Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 16 of 30 -- A Pic...a Moment I Want to Experience Again

This picture was taken by an Italian photographer, Mjrka Boensch Bees, who has followed the Tour of Rwanda the past two years.  I love Mjrka's photos, he has such an amazing eye to capture "the moment".

This moment was when it was announced that Adrien had kept the yellow jersey for another day in the Tour of Rwanda.  I am being hugged by the Vice President of the Rwandan Cycling Federation and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Sport.  When Adrien's name was announced everyone involved with cycling in Rwanda erupted in cheers and tears.  That I got to share in that moment of national pride with these Rwandans who took a chance on supporting this Team I consider a privilege and honor.  Every moment of difficulty slipped away and the atmosphere of pure joy was simply intoxicating.  This photo, this moment...a perfect day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 15 of 30 -- First 10 Songs Out of my iPhone

I love my music!  As you will see, I have a wide range of musical interests....Here's the Top 10 when I hit Shuffle:

Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds -- Fire & Rain (yes, the old James Taylor song)
Rascal Flatts -- Foreplay/Longtime (yes, original Boston tune)

Hmm....seeing a pattern all of a sudden

Linken Park -- Session 
Linken Park Meteroa is great riding music when you're not feeling like riding.  It makes me ride like a crazed women shot up with EPO.

Ryan Star -- Breathe
This is a newer song in my rotation sent my way from someone who knows me well and knows I just need to "Breathe" and enjoy the ride.  I need a little reminding from time to time.  "Breathe, just breathe, take the world off your shoulders and put it on me, just breathe....let go of the ones who try to put you down....let the life you live be all that you need."

Time for Me to Fly -- REO Speedwagon
I wish I had some of my old REO photos to share with you.  I was an REO groupie back in the late 80's early 90's following the band all over the state of Missouri one summer.  At one concert I was on the front row and threw a note up on stage and got a backstage pass and we became friends from that point on.  Amazingly, this summer I was at a hotel in Kansas City down on the Plaza and stepped into an elevator and there was Bruce Hall, bass player for REO.  We hadn't seen each other in over a decade.  I started laughing because I had just seen Kevin Cronin down in the gym earlier that morning.  I said, "Remember, me Kim Coats?  Subway?  Amy, Robbie & Mark? "  He looked at me in total shock and said, "No way!  Of course I remember you!  How is everyone?"  We chatted down the elevator and then he invited my nieces and nephew onto their tour bus.  I don't think Lexy, Jake and Gabby were quite as impressed as I had been 20 years earlier.  Their mom was though!  Those days were some of the most fun I had ever had in one summer....sadly, How is everyone?  Mark and I are divorced, Amy is remarried because Robbie passed away about 10 years

My Father's Chair -- Rick Springfield
He still looks great!

What Kinda Gone -- Chris Cagle
Told you my music was diverse!  I love this song because my ex made up words to fit my cycling.  Instead of "I heard the door slam, and I couldn't tell....she's getting in her car" he would sing...she's clipping in (reference to clipping my shoes in the pedals.  I still laugh every time I hear this song.  You never know what kinda gone I'm going to pull....Africa was only supposed to be four months.  

Tropic of Capricorn -- Sammy Hagar

Living Inside My Heart -- Bob Seger
Cry every time...

If You're Going Through Hell -- Rodney Atkins
My anthem for life and getting through it.



Sunday, February 20, 2011

Back to 30 Days -- Day 13 A Book I am Reading Now

I know, technically I should be writing about Day 21 or 22, however, I'm writing in dog years and it is Day 13.  I simply did not want to detract from the incredible accomplishment last weekend of Adrien and his Olympic win.  I wrote the piece for the blog and then wrote a piece for Tell Me About Africa.   I also wrote a marketing proposal for Banque Populaire du Rwanda and a media kit for the team.  Priorities in "team writing" trump the mundane musings about my days.  

That being said, Day 13.....

I have, for the most part, always been a reader.  I am sure there were days in Honors English in high school when we had to read War and Peace in two weeks, that I condemned reading for the time sucker I felt it was.  I was 17, had multiple music and sports activities, straight A student and held down a part time job to put fuel in my car to get to all my activities.  Seriously, time for War and Peace?  I "Cliffed" it like I did 80% of the books required for Honors English.  Someday I will get the reading list from Mrs. Turk's AP English class at Shawnee Mission South and read the classics I should have read 25 years ago.  Except Austen and Bronte, I simply would rather sit through an African dictator's three hour self aggrandizement speech in their native African tongue then read either of those authors.   Old school "chick lit" is all I think about when beginning anything written by these two.  Sorry Mrs. Bean and my Vegas book club women. 

