Saturday, October 15, 2016

Something a Little Lighter

Let me start with a disclaimer.  

This is not a passive aggressive attempt to garner compliments.  I do not have an eating disorder and I don’t have any issues with what I see in the mirror.  I’m not obese, not even fat…technically.  I’m healthy I work out and I eat really well 90% of the time.

This is just an insight into what all women do….we’re whacked!

Whenever I land in the US I gain 5 pounds.  It just is.  I don’t hit the nearest McDonald’s or any other fast food outlet.  I simply enjoy good food, which I cannot get in Rwanda.  Grimaldi’s pizza, fish tacos and Noosa yogurt with granola….and cheese, glorious cheese.  And then there are 3,000 varieties of beer and wine.  I’m in the motherland!

5 pounds.

I rode 55 hours since I’ve been home.  I’ve ridden more, done more yoga and even did my pushups and situp apps almost daily.  I still gained weight.

It started with my jeans just being a bit snug.  I’m lucky in that I’m tall and can fluctuate 5-10 pounds and still stay the same size.  It’s the comfort that changes.

Last weekend when I was riding I was telling a girlfriend of mine the game of mental justification I had been playing.

The jeans were tight because I’ve been putting them in the dryer…..on HIGH.

It must be all the riding I’ve been doing it’s making my thighs bigger.

I think they’re tight because my feet are a bit fat I must be retaining water.

She laughed the entire time.  This is the universal language for all women.

I finally got on the scale.  Just as I feared, exactly 5 pounds.

And so I wore my tightest fat reminder jeans the rest of the day lying around the house.  Miserably uncomfortable.  My punishment and my reminder not to have a beer and some nachos with the flavorful new chipotle cheddar cheese I had just purchased the day before.

Later this week, after cutting back the eating and riding more I was still 5 pounds up.  I ate some organic vanilla bean and mint chip ice cream wearing my sweats.

I was talking to another girlfriend, an incredibly talented business owner, super fit skiing and biking fanatic (she won Leadville at 40!).  She commented how she’s gotten fat because she’s been working so much.  I laughed and shared with her my fat reminder jean story.

She laughed and said, “I’m wearing mine right now!”

I’m thinking men don’t sit around and have these conversations.  They just go to Kohl’s and buy new jeans.  

I refuse to buy new jeans.  I bought another tight pair of size 6 jeans two days ago to remind me I still have 5 pounds hanging on. 

Like I said in the disclaimer, I’m not fat.  But I am married to the fat Nazi, a former pro cyclists (have you seen how freakishly thin they are?) who is still only 10 pounds above his freakishly, emaciated race weight.  And he can skip meals!  Who does that?  I can miss one meal…maybe, but 2 or 3?  I become a hangry bitch.  Whenever I travel with him on a motorbike I have learned to pack snacks as stopping to eat is never on the itinerary.  I have been seen shoving clif bars up through my helmet to stay coherent.

I know he loves me as I am.  I know I am way too disciplined about being healthy. but really what woman wants to weigh the same or God forbid more than her freakishly thin ex pro cyclist husband?

So, I will go back to Rwanda and not have anything that contributed to my weight gain and I will call it a day, happy for the enjoyment of simply good food.

Leaving Las Vegas

Tomorrow at 7:23am I am on a plane back to Rwanda.  I go willingly but not so much happily.  I’ve been in the US, way too long.  Way too much time to get comfortable, to enjoy the simple things of life, like getting on my bike and riding without dodging people, goats, horrible drivers, military vehicles and getting harassed by local taxi bike drivers.

I do not want to go back to combat cycling.

Yesterday I rode in the afternoon and decided to ride towards Red Rocks.  It was going to be a quick overlook and back, but I found my bike turning into the loop.  The weather, the time of day, how I felt, was a trifecta of perfectness.

In all the years of living in Las Vegas and riding the loop I had never seen a tarantula.  The past weeks I’ve seen three slowly making their way across the road all inside the confines of Red Rocks. 

Yesterday, as I was coming down the back, in the cool shade granted by the sun dipping behind the western peaks, I came up on what I first thought was a dog.  I said to myself, “Who left their dog to wander on the road?”

As I slowed down and rode closer I realized it wasn’t a dog.  It was a coyote: a gorgeous, curious, as skittish of me as I was of him, coyote. (Not an picture of the actual coyote...a little too scared to stop and do that!)

I am going to miss this so much….

I have ridden 55 hours, 771 miles in 33 days since the beginning of September.  The only days I didn’t ride were Interbike and traveling to/from the ranch, and a hike with the dog.  That is how much I love cycling.  In August, in Rwanda, I rode once, 27 miles.  Maybe that’s why I need yoga, meditation and therapy.  When I ride I don’t.

And my friends….I will miss my friends.

And Wyoming…I will miss you Savery, Wyoming and all the friendly people who want Mr. AM and I to move there permanently. 

When I was leaving Wyoming last week I stopped at Little America, a bustling truck stop on I-80 in the middle of nowhere Wyoming.  Something told me to check my oil.  I was born a mechanic’s daughter. 

