March 21, 2005

monday am - lets go!

Bloggers have to rest, too. A full two days of R&R and the Rocking Fun Zone is recharged, except that we have a new dog, a wild one, and he was crying and howling all last night. I had to lay down the discipline on three separate occasions. When I found him this morning, locked in the outhouse, thankfully he had calmed down. However, when I transported him to be chained at the front of the house, he immediately began his "Call of the Wild" act, so a new round of discipline starts today. He is going to be a tough nut to crack.

Unfortunately, our other dog has gone to the other side. He got so sick (from what we assume was a virus transmitted through feline feces), that he couldn't pull out of it. Apparently, the virus is a nasty one that eats away at the stomach lining of its hosts. Although the virus would eventually replicate itself out of existence, the damaged stomach membrame is a prime target for bacteria, so I think that's why Simba died. We left him in our domestic assistant's care while we headed to the market on Friday afternoon - he seemed to be responding to the bottle-feeding we were doing. Unfortunately, when I returned, he was sitting lifeless on our stoop. Really sad because he was such a nice dog, unlike this wild beast we now call our pet.

Actually, I've already got a liking for this dog and he's passed the approval of my brother-in-law who assumes that the only value of a dog is as a guard. Therefore, the meaner, more wild, the better. This dog is definitely wild. Last night, after he'd broken free of the string he'd been tied with, I had to chase him to put a collar on and tie him to the doghouse. Soon, he should calm down and have a good idea of his place. But he sure didn't have any idea of his place yesterday.

One, he was really afraid. As I tried to round him up, eventually grabbing for his scruff as he darted behind one of the plants lining our driveway, he lashed out at me a number of times, causing me to drop him, after which he darted immediately into the neighbor's yard. (It was at that point that some of the neighbors realized the other dog was gone - despite their temporary confusion, they were very gracious in helping chase the dog back into our driveway).

He was a tough one, though, refusing to go down even after I gave him a couple of hits on the head. And this is from a 2-3 week old puppy. My thinking is, if he calms down in the next week or so, we'll keep him. Otherwise, it would be unfair to the neighbors and Haberu, given that she sleeps immediately adjacent to the dog's sleeping quarters (the outhouse).

Well, anyway, "Jackie" is a new project and hopefully will turn out to be a good dog. In other news, the World Cross Country Championships were held over the weekend. Have you ever seen those? Obviously, in Ethiopia, they are a big deal, but elsewhere in the world, not so. Sure, I've seen the World Championships of karate brick breaking (even on Arab channels here) and I've seen my fair share of poker tournaments, but cross country running - boring.

Actually, maybe it makes sense since the U.S. no longer fields competitive runners. The Kenyans and Ethiopians simply dominate every long-distance running event, from the Olympics, to the track meets of Europe, to, you guessed it, the World Cross Country Championships. (It's funny to note - I remember when the U.S. distance runner Webb ran a sub 4 minute mile as a high-schooler. Sports Illustrated deamed it the second coming of Amon Coglin and speculated on just how far this kid could go. To date, not so far).

Anyway, here the World Cross Country Championships is a huge event, made even more important this year as the reigning world champion and a man who some consider to be the best long distance runner ever, Keninise Bekele, an Ethiopian, continues to struggle after the tragic death of his fiance during a training run (heart attack. Ever since her death, Keninise has been in mourning and has performed very poorly. Ethiopians were wishing for him to succeed to bring comfort to his heart). Keninise, and his compatriot competitors, performed spectacularly.

They won most of the events, mens and womens, including the team crowns which are given to the team that has the fastest four finishers in any race. Keninise was sublime, chalking up back to back victories in the 4 km on Saturday and the 12 km on Sunday. This is the fourth year in a row that he has won back to back victories in these races, made more surprising by the fact that most runners only compete in one of the distances. (It would have been like me winning the 200 freestyle on Friday and the 1,650 on Saturday, Chad playing first base in the first game of a double-header and outfielder in the second, Matt playing offensive tackle and then switching to linebacker or Brian winning at Settlers of Katan (never happened) on Friday and turning around to take the chess championship the next day).