So what do I read?  Anything I can get my hands on for the most part.  Since moving to Africa two years ago and being without TV for the first time in my life I have found a vast amount of time to read.  Funny how that goes.  If you find yourself making the excuse, "I don't have time to read" turn off the TV.  We are all guilty of that oh so mindless, guilty pleasure.  I also read multiple books at all times and it all places.  I always carry a book with me and even have a book or two on my iPhone to read in the event I get stuck in a bad spot of Nairobi traffic.  

Currently this is what is in my daily read rotation:

Every morning I start with a daily devotion in Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest".  This man of God died in 1917 in his early forties of a ruptured appendix.  His wife assembled all of his writings into this book and 39 others.  It is interesting to me how "timely" his writings from almost 100 years ago are for me today.  They are short daily devotions that cover a myriad of topics.  Today's devotion was, The Initiative Against Dreaming.  

Dreaming about a thing in order to do it properly is right; but dreaming about it when we should be doing it is wrong.

How many of us are guilty of that?  I want that new job, I want to travel, I want to give my kids more time, I want to pursue my dream of owning my own business....BUT....God doesn't want to hear your "buts".

I am also reading the Bible in a year long reading program.  It's straightforward.  I read several chapters each day.  When I started in September I began in Lamentations and went through the new testament.  I did have a lapse of about a month during the Tour of Rwanda and my trip to Zanzibar but I have picked it back up and read daily.  I finished Numbers today.  Leviticus was brutal.  I thank God every day for sending his Son to die for our sins because if he didn't I would be out daily looking for bulls, goats, sheep and doves to slaughter for my sins.  It would be a full time vocation of atonement and sacrificing!  The first four books of the Bible are not easy reading but I have found my favorite verse which I latched onto during some bumpy times.  

Exodus 14:14  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

I have always had a bit of a problem with the "still" part.  

Of course in my rotation at all times is some book on Africa, history or African History.  I just picked up Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux, a noted travel writer.
I'm in trouble with this is about his travels from Cairo to Cape Town via various modes of transportation from bus, to canoe to train.  In the first chapter, Lighting Out, Theroux pines for the anonymity of travel through Africa.  He wanted to drop out.  "Africa is one of the last great places on earth a person can vanish into.  I wanted that."

This is a very scary book for me at the moment as I face the prospect of living in the US from April until ?  THAT scares me.  I miss Africa every day.  I miss the craziness, the stories, the people, the wide open spaces and the crush of the crowds.  The reason I picked up this book is to keep me connected and to also keep the dream alive in me to someday drive me own motorcycle from Egypt to South Africa.  

Then I have my mindless, entertaining reads that I use as my own personal Ambien.  I cannot read books like Theroux's before I go to sleep otherwise, I'd never sleep and would be up scanning maps, figuring out my finances and signing up for motorbike classes in the deserts around Las Vegas to secure my license and gain some skill for my epic dream trip.

For this purpose I was reading and just finished, Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. 

Left Neglected is the story of a mid thirties career woman and mother of three who has a car accident and suffers a traumatic brain injury that results in her inability to use her left side.  Her vision is intact, however, her brain cannot "see" anything to her left.  In the book, prior to her accident the pace of her life is frenetic.  The pace of the writing makes the reader actually feel the pace of the protagonist's life.  This was my life before Africa.  Enough was never enough, time was always running short and I worked non stop at the expense of my relationships.  Near the end of the book, as she has struggled to come to terms with the realization she will never be the preaccident Sarah again, she states, "Maybe success can be something else, and maybe there's another way to get there.   Maybe there's a different road for me with a more reasonable speed limit."  I couldn't agree more....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tell Me About Africa

A friend of my from Ireland, Scott Sloan, runs this great blog about all things Africa.  He invited me to write a piece about Adrien's Olympic weekend.  I love what this blog tries to get across to the people of other continents who don't quite know what to think about Africa.

"The western media can depict the people of post-colonial African nations as victims – whether of poverty, natural disaster, corruption or all three. This casts the people of those countries as perennially, even innately, passive – those to whom life happens. It accentuates the negative in a way that, for all the press's attraction to bad news, does not happen when the west discusses itself.

In relaying short stories of character this blog aims to dispel such notions of passivity, in a bid to challenge some of our mis-laid preconceptions.

To quote from Kapuscinski, however, these stories are not "about Africa, but rather about some people from there.. The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say “Africa.”

Stories will not always be good. That too would be condescending. The challenge will be to provide a whole picture – good, bad and ugly.

