Montreux, my home, my paradise.

Montreux, my home, my paradise.
Montreux at dusk

21 February 2014

A question

I had a break of one month at home. The whole month of January. And during that time, there was the "Geneva 2" conference on Syria. But as Geneva had many other things going on, the conference was transferred to my lovely hometown. During three days we were under high security. Of course, normal with the presence of Mr. Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations and many other high level people. After a few days, talks between the belligerents started timidly in Geneva. But there is still a long, long way to go to reach some agreement and understanding and the civil war in Syria continues. And so I am back in Jordan since two weeks.

Our activities are at a turning point. We will change from distribution of food commodities to give vouchers instead. With these, the beneficiaries can go to stores and exchange them for food. I will explain this new way of assisting people in need in another, technical, post.

We have to make a yearly work plan and to that effect we are right now having a retreat in Aqaba at the Red Sea.

A very interesting town. With Eilat, Israel, opposite. A good place for deep sea diving. And with a lot of first class hotels. We are staying

at the Moevenpick Tala Bay Resort. A nice place, a fancy place. With luxury rooms. Excellent food. Makes you feel like a king. Ideal for work and even more ideal to relax.

A question: Why are all the (lovely and kind) restaurant staff from Asia?


29 December 2013

Yes, I remember. It was like this................

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL BORN IN 1930's, 1940's, 50's, 60's, 70's and Early 80's !!! First, you survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a tin, and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, your baby cots were covered with bright colored lead-based paints. You had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when you rode your bikes, you had no helmets, not to mention, the risks you took hitchhiking .. As children, you would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a van - loose - was always great fun. You drank water from the garden hosepipe and NOT from a bottle. You shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. You ate cakes, white bread and real butter and drank pop with sugar in it, but you weren't overweight because...... YOU WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!! You would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach you all day. And you were OK. You would spend hours building your go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out you forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, you learned to solve the problem . You did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no text messaging, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........YOU HAD FRIENDS and you went outside and found them! You fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents you played with worms(well most boys did) and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. You made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although you were told it would happen, you did not poke out any eyes. You rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them! Local teams had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing you out if you broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. You had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and you learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

20 December 2013

Brrrrrrrrrrrr......

I lodged a complaint to our human resource and administration department. I told them that their briefing documents on Jordan were not complete. They did not mention that I should have brought my ski along.

The Middle East was hit by a snow storm a week ago. Where I live in Amman it is now OK again. But where our offices are located, on a higher level in Amman, we still have about 50 centimeters of snow. And it is cold, awfully cold. Last week, the temperature in Montreux was higher than the one in Amman.

The sun is shining again since a few days but the snow only melts slowly. We stay put inside to be warm. And my son who also lives on the Arabian peninsula, one and a half hours to fly from here, is having fun at the swimming pool.

Br..........

04 December 2013

I am feeling GOOD

It has been some time since my last post. For a good reason, I have been extremely busy. It is now a little more than 3 month that I am in Jordan. A wonderful time.

It starts with the signboard above. The word "Welcome" is the whole essence of Jordan. Very welcoming, very friendly and very warm people. Smiley people. And yet, Jordan, as many other countries, has its problems too. In particular now with the influx of Syrian refugees in big number. Prices increase, jobs are getting scarce mainly at laborer level. And yet, the "easy going" but very efficient way is hiding it a bit.

Amman is a bustling town.

I am living in the older part which is "Jebel Amman". This is where the city was built first, originally on 7 hills. I was told that today the city spreads over 19 hills. I have to check that. But the fact is that the roads are going up and down all the time in the city. And I can see that daily when I move around with taxis.

A very good way to move in town. The distance from my home to the office is around 9 kilometers and the fare is about 2 dollars for this trip. The taxis have meters and the amount varies according to the travel time. And when I see a taxi driver stopping for me and he smokes, I say: "Oh, you smoke" and then the driver wants to get rid of the cigarette and I say: "No, I will smoke with you". Because Jordan is a smoker's paradise. Everybody, well almost everybody smokes, men and women. In my residential area is Rainbow Street with dozens of cafes. Where one relaxes drinking a coffee or a tea and smokes, cigarettes and Shisha, the water-pipe.

