This morning started out stressful as do all first mornings of training camp. It was compounded this morning by the addition of five Tanzanians who arrived late last night and still had to unpack their bikes. We are now working with four native languages, English, French, Kinyarwanda and Swahili often taking three different translations to get our point across. I speak to Jock in English. Jock speaks to Max in French, Max speaks to Felix in French, Felix speaks to the riders in Kinyarwanda and now Kiki speaks to the Tanzanians in Swahili. Kiki unfortunately gets the brunt of constant translating as most of the new riders know very little English.
I had Kiki speak to the three girls who would be training with me this morning as English is almost non existent. I had him explain where we were going, what the plan was for the ride and what I wanted the new girl, Angelique, to do....hold onto my wheel the entire 2 1/2 hours. She had ridden almost 100 miles yesterday to camp and she needed to do a light spin.
Another girl, Janet, showed up at camp another two kilos heavier. It is a constant battle with Janet and her weight. She's a decent rider, however, she weighs the same as I do and she's 6 inches shorter. That's a lot of junk in the trunk to move up these hills!
As we got a mile and a half down the road, Janet looks at me and says panting, "Kim I am sick."
I say, "Janet, you are not sick you are out of shape. Dejende!" (Let's go!)
Janet settled into the ride obviously knowing I was not going to have an ounce of sympathy for her. Cycling and racing involves pain. She needed to embrace it. Today, my patience was wearing thin.
By the time we got to the 10% gradient hill up to Sashwara I had had enough. I looked back at Angelique who was still on my wheel and I knew didn't have it in her today to attack and then I looked over at Janet who proceeded to launch a semi attack and I geared down, stood up and rode away. It did not make me happy. These girls have a race this weekend and 45 year old me beat them.
After I crested the hill and soft pedaled another mile down the road I turned around. Sashwara is a fairly busy little town with people everywhere. Sashwara is Gasore's hometown so they are very familiar with Team Rwanda. I guess that is why I'm still in a state of shock.
As Janet and Angelique saw me pedaling in the opposite direction they quickly looped around. Then it happened. Directly in front of me on the side of the road I spot a young Rwandan man with what looked like an inner tube from a bicycle. He raised it as I approached and within a split second it went whipping across my back. My first thought was you have to be fucking kidding me, he did not just do that! My back smarting, I slammed on my brakes and spun around. Two other older men had seen the entire incident and when I stopped the assailant took off with the two older men in hot pursuit. He ducked into a little store front but the pursuers saw him, charged in and dragged him out slamming their fists into the back of his head. As they brought him towards me, my first thought was to just slap him across the face. An eye for an eye. And then I just stopped.
I am about half way through, "What's so Amazing about Grace?" a book by Philip Yancey. Last night I finished the chapter, Getting Even. It talked about how situations can be diffused simply by grace. As the young man came closer, being pummeled under the fists of the pursuers and the crowd yelling, obviously wanting me to strike back, I didn't. Although I'm sure he did not understand English I told him I would not hit him. I told him to simply say he was sorry and to never do it again.
He looked at me and repeated, "I'm sorry".
I said, "I forgive you."
I grabbed his hand, shook it and rode away. By this time the crowd was easily over 100 people all racing over to see what was happening with the "Muzungu". I left the scene with a clear head, all the frustration from the morning erased, not even angry at the man who hopefully will never pull a stunt like that again. Grace....
It could have ended so differently. Earlier this week I read a blog, Reality Check, Matt is a friend of mine who now has the job I left with Project Rwanda. I feel for him. He battles the same issues I did with the organization and that coupled with an incident similar to mine resulted in a very different outcome. I could have been Matt. I have been Matt. Every day it is a struggle here. Rwanda is not the Kumbaya place people make it out to be. I used to ride alone. I do not anymore. I bury myself in the training camps and stay close to my compound and wait for the day I get to travel to South Africa or Kenya for a reprieve.
And I pray for grace....