Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy girls

Today was such a nice chance of pace! Whew! No meetings, just good ol' fashion girl time (at least for the 1st half of the day). We shopped... much needed retail therapy.. Lol.

Next, we chilled at our favorite coffee shop... Bourbon Coffee. I seriously need the exact Bourbon Coffee that is here in Kigali to be recreated in Palo Alto! The beans are locally grown in Rwanda and are AMAZING!!!!!!! They say there is one in Washington, Dc but I haven't looked into that yet. I don't know how many caramel macchiatos I've had since I've been here but I can tell you it hasn't been enough. So delicious! I bought a bag of the Muhazi beans to bring home but something tells me I won't be able to recreate the same experience with my little french press... but I'll be doing my best to try. If all else fails, Griffin got a lesson in making a Café Mocha directly from a barista at Bourbon... she'll be getting a few phone calls.

After spending time on the patio, it was time to switch out of girly mode and play "sporty spice" for a bit. Mr. Augustin took us to a fûtbol match of Kiyovu vs the Rwandan police academy. It was fun. Still not sure who won though... the scoreboard was broken. Griffin and I were treated like mini celebs and got to do a couple media interviews about sports and her project. So cool. :-)

Now we're just leaving dinner, and I'll just say we had a sampling of some traditional Rwandan food. It requires a future post of it's own!
One day left in Rwanda. :-/

Ok... I'm writing this up as we are being driven back to our hotel and we just had a "moment"... Quote of the day: Me: "I can only imagine" Richard: "Oh you SHOULD imagine!" Griffin: Uncomfortable laughter.  hahahaa. I think this is one of those moments where 'you had to be there'

~Bon nuit!
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Strong Emotions

Oh boy. Where do I begin??? I think I've felt just about every human emotion over the past 12 hours. Zoinks! Griffin and I began our day skyping her hubby with our concerns about our time here. Once he helped us get our groove back, it was time for breakfast and then whisked off to our first of four meetings for the day. The 1st meeting was with the current Rwandan track and field coaches. During this meeting, I presented the 25-page packet I created about the basics of training an elite track and field athlete. The main components of the write-up were: training cycles, workouts, core strengthening, weight lifting, rehab, nutrition, and hydration. While I did a good deal of the writing, it was a collaborative effort of my coach's workouts for jumpers and sprinters, my friend Chris did the write-up for distance runners, and Coach Flatow, of Monte Vista High School in Cupertino, did the write-up on hydration. Also, the physical therapy component came from Dr. Todd Arnold of St. Vincent's in Indianapolis.

The meeting went well. It was nice to have a translator who could communicate with the coaches when there were lapses in communication. They were all very receptive and had good questions to ask us. After that meeting, Griffin and I had our meeting with Serge Mwambali, who is the program manager of the Rwanda National Olympic and Sport Committee. Yeah... he's big time! And is also AMAZING! Our meeting with him, alone, validated our trip... so much so that Griffin and I actually shrieked with happiness like little school girls during the meeting... yeah not professional, we know. lol But it was just too exciting to hold our emotions inside, especially with all the ups and downs we've been through in the last couple days. The night before Griffin was actually feeling like everything might fall apart. But Serge glued in all back together, and then some. He informed us of an athletic/community site in Rwanda that was built by the OlympAfrica Federation, which is sponsored by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The center, which is in Nyanza, Rwanda opened in 2010 and provides a way for youth to get involved with sports and for parents to serve their community. Last year, the center hosted Daimler Cup and after further talks with him and seeing the video of last years event, we new that the donations I brought could be used to support the athletes at the OlympAfrica center. Serge wanted to even take a step further and use some of the gear as gifts for next month's Daimler Cup at the center. SO AWESOME! We were so happy that we found a good home for the athletic gear and feel confident that it will make a huge impact. We arranged to have Serge meet us at 5pm to pick up the gear. He read all of the notes from those who donated and was very very impressed with the generosity of the American athletes.

(above: Griffin watching the video of the 2010 Daimler Cup in Rwanda with Serge)
In between our meeting with Serge and the giving of the donations, things got REAL! We went to visit the Genocide Memorial Museum and that was heavy from beginning to end. It's insane that it all happened so recently and being at the actually memorial site, where over 250,000 bodies lie in mass graves at the entrance, is on a whole different level from watching Hotel Rwanda from the comfort of your living room couch...a whole different stratosphere in fact.

