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Saturday, May 9, 2009

First Week of May

Today (Monday May 4th) we had a full day of interviews. We started out at Athletics Kenya, the organization that governs running in Kenya. We started with David Okeyo who is the Secretary General and then moved on to Stephen Mwaniki who coached Catherine when she was first discovered by the prisons. On the top floor is a small museum dedicated to Athletics (here they refer to running as Athletics). If you look towards the back of the photo you will see a sculpture that represents Catherine. The room is designed to look like a track.

We then went to the Prisons Headquarters and spoke with Elizabeth Olaba who was the recruiter who actually recruited Catherine. It was an informative day and we got some good interviews!

On Tuesday May 5th we took a drive out to Catherine’s hometown where we visited her primary school, Kahira Ini and filmed some establishing shots in order to save time when we come with her. It was just like when I arrived here last year; once the kids caught wind that a “mazungu” (white person) was there, word spread and all 330 kids were surrounding us within minutes! They love the cameras and are so curious about white people because they rarely see any. Many of these children have never been outside of their village. The school is almost exactly was it was when Catherine attended except for the addition of actual windows now in place instead of just the opening for the window.

One of Catherine’s former teachers offered to show us where Catherine used to live and we also visited her secondary school and confirmed everything for our trip next week. Then we went into the local town (which consists of a small shopping center) and spoke to random ladies from the village to learn what they recalled about her. It was fascinating to hear some of their stories about when Catherine was growing up. It was a very good day and the drive back was also quite interesting; driving the Kenyan roads at night is extremely scary! Many of the roads are not even paved and the drivers are crazy; they pass on curves, they pass when oncoming traffic is way too close and the matatus, small buses used to transport people stuffed in them like sardines in a can, have the craziest drivers of all, even resorting to driving on sidewalks to get around traffic!

Thursday May 7th, 2009

view of Rift Valley

Today we left to drive to Eldoret, a town in the Rift Valley known for producing some of Kenya’s best runners. (I say “some” because there are successful runners not from this area, such as Catherine) The altitude is over 7000ft which makes it an excellent training ground for distance runners and there is no lack of them! We went because I wanted to show this area that is so well known as well as to attend a track meet where runners compete in hopes of making the national teams. The officials from Athletics Kenya attend as well as coaches and managers looking for new talent and up and coming runners. It took us over 6 hours to get there and it was dusk by the time we arrived so we found some high ground and filmed the sunset. Unfortunately, there were a lot of clouds on the horizon so we didn’t actually see the sun set but it was pretty nonetheless. We rented a Rav4 because whenever you go outside of Nairobi and venture out onto the roads you need a 4 wheel drive and Willy’s car is a four door sedan that would never make it! After filming we checked in to our hotel which is called the Sirikwa. The room was adequate and we had a bite to eat and got to bed early so we could be out at the “meet” first thing.

When we arrived at the stadium we were struck by how many athletes were there either to compete or just watching! We interviewed some up and coming female runners to hear who their role models were/are and find out if things have changed for women in Kenya in the past ten or so years. It was interesting how many people there now run in order to obtain scholarships to universities in the U.S. We also found runners who wanted to make running their career but there are some who simply want the education that can be obtained through running qualifying times. The meet is a two day competition and some of the events have heats in order to reduce the size of the field. There is everything from 100yd races up to 10000m ones and steeplechase, hurdles, javelin and shotput; everything you would see at a track and field competition. Catherine’s brother, Cyrus, ran in the 5000m race as did one of Lisa’s runners’ brother, Raymond brother to Hosea! There were 350 entrants into this event and they ran in heats of approximately 14 runners each.

runners line up waiting for the 5000m

I wasn’t able to find Cyrus among the sea of faces but we did see Raymond. The heats were fun to watch especially the finishes because some were so close! the kids LOVE the cameras!

We left the stadium only briefly to film a group of runners warming up nearby so we could get a glimpse of the area where many of these great runners train. We filmed until sundown and then returned to the Siriwka. Little did we know we would be having a loooong night ahead of us! We had dinner and were all exhausted so wanted to get to bed early because we were scheduled to film the sunrise and head to Iten before the second day of the track meet. We got to bed early but had no idea that our rooms were located directly across from a night club. Being that it was Friday night I am assuming it was crowded if the volume of the music was any indication! By 2am I called the front desk to ask what time the club closes only to find out it closes at sunrise!!! Needless to say, just as the music stopped at 5am my alarm rang. I learned that neither Jon nor Willy got any sleep either but at least we were all on time to film the sunrise!

We found a nice location on the way to Iten and filmed it. It was beautiful to watch the whole area come alive and there were people walking back already with goods on their heads and backs and matatus picking people up along the road, bicycles and of course, many runners around. We got to Iten and saw why it is the home to many training camps for runners. It is at high altitude and it is beautiful with plenty of hills for training. We had breakfast at the top of a restaurant that overlooks a viewpoint where you can see the hills around and valleys below and it was quite scenic.

After breakfast we returned to Kip Keino Stadium and watched more of the events. We were scheduled to interview someone but he did not have time so we agreed to do it back in Nairobi. We had planned to interview Luke Kibet, an international athlete, but he was called away to run in Berlin to fill in for another runner who was injured so we had to reschedule. After watching and filming a bit more we needed to hit the road back so we wouldn’t have to drive at night. As it was, we got a late start (almost 2pm) then stopped for lunch (which was interesting in itself. I find it odd that at many restaurants they give you one menu for the whole table and then wait for your order but you have to pass the menu around! The first 3 items we tried to order they did not even have! Jon is vegetarian so there was literally nothing on the menu he could eat!) By the time we actually started our journey it was almost 3:30 so we knew it was going to be a rough ride! We buckled up for the trek back to Nairobi and finally arrived there around 10:20pm, tired and hungry. It was nice to be back at Wasini, our home away from home, back to my comfy bed, internet, clean shower and peace and quiet! (Boy have I become spoiled?!)

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