With less than a week until my departure for my next holidays, it is time to explore options of what to see and do, when touring Ukraine, Poland and Canada.
While I am excited about all of the places, planning of what to do in Kyiv is giving me particular pleasure. The trip to Ukraine, despite being Poland's neighbour, will be my first one to the country. I am lucky enough to have Ukrainian friends, and foreign colleagues, who happen to live in the country's capital. They have given me so many different suggestions of how to spend our time there (I will be travelling with Mum) that it is now clear, some really hard choices will need to come… We will have no time to see all. Kyiv appears to be an amazingly interesting city with lots of beautiful architecture to see. Then, it is apparently also known for great restaurants, and fantastic culture. Kyiv's operas and operas are very well known in Europe and beyond.
Poland is slightly easier to plan, as I am familiar with the country. Mum and I will spend a day in Krakow on the way to Kyiv, and we are planning to go to see an opera. While in Nowy Sacz (after Kyiv), I will just be enjoying friends, family and trying to visit some of my favourite spots in the mountains.
Then comes a week in Canada. While we have not decided yet, the odds are that I will not stay in Toronto all the time, but together with Tahir, we will travel to Quebec City, which should be celebrating its annual Winter Carnival!
There is no doubt that planning your holidays can be as much fun as the actual trip! Can't wait anymore!
This is my last week, before I head off for my winter holiday to Europe and North America. Six days, and I will be on the plane to Krakow to meet Mum. I feel quite excited already.
Before I depart, I still need to put some effort in finalising my work stuff. I guess, one of the bigger and perhaps exciting task may be finalising talks with my headquarters on my future deployment (after I finish here in Bangkok in July 2019). Potentially, there may be some delays, and we will only hold the conversations later, but odds are, things should progress this coming week. I am a bit nervous, as there are unknowns, and one can always not get anything at all, but then, I am also hopeful I should be able to negotiate an interesting post.
Then, we are going to be very busy choosing our 2019 humanitarian projects for 2019 in various countries in South and Southeast Asia. We have received hundreds of various proposals from partners, and the competition will be stiff. Multitude of bids should however give us some really, hopefully, options to choose from. I am especially interested and curious to read the bids for the Philippines, a country that I am slightly more involved with.
Finally, I will be having some meetings with colleagues from various embassies accredited to Thailand, with whom we will be discussing on how to support refugees in country, and also the authorities of Thailand in their strive to reform the refugee law. My dream would be that the reform takes us to recognition of rights of the asylum seekers and recognised refugees, in a way that they would be granted proper stay visas and work permits (at least for defined period of time, until a long term solutions could be worked out for them either in Thailand, or in 3rd countries).
All in all, despite a fact that the holidays are approaching fast, still lots of work to do, before I board the plane to see Mum.
Busy end of 2018, as well as dramatic events in Gdansk, Nairobi, and the UK, combined with 'usual' humanitarian issues in Southeast Asia wore me off. I am very tired, and I need holidays. I dream of time to spend with family and friends. In that sense, I am counting days for my trip to Krakow. I am already leaving in one week. Not too long at all!
The dramatic events in Gdansk and their consequences on the political life in Poland made me very sad in many ways. The death of Adamowicz, unfortunately, is used for political gains of various parties and their leaders in the country and elsewhere within the EU. It all feels so wrong to read about it! Then, I also need to admit, I am inspired by people in the streets. Residents of Gdansk, of countless towns, villages and cities across the country seem to have come to conclusions that in order to survive as the community, we need to change something within our ourselves. People seem to underline that we need to be more respectful and kinder to one another, or else, we will head to the total meltdown of trust, and possible end up in an open conflict. Recent days showed an outpour of kindness, gestures of good will and support. Long-time enemies try giving it another chance to make up their differences; people reach out to people, whom normally differ from them. Very encouraging! Obviously, the question remains whether the trend persists beyond the time of grief? It might be a difficult task, if the politicians and the media are not going to join in, which I have difficulties to believe. Then again, it must be the people who need to apply the pressure, and perhaps the time has come?
To a large extent, whatever is happening in Poland, appears to be mirroring in the United Kingdom too. What Brexit has done to the communities in the British Isles appears to be horrific. Many people stick to their positions of what they believe is right, and too frequently, consider 'the others' with hostilities. Then, there seems to be a growing realisation that this is unsustainable and that people will need to find a way to glue the communities together, regardless of whatever happens politically. Watching this is painful, as too many people get hurt and lose their hope in humanity. I just hope things will turn out the best for the British people, and the chaos will create the new order that will work for most members of the community.
Needless to write that I was extremely saddened by the terror attacks in Nairobi. Kenya is one of the countries, which I know well, and where I spent a considerable amount of time of my life. Understandably, I have a soft spot for it, and therefore I feel even more discomfort than I would for a place that is well familiar to me.
We just need to hope that the crises frequently are the sources of new beginnings. And in this spirit, I will finish off my post tonight.
I hoped so badly, it was not going to happen, but it did. The President of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz, dies after being stabbed by a madman during the charity event in his native city.