Upon leaving the memorial, which concluded with images and stories of children as young as a few months that had been murdered by a machete, by being thrown against a wall, or by other unthinkable means, I was wrought with a flood of emotions: I was sad, angry, confused, and just generally pissed off... I had all of these emotions in my head while simultaneously praying for the victims, perpatrators, and all of the people I've been walking around with in this foreign country for last few days and will be spending time with for the remainder of the week. My emotions were clouded with frustration.

Suddenly I looked up to see a rainbow over the city of Kigali. It was if all the prayers I had been praying throughout the day had been given a nod. Not only did it mean, in my heart at least, that there was hope for the future of Rwanda, but it reminded me to look around at all I had seen the past few ddays. Until going to the memorial, I wasn't directly associating what I was seeing with the genocide that occurred only 17 years ago. What I was seeing was the beautiful city of Kigali, Rwanda, rich with hard working people. The rainbow reminded me how strong these people are and how they have taught themselves to forgive one another. With all the pain that must be in their hearts, it doesn't show on the surface (at least not where I have been and with the people we've met.) However, there is a psychologist on the site that helps visitor cope with their emotions. Actually, as I was paying for the audio headset at the arrival desk, a girl who looked about 20 years old began screaming with horror in the memorial hall. She was distraught and had to be helped into the garden. If in fact she was about 20 and if she was a citizen of Rwanda, she would've about only about 3 years old at the time of the 1994 tragedy and could have been a victim. That set the tone for my visit.

I left the genocide memorial still sad for the people of Rwanda but very hopeful at the same time. I hope the project Griffin is working on with Mr. Augustine of the Sports Empowerment Club and the Rwandan Sports Federation will come to fruition and that the power of sport can help rebuild this beautiful country on a grand scale. It's a huge project that will take years to see through but I'm truly proud of Griffin's compassion and commitment. I have such incredible friends and wish them all the successes in the world with their great endeavors.

Our final dinner meeting of the night went well, but to be honest, I'm too overwhelmed to recap it right now. It's 12:30AM and it's past my bed time. We have another big day tomorrow.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

One giant BITE for mankind

This post is really much ado about nothing, but I feel the need to share that I just got my first bug bite in Rwanda. I have a dime size bite on my knee and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my malaria medication is effective. No sickies for me. :-/

And FYI... Griffin goes to sleep in a princess tent. I go to sleep looking like a chocolate Martian. Awesome mosquito netting. Malaria is bad for your healthy, and the prevention of it is less than fashionable. Facts of life. ... As I write this, Griffin just sprinted away, arms flailing, and shrieked that she forgot to take her malaria meds. Sigh.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

In need of a laugh...

and for some reason, being half way around the world, this video that I probably watched 100 times in college just seemed appropriate. If nothing else... it worked. SMILE (*Warning...not for the ears of children. Don't want to poison my babies out there.)

Still waiting to California to break off and go kick it with Hawaii. But I am definitely "le tired". Time to have an 8 hour nap.

Pin It Erica McLain ... The Official Blog: September 2011

Buhoro Buhoro

Day 2 in Rwanda and the day going is "Buhoro Buhoro" which is Kinyarwandan for "slowly slowly..or calmly calmly" when loosely translated. It's just the right pace for Griffin and I as we are about to be non-stop for the next few days.

We took a nice walk to the town center and were immediately the main attraction of all the motorcycle taxis. Just about everything about us screamed "TOURIST!!!". And yes, the taxis here are motorcycles! Safe??? I think not, but as before... "when in Roma". Haven't had the pleasure of jumping on one yet but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. Anyways... We walked around then went to "Bourbon," which was the coffee shop Griffin used to study during her past stay in Rwanda. I have to say...move over Starbucks... they make a great caramel macchiato!

After that, we hitched a ride with some guys we had met the night before to a near by hotel... Is this sounding sketchy yet? Ehhhh, it's fine. They dropped us off at Hôtel des Mille Collines. Yes, it's the same hotel from which the events for the movie "Hotel Rwanda" are based. We enjoyed the scenery and had a nice brunch.

"Speedo alert": I really thought I was going to have a chance to finally avoid "euro-style" sunbathers on a foreign trip for once. So wrong. Sigh.

To be continued.....

