two wheels making a world of difference
Ride Climb Transform

Passion, Dedication, and Transformation

Friday
Mar 9, 2012
Jean's picture
by Jean at 8:40 am

A final trip blog from Curt McPhail, President and Director of Global Partnerships for globalbike:

Over 15 years ago I had an experience in Africa that transformed the way I looked at the world.   In an orphanage in Zimbabwe Africa I met a young boy who, without knowing it, created a passion inside of me and shrank the globe all at the same time. 

The passion would lead to a dedication to Africa that would be hard to shake.  This dedication leads me to read novels about Africa, subscribe to news feeds about Africa, think about strategies that can be easily employed to assist with the development in Africa, and this passion led to the development of globalbike. 

Last year, after seven globalbike representatives biked from Kenya to the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro we hatched a new chapter in the globalbike story.  This chapter would be titled - Transformative Tourism.  The details would involve taking people from diverse backgrounds to experience Africa.  When globalbike began to develop this idea we had several motivations.  Transformative Tourism was a business strategy as it could lead to an increase in the donations that globalbike takes in to support bicycle donations.  It would also be a friend-raising strategy as we were quite sure that the people who joined us would have an experience of a lifetime, an experience that would make them ambassadors for our work and cause.  Lastly, it would be a simple strategy to share our contagious vision of bikes changing the world.

You have followed our story.  This story is one of surprises, our amazing experiences as a group, our creation of a 30-person family, aged 12 to 69, spanning 3 nations. globalbike has always and will continue to look to surprises as the place where we grow, learn, transform, and ultimately find the best solutions to challenges we face.

During the process of figuring out how to assemble the multiple boxes of bikes, my good friend Tim Challen from Kilimanjaro Initiative said something that I found so simple but so true.  "Africa is a continent of solutions."  This is so true and immediately you can see this no matter what country you visit.  I have thought about this statement many times during our most recent stay in Tanzania.  I began to understand that this just might be what fuels my dedication to Africa.  Africa is a place where people want solutions AND where people implement them. 

For example, on Thursday night we stayed in a beautiful Ndarakwai Lodge.  This 11,000 acre property had beautiful lodges and was focused on environmental stewardship.  There was only solar power at this lodge and some running water.   Now what drew me was Ndarakwai's "solution" to showers.  Each hut had two large beams fashioned from trees with a pulley at the top.  On the pulley was a rope and just under the pulley was a green reservoir with a yellow garden hose coming out of the end.  Now when you "ordered a shower" a five gallon bucket of hot water would be delivered to your tent.  They would lower the reservoir, fill it with the water, hoist it back up and say "your shower is ready."  This solution brought hot showers to the guest and minimized the usage of water. 

If Africa is a continent of solutions globalbike became a solutions implementer.  This trip tested out theories on what would work best in a tourist trip to a developing country.  The trip also proved many of our strategies to be true;  we secured lots of corporate, foundation and individual support for this trip,  we learned many lessons that will be implemented on future trips, and we sorted the assembly of 74 bikes in an extraordinarily short period of time.  This trip would ultimately be about surprises and solutions.   

In ten short days globalbike proved that it could plan and implement a trip on the other side of the world.  globalbike proved that 30 people speaking 2 languages from 3 nations can create a bond so strong that saying goodbye is hard and emotional.  globalbike proved that when you take the term partnership seriously opportunities turn into future opportunities. 

This trip took our group through some of the most challenging back roads in Tanzania.  It also showed us first hand the difficulties of rural poverty.  In the end this trip ended with a reception where we shook hands with Jakaya Kekwete, the President of Tanzania.  The paradox isn't lost on globalbike or its travelers. 

While we sat at dinner on Saturday night the second to last group meal we discussed our personal transformations.  To hear our new friends from Kenya talk about what they learned about themselves and the world was a testament to the success of our trip.  It was a comment from Kennedy, a young man from rural Kenya that has stuck in my head while traveling back.  He said that this trip has been the best experience of his life,  he has gained new friends - family you could say.  He ended his short talk by saying while we will be separated by geography we are connected in spirit. 

It's this kind of transformation that makes the world small.  It's the kind of transformation that globalbike anticipated, planned for, and ultimately worked diligently to achieve.  It's the kind of transformation that makes this trip a huge success!

