Running into cold weather

Amanda Fier

When most students come to Iowa State, they find a culture and climate they expect and are able to understand.

But for two Kenyans who have never been on a plane or been out of Africa, coming to Iowa was a completely new experience.

David Lichoro and Dennis Machooka were strangers until last week. Now they are roommates, track teammates and close friends who are dealing with the norms and nuances of this university, state and country.

They said they never imagined that it could be so cold anywhere.

Lichoro, who arrived about a week after Machooka, said a stranger on his plane could not believe he was wearing only a t-shirt. Lichoro said people think Americans are well-off and people do not need to bring clothes.

The stranger aboard the plane gave him a coat to wear when he arrived to Iowa. Lichoro said he needed it when he got off the plane.

“I felt a severe cold. It was terrible,” Lichoro said.

Machooka said he felt like he was inside of a refrigerator.

“The first thing I did when I got down from [Coach Kevin Bourke’s] car was scoop some snow because I’d never seen it,” he said. “He laughed.”

Wearing a hat, scarf, a zipped-up winter coat for his first dinner in the residence halls, Machooka sat chilled in the 70-degree dining hall. Machooka said the low-temperature in Kenya is about 63 degrees.

After being here two weeks, he has already encountered bronchitis.

The food, climate, culture, university system and training differences were not included in the materials Machooka and Lichoro examined to make a college decision.

The students made their decisions based on catalogs and brochures from various institutions in the United States.

Machooka said in Kenya it is difficult to pursue athletics and academics at the same time. Both students agreed it was important to go to a school with solid academic and athletic programs. They said they want to go back and teach their people and show them what they have learned.

Lichoro said he wanted a university where he could pursue a career in business.

He said one of the reasons he chose ISU was because “[Bourke] convinced me.”

Machooka, who wants to be an engineer, said, “I liked the rec center.”

Machooka said his coach had a “long-time relationship and communication” with Bourke, ISU men’s track coach, and after applying to a few different schools it was decided that he would come and compete for Iowa State.

Machooka and Lichoro said they noted that Iowa State had a tradition of winning and in the past Kenyans have done very well here.

“We wanted to follow same tradition,” they said.

Bourke said the recruitment process can take one or two years to complete.

“Over a dozen Kenyans and they all adapted well and all performed very well for us,” he said.

The two runners did fund raising to get here. They said family and friends gave money so they could come to Iowa State.

Saul Patla Lempirikany, ISU Kenyan student and runner who attended the university where Machooka was recruited, had connections that helped ISU research Machooka and his abilities.

Bourke said both runners are very good students and Machooka and Lichoro said Kevin is very good to them.

Lichoro said, “Kevin treats us like friends.”

However despite a friendly coach, they are still struggling with some cultural hurdles.

Machooka said it is hard to make friends here, and he said he wants to have many friends.

Both runners said they wish people were more welcoming and less hurried.

“Of the people we’ve encountered who are conscious and friendly, we like them,” Machooka said.

Lichoro said it is too early to make conclusions about the people at ISU and only time will tell.