Running

As the sun sinks low in the western sky, the oppressive heat of the day yields to the relative cool of evening. I lace up my running shoes and pop in my earphones. I don’t run enough, I tell myself as I take off down Reedview’s main road. A group of kids, shouting “Malome Thabo! Malome Thabo!” joins me for a block or two before losing interest and going back to their game of marbles. The neighbor’s cattle, coming home from a day of grazing in the bushveld, regard at me with dumb suspicion as I weave between them.

Summer’s rains have filled a grassy depression in the valley, forming a sizable pond. I run around this new feature in the landscape, passing some boys splashing about naked in the shallows. They holler and wave at me. I wave back, hop onto a cattle trail, and head into the bush. Five minutes into my run, I am squarely in the bushveld, Reedview’s grid of wide dirt streets and neatly-swept yards well behind me.

Winter’s harsh yellows and spring’s garish reds have given way to the gentler colors of summer; its rains have brought a wash of green to the acacia woodlands. The grass, growing chest high in places, scratches my skin and obscures the trail. I duck and weave between the acacia trees. Their thorns draw scarlet beads from my shoulders and calves. It centers me and orients me to the moment, this pain. In four months, winter’s fires will lay the veld bare. The network of cow trails will be easier to follow then. For now, I bound headlong through the razor-edged woodland, racing the sun as dusk turns to night.

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4 responses to “Running

  1. Howell, I am not sure that running thru the tall grass is such a good idea with out snake pants.Are there cisterns to collect the rain water during the rainy season?

  2. Howell, Once again, your writing is so eloquent! I love reading your posts! The descriptions and photographs you you provide on your blog are wonderful! It gives me a good picture of where you are and the conditions in which you are living! Wow! What is your closest encounter with a wild animal on a jog? I’m with your mom when it comes to snakes! What kinds of snakes are there? Be careful!!!
    We think about you all of the time!
    Love, Sara

    • Hi Mrs. Chapman!

      Thanks again for your support and your words. Nice to know you’re part of my regular readership! I am glad you the content. I hope it gives a sense for the collage of superficially contradictory experiences that comprise life in modern but rural South Africa.

      Closest encounter with a wild animal have been some small antelope that looks like a cross between a deer and a rabbit. There is a game reserve about twenty miles from my village with rhinos and leopards, but the reserve is fence. As far as snakes, the only place I really worry is on the edge between the bush and the village where people keep chickens and the like (which attract snakes) and where they dump their rubbish (which attracts rats, which in turn attract snakes). I’ll brave a few snakes to beat the claustrophobia of the village.

      • Hello Howell! I love following you in Africa! The term “superficially contradictory experiences that comprise modern life” sounds perfect! Cell phones and those living conditions that you describe are definitely contradictory! I would love to hear more about your teaching when you get a chance. What is the reading level of your students would you say? I am trying to better understand your school situation…
        Keep running!

        Love, Mrs. C

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