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November 12, 2009

By Camden Bowmen, currently working in São Tome


Sao Tome

As I jogged along the barely-paved São Tomean road on the other side of the hill from my apartment, I suddenly felt the annoying brush of a shoelace on my right leg. Stupid shoe. It was 5:45in the morning, and I did not really want to be up, but I had promised myself that I would keep running while I was in Africa, even if it meant getting up early. I bent over to tie my shoelace. The equatorial sun had only been up for fifteen or twenty minutes, but it was already blazing. I finished the job, tying a double knot this time, and continued on my way.

A few miles down the road I saw another runner. He was a lean, strong-looking African, and it felt good to be gaining on him. After a while, I caught up to and fell into stride with him. The pace was relatively easy, and I liked the rest.

“Tudo bem?” I asked

“Tudo,” he replied, and then went on in Portuguese. “I’m running to help make me strong. And you?”

I nodded my head and kept on going. He laughed and said something more that I didn’t quite catch. After a few more steps, the grape sized stones we were running on began to feel uncomfortable. I looked down to see what kind of surface the São Tomeans had paved their road with.

“You run without shoes?” I exclaimed, not really thinking about it.

“Sim, sim,” he replied, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Come to think of it, it was the most natural thing in the world. After all, I wasn’t born with my New Balances already strapped on. “I’m going to turn back now,” he said, and with that the shoeless runner was gone, off to conquer more gravel roads, I suppose.

As I was on my way back to my apartment, the inevitable happened: my other shoelace came undone. I stopped, looked at it, and realized that my new friend had never had this problem. I bent over, re-tied it, and continued on my way.

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