I am honored to be able to contribute to his aim with Adrien's Road to the Olympics

Adrien is third from the left.  This photo was taken February 18, 2007 almost four years to the day of his epic Olympic qualifying race.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Olympic Dream

Today, in a small town in South Africa outside of Capetown, Adrien Niyonshuti a young Rwandan man became the first Rwandan ever to secure an Olympic bid in cycling.  Adrien is one of the original members of Team RwandaJust under five years ago, Adrien was a teenager doing what most Rwandans do, hauling food.  Adrien is a genocide survivor, losing six of his brothers and over 60 extended family members in the 1994 genocide.  Today he stands proudly for his own personal triumph over tragedy and he stands as a light of hope for all the young men and women in Rwanda.  Adrien is the quietest of heroes.

I woke up this morning at 6:00am to follow the race via Skype and email.  Jock Boyer, Adrien's coach on Team Rwanda and Aimable Bayingana, the Rwandan Cycling Federation President were there to support Adrien in his race so far from his home country.  Every 15 minutes I would call Jock for an update.  We knew South Africa was already exempt.  Adrien simply had to place in the top two of countries outside of the South African participants.  Today, Adrien was second behind Namibia, today he won the chance to represent Rwanda in London in 2012.  
I had sent Jock an email yesterday saying I had been praying all day and "wouldn't it be nice to have a 'bone'?"  The last year has been difficult, really difficult.  As with all ventures such as this we battle money, time, manpower, resources and we do it all in Africa which I believe has a multiplying factor of 40 to the difficulties.  There have been times of serious frustration.  The Team has struck out on its own, out from the umbrella of the founding organization, Project Rwanda.  This was a mutual decision for both organizations.  However, it has come with uncertainty and a bit of instability.  Jock has been in Rwanda for over four years and there are days Rwanda can simply wear you down, chew you up and spit you out.  There have been days, almost too many in the past month or two where we have looked at each other, seen the wear on Max and wondered in those really dark moments, is this worth it?  

Today....every bit was worth it for Max and I.  I can't even begin to imagine how worth it, it was for Jock who has been with Adrien since day one.  

The Minister of Sport in Rwanda cried on the phone when Jock delivered the news.

This is so much bigger than any of us....this is about the hope of an entire country a country with such a hopeless past.  

As I stood in the book store this afternoon looking at books in the African history section and eyeing all the books on Rwanda's catastrophic past, I started to cry.  All the frustration, fear and anticipation of today just rushed to the surface and I couldn't stop crying.  I am not sure why at that moment all the emotions hit like an oncoming freight train.  Perhaps it's because I know how much work we have ahead of us, how much money we need to raise to give other kids in Rwanda, kids like Adrien, a shot.  Adrien is a hero to the country and to the people of Rwanda and there are so many more young men and hopefully, some day women, who need to the same shot at greatness as Adrien.  There's a lot of responsibility to making sure these kids get the same shot as Adrien.  This is really just the beginning. 

After Adrien's race I got an opportunity to talk to him.  Just hearing his voice made me smile....we got our bone....God does answer prayers.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 12 of 30 -- How I Found Blogger and Why I Write a Blog

I don't honestly remember how I found Blogger, I probably just googled "blog" and up popped Blogger.  All I remember is I wanted a forum to document at the time, what I thought was going to be a four month find myself sabbatical.  I never thought I'd still be writing, still looking two years later.  

I have kept journals (private and on paper) in the past.  I especially like travel journaling.  When my sister and I took our first trip to Africa in 2003 I wrote about our daily experiences.  When I got home I typed up my journal and assembled it with pictures in a big photo album and gave it to her.  I mean really, what do you give a sister who has everything.  I found that album yesterday at her house.  It was so enlightening to go back through and read about our first African adventure, we were the two geeky girls from Kansas.  My sister at the time was much more well traveled, me, South Africa was only the third foreign country I had been to.  I like that the memories, the feelings you experience at that specific point in time with the past experiences that have shaped you up until that moment are all there.  As time progresses our viewpoints vacillate due to our additional experiences that tack on in our psyches as we grow older.  You will never remember that one moment eight years ago exactly the same way as when you experienced it for the first time.

That is why I continue to blog.....I see the transformation of self on the pages I have written.  It is staggering at times.

When I started to write one of my self imposed rules was to never censor.  However, I have not been able to keep that rule for several reasons.  I have learned that the freedom of press we enjoy in the US is a very sacred and unique right that is not afforded in other countries.  I cannot come out and voice my opinions as it may actually get me banned in some places.  For my safety and for my desire to keep doing the work I do, I must censor.  That was difficult to internalize.

