Montreux, my home, my paradise.

Montreux, my home, my paradise.
Montreux at dusk

09 December 2012

Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Liberia

It is one of those (rare) nights where I cannot sleep. So I got up, poured a whisky and relaxed. And my mind wandered off. Into space. Just like David Gilmour of Pink Floyd when he plays his guitar solo in "Comfortably Numb". He comes down from space at the end of the song. And my mind came down too. And I started to think.

In a few month from now, I will finally have a quieter life. And I was thinking of what I have been doing in the past 15 years. Thinking about the people I met, thinking about the places I have been to. In 40 years of running around, I was in a great number of countries. I still have souvenirs from the ones I was in the 60ties. I have still souvenirs from anywhere. And mainly good ones. But my post title shows the three countries that have marked me tremendously.

They have something in common: War.

I arrived in Kosovo shortly at the end of the war. The (then not yet) country was in a very poor state. It was the last Balkan war. The work to be done was enormous. For 4 years I was working and living there. Switzerland was heavily involved of assisting Kosovo and its population. Because we have a big Kosovar community living since many years in Switzerland. They are integrated, work hard and pay the income tax much better than I do. So now, I was there. During all the years I had close contact with the population, in the cities, in the villages and in the hidden mountain valleys. I made a lot of friendships. My fellow Kosovar workers have all become friends. And I am thinking of them every day. When my last day came and I left, we were all together. It was time to say Goodbye. We hugged each other, men and women. I could not help it, I wept.

I came to Sri Lanka when the close to 30 year civil war was going to end. I moved up north to the zone where the fighting was taking place and the final battles were going on. What struck me, right from the arrival in the country, was the smiles. I have never in my life come across friendly and smiling people like in Sri Lanka which in addition is a very beautiful country. In Switzerland, when you get down from the plane (coming from a non-Schengen country) you will have grim looking policemen checking your passport if you do not look like a clean cut Swiss. In Sri Lanka, the policemen smile at you. Again, my Sri Lankan colleagues and I became close friends. We worked hard together but even in the toughest moments we kept our smiles. The time came where I had to leave. When I was at the airport making my customs and immigration clearances I noticed that on each immigration both there was a poster of the mobile phone company. Every poster had a different (smiling) face with a different landscape behind. On top of the poster it said: "Safe Journey". And at the bottom it said: "Please do not forget our smiles". I could not help it, I wept.

I did not come to Liberia because of its war. This has finished since a few years, though the country is still recovering. I came because of the war in Côte d'Ivoire which brought a lot of Ivorian refugees to Liberia. The country has a lot of jungle forrest and I have spent many days travelling in it and through it. When you don't know them, you think that Liberians are rough people. I have seen a few where I was sure that a few years ago they were not only holding a Kalashnikov in their hands but also having used it. But these times are now gone. Liberians are tired of war and concentrate of moving the country forward. I am working with many Liberians. Goverment officials, people working with NGO and, of course, my colleagues. They are sharp, hard workers and, what is very nice, they appreciate to joke. I am a joker and I make them laugh many times. And one feels safe. You can walk around in town, freely, there is no agression. Even immigration at the airport is nothing "terrible". And then I love to eat two Liberian dishes: "Potato Greens" and "Kassava Leaves". And gulp down a local beer. It is not only with me that the Liberians are friendly, it is with everybody. I am spending a good time in this country in spite of the hard work. In a few month I will leave Liberia. I will not be able to help it. I will weep.



2 comments:

  1. I've seen enough pictures now to know that your smile must be appreciated all over the world. I hope that the rest of your stay in Liberia is a peaceful one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is always sad to leave a place where you worked so close to people. Or a place you have come to love.
    A terrible ache instills into your heart tearing you in two.
    I am glad all is going well for you Peter. :)

    ReplyDelete

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