Every morning upon arrival to the clinic my fellow workcampers, Shannon and Bethany, and I are greeted by swarms of children from the surrounding community. The first days of work I thought the attention was delightful and spent time playing with them in the dirt road. Kids in Burundi are numerous. There is never just one or two of them there are 10 or 30 or 50 of them. I think all those pathetic commercials on TV with the one forlorn child covered in flies is funny because it is so inaccurate-no child is ever just one. Fairly quickly we realized that we would have to tone it down a little. The other people at the clinic: workers and staff alike, weren't too happy with a million children underfoot.
Most of our building supplies such as big stones, dirt, and sand are dumped outside the clinic's security wall and we spend a good portion of the day relocating those items into the worksite. When we are outside the wall a crowd tends to form to watch with awe and pleasure (I think?) at the Muzungos (nice white people). The children are boldest and come up with all kinds of funny little things to say to grab our attention. A few of the children are committed fans and whenever they see us yell out our names over and over again.
What does this have to do with bike racing? Well my best buddy, a little boy named Cajolle, came by the clinic in the afternoon. For the first time in the two weeks of us being here he had on a new change of clothes. The very poor children of Kamenge eat only slightly more frequently than they get a change of clothes from what I hear. Bethany, Shannon and I started making a fuss about his fancy new clothes. I saw on the front of his shirt a bike racer graphic and when I examined it more closely saw that it was a commemorative t-shirt from a local race in Arlington Heights, IL that I raced in-same year and everything! In a country where the only concept more foreign than bike racing is the idea of a woman riding a bike it was thrilling to see that I still had relavance. And if women's bike racing means something to at least one person in a half finished HIV/AIDS clinic in an impoverished war torn neighborhood in one of the poorest countries in the world perhaps there is hope for the sport.
If and when I can upload pictures I will post his picture.