When I lifted the hood, this is what I saw.  My text to Mark was, “Is this where my oil cap is supposed to be?”

I had driven all the way from Las Vegas where I had had my oil changed, to Wyoming (750 miles), around the ranch (another 200 miles) and to Little America (150 miles) without an oil cap.  Thankfully there was still oil in the car.

I drove over to the truck mechanic bay and was told they only carried 18-wheeler parts.  But being Wyoming, where everyone seems to help each other because we all know it’s not the easiest place to live, the mechanic called his friend over who told me how to get to the nearest Napa, 40 miles down the road.

And I was driving through an early season rain/sleet/wind/snow storm…

On the way I called the Napa only to be told they didn’t have a cap, but the guy looked in the system and told me there was one at the Napa in Evanston another 70 miles down I-80.  I called the Napa there and the loveliest woman answered the phone.  I told Diane what I needed and she told me, “I’ll be waiting for you honey.  Just ask for Diane and I’ll have your cap.  And be careful out there the weather is brutal!”

An hour later I was in Evanston.  And there was the Napa right where she said it was and as I walked in a friendly, “You must be Kimberly!”

I love Wyoming.

One of the sales guys came out to my car to search with a flashlight to make sure it hadn’t lodged somewhere in the engine.  He didn’t want to have me spend $10 if it wasn’t necessary.  In the end I spent the $10 and he put the cap on and wished me well.

Thank you nice people of Wyoming.

Living outside your culture is not easy.  Sometimes it just gets old.  I cannot speak the language which adds barrier one.  There are different ways of doing things.  I’ve never met a “Diane” in Rwanda.  Nothing against Rwanda, it just is different. 

This trip has made me appreciate the US more (except for the politics) and come to terms with some of the feelings I’ve had lately about Rwanda.  I have worked to find the best in both.  In Rwanda I simply need to realize I need to do things differently and expect differently and maybe, just maybe, I won’t get so burned out this time. 

And Bona’s coming back to Rwanda so of course that makes me super happy!  And Oogli Boogli boy, Jonathan…how I’ve missed him.  And Zu and Shaka…and of course our Kongoleeza. 

Different is not good or bad…simply different.  Time to remember that again.  And back to combat cycling.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What I've Learned Living Abroad for 7+ Years...and What Americans Need to Learn in My Most Humble Opinion

Yesterday I met with my financial advisor.  Luckily she's also a good friend so it was done on a Sunday afternoon by her pool, drinking wine (just me) and leaving with a handful of fresh veggies from her garden.  I have some fairly large financial decisions looming and I've been in a hunker down save mode for the past 7 years.  Honestly, it's not the large financial, new truck, possible change in my's the fact that I'm truly scared shitless I may lose everything I've worked so hard to save if Trump is elected President.  

This is not going to be a political blog.  Just stating a fact.  Uncertainty in politics breeds uncertainty in the financial markets.  Remember Brexit?  Trump is our Brexit.

Don't know what Brexit is?  

My financial advisor, speaking as a friend, mentioned I seemed very different in my outlook towards things, the world, people, life.  

That is what living abroad for 7+ years has given me.  Knowledge....a wealth of knowledge which cannot be learned through books alone.

I know what Brexit is.  

In April 2009, I moved to Rwanda.  I had traveled some.  Costa Rica twice for a couple of weeks each time.  Europe in high school.  South Africa...aka Africa light...for two weeks in 2004.  None of that travel really taught me anything outside of simply seeing some new cool things.

As I reflect on life since 2009 I realize the world has shaped me into a very different person from the person who left the US on a bit of a whim to chase her childhood dreams.  I still don't own a giraffe.


I am not simply tolerant as in just dealing with things, people, experiences and doing the best.  Tolerance is now one of my moral virtues.  I have always thought I was an empathetic person.  I was the kid who fought injustice, saved animals and had a very clear sense of right and wrong.  

The tolerance I feel is the empathy for another person's situation.  In my recent blog about Janvier, a rider who essentially went sideways, I realized it would have been a very differently written blog years ago.  When the lies he began spreading in the media first began of course I was angry and hurt.  I could have written a blog about my anger and hurt, however, I am not that person anymore.  I wrote the blog after really thinking about Janvier's actions and sitting with them and trying to figure out why he did what he did.  In the end, his childhood, growing up in a refugee camp, dictated how he handled everything these past couple of months.  I do not condone what he did, what he may continue to do, but I understand why.  I cannot help him help himself until I am empathetic to who he is and how he became who he is now.  

This election year has shown complete intolerance.  The vitriol to women, minorities and refugees by Trump is something my moral compass cannot process.  This cannot be the world I left, the America I love.  Has America gone that far sideways or do I have a skewed view of the world I left 7 years ago?

Less is more....

Always shocking when I land in the US is the "stuff", the abundance of "stuff", the overflowing of "stuff", the all consuming drive for more "stuff".  My stuff fits in 5 plastic bins, one of which should probably go since it contains all my cocktail dresses from 7+ years ago.  I'm not thinking anyone is inviting me to a country club any time soon!

