The title of today's post comes from a comment I've been making to friends for the last couple of years. I've wanted to make a trip to Kenya, but life considerations took precedence. First, I only get a limited amount of time to be a dad. Unless I ran into a pressing necessity, like putting food on the table, I wanted to be there for the girls. A two month trip, solo, didn't fit, so like many other things that parents put aside, this one got shoved onto the 'Someday' list.
The second was the dog. Stitch, the last of our dogs (until the next one), had enough health issues to depress any human. Being Stitch meant always being happy. He was happiest when I was around. I was his 'guy'. Probably didn't hurt that I'm the big softie in the family. Towards the end of his life, he would stress when I took business trips and greet me with exuberant barks on return. Then he would bring me all his special toys, and share. Until just near the end, he would follow me wherever I went in the house.
You don't abandon loyal partners, ever.
Now I've reached the point where all the girls have moved out, and started their own families. They're busy crafting their own futures and creating their own memories with my grandkids. Pretty awesome to watch, but I'm no longer critical to the events. Nor do I have a faithful four-legged companion to feed, pet, and holler at when he'd be underfoot.
It's time. Yesterday I went down to the post office to start the paperwork for a passport. I haven't needed one in decades. I showed up with application and birth certificate in hand - and had the original birth certificate, the one given to my mother - rejected. Apparently, they need a certified copy. In 1962, no one thought it necessary to certify that the actual government-issued document needed additional certification. For a mere $52.25, this is fixable.
I don't expect that this will be the last roadblock that pops into view. In the meantime, I've started laying the groundwork for the visit. There's a surprising lack of detailed information on Kenya. I'm working my way through two travel guides, but they focus on the major touristy places. My story waits in the rural areas, far from Nairobi. Since it's a running story, I'll hit Eldoret and Iten, at least for visits.
I contacted the High Altitude Training Center, founded by Lornah Kiplagat, and have exchanged very pleasant emails with Kevin. There are a fair number of training centers in the region, catering to both Kenyans and Westerners looking to improve. Since that's not why I'm heading there, I sought out Lornah Kiplagat and the HATC because of the Lornah Kiplagat Foundation, a separate entity.
Kevin has been most helpful, inviting me to a tour of the facility when I get there and trying to find someone who can guide me into the rural communities so I can meet the families and being to understand their lives.
The story that I want to write involves Kenyans coming to the US and the resulting culture shock. Most of those runners are coming from the most impoverished regions, not the cities. As I considered the idea - and thought about people to reach out to in the US like Bernard Lagat - a growing realization struck me. Almost all the Kenyans coming this way are male.
I have some ideas. Indeed, Lornah's foundation's site gives a goodly part of the answer:
Unlike the western world, participation in (primary) education is not a given in Kenya. Particularly girls are not always given the opportunities that are rightfully theirs. The large setup of most families means that parents often cannot afford to send all of their children to school. As a result, usually only the boys are sent to school and the girls lose out. A missed opportunity according to Lornah Kiplagat.
I could probably build a story just off that comment, but I'm betting that isn't the only factor. I could invent other stuff and pretend, but that would leave me with a story that isn't authentic. No bueno. I need to be in country and learn to think as a Kenyan. A couple of years would be nice, but I don't have that much time, so I'm starting with a six week trip.
Assuming they let me have a passport. I'll keep you posted. Target date for wheels-up and headed to Kenya is December 27th.