Latest stories from Roman’s life: ‘@ Blog’!
It is already nearly 3 weeks this time around in Bangladesh. Time flies so fast. I guess, it does so for wrong reasons too. The humanitarian community (and not only the humanitarian community for that matter) is extremely worried about the situation of the Rohingya. The human rights violations report (can be accessed through this link here) is depressing. There is little wonder that so many people flee Myanmar and try seek safety in Bangladesh. But here in Bangladesh, there are problems too. Bangladesh is an extremely hospitable and welcoming country, but it is very poor too. While the country has accepted around 500,000 refugees from Myanmar (putting most of the rich EU countries in shame), it is now overwhelmed. In order to help Bangladesh cope, we need action. We need to find resources for developing water and sanitation, health, shelter, or educational infrastructure for the refugees, but also for the communities, who have, so generously, decided to open their homes to those in need. We need attention even quicker, as we now worry that we may be faced with waterborne diseases (yes, if you are in a poor condition and/or malnourished waterborne diseases can kill you easily). Yet given that all news now concentrates on problems in the Middle East, or with drama of the new administration of the United States, the plea of the Rohingya seems little noticed. Sad times!
I am travelling for a week to Bangkok on Friday. Looking forward to check on Tahir and his well being there. He seems energised, after our recent visit of his sponsors from Canada. It is already 4 months since we filed an application for his resettlement to Canada. Still long way to go, but we are hopeful.
I am now in process of dealing with my first personal tax declaration for Portugal. So excited to feel that I am really a resident there! It is already one year!
Two weeks in Bangkok has gone very fast. Quite enjoyable on a personal and professional level, less so when it comes to impressions on the latest developments in politics in the world.
A very good friend of ours, Paula, has just arrived to visit us from Canada. Paula is one of Tahir’s Group of Five sponsors for his refugee resettlement there. Her visit gives an excellent opportunity for two of them to get to know one another… which is crucial, given that we hope that sooner rather than later, we would be able to finalise Tahir’s departure for Canada.
I have also been very active and busy professionally. Together with my colleagues from my own organisation, and with colleagues from our partner organistaions were finalising lots of plans for our projects in Bangladesh, but also in other countries in South East Asia. Perhaps hardly surprising, lots of our attention will go to humanitarian issues relating to protection of refugees’ across the region. We are also going to work on some projects relating to increasing capacity to respond to disasters in large urban areas, such as Dhaka, Ulaanbaatar, or Manila. Quite fascinating.
The changes in refugee resettlement policies of the Trump's administration are translating to thousands of human tragedies in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia (among other countries). Many refugees, who have been in these countries for years (mainly refugees fleeing religious persecution in their home countries) are affected. Hundreds of people were getting ready to depart to the USA, after being promised by the American Government that they would be resettled there (following all vetting procedures). The new regulations have put the lives of these people in despair. No one knows whether the promises will be kept, and no one knows when there would be some clarity over what would happen next. Needless to say that those refugees who have not been qualified for the resettlement yet (but hoped to be chosen in the future) are also affected. Lots of work is needed from all of us, including the governments of the host countries to decide what would happen to these people. Regardless of political and economical considerations, we need to remember that it is unfair to keep people in a limbo. We need to find a solution on what next… and it is regardless of whether the option of the resettlement to the USA is on the table or not. In any case, I find the decisions of the US administration towards those who have been promised the resettlement to be utterly unfair and heartless. Countries should honour honour their commitments, and only make changes in policies, however tough, in a way that do not undermine trust in agreements. Very unfair, especially that such behaviour comes from a government of the country that so many people still look up to.
Two weeks in Dhaka went extremely fast. I got really busy in arranging the office in Bangladesh, and trying to plan our organisation’s plans for 2017. Given the ongoing refugee crisis in Bangladesh, much of our energy and resources will go towards trying to provide humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya refugees arriving to Cox’s Bazar region from Myanmar’s Rakhine State. We are also likely to get involved in a project preparing for an earthquake in Dhaka. Reports suggest that a large scale earthquake may hit the capital of Bangladesh in next 20 years or so. While one can never really predict the timing of this kind of calamity, it is a good idea to start as soon as possible.
