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Seven weeks under the COVID-19 lockdown

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A view from the rooftop of my Panama apartment, April 2020

The COVID-19 lockdown continues, and the morale is going down a bit, I need to admit. I have been under the house-arrest for seven weeks already, and gradually it is becoming difficult to handle myself. Establishing the routine, making sure that I keep myself busy, eat healthy and carry out some physical activities is helpful, but finding motivation is trickier!

As I wrote in a previous post, soon we will be celebrating Tahir's second anniversary of arrival to Toronto. Some time back, the plan was that I would visit him in Canada to mark the occasion. We still have a bit of time to arrange it, and there is a bit of hope left, however as the world continues to have travel restrictions, it may be difficult to arrange for it. We will have to be inventive to have a good plan B! In the meanwhile, we have just learnt that two of Tahir's colleagues at his workplace contracted the virus, which also caused temporary closure of his company's operations. Also, together with the rest of the crew, Tahir underwent the COVID-19 test. The results should be made known today. In case, he was sick (as per my understanding), he would need to be hospitalised - even if there were no any major complications. Perhaps, this is not something that he is looking forward to, but I am so grateful that he is in Canada now, where the system seems to be looking after the people, regardless of how wealthy (or not) they are!

Here in southern part of the Americas, we are very concerned with the humanitarian situation of many various communities. Even without the pandemic, lots of people lived under various humanitarian emergencies. The COVID-19 makes things so much more difficult! News from parts of Ecuador and Brazil are extremely concerning. We also hear that more and more folks from Haiti to Chile loose hope that they would be able to cope, and decide going to the streets to protest. I am worried that these protests will be more common, more violent and very difficult to control with tragic consequences for individuals and entire communities.

We still have not heard any news, nor rumours on when Panama will start easing up its restrictions on life. So while home, in my free time, I am trying to keep myself busy with various activities. As the world, these days, keeps on speculating what may be happening in North Korea, I got a bit sentimental and went to look at my old pictures from my two trips to the country (in
2015 and 2019). I hope things will turned out well for the people of Korea, especially those living in a major humanitarian distress. People have suffered for far too long now!

I hope that you all keep yourselves safe and well, and managing the best you can. Do drop me a line, in case you feel like writing or talking!

Soon, two years in Canada!

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One year after settling down in Toronto, Tahir managed to visit Europe. Here on the picture: at the Warsaw Airport, waiting for his flight to Krakow, July 2019

We will soon celebrate the second anniversary of Tahir's moving to Canada, and even if we are all undergoing very daring times, I am so glad and grateful that today, Tahir is in Toronto rather than anywhere else in the planet.

In coming weeks, I will be writing some of stories related to his struggle, and successful resettlement to Toronto. Today, I would like to start off with some blog entries I wrote during his last months in Thailand:

Tahir is going to Canada soon

Boys cry

Tahir's last weekend in Thailand

Free at last

I would like that you all know how grateful I am to all of you for everything that you have done to support Tahir and myself in this amazing adventure. On his and my own behalf, I would like to thank you all very, very much for being amazing friends!

A week of the crisis

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Peeping into neighbours' lives during the lockdown, Casco Viejo, Panama City, April 2020

This week is a difficult one for me. I recognise, all is subjective, and I do not have much to complain about, but it feels hard to be alone in the flat for over a month now. I keep myself busy, and work a lot, and this helps… yet, I find it difficult to cope with not having contacts with people. The Government of Panama has not yet indicated when the COVID-19 measures may ease, so we are assuming that we may still be under strict quarantine for next weeks, perhaps until the end of May 2020.

The news that I am reading from the United States, Poland, Hungary or China scare me too. It is already bad enough to see the world trying to cope with the disease itself, but reading how the authorities of various countries use the opportunity of the crisis to grab power and press opposition is depressing. Clearly, being from Poland makes me read the news from the country a bit more, and the information I am getting is just sad. I do not want to develop more on it, just write that I wholeheartedly disagree with the political discourse in the country and feel disappointed by the leaders of the place where I come from.

The only thing that keeps me going these days is a fact that my family in Nowy Sacz and Toronto seem to be doing well, and a fact that
my little project that is meant to support the migrants in Panama works well. It has indeed received quite some support from various people in the world, and this is very encouraging.

The strangest Easter ever

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My Casco Viejo apartment, Panama City, April 2020

The Easter of 2020 has just passed. Alone, in the confinement, with lots of time at hand to ponder and wonder… reading books, writing letters, sleeping, talking to plants, watching the world I know collapsing, trying to make sense out of it all, channelling support to migrants in Panama to help them make their ends meet, being horrified with the tragedy of Ecuador, stunned by what happens in the United States (on so many levels), talking to Mum and laughing together at the absurdity of the situation that we are experiencing, trying to work out how to design humanitarian intervention in northern Argentina with nearly no money, thinking of Portugal, being proud of Tahir, missing Nowy Sacz… This was my Easter 2020… the weirdest I have had so far…

It is a big thing to state the you have genuinely had the weirdest experience of your life, right?

Poland virtually

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Poprad River, Slovak-Polish border, July 2019

Easter time is coming. It was supposed to be different… I was supposed to be home… No, I am not going to complain. I am sad not to be able to see Mum, family and friends in Nowy Sacz, but then there are so many things I am grateful for. Looking at the problems so many people encounter these days, I realise how easy my life is these days, even if I am going to miss some people! Things will be fine… the technology these days allow for me to be with them virtually (and the same goes for many others in various parts of the world).

