(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Catching Up - World Refugee Day


I’m on a flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi. A baby cries hysterically to my left while ours lies sleeping on my lap. I will always have more sympathy for people with noisy babies. Turns out that the baby boy the lady is holding is almost exactly the same age as our baby. I think some of it you can control; some of it you can’t. I have to say, however, that after all of these long flights over the past year, our little girl has been amazing.
eight countries in twelve months...
 Clearly much has happened since my last posting. My goal is to have more frequent postings until I catch up.

The week after we returned from India, I traveled to Rwanda for a week. Then I spent a week to the field in Burundi to meet with staff, including participating World Refugee Day in one of the camps where we work in the northeastern part of the country. 

Congolese refugees and Burundian drummers
WRD is a worldwide event to bring attention to the plight of refugees and, given that I’ve worked with refugees for several years, I’ve attended a number of these functions. Though it’s not supposed to celebrate life as a refugee, it often comes off as more of a celebration with singing, dances and lots of speeches. I was a last minute addition given that I wasn’t sure if my travel schedule could fit it in. As such I was at the head table but didn’t have to make a speech (I give a lot of speeches in my job, opening and/or closing ceremonies, workshops, festivities, etc. 
presenting a gift
Gasorwe, a Congolese camp, put on a pretty good show. Our organization played a key role in organizing it with UNHCR. It was impressive to see numerous yellow t-shirted staff scurrying about given that only a year and a half ago we weren’t even present in the camp. They acted like they’ve been doing this for years.
Soon after the trip I quickly had to get organized to leave on vacation. I wanted to get as much done as possible given that I’d be away for two and a half weeks. I have some very talented staff so I don’t have to worry too much but frequently there are nasty surprises in this line of work. During my time away I would end up averaging about an hour or two a day going through emails and keeping up with what is going on. It’s not ideal but for me it’s less stressful than doing nothing and getting completely slammed upon my return.
One looming threat is the potential closure of Mtabila refugee camp in Tanzania (see previous blog entry) which would send a flood of Burundians – most of whom have no desire to return – across the border into Burundi. Given that we provide logistical and protection support for the projected return, we need to be on the ready. Happily the flood didn’t happen. Not yet.

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