Friday, October 14, 2011

The Unpublished Blogs: Wisdom From a Friend

I was on a roll today getting done everything that was on my "to do" list that I really hate "to do" so I procrastinate until I have to "to do".  I was on an organizational crazy train so decided to clean up my blog, do a little redecorating, but then the ADD took hold and I started reading my "unpublished" blogs. 


Some of these blogs were published but then taken down because I offended some people.  I think I might put them back up, we'll see.  Some of them I just started writing and then stopped.  Some I have no idea why I never published.  In all there's 11 lost blogs.  Of the eleven, this was my favorite which never got published.  It was written January 26, 2010, not sure what I was going through but as always my dearest friend, Johnny Muzungu made my day.  Here's to you Johnny M...I miss you!

Yesterday was one of those days....a day when no matter how much I tried to stay positive the onslaught of negative events continued.  I prayed...a lot....I wondered why I was experiencing the things being thrown at me.  I continually had to "check" my attitude and nothing seemed to keep me steady.  Until I had a talk with my dear friend Johnny M.  Actually not a "talk" but a series of "IM chats".  We're on two different continents.

So it seems, if you are having a less than a stellar day and people are behaving poorly towards you and heaping on piles of grief to your life remember these words, the words of Johnny Muzungu.

"It was great talking to you today.  I am sorry that you are down.  One great indication of character is the willingness to be responsible for difficulties.  You have this because your care is genuine and deep.  Try not to abuse your love and caring nature by taking responsibilities for things that are controlled by others.  You can't prevent certain people from being douchebags.  Some people look for any excuse to reveal their inner douchebag.  It is a force more powerful than good because it can strike at any time and without warning.  Randomness is a classic requirement of douchebaggery.  You must not let the douchpectations and douchpotential of the general population change who you are.  If you are overwhelmed by the act of douchbagetry, then douchbags everywhere win.  You can't let them win.  The world needs you to be you.  The world needs a champion of common sense and logic.

Quick sidebar, not real sure where I was going with this, I was going to lead up to you being some sort of anti-douchebag super hero but I don't know what an antidouchebag would be.  I drew a blank.  Sorry."


Everyone needs a friend like this to make you put everything in perspective, and to pee your pants laughing!  Now where can I get that ADB superhero cape?
 Johnny...Thanksgiving 2009 Rwanda

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What Drives Me to Drink Bad South African Boxed Wine

Yes, I drink wine, bad wine...perhaps too often.  When I'm in America I drink great wine, not as often.  But then again, in America the stressers, triggers, or crap that just plain irritates me is of a different caliber.


In no particular order.....

Actually I take that back...this jumps to the head of the line.  Lying, incessant, indeterminate, random, lying.

This is a culture based on lying.  I have never seen anything like it.  Rwandans will lie about anything and nothing.  For example, when we asked Angelique how many days she was training prior to her attending her first camp she quickly told Felix, the interpreter, "Everyday!"


Jock just looked at Felix and told him to give her the rundown about lying if you're on the Team.  We do not tolerate lying, plus it really doesn't matter how often she's training at this point as she wasn't on the team yet.  When Felix explained to her our position she quickly responded with an, "Oh, three days."


This is typical.  I have found Rwandans will tell you what they think you want to hear.  They won't tell you their opinions or the truth if they think you won't like the truth.  


One rider lost his place on the team for stealing a razor.  Ironically, it wasn't the theft that got him in the end, it was the lying about it.  He had been asked three different times if he had the razor and he said no.  If he would have confessed to it on the first go round he would still be on the team.


Another perspective rider who had been tested before Jock came to the US showed up at the house asking to be tested and trying to pass it off as if he had never been here and never tested.  We all kept looking at him like we know this guy.  Sure enough it was the same guy and he had lied to Kiki to get in the door.  His test numbers were actually decent, however, he blew his chance to get on the Team because he lied on several occasions to several different people.


I asked the girl at the counter if the insecticide I was buying had a spray nozzle under the cap as it was hermetically sealed and I was not allowed to open the package.  Three times she said yes.  I got home, no spray nozzle.


