Man United

[Note: this blog was written and intended to be posted on Thanksgiving however due to the lack of internet it’s a day late, apologies!]
Happy Thanksgiving America!  We are now in Butare which is in the southern part of Rwanda.  Internet yesterday was very hard to come by and we completed an epic stage (well, I called it a day at 40 miles) but regardless the miles are making it harder to think coherently at the end of the day and sleep is vital due to our early mornings.  I have been keeping notes however and will update more about the smaller things as well as get more photos posted when I’m state-side, promise!  (I could handle staying up until almost midnight while we weren’t riding the stages…but now…sleep is crucial and the internet is too painfully slow!)  I’ve got a great story about my attempt to use my plumbing skills in Kigali (of which I have none) and Bobby’s amazing negotiation skills for 1 banana in the Kigali market.  So…stay tuned!

Again, I cannot emphasize enough the encouragement and support we have received along the way.  It’s amazing to see kids running barefoot up the mountains screaming “courage” and “mizungo” (mizungo is what they call white people, I’m guessing similar to Gringo but they say it with huge smiling faces so we take it as a good thing).

We’ve also been able to race with and get challenged by Rwandan men on bikes up and down the mountains (see photo above – this man kept on telling me “Man United” on Wednesday’s ride, I thought that theme was appropriate for a pre-turkey day ride!).  These men are incredibly strong and super friendly…and give us a run for our money while we’re suffering and panting up these hills.  Their bikes must weigh 35 pounds, are made of solid steel, have rusty chains, AND they’re riding in flip flops.  All the while keeping up with us in our shiny 15 pound carbon fiber bikes, it’s pretty humbling.  Today we actually accumulated about 3 or so guys and had a bit of a group ride going for about 30 or more km, it was brilliant (and yes I’ve been rooming with a British woman for the last week)!

Later on in the ride Phil and Bobby began to race with a guy in an Adidas jump suit, launching attacks and pretty much getting their butts kicked.  So all in all, even though we’re not in the race, we’ve found ways to keep ourselves entertained (Rwanda has plenty of county/city lines to race to!) and have had a great time riding the mountains of Rwanda.

And of course an update on the race standings!  Team Type 1 currently holds the yellow jersey by Joey and Kiel is still in second place after Stage 5 (which ended in a group finish for the relatively “flat” 75k ride).  Kiel pulled out an epic finish again yesterday in Stage 4 with Joey coming in 4th.   As the race announcer says, we’re Team Type 1!  Not Team Type 2 not Team Type 3….BUT TEAM TYPE 1!!! [although I do want to correct him and tell him that well, yes, we are Team Type 2  as well representing the many people living with Type 2 Diabetes and with proper diet and exercise and meds if needed you can conquer the disease AND not to mention our racers on Team Type 2 totally kick ass, but, for the race we’re #1 baby!]

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Behind the Scenes in Rwanda with Lauren and Mandy

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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.