The Red Dirt Highlands of Western Kenya

Where Dreams Don’t Fade

In the red-dirt highlands of western Kenya, 200 miles from the capital, Nairobi, rests the 4,000-person town of Iten. Remotely situated among the peaks and basins of the Great Rift Valley, the settlement’s 2,400-meter elevation and female mayor distinguish it from many Kenyan towns, but it’s truly extraordinary for another reason. Iten, as well as nearby Eldoret, form the epicenter of Kenyan running culture. Today hundreds of athletes—some aspiring, some well-established—train in these towns at camps founded by former and current champions.

People from all over Kenya and the world trek like pilgrims to the region for training; this year my friend Martin Mudry and his one-time cross country teammate, Alex Nichols, made the journey, but not just to run. They’re making Where Dreams Don’t Fade, a documentary about three Kenyan runners and the sprit that drives the world’s most decorated running nation.

In many ways, Iten represents the ideal place to capture the essence of great running. For pure saturation of speed, few if any place can rival the town and the surrounding area, where the Kalenjiin tribe have lived and trained on their way to winning more international medals in 800-meter to marathon races than anyone. Not every Kenyan blazes on the track or trails, but Alex said, “The percentage of people in Kenya we would consider runners has to be so much higher than it is in the US.”

Martin and Alex both enjoyed running success in the United States. A year after a 2007 trip to a running camp in Ngong—just southwest of Nairobi—hosted by Olympic Silver Medalist Wilson Boit Kipketer, Martin finished second in the Minnesota Athletic Conference cross country championship. Alex has top-five finishes in major trail races, including the grueling Pikes Peak Ascent; but now they’re shooting film while living and training beside world record holders.

Kenya, Martin says, is a place where many people are literally the best or “believe they can be the best runner.” To an unaccustomed observer, therefore, the camps can seem surreal. “It’s like a lot of amateur basketball players being invited to train with LeBron James, and then stay in his pool house,” he said.

While approaching “King” James about documenting his life and shooting some hoops with his entourage might sound intimidating, the attitude of Kenya’s future and current greats made the two filmmaker’s initial job easy, and bolstered their running confidence at the same time.

“They make you feel welcome,” Alex said. “It doesn’t feel like a big deal that they’re the best in the world.”

The great runners, Martin added, “the guys that are superfast, they’re not going to avoid you because you have a slow personal record. Everyone’s allowed to run together and it’s always encouraged, and that makes you feel like you can run a 2:10 marathon—maybe it’s not true, but you feel that way.”

The unflappable belief and determination of Kenyan runners constitutes the core of Where Dreams Don’t Fade. The film specifically documents three Kenyan runners in various stages of chasing their goals: Robert, a talented runner in high school, who aggravated back injuries in the military and started a family and business while waiting to train again; Virginia, a college graduate trying to get a job so she can afford to train full-time in Iten, so she can make money and get a Masters; and Alex, the brother of a Bronze Medalist at the Track and Field World Championships, who is training at the camp in the hopes of attracting a full-time manager.

Martin and Alex, who currently live at the camp of James Kwalia, himself a Bronze Medalists at the World Championships in 5000m, chose the trio because of their on-screen charisma and the nature of their stories. Like many Kenyans, Martin said, “they’re pursuing running in the face of many challenges, but what’s more unique is that all three are going after these running dreams even though they don’t have to or even though they could be pursuing other things.”

Capturing the paths of three distinct lives on film has its share of rewards, but also challenges, largely from a scheduling point of view. After making the important creative decisions in the first month, Alex and Martin set to logging the dozens of hours of footage they’ll likely need, but progress isn’t nearly as fast as the morning training sessions they attend.

Miscommunications happen, meetings get missed, and “people don’t always know where they’re going to be in two hours,” Alex said. “They think they’re going to have lunch, but maybe they decide to go on a long run.”

