The Women Who Dare to Ride

Perhaps I've seen too many things. I read a lot. But I also forget sometimes. Like anyone, my conscienceness can narrow to the point I forget anything beyond that which is directly in front of me. 

And the life I lead, that which is directly in front of me, it is pretty cool. I work with people who ride bikes for a living and it is my job to help these elite athletes figure out how to ride their bikes faster than other people. I travel the world doing this. And I love it. 

Cycling is a special sport. There is just something about it. Man and machine. Fighting it out against the elements, pushing limits, exploring the world. The pain. The achievement. The freedom. The places you find. The people you meet. 

But I know that which is directly in front of me, my life, it is not normal. I've learned enough to have a few clues about what it's really like out there. For reasons that I can't quite put my finger on, perhaps upbringing, perhaps travel, perhaps my voracious digestion of (quality) world media, I can no longer reduce my world to the limits of what is directly in front of me. There is always something to snap me out of the realities of my life to consider the real reality. It can be a picture on instagram, a tweet, a news article, or simply a memory that suddenly comes flooding back from a far flung place that left an indelible mark on my soul during previous travels. 

And when the world worms it's way back into my consciousness, I find myself floundering to find an appropriate response. Do you know the days?  The one's where I've just returned from a 2hr bike ride on a glorious Sunday morning and I am sat in my garden, bathing in the golden sunshine streaming through the trees, listening to the birds putting up a ruckus because I've just caught them stealing my strawberries and shooed them into the neighbours garden. And as I sit there drinking my freshly brewed coffee, downing my breakfast and taking the time to catch up on the news, I am suddenly confronted by the reality of what is happening elsewhere. I find myself reading about the devastation in Homs. Of governments closing borders to those fleeing war. Of aid convoys being blocked from delivering supplies to desperate and starving residents. Of kidnapped school girls who are being denied an education, still missing after months (which have turned into years), and are now assumed to have been married off to extremist fighters. Of sons who have been sent to become child soldiers or of daughters sold into sex slavery because of extreme poverty. And I am overwhelmed by the hopelessness of it all. More so, I am overwhelmed by the injustice. How can I be here? Living like this? How can I justify the excesses of my life? The comfort? The ease? How is it possible that I am living the same minutes, the same hours as those I read of? 

And yet, every now and again I find a little thread of hope. I find a group of people who are fighting back. Even though fixing the world seems impossible, there are individuals who are standing against the tide of injustice. People who are challenging those who try to suppress them. People finding ways to offer hope and light and encouragement to others. I read an article in the International New York Times today about a small group of women in Gaza who dare to ride their bikes despite the social stigma that is associated with it. These women are using the power of cycling to combat the oppression they live under every day. Using cycling as a platform, a 'battleground' if you will, against discrimination. "Riding a bike makes you feel like you are flying" one of the girls is quoted as saying, "I feel free". And as these women bravely stand against injustice, they inspire others around them to do the same. They inspire me.

I battle to find my place in all of this, to figure out how it is that I should live in this unjust, unfair planet. But when I find a group of people, who are using the power of bikes to stem the tide of injustice, to offer hope and light and opportunity to others, I figure I could at least join them. It is not much, too little, but it is something.