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The fifth month of the lockdown

77B489DF-933F-4282-ABF9-DCC96EA2AE98_1_105_cThe view on the centre of Panama City from the balcony of my apartment, April 2020

The month of July 2020 is certainly not the best one of my life, and is not the one that I will remember well. Instead of engaging with my usual work, and visiting projects in the continent, I am stuck at home, here in Panama, frustrated with lack of clarity on how much longer we will need to be under the lockdown. If additionally you take into consideration, the absolutely shambolic presidential elections (I am more referring to the style of it, rather than merely who won), as well as depressing pandemic situation in Panama and the rest of the continent, then it is easier to understand why I am not that enthusiastic over what is happening in my life.

I am however hanging in here okay, and looking forward for the times to get better! I hope you are all well, wherever you are reading this message.

2020 summer updates

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Summer fullmoon, Casco Viejo, Panama, July 2020

Many of us look at 2020 with disbelief, and wish that 'it was cancelled' altogether. The world is undergoing one of the, if not the biggest global crisis that most of the living human beings remember.

So many things have already gone wrong this year, and it is only July. I am fearing that more unwelcoming and disturbing news will be still coming our way soon. The latest political developments in Hong Kong, presidential elections in Poland, forest fire season in the Amazons, second/third wave of the coronavirus, the bankruptcies of countries, presidential elections in the United States… the list for events that may turn into regional or even global crises is long. There are also opportunities, clearly, but given the poor choices that we, as humanity, seem to be making, I am not optimistic.

Given that I am from Poland, I am watching the political scene there. This weekend (tomorrow and Sunday), we will be voting for the new president (runoff between two candidates). The electoral predictions give 50% chance of winning/losing to both of the candidates. This head-to-head race can turn into anything really. Given two very different visions for managing the politics (one being intolerant, xenophobic, nationalistic, overplaying the importance of Polish culture and Catholicism; the other one representing more liberal attitudes, with certain openness to various minorities, more forward thinking to international cooperation and seeing Poland as the part of the European integration), the result will have profound significance on the future of the country. I am worried that regardless of who wins, Poland will experience rough time, with the supporters of the 'losing' candidate not being able to accept the results… I do expect major protests across the country in weeks to come. Not pretty, if you ask me. I just hope that I am wrong, and things will clear off in a way that I can not see it yet.

On a positive note, I have just received the feedback of my income tax declaration in Portugal, for the year 2019. It is already the 4th time I am paying my income tax in the country, which confirms that I am starting my 5th year of residence. Being able to be a resident of Portugal gives me some peace of mind, and makes me really happy, as I am increasingly disappointed with the developments in my native Poland. Not only that the country is extremely beautiful, and its people are friendly… Portugal is also a country which seem to be representing values that I feel comfortable with. It is open to migrants, it considers European integration to be vital for its success, and cherishes minorities, it is considerate to the disadvantaged. I am certainly looking forward to be able to apply for my permanent residency next year, and then the citizenship soon after. Keep your fingers crossed!

Five months under quarantine, as the lockdown continues

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Casco Viejo, Panama, June 2020

It has not been the best week. Panama seems to be going down the drain, when it comes to its management of the pandemic. Things are not optimistic at all, and the daily infection rate appears to be stubbornly well above 1,000 people. Yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) made a statement that it is not expecting the peak of the contamination curve until the middle of August. Neither the Ministry of Health of Panama, nor the rest of the government seem to be able to communicate clearly how much longer they will force the people in confinement. The odds are that the movement restrictions will carry out at least until the end of July. One should also forget about travelling out or into the country until September, if not longer. Depressing… not only from my perspective, but above all when you consider that people are exhausted economically and mentally.

I am also quite disappointed with the first round of the presidential elections back home in Poland. Although the candidates that I could imagine holding the post did score relatively decently, the truth is that the nationalistic and ultranationalistic candidates have scored very highly. Nearly half of Poland seem to be entertaining the idea that it is okay to give presidential rights and obligations to people with extremely right-wing values.