I have also learned, political correctness is alive and well even in the blog world.  I am a pretty simple person, if you don't like something, if you don't like me or how I say, do or handle things, SAY it.  Say it directly, succinctly and in my presence.  That is how I operate.  A lot of people do not.  Sadly more people than I would like to count operate on appearances that do not have any resemblance to the people they are at the core.  This goes both ways, people who are "perceived" to be godly, good and generous are the antithesis behind closed doors.  The people who are written off as harsh, direct, blunt are the most caring, giving people I know.  I am one of the former.  I have yet to embrace the politically correct behavior but I am always trying to work on my delivery.  Do we really need political correctness?  Maybe we just need a bit more honesty.  Unfortunately, I do not think the world is ready for honesty.

One thing I am always conscious of while I write is protecting people's privacy.  There are people and experiences in my life I simply do not write about no matter the place they occupy in my life.  If this is censorship, so be it.  I also will not use names if I am questioning difficult interactions with people.  We all have our right to remain anonymous and I do not want people to fear they may be a notable subject in one of my blogs.  

When I look back, which I have done while writing this blog, I am so thankful that I have the experiences of the last two years documented.  Some of the posts are difficult to read, there were some very sad, dark days.  But, there were also some days one can only hope to have once in their lifetime...and I have had many.  

Update on Day 9 of 30.  Life, mending relationships, and forgiveness is not always easy and appears to sometimes not operate in the earthly realm.  I believe it all comes down to our faith and our ability to forgive and let go.  

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in Luke 23:39-43.  It is the story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and his conversation with the two criminals on crosses on each side of him.  

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him:  "Aren't you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!"  

But the other criminal rebuked him.  "Don't you fear God,"  he said, "since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong."  

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Jesus did not look over at the criminal who had just taken a leap of faith, laying all his trust in the Lord and asking him to take him to heaven and itemize every sin that had gotten him to this cross.

Can you imagine Jesus looking at the criminal and saying, "Well, thug, I appreciate the faith and your sincere request for forgiveness and I probably will grant you your request but....

"Remember the mugging you did in Capernaum?"

"You did a dine and dash at that vegan restaurant in Judea."

"You stole a keg of wine at the Horowitz wedding in Nazareth."

"Oh, and how about the tourist you scammed in the money exchange at the Egyptian border?"

No, Jesus simply said, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

I pray we can all learn lessons of forgiveness from this story.  I would rather have someone decline my request for forgiveness than to itemize my alleged sins against them as just one more go round to get the last word and then still not move on.  Perhaps it's about them making sure I am REALLY REALLY repentant?  If I am sorry, I am sorry.  There is no hidden agenda no insincerity no play for appearance sake.  I prefer to move on.  Why is that so difficult?  Why does it mostly appear to happen with women?  I think we can all learn a lesson from Jesus on forgiveness, especially His forgiveness and acceptance of this rotten, no good, despicable criminal.  Or as Max and I argue....Fight, fight, fight...ok, "It is finished.  No problem.  We ride now."

If you need to ask for forgiveness or give forgiveness, simply do it.

Day 11 of 30 -- Another Friend Pic

Technically I should be writing about Day 12, however, I am still working on overcoming my "habit issue" from Day 4 of 30I also was in a bit of a funk, a freezing cold funk.  After giving my sister a drubbing about her overweight dogs when I arrived Monday night, I had to assume all the guilt for my quick to speak statement.  As I sat on the coach wrapped in my purple fleece snuggie, eating Tostitos and watching very bad afternoon TV trying to keep my body temperature above 95 degrees, I realized there was no way I was leaving the cocoon of my self made comfort zone.  It was cloudy, windy, grey and never got about 30 degrees all day.  So, instead I vegged.  Completely and decadently I vegged, and so did the chunky butt dogs.  

Today the sun came out and my temporary funk has vanished.  Back in the saddle and back to the reality of the myriad of things on my plate, my master "to do" list.  

In one of my last blogs I talked about how much I loved my 40th birthday.  What made that day so special was that I had friends from all over trek to Vegas for my party.  Two old high school friends of my ex husbands came from Kansas City just to cook up some real KC BBQ.   Rusty, Neil, Mark and I go all the way back to the late 80's, for Mark even longer.  Terry, T-Shane, also came in from Kansas City.  I had another friend from Texas, one from southern Missouri and my best friend from college, Steve came in from Denver.  Along with all my friends from Las Vegas I was surrounded by a houseful of people for an entire weekend.  We had so many laughs, so much fun.  I felt so loved.  It was a great weekend with great friends.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 10 of 30 -- Songs I Listen To

It's funny how music used to be so much a part of my life.  I played piano and saxophone and I loved going to concerts.  There was always music playing in my house.  Since I moved to Africa there has been very little music.  The only time I really listen to music is when I ride in Rwanda.  I need a little encouragement tuneage after I get dropped!