Let go of the "stuff" and grab hold of the experience.  Put down the phone and listen to your kids.  Stop multi tasking and focus on the people in front of you.  Stop working so much so you can get more "stuff" and just be.  Be okay with the ones you love, with what you have right in front of you.

I am ambitious.  That will never change.  I have been praying hard for our ranch to become our permanent home.  It is a lot of land.  A lot of land filled with over a hundred years of memories and holding the potential for many more new memories.  That is my "stuff".

Given the choice of a new wardrobe, a new car, new "stuff" and a plane ticket and a new adventure, the latter wins out every time.  

I know....the only thing in my wardrobe is t-shirts, jeans and flip flops worn until they are in shreds.  It's only "stuff".

Savor the experience....

This I still struggle with daily.  Be in the moment.  Stop waiting for the next negative thing to happen and just enjoy the positive moment you're experiencing.

That was my sermon to the choir.

Respect how great you have it....

If you have a roof over your head, water you can drink, electricity that remains on unless you are in the middle of Hurricane Matthew, rejoice.  You are wealthier than the majority of people in the world.

America is great.  We don't need to #MAGA.  It's good, it's great, it's freaking awesome!  Go live in a third world country.  LIVE in it.  Don't just visit it BE there, for a long time.  Then get back to me on how America is not great.  

By respecting how great you have it you may be nicer to the people you come in contact with every day.  Really thank the person who made your coffee at Starbucks.  You have no idea where they come from or where they've been today.  

I'm not a cynic....but I am a realist...

Life will taint you.  There is no way around that.  Experience and perspective shapes how you view and interact with the world around you.  

The riders lie.  Fact of life.  They lie a lot.  Everything they say is subject to a fact check.  They are my little Hillary's and Trump's.  Their world is based on a culture of withholding the truth, coloring the truth, skewing the truth.  It just is.  I know that.  If I was cynical I would simply write them off.  Realistically, I fact check.  

I have had people criticize me when I respond to them that they need to double check things which they have been told.  They seem appalled that I would even say something to that affect.  I have been accused of being racist because I said to double check.  Not sure how that makes me racist.  I simply employ the "trust but verify" model used by former President Reagan when working with the Soviets.  

Don't be afraid to believe in the good, but also don't be the village idiot.

I know my goals....

Everything is fleeting.  I set goals, always have, always will, but they are goals based on my values and not on simply achieving.  

In 2008, when I was struggling to figure out why I was so unhappy with life, with my perfect, high paying job, a husband, a house (well, that I lost eventually), I wrote in my journal three things....

1.  Do something around my love of cycling
2.  Travel
3.  Help people

Seven years later these "goals" are still my driving force.  They are why I am working desperately to do the impossible, to launch an all African women's team.  

The women's team is so important to the future for these women.  I also acknowledge the monumental task of making it happen.  Money, visas, travel restrictions, language barriers, inexperience....but in the end, that's what makes it all that much more significant.  HUGE risk, MONUMENTAL reward not for me, but for them.  

Words Matter

Watching the debate last night I was disturbed most by the "It was just locker room talk"'s just words.  

Words matter.  If you've ever lived abroad for extended periods of time (more than a year) you will eventually find yourself scraping the cultural doo doo which you've just stop in off your shoe and apologizing to your host profusely.  Something I've found to be benign, landed me in hot water.  I didn't even understand the why but it doesn't matter, because words I didn't even realize were "offensive" almost got me a one way ticket out of the country.  

This is also what truly frightens me about our current election.  Trump's shoot from the hip, refusal to listen to advisors and read about the cultures and leaders of various countries is terrifying.  I foresee immense amounts of doo doo scraping should he be our leader.  

My normal reactionary personality has been replaced with one more measured, more thoughtful of the ramifications should I decide to speak.  

This is something every one should learn.  Based on what I see on FB, there is an epidemic of vomit mouth in the US.  Stop, breathe, think about your words before you spew.  You might just decide the spew is not worth the bile.  And if you give an apology stop at the I'm sorry I did X..Y..Z.  There is not "but" after "Z".  NEVER.  If there is, you're not sorry.

The experience I have been fortunate to have in my life has changed me.  I challenge Americans to travel more.  And by traveling I mean, outside the Mexico Club Med.  That is not traveling.  

Volunteer more.  The world does not revolve around your needs.  You hate the refugee crisis?  You're afraid of refugees?  Do you know a refugee?  Did you know Muslims are NOT ISIS?  The US is taking 10,000 refugees and Americans are in a panic.  That's exactly .05% of the current number of 21.3 million refugees in the world.  Almost 34,000 people a DAY have to leave their countries.  We only take in 30% of one DAY out of 365 days.  That's unconscionable. 

Turn off the television, put down the phone, pick up a book, talk to someone and travel.  You might just find you're not the person you thought you were.  You might just be better.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

#LetHadiGo....For Now....

