Saturday, August 30, 2014


True Love

Written on August 10, 2014…

Recently I received a hand written letter from a volunteer who had spent a couple of months with Team Rwanda.  In five years, this is the first letter I have received, a letter that will remain in my journal to be read and reread during the low points of my life in Rwanda.  This letter will be a ragged piece of tissue paper in the next few years.

The letter spoke of love and happiness.  This woman gave as much love as she received in return. 

“…love comes in all forms and produces the same effect of warmth, gratitude and inspiration.”

On Wednesday evening I was on another Brussels flight out of Kigali heading back to the US.  As I opened the inflight magazine there they were, the boys of Team Rwanda.  As I stared at the photo I felt to the core of my soul….love.  I became all verklempt, sniffling and trying to hold back my leaky eyes.  I did not want to leave. Yes, me, the one who does not have a “heart for Rwanda”, the one who has pretty much given up cycling because I cannot take the hassle on the roads anymore, me, the one who sometimes is so angry and frustrated I want to run screaming from this country. 

That’s the funny thing about love; you often end up in places you never thought you’d be because of love. 

I never had the normal life, the husband (make that two), children or job.  I tried the traditional job route once.  I was miserable and I was miserable to others.  I didn’t have children because frankly, I’m just not a fan, especially a fan of the bald, drooling, crying babies. 

People used to tell me I would never really know love until I had a child.  They were wrong. 

This morning I woke up at 3:00am to head to the airport again, this time heading from Boston to Vegas.  I saw I had a message on Facebook.  It was Janvier.  Yesterday, Janvier, who is currently in the US racing and training with a good friend of ours, Scott Nydam, won a local race in New Mexico.  It wasn’t a big race, in the grand scheme of professional cycling, it was a blip…..a blip he won.  Janvier became the first Rwandan to ever win a professional race in the US.  I had spoken to Janvier the night before and he was so happy.  He called to give me his new US cell number.  After the call I sent him a short message on FB, “GREAT job today.  We are so proud of you!”

This morning I read Janvier’s message….

Thanks you Mukecuru every thing is bacouse you if you're not in Rwanda I can never now USA, Thanks lots you and coach to send me here I'm very happy because
You and Jock!!!

Recently I read a devotional called the Trademark of a True Christian.  Yes, I love the baby Jesus more now too….

“One of the most important facets of love is unselfishness, which is characterized in Romans 12:16 as the willingness to adapt and adjust to the needs and desires of others.  People who have grasped the meaning of this Scripture and applied it in their lives have learned what it means to be reduced to love.  They are not selfish.  They have learned to be adaptable and to adjust to others.  On the other hand, people who think more highly of themselves then they should find it difficult to adjust to others…..They selfishly expect others to adjust to them, but they are often unable to accommodate others without becoming angry or upset.”

Everything I do I do for this team.  To see Janvier and Valens sitting in 1st and 2nd at the Commonwealth Games ITT in the first group, to hear Bona’s voice on the phone from France where he rides for a new team, to welcome Gasore home from Scotland and seeing him holding his little boy and loving his family to hear Jonathan praying for his Tanto and Mukecuru and thanking God for guacamole.  For all of these moments I will happily give up comfort, convenience and money.  As I see people go through the motions of their lives, telling me they “wish” this, that and the other always selfishly holding on to the life they think they need instead of selflessly pursuing they life they want I wish they could live a day in my shoes.  95% of that day would feel like you’re beating your head against a concrete wall, the other 5% would be filled with a sense of hope that things are better that we are making a difference.  I live for the 5% of my day.

The ironic cliché is the more you give you get.   It just might not be in the ways you expect.

The greatest compliment I have received besides being a force to be “reckoned with”, is that my selflessness does not go unnoticed although I do not wish it to be noticed.  If I can lead a life that inspires others than I will have had a good run of decent days.

I never set out to inspire or influence a group of Rwandan cyclists, a team or a country.  I just fell in love with a group of young men who have become like sons to me and who I would gladly give up consistent water, electricity and quality of life for over and over again. 

I know this volunteer is forever changed and is a part of our family and feels the love from all of us even though the thousands of miles from Rwanda separate us.  We all hope she follows her selfless heart and returns to continue the work she has started and continue the impact and inspiration she has planted.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Water...It Should be so SIMPLE

6 minutes and 30 seconds to fill a 5 liter jug of water...on an average day

20 five liter jugs every day during camp

130 minutes each day filling water from the single water filter we my house

2 hrs and 10 minutes

Walking back and forth from the water filter to the kitchen to the garage -- At least an hour

Monday thru Friday 15 hours....15 hours just to drink a glass of water

Every day for the past two weeks the city water shuts off between 6 and 7 am.  Walk to the shut off, check for the city water, close off city water, open the valve for the 5,000 liter tank perched high above the property.  Pressure, the higher the tank the better the pressure.  The pressure is still not strong enough in the tank to properly run the water filter.  It filters out most but not all of the bad heebie jeebies naked to the human eye.  Will this time be the time I get sick? as I put the bottle of water to my lips.

Hourly checks on the city water to see if it has returned.  The longer it is out, the more precarious our supply in the tank.  Should the tank run dry we start hauling water from the lower tanks in jerry cans to our houses.  We start boiling water.  I did that last week.

