Saturday, 14 January 2012

Xmas Over – Kilimanjaro Marathon Training Restarts

Xmas is Not All About Turkey (or Jesus) in My Family

For several years my Trini friend Karyn in Dubai has been trying to get me to run their marathon to no avail.  Every year I give her the same response.  “Thanks eh, but no thanks – it is too close to Xmas and that would be suicidal.” It is the same reason I have never attempted the Trinidad Marathon.  You see the month of December is sacred to most Trinidadians – well in my Hindu family not so much because of the religious aspect – we like it for the parties. We celebrate Xmas for a full month with parang (Spanish influenced music), tons of Xmas parties, and endless family get-togethers. And of course culinary and beverage treats such as pastelles (our version of tamales), curried duck, black cake, turkey, ham, punch-de-crème (eggnog) and ginger beer to name a few, are given elevated status.  Whether the celebrations are in Trinidad, Miami, New York or Toronto where most of the family are, the theme of the celebrations are always EAT, DRINK and BE MERRY.  Midnight Mass is more like Midnight Mas’ (carnival) in our family and the only items of religious importance we might encounter over the holidays are bottles of Blue Nun wine and when someone blurts out “Jeeessssus Christ - this food taste good eh”.   

This is Not the Zanzibar I Work at People!
Xmas 2011 was no exception – at the cost of my volunteers living allowance for the next 12 months and having to deal with multiple flights over 3 days of flying, I flew home.  There was another special reason I wanted to be home – I was turning 40 a few days after Xmas and did not want to miss out on any many presents or parties that would be held in my honour.  And it was a great Xmas - particularly thanks to Grey Goose and Vin Rouge and an endless supply of food from my big sister and other relatives.  I was also especially glad to be home in order to clarify to some of my family and friends that the Zanzibar I had moved to last year for work, was not the infamous strip joint on Yonge Street in Toronto.  I remember a couple years ago walking past that place with my nephew just before Toronto hosted the G8 and G20 Summits and the sign outside said "World leaders - forget about G8 and G20 and focus on G-Strings...Most of the World's Problems get solved in our Private Booths".  I had to chuckle then and chuckled again as I walked past it a few weeks ago on my way to the dentist. While in Toronto, I even had a mini reunion on Xmas day with two fellow Canadian volunteers who were in Tanzania – Venessa and Samantha. It was so good to see them, and Venessa and I were able to dish out some of our limited Kiswahili to each other, to the amusement of others.

Mt. Kilmanajaro Frames the Marathon Race Starting Area
With all of the holiday distractions and being a pragmatist, I have all always run my marathons and half marathons in the second part of the year, when I am fully recovered from Xmas and have done the requisite training. So how come I am doing one in a mere 7 weeks, right after 3 weeks of Xmas celebrations with family and friends? It is a risky proposition.  But I didn’t want miss a Xmas with my peeps, nor did I want to pass up on an opportunity to run the Kilimanjaro Marathon. Race day on Sunday February 26th will be my judgment day (now I wish I had gone to mass on Xmas Eve), as I attempt the 26.1 mile race on the foothills of the snow capped Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest free standing mountain in the world. I must say I am highly motivated for several reasons.  I am the team captain for the CUSO International and VSO volunteers taking part in the race so I have no choice.  I will be one of a handful people in the world who have ever attempted the Kilimanjaro marathon.  I might be the only Trini that has ever run the race.  Turning 40 in December will help my placing immensely in the race since I will now be in the 40-49 age category.  Kilimanjaro (the beer company) is sponsoring so there will be free beer for sure.  It is for a really good cause.  There are free T-shirts involved – one from my employers and one from the race organisers. 

Future of Tanzania Lies in Their School Bags
The most important reason why I am running the race though is because it is for a very good cause, supporting our education programmes in Tanzania. This program is managed by the Ministry of Education with the support of VSO and aims to improve the quality of education in both primary and secondary schools in 6 districts of the country.  Tanzania is one of the least developed countries of the world. Although the Government has made significant progress in terms of improving access to education, the quality of teaching is still very low.  As a result, a large proportion of children fail their exams and finish formal schooling with limited opportunities for employment, which in turns impact on the socio-economic development of the country. Our program aims at strengthening in service and pre service training of teachers, working with Teacher Centres, Teaching Training Colleges, and the Directorates of Primary and Secondary Education of the Ministry of Education.  The program aims at training 3,000 teachers, which will result in improved teaching for more than 42,000 children.

My Personal Fundraising Page Where You Can Donate
A lot of people have donated and supported my attempt to raise US $10,000 for our education programmes in Tanzania. So far I have raised about $1700 or 17% of my goal, so I have a very long way to go.  So hear is where I need you.  Please go to my personal running page and sponsor me and support our efforts.  All you need is a credit or debit card or pay pal, and any donations small or large would be welcome.  Think of it as a 40th birthday present to me and how it will make a significant improvement in the lives of over 42,000 Tanzanian children.  Also, please feel free to forward the link to this blog and my fund raising page to as many of your friends, family, work colleagues and contacts. Asantini sana (thank you all very much). My fundraising page can be found at 


  1. Question: do you actually LIKE free t-shirts?

  2. You totally covered a True Trini Xmas!! Will try to support the training plan...I have a whip somewhere....

  3. Your Christmas sounded very much like mine, except for the curry duck part - I wasn't that lucky...although Nikolai was: He spent Old Year's Night @ his girlfriend in Grande and that was on the menu! LOL Good luck with the training and careful with Karyn's whip...yuh doh know where it's been! LOL