Sometimes running in Mozambique feels like a scene in a musical. People wave, smile, give you thumbs up, fist pump in encouragement out of their car window while honking, children chase after you, I’ve even had kisses blown my way. Today however, my evening run was far stranger than I could have predicted. I was doing my usual route of two or three miles up the road and back, when I crossed paths with a man walking his bulls. I was pretty nervous to pass them, considering these creatures are easily three times my size, have giant horns, and are supposedly known to charge things in red. (Why did I wear my red tank top?) Their owner seemed to sense my fear and gave me a nod, which I interpreted as something like: “I can see that you are scared to run past my bulls, but do not worry, I have this rope to keep them from chasing you, and I am very strong. If anything were to happen, I would gladly risk my life for you, because these are my bulls, and thus they are my responsibility. Do not be afraid, foreign girl, please, continue on your way.” So with that nod, I ran safely past the bulls, reached my turnaround point, and headed back towards home.
At some point Beyonce’s, “Partition” came on my workout rotation, and I knew it was time to finish strong. I wanted to get back home before dark so I could rinse off in the bathhouse (AKA the Bat House, or Bat Central Station), before the night creatures came out. I picked up my pace a bit, got in the zone, and enjoyed the imaginary dance party in my head. When people started to stare and point, I wondered if I had accidentally danced a little, and did a quick look around… which is when I noticed the bulls on the other side of the road, keeping pace with me, and their poor keeper jogging and tripping over himself, trying to reel them in. Shit. How long had they been running with me? I slowed my pace, thinking that if I gave the guy a chance to calm them down, he’d get them under control and I could sprint off alone. They slowed down with me, but as soon as I sprinted, they did too! So there I was, sprinting down the “highway” with a bunch of bulls and their not-so-happy owner as the sun was setting. I weighed the options in my head: help this poor guy out by slowing to a walk, guaranteeing a batty shower in the dark, or save myself from the bats and just pretend I didn’t notice the giant animal stampede to my left. Like the wonderful, selfless person that I am, I decided to save myself and keep running – maybe, just maybe they would tire and hang back. Well, that didn’t happen. They probably ran with me for a mile before they reached a dirt path where the owner sprinted ahead to make them turn off. As per usual, I caused a huge scene, inspiring laughter (and perhaps terror?) in every Mozambican we passed. I think I probably misinterpreted that nod. But hey, everyone needs exercise, right?
*Note: Yes, I did start this blog post with a repurposed Facebook status, I apologize for being repetitive.