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Published: November 27th 2008
becoming a full person
Why hello there! How have you been? Oh, me? I’ve been good thanks, pretty busy though. Whats that? Well yes, I believe I have lost a little weight, thank you for noticing! You actually look a little fatter to be honest. Its ok, that happens to a lot of people after high school. What? Yeah, you’re right, it has been quite a while, I apologize ….I believe the last time we talked, I had a full head of hair, my name was Jimmy Schneidewin_, I was 23, I had only run one marathon in my life, the President of the United States was white, and the record number of losses in one season for a University of Michigan football team was 7. Sounds like we have a little bit of catching up to do. And by that I mean I’ll describe some highlights of my life over the past couple months, and probably not actually communicate with you the reader unless you are a pretty Canadian, my parents, my brother, a future showbiz star cousin, a two year resident mentor at Michigan State University, and an American who is an expert in Indian dance styles.
So I guess first I
will address the current football situation at the University of Michigan. For years and years I have been talking down to and feeling sorry for Michigan State University football supporters because their team is a constant source of embarrassment and bitter disappointment for their disillusioned and fair weather fans, but now, it appears as though the tables have finally turned. With that being acknowledged, I suppose the time has come for me to be humble and to say in all sincerity: Now I know how you all must feel...every…single…year.
Boy, apologizing and just making yourself completely vulnerable is not for the thin skinned.
So yes, I now have my full and original name back, as my photos prove. Actually, those pictures were taken on September 19, so now there is a “(Mo” added to that. As you may remember, the ultimate goal is “Jimmy Schneidewind (Mozambique 2007-2009)”. Progress.
So yes, I now have almost no hair on my head, as my photos prove. My friendly Canadian Missionary neighbors agreed to not only remove the birds nest from my head, but to document the whole experience with my digital camera. My loss (hair) is your gain (some level of
almost see that sparrow peeking its head out with its babies
entertainment). You know, I kept thinking that at some point, it was going to get long enough to look cool, sort of like a Steve Prefontaine kind of thing, like when I went running it would kind of flow behind me in the wind. Actually, all it ever really did was make my head really hot all the time and fight constant battles with lice. Lice usually won. Anyway, now its all gone. Progress.
Speaking of running, on November 2, I participated in the Soweto Marathon, which took place in the township of Soweto, located just outside Johannesburg in South Africa. I trained 18 weeks in preparation for the event in the hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. About week 9 or 10, my training really started to go pretty poorly, getting progressively worse each week. Week 15 was the week when I officially accepted that Boston was going to have to wait for another marathon. Just bad run after bad run. I was not really having much fun either, if I am being honest. In my town, if I am doing nothing but sitting on my front porch reading, people stare at me like my hair is
i should have just stuck with this hair style
on fire. However, when I go running in my town, people must think that I am of a different planet. I like running normally because it allows you to escape, go into your own world. Here, that never happened. People would sometimes chase me, occasionally make loud audible comments about me, and always stare. That, coupled with the fact that towards the end of my training when it was getting hotter earlier, I was having to wake up anywhere between 2:30 and 4:00 a.m. to be able to finish my runs before the sun came out, made the training an overall unpleasant experience.
Actually, all that helped to take the pressure off on race day, and I actually enjoyed the run mentally, although physically I think it took about 5 years off my life. To say the course was hilly is to say that the Atlantic Ocean is wet. You will see by some of my pictures what I mean. Also, I’m not sure how many of you knew this, but Africa is hot. Seventeen water stations were scattered throughout the race course. I drank at least 3 cups of water at every single one of them. A couple
have left it like that too. See the person filming in the background? Even north americans think im weird looking
hours after the race when I had my first urination, it was a shade of yellow that I never knew existed. And don’t even get me started on the color of my other bodily waste. Anyway, it was hard, but I survived, unlike two other race participants, who died on the race course, I assume from severe dehydration. Two others collapsed and were taken to a hospital, and one was actually hit by a car. There was no lack of carnage in this race.
Some of you may know that I like to binge on junk food for the couple weeks after I finish training for something. Normally, I eat a can of vanilla frosting, but this time I really had something special. One of my very favorite uncles had sent me a few packs of Oreos and Chips Ahoy a month or so before the marathon, so I decided to keep them wrapped until I finished the run. Afterward, I ate all of them. I also made one Oreo where I took the frostings of 10 Oreos in total, and put them all between two little cookies. The result was a cookie that was as big as a
TV. The photos prove this.
