Saturday, 9 October 2010

Off to the Caribbean

Retirement is not quite working out as planned.

For in the past month or so I’ve found myself undertaking trips to Dubai (teaching at our campus there) and then a few days in Budapest (for some academic business at the Institute of Economics) – see my recent postings for more on these ventures. And now I’m out in the Caribbean, working with a colleague on an EU-funded project to advise on the macroeconomic framework for St Kitts and Nevis. So far, we’ve been out here for just a week, and the project runs until a week before Christmas. It’s going to be a busy few weeks, with lots of people to meet, data to collect, reports to write and training to deliver.

Why do I do these crazy things, I sometimes wonder. Well, one reason is simply that I like travel, especially when it involves visiting somewhere new and different; and it’s even better, of course, if someone else is willing to pay. The downside of that is that I then have to do some work to justify getting paid, but the old brain still seems to be functioning quite well, so that’s not too bad really. Indeed, with luck this latest project will turn out to be both interesting and quite challenging, the best kind of work.

Another reason for doing these trips is more practical, namely that at home we have lots of animals, quite a diverse mix in fact; and from time to time we run up shockingly high vet bills. Since both my wife (Cindy) and I are from a generation that was brought up to be very cautious financially, and to avoid debts wherever possible, we’re not keen to allow our savings to run down too much to pay vet bills. Hence I take on extra projects from time to time to supplement my pension, so we can manage more comfortably. In the longer term, as Cindy’s children’s writing takes off and she earns more herself, I shall be able to take more of a back seat – supporting her, but otherwise working and travelling much less.

What about St Kitts, and our work here? The place is quite small, two islands and a total population of around 50,000. Thus it’s a very small country, with a medium level of income, about US$ 10,000 per capita. Each island has a large mountain in the centre, old volcanoes, no longer active as far as I know. St Kitts being small, the sea is never far away, though until yesterday it wasn’t terribly welcoming. In fact this didn’t feel like the Caribbean for the first few days, as we mostly had wind, rain and even some localised flooding; offices closed early on Thursday so people could get home. Finally yesterday the sun came out and I managed my first swim once we had finished our meetings for the day – a wonderful end to the week!

While here we are based at the Ministry of Sustainable Development – see first picture. People there are proving amazing helpful and friendly so we’re accumulating lots of reports and data to support our work, with quite a few meetings already set up for next week. The Ministry is on the edge of the tiny capital, Basseterre. We’re only about five minutes’ drive from the town centre – see second picture; so it doesn’t take long to slip out for lunch and other local business, as needed. We haven’t had time yet to get out of town, but might manage a short trip during the weekend. If so, that might be something for my next posting.

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