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mixing in the unfamiliar

First night in Rwanda complete. I'm having fun getting to speak bits of French here and there and Griffin is throwing around the Swahili that she knows. We sound like nails on a chalk board. Lol. Although English is spoken, we still have random lapses in communication. For example: While ordering dinner, Griffin asked what goat (chèvre) tasted like...our host responds "in Rwanda, people keep goats in their homes like pets." In my mind that translates to: eating goat must taste like eating your puppy. Awesome. I was going to sit back and watch Griffin eat "Spot the dog" but then I decided to partake. Oddly good times... "when in Rome".

I was at least happy to have a familiar glass of red wine to wash down the unfamiliar taste of the goat... I'll try anything once.. And it wasn't that bad.

Then it was off to the club for some dancing. We shook our bon bons to reggae, some traditional Rwandan/Swahili songs, current US hits and some 90s throw backs. We also meet some people from the UK, a guy from Maryland, and a guy who's practically our neighbor in the states...he lives in Half Moon Bay. So random. So fun. We were worried about how we would sleep tonight but it's 2AM and after all that dancing, I think we'll be just fine.

Bon nuit!
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Journey to Rwanda

And what a journey it has been so far! From spending hours at coffee shops working on my presentation to the board members and coaches of the Rwandan Sports Empowerment Club, to contacting fellow track athletes to ask for clothing donations, to collecting, organizing, and packing all the very generous items, to a near catastrophic experience at SFO involving the malfunctioning of Continental's computer check in systems, which spawned some serious persuasion tactics on my part in order insure all 3 bags made my flight...wheeewwww that a mouth full. But I've traveled from SFO to Newark and I'm now in the Star Alliance lounge in the Brussels, Belgium airport anxiously awaiting my flight to Kigali, Rwanda! My teammate Griffin is scheduled to arrive from Amsterdam only 10 minutes after me and I'm praying that things go smoothly and we make it to our accommodations without too much "adventure."

THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!! to the following track and field athletes that have contributed to my journey with their generous donations of shoes and clothing.... Thank you for helping me to provide a considerable donation to the Rwandan Sports Empowerment Club as they embark on their mission of building Rwanda's first organized track program: Sanya Richards-Ross, Sara and Ryan Hall, Sharon Day, Nkosinza Balumbu, Tiombé Hurd, Alexandria Anderson, Jakki Bailey, and Chris Emme. I would also like to send equal thanks to my friend and "best lady" Leah Tapscott, my current roommate, Diontrey, Marc Guillet and his staff at Agile Fitness in Palo Alto, the staff at University of Maryland (friend's of Tiombé), and last but certainly not least, my coach, Edrick Floreal, and the entire Stanford track & field team. These individuals contributed to making my trip at success so far! Almost half of the items donated were brand-spankin' new with the tags still on and the rest were in barely used, ready-to-wear condition. Thanks to your kindness and generosity, I reached my goal of being able to present the organization with 2 suitcases and 1 giant USA gym bag each stuffed to the brim with goodies... I literally had to jump up and down on them to get them to close (it was quite a funny sight to see). BUT MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Here are the donations by the numbers:
58 pairs of shoes and spikes
28 training tanks and sport bras
47 pairs of running tights
18 men's running shirts
23 pairs of pants and shorts
25 pairs of new socks (courtesy of Agile PT)
16 long sleeve tops and jackets
2 USA backpacks
1 watch
1 exhausted Erica.... Lol. Trying to haul 3 giant suitcases of donations to the counter at SFO, plus my own small bag, was a serious workout ;-)

Leaving Brussels for Kigali, Rwanda in 30mins. 18 hours of travel time down, about 9 more hours to go.


PS- Huge shout-out, "thank you" and bear hug to my friend Sarah who came to my place last night to drop off a bag of travel goodies even though I wasn't home. Sarah, you are sooooo super sweet and your care package was a life saver when I had to leave my place at 5:30am!

