Saturday, January 24, 2009
I finally committed myself to attempting my first marathon in May (details to follow). It is an event here in Canada, so you may be wondering why I'm blogging about it on a site that is supposed to be about running in Ethiopia. I'm so glad you asked!! It may make no sense at all to say this to you, but to me, it's all about Ethiopia. Maybe not November 2009, but I plan to return to do the Great Ethiopian Run again soon. And in the meantime, I have to keep running. And without a kinda scary goal, it's way too easy for me to lose "the juice".
So, recently somebody asked me what does one wear to run in the fluctuating winter temperatures of Canada. What indeed!
Winter running is challenging because running generates a lot of heat and being overdressed and then sweating a lot can cause you to get chilled and quite cold as your clothing gets wet. Therefore, it's a bit of a guessing game at first, to figure out how to dress, to imagine how heated up you actually get once you are well into a nice long run! The worst part of a long winter run is standing about freezing in your running gear (I hate this part!!), which you must do, because you know once you start to run, you get warmed up pretty quickly!
I usually wear:
1. coolmax/dryline underwear (technical material that wicks moisture away from the skin.)
2. smart wool socks (love those!!)
3. a base layer, especially on top, form-fitting with long sleeves, like long underwear, but also of technical material that wicks moisture away. I wear the same on bottom if the temperatures start to dip below -15 degrees C.
4. thermal/breathable long-sleeved running shirt and pants, also of a material that wicks moisture away from the skin.
5. an outer shell/jacket that is wind proof and also breathable. Rarely, I add a shell on the bottom when it's very windy and very cold, eg. -25 degrees C.
6. something on my head that ranges from a headband that covers my ears, to a thin, breathable hat, to a fleecy ski hat and/or balaclava as the temperatures drop and/or the wind rises.
7. fleece/breathable gloves or mitts (my hands are always the last part of my body to warm up!)
8. my Garmin
9. my running shoes
10. my belt with pockets for ID/money/power gels and water bottle (against my body heat, the water bottle hasn't frozen yet!)
Even then, after a run, it's important to get out of the wet gear quickly and into dry stuff because even on the hottest day in the summer, I start to chill and the body needs some time to recover. A warm drink always helps.
Thinking about all that reminded me of how I used to dress for long walks in the winter time. Here is a story I wrote for my granddaughter about that, with pictures! Maybe I should follow that up with pictures of how I dress now to run, eh? I could call it "Gramma Goes for a Winter Run".
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
When I revisited this photo the other day, it made me laugh at my naive enthusiasm. You see, I can see the road in the photo that leads from the top of Entoto, northward. There is a boundary at the top of Entoto, a boundary that marks the beginning of Oromo territory to the north of Addis. And that road, in the photo above, is already in Oromo Territory.
Where the road crosses into Oromo Territory, there is a check point. But I, on one of the occasions we had to cross here, didn't really notice the armed guards (yeah, I know: again!). I was thinking simply, "a boundary", like state lines, or crossing into another province in Canada. Sometimes we even have a colourful billboard at the border: "Rah Rah, and all that." But farthest from my mind was that it might be a hostile border!
However, as soon as my companions mildly suggested that taking photos of the border might not be a good idea, I noticed the armed guards! One of my friends teased me saying, he made it a habit not to photograph people carrying guns!
I remembered other "border crossings" in other parts of Ethiopia. The shared histories of the Amharas, Oromo people and other ethnic groups in Ethiopia does not mean that things are all that friendly between them. They may be a united front to outsiders, but there are hostilities within the nation. Of the many political groups who represent the interests of the Oromo people, some are in direct opposition to the current Tigray-led government and human rights groups have condemned the government's persecution of the Oromo people on many occasions.
So, even though the guards looked rather relaxed, even sleepy, I put my camera away!
Saturday, January 17, 2009
In my daydream strolls through some of Addis' finest gardens, I'm astounded as well as disappointed by the gardens of the Sheraton. They are beautiful, indeed, but I am surprised that the grounds are not larger. Everything also smacks of being very new, unlike some of the other older properties of Addis' embassies and hotels. There, the trees are quite impressive. However, I'm much more relaxed here and there is no obvious armed guard as in so much of the rest of Addis! In fact, several of the staff on the grounds take the time to chat with me as if I could afford to be a guest of the hotel -- a lovely idea, that!!
After the race, I finally had the opportunity to relax a little and daydream my way through some gardens. The first garden I visited was the garden on the grounds of the Ghion Hotel. Hardly anybody else was walking in the gardens. I ran into one white lady, binoculars in hand, who was bird-watching. The gardens are a lovely oasis in the middle of Addis.
There is one thing, however, that I cannot get use to. Armed guards stroll casually through the grounds. And after my trauma after the race, I can't help wondering. Are the guards keeping rabble out of the gardens, are they protecting me, or are they watching me...???
It is a concept I am not used to at all. I tend to go through my life not really thinking much about people who have less than I do. I tend to look around me and assume people are pretty much like me. I have no concept of what it is like to be surrounded by desperation so profound that it might push people to steal or worse. A comment an Ethiopian friend made has stuck with me. He commented on how nice it must be to live in a house that is not surrounded by walls topped with razor wire or shards of glass, to be able to look out your windows and see an unobstructed view of the countryside.
Sometimes, I think when we travel, we forget how others look at us. For example, Europeans and North Americans are viewed as incredibly wealthy by many in Africa. We may be enjoying what is strange, different, quaint and unique about their costume and customs, but is the way of life for them. Our reactions are completely filtered through our prior experience and rarely prepare us to just see, without the added layers of our judgments.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Tej is a honey-wine. It can be quite wonderful. The first bottle arrived and was rather fiery stuff. Cooled a little with a milder bottle, it went down pretty smoothly and it could have been far too easy for me to lose track of how many birilles I had consumed!
I had tasted tej before in Lalibela, where it tasted somewhat muddy and had a pronounced after-taste of minerals. This time the tej was far superior and justifiably deserving of its reputation as the traditional drink of Ethiopian kings.
The appetizer, tibs, most probably sliced up lamb, pan fried in butter with onion and mild chili peppers, served with berbere on the side. Injera, the bread/pancake-like staple of the Ethiopian diet is made from an endemic grain called tef. A roll of it is often placed at the side and one breaks off a piece of it to use as an eating utensil. Food is usually eaten by everyone off a shared plate.