Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, July 2022
In a slightly unexpected manner, I have just found out that tomorrow I will need to be flying to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic with an emergency mission.
There is a severe humanitarian crisis caused by the detentions and deportations of Haitian migrants in the entire country. The problems are exacerbated by a very difficult situation in Haiti itself. All in all, as you can imagine thousands of people are left in a desperate situation with massive protection and humanitarian needs.
My job, during the mission is to learn about the severity and scale of the challenges and support the humanitarian responders in their efforts to lessen these stresses. Except Santo Domingo, I will be traveling to the border with Haiti as well.
I will be finishing my mission on Saturday, just in time to travel to Santiago de Chile, as already reported to you in my last post. Wish me luck! I will be reporting soon!
Christmas decorations in the Ocean Club lobby hall (where I live), Panama City, Panama, December 2022
However hard it is to believe, December has arrived already, and I am wondering how is it possible that 2022 has nearly passed and that we are preparing yet for another Christmas and end of the year celebrations. It has not been a boring year, when it comes to my personal and professional life, and certainly the world politics has managed to keep many of us on our toes. In any case, I am preparing a holiday message to you all, where I imagine I would reflect on some of the more significant highlights of the year.
In the meanwhile, I am trying to survive Qatar World Cup. I dislike football. Not a game as such, but what football has become when it comes arrogance, money it involves, brutality of some of the supporters and associated nationalism/tribalism that the games seem to spark. It is difficult not to pay attention at the games. All media feeds, and many of my contacts seem to be excited by the games. 'Vamos Argentina'; 'go Senegal'; 'Polska górą' type of messages drive me crazy. It is still well over 2 weeks of it left… Can't wait for all of it to stop!
On the other hand, I am quite busy with work. The end of the year always involves with some extra work: both in terms of closing up some of the projects, and preparing/planning for the activities for the next one. Tomorrow, for example, we are arranging a meeting with our partners from the whole continent, where we will be discussing about humanitarian challenges in next 12 months. I like these meetings. Frequently, the people participating draw my attention on issues that I may not appreciate or see in the same way, which is a very good challenge.
I am also preparing for my next work related trip. In a week, I am off to Santiago de Chile, and the Iquique in the northern part of the country, where I will be visiting projects which we co-finance, and are meant to provide some of the basic services for refugees and migrants arriving to Chile (mainly from Venezuela). Can't wait to go. Some of you are aware that I am very fond of (and a little proud, in a good way) our support of refugees in Chile. The humanitarian needs are very clear there, and I feel that our support makes a small but important difference to people who get it, but especially small children.
When it comes to Christmas (and New Year), if all goes as planned, I will be in Panama. Most of my colleagues will be travelling during the holiday season, but I decided to stay behind and have an eye on possible emergencies on the continent, ready to be deployed, if needs arise.
In January, I will be travelling to Europe again (using my untaken holiday from 2022). For a part of my visit, I will stay in Poland, with my family in Nowy Sacz, but also planning to spend a week in Paphos of Cyprus, where I should go with Mum (to escape the winter for a bit). I will also need to be going to Brussels for 3 days (work related) and on the way back, I am planning to stop in Warsaw and Miami to see friends. Certainly exciting and fairly busy trip, as it seems, and I look forward to it very much!
Mom Sucesso, Portugal, November 2022
Three weeks in Portugal passed very fast, and just like that, I am back to Panama. I had a wonderful holiday with family and friends in Portugal, and a great New York visit (however short), and now recharged, so that I enjoy my work related challenges at the end of the year.
I am now preparing for my trip to Chile. At the beginning of December, I should be going there to visit on one of our projects that we run with UNHCR, whose aim is to give emergency assistance to Venezuelan refugees arriving to the country. For various reasons, the project in Chile is very dear to me. Not only that the humanitarian needs are substantial, the project is sentimental to me, as I helped in designing our humanitarian intervention there two years ago. I am definitely looking forward to checking on how things go and how the situation may have changed for the refugees, so that we can adjust our interventions in the future. We are hoping to prepare some visual materials from the project, and once ready, I will share all with you, so that you can appreciate a bit the successes and challenges faced by our beneficiaries when starting their new lives in Chile.
In addition to my immediate responsibilities, I am preparing myself for interviews that will determine what I may be doing after my deployment in Panama finishes. Next week, there should already be some further information on potential opportunities, and I am anxious to find out what those may be. Really hoping that something interesting will come up! Again, I will keep you posted.
Cascais, Portugal, October 2022
I have now arrived to Portugal after a rather pleasant trip via Newark (see pictures here).
I am staying at my friends' place in Cascais for a few days, and waiting for my family arrive from Poland on Thursday. Once they are here, we will together travel to Madeira and then after that spend time together at my home in Obidos. Can't wait until they are here.