As it seems the election run-off will be held between the nationalistic candidate Andrzej Duda (present President), and the more progressive and open Rafal Trzaskowski. Sadly, the odds are that it is Duda who will win and Trzaskowski would need some sort of a miracle to prevail (he is around 2 points behind Duda, a little over a week before people go to the polling stations). They say that the hope dies the last, so I am trying not to lose it, but I have to say that there are not a lot of reasons to be enthusiastic.

World Refugee Day

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Tahir in Panama City, January 2020

A few days ago, this is the message that I sent out to friends for the World Refugee Day:

The World Refugee Day is approaching. In order to honour the refugees and the displaced, who, as the group, in my mind, are the most vulnerable and the most unfairly treated people in the planet (if one can generalise), I would like to share with you (albeit many of you have already read these) some stories that I wrote two years ago.
 
These stories constitute my own experience with lives of refugees, in particular, the life of Tahir Rana (today a proud resident of Canada).
 
As you know, Tahir has become one of the most important people in my life, and certainly, to me is one of the most charismatic human being, who I have so much respect of, and is my best friend, to say the least.
 
It is Tahir, through his life, who opened my eyes to struggle that refugees and the displaced go through. He did it, by allowing me to experience and watch his suffering, fears, but also joys and successes in a very practical manner…
 
The journey that he invited me to participate in, has become one of the most stressful, yet the most wonderful adventures that I have had.
 
The stories below just reflect a small part of that journey, but in many ways are the most significant ones that I wanted to share with you.
 
You may want to read them from in the reverse order (starting from 4
th July), if you prefer to have a chronological understanding of the story. As there are many of them, you may not want to read them all. If you were tempted to just read one, I would recommend the one of 20th July (Boys cry).
 
While I would like to thank Tahir for giving me the best lesson of my life, I would also like to thank you all (countless amount of people) for allowing Tahir’s story to come to a happy ending. The list is so long, but includes my friends, in Thailand, and so many other parts of the world, my work colleagues (in Bangkok, Dhaka and Brussels), my own family, Tahir’s family in Pakistan, and last but not least, Tahir’s official sponsors in Canada. You HAVE all made the impossible – to become reality. I will always remember your kindness and everything that you have done to help!
 
18
th August 2018: Free at last
https://www.romanmajcher.eu/blog/files/d5181f486f25a02c7c2a9298c659aa2b-146.html
 
15
th August 2018: Tahir’s last weekend in Thailand
https://www.romanmajcher.eu/blog/files/5fbee63ce06f0fba8e231153bd045b39-145.html
 
9
th August 2018: Waiting is so stressful
https://www.romanmajcher.eu/blog/files/71259caabf40dbf51d33b0f8e9c0f7be-144.html
 
8
th August 2018: Last hurdles cleared
https://www.romanmajcher.eu/blog/files/2ca235682b481a463106bcc4f5be582f-143.html
 
4
th August 2018: Eleven days to go
https://www.romanmajcher.eu/blog/files/cb32d98f11e620b6e26029e1e387bf7d-142.html
 
29
th July 2018: Happy Birthday, Tahir
https://www.romanmajcher.eu/blog/files/decb9665292ce2301019eb75c15a6eb6-141.html
 
23
rd July 2018: Four days of detention
https://www.romanmajcher.eu/blog/files/68a95654976866697ef9f76636ba737e-140.html
 
20
th July 2018: Boys cry
https://www.romanmajcher.eu/blog/files/884cd5caaff2a5119d589ebccbefe74f-139.html
 
7
th July 2018: Last weekend with Tahir in Bangkok
https://www.romanmajcher.eu/blog/files/bca85ed5dc8cd0de3c5059de4533a499-138.html
 
4
th July 2018: Tahir is going to Canada soon
https://www.romanmajcher.eu/blog/files/92cba7b0861f33f67f87c930e2a18f93-137.html
 
 

Rainy season, rainy mood

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Staircase at my flat in Casco Viejo, Panama City, June 2020

I have not been writing extensively these days. I am in a bad mood. The extension of confinement in Panama, without much hope of that it would ease-up until August 2020; the horribly chauvinistic, anti-LGBT discourse coming from the authorities in Poland; their attempts of demonising refugees (yet again); depressing news from Brasil, Venezuela, Colombia and most of Latin America in regards to people's suffering from ever-growing COVID-19 pandemic… all makes me numb, discouraged and not very animated to write and stay in touch.