I also managed to get some of my personal life’s logistics sorted in Dhaka. Finally found a small apartment, where I will be able to live comfortably while in the country. The apartment is not far from the office, and is quite small, which is perfect, as it will be easier to make it feel cosy.
But I am actually writing this post from Bangkok. Arrived here a day before yesterday, and will stay for around 10 days. While in town, I will be busy with working stuff, but of course, I will also have a chance to spend time with Tahir. Great news is that next weekend, one of Tahir’s Canadian sponsors is coming to Thailand, and it will be a great opportunity for them to get acquainted a bit better.
Finally, yesterday we visited a nice ethnographical museum in Bangkok, not far from my flat in the city. Really a nice place. We took some photos, which you can find in this gallery.
First week, after my Christmas break is about to finish. The evening is already advanced, and I am preparing to go to bed. Tomorrow, it will be a busy day in the office, trying to catch up with lots of issues that have accumulated during my holiday absence.
Living in Dhaka during some security concerns have some advantages. As I am not allowed to move around the city too freely, I tend to spend a considerable amount of time in my flat. This in turn, allowed me to to do some reading and writing. I decided to create a mailing-list that I named: “Friends of Tahir”. The list’s members are the people who contributed financially to Tahir’s resettlement fund, and all those who are interested in his fate for whatever reason. I then wrote the first ‘official’ update to the group. This made me happy, as when I was writing, it made me realised, how much work we have done in our efforts of helping Tahir out, and also how many amazing people are involved in trying to find a solution for him in one or another way. While, I can’t post all the details of the update here online, friends who would like to receive the last update, or get included in the distribution list, should write to me on my email, or alternatively to this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hoping that you have got a peaceful weekend and then week ahead of you!
My holidays have finished far too quickly. After spending a great time in southern Thailand and a week in Nowy Sacz, I am now back to Bangkok, and preparing for a trip to Bangladesh, where I will go tomorrow and stay in for a week.
It was a really good break. I needed time to reflect on some of the developments that my life has brought and have managed to recharge the batteries and get ready for 2017.
Once again, I would like to wish you all the most successful year! I hope it will be a prosperous and happy one for all of us! Happy New Year!
If you travel to Krakow, do not do it with LOT Polish Airlines! The trip from Bangkok to Krakow went okay, but only as far as Warsaw. The last bit between Warsaw and Krakow turned out to be a nightmare. The fog at the Krakow Airport made it impossible for the planes to land there - this in itself was not such a bad thing (although a bit annoying), but the way that the airline handled it was just scandalous… Lack of information, a dirty coach that was supposed to take us from Warsaw to Krakow… which did not have a working heating (mind you, Decembers in Poland are cold), and which broke down in the middle of the way, as it (the coach) was so poorly maintained. If one adds that the driver was rude on top of that, then you will have the whole picture… Truly unprofessional and unpleasant.
Reaching home was wonderful though. Mama right away decided to spoil me with delicious food. Papa made sure that I had some nice drinks, and my brother’s family made sure that we had the most wonderful and traditional Christmas Eve dinner. It was very, very nice!
Today, I am meeting with some high school friends, and later in the week, there will be more encounters with friends too. The time here will be busy, but in the same time exciting!
Before returning to Bangkok next Sunday, I will also make sure to do some shopping and will stock up on some delicacies that one can not buy in Asia. All in all, lots of fun in Poland so far. You are welcome to follow on some of the images, at this gallery.
I have just arrived to the waiting lounge of the Bangkok airport, and waiting for my plane to take me to Krakow via Helsinki and Warsaw. Excited to be going home to see parents, family and friends.
Here comes my short Christmas/end of the year message:
It has been a very hectic year for me, but I am sure that most of you could claim the same! Lots of depressing stuff happened, but then lots of amazing and wonderful things too. 2016 has definitely not been boring! It is easy to keep moaning and complaining about things, so I will not do it, instead I would like to focus on a few things that really worked for me well!
