Another month goes by…why does time seem to speed up? I know I'm older, actually prefer the term "mature"…or would that be "maturer"?
Scott Nydam and I were talking during the Tour of Rwanda. He writes a blog…he has a story, a story in transition, a life in transition. We were comparing how difficult it is to keep up with the events of life in Africa. Seriously, some days I look back at the day and marvel it was only one day. We both like to write, to share our experiences, our perspectives, our opinions but by the end of the day we collapse in bed only to wake and start the whole crazy intense process over again. Then in a quiet moment, usually after a glass or two of wine we reflect on how we need to write but are so overwhelmed with where to start. Each and every story is more incredible than the next, especially when you start talking about the riders as Scott and his wife, Jennifer, had three months with the Team to experience the force of nature that is Team Rwanda.
The stories of the Team I am going to defer to the outsiders, the journalists, reporters and authors who accompanied our traveling circus during the racing in November. I know parts of their stories, more unbelievable than I even imagined. In the coming months, in cycling magazines across the world, in a very highly respected magazine in the U.S., their stories will be told. The tragedy of life lived through the genocide and insurgency, the triumph of a future in cycling. Every story heartbreaking and inspirational at the same time, soon the world will know the riders of Team Rwanda.
This is what I know….
Cycling is the all inclusive force in Rwanda. It is bigger than football (soccer for us Americans). Our job is to grow the sport, to continue to give kids who have nothing, something.
The Team needs us….at the closing ceremony as I was hugging Abraham. Abraham had joined the Team that night after being released from the Tour of Rwanda prior to the start due to inappropriate interviews with the Rwandan press. Seeing the loss Abraham felt at not being with the Team was difficult. It is an extension of his family whether in his stubbornness he will admit to it or not. He needs us, we need him.
As I released my bear hug embrace on Abraham, Kiki grabbed my hand. He held my hand, looked straight into my eyes (not the easiest thing for a Rwandan to do) and said, "Thank you for coming back. Thank you. I am very happy you came. All of us are very happy. Thank you." Culturally expressing gratitude like we do in the U.S. is not akin to the Rwandan culture. Kiki said thank you….I walked away so he didn't see the tears about to stream down my face. He needs me, I need him.
Cycling, Team Rwanda, is changing Rwanda. The days Adrien spent in the Yellow Jersey galvanized the nation. Everywhere people were shouting, Niyonshuti. The second day Adrien kept the yellow, the Minister of Sport and the Cycling Federation, Aimable, Thierry & Festus, were all under the VIP tent waiting to hear the announcement. When they heard Adrien was still in yellow they erupted in cheers, hugs, showing emotion atypical of Rwandans. I had to turn away, again tears exploding from my eyes, as all these men grabbed Jock and hugged him and thanked him. Jock was overcome with emotion. So many years of struggle for this one PERFECT moment in time, everyone kissing and hugging and celebrating. Pure joy.
Gasore…Alex…his story which is about to be known to the world is more powerful than any of us imagined. I knew there was something special about this kid; I knew there was something in there. I pray every day for his future, for his ability to continue to overcome. I pray he can reach and surpass the success Adrien has achieved. When I was leaving the hotel in Kigali after the race I walked into Adrien's room where all the boys were receiving their portion of the prize winnings. I had to say goodbye. When I told them I was leaving they all assumed I was just going back to Musanze and that they would see me in the coming weeks. When I told them I was going back to Kenya, Gasore looked right at me, started shaking his hands back and forth and said, "No, no Kenya." That was all it took….time to seriously reevaluate what I was doing and where I was living. He cut straight to the point, straight to my heart. No, no Kenya.
I have no idea how we are going to make all this happen, how we will get enough money for the Team, to continue our work, to grow cycling in Rwanda. I have no idea how I will support myself after the end of January. We are always overwhelmed, understaffed and scraping by financially. But if we don't make this happen, who will? You will understand after you hear Gasore's story….