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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.

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.

A long weekend is coming!

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During my last visit to Hua His at the end of 2017

This weekend is, unexpectedly, longer! The coming Monday is off, so together with friends, we are planning to travel to the seaside, and visit Hua Hin! This is, likely to be, one on my last trips to the Thai coast, given that I am leaving the country soon. I am really excited to be going. It is unbearably hot in the city, and I will appreciate and enjoy the cooler breeze from the ocean.

And some updates from Tahir in Canada. We have the news that Tahir is likely to finally receive his first Canadian 'travel document', not a passport of Canada yet, but a document that looks like a passport and is called 'Certificate of Identity'. A booklet that essentially confirms that you have a right to live in Canada permanently and allows you to travel out of the country for holidays. Once he has this document sorted, we will be able to plan Tahir's visits to Europe, and possibly later to Panama too! Exciting times, as he starts enjoying more and more rights, after years of misery of a refugee life!

New pictures in Thailand Gallery

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_11e36As you may remember, I am preparing for my departure from Thailand. After 4 and half years in Southeast Asia with ECHO, I will be leaving the country in July and then moving to my new posting in Panama in August.

This gallery of pictures documents my journey of saying 'good bye' to Thailand, the country that has hosted me and treated me so well for last few years. Enjoy browsing through the images!

A spring newsletter

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Underneath is a copy of my regular newsletter that I tend to send you to friends and family:

Dear Friends,
 
It is time for a spring update! End of March, in Thailand, marks the return of extremely hot temperatures. After a short break of bearable weather, we are back to +36 degrees Celsius. Things will continue getting worse. The peak of hot weather is expected around 2
nd week of April, which will also mark arrival of Songkran (Thai New Year). This Songkran will be my last one in the country, while at this deployment. Over 4 years of my service in ECHO for Southeast Asia is coming to its end, as I am now preparing for taking up my new post in Panama (still with ECHO), where I should be arriving at the beginning of August 2019.
 
The news of my new job in Panama is a source of major excitement in my recent weeks. As my offer seems to be now, confirmed, I am busy reading all sorts of resources about the country and the region. I know little about Central and South America, and the same goes about Caribbean, so I have got plenty to learn. Learning and stepping outside of the comfort zones are exciting experiences though, so I am very positive about the coming change, even if I am also going to be sad about leaving Asia and the Pacific region for now.
 
My new job in Panama will, to a large extent, be similar to what I am doing now – meaning that I will be based in Panama City, but working on responses to disasters and humanitarian issues in South/Central America and Caribbean islands. I am therefore likely to be travelling around the region, and as here in Thailand, it is likely that my lifestyle will strongly be influenced by unexpected disasters and humanitarian shocks. Then, of course, I am sure that somehow my work will be influenced by ongoing crisis in Venezuela and uncertainties of countries, such as Nicaragua. Surely, I will not be bored. What is really exciting is that I will be working mainly in Spanish (and English) and occasionally, I may even be able to use Portuguese (if/when dealing with Brazil). Although I have experience in working in Portuguese language (Angola and Mozambique) it will be the first time that I will need to work in Spanish! I am not too worried about the language though. Some of you may remember that I had intensive courses of Spanish over a period of 2 years here in Thailand and I feel confident enough to take the challenge. I hope within 2, 3 months, the language will become fluent. Talking of Spanish lessons, I am lucky enough to have found a wonderful Colombian teacher here in Bangkok. We now, are taking 2 lessons a week, so that I can practise speaking – rather than preparing for examinations (which I did previously). Very exciting!
 
Thinking of Panama, makes me think of my time in Asia too. It has been such an intense an amazing time – both personally and professionally. Most of you are aware of all the joys and stresses, as I keep on updating you about my experiences often… Before I leave Bangkok, there will be time for another message, where I reflect on these properly, but all these thoughts are in my mind now, and make me evaluate things that I have been successful with and things that I have failed in. What is certain, beyond doubt is that I have met many wonderful new people, and continued having support from so many other ‘old’ friends. When I think of it, it is the people that are close to me have made the experience of Asia to be so very special. Of course, the wealth of culture, architecture, music, food in Asia and the Pacific made the whole experience even more worth living. I will not write about hard, or negative experiences today – these have been present too, especially when it comes to people suffering from disasters, or human rights abuses that I have witnessed. As I said, I will ponder about these later, in my farewell message in few months’ time.
 
More specifically, I recently travelled to the Philippines and North Korea (DPRK). I also went to see my Mum and family in Nowy Sacz, and Tahir in Toronto – and had a chance to experience a real and proper winter of the northern hemisphere. I also had a chance to visit Kyiv – the first time in my life, the city, which surprised and charmed me with its beauty, hospitality and kindness of its people!
 
