How many times have I had to explain sheepishly that even though I’m Kenyan, I don’t run marathons with the ease of those gold and silver and bronze medal winning men and women who have carried our flag high for so many decades, and whose image is now getting tarnished by that phrase ‘performance enhancing drugs?’
More than I can count.
I don’t run marathons. I can barely clear a kilometre. When I do, I heave and pant and cough. I envy all those people who’ve taken up running these days. I like watching them from the sidelines. I imagine how good it must feel. I toast to their health. That’s as far as I go.
This isn’t the reason I missed my household’s weekend run, which is called the First Lady’s Marathon after the house matriarch. It wasn’t because I was out of town either. I can’t run marathons. But if I did… If I did, I probably wouldn’t have registered for this one.
I believe that all women – pregnant or not, have a right to access the best kind of healthcare. I believe all children should live to a full ripe age and lose their teeth the second time round.
I live in a household called Kenya. In this household, we all give our contribution to cover expenses. The rules of the house apply. A sum is taken from me in different ways. Mandatory contribution to the rent and utilities, all sorts of insurance and security; voluntary contribution to the group fund; varying interest depending on how much I take during table banking; and sometimes my housemates and I have to borrow from other houses to make sure that there is no deficit.
And then we discover, that some of us are pilfering the cash we set aside to cover our expenses, and as a result, we have to compromise. We had planned to go to Nairobi hospital and use our insurance cards whenever we fell sick; instead, we’ll be lucky if we can procure painkillers from the shady pharmacy across the street.
Now one of the housemates has come up with a solution. He wants us to put aside the bigger issue – that money is going to many wrong places and few right ones (our house money managers are out of control). Just for a day, not longer, he wants us to think of the weakest among us. The ones that really could do with immediate intervention. We’re promised fun. But first, we have to pay another fixed amount of cash, and then run.
I don’t run. And with all the contributions I’ve been making to this household, I’m barely able to keep aside some of my own emergency stash. My housemate’s suggestion – though it could be right from a charity perspective – would have made sense a few years ago. But I know, based on how much each of us contributes, that our house could do without that charity. It just needs our cash back where it belongs, in the bank account, paying for the health insurance that we were promised when we moved in.
I did not run. Not because I was out of town; not because my lungs cannot sustain a marathon. I just wasn’t motivated. I was preoccupied with thoughts of our household’s lost money.