James Ouma · James Ouma writes · Mentoring boys in Kenya · Running for My Life · Shompole Wildlife Marathon · Stories · The gift of blindness

Choosing to Be Alive

Running for My Life Day 12

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Three things happened during my morning run today. First, I started running 10 minutes earlier. Secondly, I ran for 40 minutes after having run the same distance for 1 hour 11 days ago. That is a whole 20 minutes!

Thirdly, I stopped for 5 seconds to watch the brown tailless dog that I usually see during my morning run. Today, it was struggling to get something that was wrapped inside a Nakumatt paper bag. Compared to the group of dogs that scavenge through the dumping site near the Ngong Catholic Church, this dog is royalty. He is muscular, his tail is cut off and he would easily pass for a powerful German shepherd, in a different kind of environment.

Once he managed to tear through the paper bag, discarded diapers and green baby poop spewed out. With his long tongue and strong jaws, the brown dog went to work, licking and eating baby poop. It suddenly occurred to me how low the dog has sunk. From the rank of being a guard dog to licking baby poop simply because it has lost its identity.

Dead Man Walking

I have heard people say that the kind of environment they grow in affects their life. But I would like to differ. The only thing that can be affected by its environment is a tree. But since trees are able to change and adapt in order to make good use of what is available, let me strike that off.

After previously living in Kampala when Uganda was unstable, we went back home, to Luo Nyanza. There were no gun shots ringing in the dark of night, no screams of women being raped in the streets by unruly soldiers and there were no hawkers running and shouting from the sprawling Owino Market. But something worse had happened. My dad died before I turned 13 and because my mom refused to get inherited, we were regarded as outcasts in the whole village.

Suddenly, all the people who used to visit when dad would come from Kampala stopped talking to us. Then something else happened, monkeys raided our farm! I was the only boy in our clan who spent hours guarding our farm from being raided by monkeys. Because of this, I spent lots of hours alone, listening to the radio, reading books and dreaming of becoming a journalist.

That same year, I joined Korwenje Primary School, aptly referred to as Kajomoko due to the jiggers that were known to have chased people from inhabiting the area in the past. On top of this, I was a hopeless stammerer.

I was once sent to Kambare Market to buy Asepso Soap. And because it had not occurred to me to write down the name on a piece of paper, I ended up writing it on my thigh. By the time I reached the shop, I discovered I had washed the writing off at Aora Kodawa. Long story short, I ended up buying Protex Soap and got a thorough beating as a reward.

I struggled through high school and dropped out of college in two attempts. Then I came to Nairobi and got a job as a TV producer a few years later. I still remember what Monica Waceke, the TPM, asked me during my job interview.

“What gives you the courage to apply for this job when you know you are not qualified?” she asked.

“I believe that life is a song,” I replied, all of a sudden, images of my childhood and the dreams I had for my future flashed by in my mind. “When a person wakes up in the morning, their life becomes a song they can sing and dance to when they don’t allow what they failed to do the day before to stop them from pursuing their dreams in life.

“I grew up wanting to be a journalist and this is my chance to become one,” I added. “Even if I had the papers to prove I am qualified, my papers won’t go to work if I fail to report for duty.”

“Okay, this is very interesting,” she said. “Here is what I would like you to do,” she continued giving me my first assignment…. (to be continued tomorrow)

charles swindol

 

“Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.”

Charles R. Swindoll

 

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