Sunday, March 27, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
This is going to be short and sweet….I do not have a Bucket List because I live my Bucket List every day. I thought about this topic on my walk yesterday and literally could not think of things I would put on my bucket list because in my view, a Bucket List are things you talk about doing some day. Every day I wake up and do the things I want to do. I have done that for the past two years.
I have traveled through Sub Saharan Africa on the back of a motorcycle through herds of giraffe and elephants. I have been inches from a rhinoceros and pet a Cheetah. I have climbed an ancient volcanic crater. I have seen the most beautiful places on earth and the most depressing, some on the same day. I have met interesting people, experienced unique cultures and navigated the waters between them and me.
I have ridden my bike in Kenya, Rwanda and Zambia and around Lake Como, Italy.
I have lived…fully and completely the past two years. That in my mind is my "bucket". Sure, there are a zillion more things I want to do and I will but I don't need a list. Just wake up every day, do something different, foreign, and frightening and you will be living your bucket.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Besides my bike which I crave daily and can't wait to jump on and ride the first morning I'm back in Vegas, which you all assumed would be the focus of the "What I Crave" blog, it is not.
I want Emily Post to rise from the dead and start kicking some solipsistic asses for their rude, indifferent, obnoxious behaviors. She can start by ripping the cell phones out of the hands of offenders and smacking them upside the head.
Case in point...
I'm at yoga with my roommate, Cindy on Wednesday night. The lovely woman teaching the class is Dutch I believe. An older woman who gives me hope that I too can still touch my toes when I'm 60. Lut, the teacher would make Emily Post proud. One of her students would not.
As we are finishing up our final poses near the end of class, a cell phone rings. It's the woman in front of me. Seriously? She quickly jumps up and must have just simply it "Ignore". Five minutes later as we're laying in our "nap position" (don't know the Yoga name but it reminds me of naps in kindergarten) with only a few minutes left in the class, listening to Lut's calm voice saying, "Relax your legs, relax your arms, your fingers...etc", this woman's cell phone goes off again and she jumps up grabs it and runs outside to answer it. It's YOGA, hello?
Unless you are the head surgeon on the transplant team at Nairobi Hospital and your patient is number one of the kidney donor recipient list and there's been a 15 car pile up on Uhuru Highway, you are NOT that important that you must be reached during yoga.
And while I am on the subject of bad yoga behavior, here's to the obnoxiously loud, rude, think you're God's gift to the universe, young woman who showed up 15 minutes late, stood outside the door laughing and then proceeded to leave with 10 minutes left of class during "nap position", may an experience very important to you be ruined by someone even more classless than you...if such a person exists.
Cell phones are the biggest rude behavior catalysts known to man. Here are the rules, I believe, Emily Post would have written had their been cell phones in her day.
1. Turn them off when you are in a meeting, event, yoga, talking to someone else....don't just turn them to vibrate and look at them ever 6 seconds, put them away so you can't be disturbed. Focus on the person, task, event at hand and try, just once, to live in that moment.
2. Have some discretion when speaking on the phone. The rest of us do not want to hear about your child's poopy diaper, your neighbor's foot wart or your daughter's first menstrual cycle.
3. If it is something really important and you need to speak to me, don't ask me in an SMS to call you or flash me (dial my number and hang up) so I call you back. I won't. Ever. (This is pretty much only applicable to Africa where we all buy prepaid airtime and cheap people don't want to spend their own money to call)
So, what I crave, common sense manners and civility for all.
Say please, thank, excuse me. Stop pushing, shoving and thinking you have some special place in the universe to indulge in obnoxious behavior.
Let the car in front of you turn. Leave a space for a car to turn into your lane.
Let people OFF the elevator before you push your way IN.
Men, hold doors open for women (a lesson that really needs to be taught in Africa). Pull out the chair, be a gentlemen.
Women, say thank you when a man does the above for you.
Just because people may have a "lower" job in your eyes than you, treat everyone with respect. My guard Amos has more class than my neighbor with his big Range Rover who never waves or smiles or makes eye contact with the extraordinary individual who opens the gate for his Range Rover every day with a smile.
So...can we all agree to satisfy my craving even for just one day? In the end, my craving might just make a better day for all of us and the people that inhabit the world around us.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
But what has this to do with Amos...
