Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Girl from Ipanema - Post 12

Working for humanitarian agencies is a stressful business, but can also be lots of fun, and Kacper was not necessarily referring to work satisfaction. Many, if not most organisations have got policies of granting to their employees some time off, so that the staff members working in stressful and difficult conditions, have a chance to forget about wars, conflicts, miseries of life, and recharge their batteries. This time off is widely known as R&R and stands for Recreation and Recuperation.

Kacper loved his R&Rs, and believed that they were actually a great way of ensuring his and his colleagues’ sanity and mental health.

Kacper’s first ever R&R was in Phuket of Thailand, but throughout his long career, he went to amazingly many fantastic places. Thank to his R&R’s, Kacper also managed to visit sites like Rio de Janeiro, Zanzibar, Cape Town, San Antonio, Singapore, Kolkata, Brisbane with Queensland, Copenhagen, Nairobi, Cairo, Madrid, Brussels, Bangkok, Jakarta, or quite a number of places in Malaysia and Namibia.

Some of Kacper’s R&Rs were extremely touristy, and to some extend boring (Kacper sometimes needed to go to a place to get bores, as there was too much of ‘excitement’ in his workplace already), some were very sad – as for example, the one, when he attended a funeral of his friend, some were designed to catch up with Kacper’s multiple friends, and finally some were somehow wired and crazy.

Once, when years ago, Kacper worked in Angola, he met a sweet Polish girl called Anna, who happened to be working there for a Belgian NGO. As Kacper was always excited meeting new people, and this time, someone, who was from his native country – they quickly became friends. Kacper kept meeting Anna often, and they always enjoyed each other’s company tremendously.

Kacper noticed that Anna was particularly nice to him. She always invited him to meet up with her friends, and sometimes she arranged these fantastic breakfasts that were famous all over Lubango – the town, where they worked. Although, many people used to attend these morning feasts, Kacper had a feeling that he was always a special guest. Anna would often, in front of everyone underline how nice Kacper was, and how much she enjoyed his company.

Kacper being Kacper – sometimes a bit clumsy, never expected that all these breakfasts, and other pleasant encounters might have been actually designed as Anna’s way of getting into Kacper’s heart. He did not see it, and why would he? He had never given Anna any reason to believe that he might have been interested in their friendship to go one step further… This is at least, what he wanted to believe!

A few weeks later, Anna’s deployment in Angola was finishing, and she was going back to Warsaw, where she came from. Before, she left; she would make Kacper promise that he would be in touch, and that he would look after himself in Angola. She always worried of mines, and told Kacper that she had often had visions that landmines would one day, injure some of her friends. ‘Kacper, I do not want that anything happens to you here’ – she kept on saying. Kacper was slightly overwhelmed, but touched by Anna’s concern, and took her worries, as someone’s who perhaps is too sensitive, although genuine.

Anna left, and she kept on sending Kacper emails… many emails. Soon Kacper found out that Anna was going to have a 2 months long assignment in Brazil. This was not very surprising. Anna’s Portuguese was excellent, so it was nearly natural that sooner or later, Anna would end up in that fascinating country.

Just before she departed from Poland for Sao Paulo, she suggested that they should meet up in Rio de Janeiro. ‘Yes Kacper’ – she excitedly wrote, ‘you need to take one of your breaks in Rio, and I will make sure I will take time off in the same time, and we meet there!’ Meeting Anna in Brazil appeared to Kacper extremely attractive and tempting. Brazil is the place, where he had always wanted to go, and meeting his friend again would just be great.

Three weeks later, with a smile attached to his face, in the sunny streets of Cidade Marvilhosa Kacper was making his way from the airport to one of the hotels in Ipanema; yes, IPANEMA! Oh, he felt happy… Brazil, Rio made such a great first impression on him. He felt like he wanted singing, and The Girl from Ipanema was certainly in his mind, and he nearly needed to force himself not to start doing so in his taxi.

The hotel was great. It was small, and extremely cosy. ‘Anna made a great choice’ thought Kacper and was so grateful for her invitation to Brazil. ‘This is going to be the greatest holiday ever!’ he decided.

