Thursday, October 8, 2009

9 Days...9 Million Stories

Back to life in Rwanda the good days, the bad days, the frustrations, the joys, the sheer volume of life that is led every day is completely staggering. Most days I can't even begin to sift through the day's events to even figure out what to let the world in on.

I've been back 9 days....today it feels like 9 months. Dog years I'm telling, dog years!

Saturday I slept in, simply because I didn't fall asleep until 4:00am so technically at 9:00am I was still in the red. From the second I moved Kongo to the other side of the bed so I could get up I did not stop. Sunday morning I had to head to Kigali to drive support for Team Rwanda in the Tour of Kigali. There were race supplies to gather and pack, bottles to wash, a car to load and all the administrative "stuff" that was on tap for Monday morning meetings in Kigali. I also had to pack two bags for the Team to take with them to the Tour of Kigali. The mental checklist was breaking down quickly. Can't forget the racks and tools for assembling 12 Project Rwanda Bikes on Monday. For the Team and the race I need to remember tubes, wheels, spare bike, bottles, thank God I brought bottles from the US since Max actually never made it to Rwanda. Due to visa issues he was still in France and was now headed directly to Senegal. Guess the Senegalese like the French so no visa issues. How I could have used a guy to help me! I admit, I needed an extra pair of hands...guy hands. By the time Johnny Muzungu showed up at 8:30 with an incredible bottle of wine all the way from Washington (he is a true friend), I was ready to pass out, and it wasn't the wine.

Saturday night....again insomnia. What is wrong with me? Why won't the brain just shut off, just shut UP? You know it's bad when you start sending yourself emails at 3:00am from your laptop you went to bed with to remind you not to forget things in the morning. By the time 5:30am rolled around I had slept an hour and was up running through the house grabbing all my gear to head to Kigali for three days.

I hit Amahoro Stadium at 8:30am and found all the riders. By 9:00, Jenny was there. Jenny is my new Project Rwanda partner in crime and essentially a "mini me". She is motivated, driven, feisty and actually "mini". She would be hanging out the window, watching riders, motorbikes, traffic, cars coming the wrong direction, riders broken down on the side of the road for the next four hours. Jenny came back to Rwanda in September to run our Wooden Bike Classic. Thank God for Jenny!

The Tour of Kigali was a three lap 45k circuit through the crazy streets of Kigali. Only half way through the first lap we come up on Jean de Dieu. I knew there had been a crash a few kilometers before and it wasn't pretty. One bike completely mangled, several riders involved, however I thought everyone on our Team had made it through unscathed. Coming up on Jean de Dieu, his rear wheel obviously damaged, blood running down his leg and hand I knew he had tangled with the downed group. I jump out of the car, pull the ONE spare rear wheel I had out from the back of the car and run to his aid. The crash had smashed his brakes and we couldn't get his damaged rear wheel released. I grabbed the allen wrench and had to take off the brake pads to get the rear wheel out, the whole time I thinking, "Where is my mechanic?" and I'm looking at Jean de Dieu, his eyes pleading for me to hurry. I finally get the wheel off, slap on the new one, tighten the brakes and he hops back on as I push him up the hill.

Two more laps, hundreds of close calls with motorbikes, a police officer jumping off his motorcycle with a giant stick swinging at them, one car-motorbike collision, one motorbike off into the Rwandan ditch, six thrown waterbottles, four gallons of water, 50 bananas and we finish still in one piece. Team Rwanda swept the first six places as they should, with Nathan, Abraham and Obed finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

After the awards, I went to dinner with a prospective Project Rwanda bike purchaser. At 7:00pm when I finally rolled into the house I was staying at I was exhausted. And Sunday night, the first night in a week, I slept.

Sleep is so elusive for me here. I cannot figure out why. At home, I sleep, eight/nine hours a night. In bed by ten, up by six, routine. Probably because NOTHING in my life here is routine. Even through difficulties during the past few years, I always was able to sleep. Here, it's a different story. It is a nightly battle that I appear to be losing.

Monday I wake up actually refreshed. Jenny is still sleeping. We are couch surfing at her friend, Amy's. I have never slept in so many different places. I head to Fina Bank to drop off paperwork for our new bank account and on to Ecobank to hopefully get access to our Project Rwanda account. I have been trying to work on getting added to the account for almost two months. I think the next step is actually producing a "first born".