Amos is the day guard for our little housing compound. I think there are six or seven homes within the walls of this compound. Amos, is our gatekeeper. If everyone in the universe could bring this level of job satisfaction, helpfulness and friendliness to work every day this world would be paradise. Every morning when I leave Amos opens the gate with the biggest smile. He is almost laughing the smile is so big. There is absolutely no way no matter how bad the prior night or early morning that you can remain irritated, pissed off, surly or what have you when you see Amos. He is the favorite part of EVERY day for me.
But what has this to do with backing up...
This is my driveway and that is the truck I drive. Note the really large steel bumpers (2 of them) on the back of the truck. This is for a couple of reasons. Trucks are utility in Kenya. The roads can be atrocious and the traffic...well, you know how I feel about Nairobi traffic. Every week I am bumped in traffic by a mutatu, motorbike or another car. It's just a fact of driving in Nairobi. The parking spaces are also made for nothing bigger than a Smart car and the underground garages were not designed with the truck parker in mind. The second reason...the right hand drive, left hand drive brain wired operator.
Every morning I come out and have to back out down the drive and avoid hitting my neighbors' Land Cruiser, Mercedes Benz station wagon and $100,000+ Land Rover on steroids.
Then I have to clear the gate. Monday morning I didn't quite clear the gate. My neighbor's Benz was park a bit too far to the right and my lane was narrow. I kept watching the car and promptly backed into the side of the gate. Luckily, it was with my super duty steel bumpers so no damage. When I made contact with the gate I look over my other shoulder (can't seem to get the feel of which shoulder I should be looking over) to see Amos, hands waving, jumping up and down, yelling, "Sorry, sorry, sorry." Not that it was in any way Amos' fault, it's just what Kenyans say when you do something stupid like trip, drop something or run into your compound gate.
As I straightened the truck out and got out onto the road Amos was just smiling like he always does and waved goodbye. I think he was actually laughing.
So, Tuesday morning for some reason there's another car in the mix, a large purpleish Toyota Land Cruiser. Ugh, not today. As I navigated successfully through the gauntlet of cars I really did not want to "repair" at some point and pulled out into the street Amos is standing there with this big grin saying, "Very good, very good!" I burst out laughing. Here was my happy guard cheering me on.
Today I stopped to take pictures because I knew I wanted to write about how great Amos is. I ran out there in my pjs this morning taking pictures of the infamous back up lane and Amos graciously let me take his picture (as long as he gets a copy).
Of course Amos has no idea he is the subject of this latest blog. As I left to head up to the coffee shop to tap into the internet, again I struggled getting the truck down the lane. It has just become a mental issue at this point. As I cleared the gate and pulled onto the road there's Amos with his hands glasped raised above his head triumphantly yelling, "Good, good, good!" I think it has now become Amos' mission to help me clear the gate and cars every day successfully.
No matter your job, the work you like or don't remember Amos and take pride in the little things you can do every day to make it better. I will miss Amos.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Have you ever seen the movie Forrest Gump? I am Jenny. I am a searcher, not a settler. For as long as I can remember I've always been searching, searching for what I wanted to be when I grew up, where I wanted to live, who I wanted to be and what would make me happy. I never could seem to "find it", any of it, but in the end Jenny did and I think so did I.
Growing up I never dreamed of being married and having a family. I wanted to see the world. The older I got the more my friends settled down and into life the more I became increasingly unsettled. Growing up in the Midwest I knew I was different, I tried to settle but never could find what I should be settling into.
Another thing that makes me different than a lot of people is, I do. I don't talk about what I'm going to do, I just do. There was no master game plan when I went to Rwanda in April of 2009. I did a little looking into Project Rwanda, talked to a couple of people, told Mark I was going to go (I didn't ask…I just told him) and walked into Sysco and quit my six figure job on the spot. So many people want to have everything planned to the most minute detail when making a life decision such as that, I just did it. I have begun to realize how truly unique that characteristic is. So many people have asked me how I did what I did and how they could do whatever their dream ambition is and I really don't have any great words of wisdom or inspiration…just do it.
Every career I've had I had no idea what I was doing when I started. I never had run a restaurant and then was running six Subways. Now I sell bikes in Africa, not like there's a career training course for that employment option. I simply have no fear…well, take that back, I have constant fear which I do not let interfere with my life…I just leap right in and figure it out. There was no master life plan to include running the logistics and marketing for a Rwandan cycling team. I figured it out though. I realize this makes me a bit different. I will take on anything.
