Thursday, October 1, 2009

Saving the World (or Rwanda) is Not Always Warm and Fuzzy

So, after my "Home is Where My Heart Is" is my ugly reality. Just in case any of you thought that life was all "beautiful, amazing, gorgeous Africa", it is's just like most other places X 10! I have had the most amazing "highs" and equally spectular "lows" and they tend to come back to back. There seems to be no middle ground and as much as the "lows" wipe me out, I still come back for more. I still will not trade a life of same ol' same ol' for it.

This morning I awoke to no water, two days into no shower and a flurry of emails asking why Max was "stuck" in Paris with no visa and no way to board the plane. In the four weeks in Vegas I was so focused on getting the riders visas to Senegal, Namibia and Botswana I was completely unaware that my own French mechanic had to have a visa to enter Rwanda. Max was stuck in Paris and couldn't board the plane without a visa. Not only had he totally spaced the flight he was supposed to be on Tuesday but now after paying a fee to get him rebooked he still couldn't leave. I learned this morning that being American brings you an immense amount of "privilege" while traveling. I just get on a plane and go to pretty much any country I want. For other nationalities that is not the case. The French cannot enter Rwanda without giving up their first born. Obviously there is no love between Rwanda and France. I learned a very expensive lesson.

At 7:30 am I was not quite "with it". I had gone to bed (dirty) at 11:30, woke at 2:00am wide awake thanks to the unforgiving reality of the jet lag I think I am supposed to be immune to, and then went back to bed at 3:30 never actually falling asleep. My first email I opened elicited utter panic. It was too late, there was nothing I could do but apologize and learn from my mistake. Now, provided everything goes as planned Max will arrive on Saturday only to work the Tour of Kigali on Sunday, fix all the bikes on Monday and leave Tuesday for Senegal. That would be the perfect scenario, if the visa issue is fixed by tomorrow.

I had to regroup....which I did an amazingly poor job of and headed to Kigali for meetings. My first meeting was with David Baard from Akagera Aviation. We are using them for the Tour of Rwanda and trying to figure out the logistics of camera filming and medical evac. It is always interesting to meet people who know me through my blog. I tend to feel overly exposed since they "know" me from my brutally honest excerpts of life in Rwanda while I know nothing about them. David "knows" me from my blog about David Pluth. He had flown David around Rwanda while he was filming before his death. He found me through searches on David. The only good thing coming from David's death has been the work done towards securing a medical evacuation helicopter based in Kigali to get people out of this country in event of emergency. I do not say this sarcastically or flippantly...I know if something bad happens to me here, I will most likely die here. That is reality. One bike accident, car accident or other medical emergency I will not make it home alive. That is just something you have to be "okay" with. I pray.

I then headed into town to deal with getting the plane tickets for Nic Nic and Alex. They were invited to the South African training camp. This is the next step for Team Rwanda riders. This is a HUGE deal for these boys, especially Alex. I am supposed to go to Rwandair and purchase the tickets, they are supposed to be $600 total. When I get there I find they cannot honor the special fair and in addition to that they cannot even give us their best fare. I am now faced with a $1,456 airfare. I have a signed check, which they will not take, even after my best theatrics. I do not have any other option at this point. I put the full plane fare on my personal credit card. Rwandair was kind enough to charge me an extra 5% for the convenience!

Brutal honest side note....I had to be put the airfare on my parent's credit card because I'm in the middle of a foreclosure on my house in Las Vegas and my credit is less than stellar. I called my mom from Rwanda and told her I just charged $1456 on her credit card for a couple of riders. My parents, being the incredible supporters they are, left me a message saying no problem, do what you have to do. There is nothing more humbling at 43 than asking your parents to accept a charge for two boys they do not know in Rwanda to help them get to a camp to pursue their chance to be the next Adrien Niyonshuti. I am a lucky girl....thank you mom and dad....

One thing you learn quickly in Rwanda is that you have very few options. Most decisions are met on the fly and you do what you have to do to make what you believe in happen.

Jenny and I finish the day with a meeting with Aimable from the Rwanda Cycling Federation. Aimable is a total stand up Rwandan who loves the Team. His associate Emmanuel drove to Buhgembura, Burundi to secure the visas for Senegal today for the team. We are so fortunate to have this support.

So, we head out on the road of death at 6:30, it is now dark (I hate driving this road in the dark). I call Nicodem (Nic Nic) to make sure he is ready to go to South Africa tomorrow. Thank God, he is a rider that has totally embraced learning English and he tells me Alex is with him and they are ready to go. I am relieved Alex is with him. I call Kiki and talk to him about the Tour of Kigali. He is happy to know Max and I will be there to support him. The visas are ready for the team for Senegal and all is good in the world of Team Rwanda.

During all this chaos I pick up a purchase order for 12 bikes to go to Butare. my life....just one day in Rwanda.

As I sit on my porch in Ruhengeri typing this blog I am content. A day that started as a disaster has finished strong....however, there will be no relief until I KNOW Nic Nic and Alex are safe in South Africa.

Home is Where My Heart Is.....

1 comment:

  1. WOW! Whata day,..I hope tomorrow is one of your high's......Roc