When I go running by meeks
November 24, 2009, 3:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When I go running…

Not to come off the wrong way, but between being white, foreign and a teacher I am kind of a big deal around here, like a local celebrity. Although I have not been knighted, everyone address me as sir genuinely. Like a celebrity, strangers are always trying to probe into my private life. My demographic does skew young, mostly consisting of students. “Sir, are you married?” “How old are you?” Or “Will you find a local girl to take back?” they might ask in an all too public forum. Also, like a celebrity, everyone greets me as I pass down the street. At no time is this more apparent than when I go running. Most let out a short guttural “Sir!,” shy people might wave, and those bold enough will run with me for a bit. On today’s run, I encountered more in the bold group than usual.

It felt like afternoon in the Pacific Northwest. The kind of air just after a heavy rain, refreshing and so moist it take a few moments to determine whether or not it is actually still raining. I picked up my first pair of students not more than 2 minutes into the run. “Sir do you run everyday?” one asked between breaths. A surprising number of young (around 10-14) say or claim to run every morning. I can’t quite determine how far or where. “No,” I say regretfully. “I wish.”

The next joinee was a sunny 9 year old named Marlon, a great mix of smiles and toughness. He is one of the locals I play basketball with every Wednesday and Friday. Despite being by far the youngest and smallest on the court, he is still able to contribute in games with the older boys. He is a little menace on the court, always able to find open floor, the defense’s soft spots.

Marlon and I arrived at the basketball court where the usual 4 or 5 locals boys were already kicking it (only in the figurative sense of course). I figured this was a good time as any to take a running break and join in. We worked on bounce passing for a few minutes before moving onto to play a game of keep away. They all stood around in a circle passing as I dashed around in vain hoping to deflect an errant ball. Junior (another regular) and Marlon squealed in delight at my inability to intercept any of their passes. After about 10 minutes of missed lurches and stabs, I figured it was time to continue onto Jungle, the outskirts of town.

En route to Jungle is the town airstrip, consistently my favorite part of the running loop. Tracing a ridge, the large open clearing offers a 360 degrees panoramic of the area. On all sides is a carpet of trees extending as far as the eye can see, the even surface only interrupted by the occasional topographic lump, the proverbial cat hiding under the carpet. Onwards and into the heart of Jungle.

“Sir!” I crane my neck and squint trying to make out the figure in the dwindling afternoon light. The boy is sitting cross-legged on his front lawn in his underwear smiling like a Buddha. All at once the Buddha breaks the stillness and leaps into action scampering back into the house.

“Wait sir, I come,” he says running the other way. I ascertain the approaching Buddha now dressed more properly in shorts to be none other than Orlando, a student I have befriended at school. I could never accused Orlando like the Buddha of foregoing materialism. Our early contact consisted almost exclusively of Orlando bringing up an object and asking me how much it costs in the United States. At lunch last week, I was reading The New Yorker when Orlando popped up. I could tell from his eager eyes that he wanted to hold the magazine. ‘Great! Maybe Orlando has an interest in reading and I can feed him articles and short stories and we can discuss them and….’ I stop realizing that the only part of the magazine Orlando is interested in is the advertisements. “How much this car cost in US?” he asks of a dodge neon ad. I can only image how he would react to watching the Price is Right.

We head off towards a quasi-stadium open grass field where all local festivals and events are held. We pick up two more students on the way – clinton, and Clinton*, an enthusiastic young math student of mine. When I introduced the math game 24 to Clinton’s class, most student confined themselves to the one dot cards, the easiest. Clinton only wanted to work on the three dots problems.

*I use the big C somewhat ironically because Clinton is physically the tiniest student in my class.

We run endless laps around the 300 meter grass track gaffing about anything and everything. It is the closest thing I have experienced to running high in Guyana. I find out that these kids wake up EARLY. 4:20 for Clinton, 4:30 for clinton, and a lazy 5:30 for Orlando. I can see clinton holding his left side and decide to call it a day. Not before we do some pull ups Clinton insists. We follow the pull ups with push ups,which I refuse to take part in for personal reasons. I show them exercises like the plank, and cobra they can do instead. I might yet turn these Guyanese into young yogis. The sun is now fully down and the mosquitoes start swarming.“Sir, you need to show us more exercises” from a voice I cannot pin in the darkness. They are interested in having a fitness club in the afternoons. I vacillate on making a commitment knowing how over-committed I already am between school and my basketball club. We’ll talk next week I say, wary but also euphoric about the possibility.

“Good night, good night” I say as I proceed into darkness. I smile and shake my head, ‘how can you say no to students who want to learn?’


4 Comments so far
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This is the warmest blog. I love your students and you are a great teacher. I smiled all the way through reading it.

Comment by mor

Hi Meeks,
I am enjoying your blogs!!! Your students sound so cute and funny and how they must love you!!! I think it’s so wonderful what you are doing over there, adding so much to these young peoples’ lives. I am looking forward to seeing you at Christmas and hearing some of your stories first hand. We really missed you at Thanksgiving. We all had a lot of laughs together. Joannna also shared her visit with you, with us. See you soon Meeks.
Take care of yourself.
Love, Aunt Audrey

Comment by Audrey Getzoff

Meeks – The best part of this blog is knowing the entire route to Settlement and the kids! I feel like I am right back walking with you at night, though when walking it seems that Clinton rides a bike instead of running along side you. Have fun!

Comment by your sister

Glad to hear that your sister enjoyed visiting you in Guyana. I was also reflecting that it is good to be able to see the scenery instead of just imagining what it might look like. Sounds like a truly magical night of running. You’d be surprised how much I respect what you are doing and envy the fact that you are staying in the same place connecting on a deeper level. I’ll probably leave for Colombia today having only spent a couple of weeks here in Venezuela seeing different cities. You get to discover if Orlando has other interests besides waking up at 5:30, materialism and joining a fitness club with you.

Comment by Spencer

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