Here's to the liars in Rwanda!

Laundry + Rainy Days....it never fails, every time I have 15 loads of laundry, sheets, towels and bedding after a camp it rains.  
It has rained all afternoon.  I am now down to piles of clean laundry in buckets around the house.  The upside at least is that it didn't rain once during the four days of camp....little blessings.

Here's to loads and loads of wet laundry!

Stupid s&%t that happens on our rides.  Today was a prime example and why tonight I'll swig back some swill.  I have decided that common sense is not really common sense.  It's all stuff we learned from our parents early on.  Some of us learned a lot and had very engaged parents therefore hopefully leading to a wealth of "common sense".  Others unfortunately either never got the lessons, refused to assimilate the lessons or were not given the gene to convert lessons to common sense.  In Rwanda the lack of common sense (early learning) is, I believe, a combination of poverty, patriarchal attitudes and women who pop out babies like an unhinged Pez dispenser.


Today I listened to the kiss kiss sounds made by numerous young men.  I was whacked by a stick wielding little girl who promptly ran off into the field when I slammed on my brakes and three close calls with people walking in front of my bike.  I only rode 25 miles.  Jock and Kiki had to beat off a crowd while repairing a flat.  It's exhausting and makes riding stressful.


Remember the first thing your mom and/or dad said to you when you left the yard for the first time solo?


"Look both ways before you cross the street!

As adults we chalk this up to common sense, however, it really was learned at a very young age.  This is a lesson obviously lost on the majority of Rwandans young and old.  It is mind numbing how many people step into the road and you watch them and they NEVER even look.  I can't imagine walking into a major road without looking both ways.  Our number one accident potential is ignorant pedestrians.  How do you begin teaching something so simple?  Public Service Announcements?


As far as the stupid, nasty, rude and degrading smacking sounds made by the young men...again, lack of education.  Our riders are being taught to not only be great cyclists but to be even greater men, and now women.  If they won't learn it from their parents, guardians, or adult caretakers they will learn it from us.  It has really begun to disturb Kiki and Obed how Jock, Max and I are treated here by the locals on the road.  I am glad they see it, hopefully they can be the agents for change.  


To that....I drink!


Bureaucracy.  Once again we wait for Jock's work visa so he can go to South Africa to meet with Adrien and his MTN Team for contract signing.  Not only Jock but so many of my other ex pat friends are in the same boat.  I don't mind rules, I'll follow the rules, but stop changing the rules as we go!  Molly went two months with Immigration holding on to her passport.  The website says a three day turn around.  Hmmm......


Give me two...

Breaking everything.  In the last 13 days we have had the toilet repaired five times a combination of riders breaking it and incompetent plumbers.  I have been using a toilet for at least 43 years and have never actually broken a toilet.  Pedals that have lasted years for me are destroyed in 6 months.  My cycling shoes are 8 years old, most riders blow through shoes in 8 months.  My guard is not allowed to wash my car anymore after we have replaced every wiper on the vehicle at least once.  I've never yanked a wiper completely off a vehicle.  How do you do that?  I come back from the US and the center console of the car has been completely broken and just hangs in between the seats.  What?  Seriously?


Why does it stress me out so much?  Impossible to get quality replacement parts, no competent repair people and money...money is always at the forefront of every thought.  We don't have it, we need it and every bit is precious.  So, for the love of God, quit breaking s&*t!


That is why I drink cheap South African boxed wine!













 


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Grace in the Midst of a Rwandan Melee

This morning started out stressful as do all first mornings of training camp.  It was compounded this morning by the addition of five Tanzanians who arrived late last night and still had to unpack their bikes.  We are now working with four native languages, English, French, Kinyarwanda and Swahili often taking three different translations to get our point across.  I speak to Jock in English.  Jock speaks to Max in French, Max speaks to Felix in French, Felix speaks to the riders in Kinyarwanda and now Kiki speaks to the Tanzanians in Swahili.  Kiki unfortunately gets the brunt of constant translating as most of the new riders know very little English. 


