Monday, January 31, 2011
This is a young boy passed out on the sidewalk along a major street into the downtown area. He's a "huffer", glue sniffer, cheap high completely scrambling the brain. His shoes are mismatched, he's filthy and he's passed out while people walk right past him.
At the end of the sidewalk where the "huffer" is passed out I meet up with this young man and his fashion forward orange plastic keds. Not only do the orange plastic shoes stand out like a casino sign in Vegas, but check out his toes. His shoes are so small they have his toes curled up like a prepubescent Chinese girl in the midst of her ritual foot binding.
I walk not only for the shock value but also to avoid this...Nairobi traffic. This is a good day. All of these photos were snapped in just 200 feet.
I have been up since 5:45 this morning, worked, walked downtown, jumped on a plane to Rwanda this evening and now am sitting in the Bourbon coffee at the Kigali airport waiting for the 1:20am flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to come in carrying Jock, Max and the Team returning from their race in Gabon. I got here at 7:30 this evening and Molly took the bus in from Musanze to keep me company....a true friend! We just had dinner at Khana Khazana, the one great restaurant in Kigali, and while killing time at the restaurant Molly explored her creative side with toothpicks and smashed up balls of rice....
11:30pm....two more hours, what more can I stumble across in one day? Hopefully, the guys cleaning the plexiglass ceiling tiles above us at the Bourbon coffee don't fall through.
So, Day 3 a picture of my friends and I. Well, here's the deal. The only photos I can access are on Facebook and frankly after reviewing them, mind you my connection is MAYBE 128k so I didn't see many, I noticed I don't have pictures with a bunch of people and me all together. At first I thought that was odd but then I realized that's really my M.O. I prefer the company of a few good friends than a gaggle of acquaintances. So, here are my buds....
First up, my sister Danielle. She is my best friend. We are very similar in personality, Type As, overachievers, adventurous travelers yet we are night and day different. She's much more reserved and I am not. If you're with us you would think she's older and not simply because I'm aging better. (I will not hear the end of that one). It's a maturity factor which I seem to be moving from 44 to 24 and she's moving from 35 to 45. Although we're nine years apart we couldn't be closer. I'm lucky that way.
Next up, if I can get the next picture to load before I pass out from the heat and aroma....Johnny Muzungu.
I never would have survived Rwanda without Johnny. He made me laugh when I wanted to cry and he always reminded me that tomorrow was a new day. The way I look at friendship and the test of who your "real" friends are, if your friend will bail you out of jail in the middle of the night or have you added to their bank account in the event they have to flee the country, that's a true friend. If they will sit with you in the dark when the electricity goes out for the 15th time and you're all alone in Rwanda, that's a true friend. I have missed Johnny so much. The White Rwandans (it's a drink he made up...Uruguayan vodka, powdered milk and Nestle Quik), the pub crawls the bike rides through the fetal alcohol syndrom forest and the nights overlooking the market with our boxed wine forges a friendship that will last an eternity. When I'm back in the US I'm meeting up with Johnny for a trip out to a farm in Virginia to inseminate cows. He has his own nitrogen semen freezer. What more could you ask for from a friend?
And then there's Molly. If you have to face a group of rebels in a DRC forest this is the woman you want to have your back. I don't have a lot of girlfriends because frankly I'm not very girl. I don't like to do girl stuff, shopping ranks right up there with my recent root canal. Molly is adventure woman. She is way more fearless than I am and always makes me feel like a wuss. In a good way. Molly is sarcastic and she speaks her mind there's no passive aggressive wondering what she thinks. No girl games. That's why we get along so well and beware the girly girl who enters our realm.
