Saturday, August 15, 2015

East Africa Sportsline: Rwandan Cycling & Africa Rising Cycling Center

This video was shot earlier this year when we had the Ethiopian girls, Hadnet, Tsega, Eyeru and Eden training with us here in Rwanda.  It really showcases the work of our team here in Rwanda, the support team, and all our incredible sponsors.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

...And People Taking Care of Us

I tell people all the time that life in Rwanda is like a roller coaster, highest highs and lowest lows and oftentimes within hours, even minutes of each other.  Sorry is EASY in the US, EASY.  My worst days in the US, losing my business and my house, don't compare to what I live through in Rwanda most days, weeks and months.  If you think of it in an image, life in the US is wavy lines, ups and downs but generally pretty flat.  Life in Rwanda is straight up and down lines with very little middle.  

Tuesday was not good....Rocky buried his brother.

We also had power for 2 hours yesterday.  A 24 hour period, 2 hours.  Actually counting up until 5:30 this evening...36 hours with 2 hours of power.  We do have a generator but due to these ongoing power issues we have been running it a lot...$$$$ a lot.  At $20/hour we have gone through $500 of diesel this week.  That is with rationing the generator use.  When we starting burning through money at that rate, I panic.  We have diesel in our budget but with this year's outages, significantly worse that last year, we burned through the budget a month ago....four months to go, with weeks at $500?....time to go to town for some wine.

But today is Wednesday.  After writing about Rocky, the outpouring of love and support from around the world was such a ray of hope.  I will show Rocky every single comment on FB and this blog.  I want him to know he's not alone.  We also had a very dear supporter of the team donate the money for his brother's funeral, keeping Rocky and his family from slipping another notch down the poverty rabbit hole.  The team, Mr. AM and I will pull together a collection tonight for the widow--and last night I find out it's four children, not two.  

Mr. AM figured out a way to rig up a battery to our internet router so we could keep working as the day wore on without power.  

Every call we made to EWSA, or the Federation or anyone in "power" the person on the other end said, "get used to it until after dry season."  That's another 3 weeks!  Apparently, Rwanda relies heavily on hydro electric power--no water, no power.

Then up comes up the Police Commissioner of the Musanze.  He's here to introduce us to his niece's husband, who's Belgian, a cyclist and knew all about our program.  We mention 36 hours without power and boom he's on his phone.  An hour later someone shows up at our compound with some cable.  He's running.  Minutes later, the power comes on.  As I'm typing, it just went off again so we had another generator free 35 minutes so I saved $11.  I guess we'll see....but at least someone is trying to help us.

While our life today is consumed with batteries and power and securing internet so we can keep working, I am still dealing with Tour of Rio, All African Games and the upcoming World Championship in Richmond, VA in September.  Riders, visas, expenses, plane tickets, housing....try doing that with no power!

I knew we could secure host housing in Richmond for the World Championships, but I really wanted and needed to find a better solution as our team would be split up and it would require running here and there and figuring out food etc, the mechanic would have hated me.  It was a good and very appreciated option from Richmond Hospitality, but not our best option.  We still do not have approval from the Ministry of Sport for the budget I submitted a month ago.  It is not cheap to get from Rwanda to Richmond with eight people!

Then, these amazing guys I've never met, one rode with Nathan while he was visiting Rwanda a few months ago, have been working on several things for us.  First, their company, Sabotage Cycling, gave us 200 bottles with this really cool Rwandan logo on it which we can hopefully use at the World Champs next month.  Then, they went to work on finding us a housing sponsor and today they came through with 75% of the funding we needed!  Hallelujah, we can cover the rest.  Thank you to the donor whoever you have no idea how much it means to us.

I jump on Airbnb and find a place right in town perfect for the race, perfect for the team.  A big kitchen to cook our own meals and enough bedrooms for all of us.  I send a message to the owner and get it.  In her response back to me she said she knew all about Team Rwanda and her neighbors were Rwandan American and her husband has been to Rwanda.

Coincidences today?  I think not.  

I think there's this almighty plan, this God like force in the world.  For me, it is God.  We needed a little help, it had been a rough day and people rallied...for us.  

I am doing this new series in my Headspace meditation.....Mr. Andy Headspace and I have come to a truce...which is on Acceptance.  This morning I said to Mr. AM, I just need to settle in with this lack of electricity issue.  There's not much we can do.  Things will be okay and I just have to make better use of my time when I have it, which I did.  Still, it wasn't easy.  Frankly, having no power SUCKS.  But as I let go, people picked up the slack for me thank you Russell, Clay, Felix, Mr. AM, Chris, Airbnb House Owner and Mr. Donor.  You gave me a peak day. can I please get the power to come back on?