For people making a running documentary in Kenya, however, runs serve more often as sources of amazement than of frustration. “There are so many people at such a high level here, you can see a world record holder being beaten in a workout by some person you’ve never heard of,” Alex said. “It’s just exciting you can be a part of it.”

As for their own goals, Martin and Alex look toward September, when they hope to have Dreams edited in time for a submission to the Sundance Film Festival.


Where Dreams Don’t Fade is now available for purchase on DVD


A Procrastinating Pragmatist With A Heart of Gold

Part 1 – An Engaging Story

A Procrastinating Pragmatist With A Heart of Gold

My Engagement


How A Procrastinating Pragmatist

Rediscovered Romance

I was romantic once.

It was late summer and I’d been walking with my girlfriend of somewhere-between-eight-and-nine-years down a rolling, park single-track. We’d climbed the dusty hill, descended the empty river bed and were just passing the riding ring and red barn of a stable I know intimately. It was where my mother brought my sister and me as children, ostensibly to pet and feed horses, but actually to inoculate us against farm diseases. 

The stables smelled of old redwood, dry hay, and also of horse manure, which as manures go is quite pleasant. And I felt quite pleasant, even though she and I were fighting.

It was one of those arguments, where problem A (I’d ditched her friends) was presented as the issue when in fact it was problem B (we weren’t engaged). I was winning.

As I petted a mare that searched my hand fruitlessly for something good to eat, my girlfriend broached the real subject.

“All I want,” she said, “is a sign that you are committed to this relationship and to me and that we have a future together.”

It was a very practical thing to say, and “Be pragmatic” had recently become an unofficial motto, a companion to the official: “When in doubt, procrastinate.” These may be difficult to reconcile, but I can be persistent.

“Listen,” I said, “give me one year and I’ll do it.”



We’d reached the edge of the park and were walking quietly past a bulldozer idling on a vacant lot when I had a flash of inspiration. I would propose on her birthday, April 19th. She’d like it. It would be romantic. It would be easy to remember.

At that moment I was excited. I was committed. Then I forgot.


Mid-morning on April 18th I woke up, looked at my phone, then rushed to the laundry room for pants. I had a lunch appointment with my girlfriend’s mom. I needed permission to marry her daughter. The rest of the day would be for ring shopping.

Seated across from the woman who’d once found you in your underwear, hiding in her daughter’s closet, might be intimidating for some, but not for me, until it came time to propose the big pre-question. 

“I’d like to ask your daughter to marry me tomorrow, but I wanted to ask you first.”

 “Awww, that’s nice,” she said. “Why should I let you?”

She looked at me keenly. I was unprepared and didn’t ace the response.

 “Well, it’s a responsible thing to do… it’s important to have commitment… it’s been such a long time…”  Then I rallied for a solid B-. “When it comes down to it, we really care for each other.”

I’d come out of the lunch date with more than I had going in and felt good walking my future mother-in-law to her car. I’d received her blessing, plus she’d improved my proposal plan. Instead of handing over a simple ring box, I would hide it in a second box filled with my girlfriend’s favorite Parisian macaroons, which they just happened to have at home.

I held the car door open for my girlfriend’s mom.

“I’m so happy for you,” she said, “But a taqueria? Couldn’t you have chosen a nicer place?” 

“Yeah, but I didn’t want to give any illusions about the kind of guy I am.”


To Be Continued –  in Part 2: The Engagement



Discover the Dried Fig

It’s winter. The colors are stark and poetic, but aside from that it’s cold and wet. In Boston, it’s been storm after storm, almost like clockwork. I have become accustomed to my car’s windshield scraper, to bringing that extra pair of shoes, to cracked cuticles and chapped lips and long underwear.

But I’ve also become accustomed to scouring my pantry, as winter is such a wonderful time to cook.  To turn down the thermostat to save on oil costs and turn on the oven as the back-up heating source. What has the pantry uncovered? Figs. Beautiful and versatile, dried figs have seduced me. And not just me – figs are believed to be the first plant ever cultivated by humans.

