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'News from Roman' is a place where I write about events or experiences that are important to me for one or another reason. It is a space where family and friends can get themselves updated on my latest undertakings, and where occasional readers can learn about issues which are important to me.

Hurrah, the rainy season has arrived!

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The heat of Bangkok has eased a little bit with last few days. Rains started, and the national media officially announced that Thailand is entering the rainy season! The rains have an amazing impact on temperatures. More often than not it is bearable to walk around, although it is still very hot. We are now more likely to experience 32, 33 degrees Celsius rather than 40. As I say, still hot, but bearable.

As the weather becomes more favourable, I try restart my 'walking Bangkok' excursions. I love walking, as I think, walking the cities allows you for the best ways to learn the city and interact with it. I am even keener to do some extra walking, as I am slowly wrapping my deployment in the country… More often than not, my walks to certain parts of the city will be 'the last ones'… So as I visit different parts of Bangkok, I will try remember all what I like about them, so that I keep and cherish the memories of the city and its people in the future. Those of you, who know me, are aware that I love drinking coffee and everything that 'drinking coffee culture' involves. There are some really nice and charming coffee places in Bangkok. Some are very artistic, some are very simple, but with friendly staff and customers, some have amazing views of the river… And then I like some of the coffee places, just because they are near to where I am, and for practical reasons I hang around them often, and grew to love them.

As I say
goodbye to Bangkok and Thailand, I am trying to get my head around my next phase of my life. Things are not going well on that front. I have not yet planned and prepared anything for my departure, and somehow, I can't get motivated to get started. I keep on postponing things yet another day, hoping that the muse for packing and leaving will come… It has not come yet. I guess, there will be some panic at the end of my stay involved.

This year, in the summer, we will be celebrating 25th anniversary of the graduation from my college in Denmark (where I studied for my bachelors). My friends took an initiative to arrange a gathering of the alumni to mark the occasion. The gathering and a big party will take place at the end of July in Hannover of Germany. The date is perfect, as I will be having my holidays at that time. I hope that I will be able to plan my things in a way that I get there. It would be wonderful to meet my favourite people and catch up with them and see how their lives are going… We are certainly a group of diverse and 'colourful' people Winking.

Two months to go...

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_11d9dI have just purchased my ticket to Krakow. I am flying out of Thailand in two months… flying out of Thailand for the last time, at least, while deployed here with my present organisation. Looking at the flight booking, once again, made me realised, how fast time flies. I have been in Asia well over 4 years, but it feels like if I just came here yesterday. Then again, so much has happened, so many memories, so many adventures. I will surely remember my time in Bangkok and in Asia very fondly.

Holding my ticket to Krakow also made me realise, how much work I still need to do before I depart, both professionally and on a personal level. Need to think about the logistics: packing, closing my Thai bank account, arrange for a shipment of my goods from here to Panama City. Then I need to ensure that people, who are dependent on me here in Bangkok (especially my housekeeper) have clarity over what will happen to them and that they will not need to suffer financially, when I am gone… This, in fact, is the most stressful part, but still manageable - indeed things should somehow work out.

I am also excited. I am clearly happy by the prospect of working in the Americas soon. Before that happens though, I will spend some time in Europe with family and friends! There are many attractive plans for this break arranged already, but one of the main highlights is that Tahir may be able to visit us all the way from Toronto. We still have not received his Schengen visa, but the prospects are positive. We should be able to successfully secure it, and he should be able to visit.

Work-wise, lots of things to do as well. Except following up on my usual responsibilities, I am planning for my handover briefings, and reports to ensure the smoothest possible transfer of responsibilities to the person that will come and do my present job, when I am gone.

With all of these preparations to take place, I am following up on the politics in the EU. We are having EU Parliament elections coming in 2 weeks, so I am trying to make my final decisions on whom I will vote for. Listening to the politicians in Poland and the rest of the EU is quite frustrating though. Most of the time, people seem to be highlighting the ills of the others, rather than focusing on what they are planning to do themselves. I guess, this is a reality in many places though.

Civil Protection

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_11fdfA week in Laubegg in southern Austria has passed very fast. I came here so that I could participate in a training that was provided by ECHO, but also by Slovene and Swedish Civil Protection authorities, as well as Austrian Ministry of Interior, and Austrian Red Cross.