I am also a strong personality which enables me to handle all of the above. This doesn't really make me different, however, I am very secure in that strength, it goes to the core of my being. I am not afraid to be around other strong people. My strength is not ego induced. I seek out other strong people. I like the dialogue and the disagreements. I am not intimidated, never. And even though I have this strength I am not afraid to hear criticism and make adjustments. I know I am not perfect and am not afraid to admit it.
I also do not understand the word "No". When I am told "No" in my head I say, "Not yet, they need more information, there's another way." No simply does not exist. I know that is why I always did well in sales. With that attitude comes an inordinate amount of tenacity, persistence and…at times, obstinance.
Yet, I am the same as most people when it comes to life and our futures. I still get scared. I still wonder if I'm doing the right thing. Coming back to the US in a few days for a long stay is scary for me. I have no "paid" job, no home it's a bit unsettling. I was telling a friend of mine how I was feeling about the upcoming move and in her email she said, "You'll do great and will be fine because you're you. You're the only other person I've met that has a special brand of survival instinct like mine (yours is stronger). You will always be fine because you're bold, true to yourself and don't take no for an answer."
In the end, Jenny came home too.
Monday, March 21, 2011
I traveled to a small community, Kassanda, in the District of Mubende, Uganda this week to talk to 25 very happy recipients of the WBR Nyati Bicycle. The organization facilitating the distribution of these bikes is Wellshare International. The great thing about this distribution is that the recipients are purchasing these bikes through the organization with a no interest loan. It is the perfect example of a hand up, not a hand out. They are free to use these bikes in other money making opportunities such as hauling crops, water or as taxis. It is a win win for all participants. This is how aid should be used!
Michael had just graduated from University and was planning on going to Sudan to study languages, specifically Arabic. He was in a Land Rover traveling through Northeastern Uganda, a still very dangerous area. His vehicle was ambushed and he was the only survivor. He survived six bullet wounds to the chest. He is a miracle. That was six years ago and he's finally working his way back into his former life. I am daily humbled by individuals in Africa such as Michael. Their strength and perseverance is immortal.
Michael saw I had an iPhone and asked if I had music on it. I told him I did. He told me his computer had contracted a virus and he had lost all his music an American had given him. He wanted to know if I had any Hootie & the Blowfish. Seriously? Of all the music I would expect him to ask for, that was the furthest from my mind. Yes, I did have Hootie & the Blowfish. As I turned up the volume to Hold My Hand, Michael began to sing. He knew all the words. He knew the words to Time as well. I just stood next to him listening trying so hard not to get all verklempt.
Tonight when I was running I had put my iPhone on shuffle. Two songs in (out of 856 on my Iphone), Time began to play.
I simply smiled……….
Sunday, March 20, 2011
My full name is Kimberly and from my earliest memory I have always been called Kim. I am not quite sure why, we might have to ask my parents. My sister's name is Danielle and she has always been Danielle, no Dani/Dan or any other such variation. Perhaps I was always Kim because Kimberly always sounded so formal to me. Formal and "girlie".
My main nicknames have come from variations around my maiden name, Moszyk….namely Mo. Mark and some of his close friends, the Buehler boys, started calling me Mo when we began dating. I even had two license plates with my "Mo" nickname…Mostang (yes, for a Mustang) and Vet4Mo. I used to sign my notes to Mark, Mo and sometimes still do.
In Africa I became Moki, my maiden name, again plus the start of my first name, Kim…hence, Moki. When I was at Victoria Falls in the winter of 2009, I was talking to some Zambians and when they asked my name I said Moki. Moki in their local language means something to the effect of a large spirit/presence. I like that name. It's very random and only in Africa do people use Moki.
When I started my job at US Foods in 2004, they had my name on my work ID as Kimberly. I decided to start using Kimberly and I still do to this day. Most people still shorten it to Kim but Kimberly has grown on me and the older I get the more I actually like to be called Kimberly. Of course, to my closest friends and family I will be forever….Kim
Day 20 of 30 I am declining to write about....Someone you see yourself marrying or being with in the future….too personal, too emotional…I'm just going to sit on this one and decline to share…perhaps someday.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
For my entire life I have had written goals. When I was a teenager I had a "dream" board. On that board there were magazine pictures cut out and pasted collage style around the bright white poster board. I had a picture of a piano, a baby grand piano. I had the piano in my 30's. I had a picture of a beautiful sports car, a Corvette. I had three beginning in my mid 20's. And then, there was the picture of the giraffe. I wanted to go to Africa. Never did I dream I would have the opportunity to live in Africa the past two years.
