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Spartan life shaped Kenyan’s American way

Posted by Administrator on January 20, 2012

Okwaro Raura, 21 years old and flying for the first time in his life, touched down in San Diego at about 11 p.m. on Jan. 17, 1996. The trip from Nairobi, Kenya, to Amsterdam to Detroit to San Diego lasted 28 hours.

“This is where I’m going to start my life,” he said, having researched the area’s weather and cost of living.

He knew no one. His belongings were stuffed inside one suitcase and a bag slung over his shoulder. He carried $600 in traveler’s checks and a dream.

“This is your chance to be the best you can be,” he said.

Sixteen years later, Raura, 37, is buying a two-bedroom home in Oceanside. He ran track and cross country at Cal State San Marcos, earned U.S. citizenship 18 months ago, graduated college with a business degree and works in business operations for a hair extensions company.

“He was a very dedicated, hard-working athlete and it carried over into other aspects of his life,” said longtime American mile record holder Steve Scott, who coached Raura at Cal State San Marcos.

“The story speaks for itself. That somebody can come over here, not knowing a soul … I know I could never do that.”

On Sunday, competing in the half marathon portion of the Carlsbad Marathon & Half, Raura hopes to break his personal best of 1 hour, 8 minutes.

There were challenges when Raura moved to the North County. At first he paid $15 a night to sleep on a stranger’s couch. He bounced from roommate to roommate. For a while he slept in an oversized closet.

For transportation, Raura initially relied on the bus. Then he bought a bike. He waited nearly three years before buying a car, paying $550 for a Ford Escort.

“It was really old and beat up,” Raura said.

Living an austere lifestyle was not new for the Kenyan. In Africa, he grew up the second oldest of nine children. The family split its time between the big city, Nairobi, and rural life, five hours away by car in Gwassi.

When times were good, Raura’s father worked in accounting for an Italian oil company and the family resided in Nairobi. The apartment included electricity and running water. It was a five-mile walk to school.

“Our walk to school was much more a social event,” he said. “We had friends we’d meet along the way. We’d share stories. Before you knew it, we wera at school.”

When the oil business suffered and Raura father’s would be laid off, the family moved to Gwassi. There was no electricity or running water in the countryside. The family raised cattle, goats and sheep.

When school was not in session, mornings were often spent on fishing boats in nearby Lake Victoria. Afternoons were passed herding animals.

“When you are in tough conditions, sometimes you may not know it until you check out somebody next to you,” Raura said. “We are a product of our environment and working hard shaped my life, as a runner, too.”

He remembers being 9 years old in Kenya and running for prizes. The most common award: a teaspoon of powdered glucose.

He lived in the North County for 3½ years before enrolling at Cal State San Marcos. It took him that long to figure out how to get by. Plus, he was working to send money home to help support his family.

Raura’s father long ago passed away. His mother lives in that same countryside home. Electricity is supposed to arrive this month. He still sends home money to support his siblings’ education. It’s usually $400 a month, sometimes more if there’s a medical need.

“I feel I am fortunate,” he said. “If I can’t spend money on a pair of shoes today, but I can send money home for them to benefit, I feel complete.”

Source: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/jan/19/spartan-life-shaped-kenyans-american-way/?page=1#article


6 Responses to “Spartan life shaped Kenyan’s American way”

  1. barry said

    Moral of the story…………………………..??

  2. sokwemtu4 said

    So what are you talking about in this story that is extraodinary. I do not get it.

  3. Njoki said

    Sounds stupid ..cannot buy a pair of shoes and sends home 400$ excuse me..are these not the actions kenyans in Diaspora are supposed to stop,in Order to teach those in kenya the Reality of Life here ?? Show is better..

  4. kate said

    Well said Njoki….

  5. ITHAVETHI said

    Bw. Okwaro, hadithi yako ni tamu sana. Ni tamu ya kusikizwa, ni nzuri ya kuwaeleza wanakijiji chenu uliowaacha kule Gwassi, Kenya. Na ni kwa sababu katika kijiji cha Gwassi, watakaposikia visa na visanga, vituko na matukio ulioyapata ulipofika ughaibuni, watastaajabika, watasimuliwa, na watakuabudu kama kiungu spesheli iliofika kilichobahatika kufika Marekani. Na nina hakika utakapofika mle kijijini chenu cha Gwassi, wote watakukaribisha kwa sukuti, vifijo na nderemo.

    Na watapanga foleni huku wakikuimbia, “mwana mberi,…mwana mberi nitakhuborera.” Mmmmm! Ni kwa sababu Okwaro ana ng’ano tamu ya kupendeza na ya kusisimua. Lakini hadithi yako kwetu sisi so kitu. Kwani tumeyapitia mengi ambayo wanakijiji wa Gwassi wakiyasikia, hadithi yako itakuwa kama supu ya marenge…. au uji wa mtama. Nikupe hadithi yangu uisikie? La, sina budi ya kufanya hivyo. Nakwambia Bw Okwaro utadodokwa na michirizi ya matone ya machozi. Machozi hayo yataganda na kukwama makopeni.

    Muulize Sokwemtu4, Njoki, Johna Wajikru, Kangemi na wengineo katika jarida la mtandao huu wakupe zao. Utashangaa kuona kwamba hadithi yako imebadirika na kuwa kidole gumba…eeeh.. kidole gumba. Na wote hawa waweza kuandika kitabu chenye kurasa chungu nzima. Yako ilikuwa kurasa moja tu ya kueleza hadithi ambayo haina mtiririko wa maudhui katika taratibu za kuandika insha au repoti yoyote. Hadithi tamu kweli lakini ielekeze jamhuri au katika kijiji changu cha Lokitaung, wilaya ya Turkana. Watastaajabika nakukuzuzuliwa na ng’ano zako za ugenini, kwani kwao Nairobi na Nakuru ni ughaibuni pia….hamna tofauti.

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