At Ecobank I am told by Christelle that everything is in order and that is a relief since I just left a check with Felix to pay the guards, the electric bill and the car insurance. It is the 5th, they were supposed to be paid on the 1st. Unhappy guards are not a good thing to have!

I head back, pick up Jenny and the day of meetings starts. We are trying to secure sponsors for our Wooden Bike Classic in November. As the morning moves quickly on, the panic sets in. I have 12 bikes that have to be pulled from the Kigali warehouse, racks put on, tuned and loaded up by 2:00pm. I move the pick up to 3:00 and head to the warehouse. Kiki is meeting me there to help me. He is leaving for Senegal at 4:00am in the morning. I get there, pull out the bikes and start wrenching on the racks and then the rain starts. It rains harder. The skies then open up like the world hasn't seen since the days of Noah and the ark. During all of this I get a call saying they won't accept the check I left for Felix in Ruhengeri to pay the guards. Someone's going to die at Ecobank! Blondie Muzungu has had it!

Kiki shows up and there is no way he is going to work in the rain with a ten day stage race in three days. Then his phone rings, Sibo is out of surgery. Sibo had to have an elbow abscess drained and they put him under general anesthia. He rode in such pain in the Tour of Kigali and he had to have it drained before he left for Senegal. Nyandwi, another rider has been at the hospital all day with him. They need to get him out of the hospital but they need me. I have the money to pay for the procedure. Well, I did until Ecobank decided they didn't know who I was again and needed that "first born". I call the pineapple coop and tell them we have to scrap it and they will have to pick up the bikes on Tuesday and Kiki and I head to the hospital.

I cannot, will never be able to, put into words the sight of a government run Rwandan hospital. I would rather die on the side of a road then enter that place as a patient. It was crowded, overflowing with people with all varieties of ailments, sicknesses, diseases and injuries. We had to get Sibo out of there quickly. Nyandwi takes me to the recovery room. Before we can enter we have to remove our shoes. I ask to wash my hands and they point me to a bathroom with no soap to be found. You have got to be kidding me, in a hospital? I am covered in mud due to the mixture of all the dust from the bikes and the torrential rains. My hair is dripping wet, my hands are filthy, my jeans are looking more brown than blue and all I need to do is take off my shoes?

I walk in and see a room full of people laying on sheets that look like they have seen better days. There are no curtains, no dividers, everyone stacked next to one another. I walk in and grab Sibo's leg. He lifts his head and gives me his big Sibo smile, his eyes roll back and he's down. I'm looking for Dr. Albert, our Team doctor. The nurses tell me I have to pay, get his medication and then he can be released. After an hour and a half of going from one building to the next, paying 72,000 RWF ($130USD), I went back to the recovery room and Sibo. At this point Sibo is semi coherent and smiling. That's good enough for me, he's out! Then a heated conversation breaks out between the nurses and Kiki and Nyandwi. They are telling me I cannot take him out until he drinks some juice. Of course the hospital doesn't have juice, food, no basic staples of any kind, so Ceceila from the cycling Federation heads out to buy some juice. In the meantime I'm arguing with the nurses in English, Kiki's translating to Kinyarwanda and Sibo's laying there. I keep telling them he is going home. Finally, Dr. Albert walks through the door and hands me the official discharge papers. I give Sibo a big hug and a kiss on the head and head out with all three boys safely in the hands of the Federation representative. Twelve hours later those three and three more are on a plane to Senegal.

Is this still the same day.....could it still be just Monday?

I head back to Amy's to shower and meet a friend for dinner. By the time I get home at 10 I am wiped out but I spend another hour making sure everything is done for all our meetings Tuesday and texting with Jock in between flights from California to Senegal. Of course, no sleep Monday night as I wait for the phone to ring. Kiki and Nyandwi were instructed to call me if there were any problems getting on the plane to Senegal. I slept all night with my ear to the phone. Luckily no call, unluckily also no sleep.

Tuesday, more meetings, meet Abuba, a fill in mechanic to assemble the bikes, get the bikes picked up by the coop, fight with Ecobank, get money released (but just one check, they are doing me a customer service favor since I still haven't produced the "first born"), pick up supplies at the store, go to Fina Bank, order my new checkbooks so I can take all my money out of Ecobank and put it in Fina Bank. Fina does not have the "first born" requirement. Then, Jenny and I head home to Kigali, it's dark, road of death, no moon and we're both exhausted. However, the exhaustion has morphed into a serious case of "slap happy" and we spend most of the next two hours laughing. I am thankful I have Jenny!

Three days....did someone say three months?

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