The Blog


Latest stories from Roman’s life: ‘The Blog’!

One of our Ahmadi friends is already resettled to Canada!


One of our Ahmadi friends, who was a refugee here in Bangkok made it Canada last week. He is a beneficiary of the same programme that Tahir is enrolled on, and he applied around 2 months earlier that him. Although the case of the friend is not at all any promise of success for Tahir, it somehow made me feel good. Number one, the guy, who got to Canada, really deserves it (he went through some really nasty stuff back home in Pakistan and here in Thailand), and number two, the case demonstrates that the system can work. Some reasons for optimism! Hurrah!!!

Then, finally I got a bit clearer what my plans will be for next two months. It appears that next week, I will be at the HEAT course (see the earlier post), and then will go for a short mission to southern part of Thailand to visit some of the refugee detention centres in Songhla Province. After a busy end of March, it is a holiday time in early April! The plans is that I am going to spend most of my time in Portugal, but also a day in Vienna of Austria, and some days here in Thailand (right before reporting back to work). In the middle of April, I will be deployed with a mission to Bangladesh again. I will be between Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar for a month. As you all know, I have a very soft spot for Bangladesh, and I love the country very much, so it all makes me quite happy.

Some busy time, filled with lots of travels ahead! Will be reporting and taking pictures. Hope you all have a good weekend, which is just about to start!

A refreshed designed of the website


I am experimenting with a slightly modified and refreshed design of the website. While I am getting it tested, there may be some glitches and issues. I will be trying to get them sorted soon. Please bear with me!

HEAT training


While I am still not sure whether I will actually be able to attend (due to lack of clarity whether I am going to be on an emergency mission next week, or not), I am preparing for one of the options that I may pursue next week, and that is a HEAT training, in the town of Hua Hin, west from Bangkok. Although the name can be misleading, it is not about climate change, or anything to do with the temperature… HEAT stands for Hostile Environment Awareness Training, and is designed for people working in places where there is a high prevalence of brutality relating to conflicts, or crime, or even natural disasters. I already participated in HEAT before, but it was a long time ago, and it is now necessary/obligatory for me to refresh it. I remember, last time during the training in the hills above the Lake of Naivasha in Kenya, together with a group of colleagues we actually got taken hostage/kidnapped violently (as a part of a learning experience). It felt very real, and it was scary, but also extremely helpful - especially the debriefing part of the experience. So, quite looking forward to experiencing how the trainers are going to challenge us this time around. That is, of course, if I make it to the training in Hua Hin at all.

Unpredictabilities in life


I definitely believe that we should take unpredictabilities of life as given, and accept them as they are. There is only as much as you can control, and it is okay, it is even a part of beauty of our existence. Last few weeks have been difficult though. A fact that we still wait for Tahir’s rubber-stamping of his application to resettle to Canada is a source of a major stress. Worrying about his future makes me feel uneasy about taking personal and professional decisions - as I am scared of spoiling it in the last phase of the application. I need to be ready to step up any assistance that may be required in his application at any time. Trouble is that we do not know when this can happen… 

Worrying about things that I can not change makes me stressed out about things that are far less important, and easy to deal with. I am for example confronted with a possibility of being deployed in emergency in Bangladesh. Decisions are however not taken, and there is a bit of unknown, where I am going to be next week, or month. Normally, I would not be that bothered with it, in fact, I actually enjoy this kind of lifestyle, where things change and things surprise you, but now this unknown makes me feel uneasy and worried. Perhaps it is ageing, or perhaps I am experiencing what a lot of people with dependants do? Perhaps I just worry about a well being of a person who, I know, is vulnerable and needs my support for some time to come? Whatever it is, I am feeling a bit miserable. 

There is some very good news too though! My trip to Tonga a few weeks ago seems to have resulted with some extra funds to the people affected by the devastating cyclone that hit the country. It is now official that we are supporting our support to the humanitarian response has gone up from €100K to €400K! This really makes me happy, as I am convinced that many communities in this small country do need some quick aid until the reconstruction programmes of the Government of Tonga will eventually reach the people. 

Perhaps, the news relating to our programmes in the Pacific should be a good lesson: it is better to focus on positives at hand, rather than at stressful unknowns that have a chance to turn out to be positive at the end.

As the night approaches in Bangkok, I would like to wish you all a very good week!

Shukhotai is magical


Just returned to Bangkok from an extended weekend in Shukhotai - an ancient city in central/northern part of Thailand. It seems like I may have discovered a place that could easily be described as magical. The old town is breathtaking. I am preparing a picture gallery for you to see soon. 

As I still have images of ancient temples in my mind, I am preparing for a busy week, a part of which will be a trip to Jakarta, where I am going to go on Wednesday. As I mentioned previously, I am going there to ponder about access to victims of humanitarian disasters in countries of Asia. More on this, right after I am ready with my meetings, at the end of the week.

Being exhausted


I do not remember when I felt so physically exhausted, as I am feeling now. The trip to the Pacific took lots of my energy as it was a very hectic and busy experience.  Returning to Thailand - the time zone that is 6 hours behind did not help either. I feel sleepy and tired! The good news is that we have got a long weekend here starting tomorrow, and I will be able to rest a little. The plan is to drive north to the ancient city of Sukhothai, and stay there for three nights, enjoying sights and doing pretty much nothing - as much as only possible. I love travelling to places with historic buildings, so I am sure that a place that appears on the UNESCO Heritage should make me happy! 

