Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mille Colline -- Hotel Rwanda

I never come to the Mille Colline in Rwanda.....it is Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda.  Today, for some reason I had a few hours to burn before I head to the airport to pick up Jock, Obed and Kiki.  I stopped into the Mille Colline for a drink.  I've been here two other times, pre and post remodel.  Preremodel still had the original pool.  Today it looks like any other modern hotel, however, I still have visions of desperate people drinking from a polluted pool in 1994.  I look around the bar....I am one of the few expats (translated white people), and that's good.  Very good.  They have a band, playing a mix of very American music mostly old, Otis Redding currently.  It is nice.  I still see desperate people at the pool.

When I walked into the lobby I noticed a photography exhibition they were having.  As I walked down the stairs to the pool area I notice the quote above posted on a wall near some photos of people who have impacted African over the decades.  This quote sums up why I am here.

I talk to the bartender about the Team....Adrien Niyonshuti, he exclaims, he is a hero.  The Tour of Rwanda?  I want to know more.  You work with the Team.  We love our team.  This is the new Mille Colline.

This country has come so far since 1994.

I look at pictures from Napa and the school visits Kiki and Obed have been attending with our documentary, Rising From Ashes.  They talk to the young people about conflict resolution as only people who have lived through a genocide can.....

They are inspiring teens half way around the world.

Andy, our UK volunteer tells me in the car on the way to Kigali he wants to come back and stay to help grow a small farm for Team Rwanda to not only feed itself but to feed a community.....

Sometimes I am so caught up in the laundry, the search for money, keeping the riders fit and healthy I forget the impact all of us are making on the world in our own unique ways.  Jock and I are not easy people to work for...we set the bar high, we are not warm and fuzzy...well Jock is, I'm not, but still people like Andy and Jody want to come back and stay, stay for a long time and help.  

When Andy told me he wanted to come back to stay I laughed.  Perhaps a bit too loudly....our life is not easy but I've come to believe some of us continue to search for meaning over convenience.  

I believe we are not wanting to just visit Rwanda...we want to live Rwanda.  

I say this with a moment of incredible hopefulness combined with a big black cloud of sadness hanging over me.  That is how Rwanda and this experience has always been...incredible joy and crushing sadness within the same moment.  This is the saddest week of my 3 1/2 years of living in Rwanda and being with the Team.  I have been trying desperately to hold the tears at bay, but it just doesn't seem to be working anymore.....and the difficult part is I cannot even talk about it.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Team Rwanda Values

Last week I sat down with the team to talk about what is important to us, to the entire team.  Part of this came about with the fall from grace of Lance Armstrong and the apparent lack of integrity in the cycling world.  Another reason is we are heading into the Tour of Rwanda, and another Team came to train with us from another African country.  We have no idea where they are as a team.  We just wanted to be clear about what is important to THIS team, these cyclists.

First, conversations like this do not happen generally in Rwanda, a free flowing group discussion about values.  We started working with the team this year in our after training meetings to help them become comfortable expressing whatever is on their mind whether it deals with the bike or other more personal issues.  Secondly, this is their work.  They talked about examples and I helped them put it into words.  

Respect is the word used most often within this team.  They live this word.  The other day when the Minister of Sport came out to our training camp (this never happens a HUGE deal for us), I spent most of the day organizing the house, the office, the reception for the Minister, his staff, the Rwandan Cycling Federation and the dozen or more journalists who were here to cover the event.  As the Minister was taking a tour of the Team home, Nathan asked me why I didn't ride that morning.  I told him I just had too much to do with the Minister coming.  I wanted to make sure everything was perfect, or as close to perfect as possible.  Nathan looked at me all serious and said, "These guys, you know, they respect you.  These guys, they do."  I smiled.....really, that's all I ever need.  I work hard to earn their respect.  It is a two way street and I will continue to earn their respect every day just like they earn mine.

A few days after we wrote these values, I opened up Facebook to see David George from 360 Life, a South African mountain biker, a person our team knows and looks up to, tested positive for doping.   Adrien raced against David George in the Cape Epic and the Cape Pioneer.  Nathan just looked at the article over my shoulder and said, "He has no integrity" and he walked away disgusted.  David George and all the rest of the dopers are everything wrong with the sport....Adrien and Nathan and the team is everything right.

Today on Twitter as I looked at all the positive tweets about the screening of Rising From Ashes at the Napa Valley Film Festival last night I see there are people who still believe in the sport.  The film won best documentary voted by the audience.  People still want to believe in these values.

One of the tweets read:
@TRwandaCycling @rfathemovie we really loved your story.  Your team has something to teach us all.

I continue to learn every day from these young men.