I used to watch smugly, as a person who didn't have children, at the sad parents who were victims of their 4 year old's meltdown in the aisles of Walmart.  I would think to myself, "What happened to cause this?  My mother never would have allowed me to behave like that!"

Then again, I was raised in the days of spankings, backwards seats in wood paneled station wagons inhaling carbon monoxide from the fumes being sucked into the back of the car and no car seats.  Parents didn't put up with crap in the 70's.  Then again, they wouldn't have had social services called on them for yanking their bratty kid off the floor while simultaneously swatting their sorry ass.  Parents were quick to enforce discipline often with Spiderman like moves.  

I never had children....until I moved to Rwanda.  To all you parents out there who felt my judgment in a Walmart, Target or grocery store in America, while you're children decided to thrown down the manipulation tantrum, "I am sorry."

In November 2015, Team Rwanda, my boys, walked out one week before the Tour of Rwanda over payment not received from the 2014 Tour of Rwanda and for lack of insurance protecting them while training and racing for the national team.  When they told us they were going to stage a walk out, we talked to them about handling it in a more professional manor, they opted to strike.  Janvier Hadi, one of the riders I was closest to, was one of the leaders of the walk out.

Janvier is an easy kid to like.  He speaks English, he's charismatic, he's a leader, and has this megawatt smile which can melt one instantly.  That is, until you realize, the manipulation and darkness behind that smile.

Janvier is a survivor.  He was born in a refugee camp in 1991, three years prior to the genocide.  I believe it has shaped him as much as growing up in an idyllic two parent suburban home in Chicago and Kansas City did me.  I understand how Janvier thinks, why he does what he does, he's spent his whole life "surviving", that is something that is never erased from the neural pathways.  His greatest asset of surviving is also his achilles heel.  

In January, Janvier and I sat on the side of the porch of a rider house at ARCC weeping.  I cannot remember now what triggered the episode.  We were all on egg shells after the Tour of Rwanda walk out and trust and confidence were not part of our day to day world anymore.  I remember telling Janvier I forgave him for the November event but I also told him I would not, never, go through another.  If it happened again, if he instigated another walkout, I would leave.  I did not speak this as a threat.  I spoke from a place of such raw hurt and sadness.  I simply didn't think I could handle another betrayal.  Janvier and the riders had turned on us.  It was the most difficult time of my life.

I have had friends who have had children with addiction issues, drugs, alcohol.  I recall one friend telling me her daughter was on meth again, pregnant again, and had dropped out of school.  I felt for her.  How do you handle knowing you tried your best to give your child all the opportunities for a good future from the minute he or she was born and then having all the hopes and dreams for a bright future ripped right out of your soul?  I thought I understood the pain she was feeling.  Not even close.

Since that day on the porch in January, Janvier has slipped further and further away.  In June he left the Continental team he was signed to for the entire year.  After spending months securing his visa to Germany, he did a couple of races and then messaged us saying he was not being treated well and not being paid.  We immediately contacted his team owner.  Mr. AM and I had met with the team owner in Germany last year and know him well.  We also saw where the team was living that time.  It was undergoing a remodel but was still very nice.  The German town where the team house is located actually has many Eritrean and other African refugees.  He was with another Rwandan and a couple of Eritrean riders he knew well.  The Eritreans asked him what was in Rwanda for him and why wasn't he staying to race in Europe.  That is their apparently wasn't Janvier's.

I encouraged Janvier to stay in Germany.  He stated in a heated Facebook message exchange, "You can't make me."

"Of course I can't and I won't but I am going to tell you what will happen if you leave.  This is possibly your last opportunity to race professionally.  Things have not been good in Rwanda either.  We are not racing and the government is not paying stipends for races."  I wanted Janvier to know the reality and ramifications of his rash decision to leave.

2016 has not been a banner year for forward progress in Rwanda for several reasons.  That is how business goes, it ebbs and flows.  2016 was a definite "ebb" year.  We were struggling with a budget shortfall, the Federation was not on point, the Ministry of Sport had no money due to a large football (soccer) tournament at the first of the year.  Things were not communicated going into the year, we were left scrambling, the team was unhappy.  It was a serious "ebb" year.  

But in the end, we gave Janvier his "out".  He didn't need to deal with any of the issues we were facing this year.  He had a team and he could race, be seen and maybe parlay that into another team for 2017.  BikeAid was his stepping stone and he threw it back into the lake.

When I was a senior in high school I quit volleyball and track.  I was burnt out.  I was in so many extracurricular activities, I worked and I was a straight A student...and I was done.  I quit.  I understand pressure.  I tried to help Janvier through it.  In the end, he was more concerned about saving face.  His reputation performed center stage in the Rwandan media while trampling all of the people who had helped him along the way.  

The "journalists", I say that in quotes because the "journalists" giving Janvier the stage in the media to basically tear down everyone who had ever helped him, thought they were doing him a favor, telling "his" story.  They never once interviewed any of the other parties, MINISPOC, FERWACY, Janvier's coaches and even me.  There was even a tweet with yet another pro Janvier/throw Team Rwanda under the bus article which started #BringHadiBack.  

