Hash Runs and the "Real" Africa
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I've been quite busy lately to say the least, but I’d prefer it that way over any other way. So… where did I leave off? Oh yeah, I submitted my Letter of Clearance to USA Basketball on a 1-day rush (costing an extra $100) in hopes that I would be able to play in Friday night’s game. Unfortunately, the USA (out )of all the countries in the group of countries that includes Rwanda and the USA) screwed up this time, and after 2 whole business days of being able to clear me, couldn’t by the time the game rolled around. I emailed them, and they explained themselves kind of, but I’m still going to try to get my $100 rush fee back. I tried to play a little bit of hardball with the guy who wouldn’t let me play without a letter of clearance, and reminded him over and over that Isa and I are putting a combined $50,000 to specifically developing basketball and youth in Rwanda – basically part of his job description, but he didn’t budge
The game was actually pretty fun to watch. My team, UGB, was completely outmatched, and outaged, and got blown out. However, my perception of the talent of the league drastically changed. There was this one guy for the other team, named Mike, who was maybe the best basketball player I have seen outside of a Division 1 college game or NBA game. He was outrageously athletic, big for a guard, and had unlimited range (even on outdoor rims without nets) and could see the floor pretty well. He looked like LeAndro Barbosa plus 5 years and plus 2 inches of curly, thick hair. I think if he was younger and understood the game better, he could have a shot at the league. I asked Jacques, my UGB coach, about him later, and he said he’s from the Congo, but has messed up paperwork and birth certificates, so he ain’t going anywhere. During some parts of the game, Isa and I went to another court to shoot around, and that was fun. I kinda forgot about not being able to play for 2 consecutive weekends. We are lucky to have Jacques find us, he has been a huge help and will be for a while - very passionate about basketball and not only that, the RIGHT way of playing basketball.
Saturday morning, I was awoken by a text that said I was cleared to play… FINALLY
Isa and I then went to what would become my favorite non-basketball event of being in Rwanda so far. Earlier in the week, Cabot and Skip put us into contact with this guy Chris – all of whom are in the ex-service UN/US training program for military of bordering countries to conflict zones – and he emailed us about taking part in a "Hash Run." I know you are all thinking that this involved illicit drugs, but it was definitely different
We get to the house, and there is “KHHH” (Kigali Hash House Harriers) in all caps sprinkled in finely shredded paper in front of a driveway. We enter the house, and see people who look like they know what they are doing. We sign up with a guy named “Rambo” and for 2,000 francs (less than 4 bucks), we are entitled to drinks and food and a bunch of really good homecooked food (Snyder’s flavored pretzels have never tasted so good) (Also a heads up – sugar cookies with jelly beans in them are really something you should all try making)
You have to follow little piles of the same shredded up paper, and if you come to a fork, you are expected to split up some people. If your trail ends in a paper shredded “x,” you must turn around, and go the other way. Because people are faster than others, you are required to scream “On, on!” when seeing the new route of shredded paper (hence the picture of our Hash t-shirts, are you on?). The trail was simply awesome. We started in probably the richest neighborhood of Kigali, where all the embassy people live, and we went out to a rural valley. Up and down steep slopes in fields of I-don’t-know-which-crop we ran, passing confused Africans who looked at us like we were aliens
After the race finished, we all drank beer and ate good food, and there was a naming ceremony of two girls who had hashed enough races to be named
After the race, Isa and I went back to Chris’ hotel to just hangout. We talked for 2 hours about whatever, and I had some Rwandan tea, which I am now addicted to. The best part is, when you order, you really get 3 full cups of tea because they give you so much sugar, powdered milk, tea bags, and boiling water. Its dirt cheap too!
Isa and I took a freezing taxi ride back and crashed. The next morning, we got up and had breakfast with Matt and Cory, a couple from Boston who live and work in Rwinkwavu and is interested in working with us. It was nice talking to some young, like-minded Americans over a solid breakfast, and I learned a lot from them, even though they have been here a month longer than Isa and I. I was very curious about homosexuality here in Rwanda – if its legal, if its accepted, or whatever. I assumed that it was taboo, considering 95% of the country is Christian, 3% is Muslim, and 2% are something else
After that, Isa and I went to the fastest internet café in Africa basically, and I watched the video highlight of Brendan Gibbons kicking the game winner vs. state. I heard I the night before on internet radio, but it was so awesome to see the video of it. Ugly game for both teams, but we needed to end the dry spell. After that, Isa and I headed off to Amahoro National Stadium to watch the Premier league matchup between a team whose name I forgot, but who everyone was rooting for because they were playing against the RNP team (Rwandan National Police). The fans were rowdy and it was great watching the game. Literally 95% of the fans were rooting against the police, the other 5% being the police that were working as security for the game
Monday, Isa, Jacques, and I headed to Butare to check out another possible site to work at. Jacques went to the university there – NUR the National University of Rwanda – and lead the team in scoring all the years he played I’m pretty sure. We did apartment searching and talked to some basketball people there. It is a beautiful university, and one dorm (pictured) puts the Sunnys at Denison to shame… it has outdoor patios! Butare is a really cool town in comparison to Kigali. Kigali is very in-your-face while I would say Butare is like a Midwestern college town in the U.S., pretty quiet, lots of students, and it has a colder climate than Kigali. Isa may be going there to work with a month-long Ubumwe camp and other organizations, while I do the same in Kigali. We met the second coming of Jacques in Butare, who was very friendly and passionate about basketball. He gave us his number and told us if we needed anything while here, to call him. It was nice having Jacques - the former big man on campus - there. He stopped about every 5 steps to introduce us to people
Tuesday (today), Isa and I cancelled our trip to Gisenyi in favor of going to Rwinkwavu, to visit Matt and Cory and see if we could build a court there. At breakfast Sunday, Matt really expressed his and his community’s excitement and vibe, and Isa and I simply had to check it out. Before visiting, Isa and I had pretty much decided we wanted to build there, because they had absolutely no court (whereas the other areas we are looking into already have courts, that we could renovate) but a high level of interest among kids and prospective coaches, and a growing community with new facilities popping up (a Partner’s In Health hospital, and a brand new Library and Learning Center). Matt showed us around, treated us to lunch, had us meet people and government leaders, and had us check out some possible areas to build a court. Fun facts about Rwinkwavu – the soccer pitch is supposedly the first soccer pitch ever built in Rwanda, and was built for the King of Rwanda during the 1920s/1930s. Also, there was a basketball court there also built for the King during the 1940s, but has been overgrown
-Rwandan T-Shirt of the week – at the soccer game, saw a kid wearing a black polo with “Obama '09” on the back. There was no election in 2009. Perhaps he was repping the inauguration…. I don’t know.
-My roommate Tommy Cawood left today for the Congo. If things on the border get better b/n Rwanda and Congo, I may try to take a 30-hour bus trip over there. Probably not going to happen though.
-Bus drivers are crazy. I felt like I was on the millennium force on the highway both Monday and Tuesday.
This week’s plans – get a quote on concrete for building a court, get my computer charger fixed, run practices w/ Gatenga, practice with UGB, do final preparations for our first Coach’s Clinic next week, play in UGB games Friday and Saturday, and possibly ANOTHER hash run Saturday!
Hope all is well over there, Go Tigers! Go Blue!