PSS- Thanks to Conrad for spending some quality "nerd time" with me to explore Rwanda via Google Earth before my trip. I think I'm now ready to conquer the lay of the land.... I think ;-) Guess we'll find out in about 9 hours


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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A day with KEEN SF

We had a great day playing basketball, throwing a football, bowling and sharing during circle time.
We will always remember 9/11 and for the 3rd year in a row, Athlete's for Hope did it's part by asking athletes around the country to give back for National Day of Service. The members of Athletes for Hope participated this 9/11 in sports clinics, speaking engagements, hospital visits etc all with the goal of trying to make a positive impact in their local communities. I had the privilege of working with the participants of KEEN SF. In a nut shell, KEEN SF provides one-to-one recreational opportunities for children and young adults with developmental disabilities at no cost to their families and caregivers. I had a wonderful experience with the other volunteers at the Embarcadero YMCA in San Francisco. I hope to have a chance to make it up there again. If you happen to live in the Bay Area, you should definitely sign-up and explore the inner-child in you while making some else smile from ear-to-ear while being active in sporting activities. Visit to learn more and get involved!
I loved his Usain Bolt shirt!
We were instant buddies from the moment he walked in the door :-)

Pin It Erica McLain ... The Official Blog: September 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Carpe Diem: The Rwanda edition

About a month ago, I was approached with a unique opportunity to visit Kigali, Rwanda for a service project and I'm soooooooo super duper excited! I leave a week from Friday and have been working furiously to organize my portion of the trip. I will be traveling with fellow Stanford track teammate, Griffin Matthew, to work with the Rwanda Sports Empowerment Club (SEC) and the Village Makeover organization (a US based NGO). A few years ago, Griffin spent three months in Rwanda building their community health radio program and now her whole family has made Village Makeover a part of their lives. And I am now joining her cause.

The Rwandan Sports Empowerment Club has already established their soccer team and is working to expand to track, basketball, volleyball, and swimming. Involvement in sports can have a huge, positive impact on the life of a young child. My involvement in athletics taught me discipline, the power of teamwork, time management, and gave me a positive outlet for all of my youthful energy. The leader of the SEC, Mr. Augustin Munyandamutsa, has a vision of brining such aspects to the lives of the Rwanda youth. His desire to expand to other sports has been well received by the community, but resources are lacking. During my trip, I will be speaking with the coaches and young athletes to help them establish training regimens as well as hoping to provide a considerable gift to help get their athletes dressed for success.

Thanks to the generosity of several USATF and Stanford track and field athletes that I've been in contact with, it looks like I will be able to provide the Rwandan Sports Empowerment Club with fabulous gift of new and used track & field gear including clothes and shoes. I will be making this gift on behalf of all the athletes who have contributed to this great cause.

Donations have been sent from athletes all around the US! It's all a big messy pile at the moment, but soon I'll buy 3 suitcases to take everything over in. It's going to be awesome! Can't wait to do the final count next week. Thanks for all the support everyone!

I'm sad to have missed the whole 2011 season due to my traumatic ankle injury, but it’s been more of a positive event than I could have ever imagined. I’ve used my time off to become deeper involved with a number of volunteer opportunities and this trip to Rwanda came as an unexpected yet wonderful surprise. I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity to share with a community such as Kigali, Rwanda and to have a network of people that can help my short trip to have a greater impact. 


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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Relax and Indulge!

If you're like me, sometimes holiday weekends can leave you feeling more tired than relaxed. It's a time to catch up with friends, eat great food, and all the other things you wish you could be doing on a regular basis. I know I had a great weekend and I hope you did too! Only now I need to unwind. So I decided to indulge with a homemade body salt scrub.

A friend of my former roommate is an herbologist and gave me a remedy for dealing with the swelling in my injured ankle, by increasing blood circulation in the area. The beauty of it is, the remedy works to relax my whole body and leave me with baby smooth skin. In the past, I've used the Brown Sugar Body Polish by Fresh. It's an amazing, but pricey scrub. I was a little hesitant about trying to make my own scrub because I never thought it could compare to the one I love by Fresh. But I was sooo wrong! It's amazing and a ton cheaper! This simple recipe is a big WIN WIN!

Homemade Salt Scrub recipe:

  • 2 cups of coarse sea salt
  • enough olive oil to cover the salt
  • 15 - 20 drops of grapefuit seed or peppermint extract for aromatherapy (or whatever scent suites your fancy)
  • Plus a plastic jar to make/store your skin's new best friend

If you happen to have the Clarisonic Plus system, it's a great tool for making the most of the scrub. Otherwise, a basic washcloth can easily do the trick. Enjoy the moment and love your newly baby smooth skin...    YOU deserve it!

Pin It Erica McLain ... The Official Blog: September 2011