Sunday, March 25, 2012

So Far Removed...

Today is Sunday.  Once again, it is cold, rainy and dreary.  The rainy season has gripped Rwanda.  I used to think of Sunday as the end of the week, looking back on the past week I let out a long, exhausting sigh.  It is over.  Sunday, biblically, is the start of the week.  I should be looking at this day as a new day, a new week and I will start fresh, but not without looking back on one of my most stressful, full, frustrating and joyous weeks in Rwanda.  As I started to think about writing one thought was always at the forefront.  I have had several moments during this week where it has struck me how far removed I am from the old life I used to live.  I reserved my return plane ticket for April 12th and although I want to see my family, some friends, have a moment of peace on the bike, cut and color my hair (yes, a total shallow event) I return with more trepidation than at another other time. 

Without going into all the gory details, my week started with trying to get Jock, Max and six riders on a plane to the Tour of Morocco.  They were scheduled to leave on Tuesday around noon.  On Monday we were still missing three passports for the riders and had to coordinate Gasore and NicNic's passport pick up at the airport when they came back from South Africa on Monday evening.  

Our riders generally travel on service passports.  Service passports stay with the government.  When the riders are invited to a race, we petition the government for their passports with all the race documents and approval from the Cycling Federation.  The passports are returned to the Federation for travel and when the riders return to Rwanda they are held at immigration upon arrival.  The challenge with Gaso and Nic's passports were that they would be retrieved Monday evening and sent to the Department of Immigration Tuesday morning and would not be available in time for their next flight.  We had to make sure we could pick them up when they came in from South Africa.  

By late Monday afternoon, we had Abraham, Nathan and Emile's passport, but Joseph's passport was missing.  There was also a change in flights due to a missed reservation so now the team was leaving at 6:55am Tuesday morning which would necessitate a 2:00am wake up call to leave our home in Musanze, drive to the Federation in Kigali so Max could pack the bikes and then to the airport.  We got Joseph's passport right before Immigration closed, the Federation managed to hold Gaso and Nic's passports when they arrived that evening, however, the team was still missing the official visa arrival paperwork for Morocco.

After 29 hours of travel the team arrived in Morocco and visas were at the airport.

In the meantime, after dropping off the team and running a few errands in Kigali to nab supplies for the coming week I get a call about Obed's visa.  It's not ready, he leaves for South Africa for massage training on Friday.  It's Tuesday, visas take 5 days.....gap in story details....I arrive back in Muszanze at 5:00pm Tuesday evening.  I've now been working, driving, stressing and calling people in South Africa, France, emailing Morocco, non stop for 36 hours on a fitful two hours of sleep.  


As I drift off to sleep Tuesday evening, I get a call from the Cycling Federation President.  CNN is in town and wants to do a story and they want to see a training camp.  We have had training camps every week since January 9th, except THIS week.  When do they want to do the story I ask?  Thursday, he says.  Thursday...this Thursday, like the day after tomorrow Thursday?  


Wednesday I start calling riders to come to "camp".  Kiki and I manage to get six riders to come Thursday.  Kiki and Obed come up Wednesday night.  Obed is still sans visa for South Africa.  I bribe them and love on them with lasagna.  My secret food weapon with the riders!


Thursday morning CNN arrives at the Team Rwanda house.  The show is CNN Inside Africa.  I loved watching this show when I lived in Kenya.  CNN was the only channel I could get so I had a steady stream of CNN news and this show was the highlight of my CNN loops.  Errol Barnett is the host and he was totally engaged in showing everything about what it takes to be on Team Rwanda.  Inside Africa shows the authentic Africa; the people, the reality of life for most of us on this continent.  The show for me was not easy.  I'm the behind the scenes girl, not the front woman of the team.  In my last blog I talked about my extrovert on/off switch.  This day it was taped in the "on" position.  


Friday morning I regrouped, did laundry, cleaned the house, answered about 50 emails.  My assistant Felix was in Kigali all day.  I rode.  I reset. 


