The Familiar Everywhere

Every day I’m inspired.

I’m not sure if I’ve told this story before, in any case, it’s worth re-telling.

When I was in elementary school, in grade 5, I had a teacher named Ronald Booth. We were a mixed class, of grade 5s and grade 6s, I can’t remember why. He instructed us, he made learning competitive and fun. If you weren’t paying attention or if you weren’t behaving (which rarely happened in his classroom) he’d whip a meter long pointer through the air and smack your desktop with a loud *crack*. You could never really tell how close he’d get to your nose, but the whooshing air was enough to put you back in line. He had a poster up on a wall with all of the students’ names in the classroom. It was a kind of scoreboard. If you answered questions right, you’d get a star, and the student with the most stars at Christmas, and at the end of the year would get a cash prize. Something like 5 bucks. But you also got bragging rights, and the most stars beside your name, shiny ones, that everyone could see. Every week he’d tell us a part of a story that would take all year to tell. It was about horses and farmers, and morals. I remember there being a lot of suspense, and Mr. Booth being an amazing story teller.

I respected him, and I looked up to him. He was a strong man, a school teacher that commanded respect from his students, and gave respect back. We called him Mr.Booth, he called us Ms. and Mr. so-and-so. There were five Ryans in my class, so after being called Mr. Hodge for a year, the name stuck. Close to the end of the school year with Mr. Booth the school had track and field try-outs. I signed up for everything. High jump was horrible; I landed on the bar in an awkward position and hurt myself, I didn’t get over my fear of the high-jump bar until the last year of high-school. Girls jumped further than me in long jump, and this was embarrassing at the time. I managed to put the shot past my toes, but that wasn’t nearly good enough. I lost sprints in the first 10m. I could never get going fast like the others. The last event was always on 800m run around the school yard. It was two laps, circling the soccer field and running through the playgrounds. I think I came 6th, I was pretty proud because I beat a lot of older kids. After the race, after I got my ribbon, Mr. Booth came to me and told me that I was a good runner.

I was inspired. I played a lot of soccer, whole games, ‘Hodge’ turned into ‘Hedge-Hog’, like the game Sonic the Hedge-Hog. I imagined myself a runner. I embodied the nick-name given to me, I toughed out entire soccer games, and ran Terry Fox runs, and pushed myself to get the best 5min running scores at school, because that’s who I was, that’s the identity I chose, and was given to me, and that I fed. I held on to it, and broadcasted it. I can run, I could always run, and I chose to. My inspiration lately has been coming from immediate things. I’m beginning to discover that I do my best to relate quickly to whatever I can when I’m in a new situation, a new place, with new people, a new job, or whatever. I even do it when I’m reading.

I’ve nearly finished a second book while here in Kenya. It’s called ‘One Day I will Write About This Place’. It follows the life of the author as he deals identity, school, employment and unemployment, defining Kenya in his own terms, and describing the subtleties of Kenya’s many languages and social interactions. His writing is poetic, and flows like water. It’s difficult to follow every twist and turn, but the over-all direction is clear, he rushes forward through development. His mother was important to him, his silent support beam, his first encounter with working out and understanding confused diversity. She came from Uganda, in a time when Ugandans were not popular. She died and he wrote a moving chapter about her life. I cried.

I cried because I read about her, and began to know her, and understand what his mother meant to him, and I thought about what my mother meant to me. I related to the story, I found something I knew, felt through it, and exposed myself to it. It’s easy for me to relate. My friends are runners, good runners! Just like at home. We’re a bunch of dudes that hang out, chat and laugh. I’m staying in a rural area, with cows, chickens, trees and dirt/clay roads, just like home. It’s scary, but I feel at home. Half way around the world there are things I can relate to, and I’m comfortable.

Simon invited me to church last Sunday. I’m not really religious but he invited me to come, so I went. We sat towards the back of a tin roofed church, the clay walls were painted white, and in the front on each side of the pastor’s alter there were small palm-tree looking plants. Church songs were sung, probably in Kiswahili, out of a rusty choppy sounding microphone and speaker system. The music tinged and twanged like I imagine the roof would in the rainy season. The seats around Simon and I were the first to fill up, then the front, then the back. The pastor asked someone to translate the readings for me, so his messages were in English and Kiswahili. I witnessed social instruction taking place, what is right and wrong, and sticking to the truth. He (ironically) used runners as an example of hard work, as an example of how being in fellowship with God requires practicing every day.

Hard work. ‘It’s no joke’.

I was inspired. It’s precisely why I’m here. I’ve said what I am, I’ve lived it for a long time, and now I’m here, putting in hard work. And I have the good fortune to be doing it with good people.

I broke today after hillwork. I didn’t sleep well last night, because I think I ate too much rice yesterday, and had stomach cramps all night. Then after hillwork my legs burned the entire jog home. When I got home, exhausted, I stretched then layed down. I think I was running a fever.

Now at 8pm, my body still aches. I’ll be ready tomorrow.

I’m working hard, I’m cashing in. I’m relating, comfortable and inspired.