I will talk in future more about Amman, a very pleasant city.

But Jordan has a lot to offer. Also on this I will dwell longer in the future.

Petra, the historic site with its churches built into the mountain is on my agenda for a visit.

And recently, I had the chance to go to the Dead Sea.

I did stick my finger in the water and licked it. It is indeed very, (very, very) salty.

I am enjoying my stay in Jordan very much even though the work is harsh. You will read more about it. End of this month I am going home for a break and to renew my passport which is about to expire (and does not have empty pages anymore) and next year I will come back to Jordan.






01 September 2013

I should have told you before....

I should have told you before but I simply did not have time. It all went so quick.

Since 3 weeks I am in Amman, Jordan. And I will, as it looks like now, be here until the end of the year. I am working in relation to the situation in Syria and am taking care of Syrian refugees in camps in Jordan.

When I left Liberia at the end of June, I was braced for a period of rest and calm. It was wonderful to attend during two weeks the Montreux Jazz Festival early July, the first time I able to do so since seven years. Then (as I told you in my previous post) I got a message from an ex-colleague of mine who is working for the Syrian crisis in Jordan and telling me that people are needed. She asked for permission to mention me to her boss. Without being specific if he might want me to come. He did want me to come and so I am here.

I have been overwhelmed by Jordan and its people. An extraordinary place. I will write about. A new world has opened to me. A great world.

20 July 2013

And on............

3 weeks ago I came home. The mission in Liberia came to its end. There are still Ivorian refugees in camps, but the emergency situation has cooled down and all assistance activities will now go more in the direction of recovery, rehabilitation and livelihood. Because many of those refugees will most probably stay in Liberia for a long time and might not even return to Côte d'Ivoire.

I have enjoyed my time in Switzerland so far, the more so as in my town the "Montreux Jazz Festival" is on since almost 2 weeks and (after having missed the festival for so many years) I have gone to concerts almost everyday.

But it seems that soon I will be off again.

I have received a request to go to Jordan to help for 6 month with the Syrian crisis and mainly assist the Syrian refugees in camps. Another challenge. Well, it is difficult to say no. People are in dire need of assistance and every hand is welcome.

I will keep you posted.

12 June 2013

WOW and YES

I will watch it. On my computer. At the office. In Liberia. Thanks to France 24,

This beautiful "bird" will fly for the first time:

And I will be so proud of European technology. And anxiously waiting for the first time I will fly in this beauty. With my favorite airline "Qatar Airways" who will be the first one to receive the Airbus 350 XWB.


20 May 2013

YES! YES! YES!

Almost!

They almost reached the summit. Switzerland did win the Silver Medal of the 2013 Ice Hockey World Chamionship. After having played and won 9 games, they had to face Sweden in the final. A great job. We Swiss are very proud of you. Congratulations.

These are the guys who got hold of us. The Swedish. 2013 Ice Hockey World Champion. Congratulations.

Sweden and Switzerland are small countries. But now, all the Swiss and all the Swedes are very happy and very proud people. Very happy and very proud.

18 May 2013

Men, Great Men

My mission in Liberia is coming to an end next month. I can look back on some personal enrichment and I am grateful that, after all those many years of working, I still can have such experiences. I have met a lot of people, interesting ones, important ones and great ones. "Big shots". And yet very humble people. I would like to mention two who have marked me.

At the beginning of the Ivorian Refugee Crisis early 2011, when everything was messy and the humanitarian action had to set up, we had a weekly meeting called the HAC (Humanitarian Action Coordination) meeting. As the situation became more stabilised the meeting was held monthly. I presented the activities and results of the food sector.

The meeting was led by Mr. Moustapha Soumaré, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations to Liberia. He was also the Humanitarian Coordinator. He is a national of Mali. Rarely, in my life, have I come across a person like him. A real gentleman, very kind, very good, a man who knows his job. And a very humble person. I simply admired him. And I always thought that I was very far from reaching his level as a human being.

