It has been difficult of late to write. I chalk it up to my busy travel schedule, my heavy workload, and my sheer exhaustion at the end of the day. In actuality, I find it challenging to decipher the “topic” of the day or week. Oh, and I am a procrastinator.
A few weeks ago I was having a much needed cut and color upon my arrival back in Las Vegas. My hairdresser is not only a master of returning my hair to a presentable level; she is a cyclist as well, a very good one. She is also, unbeknownst to her, one of my biggest encouragers. We were catching up on life, mostly my life, and she remarked how I had not published a blog in a while. I said to her, “I’m not sure what to write as things are beginning to seem so normal.” To which she quickly voiced, “Your life is no where near ‘normal’”.
I see posts on my friend’s Facebook pages about life, their lives, going to their children’s sporting and school events, taking their kids to the pool this summer, getting ready for the new school year, their family vacations to places like Ohio, Utah and any other state in the US. To me, in my world, that is so far from normal. To 90% of America, that is life.
I write this from my hotel room in Geneva, Switzerland. Just another hotel room. Really it is….it is a Holiday Inn Express across from the Geneva Airport. This morning as Coach and I were grabbing some coffee in the lobby before heading to the airport we met a lovely couple from Minnesota. They were probably in their mid to late 60’s. Being in Geneva, the French part of Switzerland, I honed in on this couple speaking English, Hallelujah! Of course the first question when meeting an English speaking person, especially of the American variety is, “Where are you from?” The woman asked us if we were far from home. Of course most tourists assume if you’re American that is where you live. When I responded with Rwanda she looked puzzled. In a two-minute span of time she knew we ran the Rwandan National Cycling Team, I was headed back to Rwanda on Monday, Coach was headed to Nice, France this morning, then to Eritrea on Monday, then back to the US, and I had a couple more days in Switzerland with Nathan and Abraham at a race.
I cannot remember the exact words she said, but it was something to the effect of what an amazing life, perhaps adventurous life? To me 50,000 miles of travel these past 12 months had become normal. Not in a mundane, normal sort of way, but simply….normal. For people who work their whole life to retire and do a little traveling, my life is no where near normal.
Yes, my life truly has been amazing lately. The things I see, the places I visit, the people I meet (only to be told in my eventual book), are stuff of dreams.
For me, living “abnormally” is sometimes, oftentimes, difficult. I would never complain. I have zero to complain about and this is not a complaint. It is, as with all things, often fraught with trade offs.
Separation is constant, separation from family, from loved ones, from the people I work with, the riders, from my dog makes me sad at times. This morning I said another goodbye, a month long goodbye. With that month long goodbye comes more work, more living outside my comfort zone, me just being the touch, strong, emotionally impenetrable me. I’m not a fan of driving in foreign countries but I will spend the next couple of days driving around Switzerland. I know, ridiculous after spending seven months driving around Nairobi, Kenya! It’s Switzerland. Thank you GPS.
I will go back to Rwanda to regroup after being gone for 5 weeks. I have 5 weeks of accounting to catch up on, luckily I had some help at home this time. New camps and trainings to deal with, some personnel issues to work through, a work visa to renew, a new one to secure, a plethora of government/Federation issues to deal with and another trip to South Africa to schedule. I will be heading to South Africa with our assistant coach less than a week after I get home to Rwanda. We will be visiting the UCI in Potchefstroom, picking up loads of supplies in Johannesburg and hopefully seeing the Cheetahs at DeWilt (a personal quest for the past four years). I get to do all the driving in South Africa….on the wrong side of the road.
Sometime in October I will say hello to the one I said goodbye to this morning, only to put him on a plane to Ethiopia shortly thereafter. I know I will see him in November for the Tour of Rwanda! We will finish out the year with a motorcycle trip to Uganda and a trip to Germany to see family around Christmas, a first for most of our family to be together in the past four years.
