Behind the Scenes in Rwanda with Lauren and Mandy

Image

The journey began in Atlanta, Georgia at Team Type 1’s warehouse. Leading up to the race, we’d packaged 6 bikes boxes with donated diabetes supplies.

We loaded up the TT1 vans, and rolled up to the ATL airport. With letters in hand, claiming that this was in fact humanitarian aid, we spoke to Delta and convinced them to waive all fees. SCORE! We were fortunate enough that in the midst of this process they forgot to charge us for our bicycles. DOUBLE SCORE! So our journey truly begins . . .

Note: Aleksei and Joey taking a snooze. Creepin.

3 flights and 24 hours later, we finally arrived at the Kigali Airport. At first, none of the luggage (including diabetes supplies and bicycles) had arrived from Atlanta. Oh noes!!!!….finally, they showed up, slightly damaged, but ready to ROCK! We loaded up the carts with as much luggage as possible, and attempted to bring it to the parking lot. As many of you may know, Rwanda means “Land of a Thousand Hills”.  Unfortunately, we tried to bring our luggage down one of these thousand hills, and after nearly getting run over by our own bags, some nice Rwandans suggested we go down backwards. SCORE!

Francois and Crispin, the father-son duo from the Association Rwandaise des Diabétiques were amongst the welcoming committee at the Kigali airport. We arrived at the hotel, where an unnamed individual found a snake in his/her room (according to the natives, it was most likely a python or a black mumba) . . . . Our room had a sink which nearly fell to the ground upon use, and the shower was freezing. We had our first truly authentic Rwandan cuisine and downed a Mutziig Ikonge, which means “a cold beer” in Kinyarwanda.

After a few more mutziig inkoge, we noticed that our room came equipped with only one insecticide treated bed net, which are super important for not getting malaria! As a matter of necessity, we pushed our beds together. We call it team bonding.

We messed up time zones, and accidentally woke up at 6:00AM, making that only 5 hours of sleep over the course 2 days. We were so excited to see what Rwanda looked like in the daylight. We peeked ours heads out the window, and realized that Joey Rosskopf was just as excited!

We ate delicious breakfast, and learned that Rwandan coffee is hot milk with a dash of coffee, and a spoonful of cinnamon. Caffeine headache commence! Mandy and Joey went on a stroll to the front street of the hotel, and watched the locals pass by on foot (with no shoes), bikes, cars (all Toyotas…almost like Japan is sponsoring Rwanda), moto-taxis, and with stuff of their heads. People honked, waved, smiled, gave thumbs-ups, and pointed at funny looking white people. Lauren met with Crispin to go over activities planned for the week for TT1, the ARD, and the Rwandan Ministry of Health. Highlight reel:

1. Went to a Rwandan back alley, and “hustled” for 48 notepads and 50 BIC pens for the doctor training that Dr. Edelman will be leading. Outcome: Good prices on notepads and pens…WINNING!

2. Went to the ARD Clinic where this display was discovered . . .

Association Rwandaise des Diabétiques

Entering the ARD, the first thing one sees are TT1 team cards, a picture of Phil, and the Virgin Mary/ resurrected Jesus.

3. Put together the doctor training curriculum with Crisipin while I “thought” I was introducing him to the new Kanye West- Jay Z album. He said that he was already familiar, and that Jay Z is his favorite. He also likes T.I., so I told him that I’m from the ATL, and that T.I. performed his pre-jail concert at my university. He said that he really wants to visit the US, but he’s never left Africa. You’d be surprised to hear that once you’ve heard his English. It’s really good. On top of that he speaks Kinyarwanda, Swahili and French fluently, and was part of the Rwandan National Basketball Team up until a few years ago. Also had some corn on the cob from a street vendor, which was the freshest I’d ever eaten. No pesticides in any of this food. And….a pineapple from Francois’ pineapple and chicken farm.

4. We went to check out the restaurant that would be serving lunch at the doctor’s training. I had my first goat…it’s called bruschette. I heard the goat prior to consumption in the backyard. So fresh!

5. Met with Dr. Edelman, and tied up all the loose ends for doctor training. Will report back in the next blog.

At 2:00 PM, the team was off for a training ride. It immediately started raining, but that didn’t phase us . . .we continued with the encouragement of the Rwandan people. Every mile there were kids running up to the streets, running alongside us, or screaming from their huts. During the storm, we saw kids collecting the fresh rainwater, and carrying it on their heads and bringing it back to their families. This is the cleanest source of water that these kids have. Crazy to think that we won’t drink anything but bottled water. Regardless of all the hardships that these kids go through on a daily basis, the smiles that came to their faces when they saw Team Type 1 ride by was priceless.

Let us know what you’d like to see/hear more of! -By Mandy M. and Lauren D.

Getting there and Day 1 in Rwanda!

Hi Everyone and greetings from Kigali, Rwanda!  The long trip out was totally worth it, Rwanda is amazingly beautiful and although we haven’t met too many people yet, those who we have are kind beyond belief.

Bike bag doubles as diabetes supply wagon

So let’s start at the beginning.  As you all know we’re not only here to race bikes, we’re also providing tons of diabetes supplies to the Rwandan people.  I did my part and gathered as many meters and strips as possible and stored them in my huge bike bag a.k.a. diabetes supply bag.

Alex Bowden and I set off from San Diego early on Tuesday, November 16th.  Our trip entailed 3 flights, San Diego –> Minneapolis –> Amsterdam –> Rwanda.

