Saturday, April 7, 2012

April in Rwanda

Yesterday I asked Felix how late the bank was open.  It was 3:45 and I thought maybe I had time to drive into town and cash a check.  They usually close around 4:00 give or take 30's Africa.  He cocked his head and looked at me like I was clueless, "Kim, it's Easter this weekend.  They are all closed today."

What!?  Easter, this weekend.  How did I miss that?  Wow, I know I'm out of touch with a lot that goes on in the world, especially anything outside this continent, but Easter?  It's a Christian event and if Felix hadn't said anything I would have found out via Facebook.  

The only thing I think of now during the month of April is Genocide.  Yesterday, April 6th marked the 18th Anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide.  For me, it is a difficult time to be in the country.  I leave Thursday.  For eleven months out of the year I work with Rwandan cyclists, they are simply Rwandan.  During April there is a rightful palpable sadness and melancholy.  Reality of what these riders experienced eighteen years ago stands directly in the forefront.  It is not that I ignore their past.  I simply choose to focus on their present and future through a constant filter of remembering and accounting for past scars.  As a white American in Rwanda during this month I do not want to be here.  I want to show my respect to the survivors and families, yet I feel almost voyeuristic.  It is their time, their moment to make peace with the past whether they are perpetrators or victims.  As an American, I am embarrassed and appalled at the lack of attention we gave this country eighteen years ago.  I cannot change that.  I can only do what I do today.

Easter is this very apropos.

Camp this week was different and in a good way.  I've been going Mach 10 since the second week in January.  We have only had one week without camp and that was the week I threw together an impromptu camp for the CNN Inside Africa segment.

Last week Kiki asked me if he could bring his three year old son, Jonathan to the last camp before we headed back to the US.  I just took a deep breath.  Really, a three year old at camp, no Jock, no Max I am running ragged and I cannot deal with a three year old on top of everything else.  Those of you who know me know I chose not to have children, no regrets, actually not a huge fan of children.  Some I totally adore, generally it tends to be the children of friends in Africa, they are significantly different than most US children.  Must be the lack of video games, who knows.  Something told me to say yes to Kiki and as I sit here with little Jonathan watching the 2004 Giro next to me, I am so happy I did.  Not only is he a great little boy, but I have witnessed the most loving family of young men all engaged with this one little boy.

For the most part I do not see men, at least rural men in my area, engaged with their children.  That is not true of this team of young men.  Jonathan has been the center of attention the entire week.  He had his papa and nine other uncles/brothers.  The team watched him, fed him, cared for him and played with him.  I have never witnessed so much love between men.  I am blessed to have been a part of this week.  

When I saw Jonathan watching the Giro last night with his dad and Geremie, Nicodem and Nathan's younger brother, asking Kiki question after question about the race I was amazed.  Asking questions is not the norm.  Trying to get the team to ask questions has taken five years.  Here was Kiki's son firing away so many questions it wore his dad out.  Perfect!

We may not be able to change what this team of young men have experienced in their lives, but through them we can influence the next generation.  When Kiki was just a bit older than his son he was running for his life.  Everything in his world was horrific.  Geremie was born right after the genocide.  His mother most likely pregnant during the genocide.  Geremie was born into a world turned upside down.  Jonathan was born into a stable world.  His father has given him his full attention and has taken the time to ensure he has every opportunity.  

Rwanda's next generation truly is the future and hope of this country. Perhaps Jonathan will be the next Adrien Niyonshuti 15-20 years down the road.  Maybe his father will be running Team Rwanda and he will ride for his father.  Now wouldn't that be something?

1 comment:

  1. Hello from Zürich, Switzerland.
    Just saw your segment on CNN, and as a cycling South African, living in Switzerland, and having visited Kigali a few years ago -- kudos to you, Jock, and your team...

    All the very best of success in all your endeavours.