Progress with Tahir’s case – though not success yet
The fantastic news is that Tahir has officially been awarded with the UNHCR refugee status. While this is not the end of his struggle to start a new and fruitful life yet, it is an important step forward. Being recognised as the refugee by UNHCR opens some opportunities for regularising his life. Together with countless amount of friends, we are looking at available options in various places. As we do not have guarantees of any positive outcomes yet, I will refrain from giving you more details at this stage. I would however like to thank all of you, who have supported us in the ways you only could – by helping with writing applications, by supporting Tahir financially, by giving us your encouragement and strength not to give up! I consider your support to help Tahir the most important and wonderful happening of this passing year, and we will always be grateful to all of you for what you are doing! Big, big thank you! Finally in this matter, in case any of you had more ideas on how we could help Tahir – either with regard to his resettlement, getting more qualifications (like online schooling/courses), we will be the most obliged to hear from you.
The year of 2016 has definitely been marked by my efforts of learning Spanish. Carlos – my teacher from Mexico took a challenge to make me learn another language, which at the age of 44 becomes more difficult. Good news is that a few months ago, I managed to pass my official language exam at the level of B2, which suggests that I can communicate in the language in the level that allows me work in it relatively easily. Thank you Carlos for doing it with me! Really appreciate it!
Travels for work
2016 has been filled with many travels around Asia and Europe for work. I promised that my email would not be too negative, so I will only mention that some of these trips made me extremely sad, given amount of senseless injustice and suffering of the communities that I visited around Asia. On the positive side, I should mention however that some of these trips brought interesting new projects that are helping the most disadvantaged victims of humanitarian crises in a few places around South East Asia.
Sri Lanka and Portugal
I also managed to explore new places that I have not seen before in my life. Finally after years of trying to get there, I managed to visit Sri Lanka. I spent there a great week, learning about the history of this amazing place, and visiting sites all over the central and southern part of the island. I should definitely recommend to anyone visiting this gem. Wonderful people and beautiful place to visit.
Then in the beginning of 2016, I officially became a resident of Portugal! It is a very exciting project for me. Portugal is a beautiful place, and I am so much looking forward to making it a permanent home for me. I have officially managed to get most of my paperwork done, and I already hold my Portuguese social security/tax number, an EU residence permit, I have my bank account there, and a place to stay. Now, the next step is to buy a small property there, which I would then start making as my home. I hope that this will become a reality in 2017. While open to all parts of the country, so far, it appears that I may be looking at getting settled in the historic town of Obidos. Look it up on the internet. It really is beautiful.
Finally, tomorrow I am about to fly out to Poland to visit my parents, family and friends for Christmas. I have not been home for Christmas for many years, and I look forward to spend time with the loved ones soon!
At last, but not least, I would like to wish you all, the most wonderful and amazing holiday season. If you celebrate Christmas, may it be the magical time for you, your families and your loved ones: Merry Christmas. If you do not happen to celebrate for whatever reason, I would like to wish you a very nice and peaceful time – hopefully with some days off, so that you can recharge your batteries.
For 2017, I would like to wish us all that it is less troublesome and more peaceful time for all of us. May we all find strength and courage to understand each other, and to reach out to people that we may differ with… I think that we all need it in 2017. I wish you all that 2017 is full of love, happiness, personal and professional advancement to you and your loved ones. HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Tomorrow, I am travelling to Cox’s Bazar, the town and the province of Bangladesh situated in south-eastern part of the country. Cox’s Bazar is home to some beautiful beaches, but it is also home to thousands and thousands of Rohingya refugees, who flee from violence Myanmar.
You may have read that there is a severe crisis in Myanmar these days, where Rohingya minority is being subjected to torture, killings, extortion, rape, humiliation and are prevented from enjoying basic rights (including access to health, schools, livelihoods, etc). The suffering of the Rohingya people is extraordinary, and no wonder that many decide fleeing their villages and look for safety.
