February 15, 2008
Went for a run this morning. My body was screaming for some exercise. I’ve exercised only once since the day I boarded the KLM-747 in Minneapolis 10 days ago, and that was a only for a 30 minute run just this past Monday when we traveled back to Hyderabad for some R & R. So, I decided to give in before I faced a mutiny from within.
I figured if I ran in the morning there would be less people around and I wouldn’t cause such a spectacle, since we’re the only white men in this town of 50,000.
I took off east, into the sun. Our hotel is on the edge of town, only about four blocks until you get to open fields. I wore my sunglasses and headband and red muscle-man T-shirt. I thought if I presented a tall, strong, no-nonsense appearance I could discourage anyone who might have any thoughts of stirring up trouble with one of the “foreigners,” who they believe are destroying the Hindu identity of Indians through Western Religion. (Our India hosts are always reminding us not to leave or go out walking without someone who can speak Telegu, the local language, in case there’s any trouble.)
There were more people up and about than I expected so I got plenty of stares anyway. Now that I think about it, they were maybe just wondering “who’s the fat old white guy running through our neighborhood?” At least the tough-guy image I had of myself gave ME confidence, if nothing else.
Every road off the main highway in town is gravel, or dirt. Except for the one-block-stretch of tar in front of our hotel. I passed by women brushing their teeth at the neighborhood well… several pigs eating whatever they could find in the open sewers… women washing clothes. I jumped over excrement in the roads, darted around deep depressions and two-feet-high mounds in the middle of the road, and noticed the blank stares of children who wondered what planet I was from.
A few motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians passed by on their way to work or school. Children were getting ready for school, dressed in their uniforms. I even passed a school bus—yup, it was yellow-orange, just like ours… only cruder, like all of the busses over here. An old man riding his one-speed passed me twice. I wondered when the last time his bicycle chain had been oiled. The whole bike had that “rusted” look.
What amazes me is that in spite of the “boundary-waters-camping-like” conditions that most of the rural people live in, they look sharp, well-dressed, clean and colorful, especially the women, in their long-flowing saris or panjabis. They brush their teeth in the morning and send their children to school just like I do. But they go about it differently. Not better or worse than in my city in America. Just different.