After returning from the north, I will have a busy week. Monday and Tuesday in Bangkok, finalising technical details of my trip to the Pacific, and then on Wednesday off to Jakarta of Indonesia, where I will be working on issues relating to urban refugees in South East Asian countries, and participate in talks with colleagues from International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) on humanitarian access across countries in Asia. Very interesting and important, given that more often than not it is difficult to reach people in humanitarian distress. Lack of access often relates to physical obstacles (blocked roads, lack of transport, etc.), but also to lack of willingness from authorities to allow humanitarians witness the suffering of the residents they are in charge of. We will be discussing how to go about such obstacles in an effective and safe way. 

We do have some more progress on Tahir’s application to move to Canada. When I was in the Pacific, he was invited to collect his biometric data, so that he could later be issued travel documents: one more step towards the end of the process!

On the way back home!


After a week’s long mission to Fiji and Tonga, finally on the way back to Bangkok. Writing this post from Sydney, where I have around 20 hours layover. Just about to have my breakfast, and then will go to explore the city a bit. Then taking a flight to Bangkok in the afternoon. I will write an account on my visit to the Pacific, once reaching Thailand. 

In the meanwhile, greetings to everyone!

Fiji and Tonga


A devastating Cyclone Gita is ravaging island nations of Tonga and Fiji, as I write this. While we do not have much news on the humanitarian situation yet, it is clear that the situation is likely to be dire. 

In order to seed up the humanitarian response to anticipated needs that people of Tonga and Fiji may have, I am set to travel first to Suva and then to Nuku’alofa tomorrow. 

I am likely to be in the Pacific for around 10 days. I will therefore not be going to Mongolia for a time being. 

Depending on my access to the Internet, I will be reporting my whereabouts and experiences, as the mission goes on.

A waiting game continues


Tahir’s interview with the Canadian Embassy is done, and now we are waiting for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to get in touch with him and invite him for the medicals. We hope it will not take too long, but there is no indications on when we should expect it. All this waiting gives me a major stress. Even though I am aware that his case appears to be optimistic, I would really like it to be over, the soonest possible. Tahir’s life has been in a mess for so many years, and he deserves that things will turn around and that he would be able to become more independent, and in charge of his own destiny, rather than needing to make compromises that limit his aspirations. Tahir is okay here in Thailand, and there is nothing that he misses, when it comes to daily, basic needs. However, this being written, his situation does not allow him to develop his professional skills, or to fully follow his dreams. In a way, he lives in a golden cage, where he survives comfortably, but is not fully in charge of his destiny. This is not an easy situation to be with for anyone. Yes, I know that many people - also here in Bangkok, including his own community, are in a much worse situation. Nevertheless, I dream for the day to come, however selfish it sounds, when he is granted his right to settle in Canada and his refugee ordeal is over. I will miss him terribly, but will also be the happiest person on earth to see him taking the plane destined to Toronto.

The other day, I was thinking about his potential prospects in Canada. If he makes it there, it will surely be exciting, but also difficult. Settling in a new country is always complex. Surely, there will be lots of exciting experiences: learning new culture, meeting new friends, getting to know his new country. But then, there will be frustrations too: needing to catch up on so many levels, needing to make decisions on how involved he wants to be with his community versus embracing and opening to people from other communities and cultures, dealing with loneliness and homesickness. There may be financial worries, and many other challenges, Despite all these, I hope that he will be allowed to go trough all these exciting and frustrating stuff, free from a fear of hatred for whom he is, or he is not, not needing to worry about not being considered ‘legal’. He deserves it this privilege the same way that all the other human beings do.

So the waiting game continues, while we keep our hopes for his future high. 

On another note, I am preparing for my work related travel to Mongolia. I will be travelling to Ulaanbaatar, and then to the eastern part of the country next Sunday. While in Mongolia, we will be looking at the impact of the project that we support and that is meant to help the nomadic communities of herders to better cope with severe winter weather hazards (known as dzud). 

A fun weekend in Ko Si Chang


Ko Si Chang is a small and rather unknown island, off the coast in eastern Thailand (near the city of Chon Buri). Despite its beautiful nature, it is hardly known to tourists. I am suspecting that the main reason being that the island is not home to a noisy nightlife. There are no bars there, and not many restaurants. Yet, one can find pretty much everything one needs for a comfortable visit though. The guesthouses are clean and cute, and have wonderful views (especially the ones on the western side of the island), there is plenty of seafood. Some pictures from the trip are available in the gallery under this link

I really needed some time in the island, so that I could think of plans for next few months. Tahir’s potential prospects of resettlement will bring lots of work in coming weeks, some stress, lots of changes, and hopefully lots of joy at the end. We need to prepare for all of this really well. 

The beginning of the year brought us some changes into our work too, so I was strategising my work priorities too. I will now be focusing less on particular countries, but then will get involved in policy and advocacy work that will involve the whole region of South Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific. Much of my work will go to issues around forced displacement, refugee movements, and disaster risk reduction and response to disasters. Serenity of Ko Si Chang was somehow helpful to look at all the challenges with some peace of mind, and allowed to re-charge the batteries.

Now, it is time to start preparing my next professional mission, which is likely to be Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia!

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