What I just wrote, I could make copy/paste for another person.

To assist the population, we need donations. We get them from everywhere. Last year, ECOWAS, the community of West African States, donated rice for the refugees to the Government of Liberia who charged us with the distribution. Last December, the official handing over ceremony from ECOWAS to the Goverment of Liberia was held.

The President of the ECOWAS Comission, Mr. Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo, came personally for this ceremony. He is a national from Burkina Faso and used to be the Prime Minister of that country. During his stay in Liberia he went on a field mission to visit the refugees. I had the pleasure and honor to be part of that mission. As with Mr. Soumaré, I felt very much at ease with him. A real gentleman too.

So, even if you are a "big shot", you still can be a humble person.

I am not a "big shot". But I try to be humble.


28 April 2013

Innoncence or Ignorance?

Yes, I am still around. I will leave Liberia for good in about 2 month. The program I have been responsible for is coming to an end and we have been preparing the one that is going to continue the assistance, in another form, to Ivorian refugees and the Liberian host population. It will be more into development and the emergency and humantiarian action will stop and I am not needed anymore.

I am morally preparing to go. It is always a difficult moment to go and to leave people who have become your friends behind. But this has happened to me so many times that I am used to it. I will leave with my mind and heart again fully loaded with souvenirs and my life experience enriched again.

And being mature and not innocent or ignorant anymore. When I was young I was careless, innocent and ignorant. When I left Rwanda and moved to South Africa in 1967 I did not even know that apartheid existed. I came to Johannesburg, a booming town, and enjoyed and had a lot of fun. But very soon I realised the issues of "black and white" in that country. And I started to loose my innocence and ignorance. I said how possible that we should be apart, separated by law, when in Rwanda I had made so many African friends. And it became more and more difficult for me to accept the South African "system". And after a year I left. I did follow what is happening in the country. And then something, after a few years, huge happened.

I had undergone surgery and was at home on recovery leave. And one morning I was watching CNN and did not believe what I saw.

Frederik de Klerk, the South African President, was making a speech at the Parliament in Cape Town. He spoke partially in English and in Afrikaans. And his message was the abolishment of the apartheid. I could not believe it. But there it was.

A few weeks later, things started to happen.

Nelson Mandela was freed from prison after 27 years in jail. He came back to the world. And he did not bring hatred with him. Things started to change and rather quickly. A new wind was blowing in South Africa.

And these two men made the wind to blow strong. They changed history. They are for me among the greatest men in history.

And me, I have lost my innocence and ignorance. It took some time.



24 February 2013

A great "Service Public": The Swiss Post

I remember when I was young. Like in many countries, public administration was something "sleepy". If you worked for a goverment agency, your salary was not that high, but your were assured for a lifetime employment. For us, the clients, we hesitated to go to a government office because, often, it was cumbersome or you were not well received. We had state enterprises that were there and did their work. Just did it and we had to abide with it. Over the years things changed. Government agencies pay now well and that has the effect that people search to work for them.

Like in almost every country, Switzerland had its classic state entreprises: The railways and the post. At that time, it was called PTT: Post, Telephone, Telegramme. The railways "SBB" has changed into the probably most efficient railroad company in the world and is the backbone of our public transport system. I already have written extensively about it, The PTT was split into two: "swisscom" for telecommunication (a very modern, efficient and dynamic company) and the "Swiss Post". Today, I would like to dwell on them.

The "Swiss Post" is touching everyday the life of thousands of people in Switzerland. If, basically, one thinks that their main job (and it is a main job) to distribute only mail, you are wrong. The enterprise is offering a wide variety of services that go far beyond the traditional "post office". And those services are delivered extremely efficiently, with no flaw and very reliable. And if, in very rare cases, there is a problem "Swiss Post" has a wonderful customer service you can call. When you talk to them, you feel that they are very solution oriented and at the end, when you hang up, you feel good.

We have our famous banks in Switzerland. Big ones, world reknowned ones. And, as we know, banks that have been in troubles, for many years, for various reasons. Me, I had some issues with my bank many years ago. I was utterly displeased. I needed an alternative and I opened a "postal checking account", a service from the Post.

