Friday, March 02, 2007

Chasing Kimbia: "The voices were loud, but inaudible. It definitely wasn’t English and certainly wasn’t Swahili. They were chanting. The treble in the audio made it sound like it was coming over a loudspeaker. I sat up in bed and again switched on the light. It was 5:07AM. The early morning was silent except for the chanting that echoed through the highlands. After about 15 minutes, it stopped. Later that morning I learned that the noise had come from the local mosque - the only one in Iten. Morning prayer, or Fajr, would happen before dawn every day for the remainder of our trip."

It's rare to have familiar to me described as something so foreign, though the reverse is often the case. Running and Islam, I admit, don't occupy the forefront of the North American mind, or even its rear flank. Now that I know there is a mosque in Iten, I suppose I'll have to go someday.

As rare as it may be find a person who knows what an azaan is, it's rarer to find one who knows where and what Iten is. Iten is a small town in western Kenya at around 8000 feet elevation that has been, oddly enough, described as a Mecca for distance-running. Just about anyone with one or more legs in this town of 4,000 could break 30 minutes for 10k, it seems.

If all that isn't enough, the local preoccupation with tea and disregard for time is yet another attraction. After all, I was originally going to do some work tonight and then read the Atlantic Monthly. Instead, I ate two oranges and read the Toronto Star, all in a matter of two hours.

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