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.