I had Kiki speak to the three girls who would be training with me this morning as English is almost non existent.  I had him explain where we were going, what the plan was for the ride and what I wanted the new girl, Angelique, to do....hold onto my wheel the entire 2 1/2 hours.  She had ridden almost 100 miles yesterday to camp and she needed to do a light spin.  


Another girl, Janet, showed up at camp another two kilos heavier.  It is a constant battle with Janet and her weight.  She's a decent rider, however, she weighs the same as I do and she's 6 inches shorter.  That's a lot of junk in the trunk to move up these hills!  


As we got a mile and a half down the road, Janet looks at me and says panting, "Kim I am sick."


I say, "Janet, you are not sick you are out of shape.  Dejende!"  (Let's go!)


Janet settled into the ride obviously knowing I was not going to have an ounce of sympathy for her.  Cycling and racing involves pain.  She needed to embrace it.  Today, my patience was wearing thin.


By the time we got to the 10% gradient hill up to Sashwara I had had enough.  I looked back at Angelique who was still on my wheel and I knew didn't have it in her today to attack and then I looked over at Janet who proceeded to launch a semi attack and I geared down, stood up and rode away.  It did not make me happy.  These girls have a race this weekend and 45 year old me beat them.  


After I crested the hill and soft pedaled another mile down the road I turned around.  Sashwara is a fairly busy little town with people everywhere.  Sashwara is Gasore's hometown so they are very familiar with Team Rwanda.  I guess that is why I'm still in a state of shock.


As Janet and Angelique saw me pedaling in the opposite direction they quickly looped around.  Then it happened.  Directly in front of me on the side of the road I spot a young Rwandan man with what looked like an inner tube from a bicycle.  He raised it as I approached and within a split second it went whipping across my back.  My first thought was you have to be fucking kidding me, he did not just do that!  My back smarting, I slammed on my brakes and spun around.  Two other older men had seen the entire incident and when I stopped the assailant took off with the two older men in hot pursuit.  He ducked into a little store front but the pursuers saw him, charged in and dragged him out slamming their fists into the back of his head.  As they brought him towards me, my first thought was to just slap him across the face.  An eye for an eye.  And then I just stopped.  


I am about half way through, "What's so Amazing about Grace?" a book by Philip Yancey.  Last night I finished the chapter, Getting Even.  It talked about how situations can be diffused simply by grace.  As the young man came closer, being pummeled under the fists of the pursuers and the crowd yelling, obviously wanting me to strike back, I didn't.  Although I'm sure he did not understand English I told him I would not hit him.  I told him to simply say he was sorry and to never do it again.  

He looked at me and repeated, "I'm sorry".  

I said, "I forgive you." 

I grabbed his hand, shook it and rode away.  By this time the crowd was easily over 100 people all racing over to see what was happening with the "Muzungu".  I left the scene with a clear head, all the frustration from the morning erased, not even angry at the man who hopefully will never pull a stunt like that again.  Grace....


It could have ended so differently.  Earlier this week I read a blog, Reality Check,  Matt is a friend of mine who now has the job I left with Project Rwanda.  I feel for him.  He battles the same issues I did with the organization and that coupled with an incident similar to mine resulted in a very different outcome.  I could have been Matt.  I have been Matt.  Every day it is a struggle here.  Rwanda is not the Kumbaya place people make it out to be.  I used to ride alone.  I do not anymore.  I bury myself in the training camps and stay close to my compound and wait for the day I get to travel to South Africa or Kenya for a reprieve.  


And I pray for grace....



Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs Challenge

This morning before our training ride I was checking Facebook and sadly learned Steve Jobs had passed away.  I learned about his passing from a post on my friend's Facebook page.  She had a quote on her page from Steve Jobs which hit home, at least for me, and I believe for many others in the deep dark corners of their mind and heart.
  
