43 years ago today I came into this world two weeks late, with a massive tuft of jet black hair and weighing close to 10 pounds! I like to think I was two weeks late because I was busy contemplating my life outside the womb. I've always been a thinker, a "contemplater". Perhaps I was already trying to figure out how I was going to make the most of my life even then. Or maybe I was just plain stubborn, which could be just as accurate!
Birthdays have always been a cause for celebration for me. I'm not a big fan of the major holidays. Christmas is just too commercialized and makes me sad. New Year's Eve is completely overrated and continues to set people up for failure. Does anyone actually remember Christ rose from the dead on Easter? And Valentine's Day, the ultimate Hallmark holiday scam!
But Birthdays....on that one day, at that moment of time, the world was forever altered by the emergence of YOU! The impact of our presence on the world for better or worse is forever imprinted on the planet and the lives you touch. That is why I celebrate...TRULY celebrate my birthday. For me, it's a time to look back and ask, is this world better or worse because I am here? Have I made a difference and was that difference positive?
That is why this 43rd birthday is so special. I did make the changes I needed to make to pursue a passionate life. There are no regrets. I have been a little quiet on the blog the past week, not for lack of things to share, but an overabundance of life that I am left with the challenge of what to share. My days are so full. I write down little things that make me laugh, make me sad, make me think while I'm running around and it literally fills pages every day.
Monday and Tuesday last week reduced me to tears. Tears of pure frustration. I had hit the wall so many times. I'm still battling renewing our NGO. On Friday last week, I was told as I was grabbing the last bus out of Kigali that the last piece of information we needed was not going to be processed because the Minister of Agriculture said farmers didn't need bicycles they needed cars/trucks to transport their goods. WHAT? First of all, I don't even have a car. They are very expensive and have to be shipped in from Dubai which generally takes 6-8 weeks. Then the price of fuel is a jaw dropping $8.02 a gallon. That would stop even the most hard core gas guzzling American in their tracks! Driver's licenses are given out only two or three times a year and are about $300USD. Then insurance, taxes, inspection....okay Mr. Out of Touch with Reality bureaurcrat, have you been knocking back the banana whiskey at lunch?
So that is what I had to "contemplate" on my two hour, stinky, death bus ride back to Musanze Friday night. I decided to rent a truck and go to Kigali Monday and Tuesday to figure out what exactly had gone down. I had a local man who has worked with Project Rwanda in the past handling the running around delivering paperwork for me. It was time I showed up in person.
I called in some favors. Roger, who works for Land o' Lakes in Rwanda, let me borrow his Rwandan accountant who had just completed their NGO renewal earlier in the year. My first stop, Department of Emmigration to make sure I had all the other paperwork correct. Shocker, no there's a new form that I must fill out. Great, give me the form....again! Then on to see the Minister Out of Touch with Reality. Luckily he met with us. I gave it my best subservient, aw shucks, performance and lo and behold, everything my runner had told me had been a mistake. So someone is not telling the truth, but at this point I don't care, just tell me what you need. He says I need a Letter of Recommendation from the RDB (Rwandan Development Board). Sweet....I KNOW people there!
By this time it's already close to 5:00pm so I drop off my "door kicker", Fatma and head back to Emmigration/Immigration to pick up Rebecca. She's been dealing all day with her issues on an exit Visa to be able to leave the country Tuesday to meet her fiance in Spain. She finally got her exit Visa after paying an additional 25,000 RFW to get out of Rwanda.
The more I thought about the RDB letter the more I realized this was probaby just another "pass off". I decided my first stop Tuesday morning would be with Emmigration to make sure they needed that document. On top of all this NGO fiasco, I am also having to coordinate a vehicle and pick up for the Tour of the Volcanoes race Max and I are sagging this weekend for the Team. How am I possibly going to pull this all off? Then it hit.....I was tired, driving around Kigali is so completely stressful. The truck I'm driving is making all sorts of noises and the tires look like racing slicks. I was staying at Roger's trying to SKYPE with Jock who is the only other person on the planet that can relate to this level of government frustration and life in Rwanda and his internet goes down. I lost it....I laid on my bed and cried. I wasn't homesick. I wasn't sad. I didn't want to go home and give up. I was frustrated and I was MAD! Why is the government making this so difficult? The success of the farmers in this country depends on me getting this renewal accomplished. If I fail THEY lose!! I cannot fail. I cannot let these farmers and other small business people down. I cannot let down the Board. I cannot let down Jock, who has been here battling to make this happen alone for the past two years.
Tuesday morning I wake up and walk out on Roger's front porch with my coffee and take in the amazing view of Kigali and see the morning mist rising up from the valley and I am renewed. I always wake up early because mornings always give me a sense of hope. It's the "Do Over" moment of the day.
So at the Department of Emmigration, with the ever evasive Godfrey, I am told that they do not need the Letter of Recommendation from the RDB but rather a Letter of Collaboration from the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry. That's IT!!! You have got to be kidding me, right? Okay great.....put it in writing, put your name and cell number on it and I'm heading to the Minister of Commerce. This is typical Rwandan government behavior. Everyone is so afraid to step out and put their name on something for fear of retaliation. In the meantime they have created this gigantic mouse maze with no exit point. I don't know if it was the look of "Postal" in my eyes or if he was just tired of seeing me but I got him to put it in writing.
So, off to Roger's office to do the Letter of Collaboration request for MINICOM and then to the MINICOM offices. One thing positive with all this running around is I am beginning to know Kigali, a major city with not ONE actual street sign, like the back of my hand. I can navigate these streets, shift my ghetto truck, pass on the shoulder (that's what we do) and avoid running over the 13 mototaxis in my path like a pro. Of course, the Minister of MINICOM is not in and I have to schedule an appointment for next week. I just haven't spent quite enough time driving the Road of Death between Musanze and Kigali.
Update on Tuesday....
So why do I do this? Because if I don't, who will? Do I tell the farmers things got a little frustrating and I gave up? Those of you who really know me understand that is not an option for me.
So why do I do this? The frustrations are great but the rewards are greater. I have already begun accumulating a network of amazing people that are buying into my passion for Project Rwanda. I have people from all sides helping me. Roger, from Land o' Lakes, Jonathan Golden sending a letter to Bishop John to ask for his support in helping me. Euben, my first true Rwandan friend, my freight forwarder and man of great respect and many contacts helps me whenever I call. If I continue my passionate pursuit of bringing Project Rwanda to the next level, others will continue to be drawn to this pursuit. In the end we all win...especially the poorest of the poor who need our bikes.
So, it's now June 12th. I am officially 43. I live in Rwanda. I pursue my passion every day. I am blessed with a strong support of friends and family at home and am bolstered by the love and encouragement I get from my friends in Rwanda. My friendships here have developed quickly and are strong. That happens naturally because we all recognize how much we need each other.
43....did I ever think this is where I would be, doing this? YES...it's exactly what I wanted when at the age of 13 I made a poster board of all my dreams and put it on my wall. One of those dreams was Africa. Never tell me you can't make your dreams come true!!! The bonus is while making your dreams come true you help other's dreams come true as well. That is what God had in mind when I entered this world. This is why I celebrate!