Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Next Adventure--Rwanda

During the January drill weekend I got a lot of help from getting together the paperwork I need to extend my enlistment for another year or maybe two.  At the end of the weekend the sergeant in charge of admin for our battalion had most of the papers so in February we should be able to get them signed on on the way up the chain of command to the Adjutant General of the state.

If it goes through I serve until May of 2014 or maybe 2015.  If not, I am out in May of 2013.  Either way my long term plan includes most of a year in Rwanda.  That would be the academic year 2015-16.  That year my wife would be eligible for a sabbatical.  She is a math professor so her research is very portable.  The plan is to take the whole family to Rwanda for a year.

Our three (maybe four) sons will have the opportunity to live in a black-majority culture.  Of course, Xavier has spent his entire life in a black-majority culture, but he will experience it partly through the eyes of his brothers.

So why Rwanda?  Bicycle racing.  There are dozens of terribly poor countries to choose from in the world, but not many where I have something valuable to contribute.  In Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, the country is recovering from the 1994 genocide.  Part of that recovery is a shared love of bicycle racing.  An American, Jonathan Boyer, who raced in the Tour de France in the 80s went to Rwanda after the genocide and organized a national team and a national race--The Tour of Rwanda.  The story was in the New Yorker this summer.

In Rwanda I can teach English to French-speaking kids who need to be literate to be bike racers.  I can teach English with a full bike vocabulary--and then go riding with my students.  My sons can help with the English also.  They will be 16 and 17 and able to teach very current English.

Once the boys are in college, I want to spend more of my time in Haiti, Rwanda, and other poor countries.  A lot of people my age and older talk about traveling.  Some actually do it.  The Army reminded me that travel without a purpose can be dreary.  I loved going to Haiti.  I can't wait to go to Rwanda.  I know I would love going to Paris and Perth again, but I want to go places where it matters that I went.  Even if I can't much directly to help while I am there, I can write back home to tell other people what it's like to live in Rwanda.




Family Black Sheep Flies a MEDEVAC Blackhawk

Brooklyn-born Amira Talifi, (not her real name) is a helicopter pilot I served with in the Army National Guard. She is one of seven ch...