Sunday, 15 June 2014

'Early Morning Run in... The Future'

No run today. Instead a round-up and look forward.

First, a huge thank you to each and everyone who's read and supported this blog. Since the first post in Monrovia, 4 months ago, more than 3,300 viewings. Expectations? I had few.

Dream road trip on the near horizon. First half marathon for 15 years. 29th June. Two weeks today. Not just any half marathon. Victoria Falls. Oh oh, you're now thinking, sponsorship request? Relax. A half marathon is hardly Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. Ayo - if you're reading this...4 kms! 4 clicks. 4 kilometres? I mean, really, ...4 kms...

Arrived back Sierra Leone from Senegal (Post 13) 2 weeks ago, always good to be back home in Freetown. Walked from Lungi 'International' Airport the 20 minutes to catch the water taxi over to Freetown. Half-way I was approached by a 9 year old boy who wanted to pull my bag. Polite boy with a wonderful smile. He had character. He had something. I told him I pull my own bag, but why wasn't he in school. His English was extremely good for one so young. He told me he didn't have a uniform. Said he couldn't go to school without one. We walked on a few minutes in silence. Asked him why he didn't have a uniform. He said his father was dead. His mother was sick. He was being looked after by his grandmother. She was poor and had no money for a uniform. He changed the subject. Asked how I was going to Freetown and how long I'd been there. He was very chatty and matter of fact about his circumstances. He asked for nothing and was amazingly cheerful. He had no shoes. He didn't ask my name, nor me his. We walked on. I asked when he last went to school. A few weeks previously. I arrived at the water taxi ahead of the remainder of the passengers who had chosen to take the more conventional minibus. I sat on the wall sweating slightly, gazing over the 9-mile wide estuary towards Freetown. I was reflecting on this boy and general life insecurity. Couldn't call the boy across, there were many kids waiting for the minibus. Sorted him $10 in Leones. Took him to one side and discreetly pressed the money into his hand. Said to give to his grandmother, she should buy him a uniform. He must go to school. He said nothing. Did he ever get his uniform? Probably not. His grandmother probably had numerous competing priorities. But, he may have, you never know. It's never futile. Could be a future President. What do you learn - that the value of money changes in different hands. In Africa you can do a lot with a little.

Time in Africa is touched by these stories and interactions all the time. Could write of dozens. Never been touched by bereavement and death so much in my life. There's a great line in Sierra Leone. In Krio. Ow fo do? In English. How for do? Means, what can you do? It's outside of your control. We might say, 'it is what it is'. I say 'ow fo do' a lot now.

Back to the dream road trip? Freetown to Nairobi, via Accra. Nairobbery to Harare. All on the 'Spirt of Africa' - Kenya Airways. KQ. Two days with codename 'Lifeline' (TA to his nearest and dearest) before a magical drive to the Falls. A 2-day journey with an overnight stop in Bulawayo. Cecil John Rhodes is buried here. Well, in the Matopo Hills, about 25 kms away. One of the wealthiest men in the world when he died aged 48. Today no doubt a controversial figure. He died 112 years ago. Life was different. I'll reflect more when I'm stood at his resting place. Poetic last words though, "So much to do, so little time to do it."

Talking of my host in Harare, and co-runner in Vic Falls, 'Lifeline' (TA to his nearest and dearest), I have to confess I was a little depressed last night, so I called 'Lifeline'. Reached a call centre in Pakistan. Told them I was suicidal. They got all excited, and asked if I could drive a truck.

Back to the dream trip. Victoria Falls. 29th June. 0600 hrs. Can't wait. White water rafting on the Zambezi in the afternoon. Couple of days in the Falls before continuing south to Jo'burg. Time in South Africa, before the long haul back to Sierra Leone. I know, I've a business to build, not wandering around Africa on some middle aged gap year. What a road trip though?

Talking of middle age. On a flight into Cairo a few years ago, I wasn't quick enough to put my headphones on. Dread of all dread. A conversation with the fellow next to me. I mean, who wants to hear a strangers life story at 35,000 ft. This fellow was a top Egyptian surgeon. Learned this fact from said life story. Then the dreaded question. "Do you ever wonder why we're here?" He mused, "What's life all about." After 5 seconds of reflection, "No." He said he was 55 years old and now half way through life. Made him consider things. After fighting the urge to recreate a scene from 'Airplane' (the samurai sword and rope), I informed him he was more than half way through his journey. Let's face facts, he probably wasn't living to 110. Thinking back, don't think he found me particularly inspiring. He gazed mournfully out the window. Quick as a flash, headphones on.

That was a few years ago. I might handle things differently now. I'm a half way to a hundred guy myself. Life is a wonderful thing; it's no dress rehearsal we were fond of saying in the military. You have to make the most of it. It's like the old Bob Hope joke. Who really wants to live to 100? Anyone who's 99.

Back to the Blog. The most viewed post to-date has been Freetown, Sierra Leone. My personal favourite post, London a close second. Most enjoyable run Dakar, Senegal. Least enjoyable Accra, Ghana. Top guest runner - Pivot 1664. Most entertaining guest - Escargot. Funniest stories - any with my special shipmate Johnny Admin in.

It's been a hoot so far, this is post 14. I thought a lifespan of half a dozen or so. By end first week July there will be 4 more. Harare, Bulawayo, Vic Falls & Jo'burg. 'Lifeline', looking forward to seeing you next week...

However, before heading south...

Guest speaker role on Friday to the Gloria Foundation Petroleum Mission which aims at uniting young Sierra Leoneans in the petroleum sector to help ensure they are strategically placed in society to impact this nation with skills and training. JTC - a pleasure to meet you, good luck with your commendable efforts to make a difference...