There are so many more friends and so many more pictures I wish I could give all of them the kudos they so deserve. It is not easy being my friend. I tend to drift in and out of people's lives especially in the past couple of years. I have been told I simply wear people out with my level of activity and go go go. However, my friends know this about me and they know how much I love them and that when we're even on the same continent I will reconnect. My best friend of college, Steve, who's known me the longest, my DMV friend, Lori Bean (check out her blog) and even my ex husband are my go to people still. They are the ones that will bail me out of jail no questions asked. Hopefully they will never have to get that phone call.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Dictionary.com defines "Vagabond" as:
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I chose this picture for its recentness. I know that is not a word but it makes my point. This morning I was out mountain biking with my friend Andrew, a Kenyan named Joseph and my Johnny Muzungu of Kenya, Ed. Ed's Asian though so technically that would not make him a "muzungu", but in the eyes of rural Africans his skin is still "white". Ed had just gotten off a plane from Mali at 5:30 this morning and still joined me for a ride through the Kenyan countryside. Now, that's friendship. I love this picture because I love everything bike, especially riding it. I also chose it because I'm a true tomboy, always have been, always will be. And, in the background the boys are fixing their flat tire, actually Andrew's two flat tires. I was the smart girl running tubeless with Stans. I had time for pictures!
Although the mandate of Day 1 was "one" recent picture, I had to put this one in too since I was talking about mountain biking in Kenya. This is also from today. As I came shooting out from the woods and around a bend this vista appeared like a mirage in the desert. This is where I ride on the weekends. The Rift Valley. Not a bad set of trails!
So on to the 15 Interesting Facts (or at least perhaps not readily known facts, interesting is arbitrary)
1. I have a hard time with rules as is witnessed from the two picture post.
2. I believe in God. In the world today when everyone is so skewed by the onslaught of political correctness and fear of stepping out and saying what they believe in fear of offending someone, I have no such sense of skewness. I am a Christian I believe in God and I believe in the Gospel and thank God because I've had to repent for a lot of sins over the years. I believe that the Muslims have the right to build a mosque anywhere they please due to our Bill of Rights Amendment Uno, but I think any Muslim group who would build a mosque at ground zero is insensitive. I seriously don't think Allah would approve either.
3. I have very strong opinions and am not afraid to express them. See #2
4. I grew up playing the piano and saxaphone. Yes, I am proud to say I was a band geek. Some of my best times in high school was with the band.
5. I got the rule changed in the state of Kansas that stated Marching Bands could not compete in competition. I wrote a letter to the newspaper, garnered an onslaught of publicity and eventually they changed the rule in the state....after I graduated.
6. I worked to help pass a bill in the Missouri House of Representatives in 2001 which helped fund the State Missouri CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). This group advocates on behalf of abused and neglected children in the foster care system in Missouri. I was a CASA in Missouri and Nevada for 15 years up until I left for Africa.
7. I love to cook. This is a fairly recent development.
8. If I could return to any decade it would definitely be the 80's. I miss my lion's mane hair, great hair bands and bad jeans.
9. I have no idea what I am going to do with my life after March.
10. I do something every day which I find scary. Makes me feel alive. I do not want to grow old and fearful. See #9.
11. I am a bookworm. I read everything. I especially like African history. Lately though it has been every book Paulo Coelho has written. Alchemist, Veronika Decides to Die, The Witch of Portobello...they all have lessons about life.
12. I rarely stay up past 10:00pm and am a lousy partier. I much prefer to go to bed early and get up early. I love early morning.
13. My best birthday was my 40th birthday. I don't know if I can ever top that weekend. I'd like to try. Great friends, food, fun AND I stayed up until 4:00am! My last big party.
14. I cry a lot since I moved to Africa. When you remove all the unnecessary distractions that take up wasted space in life, i.e., TV, and you have to face the quiet along with the assault on your senses of the vastness of the poverty and the need in Africa it taps into your core and shakes your soul. You cry.
15. I drive with "zeal". A few days ago I had to follow a group in my truck out into the field for an event at a school. It was 2 hours of driving through Nairobi traffic, slums, and 20km of dirt roads and I stayed with their two vans. When we all got out at this school in the middle of nowhere, one of the Kenyan girls in the van I was following tells me how impressed everyone was (two American women who founded the NGO and their Kenyan staff) with my driving. The girl said, "You drive with such zeal." I guess it's better than some of the other descriptions I've heard! Some days I even marvel at my ability to drive in this city.
Friday, January 28, 2011
But there's one phrase at the end of the book and the movie that always has the power to grab me by the shoulders and shake me.
"I've come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call 'The Physics of The Quest' -- a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: 'If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared - most of all - to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself... then truth will not be withheld from you.' Or so I've come to believe. I can't help but believe it, given my experience."
