Greetings from Southern Florida!
I arrived here on Wednesday afternoon, where a group of us descended from various places in the Caribbean and elsewhere to attend a couple of days worth of meetings on this matter I’m working on.
Miami is pretty much what you’d expect, with little of the charm of Chicago or Boston and none of the glamour that I think New York oozes. Essentially, from what I’ve seen so far, there are large swamps (flying over the Everglades gives you a better sense of how large they are), billions of palm trees, lots of water and heat, heat, heat. I was lucky enough to be staying in the Intercontinental on Biscayne, the snazzier area of Miami, and arriving back into the lap of 5 star luxury was most welcome (esp the comfy doona they place on the mattress to give it a more “cloud-like” effect).
I was meant to meet two of the team I’m working with for dinner, but one of them, Karen (yes, it will be confusing esp as she’s also a lawyer) got stuck coming in from Antigua when the Homeland Security IT system went down for a few hours right around the US and people were herded into rooms to wait out the solution of the problem. Naturally, the communications strategy involved complete silence so after a couple of hours Karen was busy hatching plans for a unlawful imprisonment suit, especially since she’s a US citizen.
So I finally met Karen (who I’d been speaking with already) and Timothy (who runs the Finance Ministry in Grenada) at breakfast, and then Caroline, on loan from the World Bank, flew in from Washington DC and joined us for our morning of brain storming. I think I’ve got very lucky here, as these guys are incredibly smart, very nice and I fitted in straight away. Karen and I both seem to suffer from the same problem of talking too much, so at least no-one will think I’m strange. Karen in particular is a darling, and we are new BFF’s – what a shame she’s on Antigua and I’ll be on St Kitts (admittedly only a 20 min flight away).
The meetings went fine, and I did my usual thing of saying mainly hopeless stuff with a couple of gems chucked in so hopefully they don’t think they’ve made a terrible mistake. Well, at least not yet.
Karen and I compared notes of the whole story of getting me here, and it seems that, yes, I was the only person they looked at and they were very grateful I was actually available. She also confirmed my suspicions that this might last longer than 3 months, as they are already seeking funding for an extension (not sure how to break this to mum at this point) but we started brainstorming options of my doing at least some of the last bits from Sydney and coming back here for the party…I guess time will tell.
We did a wander around some of the waterfront in Miami, and I didn’t find it all that interesting – a lot of cliches including bands playing The Girl from Ipanema and La Bamba, just in case you don’t know you’re on a piece of land that resembles an appendix just above Central America. There was a particularly odd man-made strip, covered in sand, with lounge chairs spread out on it – and people actually sitting on them, gazing at the water (see picture at the top)…I hate to say it but I found Miami SO uninteresting that the only 2 shots I took were of this strange little “beach” so sorry my journalism isn’t of the quality you deserve.
We dined at the friendly and cheesy Bubba-Gump Seafood, based on the movie Forrest Gump. The waiters ask you trivia questions about the film, and they have rather nifty signs saying “Run, Forrest, Run” and “Stop, Forrest, Stop” depending on whether you want to grab a waiter’s attention or not – and they were rather effective. The food was also pretty good, which was handy since I’d passed up going to a Cuban restaurant owned by Gloria Estefan.
At the airport on Saturday morning, I discovered the joy of “side walk” check-ins, where men take your bags and go and get your boarding pass for you, without you having to wait in line – I think they are called “Sky Caps” and of course a tip was needed, but I only guessed at how much was de rigeur so I probably grossly under-paid them.
I was happy to leave Miami, albeit nearly 2 hours late, after they needed to check some equipment. The flight over the Caribbean was absolutely beautiful, and I’ve used most of my photo space here enticing you with some snaps from the plane.