Friday, February 24, 2012

Team Rwanda Cycling Inspires The Children – Art for Gorillas

I have always felt that it is not enough to produce good cyclists in Rwanda, our true "job" is to produce great men! I witnessed a show of pure giving back, of giving young kids hope, of being the role models in Rwanda I always pray they will be. The riders of Team Rwanda continue to inspire me!

Team Rwanda Cycling Inspires The Children – Art for Gorillas

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thank You Donald Miller: Let Story Guide You

A couple of weeks ago I listened to a "sermon" from Donald Miller, Let Story Guide You.  I say sermon because every Saturday I take a break from all the craziness of life and I try to get back to my foundation.  Generally by Friday, my house has shifted.  Life, busyness consumes my days during the week.  I read the Bible, listen to sermons online and try to remember that ultimately God is guiding this life, not me, no matter how much I think I can control its direction.  Frankly, I also do this so I don't snap!  When I do, its not pretty.

Ironically this sermon, this talk, was about to go in the recycle bin to make room for more hard drive space.  The nanosecond before the click and delete it was saved, again restoring my belief in everything happens for a reason and nothing is random.  I was supposed to hear this.

I found a link to a very similar version on YouTube as I cannot for the life of me figure out how to put up an MP3 on Blogger.  If you listen to it first you will understand the rest of this blog, if you listen afterwards the pieces will fall into place.

I was at the five year Volvo plan of life and panicked.  I wanted a better story, this was not how life was supposed to end up.  I had the dream job and it was a nightmare.  I needed a story, a big story, an all encompassing story of my passions in life.  Sadly, yet hopefully, I gave up the current story I was living for the story I live now.  Not all endings are happy first.

Now my story is tightly intertwined with the stories of the riders of Team Rwanda.  

We are in the fourth week of training camps and everything with the riders is really starting to gel.  They are stronger, faster, smarter and eager for more.  More anything, better food, nutrition advice, good vitamins, they want it all.  It wasn't always this way.  Tonight as I started to write, Nathan was saying how this year is so much different than last year.  He said everything is much better.  That is no accident, it is all part of our story.

When you step out to live a larger story of your life you are bound to connect and influence the stories of others.  This week Rocky showed up at the house at 8:15am for a 10:00am dentist appointment in Kigali.  It takes exactly an hour and 45 minutes to get to Kigali.  Rocky has been battling an abscessed tooth and root canals and was now in need of oral surgery since November of last year.  Can you imagine riding an eight day stage race needing major oral surgery?  But that is Rocky, that is who he is.  Rocky spends most of Monday in the dentist chair and comes out of the office looking like he's gone a few rounds with Apollo.  Today is Thursday and finally he has returned from his cauldron of constant pain.  He is on the road to recovery and after being on antibiotics off and on for three months, he should take his last pills on Sunday.  Then, his power will begin to return.  

Imagine how different Rocky's story, his life would have been without the Team.  He would have an empty eye socket and the dentist. if he would have gone or had the money to go, would have simply started pulling teeth.  His life is changed from one split second on a single speed bike when Jock and Max passed him on the road.  He took the initiative, showed up at the house and opted for a better life story.

Last Friday, as I was waiting in the truck at the intersection of the road back to Musanze and the road to Gitarama where the riders had just finished their first race of the season, a woman comes up to the window.  I didn't recognize her at first.  It was Monique, Rocky's wife.  She had come to meet him at the intersection not far from their mud brick home.  She smiled and said, "Kim, it's me, Monique!"  Then she went on to tell me, "Thank you, thank you, thank you for Rocky."  I shudder to think of what life might have been for these two and their two young children.  

Out of the blue, random searchings for new stories intersect.  Last week I met Megan Smith, a yoga teacher and studio owner from New York.