My heart broke.  

The lies, the accusations, the public dismissing of everything anyone had ever done to help Janvier reach his dreams, it was just too much.  

I told Janvier I would never go through what I went through in November of 2015 again with him.  I kept quiet for weeks, maybe months while he tore down everything good in his life.  And then another article stating he "retired".  At that point I mentally walked away from the kid laying on the store floor thrashing about for attention.  He let out one final scream and I walked away.

Have you ever seen a child have a really nasty temper tantrum in public?  It's quite the spectacle.  I've seen parents plead, threaten time out, yank the kid off the floor.   Rarely do you see them just walk away.  My mother would have walked away.  Sometimes, you just need to let them tantrum it out.  

When no one is left, when the child has alienated everyone, they are left lying on a dusty floor, alone, and further behind than when they started.  The other day, his coach, who was training with the team out on the road, saw Janvier.  Janvier tried to ride with the team.  Coach told him he could not train with the team.  He had retired.  He had said so publicly after weeks of lies and accusations.  He didn't want to be a part of the sport any more so there was no reason to train with the team.  

He was wearing his national kit.  He might be a 25 year old man, but he's still the scared child in the DRC refugee camp.  

I love Janvier like a son.  He created this world he's now having to navigate.  I cannot help him.  He needs to finish thrashing it out on the floor.

When he's done....I'll be there.  In the parking lot, waiting, because that's what someone who really loves you unconditionally does.   

#LetHadiGo....for now.

Monday, July 18, 2016

We Don't Need Any More Bitches

In recent days my social media feed has been inundated with the "fat-shaming playmate".  When I first saw the photo I was shocked.  No where in the world are we safe from hate, not even in the privacy of a locker room.

Dani Mathers, a Playboy Playmate, snapped a photo and sent it out onto snap chat of a woman obviously at the end of her workout getting ready for a shower.  "If I can't unsee this, then you can't either."  Cruelty has stooped to a whole new level.  

I thought about this event quite a bit over the past few days since it went viral because I am hosting a women's cycling camp for the next month.  I have Eritrean, Ethiopian and Rwandan women here at our center training.  It is actually very nice to NOT be the only woman on the compound.  I'm loving all the female energy and have been buoyed by these young women.

Right now, I am really out of shape.  3-5 hours of riding a week at 50 doesn't even maintain my fitness.  I have been sliding backwards for months.  Too much work, travel, stress, can't deal with riding and the hassle in Rwanda on the roads... yada yada yada.  The other day I rode with the Eritrean women and a young Ethiopian woman named Eyerusalem.  I promptly got dropped on the first climb.  I knew I would.  That's what happens when you don't train.  When I met them on the road after they turned around I was able to hang with them on the flats and still crushed it on the descent but frankly, the climb was exhausting.  The next day I rode with Jonathan.  He's seven.

I was talking with Eyerusalem yesterday after my ride with the 7 year old and she was telling me about her teammate on her Italian team, who is also the French National Road Cycling Champion.  She is 49 and her name is Edwige Pitel.  She did not win the Masters category.  She won the National Champs at 49!  I smiled and said, "I'm 50."  

Eyerusalem said, "Then you cannot stop training."

Eyerusalem is coming off of a very lengthy illness which has kept her off the bike for months so she is frustrated as well at her fitness level.  She was telling me how she still has it on the flats and descents but not on the hills.  Welcome to my world.  Eyerusalem is 25 years younger but a very old soul on a bike.  We are pretty much in the exact same place, worlds apart.

Today the Eritreans and Eyerusalem and the coaches were heading out for an "easy" 1.5 hour.  I literally went back and forth a gazillion times about going.  They were heading towards Kigali which is a fun descent out of town but a long 4+ mile climb back to the center.  But then I remembered Eyerusalem's comment, got on my cycling clothes and headed out.  I stayed with them for about 8 miles and then the first little pop.  I'm off.  I kept riding, even after they passed me on the way down while I was going up another climb.  The day was nice, nobody was hassling me and I needed to suffer a bit.

When I was heading back on the flat section I saw them coming back towards me again.  I was surprised as I figured I was on my own the rest of the ride.  As we rode easily along the flats I was paired up with Eyerusalem.  She said she was glad I was riding today.  I told her I have to, even though I will be dropped EVERY ride, I still needed to ride.  I told her it was her chat yesterday that got me on the bike.  

Then she laughed and said, "At least you have not big fat."  (Not a fat shaming response....a simple matter of fact from one cyclist to another.  We know this world!)

True that sister....I'd rather be a smaller unfit person than be lugging another 20 pounds up these hills!  

So tomorrow I will be out there again getting dropped, coughing up a lung and feeling better than I did the day before.

Why can't we as women encourage each other more?  We get torn down enough by gender bias and living in what often feels like a "man's world".  Why do it to each other?  We should be bonded like Wonder Woman gold bracelets when they are crossed over each other.  We should be each other's biggest cheer leader.

