of the entire country, but places where running is extremely popular). Runners don’t even get a second look, unless an angry driver is taking aim at you and people didn’t even greet as they passed each other. I had to suppress the urge to say hello to everyone I met. . .

 

I’m loving the warmth. I was miserable and very whiny the whole 4 months I was back in the US. I would never have chosen to visit the US in winter. Uggh. It was so hard when I was packing to come here to figure out what sort of clothes, particularly running clothes, I needed to bring. I had accumulated quite a collection of warm clothes and it was hard to believe I would not need them. Now, I am in the southern hemisphere and we are actually moving into winter, when it does cool off here (though not as much as down in Windhoek or South Africa), particularly in the early morning, but I doubt it will match the low 30s F that I met in Ashland. I did bring a few warm tops and jacket, though. In the meantime, however, I am thoroughly relishing the big decision of whether to wear a tank top or short sleeves!

 

Oh, the other thing I’m quite chuffed about is that the training plan I’m following (from the RW iPhone app) calls for Tempo runs and Speedwork and I have actually done those workouts! My pace is much faster than what was programmed (based on my last marathon time of 4:30 – confirming to me that I have a much faster marathon in me) – about 1 min/mi faster – but I’m keeping the differences the same (that is, my easy runs are 1 min/mi faster than Tempo and 1.5 min/mi faster than Intervals). I’m sure this is all due to the confidence I got from the Menlo Marathoners Yasso workouts – the first “speedwork” I’ve done since leaving Cameroon.

 

This week, I have 30 miles on the schedule, including a 14-miler over the weekend. I’ll have to figure out when I’m doing that because I think I’ll be going down to a meeting on Friday and then possibly to Windhoek Saturday morning to shop for a few things. That involves a 12-15 hour drive and a the moment transport hasn’t been figured out yet, so I need to stay both flexible and committed to getting the run in.

Blog Revival!

I think I would have to say honestly that my lack of activity on my blogs (both of them) was a pretty good indication of my happiness and general sincere engagement in my life (or lack thereof). Though I am sorry to not have kept my blog updated over the last few months – months when running was the one thing that I could grasp to maintain my equilibrium and my sense of self – I can certainly see, in retrospect, why I wasn’t able to don my blogging personality.

 

Brief update – until the beginning of November, I was living and working in Lubumbashi (DR Congo), at which point I very abruptly lost my job and returned to the US. I spent four pretty miserable months in the US where I was at times so cold that I went to the local YMCA and paid $10 to run on the treadmill. Finally, in mid-February, I chose to re-volunteer with CUSO-VSO (www.cuso-vso.org) when I was offered a great post in Katima Mulilo, Namibia. In mid-March, I boarded a plane for Windhoek, spent a week there and now I’ve been up in Katima Mulilo for the past couple of weeks. There’s a little bit more about all this, if you’re interested, on my other blog: http://tlongacre.wordpress.com.

 

Katima Mulilo is in the farthest northeast corner of Namibia, in a region called the Caprivi Strip. I encourage you to look it up on Google Maps or Google Earth. I think it will be obvious why it’s called a Strip. Caprivi was some German guy apparently involved in the negotiations to secure this strip, in exchange for Zanzibar, as a transport route from the Zambezi River, upon whose banks Katima Mulilo rests.

 

While I was in the US, I joined a marathon training group, the Menlo Marathoners, through my local running store – Fleet Feet Menlo Park (www.fleetfeetmenlopark.com), absolutely one of the best running stores in the Bay Area. Jim Gothers and Lisa Taggart, the owners, are doing wonderful work creating a running community on the Peninsula, and it was such a great experience to be part of that for a couple of months. The Menlo Marathoners are a fantastic group of people, training for the Big Sur International Marathon on 1 May, and I miss them. I’ve never been part of a marathon training group and it was extremely supportive and motivating. If you have an opportunity to do this where you are, I would highly recommend it.

 

Then I moved here and in the transition, I’ve had to step back and review my own plan. The week I spent in Windhoek and the first week I was here in Katima, every run over 4 miles felt like such an enormous effort. While the Menlo Marathoners were running 21-milers, I was feeling wiped by 6. At first I thought it was the altitude in Windhoek, then the heat in Katima, but in the end, I actually think I wasn’t eating enough, and probably not enough carbohydrates. Another big change I’ve made in my life is that I’ve started (about 2 months ago) to eat “Paleo”. If you haven’t heard of this, basically it means eating no grains, no dairy, no legumes and little or no sugar, focusing on eating real, high quality food: vegetables, fruit, with a focus on “good” fats (avocados, olive oil, coconut oil) and quality meat (grass-fed) and fish (wild). (Some resources: www.robbwolf.com, www.everydaypaleo.com, www.balancedbites.com, and you can Google Loren Cordain)

 

For me, the biggest change here is adding meat and poultry. Shortly before I went to Cameroon, I went through a battery of allergy/sensitivity testing which showed me that I was sensitive to most grains and in Cameroon I mostly stopped eating them except for corn and rice, which definitely made me feel better. The naturopath with whom I consulted didn’t tell me to cut them out altogether, and of course, as time went by, and particularly when I was in more “developed” contexts, more and more grains came back into my diet. It is hard to change a lifetime of believing, as the Food Pyramid tells us, that grains should be eaten at every meal. I’ve never been a big bean eater, though I’ve always liked peas and lentils, so legumes have not been difficult to leave out. In “going all the way,” I thought it would be quite easy in Africa because eating vegetables and meat is (sans their staple “white” food) the basic African diet. However, I was quite surprised to find that this is one of many ways that Namibia is very different than other places I have lived and visited in Africa. One basic fact about Namibia is that it is dry. It is the driest country in sub-Sahara Africa and is basically a plateau between two deserts (the Namib and the Kalahari). Because of this, there is very little food grown here and most is imported from South Africa and is bought in western-style grocery stores. In Windhoek, I tried to ask around to find out where “real people” shopped, but everyone I talked to mentioned only grocery stores. “There’s no open market?,” I said. “No!,” they would respond. There is only ShopRite and Pick’n’Pay. . . And, as an example, the most prominent brand of eggs in the shops are proudly advertised as “grain-fed” which is actually the exact type of eggs a Paleo eater wants to avoid.

 

Caprivi, being surrounded by Angola, Zambia, and Botswana is much closer, culturally and in lifestyle, to what I recognize as generally “African,” but it is still very dry here (relatively speaking – compared to the rest of Namibia, it’s practically a rainforest) and though “downtown” is basically a T-junction, we have both a ShopRite and a Pick’n’Pay as well as numerous new “China shops”, a big shop owned by Egyptians and another big shop owned by Indians – all full of packaged foods filled with sugar and grains. But there is an open market filled with fish from the Zambezi, various dark, leafy greens, tomatoes and the very southern African pumpkins (“squash” in American) of every size and shape. I have learned that the best meat is bought fresh out in the village and I think I have a potential source (one of my fellow volunteers regularly goes out to villages to do field work). The things that are quite rare are chicken and eggs. That is, local/fresh/naturally free-range chicken and eggs. All of the eggs or chicken I have been able to find is imported from South Africa.

 

I’m really feeling a bit like a modern-day hunter/gatherer, which is kinda the point of the Paleo approach.

 

I’ll finish this post here and write another about this week’s long run. In reviving my blog, I will be talking both about running and eating Paleo in Africa, and how the Paleo experiment is working out for me as a distance runner. As I settle in here, I’m sure my mind will begin to engage with issues of vocation and what I want to be doing with my life long-term, which have come up out of the events of the last few months, but at the moment most of my wrestling is at a more fundamental, self-care level.

 

Welcome back!