So here is the thing. I know I have said it before but I will say it again. Travel is not thaaaat expensive. If you figure a way around it, you will realize that moving around internally is one of the most misunderstood things on this planet after women. This past weekend I was in Kapsabet. A town I have never been to. When I was leaving my diggz in Nairobi West, my cuzo asked my where I get the money to travel atravela fwaaaa. Which pretty much what everyone asks everytime I do a massive. They think I also ate a bit of Jubilee NYS cherry. I wish I had. But that is not it. My friend got a job there so he moved, then decided to host us for the long Labour Day weekend. All we had to do was get ourselves here, and kwani how much is fare to this place? And just like that, a new territory was conquered.
Before we even get far, can we talk about making a life change as huge as moving from Nairobi to a town like Kapsabet? Imagine you are in between jobs. Nairobi can be a bitch when you do not have a constant source of income. Then you get a gig in Kapsabet. A town that you have never been to, or even heard of outside conversations around politics and Olympics. What do you do? Would you leave Nairobi? It would take hell freezing over for me to take such a leap. Even with the heavy breathing pulse of the city, Nairobi still traps us somehow. It’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome that I cannot shake off. Every time I travel somewhere, after a week, I am ready to go back to the city. Now how the hell am I going to leave it for more than a month? I would leave Kapsabet even before my first PAYE is minused from my slip.
But this dude, Samora, packed and fucked off. He moved to a place where he leaves his shoes at the door; next thing he knows, the neighbour has cleaned them for him. A kind gesture, but weird in equal measure. You know how in Nairobi you can live in an apartment block in which, after 2 years, you still don’t know your neighbour’s name? Not in Kapsabet. Here, you are a community. You don’t need a government initiative to make you know one another. You just do. If you are a scribe, Kapsabet is that place to you want to come and unwind as you write THAT novel or THAT short story. It’s a small town in which life slows down (which is ironic because its a town of athletes) and the air smells new. And the tea is more delicious than what we are used to in the capital. I swear, I dont know why the KCC Milk here tastes like a sweet memory. Kapsabet is a one supermarket (Naivas) town with thin roads and rolling hills carpeted with tables of tea leaves. The nights are actually black and the cold digs its claws in as if it’s been commissioned. Here, words just congregate around your finger tips and thoughts have the right atmosphere to align themselves. If I was to get a Miles Morland scholarship, I would spend a few weeks here.
I envy Samora. To make such an adjustment must be hard. Kwanza in an election year when tribal tensions are high, you don’t want to live somewhere where your tribe is in the opposition. Which is funny, because for the entire duration we stayed there, not even one person seemed to care where I came from.
Would you move out of Nairobi?
Trouble started when he told is that he told us Kapsabet has kawaida weather. It is my fault to have believed him, because this place DOES NOT have normal weather. I realized too late that to him it is normal because he is Kisii and therefore used to the highlands where people exhale white air. Me, I grew up in Kisumo. My shagz is in Alego Komenya. For us to see rain, we have to offer burnt sacrifices. In fact, if we have that kind of weather, we would start looking at each other funny, trying to figure out who called the name of an ancestor in vain.
“Ntie mihia moro ka miluongo ni Onyango ma kaMbata. Wuoyi makite numu nyere. Wach moro ni kosenyamo kal kasto ochako lwongo nying Okango abara mach, emomiyo kawuono okwane wang’ chieng’.”
Now look at the this picture.
It looks like evening. No sun. Dark clouds. But still, amazingly, quite beautiful. I guess the environment is also one of those things that becomes delicious when wet.
Lakini it’s not just the place that is beautiful. The people are too. So, our host’s neighbour is an athlete. No surprises there. It’s a default setting to be an athlete here. Her house is full of trophies. But that’s not the beauty I was talking about. Imagine the night we arrived, she she showed up with a bowl of chapos just because.
As in, it is normal for a jirani to show up in your doorstep with food every so often. Now that is not something that I have seen in Nairobi or Kisumo. Beauty does not lie in eyes of the beholder. Those people lied. Beauty is in the hands of a neighbour who surprises you once in a while with a bowl of chapos.
The rest of the world knows her as Rebecca Jepchirchir Korir. Google her. When we met, she introduced herself as Mama Chep. A 23 year old professional marathoner with 33 medals hanging on her neck and over 10 trophies with her name on them. Let that sink in, guys. She is 23 years old.
Listen to her daily routine.