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become." ~Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs changed the world.  He pretty much touched all of our lives in one technological way or another.  I pray he went peacefully surrounded by friends and family.  Not many people change the world, that is a unfathomable feat.  Steve Jobs did and his legacy will continue to shape all of our lives.

I thought about the impact he had on the world while I trained with Angelique this morning.  When I was younger I wanted to change the world.  The older I got the more I forgot about changing the world.  I went through the motions of jobs and businesses until one day in April 2009 I had the "courage to follow {my} heart and intuition.  They somehow already {knew} what {I} truly want{ed} to become."


In June of 2008, wrestling with the frustration of where I was at in my life and realizing I still had dreams of changing the world, I wrote down three things in my journal which were most important to my life.

1.  Helping people
2.  Travel
3.  Do something around my love of cycling.


April 2009 I was on a plane to Rwanda.  


Every day I do something around my love of cycling.  I have traveled more in the last three years than the prior 42.  Best of all I help people...I don't change the world.  I don't change Rwanda.  I don't even change this entire team.  But if I can change one life, just one, they just might be the one to change the world.  

Angelique's life would consist of working the fields eeking out a meager existence on her tiny plot of over farmed land.  She's 22, time to get married and to start cranking out the babies and continue the cycle of birth, birthing and death that all too many Rwandan women believe is their fate in life.  Instead she has the opportunity to win the next race sponsored by the Federation and make more money in that one race than she could make in 6 months.  In a month she will be representing Rwanda at the Continental Championships in Eritrea.  She's never been on a plane, hasn't seen an airport.  Hopefully she will not fall victim to a lack of education and the patriarchal hand that proliferates Rwanda.  Hopefully she will earn enough money to attend school, to make good decisions, to not have seven children, the average currently in Rwanda per family.  Hopefully she will be a role model to the young girls of Rwanda, perhaps she will be the one to lift up the girls in this nation.  Maybe she will change the country I could never change.


If I can change just one life it will have all been worth it.


The phrase I hear most often that causes me such heartache is, "I wish I could....(insert any applicable personal dream)."  Which is always followed by, "But..."  You can do anything you want to do.  I believe Steve Jobs was spot on.  We all know it deep down inside.  Our challenge is if we have the no excuses attitude to go after what we really want.  Or will we settle for less?  


And what a life you could live....
Riding in Rainy Season in Rwanda...

Battling chiggers and all other sorts of strange diseases...

Sitting inside on a rainy afternoon listening to Nathan talk to the younger riders about how you can have a future with the Team even after your legs are finished!  It was really nice to listen to him as the prior hour I sat here listening to a rogue rider, one who had all the same opportunities as Nathan and who chose to throw it all away.  Not taking responsibility for your own actions is universal in case you were wondering.  

And two of the best moments of today....

A quiet moment in the sun (7.5 minutes of sun this afternoon after the torrential downpour training ride) with my boy, Zulu

....and why I will never regret the decision I made to listen to my heart and intuition...
A picture Nathan drew me this afternoon of his house...his very own house!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Life with Team Rwanda

So life is back to normal, or at least the normal I've been used to for the past couple of years.  When I was back in the US enjoying all the amenities and nice weather and just ease of life people would ask me, obviously questioning why I had so much "time off" in the summer, what I do working for the Team.  One very animated and curious woman at a fundraiser in Colorado Springs this summer told me, "I'd give anything to have your life.  It's so glamorous."

Now, glamor would not be a word I would use to describe working for Team Rwanda.  The now 20+ chigger bites all over my body making me itch out of my skin I'm thinking is not so glamorous.  The bucket bath is not my idea of hygienic much less glamorous.  An Italian super model world...that's glamorous.   


Let's start with reality Wednesday.


My day started at 6:30am, with four more chigger bites on my side after bathing in a shower of DEET therefore shortening my life span by a good five years.  There are 13 boys and 2 girls at camp this week.  They will be here until Friday.  I also have one large dog and one tiny cat who are very vocal about the fact that if they don't get food in the next 10 minutes they most likely will die of starvation.  Breakfast takes me about an hour to prepare after laying everything out the night before.  Breakfast consists of:


1 kg of rice
2 loaves of bread
2 kg of beans
45 eggs (all cracked by hand)
15 cups of tea
Umpteen bananas




Generally I can get everyone fed within an hour and the riders are great about cleaning up.  That's the rule, you cook, you don't wash dishes.