When I first read this and even the second time I read this I was still planted in my comfortable world with a nice house, a husband that was trying to make me happy and a job I was crazy to even consider leaving. And it wasn't working…. And so I left physically, emotionally, mentally I left.
Today I'm in the middle of this quest. I have experienced more discomfort than I thought possible not in the just the physical sense, although the broken collarbone is not on my list of repeat performances in the foreseeable future. I left behind resentments, bitterness, fear. I left behind the person I had become hardened by the realities of a life lived outside my girlhood dreams. I had to face the reality that I had not been the best daughter, friend and wife. I have seen the truth about whom I was, who I had become and it was not who I wanted to be. I had to forgive myself and others. I had to receive forgiveness from myself and others. I used to say I was a spiritual but not religious person. Today I am both. Today although still a work in progress, there is progress and that makes me happy.
When I heard this phrase spoken in the movie I tried to write it down so I could remember it. When I couldn't get it all, I googled…duh?! When I googled "Physics of the Quest" one of the first links that came up was for the blog of Chelsea Grieger, a young girl from Pella, Iowa. This was no coincidence of fate. Chelsea, a young girl from Iowa, blogs about her desire to see the world, to venture outside the box. Chelsea is me 25 years ago. I was the girl from Kansas with pictures of giraffe on her "goal" board. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be in Africa. Perhaps it's a small town Midwest thing. Girls like Chelsea and I are, were, in the minority and it is not easy to go against the grain in a culture that is based on staying close to home. I never wanted to be the soccer mom, with the 2.6 kids and the mini van. Not that there's anything wrong with it, it just wasn't for me. I wanted to be doing exactly what I am doing, living abroad and seeing the world. I like Chelsea, she's got spunk. I was going to use the word "chutzpah" but then according to the definition on Wikipedia "chutzpah" is:
""gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible 'guts,' presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to." In this sense, chutzpah expresses both strong disapproval and a grudging admiration."
Good or bad "chutzpah" describes me.
I recently was blindsided by some criticism by someone I have known only a very short time. Someone who gave me some very positive, feel the love props and then when I least expected a significant shot to the heart. I guess it was my "chutzpah". I take everything to heart though and I will try to see myself through his eyes. I just wish he would have had the kahunas to say it to my face. That's the disappointing part. That I will never agree with.
I am reading another great work of fiction by Paulo Coehlo, The Witch of Portobello. He is the author of The Alchemist. The premise of the book is that it is written about a woman through the eyes of the people around her. The author "interviews" these people to tell the story of Athena. In the prologue Coehlo states, "I saw that things are never absolute; they depend on each individual's perceptions. And the best way to know who we are is often to find out how others see us."
So, I am going to lay it out there for all who read this blog for whatever reason and however they do or don't know me. My girl Chelsea did an interesting challenge recently, "30 Days of Me". I'm going to embark on the same challenge for a couple of reasons. First, I want to make a date and KEEP a date for writing. I love to write and want to share more but life tends to get in the way. Can I really do this for 30 days? Secondly, I want you readers I know, readers I don't to respond however they want to how I see myself. Perhaps what I see really isn't their perception and their perception is their reality. I am opening up the blog to comments. Now, that being said, if "Stalker Woman" (see June/July 2010) returns I will unfortunately have to censor. Hopefully that will not be the case.
Starting tomorrow these are my 30 Days of Me Challenge:
day 1- Recent picture of you and 15 interesting facts about yourself
day 2- The meaning behind your blog name
day 3- A picture of you and your friends
day 4- A habit you wish you didn't have
day 5- A picture of somewhere you've been
day 6- Favorite superhero and why
day 7- A picture of someone/something that has the biggest impact on you
day 8- Short term goals for this month and why
day 9- Something you're proud of in the past few days
day 10- Songs you listen to when you are happy, sad, bored, hyped, mad
day 11- Another picture of you and your friends
day 12- How you found out about blogger and why you have one
day 13- A book you are reading now and why you like it
day 14- A picture of you and your family
day 15- Put you iPod on shuffle...first 10 songs that play
day 16- Another picture of yourself
day 17- Someone you would want to switch lives with for one day and why
day 18- Plans/dreams/goals you have
day 19- Nicknames you have and why you have them
day 20- Someone you see yourself marrying or being with in the future
day 21- A picture of something that makes you happy
day 22- What makes you different from everyone else
day 23- Something you crave for a lot
day 24- Give a bucket list
day 25- What I would find in your bag
day 26- What do you think about your friends
day 27- A page of favorites
day 28- A picture of you from last year and now...how have you changed since then
day 29- In this past month what have you learned
day 30- Why did you decide to do this challenge
"…we are not meant for solitude, and we only know ourselves when we see ourselves in the eyes of others."