11-15 riders, 7-9 staff, animals, gardens, pump track, laundry...lots and lots of laundry all needing a steady supply of water.

When will the city water come back on?  Will the pressure be strong enough to pump it up the pipe into the tank?  The top open tank sits high above the compound.  Does the opening invite birds to deposit their most recent meal?  What could possibly have settled in that tank?
The tank at the top of the property
I prefer not to go there.

I have had Typhoid Fever.  Typhoid....a disease which comes via poor hygiene and sanitation.  Poop in the water.  There is a vaccine for it, albeit 60% effective.  I was at the end of my two years, the time period where you are 60% protected.  It was the worst feeling couple of weeks in my 48 years on the planet.

Cristina, our Canadian English teaching volunteer, asked, "How many hours a week to we deal with water?"

Apparently a minimum of 15 hours.

The double whammy has been the days when we have no water AND no electricity.  Thanks to a generator we're still not sure how we are paying for, we at least have electricity.....for a couple of hours.  Last Friday the electricity was off from 8:30am until early evening.  We ran the generator for two hours just do do all the sheets from the 15 beds the riders occupied during the week.

2 hours of generator time = $60+ in fuel

$60 to do laundry

The last two weeks of camp my days have been consumed by turning on the generator, turning off the generator, filling the tank, turning on the city water, filling bottle after bottle after bottle of semi filtered water.

In between all of that...I try to do my job....getting visas and passports for Rwandan cyclists (another blog for another time) and trying desperately to find money to make all this craziness run.

I am exhausted....completely and utterly spent.

And yet, I have it easy.  I have a generator and a back up tank of water....that's the irony.

Please help us provide clean, safe, consistent water to our team and staff.  Every little bit helps!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

From the Edge of My Comfort Zone

In the last week I have traveled almost 20,000 miles, covering three continents, three states, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Overland Park and 30 years.  I went "home" for my 30th High School Reunion.  The time far eclipsed the miles.  

I grew up in a nice, clean, safe suburb of Kansas City.  In 1983-1984, Shawnee Mission South, the high school I graduated from was awarded a National School of Excellence.  Life was easy, I see that now.  Of course, when you're 17, nothing in life is easy.  How time and distance and life in Africa significantly alters one's perspective.

I was not the popular kid, the homecoming queen, surrounded by an entourage of compatriots who ruled the school.  I was the nerdy, band geek, sporty girl who had a few close friends in her class but mostly ran with others.  High school was brutal at times.  All I wanted to do was "fit in", be like all the pretty people. After 30 years I am thankful I never did.  I needed to be just different enough to not be afraid to live a very different life....although it took me almost 25 years to begin that life.

30 years changes many things....suddenly my different life seemed interesting.  In high school the last thing you wanted to be was different.  People were older, grayer, bigger and nicer.  One girl who was so nasty to me in high school was now the girl who was interested in what I did and who I had become.  She was always the prettiest girl in school, now she was still this gorgeous woman who was still so both inside and out.  My close friends are still my close friends even though I hadn't spoken to one in almost 30 years.  The conversation picked up right where it left off..."Bitch Kitty...were have you been?"

I was not the most likely person to attend a 30 year reunion.  I did so because I had the inner voice tugging at me to go.  When that voice will not subside I need to listen to it.  I am so thankful I did.  It was a ridiculous amount of travel with an even more ridiculous price tag, but this week was priceless.

My friend who I hadn't seen in almost 30 years hugged me so tightly and said, "You were the ONLY reason I came tonight.  I just wanted to see you."

That was enough.

We never know the impact we have on one another.  I did not set out to impact anyone when I went to Rwanda.  I was just trying to still my restless soul.  It was purely personal and private.  

The guy who organized the reunion and I were talking the last night of the event and he kept telling me I needed to tell my story.  I'm not the limelight girl.  I'm the behind the scenes girl.  It feels strange to tell my story, funny as I write this very public blog I know.  He said to me that although it is about me, my story, it's really about all the others who want to step out and don't.  

Really....I'm a girl from Kansas who lives in Rwanda and works in countries like Eritrea, most people have never heard of.  

"How does that happen?" he asked.

Simply....I just wanted to not suck air and die.  I wanted to live fully and completely and with that comes a life that really is not that easy, it's rampant with struggle, obstacles and frustrations and there was a nano second that life in Overland Park, Kansas looked appealing this weekend.  

But that's not me.  As I listened to friends who live 5 miles from where they grew up, talking about retiring from a job they've had for the past 20+ years and then starting their life I wondered how they did it.  There is nothing wrong with that life, these are great people, salt of the earth, hard working classmates.  But that life?  To me that is as foreign as people thinking about living and working in a 3rd world African country.  

One thing I know to the core of my soul after this week is I have no regrets, there are still hundreds of things I want to do, but if it all ended tomorrow, I would have no regrets, nothing left undone.  I don't wonder about a different life.  I live a different life.

Paul is right.....perhaps it's time to tell more of my story, step out from the shadows a bit.  If my story can impact others to live their authentic life then it needs to be told.

After all....I'll always be just a girl from Kansas.

If you're able to treat what seems like despair, what
seems like hardship as an opportunity
to reinvent yourself and to transcend your own limitations,
as David Johnson says, "the world is full of clues,
and you can read your way though it."
If you're able to turn your life into an art piece,
if you're able to turn your narrative into THE narrative,
then you become that hero.