In the meantime, I am having the greatest time. My friends pumper me and make sure I am looked after like a royalty… great conversations, great walks and wonderful food. Life is good!
Nazare, Portugal, August 2021
I will be on the plane to Lisbon in less then two weeks! I can't wait… I have not been to Portugal for far too long now, and it is definitely time to go and visit my favourite place on earth! I really hope that this trip to the country is going to be really special. I am going to be celebrating my 50th birthday anniversary, and my family (mum, and my brother's family) will all be there. A little sad that Tahir will not be able to join after all, but then, we do have plans to meet later during the winter, somewhere in Central America (makes it less sad that he would not be in Portugal). The trip to Portugal should also be special, as we are planning to visit Madeira. The island is supposed to be having a very special microclimate, resembling European spring, all-year long! Can't wait!
After visiting Portugal, I will be busy with following-up on the refugee projects in Chile. If all goes according to plans, I will be travelling to Santiago and then northern part of Chile in December, just before Christmas. Look forward to this as well, as I enjoy working on projects dealing with well-being of refugees, and certainly much to be done in that respect in Chile.
It is difficult to believe that it is already time to start thinking of my next posting after Panama. Next summer, I will finishing my assignment here, and it is already time to start bidding for my next post for our rotation in 2023. I have already officially expressed interests in some of the posts, but will inform you of the outcome, when I have more conclusive news!
ECHO Office in Ciudad del Saber, Panama City, Panama, October 2022
Since my return from Argentina, we have been busy with various disasters in the region. First, we had massive rains across Central America, then the hurricane Fiona devastated (literally) western Cuba (as well as Florida in the United States). At the same time, we are dealing with the cholera outbreak in Haiti, and preparing for a possible emergency in Nicaragua and Honduras from the approaching hurricane called Julia (expected to make a landing tomorrow). All of these events are tragic for the affected people, but also makes us very busy here at the regional office. I am now preparing for a possible emergency deployment to either Nicaragua or Honduras if the situation is really bad, but we will assess it and decide tomorrow or on Monday.
In other news, we finally managed to move to a new office building in Ciudad del Saber. Our office has a very modern and friendly design, and is situation in a lovely park. Looking outside of the window (see above) is a joy for eyes and makes half of the stresses go away!
I am also preparing for my birthday trip to Europe, which is exciting. My family and I will be touring Portugal together. A bit of a blow is that Tahir will not be able to join us, as he has just lost his passport, and it will take a while for the replacement to be done. I looked forward to seeing him in Europe and show him around Portugal, but I guess, we will need to wait with it for another opportunity. Nevertheless, despite being disappointed that he would not be there, I am still excited to a prospect of having the rest of the family there!
I will be updating you soon on how the situation in the Caribbean and Central America develops. Keep the fingers crossed so that 'Julia' is not too devastating. In the meanwhile, please accept my warmest regards wherever in the world you are!
El Chalten, Argentina, September 2022
I got back to Panama from Argentina 2 days ago, but the experience of Patagonia: its breathtaking but severe beauty, the warmth of the her people is with me and is not weaning off. Southern Argentina is, without doubts, one of the most beautiful, if not, the most beautiful place I have ever had a chance to visit in my entire life.
The beauty of that part of the world is overwhelming. It humbles and liberates you at the same time. It is actually likely to make you cry from emotions. I remember when I walked around the Perito Moreno Glacier, trekked through the mountains in El Chalten, sailed around the waters of Tierra del Fuego, I felt like if I was in some sort of paradise that I would never want to leave. I do not want to put words to these emotions, as they would not do justice to how I felt. I can just say that I was filled with pure joy. The sights, the calm, the colours, the smell, the cold, the snow and the kindness of the people will stay with me and will be cherished forever. I do not know whether I will ever have a chance to visit Patagonia again, but even if not, I will always be grateful to have had a chance to experience the ultimate beauty and the paradise.
If you ever have a chance to visit southern Argentina, do not hesitate for a second. Just go and allow yourself to feel overwhelmed with happiness!
Salta, Argentina, December 2021
It is time to travel again. Tomorrow, I am off to Salta in northern Argentina, where I will be visiting some of the disaster preparedness projects that we are running at the indigenous communities together with our partners. The focus of the projects is related to dealing with flash floods, droughts and forestal fires, which are all very common in the area and make the population slip into humanitarian crises when they occur.
Preparing for disasters constitutes core of our activities in the Americas. Our projects derive from a conviction that the more prepared you are, the cheaper and easier it is to deal with the consequences when they eventually come.
As usual, I will be reporting my trip with pictures, and will make sure that you have a link to the images soon!