Sunday, January 16, 2011
WBR is here because we donated 20 Nyati bicycles for local children to ride. We have five teams of four members all riding Nyati's. The children chosen to ride the Nyati's were selected by the Hog Charge board and then include twelve children from Ruiru Rehabilitation Center. These children were all rescued from the streets of Nairobi, given a home and an education by this organization. The other eight riders are from a local primary school, Ndiini Primary in a very poor area outside Nairobi. There are another 120 teams made up of mostly kids from around Nairobi, kids who come from very different lives. These kids have bikes, nice bikes and come from good homes, homes that are financially stable. They have choices. The other 480 kids for the most part are kids that won the birth lottery.
I spent most of the morning at Checkpoint 11 waiting for our Nyati Teams to come through. As I sat there and watched team after team come through with their uniquely designed shirts, their nice bikes and camel backs filled with good, clean water I kept wondering the complexities on how we enter this world. I consider myself a winner in God's birth lottery. I grew up in the US at a time when women were gaining more and more power with more and more choices. I grew up in a healthy, stable family with parents who are still married 46 years later. To other's I might be considered not as lucky as them. I had limited
opportunities because my parents did not have money. We just made do and did the best with what we had. To the kids sitting under the tree next to me in Kenya at Checkpoint 11 I cannot imagine what they were thinking as they watched team after team come through.
They just looked so hungry….they didn't even wish for a bike. They just wanted something to eat. As the teams came through and would throw their half eaten cookies, candy and fruit on the ground and run off to the next checkpoint these children under the tree would scoop up the remnants like they were digging into Thanksgiving turkey. Finally the gentleman in charge of the Checkpoint walked over and started handing out oranges to all the kids. They politely took the oranges and walked away completely satisfied.
I always struggle with days like today. The discrepancy between the haves and the have nots is so great in Africa. I wish I could give all these kids a meal, a good roof over their heads and an education. Will they ever get out of this place? Their place in life? Will they ever get a shot to be great? To do something great? To help their fellow man some day? Will they help raise others out of this crushing poverty? I just recently read the story of Joseph in the Bible. If you've never read it, take the time to do so, Genesis 30 onward. Repeatedly God created seemingly bad situations to befall Joseph, hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, and finally spending time in jail. All of this happened, was orchestrated to enable him to eventually save his family and all of Egypt. Maybe one of these children through all the outwardly appearing bad lot in life will be the next Joseph.
In the end I was able to donate, on the behalf of World Bicycle Relief four bikes. Who knows what these bicycles might do for these four street kids from Nairobi. Some day, they may have their story.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Here it is, the second week in January and I am still struggling with finding my true North. Good thing I wasn't sucked into the New Year's Resolution Vortex because I would have already been shot out the bottom of the tube and trampled by all the Suzy Sunshine's who are keeping their resolutions. Not that I want to come across as cynical, resolutions can give you the kick in the ass jumpstart you might need to read a book, lose 20 pounds or stop yelling at your kids. However, experience has taught me that resolutions are fraught with the fire starters of failure. I think it's the whole sit on the couch with your face buried in the Ben & Jerry's up until the witching hour. If you really need to change or improve something significant in your life, like your health, your relationships, your work why can't you do it on say….February 6th, or April 27th or any day in December. Why must it be the first? If I didn't start on the first must I wait until January 1, 2012? It seems all rather contrived to me. If you need to do something, change something, make a big life alteration isn't it best if you just get busy doing it? Even if it's May 30th? I'm not saying this simply because I procrastinated (although I still am) on establishing my resolutions and feel the pressure to jump on the bandwagon of people falling off. I just want people, this actually refers directly to me as a people, to live their life everyday doing the best they can, taking care of themselves, living lives of higher expectations, loving more and leaping off that ledge into the unknown a bit more. I think we would all be a bit happier.
