Today is July 31st. A month from now, August 31st, I will be on a Kenyan Airways flight out of Rwanda.
I have been thinking about my time here. As most of you know by now, I am returning at the end of September, early October, to finish the work we began in April. I simply cannot imagine leaving for good....not now! I still have an NGO to renew.
The NGO issue has become quite defeating. Never in my life have I not been able to do something I set my mind to. If I didn't make something happen one way I always found another way to get it done. For the first time in my life I am completely blocked. I have called in every favor, every contact, prayed my heart out to no avail. If God wanted to teach me perseverance and patience, Rwandan NGO renewal is the catalyst.
Today is August 4th and I'm still not finished with my blog. It's not because I haven't had time. I haven't had the inclination, the right frame of mind, the ability to express in words the roller coaster of emotions I have been riding.
Between Sunday night and Monday night I wanted to go home at least thirteen times. Actually I never really counted, however, it felt like entirely too many. I think I really was ready to plan my escape. The pity party was in full swing and I was dancing on the bar drinking tequila shots! Thank God for new days.
I really haven't had much change between the last couple of days and today other than I have been able to reach out and grasp the hope and hold on just a little bit longer. I hold on because I realize some days no one in their right mind would tackle this for no pay, no electricity, no water, bad hours and incessant shouts of "Muzungu" and "Give me amafaranga". I hold on because I do make a difference by putting a bike in a poor farmer's hands. I hold on because Jock gave me an Organic Cotton, soft as a bunny, bath towel. It's truly the craziest things at the most bizarre moments that make me say....I can do this one more day! You have no idea how much you begin to appreciate little things like nice linens. It makes one feel almost American again.
I'm less than four weeks from going home. I still do not have my NGO renewed, not for lack of head banging, rounding up my Rwandan network of influence posse, or devout prayer. It currently sits in the hands of MINICOM (Ministry of Trade and Industry). It has surfed the Ministry for over three weeks and still no answer. I need them to sign off on the MOU (Memo of Understanding) so I can go back to the Department of Emigration for another go round of "Name That Obscure Form" to hold up the NGO renewal. I have gotten to the point that I am just going through the motions. When people say to me, "Don't worry, you'll get it" I look at them with the initial thought of wanting to smack them upside the head (due to my frustration not their thoughtfulness and hopefulness). Then I just sigh quietly and settle back into my mousetrap wheel. I still hope it will happen. Will I be shocked if I leave here at the end of the mouth not accomplishing this goal, sadly, no. What saddens me most about all of this is how hard I work to make life easier for the majority of poor Rwandans, while a select few decide their fate. It truly is crushing some days.
On top of the NGO issues this week, I have also had three bikes seized at the Ugandan border and been told I cannot export any bikes outside of Rwanda. They were brought into Rwanda to serve Rwandans and as they were brought in under the tax exempt NGO, they cannot leave the country. They are bicycles for Rwandans. Now you can see the agony of this NGO mess. I cannot move bicycles in Rwanda because of our expired NGO, but I cannot move them out. I cannot get the NGO renewed to get more bikes into Rwanda for the same Rwandans that are due the bikes in the first place. Follow the logic...or illogic? Is that a word? It could be here!
So, my great day in the Congo on Sunday with Jock and Jean Paul was for naught. Bikes cannot go across the border. More people need these bikes. These bikes can change their lives but for some crazy law, they sit in a warehouse collecting dust. THIS is why I have days when I feel so defeated and want to go home 13 times in a 24 hour period.
And then....I look over at Jock typing away to Kiki, one of his riders, on his computer. Kiki is here for training camp and is sitting on a computer on the other side of the room.
Jock says...Are you there Kik? Where are you? How are you? Who are you?
Kiki....I am good. I am Kiki. I am at home.
Jock....Thank you Mr. Uwimana. Father of Jonathan Rafiki Uwimana. I am happy when you are in this house.
Kiki....Thank you very much my coach. I am happy when I am here.
Jock....I am glad you can answer me too.
I see this and tears come flooding across my eyes. Sometimes I just have to remember "why" I put up with the craziest. This place, these people, make Kiki feel like this is home. That does it for me.
Last week, as I stood in the customs house at the Rwanda/Uganda border and argued with the agent for over an hour about letting the bicycles leave with my farmer to Uganda, I cried. I looked across at my Ugandan farmer, so excited to have his bikes and I said, "I am so very sorry I cannot make this happen for you." At that moment, a middle aged, poor as dirt, Ugandan farmer and a middle class, white girl from Las Vegas were on the exact same page fighting for the exact same thing. Unfortunately, we both lost....for the moment.
This is why I cannot go home. I have so much unfinished business. September will come quickly and before I know it I'll be on a plane back to Las Vegas. I still cannot imagine landing in Vegas and feeling remotely at home. I have changed so much in my time here in Rwanda. I was a square peg in a round hole living in Vegas four months ago. I am City Center trying to be jammed through a eye of a needle now. I do not know how I am going to react. It is going to be difficult. As much as I wanted to leave the last 24 hours, the more I cannot imagine being any where but here.