Dan Mulhare Column: Rip off culture isn’t limited to Ireland

Thanks to everyone who is reading and getting in touch via e-mail. Remember if you have any questions regarding Kenya, Africa or athletics, don’t hesitate to get in touch and I’ll reply as soonas I can.

Thanks to everyone who is reading and getting in touch via e-mail. Remember if you have any questions regarding Kenya, Africa or athletics, don’t hesitate to get in touch and I’ll reply as soonas I can.

I’d like to thank everyone who attended the Portlaoise AC pub quiz last week. By all accounts there was a great turn out, which made for an enjoyable evening. All support is greatly appreciated, so thanks.

So I’ve just under five weeks left here in Kenya, and although I’ve had a few setbacks regarding the training and some injuries I’ve still had more than enough good experiences to make up for the various problems I’ve had.

Last Tuesday I went to the local running track, which is in a lot worst condition that any track I have ever seen. There is no groundskeeper, so the infield is maintained by the grazing cows and sheep that roam around the track. There are world champions and world record holders all training on the same track, and not one of them ever complains about how there are holes in the track, or about the sheep they sometimes have to hurdle over while running.

David Rudisha was here this week doing a track session under the careful supervision of his coach, Brother Colm O’Connell. Brother Colm has lived here in Kenya for the past 38 years. He has coached more world record holders and world and Olympic champions than any other man in Kenya, which is saying something. He may have even learned how to become a successful coach, while he was a pupil at Ballyfin College under the guidance of Brother Bosco Mulhare.

After the track session David Rudisha called around to our compound. This man is a world record holder, a Kenyan, African, Inter-Continental and World champion, and future Olympic champion in the making. He is also one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. He had no problem hanging around and chatting to us for some time after his training, which was brilliant.

Kenya is really no different than anywhere else in the world. There are good and bad things about here too. Most of the athletes you meet are very friendly, sociable and welcoming. The bad side of Kenya is a little more hidden though. Until you have spend a few months here, you really won’t even notice the bad side.

What most Mazungos {white person} won’t realise is that almost everyone you have to deal with here to buy things from will try and charge you three of four times the real price. You might think you’re getting a great deal, because most things that grow locally are still cheap, but you’re paying far more than your Kenyan friends do for the same thing.

Even well respected hotels have two price lists that they display without a care in the world. The first price list is for citizens or Africans and the second is just for white people. The same goes for Matatu drivers (a Matatu is a minibus, some have 8 seats other have 14, and it’s the most common form of transport within Kenya). If you don’t know how much a certain journey should cost, you will be charged twice as much.

In some ways you can’t really blame the people for trying to get away with it. The local police set up check points every day and for the entire time that they are on post, all they do is take bribes from Matatu Drivers. Maybe the driver doesn’t have tax or insurance or, perhaps, they are overcrowded. I’ve been in 8 seater Matatus’ with 16 people in them.

When you question some of the actions of the people who are blatantly trying to rip you off, you just get a laugh and a joke for a reply, which is usually followed by “Eh Bona, This is Kenya” which, when translated, basically means “Eh Sir, what did you expect?”

Even with all the pitfalls of being a Mazungo here in Kenya, it’s still a wonderful country, and if the people didn’t always try to rip each other off as well as the tourists, it might not be so poor, but like everything here, there is no foresight. Everything is done with the present in mind, and forward planning doesn’t really come into it.

Having said that, it’s still the best place in the world to train for middle and long distance runners, and so for the foreseeable future there will be lots of Mazungos being taking advantage of by the locals.

Questions for Dan can be sent to his e-mail address at the top of the page.

In next week’s Leinster Express, Dan will be giving an insight into his mental preparation for races. Be sure to pick up your copy of the Leinster Express next week to keep up to date with all of Dan’s latest news.