I was thinking about my life and goals today as I was walking around Nairobi. Yes, we are back to the free for all madness that is driving in Nairobi. Since I decided on January 10th, to try and be a bit more serene, and not throw so many F-bombs driving in Nairobi is out between 7:00 – 9:00 and 12:00 – 14:00 and 16:00 – 20:00 and all day on the last Friday of the month. Why the last Friday of the month? Everyone gets paid and puts fuel in their cars that have sat for a few days to a week and they drive because they can. I do not make this up, it is Africa. Back to my goals…. Years ago, I was the consummate goal maker, from 10 years broken down to 10 minutes. Today I'm thinking, I will be unemployed in March living in Africa and have absolutely no idea what my next goal is. Realistically, you really don't need so many goals once you pare down your life so everything can fit in two suitcases. I don't need to make much money to survive. I work for plane tickets. I don't buy things because I have learned you really can do with very little and still be amazingly happy. For example, I just returned from three weeks traveling in Rwanda, across the entire country of Tanzania, across the Indian Ocean, out to Zanzibar and then back. I was on the back of a motorcycle and I had one pack. In that pack I had one pair of jeans, a t-shirt, my bikini, two pairs of panties, an extra pair of socks, flip flops and a Kikoy (a Kenya hand woven large cloth that can double as a blanket, towel, skirt, shawl, pillow, dress) and a baggie of medications which took up way too much room but grateful for the aspirin, Imodium and Neosporin! Do you have any idea how easy your life becomes when you let go of all the baggage? What if you let go of all your mental baggage too? Seeing Africa from the back of a motorcycle is amazing. I would trade my former 30 pairs of shoes again, to drive through a game park on a motorcycle seeing elephants and giraffe right beside me on the road.
All this is not to say I have lost my ambition and drive, to the contrary. I just have redirected it to things that have more meaning….for me. When we are all about to take our last breath will we be thinking about the big house we had or the fancy cars or nice clothes? No, we will be thinking about the experiences we had in life and the people we shared them with. No one is going to remember that I wore the same two t-shirts for two weeks during December 2010. They will remember how much we laughed after we got all five motorcycles on the deck of the passenger ferry to Zanzibar!
I have expectations and goals this year. The cycling Team in Rwanda is my focus. I need to raise money for them. I need to raise money to see Gasore go to Switzerland this spring to race in Europe. These are big goals, goals that scare the bejesus out of me. I have never had to do anything like this and frankly the task seems daunting, no, the task seems like a Bull Elephant running me down on the road. It's monstrous, yet vitally important. Too many lives hinge on what we are capable of accomplishing.
People sometimes don't understand the amount of passion we have for what we do with the Team. The passion is often played out among the daily frustrations of living in a place like Rwanda. The lack of resources both capital and human, the uphill battle of poor nutrition and the developmental delays that are evident even in these young men today are mind numbing and crushing some days. This is what we are up against. My goal is to ease the financial strain and find the staff we so desperately need to help all of us keep our sanity.
One thing I will never resolve to do whether it's on January 1 or any other day of the year is to change my core personality. I know that I'm not on everyone's list of favorite people. I admit I am a bit outspoken, opinionated and demanding. Frankly, I'm okay with that because I always have the best interest of others at heart. I will continue fighting for the underdog, that's just the way I'm wired. At the core of my personality is an immense heart and a drive to do the right thing. For some, it is too much and that's okay that is why we are all different. There's this great quote by Marianne Williamson:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
It sits above my desk and I read it every day. All I ask from everyone from my friends, my family, any one reading this is don't hide the light that is inside you. If that light scares others, illicit ridicule or passive aggressive attacks that is their problem, not yours. You were made to be great, do not shrink because it makes others uncomfortable. We were all born to be great, we just need to find out what that greatness is and make it come alive. Resolve this one thing this year, today. Its okay, I know it's the 13th, you can still resolve to be great today.
What you see is what you get….with me. I will always be brutally honest and horribly politically INcorrect and will continue from this point until the day I fade away. I guess that's my January 13th resolution…to just keep living this life and enjoying the adventure and doing it all with a spirit of love….as long as I don't have to drive the last Friday of the month in Nairobi.