Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 17 of 30 - Someone I Want to Switch Lives with for One Day

It has been quiet on the writing front for a variety of reasons. I have been crazy busy with getting back in the swing of things with my last month working for WBR in Kenya. I even returned to Kenya from the US two days early just trying to get my bearings. I also moved from my old apartment with good internet to a gorgeous home with no internet. I have been relying on air cards and coffee shops. Trying to send anything over 200KBs is almost impossible. To give you an idea, that is one small, minimally pixilated picture. To respond to my 30+ emails per day takes over two hours, not including drive time to find a signal. Ahh….TIA.

Another reason has been this topic. I have thought about this for days. There are so many amazing people in this world, people I admire, respect and strive to emulate. But there is one person, if I was able to be inside his world for even one day, it would open unthinkable doors of insight. It would most likely change the face of everything I do. I want to know what it is like to be Gasore. Gasore "Alex" Hategeka, orphan, young man, Team Rwanda rider.

I remember the first time I saw Gasore race. It impacted me so profoundly I wrote about the experience and have that day burned into my memory for a lifetime. I will never forget the look on his face, blank. All I wanted to know was how we could reach him. Could we ever reach him?

It has been 18 months since Gasore's first race. Since then he has won stages in Cameroon, been to South Africa for training, and hasn't missed a training camp. We have never had to ask, "Where's Gasore?" Gasore has been there with his team, his new family, his only family since June 2009.

Gasore is an orphan, illiterate and speaks only Kinyarwanda. However, he has taken every opportunity given him by the team to go to school, to learn English, to read and write and to learn how to ride. Sadly, there is still so much we do not know about Gasore. We have learned more since Philip Gourevitch's visit during the Tour of Rwanda. Through his interpreter he conducted multiple interviews with Gasore. We learned his father died when he was only 11, long after his mother had passed away. It appears his father died in the insurgency in 1998 years after the genocide.

But I do not want to be Gasore to know more about his past. I want to be Gasore to learn more about him today. What does he think about? What goes through his head every day as he struggles to bridge the language barrier? What motivates him? Little by little through his consistent English lessons we are exposed to more of his thoughts but we have only seen such a minute view into his world.

During this past week's Tour of Cameroon he was having a strong race. On the first stage that had the hilly topography the Rwandan riders crave, Gasore was poised for a repeat performance of his Stage win in 2010. And he did repeat, in a tactically stupid and selfish manner with two other Rwandan riders. The three riders competed against one another for the win, draining their strength, and exposing their lack of critical thinking for all the teams to see. They were not teammates at the finish line. They were three separate Rwandans duking it out for the short term accolades. During the podium awards, his coach was noticeably absent. He had won the stage and he had lost his coach and team's respect. The next morning Gasore approached his coach and said, "I am sorry for yesterday. I was wrong." Coming from any other rider, any American rider this would have been a simple matter of an apology. Coming from Gasore, a Rwandan, it is more. Rwandans generally do not admit to any fault or mistake even if it clearly is their fault. It is a cultural matter that is enormously frustrating for us. If you cannot admit a mistake you cannot learn from that mistake. It is an ever present hurdle to growth. Secondly, Gasore "got it". He observed his coach and processed the fact that his coach was not happy. He looked at his performance and came to the conclusion he had essentially blown a great opportunity. I would give anything to have been privy to Gasore's thought processes those 18 hours. What clicked?

How does Gasore feel about his life now? He now has money, a home and a family of Americans, Rwandans and one very passionate French brother. Gasore is the only rider Zulu will actually let pet him. Zulu is completely indifferent to most of the riders and almost all Rwandans but not Gasore. What does Gasore think about this 130 pound dog? Rwandans fear dogs, why doesn't Gasore?

Does Gasore want to learn English so he can let us into his world? What would he say to us if he had a complete understanding of English?

The last day of the Tour of Cameroon Gasore was in 4th place. With a strong finish he could have possibly ended up on the podium. He imploded for no apparent reason? Why? His coach yelled at him from the car pushing him to keep going. Where was his fire? Why did he just give up? Is he afraid of success? This is not the first time he has pulled back. Why? If we only knew the answers to this we could help him overcome this emotional hurdle. Yet, we are locked out by our inability to communicate with one another.

If I could only be Gasore for a day I could know these answers. I could help him change his life. Perhaps I would find out he doesn't want to change his life.


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