The National Park of Chagres, Panama, February 2023
Carnaval means a great deal here in Panama, so and so that the country grants some additional days off, so people can party or travel to visit their families and friends living far away. Being absolutely honest, I was not planning to celebrate much, but then I appreciated some extra time off and took an opportunity to visit the National Park of Chagres, some 60 km from Panama City. I absolutely loved the experience. The park is home to tropical forests and many wild animals with some amazing opportunities to see colourful birds, various amphibians and if lucky, crocodiles (which I did at the distance). After an hour of a pretty and comfortable drive, I reached one of the reception points, where I hired a small wooden boat, which then took me for an excursion along the Chagres River. Very relaxing and a beautiful day with some enjoyable conversations with my boat drivers, who were very kind and hospitable. We all know that at times, pictures are worth thousand words, so I thought I would share with you a link to a gallery with a photo report (end of the album) from the trip. If you ever have a chance to visit Panama, make sure to plan for a visit in the park. Absolutely worth it!
As you may have read in my previous post, I am leaving for Colombia for the HEAT training this Sunday. We are required to renew our HEAT certificate at least once every 5 years, so that we can work and travel in countries that are considered as 'high risk' countries. As I will be posted in Venezuela and it appears on the list (among a bunch of other countries in Central and South America), the training is really relevant and important for me, so that I can carry on my duties uninterrupted.
Finally, I am getting prepared for Tahir's visit to Panama. He is coming in the third week of March and will be with me for 10 days. It has been far too long without seeing him, and I am very excited to spend time together!
Our office in Bogota, Colombia, July 2022
Once again, I have a good example that things keep changing at my work constantly and one can never be sure of what next week may bring (I guess, this is why I love this job so much!). Well, as it stands today, I will be participating in the security training in Medellin of Colombia after all. It appears that one place has freed up and the organisers have invited me to take part. I am now arranging last moment administrative procedures so that I can travel to Colombia the following Sunday. I am glad for this potential change and look forward to the experience!
Other peace of great news is that we have purchased a ticket for Tahir to visit me here in Panama. He will be coming from Toronto at the end of March. He will only stay for 9 days, but I am so super excited of his coming!
Also, I am looking at options for my Easter break in April. I will be on holidays for 10 days or so, and considering options where to go and what to do. I may end up in Europe, potentially in Portugal, but nothing written in stone yet.
Finally, Panama is about to start its Carnaval celebrations today. The celebrations are famous across Central America, and attract a good crowd of people from overseas to play, dance and enjoy music and parties. This year is set to be special, as the celebrations are resuming after 3 years of COVID-19 related bans.
Financial District, Panama City, Panama, February 2023
I am a little disappointed today, as some of my plans travel/training plans changed, and this causes some inconvenience in weeks ahead. At the end of the month, I was about to travel to Bogota to participate in an obligatory security training, which we need to undergo every 5 years. The event was cancelled however. The training produces a certificate, which gives us internal rights to travel to some of the countries, which are considered to be 'high risk' in our organisation. I am not too keen on the training itself, but still looked forward to have it done, so that I can carry out my work without disturbances. The cancellation does not only change my plans, but puts a bit of a stress, as I will need to unroll to a similar course elsewhere at the different date. These things happen though, so I will keep my chills down .
We are very busy here in the office reading and assessing project proposals from partners for 2023. It is always a bit stressful time, but then also interesting. Reading the documents from our partners always brings some new elements and information that are interesting and broaden your horizons. This year, most of my reading is about the humanitarian situation and challenges in Gran Chaco (northern Argentina, Paraguay and parts of Bolivia) and the situation of Venezuelan migrants in Chile. Very interesting, even if upsetting and sad at times.
Talking about Chile, we are also very busy with dealing with the forest fires there. The country is undergoing some of the worst droughts in recent history, and this translates into thousands of hectares of woods being burnt. The situation is tragic, with thousands of people losing home, and many being killed and injured by the disaster. As I write it, fire brigade teams from Portugal, Spain and France are on the way to Chile to support local forces in extinguishing the flames.
Clearly, we are also upset and worried about what is happening in Turkey and Syria. The images of the destruction and people's suffering caused by the earthquake that struck the region are heartbreaking. My colleagues in Brussels and various places around Europe are very busy in arranging rescue and relief operations. Needless to say, I am very, very proud of them. They are genuine heroes to me!
In other news, I am starting looking at practical aspects of my moving to Caracas. As a part of it, I will actually be travelling there already in April, so that I can start the process of the handover from my colleague. Wish me luck!