A few days later, after an onslaught of official dinners and appearances with politicians, Bile and an array of his cousins, each a success in his own field, take guests to a quiet lunch. The restaurant affords a view of blowing dunes and white-capped sea.
"A man on this beach was told there was a shark net here," says cousin Yusuf. "He swam and within four minutes was eaten. Well, there was a shark net. The problem was they put it down when the sharks were beside the beach. They couldn't get out. They got hungry."
Somehow the conversation turns to teeth. They are honored among Somalis, who care for them incessantly with sticks of aday wood. "The root is the best. The wood makes tiny fibers as you work it," says Yusuf. "There is a lot of phosphorus and calcium in this wood. If a man doesn't clean his teeth with his stick brush, he's not a true Somali."
It comes out that Bile has never been to the dentist. "Well, once, for a checkup," Yusuf reveals. "The dentist just took a picture, to put on his wall as an example of a perfect set of teeth."
Bile will graduate from George Mason in two more semesters, with a degree in finance. "While I'm running, I'll continue to live in the U.S. and train with Coach Cook," he says. "But after, I have to come here, come home. My family is what lifted up my life. I want to come back to be a part of it."
So that the visitors might better understand his country, Bile and his cousins drive them south of Mogadishu. "I used to run this road down to Gezira beach every day," Bile says. The land is low scrub, rising to acacia. He hopes to find camels. The striking blue of a herdsgirl's dress attracts the eye, but she is herding only ignoble cows. At last a camel's head rises from the thorn. Its forelegs are hobbled. Bile walks to the camel, strokes its neck, and the animal grows calm. "You see." says Bile, "camels are cool."
The owner appears, less cool than his beast, but Somali hospitality prevails, and everyone must walk down to this man's brush corral and hut, where he offers large warm mugs of camel's milk.
"Go easy," cautions Yusuf. "When it's fresh, it's a laxative."
The consistency is that of thin cream. The taste is of thick hickory smoke. "That's because of the wooden container." says Bile, "from the way it's charred on the inside to keep things clean."
In an orange sunset, they are content to sit and sip the camel's milk. A caravan of donkey carts creaks past in the dusk, bearing wood, carrying on the relentless deforestation of the continent.