I am a work in progress Mr. Andy Headspace!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Taking Care of Team Rwanda

It's not even 7:00 in the morning and I am awake typing away at emails trying desperately to get back to the 4 (number of emails in my box when I went to bed) in my inbox which now numbers 48...after clears out the "junk". I am battling a bit of a head cold, we're in camp, we have had no power for 8+ hours every day for the past 5 days, no water every other day and the coffee I just gulped down is having ZERO affect.  

Zulu starts growling when he hears Shaka barking outside. 


It's Rocky.  I am thinking he's come to our house to pick up water bottles to bring back to the kitchen for the guys early start today.

He just stands there.  He's not picking up any water. 

Mr. AM goes to the door.  I follow....reluctantly, maybe this will be a two cup morning.

Then I realize something is wrong.

He says, "My brother died."

Yesterday, Rocky told me his brother had been in an accident, a bicycle accident on his single speed.  He wasn't wearing a helmet, they don't have helmets here.  Rocky had said, "He crashed just like Bona.  I think he has same problem in head as Bona."  

In April, Bona hit a pedestrian flying down a hill and hit his head later developing a post trauma brain clot.  We almost lost him.

I asked him when it happened and he said a few days ago, "but he still has headache". 

Bona, being on Team Rwanda, went to the best hospital in Rwanda and his life was saved.  Rocky's brother was probably given an ibuprofen at the local clinic and told to go home.  Bona lived, Rocky's brother died.  

I don't know exactly what he died from but I have this horrible thought running through my head gaining traction, digging a trench....maybe it was the same thing Bona had, could I have save him?  I think when Rocky spoke to me yesterday perhaps he was hoping I would say, "let's get him to Kigali."

The thought was there, for a moment, but when do you stop, where is the cut off point for helping people?  I cannot save everyone in Rwanda.  I cannot even save every team member's family.  Rocky has had a shit life filled with really crappy luck of the draw.  He lost his eye in 2011 and then his child almost lost her leg due to infection in 2013.  Now his brother is dead.  His brother leaves a wife and two children.

F*&K I hate this world some days!

And then I open Facebook, only because it's my job for the team, and all I see is  people remodeling houses--a few pics are good, your entire house and every detail displayed over way too many photos--overkill.  I see posts about Kardashians and Mayweather and MMA and parties and your selfies at Starbucks...really?  I am so ruined.  I will never be able to be reintegrated back into "normal" life.  I don't want to be reintegrated.  I want to remember what this feels like.  This is life.

Today was a somewhat typical day in my life.  

This afternoon Janvier, Camera, Bona, Bosco, Nathan, Felix and Patrick went to Rocky's house to be with the family.  He died this morning they are burying him this afternoon.  There are no morgues here.  There's no time for formalities and visitation.  The body must be buried today.

I asked Nathan this afternoon when I saw him how Rocky was doing.  He said it was very sad.  I was proud of the boys for going and representing that we just don't say #teamisteam, we live it.

Tonight we'll gather up some money for the widow and children.  We'll pay Rocky his salary for the week and tell him to stay home and be with his family.  

Tomorrow morning we will be on the road training at 8:00am.

Welcome to the real world.

Rocky's Family

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


The other day I defriended someone on Facebook, well, actually I defriended 169 "friends".  I started with that "one" and just kept rolling.  It came down to several questions:

1.  Have we ever met?

2.  If I was traveling through your city, state, country, would I call you up to say hello, to grab lunch, a glass of wine?

3.  And the key question, are you moderate enough to except differences in others without beating us over the head with your fanatic liberal or conservative views?

If you were a "No" to all three you were definitely off the list.  Sorry, I'm an extreme introvert and if I really don't know you I find it hard to maintain relationships even FB relationships.  It's me, not you.  Well, most of the time.  What honestly eliminated most people was question 3.

I have been thinking a lot about question 3.  I read these crazy stories out of the US where it seems people have really lost all grasp of common sense, of sorting out fact from fiction and blindly going with their group, left or right.  First, don't believe anything you read!  After working on media for Team Rwanda for the past six years, being interviewed over 100 times, the truth rarely is written.  I am misquoted, misstated, and rewritten over and over again.  If something doesn't seem right about the article, video, post, research it, not on sites written from both ends of the extreme but unbiased, research based sites.