Transforming More than Tourists

Thursday
Mar 8, 2012
Jean's picture
by Jean at 12:45 pm

It will take some time to digest all that I learned and saw and experienced in the last 12 days.  I have struggled to find the words to articulate this adventure of mind, body, and soul and, thus far, feel that I have fallen short.  We had an incredible group with us and each day brought something new and unexpected - the types of things that cannot be planned for and yet define the mood and lasting impact of this trip for everyone.   Our group –all 30 of us - handled each day beautifully and, in the end, I think all of those surprises were the key to the incredible bond formed by our group.  As I consider the effect of this trip - of seeing Kenyans, Tanzanians, and Americans aged 12 to 69 all laughing together at our bus stuck in the mud and out of gas in the middle of a wilderness preserve; of seeing Bossi and Chege strut out of their tents at Ndarakwai sporting zebra-printed luxury robes (and huge grins) that they’ll wear for a pick-up game of futbol; of feeling my legs burn with intensity as I pedal my way up a final hill and see a crowd of globalbike jerseys awaiting me; of watching from afar as the shyest member of our group opens up during a video interview and is consoled and encouraged by Sally and Bernard, creating a new and lasting bond of understanding - I finally settle on one word: moving.

Ride. Climb. Transform. 2012 has moved me.  It has moved me beyond my physical boundaries.  When you pedal through the rural fields that hug the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro the words “I can’t” no longer seem relevant.  Each day I was propelled forward by rolling images of a captivating landscape rich in color and even richer in culture, which I couldn’t imagine abandoning for a seat in the bus.  The strength of those working in their own fields to my left and my right, cultivating and harvesting, reminded me of the strength of my own two legs.  The sincere words of encouragement they would often share from the roadside, wishing me well (in Swahili) as I trudged forward, sprang wells of motivation and “I can” within me.   This trip moved my physical being in more ways than I can recount.

It also moved the suddenly arbitrary and irrelevant boundaries of my heart.  Walls that one does not even realize exist have a way of both materializing and then fading away on a trip like this.  Walls that form the foundations of doubt evolved into windows of unanticipated opportunities.  I think this may be the magic of realizing that each day will bring what it brings and it is our job to accept, embrace, and respond in kind – nothing more and nothing less is expected of us.  Through that awakening, my heart eased its way into seeing every person we met, every question that arose, and every moment of sharing between our 30-person family as a gift, an opportunity, an ephemeral snapshot of our place in the world.  Over the course of the last 12 days, my heart shifted.

And there is no doubt that my mind is forever altered.  Possibly off-kilter a bit, by some standards, but unquestionably in a better plane than where it rested before.  I participated in the first Ride. Climb. Transform., which took place a year ago in February 2011 and essentially served as a test-run for what eventually became Ride. Climb. Transform. 2012.  When I returned from that trip last year, I struggled to put the sights, sounds, and emotions of the trip into perspective – to do justice to the differentness I witnessed without perpetuating the stereotypes and misperceptions of what many see as a monolithic “Africa.”  This year, I believe I understand more clearly than ever how one does justice to such an experience and to the dignity of the individuals you meet and the new relationships established.  And it is surprisingly simple – you focus on the people, and on the mind, body, and soul that each person you encounter brings to bear.  That is the essence of our global community.  Humans are humans.  That message is lost when you settle your conversations on the incidence of poverty, on the constructs of a family’s home, on the haves and have-nots, on the material wants and needs and assumed desires.  Our physical well-being and health and safety matters – of course – for everyone in the global community.  And we should continue to serve one another’s needs as worldwide neighbors.  But we should all allow our mind and heart to first experience the transformation of seeing humans as humans, and of understanding the differentness in one another through a lens of personal bonds, of shared experiences, and of mutual learning.

globalbike created this trip to transform people – to share an experience in the power that two wheels can bring in the developing world.  In theory, the change was intended for the participants not the organizers.  This trip no doubt transformed and moved each of the participants – but it also moved its organizers. 

Great organizations take every moment, every surprise, every interaction and try to learn the most from it.  Working in the developing world creates literally thousands of these.  While I and each participant will no doubt be different from the trip so will globalbike.  We now understand our global partners a bit better, our opportunities for impact are clearer, and we have a stronger commitment to not just transforming our trip participants, but our world.