If you scroll through my iPod, which hasn't been updated since I was back home last September, you will find an incredibly diverse collection.  I listen to everything from country, to classical, to 80's hair (my fav) to Kid Rock and Linkin Park.  What I am missing is new music.  I am so far behind the times when it comes to what is current.  You cannot buy songs on iTunes in Rwanda or Kenya and they have recently begun blocking a lot of the youtube songs due to the proliferate pirating of music and movies that goes on in Africa.  

Songs do carry a lot of meaning for me.  I need to get back to my love of songs and the sentiment they carry for me.

When I am riding Daughtry is always high on my play list, all the songs on Leave this Town are great riding material with the exception of September.  That one brings back memories that are still difficult for me.  That's a "skipper" for me, for now.

Cavo, a new band I was turned on to when I was home last I LOVE for riding, seriously hard core riding tunes.  If I'm pushing up a big hill I put on Cavo and let the album shuffle.  Linkin Park, Meteor also has the same effect.

Bon Jovi tends to be my happy/inspirational music.  Live Before You Die I play over and over when I am having tough days in Africa, when I just want to come home to "easy".  

You learn to love to live
You fight and you forgive
You learn what's wrong and right
You live before you die

I made mistakes I caught some breaks
But I got not regrets
There's some things I don't remember
But one thing I don't forget

When you're young you always think
The sun is going to shine
One day you're going to have to say hello to goodbye
Shout it out let someone somewhere
Know that you're alive
Take these words wear them well
Live before you die

I was playing this song over and over in my helmet riding on the back of a motorcycle through Tanzania this Christmas.  As I looked at the amazing landscape, a country that truly epitomizes the "Out of Africa" view, I felt that I was living every moment and was so thankful for the things I have seen and done.  Another Bon Jovi inspiration song for me is It's My Life.

This ain't a song for the brokenhearted
No silent prayer for the faith departed
And I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd
You're gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud

It's my life
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just wanna live while I'm alive

.....You better stand tall
When they're calling you out
Don't bend, don't break
Baby, don't back down

I remember going through this tiny town in the middle of nowhere Tanzania and people along the road were all smiling and waving as the five motorbikes went through their town and I remember laughing as AC/DC Back in Black started playing.  The irony.  

One new song I recently heard that make me a touch sad, but also make me think about decisions in my life and living a life of no regrets and forgiveness and moving is Taylor Swift's, Back to December.

It's always amazing how one song can take me back in time instantly to a memory associated with that song.  I can hear the start of a song and immediately be transported to 1988, 1997 or 2006.  That is what I love most about music.  

As sappy as it might be one of my favorite songs is David Cook's, The Time of My Life.  I guess it has a bit more meaning to me because he grew up in a town not far from where I grew up in Kansas City.  It always makes me smile to see people seize their dreams and live their life large!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eight Hours at Schiphol

I arrived at Schiphol Airport in Amersterdam at 5:15 this morning.  After checking my emails thanks to an hour of free wi-fi (I have one iPhone, one Smartphone and my laptop so I've squeaked out 3 hours!) I figured I might as well check out the place since I have an eight hour layover.

I am not in Africa anymore.  If you have plans to ever be stuck in an airport, may I suggest Schiphol Airport Amsterdam.  This morning at 8:00 I had the most amazing breakfast of egg, fresh mushrooms, over the top flavorful cheese on top of fresh baked multigrain bread.  Waiting for the dish I snapped a picture of the salad bar area already contemplating lunch.  I tried to take a picture of the sandwiches.  I don't know how one can be completely transfixed by a sandwich but I was.  The chef was beginning to wonder what I was doing.  Everything is sparkling clean and presentation and attention to detail and service extraordinary.  I forget how the variety of food makes such a difference to the olfactory system which starts the saliva flowing.

After breakfast I walked through some shops and stumbled upon the lounge.  Now this is an airport lounge.  The only piano I have ever seen in Africa sits in the Serena Hotel in Kigali so when I see a piano I just want to sit down and play.  I used to own a piano exactly like, times have changed.

This is the view from my chair, the most comfortable seat I've been in since leaving Rwanda....