Bangladesh receives majority of those who flee. As Bangladesh itself in not a wealthy country, clearly the influx of thousands of people is a substantial challenge for the nation. There are many agencies trying to help, and doing anything possible to meet the basic needs of the refugees and the host communities, but operations are sensitive and difficult.
I am slowly getting adjusted to my life in Dhaka. Things are slow, and lots of my personal logistics is still not sorted. I have severe movement limitations (no transport), which in Dhaka is a major issue, as the public transportation is far from reliable. Then again, it is a very interesting city and lovely people around, so all in all things are good.
Tahir seems to be holding well in Bangkok on his own. He has enrolled to a gym, and allegedly goes there every day. Except doing some exercises, he is also meeting new people, which is good, as he feels a bit less lonely, as we wait for outcomes of his resettlement applications.
Good news is that I am travelling to Bangkok on 11th December, and will spend some time with him, before travelling to Poland for Christmas.
Incomprehensible and crazy traffic, extreme pollution, wonderful colours, great food, and some of the friendlies people on the planet… I must be in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. I love being here, and re-descovering parts of the city, some familiar streets and places. It has been 10 years, since my last visit, but the city looks familiar. warm and friendly! I am glad to be back.
I am still in the hotel, as it is not yet clear where I will be staying in a longer run. This has got some advantages - I do not need to worry about some of the practicalities, when leaving in a flat alone, but then, I would like to start functioning ‘normally’ soon, so I am looking forward to having my own place sooner rather than later.
I am getting up-to-the-speed with the programmes and work. Very interesting briefings, but sadly, lots of horrific problems of poverty, marginalisation, human suffering. When I listen to issues that our projects are dealing with, I get uneasy and slightly discouraged, as there are so little solutions that we are able to offer. In any case, it seems like I will not be bored in here, and the job will be very interesting, even if surely, it will be depressing and challenging too.
I will be here until 11th December this time around. Then travelling back to Bangkok to do some work there, and… winter holidays will start. Together with Tahir, we will first visit some resorts in the southern part of Thailand, and afterward, I will fly to Poland to visit my family for Christmas. A busy December ahead of me.
So far, Tahir seems to be doing good on his own in Bangkok. I worry about him a bit, but there are no reasons really. He should be just fine, and hopefully by no time, we will see his departure out of Thailand, so that he can restart his own productive life. In the meanwhile, we will keep him busy with studies, and exercises at the gym. Tahir appears to enjoy his work out, so he has just joined one of the Bangkok’s gyms.
It seems like the prolonged rainy season in Thailand has come to its end. There are more sunny days now, and even if rain comes, it is not intense anymore. More sun brings more optimism sometimes, which I welcome, given all bad news that are coming from them world of politics.
So, I am off to Dhaka in Bangladesh this Tuesday. Also, I have just booked my tickets to go to Poland for this Christmas break. As far as I can recall, I have not been to Nowy Sacz for Christmas for 4 years. I am pleased that I will have a chance to visit my parents this winter though. Christmas celebrations at your parents’ place are somehow special!
Tahir’s resettlement application is already with the immigration office in Winnipeg. We have got some provisional indication that it would take around 12 months to get the answer. Should this be true, this is good news. 1 year is a long time, but then again, given that we have already waited for such a long time - it is not that bad, after all. We just need to hope that there will be no surprises and that we will be successful altogether. Also, in order to keep Tahir busy during his waiting time, we will try enrolling him for some courses that would allow him to quicker graduate from his high school education, when he eventually makes it to Canada. There are some online options, and now we need to explore those and see whether they are feasible for him.
Sadly, we are experiencing quite a lot of population displacement in western Myanmar. The ethnic misunderstandings result in localised fighting, which in turn causes lots of people to flee their homes. While most of the people are displaced within Myanmar, more and more flee to Bangladesh too. The fears are that this trend will only become worse in weeks to come. Clearly, this will keep me busy in the country.
I am guessing that my next post will already be written from Dhaka. While, I am a bit sad that I will be leaving Tahir behind for some weeks, I am equally excited of a chance to visit Bangladesh - one of the nicest countries that I have ever been to.