The best dried figs I ever tasted came from a spice market in Istanbul, Turkey.

An old man with white hair and a tattered blazer was selling them by the box. Unlike the other vendors at the spice market who had stands and/or shops brimming with every sort of spice and dried fruit you could imagine heaped into colorful piles, this man was only selling figs. Maybe illegally. I bought a box of these figs for five Turkish Lira, about three US dollars; it weighed about two pounds and contained the largest most beautiful dried figs I’ve ever laid eyes on. As the day wore on and my friend Samantha and I walked around the buzzing, intricate streets of Istanbul, we snacked on these figs, letting their honey-like stickiness cover our fingers. They had the distinct nutty crunch which comes from the seeds of the fruit, made possible by the special fig wasp who coevolved with the fig over millions of years.

I became so enamored with the figs I even tried to justify going back to the market and buying ten more boxes to ship home. But Sam talked me out of it, fortunately.

Because while these Turkish figs, of the Smyrna variety, were amazing, you can find pretty good figs back home on US soil. California figs are good. Look for a variety called “Calimyrna figs” which is a relative of the Smyrna fig. Calimyrna figs are quite large when fresh, and, if dried properly, retain a lot of flavor.

The flavor of a dried fig, like many dried fruits, is that distinct sweetness, like a brown sugar, and a nuttiness, like that of toasted almonds or pecans. A fresh fig, albeit hard to come by, is alternately slightly citrusy, with the sweetness of a fruity port. Fresh figs are a rare delicacy (at least in my corner of the Northern hemisphere) but dried figs are readily available in the dried fruit sections of most supermarkets. Sometimes they are packaged in a round, pressed together like a pinwheel, or else packaged in a long rectangular box. I usually go with the ones that feel slightly soft to the touch. The ones that get TOO dried out can be reconstituted with a little hot water, but generally aren’t as tasty.

What to do with dried figs?

There are certainly an endless number of ways you can bake with dried figs, chopping them up and putting them in muffins or tea-breads, or mashing them up and mixing them with honey and then making some delicious homemade granola.

But I prefer using dried fruit in savory applications, because I think it’s more interesting. Think bacon wrapped dates or salted caramels or chocolate covered peanuts. Sweet meets salty is one of my favorite flavor combinations. Combining dried figs with cured olives is one way to accomplish this.

On a recent winter night, I recalled a recipe for tapenade my sister-in-law shared with me in Brooklyn. It’s about the least-complicated and most delicious tapenade I’ve ever tasted, and a go-to for an easy appetizer for a dinner or cocktail party.



1 cup pitted kalamata olives

4-5 dried calimyrna figs, stems removed

1/4 cup toasted walnuts*

            a little bit of olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until combined. Add a little olive oil if it seems too thick. Serve with pieces of crusty french bread or crackers. Also delicious as a sandwich spread!

Tips: If the figs feel dry and stiff, put them in a bowl with a little hot water to soften them, then chop them up.

*Best way to toast walnuts is in the toaster oven, but keep an eye on them because they’ll burn easily.

Bonus: Figs are a great source of calcium and fiber.


Fig Leaf Enhancing a Marvelous Turkish View


Throwin’ Down

Title: New Year's Eve! Artist: Rosemary B Mudry Painted: 2002, Oil on Canvas

There are party goers and party throwers.  There are amazing stars that shine at both and duds who’d best just stick to dinner and a movie.  What determines success?  How much fun was had by all

Consider Robin, a consummate party thrower. She loves throwing parties, but even more, Robin loves planning parties.  Before she has completed one party, she already has 3 or 4 more under construction.  Themes and events stream through her brain at rapid speed and inspiration is found everywhere.  She has a list of people she relies upon to get the job done and she knows who to call for everything.  Need a cake?  Ask Robin and she’ll provide the top 5 bakeries to contact.  Looking for tables and chairs? She knows who to call and how much it’ll cost (if anything).  Need a prop?  She’ll check her “closet.”