This is an airport!  I spent the last two hours curled up in this egg reading and watching people.  
The view of my piano from the egg.  I think I might just camp in the egg for the next two hours before my flight.  Perhaps we could lobby the airlines to install "eggs" instead of seats.  It would make travelers a bit less stressed and snappy.  There is no stress inside the egg.

Switching gears....I just received a picture of Zulu, Kongo and Jambo eating breakfast this morning.  
Zulu, Mr. 120 Pounds of Protective Love, watching the cat and the bird chow down.  I told you he was special.

Day 9 of 30 – Something I’m Proud of in the Past Few Days

I have been doing a lot of work on me lately. I am not the easiest person to be around at times. I am excruciatingly intense, focus and driven. I am opinionated and should I see someone doing something that hurts another one of God's creatures, human, four legged, flippered or winged I will not stand by quietly. I cannot. My learning has come in the approach. It has also been a release of past angers, slights and wrongs that I feel have been done to me or the people I care about. After daily reading of devotions, the Bible, Paulo Coelho and any other positive advice I could find I came to the point a couple of weeks ago where I realized I just had to let go. I released the death grip on the bar of old anger. There came a point where this feeling of calm enveloped me. It washed right over me.

I sent an email to someone who I had been frustrated with, hurt by and continuously haunted. I said it was time to move on and I didn't want a lot of back and forth I simply wanted to move forward. The feelings said and unsaid were destructive to both of us, all of us, and in the end most destructive to me. I was the one holding the bag of anger. I agree to disagree at times and will be a woman of high standards and good will. I have moved on. And I pray for a time when hearts have been opened on BOTH sides and things are not looked at from a viewpoint of manipulation or suspicion of motive. If something positive is said, it is very simply that, positive. There are no hidden meanings no secret agendas just a hope that somehow someway the rebuilding can begin and eventually continue. If it is not meant to be and there's some other lesson from God I am supposed to learn, I am up for that challenge as well. I know it will be easier since I won't be lugging oversize bags of venomous angry. My load is light, my heart is hopeful and my faith is in God to steer the outcome. Only time will tell, but I am at peace.

I have also reached out to two very good friends, well, used to be "very good friends". We have had our falling outs and our fights over the years but the three of us have been friends for over 20 years. There was a time I didn't talk to the friend who had been there for me, moved me half a dozen times and once even cross country. For the life of me I cannot remember why we stopped speaking. How sad is that? We reconnected at her dad's funeral several years ago, a man I greatly admired. Our lives have gone in radically tangent directions and we will never quite have the day to day fun we used to have but we are still friends. The third wheel in our circle is no longer speaking to either of us. I severed communication about 6 months after I came to Africa over why "I couldn't just live a normal life and be happy." Well, that is the million dollar question still. You don't have to agree with the paths I take in life but if we're friends we should support one another. I should have supported her desire to live life in a small town in Missouri and just have a very "normal" life. I don't know if this is salvageable but it would be a shame not to at least try, to at least get to a point where we can someday get together, have a drink and talk about all the fun we once had on our "Boondoggle" weekends.

This year, 2011, was supposed to be the year we celebrated our birthdays in style. We had dreams of going to Italy and celebrating two 45 birthdays and one 50 birthday. Our birthdays all come within three months of one another. Those days seem so far away as I type this from an airport in Amsterdam. I definitely am the one that went AWOL in grand style. Perhaps it would do me well to celebrate these birthdays in a small town in the Midwest, to remember where we all started so long ago.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 8 of 30 -- Short Term Goals and Why?

This picture and the following story have nothing to do with my Day 8 Short Term Goals, but this is really much more interesting.

I love traveling through Africa on the back of a motorcycle and hopefully some day I will do it on my own bike.  There is something about traveling through towns along dirt roads exploring areas that haven't seen commercialization or a "muzungu" in eons.  I love the wide open spaces, the smells, the animals and the pure adventure of never knowing what lies around the next curve.

Recently, I posted a flyer at Jungle Junction in Nairobi, Kenya, a really cool camping/hostel/hang out place for overlanders traveling through Africa.  Most of the travelers I met there were either on their way to Cape Town from Europe or vice versa.  I met Europeans, South Africans, Namibians and even a couple from America.  Most were on motorcycles and many of the women drove their own bikes.  