I am not going to go on a personal rant on Dani Mathers and her snapchat.  I don't know her and I'm not going to stoop to her level.  All I know is that woman either has some serious insecurities or is simply a mean girl.  Her apologies were more about being caught and trying to save her job then real empathy for her victim.  

What if she would have said to that woman, "I've been watching you at the gym for weeks. You're doing really well.  Your fitness is definitely coming along."  Maybe that woman is a single mom, working two jobs, trying to make ends meet in her stress filled world yet scratches out a few hours a week to simply take care of herself.  We don't know.  Maybe we should think before passing such a mean judgment, especially on our own.

Imagine if that woman had heard those things instead of having a very invasive, inappropriate photo of her going viral due to the snapchat judgments of someone who has not walked in her shoes.  She could have left the gym feeling like a million bucks, instead, she's probably hiding from the internet as I type.

Could we just take the time today to help each other, encourage one another as one woman to another?  What purpose does it serve to tear another woman down?  None.  In fact, it does more damage I believe then we get it from a man.  You're a woman you're supposed to understand your sisters.  The pain is so much more intense coming from one woman to another.  The knife plunges deep.

Take a moment today to reach out to a female friend and offer encouragement, love and support.  Simply let her know you have her back.

Then....we can take on the world together.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Why this Republican is Voting for Clinton

I am not oblivious to events in the US.  Social Media does not allow me to be.  Over the course of the past few months, dealing with things in Rwanda, watching the hate spew like a long dormant volcano I have simply chosen to focus on the issues directly affecting my life here.  

I thought I could do that, however, with the Orlando shootings, the black men shot by police, the police shot in Dallas there was no more compartmentalizing it.  I do want to go home at some point.  I will always be an American by birth and in my heart.  My heart breaks for my country most days.  

This morning I woke up and saw President Obama had given a speech at the memorial service of the fallen police officers from the recent Dallas protest.  I generally don't watch speeches.  From the mouth of my favorite Rwandan child, Jonathan, it is just more blah blah blah.  I saw all the nasty comments back and forth "analyzing" Obama's speech.  And so I listened to it.  All 41 minutes.  It was the best, most hopeful 41 minutes I've had for my country in so long I cannot even remember.  

If you haven't listened to it, do so.

I did not vote for Obama either election.  I am Republican and have been my whole life.  I am fiscally conservative and mostly middle of the road when it comes to social issues.  I think government has gotten too big and mostly run by special interests...on both sides of the aisle.  The government of the people is now government of the banks and big businesses.  Don't believe me?  Watch the Big Short.  I was one of the millions of victims of the 2008/09 housing crisis.  

I believe in term limits for ALL elected officials.  The House and Senate need a thorough house cleaning.  For whatever faults real or imagined by Obama from his opposition and even within his own party, frankly his hands were tied by the real "rulers" of the country, the legislature.  Need proof?  How about the Senate rejecting four gun bills after the Orlando shootings?

I am so over the gun issue in the US.  I have owned guns and would own a gun again should I live in Wyoming but we cannot stand back and live with the current state of gun violence in the US.  No where in the world, currently not at war, are there so many deaths, accidental or premeditated, by guns.  

However, for 41 minutes this morning, I had hope.  There was nothing in his speech which was negative, accusatory or predicating an us vs. them mentality.  I felt his grief.  I believe in his heart he feels he has let his country down.  

He is right about racism in America.  We have come a long way.  We have a black President which wouldn't have been possible even 30 years ago.  We have made progress, but I will never know what it feels like to be a black man in America.  I know what it feels to be discriminated against due to my gender.  It sucks, but generally I will not die for it or because of it.  I will just lose jobs or positions or never have respect for the work I do.  

Today I decided I would vote for Hilary Clinton.  This speech was the deciding factor.  I have gone back and forth mentally too many times to count.  I am not a Hilary fan, never have been, probably never will.  If I vote for the Libertarian candidate I essentially split the democratic vote.  I cannot risk that.  Because for all of the, for lack of a better word, "blech" I feel about Clinton I refuse to have more of the same hate filled rhetoric jammed down my throat by Donald Trump and his ever increasingly hateful group of followers.  

I want the America Obama talks about in this speech.  He quoted from Ezekiel 36:26, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;  I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."

I want to believe America can be great again.  I want to believe we can stop the gun violence.  I want to believe all races can come together.  I want to believe the police will protect and not abuse their power.  100% unrealistic for 100% of the country.  But, I know, to the core of my soul, it will not improve at all under Trump.  It will get worse.

I will not stand by my party and vote for the Republican nominee simply because of allegiance to a party and shame on you Republicans who do.  If you vote for Trump because you believe in his ability to be President that is your choice.  But if you vote for Trump because he's Republican then you are not exercising your right to vote, the right so many people gave their lives for you to have.

Republican Party....if you want me to come back and vote Republican, you need to do better...WAY BETTER than a candidate like Trump.  Stop your infighting and get back to basics and give us people who will bring the country together and not tear it apart.

