Running here for a woman is quite difficult. I live in a conservative little neighborhood on the outskirts of town. Everyone (well, almost everyone) is very friendly, but that does not go to say, however, that they understand my bizarre western tendencies. The ladies in the village do go for strolls together in the evening, and one even wears a pair of sneakers while she walks briskly. She's clearly exercising, and that's odd enough. My strange outfit of loose pants and a tight long-sleeved wicking top is weirdly masculine. Why would I wear pants??
I don't run by myself much, and if I do it's through the sandy paths behind our building, but it is hard to run on because of all the rocks and pits. The road is better, but the stares from the women are really overwhelming. I feel like a freak. I am here. Sometimes I feel a self-righteous joy building in me as I run that I am broadening their horizons. That the next time they see a woman running, they won't be quite so disapproving. That said, it's still very uncomfortable, and I don't like feeling culturally pompous.
When I do run it's usually with my husband. Although the companionship makes it easier to handle to women glaring and the children racing at your heels, it adds another difficulty of its own. Why am I doing this manly activity?...with a man?...dressed like him?...It's almost as if our running partnership is some sort of high-speed athletic sex. Their astonishment is a brick wall that I haven't succeeded in breaking through yet. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I do hope that some day my constant and freakish presence will open their eyes a little to the ways of life outside their village. I work every day to accept and enjoy our differences and their quirks. Shouldn't they too?
Bearing the onus of culture adaptation is perhaps the most challenging psychological aspect of living in a very forgein place. It's all on you, or so it seems.