To Shower or Not to Shower

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

This weekend, we didn't do much, just rested mostly. I was not allowed to play Friday, and since I was not allowed to play Saturday either, I just didn’t go to the game.  Isa and I relaxed most of the day, and read, went downtown and ate.  There have been so many developments with issues of my eligibility to play here in the "NBA" of Rwanda (where the coaches show up late and practices start late, but that’s just the way it is).  I jokingly asked my coach if the players get fined for showing up early, but I don’t think he understood the joke.  Apparently, I need to be cleared by USA basketball to play here, and so I began filling out an application of all my information.  Then, after the UGB team president met with FERWABA, apparently I don’t need to fill out an application anymore because I was never “licensed” to play in the USA – whatever that means.  Little did I know, this was to change, you’ll read this later.

Sunday, Isa had practice with an Ubumwe team (Ubumwe is a youth basketball organization here as well, but has adult players) at the Sprite court (called club Rafiki) at supposedly 10 AM.  So we get there right at 10, and of course, the coach, nor any of the other female players are there.  So, we just played pickup basketball.  The drop off from pro-ball to pick up ball here is not that big, except in pickup ball, people just hack you all day, and don’t consider it a foul.  Also, travels are non-existent.  However, for some reason, one person watching the game on the side was also refereeing, which would never happen in the U.S.  Anyways, Isa and I were lucky enough to have the coach of UGB and Ubumwe basketball – Jacques (also the guy who spent this last summer in the US at college coaching clinics) on our team, so we fared pretty well.  After reeling off 3 straight wins, we eventually lost, but it was hilarious to see people’s reactions when Isa or I scored.  I was completely limited to shooting 3s because 1. I was wearing low cut reebok zigs, so I was afraid to cut (by the way those are my favorite shoes anyway Justin) and 2. Its pretty hard to drive past anyone when they closeline (ok, that was a small exaggeration) you every time and it doesn’t result in a foul call.  It felt so good to play with solid, smart basketball players, and it was one of my favorite moments so far on the trip.  After pickup ball ended, Isa practiced a bit with her team while I worked out on the dip bars and pull up bars.  One guy there was really trying to practice his English with me while complimenting my chest and touching it.  Isa and I then headed to Kigali Sports Circle – or CSK, where my team played Friday night.  I swam while Isa read near the pool, and we watched Murray play Fed in Shanghai.  There was a group of pre-teen boys sitting next to us debating soccer for literally 2 straight hours, and it was fun to assume what they were saying just by their hand gestures.   One of the boys had napoleon syndrome and was definitely using his loud voice to increase his height.  Some social relations simply do not change across cultures.

We then came home, planned for this week, and relaxed.  Monday, we planned some  more, failed at an attempt to get a concrete guy to survey the building of a CHRISC court, and I had practice while Isa stayed home.  After practice, Isa and I went to Soleil Luna – a really fancy pizza and beer place that overlooks a huge valley of Kigali.  I felt like I was at a tropical resort.  The pizza was great and we joined a trivia team with a thirty-something guy and two-fifty something guys.  At first, I thought we were just going to have small talk, but Isa and I stayed until 11:45  - when they kicked us out, drinking cheap Primus beer and talking.  It turns out they were ex-servicemen who now work for a government contracted agency in coordination with the UN.  Basically, they have been all around the world, mostly Africa, training the military of nations that border conflict zones to go in and be peacekeepers.  More specifically, one of the guys taught war ethics  (quite an oxymoron, I know) – to not take bribes, when to shoot, when not to shoot, while another guy taught emergency medical care.  They shared stories of their time in the service, the rivalry that exists between different branches of the services and all of their experiences in all different African countries.  I nervously asked them if they were the “anti-Blackwater” in terms of being a morally sound government contracting agency.  Thankfully they didn’t get offended and actually said that that was a perfect definition of them.  Phew, didn’t want to get into a bar fight with those guys.  One guy had tears in his eyes when we spoke of the genocide memorials he has been to here, and said that we will never forget the day we go there.  I learned a lot about Rwanda from them actually, that Rwanda was both of their favorite African countries because it is clean, and it does things the right way.  One neat thing (pun intended) that I learned is that on the last Saturday of every month, all Rwandans, regardless of age, gender, etc., are required to clean the streets for 3 hours.  If anyone is driving anywhere, they are stopped, given a broom, and fined.  Out of all the horrible things one of the guys saw, he said Rwanda gives him hope for humanity, because in just 18 years, it has went from a state of nature to a growing, improving, stable country. 

The most powerful thing they told us was that, even though guys like them, who are near the front lines of conflict in Africa and refer to NGOs as “Naughty Girls Organizations,” that really, we are both doing the same thing, or in Skip’s words, “climbing the same mountain, just from different sides” in that we are both inspiring hope.  All in all, this was my favorite night of all my time here so far, because I learned so much, and met them.  We got their number and agreed to meet up whenever they were back in Rwanda.