I actually love the mornings with the riders and the controlled chaos of the Team Rwanda house.  The boys all have such great laughs and the energy is always good.  

Today, we were running behind as Max, who had been in the garage since 6:00am, had so many bikes to repair, tweek and shake his head in frustration over.  For example, it took him 20 minutes to unscrew the cleats from Samuel's shoes because they were so worn down after working for over a month in them on the road between his house and the tarmac.  This was after we told Samuel to not walk in his cycling shoes.  These are our typical and many battles with keeping equipment running.


Finally by 9:15 we are ready to roll out.  I am taking Diane and Angelique with me.  Angelique is a new rider who tested very strong on the Velotron last month before Jock left.  This is her first day on a "real" bicycle.  The biggest challenge we are facing this morning is getting her to clip in and out of her pedals.
We head out staying with the boys for the first couple of miles.  Angelique actually does incredibly well and on a morning I'm feeling like I'm 80, this 22 year old girl makes me work every mile of the ride.  We did 37 miles with the first 18 having over 2,600' of climbing.  She caught on quickly with the gears and thank goodness she still can't descend and I was able to still beat her home.  Not for long though.  She's the real deal.


After the ride I shower, wait for the boys to return and walk over for lunch.  By now it's 2:30.  I knock out all my emails, register the team for the Continental Championships in Eritrea, secure hotel rooms in Eritrea (try calling from Rwanda to Eritrea and explaining what you need!), make fish and rice for the dog and cat and do four loads of laundry.  I manage to squeak in a 30 minute power nap and then knock out a few more emails and go to dinner.  After dinner we have a meeting and I get back to the house after 9:00.  I wash the remaining dishes, try to write my blog, talk to Kiki, Obed and Nathan, get all the cups ready for tea in the morning, feed the cat...AGAIN and grab the remaining three loads of laundry off the line because once again it is raining.  Did I mention how much I really despise rainy season?


So, it's 10:30pm and I have to get up at 6:30am and do it all over again...this is my glamorous life.  

At least we had water and electricity all day today!  And I did get to ride...


Always the little things!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Reentry

I have spent more months this year within the borders of the United States than outside them.  This is the first time in two years I have done this and now I know why.

Reentry...it's always a little bumby, however this time I feel like my fuselage is on fire and I'm losing those all important reentry tiles needed to halt the potential for complete fire ball combustion.  

Let's face it, America is nice, really nice.   For all of you complainers, whiners, and entitlement whores sucking the life out of the greatest country in the world, get a clue, get a life, get a reality check.  You have it made!  Hands down, your life, no matter how difficult is easy compared to living in a place like Rwanda.  I am not complaining about Rwanda or having a pity party about being back here.  I just need to adjust to the fact that everything requires enormous energy, persistence, patience and a nicely placed dose of aggression here and there.  I make the choice daily to live here and I still choose to do so...it just makes me appreciate how Getting in last night after 20+ hours of flying, Max, Jock and I drive the 1 hour and 45 minute trip home, which takes us over 2 hours because of the rain, pitch black darkness, random Rwandans on the road walking into oncoming traffic and the inevitable road construction.  Plus, when did Kigali start resembling Nairobi in the traffic department?  


The best part of coming home to Rwanda...Zulu, without a doubt, my 130# lean, mean ripped guard dog and unconditional lover and "oogler", Zulu.  Aren't dogs the best?  I'm gone for 3 months and for him all is forgiven in 3 seconds.  He is my baby and hasn't left my side since I walked through that door.  Except for the 20 minutes after I gave him a bath where he was busy rethinking that unconditional love thing.