Do I believe Hilary Clinton can bring America together?  I honestly don't know.  But I do know, Trump won't.  

President Obama you made me proud to be an American today....thank you from the other side of the world!
**I will not tolerate any political bashing back and forth on this blog.  If you have a point you are free to make it, state it with intelligent backed dialogue.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Froome's Punch

During Stage 8 of this year's Tour de France, Chris Froome, two time winner of the TdF, punched a fan.

Social media went into a frenzy, right, wrong, throwing blame this way and that way.

Right or wrong I will not say, my thoughts are about how he came to that moment in time.

I have never met Chris Froome.  I was at the Tour de France final stage when he won the first time.  That was as close as I got.  I do not know him, only from what I've read, which as we all know, is biased and tainted at best.

He seems like a quiet guy.  I wouldn't be surprised if he was an introvert.  He comes off a bit aloof, but as an introvert, I get it.  He's focused on his wife and new baby and being the best cyclist in the world.  Everything else comes after that.

In an interview with the UK Mirror in July of last year he stated.

Cool, calm and collected Froome credits his iron will to his upbringing, saying: “Probably something from my parents or, who knows?
“Just the way I was brought up, I think. Generally I am quite thick skinned.
“You’ve got to do something quite severe for me to lash out or to actually get pissed off if you like.
“That’s just the way I am.”
The fan a few days ago simply became the accumulation of every thing Froome has dealt with on the bikes for years.  

There's a quote by Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness:

“the mind of man is capable of anything--because everything is in it, all the past as well as the future”

How true that is....

For 7+ years I've been riding my bike in Rwanda.  It started out pleasurable enough but after 7 years I have found out, first hand, how capable I am...of anything.  Several months ago I was riding up a long 8 mile climb.  A young child, probably around 8-9, a boy, starting running alongside me.  Not that this doesn't happen every single ride on every single day of my life in Rwanda.  Usually I get the "Mzungu (white person) Amafaranga (money)" or my all time favorite, "Give me MY money."  Yes, they actually say "my" instead of "your".  It's constant.  I was doing the math in my head the other day on my ride and figured I have been yelled that at least 50 times a week or 2,600 times a year, or 18,200 times since I've been here.  Take out a few thousand for weeks gone, or holed up in my compound but you're still looking at upwards of 15,000.  

So back to the moment....the boy kept yelling, "Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money."  I did my normal routine of simply ignoring and not making any eye contact, not letting him see any movement from me in acknowledgment of his presence.

"Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money."  

"Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money.  Give me MY money."  

In one fell swoop I leaned over as his head was waste level to me and gave him a smack on the back of the head.  

Silence.  He just looked at me in shock.  He wasn't hurt.  I think he just couldn't believe someone had done that to him.  Aren't all Mzungus just supposed to rain down Amafaranga?  I rode away.

I do not condone violence.  If I had to replay the entire episode again I would like to think I would have done it differently.  I do not honestly know.  I have these moments of out of body experiences here which I look down at myself thinking, "Wow, who is that woman?"

....everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future....

I get it...Froome snapped.  The brow beating media and armchair social media quarterbacks have never been in his shoes.

Mr. AM, finisher of 5 Tour de France, said for the most part he never saw the invading hoards of spectators.  He was in the zone.  He also said, it is significantly worse in today's world thanks to everyone's desire for 5 seconds of fame.  

Personally, after being in many races in the follow car, I fear for the riders' safety.  While you're taking a selfie, and your friends are filming the thong wearing Borat running beside the yellow jersey, these riders are simply trying to make a living and race.  The fan antics and narcissistically inappropriate behavior jeopardize the safety and the financial livelihoods of the riders and their sponsors.  In Froome's case the spectator he hit, almost put a flag into his wheel.  Millions of dollars were literally hanging in the balance in that moment.  What would have happened to the spectator?  Nothing.

I appreciate the fans but stop trying to make this about your 5 seconds of fame on the NBC Sports Network highlight reel.  


Understand how he did what he did...absolutely.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Consequence of Abuse....What Happens When You Poke the Leopard

There have been an increasing amount of fleeting thoughts the past few weeks... "It surely can't get any worse."

I am now shelving that phrase because it just keeps coming.  It can get worse.  It does get worse.  

My self imposed mantra is now, "Toss me a bone."

I have been trying to formulate my thoughts, my roller coaster of emotions into something coherent which I can write about, with the necessary censorship needed to protect the innocent and the not so innocent along with my place abroad.  Why would I protect the not so innocent?  The innocent around them who suffer because of their chronic abuse.....that's why.

This is not a rant about everything that has gone south lately and a whoa is me.  It's a lesson in coming out the other side without cynicism, hate or frustration.

That journey has come in stages.

Abuse comes in many forms, outright physical violence running the gamut through silent passive aggressive narcisstic abuse, the kind that makes you feel like you're slowly going crazy.  Abusers love this form as it keeps their reputation intact.  