Megan came, very spur of the moment, to Rwanda to teach yoga instructors at a small organization in Musanze, home also to Team Rwanda.  Ubushobozi was founded to teach young girls to sew, to give them a life skill whereby they can earn a living.  Two of the women from the US who run Ubushobozi are clients of Megan's in New York.  Megan found Team Rwanda, contacted Hilary in the US and connected with us when she got to Rwanda.  My thought was to have her use the Team for a couple of instruction classes with the girls so that I might have some options for yoga instructors during training camps.  The first three weeks of camp I had been leading yoga.  Note, I am not a yoga teacher.  I like yoga, have taken a ton of classes, but frankly you do not need a Type A, workaholic freak that can't slow down long enough to sleep teaching you yoga.  The word relax is not in my vocabulary.  

But then Megan's story forever changed Obed's life.  

Obed is 32 and will probably not be strong enough to race internationally anymore.  There are just too many up and coming riders who are stronger and faster.  For Obed, where one career is waning another is now on the front burner.  Obed is a natural at yoga.  He has such a calm presence.  Obed is one rider along with Adrien who we have never had any issues with, never asks for money, there are never any, "Coach, I have a big, big problem" statements.  He's quiet yet commanding.  The man has presence.  Within a week, Obed has gone from a strong yoga participant to leading an hour long class for the team (under the tutelage of Megan).  In addition, he is the rockstar of Ubushobozi.  The young men and women look to him.  He's their hero.  Today, he took a bunch of his autograph cards with him to class.  They loved it.  

This is the most important part of this story.....The young man to the left of Obed is Faustine.  Faustine is an epileptic.  A social curse of death in a country like Rwanda.  There is no "ADA" here.  People with physical, mental or neurological disorders are outcasts.  I have heard the most horrific stories of the lives of people with disabilities.  Faustine was no exception.  One school dealt with Faustine's epilepsy by putting a rugby helmet on him.  No one thought to look for medical help, for a possible solution to the seizures.  He was mocked and one day attacked by a group of school children, beaten and his "helmet" stolen.  Faustine finally received adequate medical treatment, a rarity in this third world country, and with medication his seizures are under control but the mental damage of unchecked seizures has taken its toll.  He is simply, different. Obed took Faustine under his wing and today, Team Rwanda gave Faustine a job teaching yoga during training camps.  Obed, who has continued to ride and train with the team every morning, then spend four hours in yoga training in the afternoon and then teach an hour to the the Team in the evening, is creating his new story, his new career and his new future.  It is all his doing, we simply kicked open the door.  I believe Obed will be even that much more financially secure, stable and successful in this next phase of his life.

All because one woman, Megan, decided to change a bit of her story.

All week I have been thinking about how drastically my life story has changed over the past three years.  I thought about it while I watched Joseph brush Zulu.  Six months ago Joseph was a surly young new rider who I thought would never make it.  Today he smiles, he is happy, he is riding like the international cyclist he is, and he likes Zulu.  The craziest things make me happy.  Watching Zulu stand there in dog scratchin' heaven while being brushed by Joseph made my day.  Seeing the new riders like Jean Bosco and Hassan and Emile gradually release their fear and tension and embrace all that is Team Rwanda training camp makes me happy.

Seeing Max ride again makes me happy.  Max's story is complex.  He receives too much outside pressure, pressure making him feel like what he does here isn't important in the real world, that he needs a real job.  Max has no idea how many lives, how many stories he has influenced.  This week he hired Kiki to work on a bike with him.  He later told me Kiki was good and that he has a knack for mechanics.  Like Obed, we are looking for the next phase for Kiki as well.  Max is part of that.

I am so thankful my life is part of all these evolving stories, these stories of a better life.  I need to make sure everyone knows more about the stories of these riders.  I need to keep telling their stories so that others may be part of the changing stories, just like Megan.  Ironically, I left one story to live another and my biggest fan and cheerleader for telling my next story is my ex-husband.  He too is responsible for more than just a 5 year Volvo savings plan.  Story characters come from the most obscure places....