Tuesday, Isa and I had a pretty packed day, as we went to meet with the AGR Youth Center – where we had played on the very first day we arrived here, and talked about partnering with them to use their court and train their coaches.  They were very receptive to our idea, and Isa and I were pleased to learn that they already have a bunch of people who volunteer at the center to educate their kids about health risks, which is a part of Shooting Touch’s program.  After that meeting, we walked down a giant hill for 40 minutes and arrived at the religious school where there are three basketball courts and cows roaming the fields.  There, we met the Father and the Superintendent.  Through 1.5 hours of meetings with bad language barriers, they agreed to let us renovate their court in exchange for allowing us to use the space and hold our coaching clinics and camps there.  Also at the meeting was Robert, who heads Ubumwe.  He is partnering with us to allow us to train his coaches, and is going to be a big help because he may set one of us up with a homestay when we travel to Butare to build a court and run camps and clinics there.  From there, Isa went home and I went to the UTC to eat some dollar zucchini bread and a buffet, and to hangout before I was to head to practice.   After practice, I came back to our house in Gikondo, showered, and immediately headed down to a local bar to watch the Spain/France football (I’ve been here too long when I refer to soccer as football) game.  The vast majority of the bar was rooting for France and went absolutely crazy when France scored in the last second to tie the game.  I felt a little more at home when a guy at the bar high fived me. 

Wednesday was a nice, relaxing day.  We term this our “office day.”  Here, we got some sleep, read, did some things around the house, and typed up official proposals and plans to our partners.  Spent a good chunk of the day in Bourbon coffee – our hangout with banging banana bread and zucchini bread (served warm) and free, fast internet.  Finished our minute-by-minute 3-day coaching clinic plan, and se the temporary dates for October 29-31, so coaches will be ready to help our camps starting November 12th when the kids get out of school.  We are expecting over 40 coaches to attend the clinic!

Thursday we did some more planning, some more paperwork.  I had a meeting with FERWABA and my UGB team president.  In order for me to play in FERWABA (the bball federation of Rwanda), I need to be cleared by USA basketball.  This is because if you play in a FIBA “licensed” bball organization– which includes everything from AAU to NCAA and NAIA – you are required to get a letter of clearance from the country you played in before you play in another country’s league.  My team president tried to get around this by saying that I played in the NCAC (North Coast Athletic Conference), which was not listed on the list of licensed organizations.  I tried explaining this to him, that the NCAC was a part of the NCAA, and therefore, I need my letter of clearance, but then I gave up and thought if FERWABA bought this idea, I wouldn’t have to do any paperwork, so I just agreed with him.  For over an hour, they both went back and forth and I understood some French words.  Only real thing I understood is sarcastic laughs and smirks.  At the end of the meeting, I had to fill out an application to USA basketball for a letter of clearance,  which, when we did the 1-day rush, cost me $225.  My team president promised to reimburse me – so I guess that means, I’m getting paid to play basketball, or at least I’m not having to pay to play basketball.  Welcome to the show, right?

Later that night, I went to practice.  Practice has really been picking up.  I have lowered my standards from a college practice, where things move on the minute, to a more relaxed, learning environment.  I decided this is the where basketball is at here right now, and there is no need to fight it, so I started enjoying myself, and fooling around with the guys, which has been fun.  In one last conditioning drill, I was paired up with this guy named Master P (probably not his real name) (he’s the clownest bball player I’ve ever played with so we get along well), and we each have to run 3, then 2, then 1 down and back, relaying off to the next person.  The whole time we are neck and neck with these other two guys, Dennis and some other guy who always wears orange so Isa and I call him “orange.”  On the last length, I see that we’re gonna lose because Master P is 3 steps behind orange, so I just take off from the baseline and try to get in oranges way.  Keep in mind I’ve been tough on the guys, trying to teach them the right way because it is pretty frustrating playing sloppy ball, so for them to see me do something fun was funny for them, and they all laughed.  All in all, feeling good about things, especially knowing that I will most likely play in Friday night’s game!

Last night, stayed up until 2 AM here to gamecast the Tiger's game, I was quietly getting so hype while everyone in the house slept peacefully.  I'm going to try my hardest to catch some of the World Series on TV here!
 
Some TIA moments  - the busses again.  The guys who collect the change and hop off the busses sell the CRAP out of their busses.  It is so strange to me, because they are selling their destination like the next best thing, but in my head, I’m like “doesn’t the customer determine where he wants to go on busses?” 

Most awesome and most disturbing moments of our time in Africa -  While waiting at a bus stop to head home from Bourbon Coffee Wednesday night, we saw a man hit an older (like 50+ year old) woman, and she fell to the ground.  Isa and I were fuming, but didn’t want to step in because we don’t know how that goes down in Rwanda.  Two armed military guys came over, and did nothing, let the guy walk.  Isa and I both agreed that if this were in the states, civil arrest, or civil beatdown would have occurred.  We both agreed though that it was smart to stay out of it.  So, Isa and I are all pissed off heading home, and this woman comes on with a baby wrapped to her back.  The baby starts to cry, and its hard for her to reach around and tend to the baby, so two strangers take off the blanket over the baby’s head and give it attention.  It was one of the most human things I have witnessed in my life.  Right after though, I looked at Isa and said “if that were to happen in the U.S., the mother would freak out and be like 'get your hands of my ----- kid!”…. location, location, location. 

Up for this weekend/next week - Saturday - we have a training session at the religious school (one of our tradeoffs so we can use their courts for the coaching clinics), Sunday Isa has practice, and we may head to the genocide memorial.  Monday and Tuesday, Isa and I plan on going out to Butare and Gisenyi to scout places where courts will be beneficial.  Then rest of the week, try to meet other organizations. 

Also concerning buses, I decided I’m going to catalog each cool bus sticker.  So far we have B.O.B., “Che Viva,” and some others.   Isa and I decided we will make a whole photo album dedicated to bus stickers.

Another TIA moment – I showered for the first time in 6 days.  I am only half-justifying this because on the 3rd day, I went swimming.  
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