In the past couple years I’ve gotten into jogging, well, at least I don’t hate it anymore. I even ran a half marathon in 2004. This tolerance was partly developed because I realized that its much nicer to run with other people. In Philly I ran with my friends Andrea and Ted, last summer I ran with my sister Leah-had to get her whipped into shape for college swimming. These days I’m still jogging about every other day (when I haven’t stubbed the hell out of my toe), but my running partners are a little different. Thanks to the vacation from school, the neighborhood kids are available to run with me. Yesterday I felt particularly like Forrest Gump in his running days. I started out with a much bigger group that usual – 6 boys ranging in age from 5 to 12 or so. Some of them wore shorts and t-shirts, but some wore everyday pants and long sleeves. Their footwear ranged from decent tennis shoes to crappy flip-flops. As we were running, 4 talibes (the boys who beg for food during the morning in order to learn from the Marabout – religious leader, in the afternoons) joined in, bare-feet, rag-like clothes with their rice bowls tucked under their arms. It didn’t surprise me that they started running, they had done that before, but it did surprise me that they kept running, the entire 40 minutes! When we got back I gave everyone water to drink and gave some rice and sugar to the talibes.
The thing that is starting to get to me is that there are no girls in my little running group. Granted there are many more boys than girls in my neighborhood, but when I went to ask for Bintu, a very athletic 7 or 8 year old girl, this morning, I was told that she was washing clothes and couldn’t come, meanwhile her brother Youssou joined in no problem. In the homes here, daughters are expected to wash clothes, sweep, cook, and many other things around the house to help their mothers. While boys aren’t expected to do any of that stuff and while they do work by running errands and stuff, much of their day is spent playing football in the street. After talking to my host dad about it I realize that its not an idea that is going to be changed in his generation, I’ll have to work on the young people and maybe the mothers who make their daughters do this. Some girls want to do this, after all, being able to keep a house is what is going to win them a husband who can then go out and get up to 3 more wives.
I want to make my mark on this place, showing them that girls and women really can do sports, work as engineers, be president (like in nearby Liberia), that its really not fair that the house work isn’t shared among boys and girls. I just don’t know exactly where to start.