Adamowicz was one of the few Polish politicians, advocating for rights of refugees, LGBT community, disadvantaged… he championed the struggle for gender equity, and women's rights… He was one of the few in Poland's politics to say no to hatred… Rest in Peace, and may your departure inspire all of us, regardless of what we believe in, to be better and kinder people…
Adamowicz's death has shocked and saddened me personally. His unequivocal stand on refugees, his passion for solidarity with the less fortunate citizens of the planet was inspirational, and very rare in Poland and across Central Europe. I will miss you and your wisdom dearly! Thank you for your life!
Today, my friends: Justyna, Tomek and their children are coming to visit me in Bangkok all the way from Nowy Sacz. They will stay with me for some days, before they proceed with their journey to Vietnam. I hope that once they are here, we are going to have long evenings talks and that we will have a chance to explore the city! Very excited!
Once my guests are gone, I will be making further arrangements to visit Mum and family in Poland and Tahir in Canada.
Pictures and stories will follow soon!
As during Christmas Day, I was away in the tsunami affected parts of western Java in Indonesia, my Ethiopian and German friends decided to spend a Sunday evening with me last night, as a compensation of the lost opportunity of not being able to be together on 25th December. As we started eating, we realised that it was time when the Eastern Orthodox Christians were gearing up for their own Christmas celebrations, and since most of Ethiopians are Coptic Christians, we actually ended up having a Coptic Christmas dinner! Of course, just to add to the internationalism, the dinner took place in Bangkok and none of us thought there was anything strange about an Ethiopian, a German and a Pole cherishing the Eastern Orthodox holiday in the Buddhist country! Real joys of multi-cultural living! I will just add that we had a wonderful time, with some great conversations in a cosy setting.
The natural-disaster weekend finished with slightly less drama than it could have been. The tropical depressions, storms and cyclones did make considerable damage in Thailand, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Marshall Islands, but in all honesty, things could have been much worse. So it is with a great relief that I ended the weekend, knowing that there was no need for a massive scale humanitarian operation and that the affected communities should be able to cope in getting back on their feet on their in most cases.
I just hope that things will remain less exciting in terms of disasters in weeks to come. I am a bit tired, and would be happy to stay in Thailand, without travelling for some days, especially as I will be moving non-stop for at least 2 months, as of 25th January. Fingers crossed on that!
I am in constant touch with Tahir, of course. As I have not reported on his well-being for a while, just wanted to reassure everyone that he was fine and happy. His work is fine, he is independent, and we are working out his training options for his (slightly more challenging). I am very excited that I will be able to see him in 3 weeks, so that we can catch up, and I can provide to him some insights of what he may want to pursue in terms of educational courses.
I hope that you are are having a good beginning of 2019!
Destroyed houses in Tonga after the Gita Cyclone that hit in the beginning of 2018
The beginning of 2019 is certainly keeping us busy. With extreme weather alerts in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Thailand and Myanmar, things are hectic. But it is the cyclone alert in Fiji and the tropical storm over southern Thailand that is the most worrisome. The Storm Pabuk is expected to be the worst one since 1989 (which killed over 800 people) and the Tropical Storm Mona over Fiji appears to be very strong too.
So, it will be a busy weekend watching the powerful nature making its mark on the region. Let's just hope, things will not be that bad at all.
My personal and professional travels of 2018.
It is already 2019 here in Bangkok. I woke up early to welcome a new day, new month and new year!
As it is a day off here, I have some free time to catch up with some of my emails, administrative issues and plans. One thing that I have learnt, in my work, especially in last year is that one should take plans with a pinch of salt. You may plan whatever you want, as long as you want, and something unexpected happens, and you just need to collect the pieces of your carefully thought-through wishes, desires, visits… I am set to have a very busy 2019, especially the beginning of it, but then again, who knows?
In January, I am planning to visit Mum and family in Nowy Sacz. While in Europe, together with Mum, we are also planning to make a short side-trip to Kyiv. If all works, it will me our first trip to Ukraine, and needless to say that I am very excited by the prospects.
From Poland, I am flying directly to Toronto, where I will spend a week with Tahir. We do not have precise plans for the visit yet, but I guess it will be a mixture of catching up, dealing with some of the administrative issues, and some excursions to nature, out of the city.
Upon my return to work, I am directly planning to go to the Philippines, where I am going to be visiting our programmes in southern island of Mindanao. Depending on whether we are successful getting our visas ready, we should also travel to Pyongyang of DPRK at the end of February/beginning of March. It will be a study trip to learn about opportunities of starting some disaster risk reduction projects. Again, as you can imagine, I would be so happy, if we could go.
In April, together with the rest of the folks from my organisation, I am likely to be in Brussels for our annual headquarter meeting.
Then, in June/July I am going to be packing my stuff up, and getting ready to move out of Thailand! I am still not sure which part of the world, I will be moving to, but I will definitely let you know, once the discussions are finalised.
During this first day of the year, I am also thinking about things that I would like to do better this year. There may be lots of things that I would like to change, but the major one is that I will try worrying less, especially about things that I have no influence over. Please hold me accountable, when you see that I am not delivering!
So while, I am not planning too much ahead, there are definitely some exciting prospects waiting for me in 2019!