What I learned from falling off the bicycle

Thursday
Mar 8, 2012
by Dudley at 9:23 am
Sally Hammond of Converse College was taken to the hospital for a precautionary visit after she fell during the globalbike cycling trip through Tanzania. Here, she arrives at Lake Chala after the first day's cycling ends.

Sally Hammond of Converse College was taken to the hospital for a precautionary visit after she fell during the globalbike cycling trip through Tanzania. Here, she arrives at Lake Chala after the first day's cycling ends.

By SALLY HAMMOND

In cycling, falling off the bike comes with the territory. At least, that’s the case for me.

I’m fairly new to this sport, and while I feel more confident and capable with every ride, I’m learnng that it’s the rare cyclist who can outmaneuver every unpredictable rough patch.

Sally Hammond

Fortunately, my scary spill in Tanzania was nothing more than that. Just scary. After four hours in the Kilimanjaro Medical Center (another story in and of itself), the x-rays of my neck showed no signs of injury, and my globalbike comrades and I were cleared to leave. Walking gingerly through the hospital hallways in sock feet, bruised a bit, and covered in the red dirt we’d been riding through, I could see we were quite a curiosity. The nurses, doctors and patients were clearly puzzled by our presence. The stares we got going back to the bus made me want to stop and tell our story.

I could see the questions in the eyes of the onlookers: “who were these Africans and Americans clad in cycling togs and looking every bit like friends?” and “what brought them together to ride bicycles in this remote corner of the continent?” Oddly enough, I have a feeling that it won’t be long before the word “globalbike” becomes a one-word descriptor in Tanzania to answer questions like those.

Back on the bus headed for the Honey Badger Lodge, we waved goodbye to the strangers who found us so strange and rode off to reunite with the rest of the riders waiting for us.

What happened next will forever be etched in my mind’s eye. It was a scene that sums up my sentiments about this trip and points to the essence of what happened while we were in Tanzania.

When we stepped off the bus at the campsite, there were cheers and tears. The whole team turned out to welcome us home, relieved that I was well and we were all together again. The reception line of well-wishers waiting for us and the exchange of love we shared will be a cherished memory – it was a crystallization of our connection and proof that people from very different pockets of the world can find common ground. Not only did we find it, we sought it out in one another. After days of living together, delving into one another’s stories, sharing meals as group, after pedaling up and down and around Mount Kilimanjaro, we moved beyond language, cultural and ethnic barriers and became a community. We sincerely cared about each other, and on that night, we embraced that bond by embracing one another.

By the end of this journey, it would be apparent that “them” and “us” were descriptors for who we had been when we were first introduced, but now our rag-tag team of tired riders, young and old, black and white, American and African, men and women, boys and girls, were a blended “we.”

This brilliant idea about tranformative tourism worked, and the lessons we have learned from it, big and small, are significant.

I know that I am forever changed for what I experienced with globalbike in Africa. I’ve seen what can happen when people cultivate meaningful connections and care about a common goal. I’ve seen what can happen when we act on behalf of “we”.

Sally Hammond is vice president for enrollment and marketing at Converse College. She wrote this dispatch from the Babylon Lodge in Marangu, Tanzania on March 4, 2012.

"They are workers in the field of human kindness"

Thursday
Mar 8, 2012
by Dudley at 9:16 am

Joan Tobey, 69, is a math teacher at the Spartanburg Day School. She rode her bicycle around Mount Kilimanjaro with globalbike.

Joan Tobey, 69, is a math teacher at the Spartanburg Day School. She rode her bicycle around Mount Kilimanjaro with globalbike.

By JOAN TOBEY

When I signed up for the globalbike trip to Tanzania, I expected to be transformed. But, on that first night with the group at the Babylon Hotel, when asked what kind of transformation I expected, I naively had not anticipated exactly what to say. In retrospect, I expected to feel a satisfaction that does not easily come from the send-in-a-check kind of impersonal giving that is so much the norm for me. I would be part of the actual bringing of real bikes to real people in a real place far removed from any familiar experience. I thought that would feel good. What I did not expect was how much the people in our group, representing three countries, and the people of the Tanzanian countryside, would give to me. It has been a lesson in optimism, hope, and generosity.

Joan Tobey

Imagine, if you will, a scene in which your daily labor is interrupted by a small horde of soaking wet cyclists of all colors and races, each speaking a language you barely understand, who appear on your porch to get out of a driving rain. Do you step outside to greet them and stand talking to them while the rain pounds the ground and waters swirl through gullies as our impromptu hosts did? Or do you let fear of strangers reign as I imagine myself doing under similar circumstances?