Kongo is here too...I've never been a cat person but Kongo is not really a house cat, more like a tiger cat but only 7 pounds.  He slept in bed with me all night.  Zulu right next to me in his bed snoring away.  Kongo, sporting a large gash across his face, had obviously been in a bit of a dust up with some local animals.  I'm sure he won!  While Zulu also has an unexplained injury to his rear right paw.  It looks like he got it stuck in something and yanked it out ripping into one of his toenails.  He appears to be on the mend however.


In the span of 20 hours, we have unloaded over 300 pounds of gear we brought over from the US.  We are experts at getting through bag check in slightly overweight (our bags, by the way generally they let 52 pounds slide) and generally carrying 50+ pounds in our carry ons.  When we were boarding in Brussels for the flight to Kigali they had the bag Nazis in place.  Luckily for us, a woman directly in front of us started arguing with the SNB employee and caused such a distraction we slipped through the line and onto the plane.  The best lines I have ever heard during an airline employee/customer exchange:

Flyer:  "I have two carry ons, my purse and this bag, they let me have them on my United flight here.  What is the problem?  I can have a purse and a bag!"

SNB Employee:  "Ma'am we are SN Brussels!"  With complete Belgian authority to her voice and a very heavy accent.

I'm thinking that meant she was not going any further.  

As the flight attendant watched me stroll through the aisle to my seat I kept thinking how I was going to hoist this 35+ pound bag up over my head like it weighed no more than 22 pounds, the allowed weight.  Saved again while she attended to the elderly woman a few rows up with her significantly lighter carry on.


So back to the past 20 hours...no water, Max lost TIGO internet card so I can't get to the internet until I got Felix out of bed and to the house this afternoon, bathed 130# dog, wondered why the piles of filing that had been filed in June when I was here were now back and on MY desk, rained all night and morning, washed clothes and washing machine backed up again and flooded the bathroom, hot water faucet doesn't work in the kitchen, clothes put on the line this afternoon are still wet, drove into town almost running over 17 various Rwandans not looking before they cross the street (it's a mile and a half to town), car is not running right AGAIN, realizing we're almost out of power because someone forgot to pay Cash Power to load up on electricity for the weekend (we pay as we go for electricity) and finally breaking down and buying a bottle of wine.  So much for my "Rwandan Resolution". Oh, and no riding because it's raining...AGAIN.

But, tonight I get to see my friend Molly who is in town for a week before heading to Zimbabwe (lots of previous posts about Molly).  I also have my big lug of a dog following my every move and who will be joining me for a pizza at Volcana this evening!  And Tuesday camp starts and all the riders will be here and THAT is why I do what I do and live how live over here.   

So...a couple more words about my time in America.  America is the most beautiful, most diverse, friendliest country I have experienced and I'm sure it's because I'm biased as an America.  I'm also brutally honest when it comes to how I view America after spending a few years living abroad....Americans need to stop this attitude of entitlement.  Americans built the greatest country in the world with unprecedented freedoms, why are we letting it fall by the wayside?  Why is America not GREAT anymore?  No one owes any one anything. 


If you've forgotten...here's the Preamble to our Constitution:


We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. 

No where does it say we provide your Section 8 housing, your food stamps, your WIC.  We don't provide for bailing you or your mortgage company out of bad loans and bad choices (yes, I lost my house too!).  We don't guarantee employment, we offer the opportunity to build a business and create your own employment.  Quit waiting for the President, for Congress, for your employer, your spouse, your parents to bail you out.  It's not happening.  Our government, frankly is pathetic at this point!  I have talked about all the corruption in Africa, however, at times its easier to deal with because you know the corruption rules, it's in your face corruption.  Make no mistake the US is one of the most corrupt governments in the world.  We just do it "legally" with lobbyists. I think it's time Americans fight a little more for what they want in life.  Perhaps it's a good thing I am not living in America at the moment!  


Ok...so I have totally veered off course with my "Rwanda sucks at the moment" blog.  Really I think it is what we make it in the end...our attitude, our fight, our desire to live out our lives how we choose...this I choose, Rwanda....for now.