I vant to be alone

I must be a cultural difference. When I went for my morning run today I was joined by a small kenyan. I’m not even sure if he was a young one or just very little one. He had shorts and a t-shirt on and he had been walking with the primary school students near my house. I ran past. Next thing I knew I coudl hear his footsteps, running, just behind me.

I don’t like it. I **think** that in my culture if someone I didn’t know started to run behind me, just out of my field of vision, nobody would be supprised if I felt uneasy and even offended. What do you think? I did a double back at the head of the maram road and let him get ahead of me. He was running faster than I wanted to go anyway and he soon gained on me and I fell into my normal slow stumbling jog by myself.

Maybe its to do with space. In England we keep ourselves to ourselves pretty much all the time. Sometimes even when we’re in bed with our spouses: you have your side of the bed and I have mine and if we should want to have sex, keep the lights off. Maybe its because England is such a densely populated place, especially in the cities, that we want to maintain that “personal space” with a litle sign outside saying “please approach from the front and wipe your feet”. Having small dark people appraoch from behind, without announcement or introduction, is somewhat unsettling.

I find the last part of the jog dull. There are few features in the landscape to distract me, no houses and such like until the last couple of hundred yards. Its a real test to remain determined to run on that stretch. Once my jogging stalker had left me I got into my usual half-asleep daydreaming of faraway places mindset and the time passes while my feet trundle on over the red soil.

4 Comments

  1. christine Says:

    Hmmmm, i feel as though I should provide some insightful comment but i’m drawing a blank. While training over these last couple of months, I have been joined only once by a not so small Kenyan man who insisted on running with me, sharing his name and stats and hoping I would join him in a game of, er, football. I dropped him by alternately slowing down and speeding up and eventually pulling away, while, yes, feeling mildly offended by the intrusion.

    Most days, the fans (as I like to think of them) always have a comment for me as I run past. One annoying man ritualistically leers at me with a "you are so beautiful" comment as I pant by, red-faced and dripping with sweat. Can’t keep enough personal space from him. I cope by running with my minidisc on days that I can’ cope with all the attention. Suppose you could borrow Katie’s ipod and loose yourself in some of your groovy music. But that would no doubt get you mowed down by a matatu.

    For now, I say, keep running…you know, it’s the journey not the destination and all that crap…happy dreaming as your feet hit the muram. Christine

  2. nic Says:

    Bit of a london thing certainly. I can’t servive the journey to/from work without my walkman… I just don’t want to listen to other peoples chit chat. By choosing the music i listen to i get control of my environment, especially as I am on my way to work – somethign I wouldn’t necissarily choose to do! That and you worry about the nutters.. katy developed a bus stop stalker. Someone she sees at the same time everyday, they shared a few brief comments, she told him her name… the next thing she knew he was buying her pressents and waiting a the bus stop for hours for her to arrive! My first reaction was "ahah – you shouldn’t have told him your name!" but then I thought why not, it’s his actions that are inapropriate not katy being nice. Are people that want to talk in kenya just interested or do you have your fair share of nutters too?

    nic

  3. Lydia Says:

    I often feel that I dont have any personal space, mostly because I meet students all over the place and my students tend to be more than happy to get into conversation wherever you meet them – last weekend I got onto a train to go to London, sat down and a girl I teach was the only other person in the carriage and then on the way home a young man I didnt immediately recognise stopped me to chat. Perhaps because of this random strangers dont bother me – I strike up conversation without provocation!! But then the last time I shared a bed with someone they complained that I didnt give them any space to themselves!!!

  4. Tom Says:

    In the entertaining ‘Watching the English’ Kate Fox, social anthropologist, puts forward the idea of politeness having positive and negative aspects.

    Positive politeness is the usual, obvious Ps & Qs – please, thank you, how are you, etc.

    Negative politeness is that trait exhibited most strongly on the tube, but also in any crowded scenario (or when jogging) when you respect other peoples’ personal space by completely ignoring them. Even though someone is well inside your comfort zone, you don’t mind because both of you are pretending the other person doesn’t exist.

    Perhaps the small running creature needs a lesson in this.

    Another interesting observation from the book is that English people are pretty much always joking when they’re talking to you, whether it be overt gags, sarcasm, taking the piss or just mucking about. This throws many foreigners who can’t spot the signals that the Brits take for granted; apparently it’s a perennial issue in international business dealings.