We joined most of the team in Amsterdam for our connecting flight to Rwanda.  After a few strong coffees we were set for the next ~8 hour flight. Thankfully I slept on this flight but Mandy and Lauren took advantage of the time to interview some of our fellow passengers and they will share in a forthcoming blog!

We've arrived!

RWANDA!  We arrived at around 7pm on Wednesday the 16th and were met by Francois and his team from the Rwandan Diabetes Association.  After collecting copious amounts of luggage we packed in 2 shuttles and a truck and headed off to our hotel for the night to get much needed sleep (at least for me – I’m not that great at sleeping on planes!)

Waking up the next day in Rwanda was extremely exciting.  Since we got there at night you couldn’t really see any of the surroundings.  Rwanda is truly gorgeous!  It’s amazingly green and mountainous (I might not like that later with the miles of riding ahead) but it makes for a magnificent landscape.  More photos to come but I did snap one from our ride that you can see below.  At around 2pm we all headed out for our first ride in Rwanda!  Our initial plan was to ride at noon but due to logistics we ended up going out at 2pm – in the middle of a torrential rainstorm!  No worries, we are here to ride and off we went.  I’m from San Diego and used to rapidly changing whether but I cannot remember the last time I rode where it started off raining, then it became sunny, then it rained again and then we hit another one last sunny spot before turning around to do it all over again.  Despite the rain our ride was amazing.  You would have thought we were a group of celebrities the way we were cheered on and encouraged by the Rwandan people as they ran by us even waved at us from the hill tops.  We saw a glimpse of their lifestyle, the mud houses many of them lived in, baskets carried on the tops of their heads, farms that they worked on.  And luscious, luscious green.

We had a few dry moments on today's ride, Rwandan countryside is gorgeous!

No those are not sweet bike shorts tan lines — it’s mud from the ride!

Tomorrow’s plans involves Phil meeting with the Rwandan Embassy, Dr. Steve Edelman giving a presentation on all things diabetes to 40 Rwandan doctors, another ride and a visit to the Genocide museum.  One quick note on that as I will go into it more later, but for those of you who do not know in 1994 Rwanda experienced a horrific genocide comparable to that of the Holocaust.  The country has come an extremely long way from those times mainly as a result of their President Paul Kagame and is now probably the safest Central African country (in fact as I was writing this sentence a UN Ambassador – yes they walk around here, it’s cool – asked me why I was not out enjoying myself in Kigali and I explained that we will explore later but that I was sharing our experiences here with friends, family and TT1 fans and he assured me that this city is a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y safe).

Until next time!

Laura

Team Type 1 – SANOFI Returns to Rwanda

Welcome everyone! This is the official blog of Team Type 1 to document our trip to Rwanda this November 2011. Below is a press release with more information about the Tour of Rwanda and what we’ll be doing in the country including delivering supplies, training and a message of hope! Check back for more posts, photos and video soon.

Team Type 1-SANOFI Professional Men’s Cycling Team to Compete at 2011 Tour of Rwanda November 20-27 and Deliver Supplies, Training, and a Message of Hope

 Team will be joined by U.S. Embassy representative Jim Greene, world-renowned endocrinologist Dr. Steven Edelman and singer/songwriter J.R. Richards of Dishwalla

Team Type 1 Founder & CEO, Phil Southerland, in Rwanda 2010

Team Type 1-SANOFI returns to Rwanda for a second year to compete at the 2011 Tour of Rwanda and spread the message that people with diabetes can live normal and productive lives with access to the essentials of diabetes care. In a country where diabetes is a death sentence, Team Type 1 will deliver blood glucose meters and over 100,000 test strips to patients in need, and also conduct diabetes care training sessions with patients and healthcare professionals across the country.

Team Type 1 will be joined by U.S. Embassy representative Jim Greene and singer/songwriter J.R. Richards of the alternative rock band Dishwalla whose son has Type 1 diabetes.  Richards will play a concert at a special event to be held for the team at the Embassy and perform for fans at the finish of each stage of the Tour.  Diabetes education will be led by leading endocrinologist and founder of Taking Control of Your Diabetes (TCOYD.org), Dr. Steven Edelman, who brings his expertise to the local caregivers about prevention, early detection and aggressive management of diabetes and its complications.

“We are thrilled to be back in Rwanda. The fact that our Type 1 athletes are competing at one of the world’s most grueling stage races shows the Rwandan patients, healthcare professionals and policy makers that anything is possible when patients have access to testing supplies, insulin and education,” said Team Type 1 Founder and CEO Phil Southerland. “The added participation of the U.S. Embassy, J.R. Richards and Dr. Steven Edelman will allow us to make an even bigger impact and spread a message of empowerment in a country where people with diabetes have had very little hope.”

Added Dr. Edelman: “Helping train the caregivers of Rwanda to take better care of their patients with diabetes now will have an immediate local positive impact, but will also serve as a role model for countries in the region and beyond.  It is all about education and motivation.”

The men’s professional cycling team, which includes athletes with Type 1 diabetes, will compete in the eight day tour while Team Type 1-SANOFI’s development team will participate as diabetes ambassadors, riding the route each day in advance of the official start and meeting healthcare providers and patients in each district.

The team’s Rwanda mission will be documented here through photos, videos and blogs throughout the duration of the race and will also be accessible to fans through the official website and Facebook page. For more information please visit: www.teamtype1.org/rwanda.