I am happy to report to all of you that the family is all well and happy. Mum is doing great in Nowy Sacz, and she keeps on challenging people with her vitality and physical vigour. She keeps herself fit and busy hiking and cycling, not to mention her passion of working in her garden. Tahir in Canada is doing well too. It is his first ever experience of winter. I think that he enjoyed snow very much, but I also guess that he will be happy with some warmer weather arriving soon! ☺ His life is slowly getting sorted and adjusted to a new reality, as he is learning how the new society works for him. Some stuff is still tough and difficult for him, and I think he is challenged that he is far away from his family, but he is well and I am very proud of how he is handling his new challenges. Among many other things, we are in process of getting Tahir’s Canadian travel document (not a passport yet), which would give him a right to travel for holidays/short breaks outside of Canada (excluding Pakistan, where he has fled from). Once we are successful in it, we will apply for his Schengen visa, so that he could visit my family and friends in Europe in July (before I move to Panama) and then, we hope, he would be able to visit me in Panama in following months too.
 
I am soon to be travelling to Europe (Portugal and then Austria and Belgium), so I hope that I will be able to meet some of you when I am around.
 
I am looking forward to hearing from you sometime soon. Please stay well and do write, when you can!
 
Warmest regards and hugs to all,
Roman

Thailand is preparing for elections

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_11dd1Yesterday, I had one of the nicest walks in Bangkok. Together with a dear friend of mine, Clare, we decided to explore Bangkok's China Town. The weather was beautiful and the afternoon was not too hot. We ended up having the most wonderful time: admiring some of the funkiest streets of the city and having really good conversations; conversations that only good friends have. So we talked about things that made us happy, that made us anxious or uncomfortable. We talked about our work, about politics, about inequalities in the world… We also talked about love, friendship, family, about future and about dreams. What a wonderful afternoon!

Next week, Thailand is heading to parliamentary elections. While lots of Thai friends keep their cools and do not show lots of emotions over politics, I am extremely curious to see how things will play out for the country. In the meanwhile, for us, elections mean some practical restrictions. Although we are not expecting any disturabances, we are advised to keep our eyes and ears open and avoid crowds and trouble from potential political rallies. Interesting times in the country!

Talking of politics, we are all following the latest news from the United Kingdom, where the fate of Brexit is being decided in a 'soap opera'-like drama. If the issues were not so serious, probably I would have considered the UK politicians to be amusing… I hope all this will stop soon, and some decisions will be taken so that we can all carry on with lives.

I have already booked my tickets to travel to Portugal in April. Now making plans over my anticipated visit to Obidos and Lisbon. I am hoping that it will be a relatively quiet time, with lots of time for myself and for exploring the country!

The great news from Canada is that Tahir managed to get his driving tests passed. Now he is a proud owner of the provisional driving license and soon, he will be able to receive a full permit. I guess it will not surprise you if I write that Tahir is all over the moon from joy of his success.

Mourning colleagues, killed in ET 302 flight

RIPI am still trying to come to terms with the news from Ethiopia. You may have heard from the news that the Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed and killed all people onboard.

It is a tragedy for all the passengers: their families, loved ones and friends of those onboard. The unfortunate flight that went down yesterday, killed over 30 people working for humanitarian and development agencies (United Nations, Red Cross and NGOs). Throughout my career, I have worked and partnered with most, if not all of the affected agencies, and I feel extremely sorry and saddened by what has happened to my colleagues. I also feel distressed, as I used to take the ET302 flight between Ethiopia and Kenya myself frequently, when I was based in East Africa some years back. Realising how fragile our lives can be has sent cold shivering through my body.

May you all rest in peace and may your family and friends take comfort from the amazing work and service that you have provided to all of us, so that our world is a little bit better place to live. Thank you for your lives for your passion!

Back online after a longer break

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_11b29The trip to DPRK, or North Korea, as it is commonly referred to resulted with with a long break from posting here. The trip to Poungyang and other parts of the country was hectic, and left me with no opportunities to write. Then a fact that the access to the Internet in the country is severely restricted, did not help either.

Today, I just wanted to let you know that I am safely back to Thailand, and still processing my experiences from the country. I promise that sooner rather than later, I will write more about the trip. For now, those, who are interested,
may look at the pictures from the country that I posted online the other day.

After returning to Bangkok, I have tried deal with lots of practical professional and personal issues that have piled up, when I was away. So I am trying to prepare for my next professional trip, which will be to Indonesia (in 2 weeks) and then make arrangements for my holidays in Portugal (early April). Then also already preparing for my professional trip to Brussels and Austria that will take place in May. Finally, I have undertaken some first practical steps with regards to my moving to Panama City (identify website with real estate agents, got tips on which sites to refer to find out about practicalities relating to living in Panama), etc.

Then on a private note, I have started investigating more vigorously about studying opportunities that Tahir may be able to undertake in Canada. All keeps me very busy - but also content and happy.

So do stay tuned, as I will be reporting on newest developments soon!