Secondly, find common ground.  We are all people, with families, with siblings, parents, we all want to feel loved, appreciated.  Can't we find some common ground?  Does everything need to be so left?  So right?

And here's what did it for me with defriend #1....#blacklivesmatter

See--I think #alllivesmatter.  Period.  Is that hard to stomach at times?  Absolutely.  The world can be an incredibly evil place.  I listened to two sermons the past couple of weeks from Henry Wright, a 7th Day Adventist preacher.  He preached for two Sabbaths about Lessons Learned from Charleston.  How could a young, obviously racist, young man sit in that church with all those believers, hear the word of God, and still brutally murder those people?  We all do it.  We listen to the word, Muslim, Christian, whatever our religion, leave church and continue on our way in life oblivious of our impact.  Also, we all have the propensity for evil.  You don't believe you do?  Go live in a culture, a place where you are constantly accosted for money simply because you are white, where kids spit on you, throw things at you, stare at you and make you long for everything that is simple, known and yours.  I found myself throwing rocks at kids who spit on me.  I never threw a rock at someone in my entire life.  I throw rocks.

And I ride, after I've thrown the rock, I think #alllivesmatter.  The only difference between that worm infested belly, rock throwing street urchin and our Jonathan is luck of the draw and education.  Jonathan is blessed to have been born a child of Team Rwanda with a Tanto and Mukecuru who make sure he has the best possible education.  That's it.  Luck of the draw.

Dylan Roof....who knows what happened?  Whatever happened though...his life mattered too.  The true believers in that church in Charleston died in Christ and already forgave Dylan Roof.  Hard to believe?  Ever meet a real believer?

In Luke 23:39 - 43, Jesus, hanging on the cross, dying for us, gives absolution to a thief who was hanging next to him.  In one moment he is forgiven.

39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 

40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?

41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 

42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 

43Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


Whatever you believe, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, whatever higher power you subscribe to, has similar messages.  The only time those messages are skewed are by fanatics on any religious front.

Today I read an article about a Kansas police officer who went through a Taco Bell and received two burritos on which was written PIG.  First of all, you couldn't pay me enough to be a white, male police officer in the US.  You're simply damned if you do, damned if you don't.  You are set up to fail, be scrutinized, or crucified.  Have there been issues?  Yes.  But the end, #alllivesmatter.

At the end of the article was this photo:

Can we please stop dividing us?  Can we just all agree #alllivesmatter?  

The second we put one life based on color or religion above another we are guilty of perpetuating division.  I just listened to this amazing audiobook, Please Stop Helping Us by Jason Riley.  I purchased it because I was interested in what a black man had to say about black America.  I hope to meet Mr. Riley some day.  He has a very interesting perspective, one in which the pitfalls he explains I have tried to avoid in working with black Africans.  

Here's the deal....I'm not a homophobe.  But I'm not going to make my FB profile rainbow.  I really do not care about gay marriage, it is what it is, however, as a Christian, it simply goes against my beliefs.  If you are happy to be given the right to marry, I will not stand in your way, however, if you are going to harass people over not making a wedding cake, I have an issue with that, simply because you're being an asshole.  If someone asked me to make a cake with a KKK theme, I would say no.  If someone wanted a child bride on the cake I would say no.  Please stop jamming your beliefs down my throat and just respect my position, which is just as valid as yours.

I'm not racist, but I'm also not going to give my black riders any slack, sympathy or special treatment because they're black.  I expect them to wear their clothes respectfully and speak proper English because if they want to succeed in the European peloton, and in life, that's what will be expected of them.

Everyday I deal with multiple cultures, languages, religions and views and we make it work.  Can we not agree to make #alllivesmatter?  Can we please come together and live peacefully?  If Rwanda can achieve this why can't the more "developed" western world.  Maybe we can all learn something from a country which learned to forgive.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Who or What Do You Appreciate Most in Your Life?

One character trait I possess is tenacity.  I might bitch and moan about something, like living in Rwanda most days, but if I commit to someone or something or some higher force or a direction in life, I am "all in".  Sometimes I kick and scream but if I say I will do it, it is done.  Period.

Take Mr. Andy Headspace for example.  I am fighting the meditation, but I am committed.  I'm "all in" Andy, no matter how much I appear that it is of no value and I think you are talking zen gibberish.  I slogged my way through the 30 volume set of "Creativity" and then decided, since I was apparently so angry, according to my sister (who lives in Germany, and has power and water, and a cute weiner dog and makes great cupcakes, is pretty and younger and has a bad ass husband so life is perfect...yes, that sister), that I might try the shortened mediation series of Appreciation.