I realise that I am not positive and need to find a source of some energy. Before that happens, I will be a bit quitter for a while. Listening to some music, watching some news, and doing some reading should do the trick Winking!

Please bear with me until then, stay well and keep in touch, when you can!

When the medicine seems to be worse than the disease it is supposed to cure

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A view from my rooftop in Casco Viejo, Panama City, June 2020

The lockdown that we are experiencing here in Panama is taking toll on our morale. More and more people seem to be getting frustrated, or even depressed. For last 5 days, no a single day has passed without protests. The residents of the country find it increasingly difficult to survive the imposed restrictions. The feeling that I have is that while the society understands the seriousness of the pandemic, it also asks itself how to cope with challenges caused with loss of income and ability to survive. Paying bills, putting food on the table, ensuring that the basic needs are provided is already bad enough, but apparently other problems surface too. The national newspapers and Internet news services keep on highlighting the increase of suicide, domestic violence, petty crime, but also serious crimes such as homicides and looting. What is happening is worrying and is extremely tangible, as my own acquaintances living in Panama are affected. On daily basis I keep on receiving increasing pleas of help - financial and emotional. It is time that the authorities recognise it and deal with it with the same enthusiasm as the fight the actual COVID-19.

As things in Panama and elsewhere of Latin America appear to be dramatic, there are some first signs of things getting better in Europe. Today, the European Union has announced that the internal borders between the Member States of the EU will be abolished as of 15th June! Moreover, the EU is working towards opening its external borders too. This process will take some more time, and will be gradual, but it is such a relief to learn that things seem to be going in the right direction at last.

Poland in the same time is gearing up its campaign for the presidential elections. Sadly, the level of the discussion is not very constructive, and focuses on undermining your counter candidates rather than presenting your arguments on why one should vote for you. Not that it was unexpected, but sad nevertheless. We need to endure a little bit over two weeks of this madness.

Preparing for the presidential elections in Poland

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Chancery of the President of Poland, Warsaw, Poland, July 2019


Yesterday, the registration of citizens wishing to vote for the Polish President, outside of the country was opened (in case, you are Polish living abroad, and wish to register yourself, so that you can vote, you may do so by clicking at this link). The first round of the elections is scheduled to be on 28th June 2020. As I am lucky enough to live in the country, where there is a diplomatic mission of Poland, it is relatively easy for me to vote. All in all, if there are no unexpected disturbances, I should be able to cast my vote soon!

In the meanwhile, after 5 days of easing up, the Government of Panama has return to the full lockdown of residents of Panama City.
Again, we are not allowed to leave our houses/apartments, except for food shopping and emergencies (every other day). While I feel frustrated and disappointed, it is not about me. What we are all very worried about is the situation of the poorest residents in the country (Panamanian and migrants), who frequently find themselves without means to live. We just need to hope that the government has some tangible plans to support those, who really need it now.

So far, Panama is losing its battle against COVID-19

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Cinta Costera, Panama City, June 2020

We have been allowed to move out of the our flats for around 5 days now. The country seemed to have been ready for opening-up gradually. After three long months of one of the strictest confinement in the world, it was such a wonderful and hopeful piece of news.

Yesterday and today, the Panamanian Ministry of Health seems to be preparing us for some bad news. Clearly, the spread of the diseases is not stopping, quite the contrary, and there are fears that the country's health facilities will break.

All signs show that there will be some sort of announcement tonight, reversing back to the restrictions. We will still need to see, how bad it will be, but it seems inevitable.

The problems with Panama, as I see it, is that there is no good solution anymore. The people are desperate, people have no income, and really struggle. There is essentially no support to the poorest. Reintroducing the confinement and closing all the businesses again, without increasing the social protection package is likely to break the people, and is an invitation to the civil unrest. Let's hope that there is a plan in whatever is to come…