Part of the Splashgirls' training were two trips to Switzerland, to learn about the cycle messenger business. Stefan Germann, a Swiss native and the founder of the Masiye Camp, contacted the Salvation Army in Switzerland and Swiss Connect, a bike messenger company network there. Ringo, who was the head Splashgirl at the time, went to Switzerland to learn the bike messenger ropes.
One of the Swiss bike messengers who was involved is Anja Recher, age 29, who came to New York in June for the Cycle Messengers World Championships and to see the "real Christopher Street Day" (the Gay Pride parade, held in New York a week before the Championships in 2005).
I met her for lunch at an outdoor cafe in the East Village, to talk about how bike messengers in Switzerland became involved with helping to set up the Splashgirls bike messenger group in Zimbabwe.
"In Switzerland, the bike messengers are especially well-connected. There are 18 companies, all part of Swiss Connect, a network of messenger companies that do inter-city jobs.
"Two organizations approached Swiss Connect for help, the Salvation Army and Terre des Hommes Switzerland."
Anja described the initial training visit, "Ringo came first to Switzerland. She was kind of the boss. They had no clue about messengering, so she spent about 3 weeks in Zurich to learn the business."
Ringo came back to Switzerland, in November, 2003, along with Faith and Bellita.
"BMC sponsored 3 bikes, and everything was new to them," Anja remembers. "The brakes were unusual to them: they were very easy to pull, and they weren't used to them. The gear-shifters they had on these bikes, they had to learn how to use them as well. Riding a bike is not common in Bulawayo, and riding a bike as a girl is really not common."
During their visit, the Splashgirls raced in an Alley Cat, an unofficial messenger race organized by bike messengers in which the competitors have to get a dispatch sheet stamped at 10 different locations, all over Winterthur (a city near Zurich).
Anja describes the three-hour race, "It was night, snowing and raining, and they had such thin clothing, but they were determined to finish. It was a great moment. We were extremely impressed how tough they are."
Faith enjoyed her first and only visit overseas,"Oh yeah, I liked mostly cycling in the snow and the rain!! That was amazing and fun and, Wooh!, that was nice... and you know, everything just seems to be in place and intact, that side. Everything is good and the people seem to be satisfied and secure and focused."
She was struck by the contrast with Zimbabwe, "But better, really, that side, is that AIDS is not as bad as it is in Africa. In Africa you can literally see a patient walking in the street."
After the three Splashgirls returned to Zimbabwe, for one full week all the bike messengers in Switzerland donated one franc from every delivery to the Splashgirls.