Several weeks ago a woman from Germany, Siggi, emailed me to tell me she and her husband were coming through Rwanda.  Their trip started 6 months ago in Germany and they have traveled from Egypt, through Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and now Rwanda.  Today they showed up in Rwanda along with another couple from Slovania, boyfriend and girlfriend each riding their own motorcycle.  All of them had quit their jobs and committed to a year of exploring Africa.  In my last post I talked about how much Africa has changed me.  Africa is the last place that I know if on earth where you can truly have a great adventure.  There is no place in America or Europe where you can do this and experience everything these couples have lived.  I love the fact that at my house there are a couple of Americans, Max from France, two Germans and two Slovanians.  And we all have one thing in common....our search for adventure and living outside the constraints of what is expected in the worlds we all left behind.

Some day I will travel the length of this continent on a motorcycle.  So...that is my goal, perhaps not short term at least a year or more out, but a goal I aspire to live nonetheless.

Short term goals for me have lost their power.  I write out my daily "to do" lists but really I simply want to live the moment I am in.  About my only short term goal at the moment is to get healthy.  I am still battling stomach issues, I believe it's a combination of parasite(s), caffeine and stress.  I quit the caffeine five days ago and am experiencing a bit of relief, the parasites will have to wait until I get back to the US in a few days and the stress, that is a minute by minute task.  I need to get back to riding which hopefully I will get in a bit when I'm in the US, however, I will be in DC, it's February, not hopeful.  There is always the 30 day gym membership.  I need to start working out again both mentally and physically.  Fat I am not, healthy thin I am also not.

So tomorrow I will get in one more ride before I leave Rwanda and spend two days on planes and in airports getting back to the US.  That's about all the goal work I am capable of at this point in time.   

Day 7 of 30 -- A Picture of Someone/Something That Has Had the Most Impact

I literally have thousands of pictures of places and people that have had an impact on my life, especially the last two years.  The places I have seen, the people I have crossed paths with and the experiences that have enveloped me have shaped me into a much different person.  I am no longer chasing the almighty dollar, reaching for that ever escaping goal of "success".  I have learned to live simply, appreciatively and quietly.  Make no mistake, I still have an enormous fire inside to right the wrongs that I see, to do everything in my power to give people a hand up in life, a shot at a better life mostly through the bicycle.  However, Africa has changed me more than I ever could change Africa.

Two years ago when I landed here I had all the typical naive visions of what I was going to do to make things better, to "save the world".  Two years later I have improved a few lives for a handful of people and ironically, saved myself.

As I am starting to look at the prospect of returning to the U.S. in April for an extended stay I am fearful.  Life is so different here, so raw, there is no man made distractions.  Will I end up falling into the trap of hiding among the "distractions"?  

A typical day in Africa is a struggle to stay safe and healthy and you are thankful for the simple things, for electricity and water.  In America a good day was closing a big sale, getting a big bonus check and celebrating with a good bottle of wine.  In Africa a good day is having electricity and internet all day, a great day is having a hot shower after a ride that leaves you covered with dust and diesel soot.  I am so thankful for so many little things.  I am closer to my friends, friends I have met here in Africa will be part of my life forever.  We have all gone through so much and had to rely and trust more than you would ever in America.  I have learned to appreciate my friends back home for standing by me, for their support and encouragement.  They make me realize how blessed I am.

Africa has taught me to be more aggressive than I ever thought possible, and that's a lot for me!  At the same time I have also learned more patience than I could have imagined I had in my resources.  What is funny is that the aggression and the patience can happen within minutes of one another and knowing when to employ each is the trick.  Aggression serves one well on a ferry crossing the Zambezi having to exchange money with the tawdry money changers trying to give you 1,000 less Kwacha for the dollar.  Aggression got the five motorbikes on the passenger ferry to Zanzibar, patience got us back to Dar es Salaam.  Aggression is needed when changing money at the bank with 50+ people crowding around one desk all trying to do their banking with no visible queue.  I walk confidently up to the desk, weaving through the crowd, slap down my passport with US dollars visible and off they go to grab my shillings, kwacha, or franc.  Patience is keeping my mouth shut at the Rwandan Department of Immigration while I wait for one of the riders or Max's passport.  That is a miracle in action.

Africa has changed me in ways I never imagined.  I have become more thankful, calm, reflective and humble.  Yes, humble.  I'm humbled by the struggles and resilience of people like Gasore.  I am humbled by the huge smiles and joy you see among people who truly have nothing.  How can I possibly ever complain about anything ever again?  I cannot.  

Africa has also taught me to take risks, to leap and God will provide.  As I was telling a friend here in Rwanda the other day, my life this next year is one big question mark.  I have no job to go back to and no home.  I will be couch surfing, house sitting and working hard to keep Team Rwanda afloat through a fundraising campaign I am entirely unprepared and unskilled to pull off.  And I will do it all out of love for these boys because there is no money, money to pay me is money that could be used for a camp, a plane ticket to a UCI training center, or a new bike.  I will survive.  And at 44 I feel strangely calm about the whole year.  My friend Amber said to me, "People like us will never really go back to "real" jobs again."  I would have to agree.  