Soweto. Now that is a pretty cool city. For all those readers who may not be familiar with the history of Soweto, it could maybe be described as the epicenter of the anti apartheid movement, in terms of protests, demonstrations, and the social and political leaders it produced. The race actually went down the only street in the world that has the houses of two Noble Peace Prize Winners, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. The cool thing is that this is all so recent, so most of the participants from this movement are still alive, and many still live in Soweto. I went to a video rental store and met a man who participated in demonstrations during that period. I got a ride to the race course from a man who talked from firsthand knowledge about the difference between South Africa now and during Apartheid. I had lunch at the house of a man who fled South Africa as a political refugee. I was telling some friends that it was sort of like one of those Saturday morning educational cartoons where they show a bored kid sitting in class while his teacher lectures about
later, i made a fur coat out of it to give to the canadians for when they go back home one day
history, and then he falls into the pages of his book and starts meeting all the actual actors from that period in time. Pretty cool stuff.
I live in a small rural village in Zambezia, one of the poorest provinces in Mozambique, which remains one of the poorest, most unconnected countries in the world. Internet almost never exists outside provincial capitals. TVs are rare, so world news is even more so. With that scene set, let me say that I have yet to meet a person here who has not heard of Barak Obama, and of those people, I would guess that around 99% have expressed their preference for him over any Republican representative you can name. I don’t think I would have believed this level of enthusiasm existed had I not been here to see it myself. The day after the election, I received 3 phone calls from Mozambicans SHOUTING about how excited they were. Now I know that Mozambique is not yet in the G8, and we probably import about as much from Afghanistan as we do from Mozambique, but when I see this type of reaction from some of the more information secluded people on the
doesnt even begin to describe what it was like to run up this first mountain, and i dont know if they put the yak there for intimidation purposes, but at the very least it slowed me down a bit just to run around him
planet, it makes me feel like Barak’s message of changing the international perception of America is not just rhetoric, but a reality. OK, that’s it, I will keep this blog a bipartisan one from now on.
Today is November 27, Thanksgiving. I think about how things were back in January, February, and March, and how I never thought I would make it to see the months of August, September, October, and November. Every day I wake up and I am still in Mozambique, I just can’t believe it. I never thought I would get here. I sort of feel like the guy who survives a near death car accident, and then realizes how beautiful everything is after that. I still have pretty rough days here, and still miss home like crazy, but the longer I am here, the more I realize what an unbelievable experience and opportunity this is. I can walk through a rural community in Mozambique and stop at people’s houses I know, eat dinner with neighbors, play soccer on a town soccer team, or just sit around with guys around my age and talk about nothing important, just as I would with my American friends in
was not quite as high, but getting around the giraffe proved to be a greater challenge than the yak
the States. Some of these people are people who had never met a white person before me, never touched a foreigner, never met a native English speaker. Many of these people were afraid of me when I first got here, many would not let their kids come near me. Many have never met a white person who didn’t talk down to them before, didn’t treat them as less than human. My house had nothing inside it when I came here. Not one thing. I didn’t know how to get to our town market, I didn’t know where any of these little dirt paths led. I didn’t speak a word of Portuguese, had never even heard a word spoken in a local dialect. Had barely even heard of Mozambique. Thought all of Africa was full of war, didn’t know that AIDS in Africa actually had a face. Or many of them. Had never gone more than a month and a half without seeing my parents, never more than 6 months without seeing snow. Never spent a birthday outside of Michigan, never a Christmas without my family. Hadn’t cried in almost 4 years before coming here. Never had cut my arm while
that would be...
10 oreo frostings that you are seeing between two helpless little cookies
climbing a mango tree, never cut my fingers while cutting open a pineapple.
I had almost nothing when I came here. The people in my town had no idea what to make of me, whether to run away screaming, whether to cry, whether to get out of their chairs when I came near so that I, a 23 year old kid, could take their seat while they, adult men and women, would sit on the ground. I had almost nothing.
I have learned a great deal of Portuguese. I know a couple phrases in Chuabo, the local language. I know how to cut pineapples. I have families that I eat dinner with, neighbors that look out for me, neighbors who leave their kids with me when they need to make a quick run to the market. I play on a soccer team. I know shortcuts through town. I know what stores sell what kinds of food, what carpenters specialize in what kinds of wood work. I know what house secretly sells the best little pieces of cake. I know what areas of my neighborhood have the best shade from the sun. I know the smell of African rain.
as you can see...
the size of this oreo actually goes from my eyes down to the bottom of my mouth
My house is full now, of tables, chairs, kitchen counters.
I have been given the opportunity to make something of nothing, and everyone helped me. I have grown like never before (but only mentally, I’m still 5’7). I have never felt something as powerful as I do here. This is a gift that I never felt I was worthy of receiving. Really, an experience that can never be duplicated. Today, this is what I am thankful for. And for everyone who helped me take advantage it.
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