For me, I liken chronic neglect and lack of appreciation to a subtle form of abuse.  Take my love, my caring, my desire to help, to make your world just a bit better or at least give you a world of opportunities you otherwise did not have, stomp on it repeatedly and you have poked the leopard one too many times.  This video sums up what "poking the leopard" means.  It's our African sense of humor to explain away the frustration and anger.

In November of last year, the team went on strike over money and insurance.  It was one week before the Tour of Rwanda, the biggest race in the country.  After a weekend of negotiations, they came back.  We won the Tour.  Victory...hardly.  It was just the beginning of an 8 month journey of lies, demands, bad behavior, disrespect ending in yet another strike.  I saw it all unfolding over the past months and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  I tried, repeatedly.  I worked tirelessly on their behalf to make things right.  In the end, they did it Colombia, at the biggest race of their career.  To the coach and mechanic's credit, they righted the ship and they finished the race.  The race organizers were thrilled by our attendance, our professionalism and were thankful they invited us.  We were like swans...smoothly gliding across a quiet lake, while our staff was madly paddling underneath.

That was the final poke.  The leopard came out swinging.  Anger does not even begin to describe the depth of emotion I felt.  My first thought was, "What the fuck, I just wasted 7+ years of my life....gone, wasted, can't get back. FUCK!"  

Several days passed with gradually decreasing anger...then the lethargy set in.  Why bother, really?  In the end their demands consisted of enough money to buy a cow.  $500.  They didn't see a future in racing.  Adrien Niyonshuti was simply lucky...don't even get me started on how UNlucky that man has been.  They wanted to buy a cow, farm and get married.  

Again...."What the fuck, I just wasted 7+ years of my life...." but now a more contemplative WTF.  A friend of mine going through something very similar with a cycling program in another developing nation said to me, "I wondered if it was my ego which was a factor."  I thought the same thing.  "Was I doing this for me in the end?" am not your "savior Barbie" kind of girl.  I actually thought they wanted this, wanted opportunity.  I was just opening a few doors.  I expected them to ride through them.  Then they didn't like the color of the door.  It was too small.  It was not hinged properly.  They focused on the door and not what was on the other side.  They couldn't see past the threshold.

Then....sadness, bone crushing sadness.  Not for me, but for these rider's parents.  These were parents who lived through the Genocide who fought to stay alive to give their infant and unborn children a Rwanda they never knew growing up.  These stoic and proud parents, embarrassed by their children who race $12,000 bikes and complain.  I wanted to apologize.  I still do.  Somewhere along the way I had a hand in nurturing these prima donnas.  One father raced bikes before the Genocide and after.  He wasn't riding a Pinarello decked out in LG and Sidi shoes like his son.  I am so sorry.....

I am also sorry for how the original members of Team Rwanda have been treated by this group.  My heart aches for Adrien some days.  He gives back so much to his local club, his national team, to Jock and I, to all the promising young cyclists.  He is a hero.  He has done what no other Rwandan cyclist has done.  Instead of being treated as a source of experience, a pinnacle of pride and aspiration, he is discounted.  I am so sorry....

In the end, after thinking about writing about this for weeks, this is not a blog of defeat.  It is about change.  Change in how we do things for the future.  Change for the new riders coming up through the system.  I don't quit.  I get vehemently angry, lethargic, sad and depressed, but like in any tunnel, you come through to the light.  This has just been a really long tunnel.  

I do not know where the future will take some of these riders who remain prima donnas.  I hope they enjoy their cows.  

A couple of weeks ago, President Kagame hosted a Youth meeting in Kigali.  Over 2,000 youth leaders attended this gathering.  They are the young men and women who are the future of this country.  I took solace in his statement to the youth,

 "They called us a small failed state but we refused to fail, we refused to be small we are not small. I am asking you to make one clear choice, the one that costs us a lot, because being big is where we belong."

I will not be defined by the cyclists who cannot see opportunity, who want to ride small instead of riding big like Adrien.  The past 8 months have taught me to move on quickly from small thinkers.  If they don't get it, they can go ride for a club.  They do not get the Kagame purchased privilege of riding the best bikes in Africa.  I do not care if you want to be small.  You just can't do it here.  Next....

I thought I had become cynical, but after reading the definition I realize I really haven't.  I still have hope.  I will trust cautiously and should my trust be taken advantage of the repercussions will be swift and decisive.  There are no more second chances, no more "I'm sorry, please forgive me."  

Everyone will work on this team.  I tried making things easier so riders could focus on their sport and be the best.  In the end, they thought this was Club Med.  My mistake.

There are hundreds, thousands of young cyclists who still believe in the dream Adrien is living, those are the riders we simply need to find.  The riders who want to race big.  

I also believe the women are the future of this sport, not just in Rwanda.  We are having an Ethiopian, Eritrean and Rwandan women's camp for the next month.  Given less by the world simply because they are women, perhaps these are the true change makers in the sport.  

The anger, lethargy, sadness and depression have lifted.  If I give up now, I will be playing small and the ones who want to remain small win.   

My license plate at home for the past two decades isn't LIVLRG for nothing!