Friday morning I woke up to an email from the South African Embassy.  Obed's visa was ready!  Hallelujah.  Friday I spent most of the day going back and forth with the Federation to make sure Obed secured his plane ticket to Cape Town and got on the plane Saturday morning.  I called Obed to go retrieve his visa.  He was so happy.  Over and over again, "thank you Kim, thank you and tell coach thank you.  I will do good.  I will do good for Team."


On my ride that afternoon I thought about Obed, about the enormous opportunity we, us, the Federation, the Ministry of Sport, Megan Leigh, his yoga instructor, and Line' Griffiths in Cape Town had given Obed.  His life is forever changed due to this one moment, this convergence of love and support and belief in him.  He met us half way with his commitment, his work ethic and his consistency.  Whether it was that thought, or all the events of the week or a combination....I cried.  I actually sobbed riding towards Gisenyi on my bike.  


Obed called me last night when he arrived in Cape Town.  I cannot begin to explain the emotions I had as he told me how happy he was finally landing in Cape Town.


And this is where I realize how far removed I am from my old life.  Last weekend I wrote a blog, Cleaning Out My Facebook Closet.  Friends are becoming more spread out throughout the world, while I seem to be losing touch more and more with friends back home for a variety of reasons.  


I do not do what I do for kudos, for admiration, for CNN Inside Africa or even for the controversy I tend to fuel with my views on life in Africa.  I do what I do for the boys on this team.  Period.  I have never felt that kind of love before.  I will not "give" them a better life.  I will help them earn a better life, become better men.  I will kick down doors and remove life altering obstacles for them.  When I think about the remote possibility of instability in this country, I now know, should something happen, I will not leave until I know they are all safe. 


Friday night at dinner my friend from Texas who was staying with me, received a call from her assistant, Thomas, a Rwandan.  He asked where she was and told her to go back to the house immediately.  There had been a bomb threat in our town of Musanze.  We joked about it for a minute.  Yes, there have been several grenade attacks in Kigali over the years, but we're in Musanze, 100kms from Kigali, a small town, a tourist town.  This is the town where people stay to trek the gorillas.  Saturday morning before any of her crew was up and about she showed me a story on her iPad.  One killed and five injured at a bus stop in Musanze.  I have been there hundreds of times.

This is my world....most people cannot relate, nor do they care to.  That's fine, I do understand. 

Yesterday I posted a story about the possible budget cut of the Child Abuse Act on my Facebook page.  Two of my friends felt compelled to state their political views in the comments section.  The political atmosphere in America sickens me.  I simply wanted to make people aware of CASA, an organization I volunteered with for over a decade, a group near and dear to my heart.  Yes, I guess, as one pointed out in an email response, that my wall is an open forum.  I would have hoped however there would have been some thought to how I might feel about the post.  There was none.


Sadly, I sent both women an email.  An email not "scolding" as one put it, but as a simple statement of how it made me feel.  I had hoped for a little empathy from my friends.  Instead I received an "and but, apology".  The apology and then reasons why I was wrong, or the other person was wrong, or Facebook is an open forum, or I should have put a caveat on my post.  Really?  Walk in my shoes for one second....I need your love and friendship and understanding not a confirmation why you think you were right.  Can we not just stop at, "I'm sorry."? 


Of course the tone of a message can always be misconstrued on emails.  Unfortunately, I live a nine hour time zone away and calling is not generally an option.  Although, I did try and arrange a call with one a month or so ago.  Note, if I reach out to you from Africa, if I need a phone call which is rare and never easy to do from here with time zones and connections, it must be pretty important.  I must need you for some important reason. 


I know the longer I'm away the more difficult it becomes to hold on to friendships back home, the more the chasm grows between life here and there.  I need that grounding though.  I need friends who will let me voice my fears and frustrations.  There are a lot of scary things in Africa.  I see things most will never imagine nor care to.  I need friends to help me have perspective.  I live in a world of intense emotions 24/7, extreme need and extreme greed, but a world where a small commitment may have a huge impact, a life changing impact.  I want my friends at home to be part of this journey whether they ever get on a plane and come to Africa or not.  I do not want to feel so far removed...



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