Today, it is called "PostFinance".

                                            Copyright photo - Die Schweizerische Post

Let's be simple and not loose to many words: For me it is the best finance service I ever have known. Reliable, easy, performant and a must in one's daily life. I have exactly, and even more, services than I would have with a bank. I pay my bills (most of them come electronically to my postal account and I just click for payment). When I am making transfers to a foreign bank account, anywhere in the world, the beneficiary is credited withing 2 days. Sometimes I have to send money urgently to someone. For this, there is Western Union. But I don't need to go to a Western Union office. I can do the transfer straight from my post account. And the fee is cheaper.

                                                 Copyright photo - DieSchweizerische Post

Needless to say that I can go to any ATM and withdraw funds. "PostFinance" is so efficient that more and more people are leaving the banks and go to "PostFinance" who is now offering a wide range of services, including mortgages. A real good alternative to banks and I am convinced that in a few years, they will be THE bank.

Most of the people in Switzerland live in an area of one third of the size of Switzerland. This regions is called the "Mittelland" or "le plateau". It is well developed with an as well developed public transport system. But then we have the rural and the mountain areas. Here, people need transport too.

                                            Copyright photo - Die Schweizerische Post

There comes in the service of the "Swiss Postal Cars". Modern vehicles are transporting people and mail.

                                            Copyright photo - Die Schweizerische Post

The yellow busses, and they are many of them, strengthen our public transport system. The deserve villages in the "Mittelland" and they go high up into the hidden mountain valleys. And it is not that you have one bus on Monday, one on Wednesday and one on Friday. They are running with frequent departures. When you go, for instance, to the railway station in Sion, the capital city of the Valais canton, you see dozens of postal cars waiting for the trains to arrive and to carry the travellers immediately to their destination.

Let's not forget the "classic" service of the Swiss Post: The mail.


                                            Copyright photo - Die Schweizerische Post

Everywhere we have to boxes where you drop your letters to be sent.          

                                            Copyright photo - Die Schweizerische Post

Modern distribution centers sort letters and parcels and they are delivered to their destinations within the shortest time possible. We have two possibilities: The A mail which is delivered the next day and the B mail, a bit cheaper, and delivered within a few days. When I send my income tax return, I use B mail.


                                            Copyright photo - Die Schweizerische Post

Needless to say that the Swiss Post is as efficient when it comes to international mail. Letters from the USA reach me in about 3 days, parcels from order I made with Amazon come within 7 days. And the good part is, I do not have to worry about customs clearance, the Post takes care of that. When the postman delivers the parcel at my home, I just pay him the custom duty, if there is any.

I would like to end this story about a service the Swiss Post provides, which for me is an absolute hit: The Swiss Post Box. This service is my "life saver". As I am most of the time outside of Switzerland, I always have (had) unpleasant letters when I came home. Reminders of unpaid bills, important documents I did not fill in in time and so on. When, a few years ago, the post launched this service, I subscribed to it immediately.

The system is simple: You get a particular address with a box number. You communicate that address to everybody (or the ones you want to). Mail is sent to that address. Then the Post sends you an email that you have received postal mail. The email has a photo of the enveloppe. Then you tell the Post what to do with it. Either to destroy it (which is not advisable when it is your income tax bill) or to send it to a different address or to open and scan it. If you chose this, you will get a day later an email with the letter in PDF format. If you receive a registered letter, they can open it too. But if you think that it is too confidential, you tell the Post to send it to a different address. The same works with parcels. Those you have to send to a different address, because I think it would be difficult to scan the content of a parcel into a PDF :-). So, you have complete control over your postal mail when you are absent and wherever you are in the world. There is no problem of confidentiality, the Post guarantees secrecy.

And here is the best part of Swiss Post Box: The Swiss Post is offering this service also in France, Germany, Italy and Austria. If you, fellow world roamers and travellers, think that this could be of use to you, you can find all the details on www.post.ch.

That was now a long post. But then, I had many things to say about the Swiss Postal service. The Swiss Post, a true giant. A good one too. A wonderful service provider, close to the people.




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