Sunday, November 23, 2008

Running with rocks

After returning to Bolshevik after my site visit, I decided to start
running in the mornings. I had been hesitant to run because I worried
about what my community would think of me for doing something so
"strange." I had been really struggling trying to balance my stress
without much exercise. I could fit in the occasional yoga session in
my room, but they would usually be interrupted by my host mom poking
her head in my room mid-downward dog pose, and me struggling to try to
explain why I was in pants and practically upside down—kind of
awkward. I decided that exercising was one thing that I couldn't give
up and the only way I wouldn't double my weight with all the carbs and
oil that I eat. My morning run begins with me sneaking out the door
at 6:45am in my skirt, long-underwear, polar fleece, hat, gloves and
running shoes, trying not to wake my host-family who sleeps right next
to the front door. Once outside, I pick up two good size rocks, one
in each hand, to be used on any mean Turkmen dogs that might run after
me. I don't agree with animal abuse, but since the kids here kick and
pelt the dogs with rocks, that is the only thing that they react to.
I figure I can do some weight lifting while running and hope I never
have to use them because I am bad at aiming! I try to stay off the
main road since I get too much unwanted attention from the men driving
to work. I run up past my town's mosque right around the call to
prayer. The sun is beginning to come up then, and I have been able to
see some beautiful early morning skies that have made me stop in my
tracks. I haven't had to use my rocks yet since I have found most of
the dogs to be asleep at this time. There are a few people making
their way to the mosque for morning prayer, but few people are out and
I can run pretty much unnoticed. I run in a skirt, and although
uncomfortable, it was my compromise to be able to exercise. I know
other volunteers run in pants, but that attracts even more unwanted
attention and I am trying to fly under the radar as much as possible.
I turn back home in time to make it across my road before the herds of
goats and camels make their way to the fields. Running on the roads
after them isn't pretty for me or my running shoes! I got the advice
from one PCV to decide on 5 things that you absolutely can't give up
under any circumstance. These things might change, but she said to
hold onto them, because they will help you not give up too much of who
you are. Of course we have to integrate and adjust to new customs and
way of life, but there is the Peace Corps guilt when we think that we
have to be completely self-less. As PCVs we do give a lot of
ourselves day-to-day but this experience is forcing us to think about
who we are as individuals and about the things that are really
indispensible to us. For me, although it sounds shallow, running is
one of my 5 things. I know that it keeps me sane and it will get me
through some of the bad days when I don't have the patience or
diplomatic disposition that I need. For now, running with rocks in
hand in the early hours of the morning on the dirt roads of Bolshevik,
Turkmenistan is an excellent start to my day.

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