Anna was scheduled to arrive to Rio de Janeiro with a domestic flight from Sao Paulo later on in the evening. She asked Kacper to wait for her in the hotel, but Kacper felt a need to be a gentleman, and decided to surprise her with a bunch of roses at the airport.

He went to the florist down the street, where the hotel was, and asked for a bunch of red roses. ‘Great choice’ said the young lady, who served him. ‘Are they for your girlfriend?’ she asked. ‘No, they are not’ answered Kacper with his Angolan Portuguese. ‘They are for a very good friend’ he added truthfully, and placed the notes on the counter. ‘Have a great stay in Rio’ shouted the flower lady, when Kacper was leaving the shop. ‘Com certeza, muito obrigado!’ (surely I will, thank you so much) he shouted back, and run off to the street.

Anna was pleasantly surprised with Kacper and she seemed to be overjoyed with the flowers. She kissed Kacper’s cheeks to greet him and tell him thank you. Kacper thought that the kiss was not ‘just a kiss’, but then quickly decided that he was imagining things. ‘She is just a great friend, isn’t she?’ he insisted to himself.

Anna loved the hotel that she had chosen. ‘I am so happy that my friend Maria recommended it to me’ she said. ‘I will need to thank her for that’ she added and asked whether Kacper wanted to see her room. The way she asked, made Kacper a bit uncomfortable, and alarm bells started ringing in Kacper’s head. He definitely felt things were going out of control.

The following days were just great. Copacabana, Pao de Acugar, Cristo Redentor, Old City, wine, restaurants, romantic cafes… Anna and Kacper talked, and had a good time. The initial uneasiness that Kacper felt was all gone.

The week of Kacper’s R&R was nearly gone, and he was travelling back to Luanda the following day. They decided to have their last dinner in one of the lovely restaurants at Ipanema Beach, not far from their hotel.

The dinner was splendid. Anna asked the waiter to bring another bottle of wine. She then looked deep in Kacper’s eyes, and suddenly THE QUESTION came: ‘Kacper, you realise how I feel about you?’ Kacper blushed, and pretended not hear. ‘Kacper, you know that I love you’ she whispered. Kacper’s heart nearly stopped. ‘What am I going to tell her?’ he thought frantically. In those days, Kacper was so much in the closet and he would not dare thinking of him being gay even to himself, not mentioning Anna, or whoever else, for that matter.

‘Sweet Heart…’ started Kacper as fondly as he could. ‘This is so moving, what you have said’ he carried on. ‘No, this was not going to work’ he decided. ‘Anna…’ he struggled. ‘You are a wonderful woman, and…’ he paused. He did not know what to say really. ‘Anna, look at me…’ he tried, ‘you will never be happy with me…’ he carried on. ‘I have this flipping muscular dystrophy, and my MD is such a big part of me, Anna… I am not ready for the relationship with you. In fact, I am not ready for any relationship… look I am disabled, and I will be a burden to whoever wants to love me…’ he went on, looking at Anna’s tears appearing in her eyes. ‘God, what a bloody coward I am’ he thought and started hating himself for not being able to tell Anna… for not being able to tell himself, the real reasons… the TRUTH.

Anna got up, looked at Kacper, and told him that she was sorry to have touched on areas that surely were difficult for Kacper. ‘I do not understand however, what is happening, and why you make such a big fuss of this silly disability of yours…’ then added ‘I hope, you are going to have a good flight back to Luanda’ and left.

Kacper felt like if some devastating earthquake ruined everything in his life. He felt guilty, he felt like a liar. Kacper thought his castle… the walls that protected his own security were brought down. He felt vulnerable and thought that his life was unfair to him. ‘I have got enough to deal with’ he carried on thinking, deep inside hoping that feeling self-pity will fix something… ‘I do not want to deal with this…no, I am just too weak to deal with it’.

On his return to Luanda, Kacper found an email from Anna in his mailbox. ‘Kacper, I am so sorry, I did not intend to make you feel uncomfortable, please forgive!’ it said. He wished, he could just write back and explain everything, and ask Anna for her understanding and her forgiveness. He did not want to make feel her guilty, as it is he – Kacper, who was not playing a fair game.

The answer had not been written for years... He was not ready yet, even if the price for this meant… hurting other people.

PS. Kacper admires his present that he got from his German friend – a calendar with stunning pictures of African landscapes.

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