Today, I have no written goals. I do not want for anything. Not because I have so much materially. Actually I have very little. I do not want for the one thing every written goal could never give me. Peace. I have finally found peace. Peace with myself, who I am, what I want in life and my place in this world. Why would I muck that all up with goals of material or simple "want"?
Really my goals come down to this; to simply remember the experiences I have had, the moments that have taken my breath away, the people I have met in my journeys and the person I became along the way. I live in the moment because every moment is so worth living and appreciating.
Yesterday as I was coming into Kisumu, a small town in Western Kenya on the shores of Lake Victoria, my colleague and I were passed by a gray Toyota Hilux, the staple vehicle of Africa. He had been weaving in and out of traffic passing people on this very narrow, deep shoulder, pot hole laden road. He was in a hurry. Ten minutes later we come up on a crowd of people on both sides of the road about 10km from Kisumu. The gray Toyota Hilux was on the left side of the road and a little Kenyan boy, face down, blood pouring from his head was surrounded by shocked witnesses on the right side. He was very obviously dead. In Kenya you do not have 911, no ambulance will come, there will be no trained paramedics skilled in emergency care working desperately to save this little life. The life is simply over. He will be buried. To have one moment in life back, one split decision, one kilometer less of speed, one meter further across the road for this little boy, one moment could have changed a lifetime. Moments like this which I have been witness to, will forever be etched in my mind.
My dream is not to waste one moment, to savor every second. Last night at 3:15am I wake to hear a chortling, snortling, munching sound outside my window. I lift the covering from the tent window to see an awesome sight, a hippo directly in front of me enjoying his late dinner of fresh grass. I watched him for half an hour. I have been asked if I got a picture. There are no pictures, I did not want to miss a moment looking for a camera. I wanted to just enjoy the hippo.
Today after work I went for a run. I ran to the Impala Sanctuary down the road and decided to check it out. Clouds were rapidly building and I knew it was going to rain, but I really wanted to see the impalas. I saw Impalas...and Zebra
but I also met a young volunteer, Samora, who was walking through the park closing up. He came across me staring at the Ostrich, mesmerized by their incredible uniqueness. He asked if I would like to meet Festus, the Cheetah. We went to the area where the Cheetahs were, Festus and Alice and he moved Alice into another area and walked into the area where Festus was. He told me to come in. I did so wondering in the back of my head if I really had lost my common sense. Festus laid down right in front of me and I reached out and began stroking his coat, feeling the roughness of his fur and feeling the incredible vibrations of his purring, like a house cat on steroids.
As Sambora walked me out of the park he told me to hurry because it was going to rain in the next couple of minutes. I was about a 15 minute run (fast run) from my hotel. I took off as the wind picked up and it became darker quickly. About half way to the hotel the skies opened up. I started laughing. There was nothing about this day that I wasn't going to enjoy, including a fierce African torrential downpour. I quickly ducked under the eave of a small building along with three other young boys who had been caught in the rain as well.
I watched it rain for about 15 minutes and then as it slowed I took off again, just making it to the next shack for shelter. I leap frogged from shack to shack all the way back as Kenyans laughed and shooked their heads at this crazy girl running in the rain enjoying every second of it.
So...plans, I have none. Not really, some idea, but open to whatever comes my way when I land back in the U.S. in two weeks. Goals....to just take the lessons I have learned and the moments I have lived in Africa and keep them close to my heart. Dreams...to just continue living the adventure. I have found that adventure doesn't simply reside in a third world country on a third world continent in cultures vastly different from my own. Adventure lies in everything we do wherever we do it, if we do it all out, if we do things that scare us every day, if we live life fully, that is the adventure.
I just finished reading an amazing book, "The Last Season". Take a second to check it out...Near the end there's an excerpt from the missing ranger's log book from 1973. I think it most clearly summarizes this blog...Plans, Dreams & Goals...
"All of your life, someone is pointing the way, directing you this way and that, determining for you which road is best traveled. Here is your chance to find your own way. Don't ask me how to get to McGee Canyon. Go, on your own. Be adventuresome. Don't forever seek the easiest way. Take the way you find. Don't demand...signs. Don't demand we show you...Go find them yourself...This is your birthright, most commonly denied you. Be free enough from intentions to find goodness wherever you are and in whatever is happening. Here for once in your life you needn't do anything, be anywhere at a determined time, walk in a certain direction. You can now live by whim. Here's your chance..."
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
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.