Remember ‘Cool Running’, that movie we used to watch when we were young and laugh at the Jamaicans freezing cold and their funny one liners like, “ya dead man?” This movie comes to my mind often here in Africa. Now I do realize that it takes place in Jamaica not Africa, but just hear me out. I see a lot of parallels in my life in Botswana with the characters’ story. For one, the opening scene shows the lead character going for a run. It seems like he runs across the entire island; he is greeted and greets everyone he passes, like the old ladies and men sitting in the shade or opening up shops in the morning. Despite the oddness of him running through the rather poor town in a poor country, and that some may think he’s running when he could be working, everyone is used to his behavior now.
The batswana in my village finally accept my odd running behavior too. When I leave my little house before the sunrises I run past my neighbors who have also risen to begin their day, men building the fires to heat bath water, ladies sweeping, children half dressed in their uniforms eating bowls of hot porridge. In the past when they saw me they would stand, shocked, staring at me or point and loudly just announce “Lekgoa” (English person). I would sprint past them slightly embarrassed and annoyed. Nowadays most people hardly look up, instead they greet me while carrying about their business, children shout out “taboga Neo taboga” (run Julia run!).
I especially enjoy the scenery of my runs here in Africa. I still feel like I am sight seeing while running, through the brush, pass the mud huts, the cow crossing, over the river bed and up the gravel hill to the border of South Africa.
The sad thing is that I also relate to the scene in the movie when the Jamaicans land in Canada and get shocked back indoors by the cold north American wind. This is my biggest fear about my return home this coming December. So please greet me at the airport in New York with my bright colored warm clothing because I expect to be a terrible wuss in the winter time.