Together with a number of colleagues from all parts of Europe, we challenged ourselves with working out how to arrange for and deliver rescue and humanitarian operations outside of the European Union. We covered issues relating to cultures, security, legal framework, or cooperation with local and international entities, such as governments, NGOs, or UN agencies. We learnt about good practices within various technical sectors related to civil protection: search & rescue, neutralising chemical contamination, delivering water & sanitation or health services. On my part, I tried to challenge my colleagues on complexities of various humanitarian contexts in the world, and ensure that we all understand that when we deliver civil protection services, we consider issues, which humanitarians broadly refer to as 'protection work', meaning ensuring that aid reaches all people who need it regardless of their beliefs, political affiliation, gender, ethnicity, level of physical fitness, etc. The discussions and exercises were inspiring, and our trainers were simply fantastic. When you also take into account that we all enjoyed our new friendships and acquaintances, then you will understand that I have a satisfaction of a week very well spent!

While still thinking about some of the issues we covered, I am now sitting at the Airport of Graz, waiting for my Vienna flight. Today, I am going to spend a day with my high school friend: Marta, who happens to live in Vienna these days. In the evening, I am boarding the flight to Bangkok, and start my final stretch before I leave Thailand altogether at the end of July.

I will write soon again. For now, you are welcome to enjoy some of
the pictures from my trip to Belgium and Austria.

Off to Vienna

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1104eI am packing again, so that I catch my flight to Vienna tonight. It is probably my last trip to Europe, while posted in Bangkok, so nearly feeling sentimental… I am starting doing lots of 'last things' before wrapping up my stay in Thailand.

I am going to Austria and Belgium for two reasons. In Brussels, I need to do my medical check-ups, arrange for some documents for Panama, and do some of my first debriefings from my present deployment in Asia. Then, when I am in Austria, I will be participating in the training of the civil protection teams from the EU Member States. The training is meant to help us all learn on how we could be working together when responding to humanitarian crises in third countries (outside of the EU). The training will be held and hosted by the Austrian Red Cross, and sponsored by the governments of Slovenia, Austria, UK and the European Commission and will take place in a small place near to Graz, in southern part of the country. I am certainly looking forward to interactions with civil protection services of the EU, and exchanges of protocols, knowledge and experiences. Hopefully, it will be useful and fun!

I used to be so fat...

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_16e7I have decided to transfer my all online galleries, associated to 'romanmajcher.eu' from Facebook to Google Photos. As I have over hundreds different galleries, it will take a while, before the move is complete. Yesterday and today, I managed to finish the transfer of around 10 galleries. It takes time, as I open all the pictures, try tagging them to a specific location and then writing something about what a specific image represents. So far, I love the experience, as it turns out to be very, very sentimental. Looking at the images from 15 years ago is special… One of the main observations from the pictures is… how incredibly FAT I used to be…

In case, you want to check some of the pictures out, here are the links:

Archives:
A day in Kuala Lumpur.

Archives:
Working in, and exploring Indonesia.

Archives:
Spring in Warsaw, Poland's capital.

Archives:
New Year's Eve 2008/2009.

Archives:
Przemysl, the beauty of eastern Poland.

Archives:
Travelling to the southmost part of Africa. Cape Town and its surroundings.

Archives:
Ile de Re in France with ACF colleagues.

Archives:
A visit to Rio de Janeiro.

Archives:
The Angolan coast.

Archives:
Memories from Namibia.

Finally, I will be alerting you with more links, as additional galleries are completed and transferred.

And yes, the next project will be digitalising some of my very old paper pictures (some very old ones). This however will take some time.

The climate change seems so real.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_11f53The Atlantic Coast, Baleal, Portugal.

As I have already reported to you in my previous posts, I had a wonderful and restful time in Portugal. I managed to relax, visit some of my favourite sites, discover new ones, and deal with the administration duties that I have as a resident of the country.

Europe spilt me with a wonderful weather. There was enough sunshine to make you happy, but there was some rain too, which made things fresh and green.
The mixture of beautiful surroundings and pleasant weather nearly made me believe that I was in paradise… Nice and welcoming distraction for a week.

