A world apart

Easter Saturday, 1999.

‘Aaaaaaah’. With a long sigh of relief, I let myself slide into the soft cushions of a beach chair, next to Tine. In the shade of a huge umbrella, on fine sand, looking at the girls playing in the blue water next to the mangrove trees. The temperature is just right. Not too warm, not too cold. With cocktails in our hands.

‘Aaaaaah’. Zanzibar, at last. For weeks we had been looking forward for a long weekend off from work, in a different environment. With one sigh, gone were all the troubles and stress. Yesterday is just a distant memory. The flat tire we had with the office car on the way from Kampala to Entebbe airport, and the fact that the driver had forgotten to repair the spare, so we had to stop another car to hitch a lift to the airport to catch the plane on time. Gone were the memories of the crowded flight, the fact they managed to steal my spare mobile phone and electric shaver out of our luggage during the transit in Nairobi.

Our first long weekend together since a long while. Since probably the time we started up our new emergency intervention team at work, early that year.

I doze off. Wind blowing ever so slightly on my face. The sound of the waves on the beach. ‘Life should always be like that’, I think.

Very far away, in between the sound of the small, steady waves breaking onto the sand in a steady cyclic movement, I hear a faint sound, a high pitch tingling, a lovely sound. Tine squeezes my arm and pulls me out of my dream. ‘Phone! Your phone is ringing!’. Still half asleep, I dig into our bag with beach towels and pampers for Hannah. The office is calling. ‘A massive exodus from Kosovo refugees into Macedonia and Albania… Started yesterday.. Need to fly in… Equipment needed… Sorry to disturb your Easter weekend!’. Half awake, I hear everything but only grasp a bit.

I look over the blue-green Indian Ocean. The fishermen in the distance throwing out their nets in long circular movements, slowly pulling them in, and throwing them out again. My two angels within the frame of the same picture, more on the foreground, making a tower in the sand with their plastic shuffles, giggling, fantasizing it is the strongest castle ever built that will resist time and storms for ever. Tine is asleep again, in the chair next to me.

For a moment, this is my reality. My world. My happiness. I know though, from the moment I make my next phone call, another reality will kick in. Sitting in paradise, I will be thinking of the next days and weeks, where my reality will be interlinked with that of tens of thousands who lost everything they had on a moment’s notice, and are fleeing for their lives. On a moment’s notice… A moment like this. Where one is in paradise and the other one loses everything.

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