I hope that all of you will manage to enjoy the Easter time, regardless of how unusual this period is going to be for you personally.

And, once again, I would like to ask you all to consider the appeal that I made a few days ago, in case you felt it was a good idea to do so.

Stay well and enjoy the holiday!

Tragedy of Ecuador!

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Number plate of a car in Quito, Ecuador, January 2020

'In Guayaquil, ground zero for the spread of COVID-19 in Ecuador, dead bodies have been piling up on the streets, in hospitals and inside houses'…

This kind of news and reports have been surrounding us for last 3 days. The situation in the country is dramatic, and there are no hopes that things will get better any time soon. When fighting COVID-19, countries like Ecuador, do have exactly the same problems in seen in Spain, Italy, US, or South Korea, plus the extreme poverty. When you have no food, and no one to help you get it, when you live on the streets, you cannot just 'stay at home'. Then, on the other hand, when you are out and about, you get infected and you are a vector for infections. Here we have a vicious circle… you can't stay home, but you really can't go out either.

The tragedy of Guayaquil is only the beginning of what we may observe in other towns and cities of the countries with large populations living in extreme poverty. I am worried that what we are seeing in cities across Spain, Italy, or USA is just a very mild introduction to what we will be seeing in many of the Latin American and African countries.

It is now more than ever that we need to look out of our countries… even if we think that we are already so badly experienced and that we need to protect ourselves, we really should look out and put yet some more effort to give a landing hand to countries that are less wealthy. We just need to do it!

April Fools' Reward

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The world is crazy these days, and I really could not think of any prank… Life seems to be having better ones from anything what I could come up with.

Instead, I thought, you may enjoy the photo of me in May 2007! Happy Aprils' Fool Day!

How my plants are saving me during my lockdown

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Chiriqui, Panama, December 2019

Being on your own, and managing your, and only your, company for an extended period of time does wired things to you. I, too, am becoming a victim of turning into COVID-19 lockdown oddities…

I am not bored. In fact, the situation that we found ourselves in, keeps me very busy professionally. After all, my job is all about emergencies, and frankly, one could not think of the more challenging and interesting crisis environment that we are experiencing now. Essentially, the whole world appears to be on fire, in ways that some of us struggle comprehending. The crisis that we are experiencing seems to have reached entire societies, countries, continents, but also individuals that we know and love. It affects our health, sanitation, social structures… This emergency is melting out economies down, create unrest, violence… and makes many of us anxious in one or another way. A nearly perfect storm, I would say!

Yet the situation, despite being rather stressful, is also widely calm. Yes, I get this… it is an artificial calmness, but this is really how it feels to me today, and although, I largely hate being placed under this house arrest, for being stripped from many of my liberties, which I take for granted; I also admit, I enjoy some extra time to be left with your own thoughts.

Being able to do it, in the situation where the world you know, seems to be disappearing around you, makes a rather unique experience in more than one way, I think. In my case, one of the unexpected manifestation of this uniqueness is that I commenced conversing with my own plants!

Also, I have quickly come to learn that my conversations (I underline: conversations, not monologues) with the plants are both useful, and therapeutic. Plans prove to be patient listeners, and, I found, are able to teach you how to relax and take things easy on yourself.

My ferns and palm trees, for example, are capable of being able to hold discussions on a variety of topics. Although, through my arrogance, it is always me choosing the issues to be contemplated, they do not seem to mind! I noticed that it is particularly my ferns that display the most patience. We talk about everything really… politics, family, economy, climate change, happiness, disappointments, love, sex, desires, poverty, inequality, people whom I miss.You name it! Life experiences seem to provide you endless thoughts.

While frequently, we end up laughing at ourselves; having a great time remembering pleasant situations, kind people, crazy passions or amazing adventures; sometimes, I am unfair to my plants and dump on them my fears and worries, too. Really, I can be quite rough, and challenge my listeners with questions that do not have easy answers to: why wars, why inequality, why fear, why they don't like me the way I want them to, why do we need to confront finity of people and situations that we wish never ceased existing, why being weak, why not being able to stand up for things that I believe in, why not being respectful enough, why not doing enough, why being being lazy… These considerations do make me upset, and at times, leave me with feelings of helplessness… Yet my ferns and palms are very patient, and at the end always have all the winning arguments! I am suspecting that their strategy is to make me tired and exhausted. They just let me speak and vent… and when I reach the point when I can't anymore, they just slowly start asking me to look at them, and admire their beauty. They tell me to look at their growing stems and leaves, and appreciate the mystery of life that is able to regenerate. So they teach me that it is okay not to have a grip on everything, just the same way they do not have a control over their dying leaves. But, they also tell me that things do get better again, they same way, when things stabilise as new branches grow, leaves get greener and flowers blossom.

They keep on teaching me that it is great to have fun, but it is okay to be scared and feel helpless, too. The lesson that I like the most though, is that no matter what… whether you have got control over things, or not… eventually, things stabilise and find a right place in your existence, so that they are beneficial to you. Life goes on regardless… and will give us plenty of opportunities to find peace within us.

Ah… one more thing! My new handsome and tall yuccas tells me that they appreciate my friendship. They like when I water them and look after them. They tell me that when I care for them, they thrive and it is easier for them solve their own vulnerabilities. Yes… you have gotten it right… Stop reading it, get up and show someone that you care for them and love them! Who knows, they may grant you some amazing conversations too!