“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” – Douglas Adams
I have a confession to make: I haven’t been telling you everything, my friends. Some of you know what I’m about to confess, but for everyone else, here goes: I am going to the Caribbean for 3 months for work for the IMF.
Let me start at the beginning. Around 10 days before I left Sydney, a wonderful friend of mine rang me and read out an email from a contact of hers at – wait for it – the World Bank (yes, my friend is seriously well connected). They had the need for a lawyer in the Caribbean for around 3 months who knew a little about life insurance as they were on the verge of restructuring a collapsed life insurer and they needed someone to help. I was deeply amazed at the opportunity and said, oh yesss, please put my name into the ring and – hey – if they wanted me I’d cut short my travel.
Of course, I hung up and thought “Yeah right, that’s too much like winning the lottery to ever happen.” I told a couple of friends about it, and then shook my head, chuckled, and re-focused on visas and finishing up at work.
Anyhow, in a previous post I mentioned that almost as soon as I arrived in Oia I’d received an email from a guy at the IMF (which, incidentally, I nearly deleted thinking it was spam) asking me to complete a questionnaire so he can submit it for approval. Being the obedient girl I am, I sent it back and innocently asked “Ummm, what approval?”
At which point he starts copying in the World Bank dude, and we are having a three-way email conversation about when I can start, how I will need to rearrange my travel, what funding approvals they need, etc. Suddenly, everything gets lighter and my head starts spinning: this is really happening! I phone the World Bank dude in Washington DC (seriously, “could you put me through to the President”) and he is keen as mustard for me to start and live in St Kitts for 2-3 months.
But of course the wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly, and although everything was agreed by the time I left Santorini, it was rather drawn out. All the while I am clinging onto my Greek island sojourn and telling myself “this might not happen”. Very thoughtfully, at the same time, the lovely World Bank dude kept sending me encouraging emails like “Just to let you know that [whoever – eg President Obama*] has come out strongly in support of the funding for your involvement”.
There of course were hitches along the way. For example, the funding for the role had to be approved, which took a week, and then their decision about my salary took another 2 weeks, plus there was another week (although originally estimated to be 3) waiting for a contract to be issued. Not to mention the fact that all sorts of changes were happening to the deal in the Caribbean itself, with some “Barbados intervention” – ie the government put two life companies into judicial management. Add to this the emails and conference calls…well, suffice it to say I was on tenterhooks for almost the entire time I was on Santorini not really knowing where my holiday was going to end up at all…or when, for that matter.
The most interesting part was the “sticker shock” – the IMF simply doesn’t pay market rates, even though the guy I dealt with there was convinced they do. Apparently (and this will be no surprise) people are so busting to work for them for the CV value that they’ll take the hair cut on pay. So, while I’m not gonna retire on what they’ll pay me, I couldn’t resist saying yes – this could really turn out to be the most interesting opportunity I’ve ever had.
On 24 April I will make my way from Tehran to St Kitts in the Caribbean, via London to buy some clothes and attend an emergency hair appointment. My role will be as legal adviser to and member of a Core Committee that is advising a Ministerial sub-Committee comprising – wait for it – 2 Prime Ministers and 2 Finance Ministers from Eastern Caribbean states. Yes, if you can’t believe it, imagine how I feel.
So, although I had intended to take a year off, I have no doubt you will agree that there really was no real choice to be made here. I didn’t want to mention anything here until the deal was signed, sealed and delivered in case it all fell apart (which, admittedly, it never looked like doing). Naturally, you are all invited to come visit me in the Caribbean (I will be implementing a roster system), and I guess that means this blog takes an unexpected turn (time2dance2reggae?).
I’ll come back to Australia after the contract is over (maybe August? September?), see mum and the dogs and you guys, dine at Spice Temple every meal, and then do some more travelling later this year, and in the first half of next year. Of course, the contract could take less time or (possibly) longer than we all expect, in which case even I can’t guess how it might all end. In any event, I plan to treat this little trip to Greece, Istanbul and Iran as “annual leave” and re-start the clock ticking on my 12 month career break once I’m done in the Caribbean.
So, my holiday has another 3 weeks to go before I dive deeply into more WORK (I may be lying since documents for review have already started arriving). After swearing I would knock back all but the most interesting opportunities in order to have time off, I do love the irony of it taking an entire week after I left INGA for this to have ticked all the boxes. And at the even greater irony that I joined ING to maybe work overseas and, oops, the minute I leave, there it is.
Somehow, though, it already feels lighter and more intriguing than the last 3 years, and who knows, maybe my next adventure involves at last becoming an International Woman of Mystery. I always said I was leaving INGA for my next adventure, which I half expected to involve buying a hotel in Greece, or becoming a waitress in Dubrovnik.
But, never mind, this’ll do.
* not really