welcome to romanmajcher.eu 'News from Roman' is where you can learn about the latest events, experiences and adventures from my personal and professional life.

A change of plans

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My work plans have changed slightly, and there is a small adjustments of my professional related trips for weeks to come.

As per latest adjustments, I am postponing my trip to Honduras (new date to be determined) that I was supposed to be having next week, but will go to Caracas in Venezuela in the first part of November (right after returning from my holiday in Portugal). Then, in the third week of December, just before Christmas, I will be visiting our office in Quito in Ecuador.

I am a bit sad that I am not going to Honduras now, but very excited about the trips to Venezuela and Ecuador!

Life is a journey that is difficult to comprehend

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Panama City, a view from the Panama Bay


Life is a journey, a journey that is, sometimes, difficult to comprehend… Yes, I am having a 'blue' day, I am in a bad mood, after learning the outcomes of the elections in Poland. As the exit polls suggest, the power will remain with the party that is forming a present government… This makes me sad. It makes me sad, as even though, I appreciate some of the social projects that the present government has introduced in the country, I passionately disagree with the policies of our government on refugees, international aid, their take on gender equity, their take on the place of religion in the society, and definitely I will never be able to accept their take on promotion of 'traditional values' - which in my mind are discriminatory towards all sorts of minorities, starting with sexual minorities, through religious ones, and to some extent towards certain ethnic groups. I guess, what I am writing is that I feel uncomfortable to confront an idea that such a large group of Poles would subscribe to these ideas. And yes, even if, the left wing parties have scored unusually well this time around, it does not make me feel much better at all. I feel pessimistic about my own country, and I just need to work out how not to feel entirely overwhelmed by the state of affairs in the country, where I come from.

Here in Central America, we are recently very worried about the happenings in Ecuador.
The country has been on fire for last days, and it appears that things may need to get worse, before they get better. The standoff between the president of the country, the trade unions and some of the ethnic groups continues to pose threat to safety of residents of Quito and beyond. While we hope that things will calm down, we are looking at the humanitarian situation of the people affected by the ongoing violence and the political chaos.

On a happier note, I am preparing for my November holiday. I am very excited to be planning my free days in Toronto, and then Lisbon as well as Obidos. I am really excited to be able to visit Tahir again, and check out on how his life is progressing in Canada. Then, very, very happy to be heading to my Portuguese home too!

Panama City apartment ready!

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After weeks of arrangements, shopping and unpacking of the boxes that I had brought from Bangkok, my apartment in Panama City is ready to live in comfortably and to receive guests!

You may remember that I have managed to find a small apartment in the older part of the city, called Casco Viejo.

Casco Viejo constitutes a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, and is filled with beautiful Spanish era houses, small streets, countless of small shops and restaurants. It really is lovely.

The flat itself has the Latin feeling. There are so many things I like about it… but my absolute favourites are the tiled floors and a spectacular terrace, from where one can admire views of the old and new parts of Panama City!

Please consider coming over here! I will be thrilled to have you here, and spend with you time in this beautiful part of the American continent.

Work adjustments

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Memories: magnets from my various travels.

Our office in Panama is still very new (barely 3 months old), but covers operations in Latin American and the Caribbean countries, which is, of course substantial, when it comes to geographical. Given the diversity of our area of responsibility (political, cultural, ethnical, national religious, climatic or geographical), our projects cover various thematic areas. So we look after the victims of internal conflicts, refugees fleeing for safety, victims of natural disasters, or disasters that are caused by industrial or agricultural activities (for example forestal fires). The magnitude of our work requires that we still need to adjust our resources to all projects in a way that we be effective and that some of us are not over-burdened. Last week, this is precisely what we tried doing. We looked at our job descriptions, and decided to make some fine-tuning. As a result, I got some extra tasks! Except for being responsible to lead the humanitarian responses to acute stresses in all of the countries of the region, I will also be in charge of following-up our longer term activities in Brazil and Argentina. I welcome the development of my job, and I am very excited with the new challenges!

On a personal note, I was also very busy in arranging my next trip, and I was finalising my tickets to travel to Toronto and Lisbon. In a little over three weeks, right after I return from my work related mission to Honduras, I am setting off for my vacations! Can't wait to meet Tahir and other friends in Canada, and very, very excited to be visiting my Portuguese home too!

As the elections in Poland are coming in 1 week, I keep on studying the programmes and manifestos of some of the parties that I consider supporting. Clearly, my preferences are on the left side of the political spectrum… the trouble is that the left side of the politics in Poland is fragmented and the choice is somehow complicated. Still a week to make a decision who I would like to represent me at the parliament, before casting my vote at the Embassy of Poland in Panama City.