Curse you Mr. Andy worked.  It does not mean we are friends.  It just means I can tolerate you, Mr. Perfect Zenman.

During the meditation I breathed, counted to 10, thought about 15 gabillion other things and then..."Who or What Do You Appreciate Most in Your Life?"

All week I thought about that question.  It made me want to start doing yoga with Obed and the boys again.  I wanted to just take it in, to appreciate all Obed has done in the last three years with developing the yoga and massage program for this team and also Eritrea and Ethiopia.  I laid there during relaxation pose and was so thankful for Obed, for his desire to make a new life after racing, to help his teammates, to lead the way in a completely new discipline.

I sent my mom an email after weeks of quiet irritation. My mom gave me the wherewithal to do what I do.  She encouraged me to be strong, independent, a free spirit.  Although I don't always agree with her choices--like I'm sure she always agreed with mine!--I appreciate her.  I need her to be around for a very long time yet.

I told my husband how much I appreciated him last night after a motorbike trip into Kigali for business.  Seriously, there were at least 30 near death experiences during the day.  I am not exaggerating.  Rwandan's have a serious death wish on the road and yesterday was the worst day I've had on the back of his motorbike in 6 years.  That includes the collarbone break in Tanzania in 2009.  On the way home I had my new TomTom watch on which registers heart rate.  Normal heart rate....65....every time someone was in our lane, passing on a blind corner or simply cutting us off....spike to 95.  

I appreciate my ex-husband.  He ships all our gear all over the country, pays my bills and is our biggest Team Rwanda fan!  He could have remained angry at me for the rest of my life, instead, he was the good man he's always been and understood this was what I was meant to do with my life.  I am one lucky girl.

Yesterday I met with a friend, Kelly Bean, in Kigali.  She is here to check in on the programs she runs with her non profit, African Road.  She cannot go to Burundi, another country she works with, because of the recent election violence.  Last week, about 36 hours before she boarded a plane we had a FB conversation about how I was suffering, once again, from compassion fatigue.  She asked if she could bring me anything.  I said it was too late for this journal I wanted but not to worry.  When I met her yesterday and chatted about everything going on, she said to me, "How are you doing?"  She said it, meant it and I felt it.  As I was leaving she gave me a care package with two journals and a coloring book and pencils...and chocolate!  I told her I want to channel my inner KB...calm, nurturing and loving.  KB doesn't yell, and never appears frazzled.  I am always yelling and frazzled!  Her gift, her friendship means the world to me.  Appreciation.

I appreciate my sister who introduced me to Mr. Andy Headspace....and who always supports every campaign I launch begging for money!

And today....there was a moment of complete Appreciation....savoring every second of the moment....looking up to God and simply saying, "Thank you...thank you for this moment..."

Bonaventure, our rider who had a horrific crash 3 months ago and then developed a post trauma blood clot which almost ended his life, raced.  This was his first race since the accident.  Mr. AM and I were following the race on the motorbike and Bona was staying with the peloton which at our last time check was 4'52" behind Bosco, the eventual winner.  That alone was impressive.  We sprinted ahead with 20kms remaining to make it to the finish line to set up the video finish timer.  

In comes Bosco, then Patrick, then Joseph and Camera....then a minute or two after that....Janvier...and Bona.  Bona...Janvier reaching down to hold Bona's hand as they crossed the finish line.  I looked across the finish line to Mr. AM and just smiled, holding back tears..."Did you see Janvier and Bona?"


"They were holding hands...he's back.  I think I'm going to cry."

I finished Mr. Andy Headspace's Appreciation series today.  Who or What Do I Appreciate Most in My Life?"

Friends who understand me and what I deal with living here, doing what I do.

My staff, Catherine & Thomas who cook for this unbelievably large family, Felix who handles everything for me, Janvier, the guard who makes sure the water tanks are always full, Joseph and the two Damascenes who make the garden and grounds peaceful, serene and inviting and Beatrice who cleans, cleans and launders all day long!

Flowers....the gorgeous flowers Beatrice put in my house, the flowers that surround my house, the flowers in the kitchen...just beautiful flowers.

And most of all...

I am thankful for God's healing power over Bona.

The press interviewing Bona on his return to racing
Janvier reaching for Bona at the finish