Bekele was truly in his zone, an unbelievable competitor. There's a belief here that Kenyans cannot beat Ethiopians - when it does happen, it is truly a disheartening event. Over the weekend, that belieft proved true, as every race seemed to break for an Ethiopian winner. The races would be close generally until the end, then the Ethiopian would put on an extra bit of pace and nobody could stay with him or her, unless of course it was another Ethiopian. My wife, generally completely uninterested in sports (except soccer), watched attentively and contributed the occasional cheer as her team continued to excel. Pretty exciting.

All in all, it was an interesting event to watch. Running can actually be very exciting, if you have an idea of the personalities and rivalries. Ethiopia and Kenya were definitely the class of the event. Qatar was also a strong competitor, having bought and patriated a whole lot of Kenyan runners over the past few years. If an Ethiopian left Ethiopia to run for another country in search of financial gain, he or she would be hated. This actually happened this summer during the Olympics, when a former Ethiopian who'd taken Turkish citizenship in order to run on the money circuits of Europe, was the target of every single Ethiopian female runner. Prior to the Olympics, she'd even been banned from training in Ethiopia (she wasn't allowed to run on her own in the highlands of Ethiopia). I didn't get the same sense of resentment from the Kenyans, though I'm sure the ones who have stayed behind in Kenya probably don't look to highly on their former compatriots.

Watching the running may also give you a good sense of the Ethiopian spirit/mindset. These guys are tough. Aside from Haile Gebreselassie, almost none of them shows any emotion when running. They are systematic. They run almost robotically, constantly coming at you. If you falter, you are done. They will eat you up. I'm no expert on Ethiopian mentality, and I'm heavily partisan, but I dare say these people are tough. They are fierce, courageous, proud. They pursue and achieve excellence. The expectation, from themselves and the Ethiopians they represent, is that they will win. Second place is not acceptable. I kind of like that demand for excellence.

Enough on running. I'm sure I'll have more to come later. Maybe I can interview one of the lesser known runners - wouldn't that be a kick. I also spent a good part of the weekend looking for the Matrix to show my wife. Two times, I was given the Matrix II and both times I took the DVD home without realizing it wasn't the first one. What's the point of showing my wife the second Matrix if she hasn't seen the first - nobody would understand it. Besides, number one is what it's all about.

So, I visited about half a dozen video stores over the weekend. Either they didn't have the first one (but always the second and third), or they had it, but only in VHS. I'll stand by my earlier excitement for this system of pirated videos - you get the newest movies out months before they will be available in the U.S. for home viewing, generally in good quality. Sometimes, availability is a bit of a problem, but for 60 cents per DVD (even the new ones!), I'll take this over Blockbuster or Hollywood video. It's too much fun to be able to keep current on popular culture over there. Anyway, for now, Matrix is a bust until next weekend when we will take the VHS to my wife's parents' house.

Well, not much more to say. I met my wife's priest. Apparently, in the Orthodox Church, all believers are assigned a priest who kind of monitors their spiritual life. My wife's priest is a former patient, who she treated while he was deep into a fever from lice (monasteries here have a lot of lice, rodents, etc.). He says that God delivered my wife to him to save him and he is eternally grateful. She is grateful for his spiritual guidance, so it's a good situation.

I met him yesterday. I was supposed to just sit in the car, but shortly after dropping my wife off outside the church, and heading to a parking lot, there was a knock on the car window from the priest, accompanied by my wife. I stepped out, and he immediately embraced me in the way priests here do. All of them carry around crosses, which they press to believers heads to offer them a blessing. For me, it was no different, and the motion seemed to be even more pronounced because he was excited to be meeting me. The cross was literally pressed to my head, then cheek, and then we locked for a warm, non-religious embrace.

He was an average size man, maybe 35 or 40, nothing too extraordinary. I was really moved, though, when tears started to well up in his eyes as he told me about my wife "saving" him when he was sick. I was also touched by all the blessings he gave us for our kids and for my success here. All in all, very cool.

Well, ciao for now. Must do productive things.



Blogger Couch Potato said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

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