Imagine, too, that you are cultivating a massive field with just a rudimentary hoe, no tractor, no shovel, just the hoe, day after day. You see a group of dirty, sweaty, strange-looking cyclists ride by. Do you stop and shout encouragement, smile and answer, “Pole, Bibi.” (You go, Grandma!) as the last (me) struggles up the endless hill? There was not an unfriendly worker to be seen. Children who looked ten years old or less, tending small herds of goats or cows on impossibly barren land, smiled and greeted us as happily as the women. True, some had an initial fear of us Msungu (white folks) who made up the globalbike portion of the crowd, but they warmed up, shook hands, high-fived, after little encouragement. Again, no fear, optimism.

Imagine a group of girls, aged 12 to 24, united in their love of boxing and in their stories of the tough lives they led before finding Box Girls. Would you expect to learn about life lessons from these Kenyans? We did just that as first Sarah, then Ita, and last Tabitha urged us to have hope, to keep our goals in mind and to focus, use self-discipline to attain those goals.

And Kinjah’s Simbas, those energetic and sweet guys, riding slowly with the Bibi, coming forth with a strong hand to push me, literally, up one hellacious hill after another, teaching me Swahili and about their world.

I could go on and on. The list of inspiring people we met is a long list starting with folks on the plane, one heading to check on a school she helped start, another a musician giving concerts with African musicians in an effort to bring awareness about violence against women, others who ditched the corporate world to volunteer or start businesses in Tanzania where life would have a meaning they could live with. And on it goes.

So, transformed? Yes. I think of globalbike as a perfect local example of how one small group can effect true change in the world, person-to-person change. I saw that there are many others who throw themselves into the need, one person at a time, bringing real change, real hope into a world that one could fairly describe as bleak. They are not daunted by the magnitude of the task or the great distances, both physical and otherwise, between us citizens of the planet; they are workers in the field of human kindness. See a stranger, help a stranger. Simple, personal, effective, life-changing, world-changing.

Is this transformation permanent?  I hope so. Time will tell.

Joan Tobey, 69, is a math teacher at the Spartanburg Day School. She rode her bicycle around Mount Kilimanjaro with globalbike.

Memories from Tanzania

Thursday
Mar 8, 2012
by Dudley at 9:11 am
Wofford English professor John Ware pedals through scenic countryside with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background.

Wofford English professor John Ware pedals through scenic countryside with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background.

John Ware emerging from his room on the first morning in Tanzania, right before breakfast: "I remember it most distinctly because we arrived late the night before and this was our first opportunity to see where we were."

By JOHN WARE

I thought that I’d list four highlights of the trip for me.

1. Meal: Breakfast at the Kiboko Lodge near Arusha. The meal was good (bananas, chipati, eggs, and coffee), but I remember it most distinctly because we arrived late the night before and this was our first opportunity to see where we were.

2. Activity: Football. Strange as it may sound, our cycling trip actually began and ended with football. Shortly after meeting the Kenyan and Tanzanian members of our group, David Kinjah from the Safari Simbaz cycling team found a local soccer field near the Babylon Hotel where we were staying. Although community teams were on the field already, we staked out a small pitch behind one goal and provided an alternative match to watch.

The ride from Snow Cap Cottages to Ndarakwai Lodge had a "dusty, high-speed finish."

3. Ride: Snow Cap Cottages to Ndarakwai. While every section of the route provided thought-provoking imagery, this section featured a number of villages, encounters with the Masaai tribe, vistas of Kilimanjaro, baboons, and a dusty, high-speed finish.

Kennedy Oduor Onondi, a Kenyan representing the Kilimanjaro Initiative, stands with members of globalbike as he prepares to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

4. Moment. Any number of moments might fit this slot; however, the transformation of Kennedy Oduor Onondi, a Kenyan representing the Kilimanjaro Initiative, from cyclist to mountaineer stands out. Since we stayed to deliver bicycles to various community leaders and to attend the flagging off ceremony for the Africa UNiTE climbers, we were able to see Kennedy process in with the other climbers.

"This trip demonstrated the ability of sport to bring people from diverse backgrounds together as a community."

John Ware is an English professor at Wofford College. He cycled around Mount Kilimanjaro with globalbike during Feb-March, 2012.