MARATHON

Born in Baragoi, a small town east of the dry Suguta Valley, Lodoto Alupe recalls a gamesome childhood dominated by the Turkanan version of ‘tag.’ Unlike the generic version, theirs was a scenario of extreme fun and function. The game began with one person, usually the fastest being tracked. Whoever got to this child and tapped them rushed back to a designated tree and claimed the championship. 

After this fun cardio session in rugged and remote terrain, the children proceeded to stage two of the game which involved assembling sticks, stones and gravel to build mock houses. Both boys and girls partook in the construction of their abodes. The boys would then identify their “wives” and those with the misfortune of not being picked settled down for the tedious insipid role of in-laws. The preteen husbands would then run back into the forest and begin hunting down various rodents including hares, rabbits or even rats. Those lacking the swift talent to capture rodents would settle down for sneaky and stealthy killing of birds. The prized animal was then brought back to appease the stodgy in-laws.

Alupe went from playing these games and enjoying her childhood to being driven out of Baragoi oppressively and without reason by police officers. One of them, the driver, fancied her and she immediately noticed it by the looks he gave her. Astutely guided by evolutionary spirit and desire to survive, Alupe began a love affair with him and before she knew it, she was a cop bride living in a police camp. In their many transfers, Alupe, her husband and their five children finally settled down at a small plot in Isiolo County vacated by Borana settlers.

Now at 83, Alupe still lives in the same plot. Surrounding her house are shrubs marked by dry slim branches which to the unobservant eye, may seem like nature’s construction. However, these shrubby looking landscapes are graves, one of her husband, four of her children. Showing a calm visage when asked about her anticipation of death, Alupe replied with a decrepit laughter, “even mine [grave] will be here.” 

From the money they make doing various chores for other communities, her grandchildren have managed to establish a small shed just outside her wooden home. Under this shed, Alupe spends what remains of her life selling two contrasting commodities: nutritious banana fruits and detrimental smokeless tobacco.