But then Bangkok welcomed me with hellish heat. It is unimaginably hot that one cannot function normally. Okay, heat is not unusual in Thailand, but even my Thai colleagues and friends complain and underline that things are really bad this year. Today, when I was walking to the office, at 8:30 in the morning, the temperature already reached 36 degrees Celsius… Imagine the middle of the day. It is actually scary and extremely concerning. I even do not know how on earth, we will be able to sort our planet out? It is even possible, or shall we prepare for gloom and misery?

I will be travelling to Belgium and Austria next week. The trip will be related to my work. While in Brussels, I will participate in some meetings, and then in Austria, I will be undergoing a training for the civil protection teams of the EU countries - the teams that are in the frontline to response to the disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, volcano eruptions, etc., when they strike. The idea behind is to make sure that all teams, even if from various countries, are able to follow same standards, when they work and respond together. As usual, I will document the experience, and tell you all about it, when it finishes.

Happy times in Obidos

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The neighbourhood of Pinhal, where my house is located.

I am in the middle of my Portugal's home visit, and I am enjoying it tremendously, even if, this time around, nobody is with me, and most of my time, I am spending on my own.

The visit to the country is special, as we are now in the middle of 'Holy Week', or
Semana Santa', as it is called here, which gives me a chance to learn some Easter related customs of Portugal. It seems that tomorrow (Thursday) and a day after tomorrow (Friday), there will be some very interesting religious festivals.

As Portugal is paralysed by the strikes of the truck drivers carrying fuel, there are severe shortages of fuel all of the country. Lack of availability of fuel, made me skip some of my plans of travelling within the country, and I decided to spend my time in Obidos and in villages around, so that I can make sure that I have enough diesel to be able to return to the Lisbon Airport on Sunday. Oddly, I am enjoying the change of plans. Obidos, Caldas da Rainha and villages around are extremely pretty, and it is wonderful to walk around and getting to know them more profoundly. Walking around slowly gives you a chance to talk to people. Portuguese appear to be very friendly and chatty, and I get very enthusiastic comments from people, each time, I make attempts of communicating in their language.

It is only 4 more days left until my return to work to Bangkok. While, I am a bit sad to be leaving so soon, I am thrilled to know that I will be coming back soon. On top of that, when I am here next time, I will be coming with Mum and Tahir!

Finally, I am preparing some pictures that I will post online soon. I hope that you will have a chance to see the images and enjoy them as much as I do.

A week of festivities

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_11e73Hua Hin's local train station.

It is a week of festivities coming. While Thailand is gearing up for possibly its most important holiday of the year, the Songkran (Thai/Buddhist New Year), the Christians are getting ready for Easter celebrations. One can feel the holidays coming everywhere. Most of my Thai colleagues have either already taken their days off, or are about to do that in coming days, so that they can travel to visit their families or friends. Also the foreigners in the country are planning their time off. Most of the people planning a seaside trip, or a short break outside of the country.

I have decided for a slightly different approach. I took a Monday off, and decided to travel to Hua Hin, outside of Bangkok, last weekend. I had a wonderful and quiet three days at the coast. Walking on the beach, admiring nature, and visiting street markets. Very relaxing time indeed (
you can find some pictures from the trip in this gallery)!

I will still be travelling more though. This Saturday morning, I am setting off for a trip to Europe. I will first visit Brussels and spend some free time there with friends, and then off to Lisbon and Obidos! So much looking forward to that. The best part is that I actually do not have lots of plans with regard to Portugal. I will just take it easy and take things as they come along. All in all, the strategy is to enjoy the moment, eat good food and sleep a lot!

Before making it to Europe, there is some humanitarian stress that I follow up on in Iran. Some of you may have heard that the country is hit by very serious floods. Many people have lost their lives, and the destruction is immense. We still need to comprehend the detailed extent of the disaster, but we are already trying to team up with our partners and
roll out a humanitarian response in the affected areas. It seems that many of the EU countries will also support the victims in their own capacity too, which is so important in the first hours after the calamity - when the needs are greatest and the most severe.

I will be updating you on how things go with the work soon. Until that happens, passing to all of you best regards.