In cross culture. People Watching. Community in the Developing World and other Places. About questions too: "Higher up and further in!" with an outreach twist? How?

Women’s Walking/Jogging in Bolivia

IMG_2192If our walking/running shoes could talk!

Mine would say, “Well, at least there is NEVER a dull moment!”

A strange and sometimes glorious mix of positive and negative experience – mostly positive. Moments of glancing up – craning one’s neck, really – and glimpsing early morning sun-highways gracing 22,000-foot snow-covered peaks.  Praise God!  Always remembering to glance down, too, at every step, to dodge the broken spots in concrete sidewalks.

Jogging slowly (but doggedly, and having been there a long time doing it) past an elderly gentleman with a cane getting in HIS morning constitutional and hearing him, through the praise music on the earbuds call out, “Cuantas vueltas? Bravo!!”.

The quiet inspiration for oneself of watching out of the corner of one’s eye, and saying “Good morning!” while doing rounds of the one-mile park perimeter at Santa-Cruz-Mariscal, a couple in rural traditional dress, holding on to each other, and the man has had a stroke, and his wife is helping him, and he’s shuffling around the park faithfully every morning recovering more and getting stronger at the same time every single day.

One day recently jog-walking around a small park in a different part of town, I almost tripped over this (see photo above) pile of roasted meat sitting on the sidewalk, waiting, I suppose, to be carried to a nearby snack kiosko and sold in sandwiches throughout the rest of that weekend day.

Inspiration, also, at meeting a rare fellow-female jogger, also older, and every day saying “good morning” to her as we cross running paths.  And feeling almost ashamed of my expensive bright padded New Balance shoes when every single day I look at her feet and see the scuffed leather, heeled women’s dress shoes, ancient and unsuitable for what she is doing.  She can’t afford athletic shoes to run in.  I am fortunate and blessed.

Some bad moments too.  Running as a woman, in Bolivia, is a lot like LIFE in general – a real mix of good and bad.  Being a bit naive, years back, and starting out a little too early, and it was still dark-ish.  I was trying to beat the oncoming day’s summer heat.  And having a man on a bicycle ride silently up behind me and encircle my chest with his arms. Thank God I had my tiny pepper spray in my hand and I was shocked and angry; I immediately speeded up (he was laughing and riding forward ahead of me) and I ran up beside and a little in front of him and turned around and emptied the pepper spray cannister into his face!

Another time – several other times – dogs have started to attack.  The little pepper sprays are actually really good, for Bolivia.  I highly recommend them for women joggers in Bolivia, probably for sister joggers everywhere. I have a dear woman friend – a MUCH more accomplished lifelong runner than I – and also a foreigner in Bolivia, who was bitten, badly, by a street dog while running one morning in Sucre. Once, years ago, I was jogging in New Hampshire and I had my tiny pepper spray – thumb-sized, in a brown vinyl cover, in my hand.  I noticed every pedestrian or fellow-jogger I passed gave me a very wide berth!

I’m immeasurably grateful to God, and don’t take the privilege for granted at all, to be ABLE to jog and walk outdoors in South America, knowing that there are many places in the world where that’s not safe or culturally acceptable at all and so, women can not do that and have to find other ways to exercise.

At my home place, Bolivia, people aren’t that used to women running outside for exercise, yet.  I really love it, though.

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