Protected

Our hotel is the strangest structure. I constantly lose my way as I walk from our meeting room to restaurant. There are narrows passages and uneven levels, floor one on the left is at a different level than floor one on the right. There are meeting rooms everywhere, and workshops going on in some of them.

As for the structure itself, it is as if someone dropped a bunch of concrete pillars and walls from the heavens, covered everything with a sticky substance and then threw a collection of tiles of every color and size over the result.  Or, and this is more likely, it was a small hotel that discovered there was money in hosting training events, and kept adding halls. Everywhere are citations or bible verses in haut relief inscribed on the walls. I live under ‘God will protect you.’

It is definitely not a structure that is friendly to people with physical disabilities. And yet we have one such a person in the group. He is a hospital manager who walks with great difficulty using two crutches, one leg useless for walking. Since I have been working with ICRC I am very much aware how rarely buildings are designed to accommodate people with physical disabilities. And this makes it hard for some groups to participate. But participate he does, climbing all the crooked stairs, three levels up clutching his crutches and his briefcase. We started to talk about my work with ICRC and the people I worked with, what I learned from that. He was pleased. I promised to introduce him to the chief of the Paralympic Committee in Niger.

The first night I discovered the restaurant where we are served breakfast was dark. I returned to my room – everyone had disappeared someplace. I lived that night on a banana and a bag of almonds. The next morning I found out there was another restaurant at the entrance to the hotel which I had not noticed before. I went downstairs and sat down – the TVs were, as usual, showing football matches and one man was watching. It quickly became clear that it was not the kind of restaurant where one sits down and is served, even though it looked like it was. I should have ordered food at lunch time and then it would be served in my room. If I did not want to eat in my room I would have sat there for at least an hour, all by myself, and watch football or some mother sketchy program on TV. I thought I had ordered something simple, grilled chicken and a tomato salad. One hour and a half later the food was served in my room.

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