Africa has been the biggest detour in my road of life.  It is my road less travelled.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 6 of 30 -- Favorite Superhero & Why

Wonder Woman...would there be any other superhero you would expect to be my favorite?  I love Wonder Woman not simply for the super hero she is, but for the woman behind the super heroine...Lynda Carter.  Wonder Woman of course is the super heroine capable of lassoing unsavory characters with her golden lasso and deflecting speeding bullets with her gold bracelets, which would be the perfect accessory for any outfit.  But Lynda Carter is the real heroine.  

She stood by her second husband during a five month trial in which he was acquitted of fraud charges.  She found a dead body floating in the Potomac while out canoing one morning and she battled alcoholism addiction.  She still looks like a million bucks at 59 and she is still acting, singing and performing.

Wonder Woman's alter ego, Diana Prince, was a nerdy assistant who continually worked her way up the corporate ladder to position herself to be at the right place at the right time needed for the assistance of Wonder Woman.  Diana Prince was Wonder Woman just without the hot outfit and lasso.

I think there is a lot of Wonder Woman in all of us multitasking overworked ambitious women in the world.  We all want to see the world, whether it's the small world of our families or for me, the larger world of Africa, better because we were able to fight the villians that make life more difficult for all of us. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 5 of 30 -- A Picture of Somewhere You've Been

There is not one picture I can choose that would do the year proper of all the places I have been.  When I was looking through all my photos what I realized was I had been to some of the most beautiful places on earth, ridden my bike in places I had only dreamed of and at the same time walked through the worst of the worst, places of complete despair with streams of raw sewage, places only in your nightmares.

When I visit places that leave me at the brink of tears because of their vast poverty I cannot help but wonder what went wrong in the world.

Places like Goma, the Democratic Republic of Congo...

...10 years removed from a major volcanic eruption that swept away half of the city, still in the midst of conflict and a country that is de-developing.
Goma, a border town where one of the sisters of a Team Rwanda rider goes to school in hopes of being a doctor some day...this is her school...
How many doctors have come from schools such as this?

I have also traveled to places simply breathtaking.  Where everything seems so perfect...Italy
Dinner overlooking Lake Como....light years from the school in Goma
Could there be a more beautiful place to ride a bike?
I traveled through northern Italy into Switzerland where I visited the UCI Training Center.  Hopefully this summer this will be Gasore's new home for a few months.  
A trip back to the US to ride Highway 1 in Northern California on my new custom built road bike...
And then Kibera...Kibera the largest slum in sub Saharan Africa inside the city of Nairobi.  

You can't even begin to imagine the contrast.  One thing I know after walking through the streets of Kibera and Goma I have such appreciation for beauty, such appreciation for a ride through the streets around Lake Como in Italy.  When you experience the worst places on earth you cannot help but be incredibly thankful and feel completely blessed to have the life you do.  I just need to help the people in Goma and Kibera see the beauty in the world and know that they too may someday see places like Switzerland.  Just like Gasore.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 4 of 30 -- A Habit I Wish I Didn't Have

In high school I once researched and wrote an 11 page term paper the weekend before it was due.

I would do the homework due for the next class during the prior class lecture.

I always get my work done and have always delivered the best, however, it was often at the expense of sleep and the stability of my finicky stomach, where all my stress settles in and is eventually released.  

My name is Kimberly and I'm a procrastinator. 

I have been to a multitude of business/self-help/goal setting/time management seminars and the fact remains I work best under pressure and pressure is self induced by my love of procrastination.  I have deluded myself into believing that procrastination actually focuses my ADD brain.  The majority of the time I'm doing 15 things simultaneously.  When I have to focus on one task I stray, mentally and physically, until the 11th hour.  Then, the ADD forces subside and I become laser focused because my overriding attribute is fear of failure or doing poorly.  The ADD partygoers pass out and Ms. Focus steps into the arena.  The only reason, procrastination.

Part of the reason for this 30 Day Challenge is that when I promise to do something I will do it, especially something so dialed in like the next 30 days.  I will write no matter the internet access, the travel schedule or civil war.  Thankfully I'm not blogging from Egypt or Tunisia.  

I may blog at 7:45pm or 11:57pm but it will be done.

So, is procrastination then really a bad habit if it serves a purpose for which it is was entirely unintended and the results are generally positive?

I think I'll keep it around for a bit least until the next deadline!