She wakes up, 5 am she is on the road for a 21km run. Then she comes back, eats, does housework, then leaves at 10 am for a 10km run. Later on at 5 pm she leaves for another 10km run. That is a minimum of 41km in one day. She runs from Kapsabet to Eldoret. Or sometimes to Londiani.
Get this. She came in 3rd during the 2014 Rotterdam Marathon (trophy on her left) while 4 months pregnant. That’s a full 42km marathon. She excelled in a championship while expectant three years before Serena Williams made it cool.
With 33 medals, she has stamps leaking out of her passport. Running has been her ticket to visit places some of us will die without visiting. Her favourite destination: Rome. This is also the place she won her favourite marathon – The Rome Marathon where she clinched gold.
That night when a smiley young girl knocked on our host’s door to bring a bowl of chapos, I had no idea I was being fed by a legend in the making. And even after being told she is a marathoner, when she invited us to her house for piping hot soya tea to chase away the cold, I had no idea just how much she had accomplished. She has so many trophies lined on top of her cupboard, that some of them are now being used to store medicine. And the medals are spilling out of a plastic mini basket, like sadaka. Some medals have even gotten lost!!! ????????????
I try to imagine if I were her, how I would behave. My friend. I would move to Runda and create a mausoleum with all my trophies and medals. A place you have to bow every time you visit me. I guess my vanity is why God didn’t make me a Rebecca.
Her dream is to run the Olympics, break a world record, save some money for a nice diggz, and then retire at 30. That is 7 years from now. In these neck of the woods, you are one race away from a completely different life. Given that Rebecca started running professionally in 2013 and in 4 years she has made this kind of progress, I am in no doubt we will be seeing her name next to a record very soon. Those wazungu commentators better start practicing how to pronounce her name right.
Rebecca asked some of us out for a morning run. She said it will be just an easy half hour run. I don’t know who she thinks she thought she talking to because I am not even a morning person. But I was tempted to go so that one day when she is more famous than she is now, I can point at a screen and lie that I once beat her on a 10km morning run.
Rebecca Jepchirchir Korir aka Mama Chep. Remember that name. Paint it on your lips. She took a break to raise little Chep but is now back. And she is badassery.
There is no way I was going to wake up at 5am for a run. So what happened was that Rebecca did her early morning 21km alone. When I woke up at 9.30am she was already back and done with housework. She saw me step out and said, “Uko tayari twende?” Shit. I thought she had forgotten all about it. Never make a promise to a marathoner. They are like landlords. They always come to collect.
One hour later we were on the road for a 10km. The longest run I have ever set out to chase, but for her, it is just sambla. It’s just loose change. Winnie Muthoga (the ninja in black everything) and Rebecca’s protege (purple jacket) joined us.
You know, I had dharaud 10km. It sounds like nothing. Especially when Rebecca said it takes her 35 mins to complete it, and me in my head I thought “But I am a man. This will take me 10 mins easy.” ???????????????????? We really need to smash this patriarchy because after those 10 mins we were nowhere near halfway. She even had to dumb down her normal pace to accommodate us mortals.
We ran with very limited talking because all the energy I had was taken by my legs. My heart pounding like a pingpong on a child’s hand. My lungs screaming, “fuck this shit, Magunga!” And my knees, Jesus Christ my knees!, they must be instituting a mass action suit for slavery ????????????
While I was over there feeling like shit, almost crying for my mommy, I turned to our soon-to-be champion next to me, and you know what? She was just over there jogging like it was the easiest thing in the world. She might as well have been changing a diaper and I still couldn’t keep up. Running with Rebecca is like sitting an exam with those chopis who finish one hour to Stop Time, when you’re still in Question 2(b). Show off!
“Do not sit down. You can slow down but not sit.” “Do not straighten your hands, keep them folded, and pump.” “We are almost done, just after the Water Supply and we go there,” she says, pointing up a hill where Kapsabet greenery rises on its toes to kiss the blue.
But I did it, guys. We did it. Even if I walked a quarter of the way, I still managed the 10km. Sometimes we ran past a bunch of on-looking jamaas and Rebecca and the girls thought they were the ones being admired. Poor them. It was my hair that was the main attraction.
Now I feel I am ready for the Olympics. If Kenya will not take me, please tell the Bahranians that I am open for discussions. Even 500,000 a month is fine with me. In fact y’all need to start calling me Kipgunga Cherop.
Meanwhile, if you will excuse me, I will be in my room, protein shake in hand, writing my last will and testament because my body is decomposing.