Throughout this I constantly monitor the escalation in the DRC fighting as it is across the border from where we live in Rwanda. I feel a deep responsibility to the people we employ to keep them safe. I worry about the riders most of all. Our expat staff can simply leave, the riders cannot. I feel for the government of Rwanda. They are in a no win situation. One of the four or five factions is currently lobbing mortars over the border into Rwanda (Gisenyi) and they have struck civilians. Rwanda cannot retaliate or they will be seen as the aggressor. We feel the effects of this constant conflict over the border. It affects the ability of the government to support to the level they desire programs such as sports, particularly cycling. Our Cycling Federation President has been extremely busy with these matters. Being our Cycling Federation President is his “side” job. It is an honor bestowed by the President of Rwanda to be selected as Federation President. His real job consists of working with the Rwandan Diaspora for the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Kagame’s party. He is quite a remarkable man.
This is my normal. To me this is just part of life, my life. This is like most of you dropping your children off in the drop off gauntlet at your local elementary school.
The other day I was trying to access one of my bank accounts online and because I was doing so from yet another IP address, this time in Switzerland, I was asked those annoying security questions. You know these questions? The ones you can never remember the answers to? They are not “what street do you grow up on?” anymore. They are questions such as, “What was your best friend’s name in second grade?” Does anyone remember second grade? I can’t remember last week?
My question was….”Who is a famous person you have met?”
Okay, I know I had to answer this question the last time I jacked up this account security system, which was probably months ago, however, I had absolutely no clue to the answer. Trust me, it is not me saying, “Look who I know”. It’s just this bizarre part of my normal life whereby I meet a lot of people, some famous, some infamous, all very part of normal. Last week I stayed with a lovely couple. Yes, incredibly famous, but perfectly normal with a deep commitment to family and maintaining normal in a life of extreme abnormal. I was asked to take a picture by a friend back home. I did not. I did not want to. The time with them was memorable which no photo could have captured.
I have spent time with authors, photographers, journalists, actors, actresses, musicians and world leaders. I have seen places most will never see. This is all part of my work. I do not call it my job, as it is not a job, it is my calling. African Cycling is my calling. These people all move in this circle. This is normal…my normal.
Needless to say, I kept answering the question incorrectly and was locked out of my account. When I called the 800# to reopen the account online, the woman on the other end of the phone asked why I was calling and I told her I couldn’t answer the question about famous people because I simply couldn’t remember, there had been too many. She laughed….she probably thought I was a poser.
Some things I do not write about to protect people’s privacy. Some things I cannot write about for security reasons or governmental reasons. Some things I will take to my grave, those are my private moments. One of my staff said to me…. “people think they know you from your blog and in all actuality, most people have no idea, you are very private.” She is correct.
Time to start writing more about my “normal” life. When I write I tend to be calmer, more introspective, the nature of writing. I must stop thinking about what any readers might think. If it’s boring…so be it. But maybe within my rantings of normal, someone will find the strength to step into the life they have always really wanted but are afraid to enter.
So…like a proud parent at a school play, here is my moment of the week.
Wednesday night after dinner we should our documentary, Rising From Ashes, to the teams at the Swiss Epic. Afterwards, Coach, Nathan and Abraham got up to say a few words to the very moved audience. Coach spoke first, and then Nathan. Nathan talked about how much he appreciated Thomas Frischknecht and his family for making Nathan and Abraham feel so welcome. He talked about how Momma of Thomas, arranged for Abraham to see his sister who drove from Belgium to see him….it had been 16 years since they last saw each other. He thanked everyone.
And then Abraham spoke….the most emotional moment of the entire evening, for me. We have been trying to get Abraham to learn English for years. Abraham is stubborn. His nickname is Punda (donkey in Kinyarwanda). Abraham stood in front of a group of about 25 people and said, “My English is small, small. But I say thank you, Switzerland is very different from Rwanda, Swiss is good. People are good….Team is Team.”
Abraham spoke English….how much more normal does it get?
...yes, that's Kiki and Abraham with Clive Owen. Clive was the answer to my security question. Sorry Clive, I forgot!