The Party Closet - that is – a common element among party throwers.  This space is dedicated to housing props, gifts, costumes and anything else that screams PAR -TEE!  These items are not frivolous.  Expert party throwers are not pack rats. They are selective about what they keep on hand, knowing exactly what is required for the perfect party and impossible to find on short notice.  Everything in the party closet is used at some point or it gets passed along, and not every closet is the same.  Each depends on the unique interests of the party givers.  For example, there may be gowns, tuxedos, table linens, western gear, wigs, folding chairs, assorted hats, palm trees, cake pans, crystal, paper plates, jewelry, strobe lights…the list is diverse and seemingly infinite. 

Robin shops all year, looking for bargains that may come in handy for a future event.  She’s bought Swarovski crystal and iPods at rock bottom prices knowing that they will make perfect prizes for a raffle or contest.  She’s found curtains, lamps, chairs and a sundry of inflatable’s to suit every conceivable backdrop. 

One time it was an in-door beach party, complete with sand, trees and water (beach attire required, despite the minus zero temperatures outside).  Another time it was a Red-Carpet Oscar party, complete with what else?  A red carpet (lined with Paparazzi) and Oscars (awarded through a traditional envelope opening ceremony) for all the guests!

“Parties take work.”

“They cost a lot of money.”

“It is impossible to make everybody happy.”

“There is always a crisis.”

“Throwing a party is exhausting and thankless.” Really?

Not according to Robin.  Throwing parties is pure delight and she hosts parties to entertain herself!  She enjoys every minute of it, from the first idea to the day after clean-up.  A last minute crisis to others is an opportunity for her to tap into that unending reservoir of ideas, props and resources.  Friends and acquaintances come out of the wood work to help her prepare and clean up with the hope that they will end up on the next guest list or get a referral from her in the future. And she is always ready to step-in to save the day for others – that’s just what party throwers do!

Excuses don’t fly with Robin because it’s not about the venue, any locale can be party ready.  She regularly moves furniture in and out of her bungalow style house to accomodate her theme.  It’s not about the money, finding ways to party on the cheap is part of the thrill.  And it’s certainly not about hiring someone else to do it for her.  That would absolutely defeat the purpose.  According to Robin, there is only one real reason to throw a party – and that’s simply for the fun of it!  Stick to that premise and the rest will fall perfectly into place. 



Sukhbaatar Square Celebration

Second Chances: UB Mongolia

Sukhbaatar Square Celebration

August 24th, 2008 – a symphony of fireworks exploded over Ulaanbaatar, (or UB as it’s locally known), as crowds jumped and shouted in the streets. 

Passengers slapped high-fives with strangers from car windows; horns blared; people danced across the sidewalks. Mongolia, a nation of three million, had just won its second Olympic gold medal ever—its second of the Beijing Summer Games—and the city’s population had gone bananas in a wildly infectious way. 

Standing amidst a swell of humanity in UB’s Sukhbaatar Square, I contemplated how incredibly fortunate I was to experience this celebration and how second chances have a peculiar knack for emerging soon after you think you’ve really blown it. Just 10 days ago I’d felt differently when Mongolia won its first gold medal and I had foolishly missed the festivities.  

 That proved particularly painful because I’d come to Mongolia specifically with the goal of chronicling the nation’s Olympic aspirations and hopefully exploits. During my last semester of college, I’d made up my mind to work for a Mongolian-owned, English language newspaper (yes these actually exist) in Ulaanbaatar, inspired by my love of sports journalism and my anthropology advisor’s passion for all things Mongolian. 

 After making contact with one of two such papers in Mongolia’s capital, I sent out my resume and secured a spot as an English editor, booking a plane ticket for the summer. Within weeks of my arrival at Genghis Khan International Airport, I found myself in the ideal situation, covering Mongolia’s national team of pistol shooters, wrestlers, boxers and other athletes from my office in Ulaanbaatar as they represented their country in Beijing. 