Also, finally my stuff has arrived with the cargo shipment from Bangkok, and I got reunited with some of my favourite belongings, including my fridge magnets, which I will now proudly Winking display at my Panama flat again!

Travelling to Honduras

Hondueas flag

As ECHO is in the middle of implementing some very interesting projects in various Central American countries, meant to increase preparedness to natural disasters, it is our role to visit our partners to discuss issues around execution of the agreed activities.

Honduras is one of the countries, where my organisation has invested funds to prepare the country to deal with natural disasters better and more efficiently.

It appears that I will soon be going to Honduras to meet with our partners (non-governmental organisations (NGOs), working on disaster risk reduction) to discuss successes and challenges relating to the projects.

I should be travelling to Honduras in 2 weeks from today, and spend in a country around one week.

Traditionally, I will be reporting to you on the details of the trip and the project itself. Soon, I will also update you with the basics about the country and provide you with some information on why we work there in a first place. Stay tuned for more information soon!

Catching up with some rest

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The simulation of the humanitarian response to hurricanes in Caribbean Sea has finished, and I am now back to Panama City.

I am exhausted. The simulation was a very active undertaking, with lots of practical exercises in the field (visiting communities, making assessments). As the temperature kept on exceeding 40 degrees Celsius, the simulation took its toll. I got back to Panama literally ready for bed and a long, long sleep.

Despite being tired, I enjoyed the experience tremendously: both professionally and personally. I think that all of us found something useful… For me, I think that I managed to demystify a little how armies and civil protection forces work, and appreciate their commitment to deliver the best possible response to the affected people, even if, we may still at times, have a different perception what the priorities during emergencies may be. We challenged one another a lot… My colleagues tried to explain to me that their mandate is to strictly follow the orders of the host government, whereas I tried to have a slightly different approach, and argued that communities should be consulted first and foremost, even if that meant risk being at odds with host authorities. We had some really good discussions and identified lots of risks and opportunities for both of the approaches.

I loved the experience on the personal level too, as the group was extremely involved and I found my colleagues to be interesting and really good people. I will definitely have fond memories, and look forward to be working together in the future (probably responding to a real situation).

Here in Panama, I am very excited with my Spanish. I notice progress daily and I find it comfortable to use the language. I still make lots of mistakes, there are still situations where I get a bit lots, but I guess, my communication skills are relatively decent now!

As I am now well established, I am now planning my personal movements until the end of the year. Although nothing is decided yet, it seems like, I may be visiting Tahir in Toronto and then make a quick visit to my home in Portugal at the beginning of November! Exciting times!

Cyclone preparedness exercises

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Things are happening fast… I am still dealing with the issues related to my last mission (Bolivia fires), but it is time to pack and get ready to travel to Curacao, off Venezuela coast at the Caribbean, where I am going to be participating in the simulation of the response to cyclones.

The simulation is arranged by the Dutch Civil Protection team, and will be attended by the teams from various European countries, which are a part of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism. As Curacao, along with Bonaire and Aruba are dependent on crisis management from the Netherlands - it makes sense that it is the Dutch team that is taking an initiative to arrange the simulation. As always, I will try updating you on how the exercise goes, in due time!

Fires

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Many of us have been worried about the fires in the Amazonia and in many other parts of the world these days. In South America many countries are affected, with Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Peru suffering the most. Although, forestal fires are often considered to be natural disasters, sadly, in Amazonia in most cases, they are caused by people. What happens is that big farms and meat production industries are in need of new land for producing fodder for their ever growing beef sale (for the markets in Asia and Europe), and as they feel there is no other option available, they obtain land by clearing forests (burning forests, which gets out of control and destroys large areas of woods). The consequences are dear and scary, both to the environment, but also the thousands of poor indigenous ethnic groups living in the forests and from the forests… Their homes are ravaged, their livelihoods are destroyed, the air they breath is contaminated, and so is the water they drink… There are countless of other problems too, which are too long to mention here.

The cruel thing is that despite the international outcry, there is little done to deal with the fires, and more importantly with root causes. What is the saddest is that even if there may be some attention to physical burning of the woods, there is no attention given to the needs of the indigenous communities. They are poor, they do not seem to be important, they do not have a voice…

So yes, my visit to Bolivia was painful and disturbing, as it made me realise, how complex and complicated the ongoing crisis is, and that the fires are not so much about fires, but greed, money and economical interests of the rich, rather than the poor. The visit also made me realise that my work here will be difficult, and will require lots of sensitisation and advocacy… I am not under any illusion that my colleagues and I have enough weight to change the things, not at all, but then again, it is small steps and actions that sometimes trigger bigger events. And let this constitute some optimism for now.