Perhaps the best part of my job was getting to watch broadcasts of Mongolia’s athletes with their compatriots in my host country at the Grand Khan Irish Pub. The nation had waited its entire forty-five year Olympic history for a gold medal, and virtually everyone seemed hungry for success.   

And then it happened. On August 14th, an unknown judo wrestler from the city countryside Tuvshinbayar beat a series of heavily favored opponents. I watched the final match at a gym, enjoying the cheers and laughs of my fellow spectators. That was nice, I thought, walking back to my apartment, where I promptly climbed into bed, exhausted after a long day of work. 

As I drifted off, I noticed the city’s perpetual honking sounded unusually consistent and loud, and some popping in the distance that could have been fireworks. The next morning I found out in my office that those noises I heard were the entire city of Ulaanbaatar, the entire nation of Mongolian, locked in celebration. Over 10,000 people had taken to Sukhbaatar Square where the city exhausted its fireworks supply for the year, and rival politicians toasted one another and their suddenly ascendant homeland. 

Well, I thought, that’ll never happen again. What a remarkable moment to sideline myself in an apartment. I spent the next few days alternately covering the remaining Olympic events and kicking myself for my missed opportunity. And then, that second chance presented itself. 

Mongolia’s boxing prodigy E. Badar-Uugan won his gold medal match, and after waiting its entire Olympic History for one gold medal, Mongolians saw no problem holding a second celebration. 

The match ended at 2:30 pm and the horns, high-fives and shouts didn’t end until early the next morning. I had learned my lesson. When something important happens, go to Sukhbaatar square. That evening, a raucous crowd surrounded the courtyard’s statue of Sukhbaatar, Mongolia’s great revolutionary hero. 

People climbed on top of one another, danced, and sang as they waved Mongolian flags and embraced. An old, intoxicatingly happy man approached me. “This is a great day for Mongolia,” he said. “I am very happy.” 

The city had literally exhausted its fireworks, so the scene was not as raucous as it had been the first night, but the earnestness and joy of the celebrations made the night a magical one, and the perfect ending to my coverage of Mongolia’s Olympic endeavors in 2008.


Cabot Walking Path

Sunny Spot: Cabot, Arkansas


Cabot Walking Path

SHOUT OUT to our fans in CABOT, ARKANSAS This week you have the second highest number of hits on the website following Mountain View, California.   We LOVE it and we wanted to find out what you’re up to there! Looks like GOLF is a favorite way of Entertaining Yourself! And you have the perfect weather for it today – Saturday, 11/20/10 – High of 63 degrees & partly SUNNY! Other Fun Facts –Arkansas is home to 6 National Parks, 52 State Parks and over 100 Municipal or private parks, including the 3 Golf Courses and Community Park in CABOT! Awesome! For other Fans thinking of traveling to Arkansas – listen to this: Their Adventure Parks include: Backpacking, Hang Gliding, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Kayaking & Canoeing, Cycling, River Running, Rock Climbing, Motorcycling and Snorkeling & Scuba Diving! That’s right – Arkansas’s crystal lakes are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. And we think that an adventure in Arkansas sounds like a perfect way of Entertaining Yourself! We’re glad you stopped by our site.

Fun Fact

Fun Fact:  Oyster: oys·ter

 noun, often attributive \’ȯis-tər\

Definition of OYSTER (Merriam-Webster)

1a : any of various marine bivalve mollusks (family Ostreidae) that have a rough irregular shell closed by a single adductor muscle and include commercially important shellfish b : any of various mollusks resembling or related to the oysters

2: something that is or can be readily made to serve one’s personal ends <the world was her oyster>

From Wikipedia:

 William Shakespeare (c:1600)  is credited with first using the phrase in his play “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in Act 2, Scene 2, 2-5

Pistol: Why then the world’s mine oyster/which I with sword will open.