One of the more pleasant aspects about leaving a place is the outpouring of affection between those soon to be parted. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but the prospect of absence is also very powerful. Our move from Barbados had been due originally around January. However, several personal concerns (schools, especially) made that timing less desirable. The bottom line was that it made more sense to put off the move until at least mid-year. Through a process that crept up on me, I increasingly became very uncomfortable about leaving Barbados, and reflected a lot about the time I had spent there and the people I had met and things that I had done. I felt good that I was uncomfortable about leaving behind many newish acquaintances, because that indicated that the relationships had some meaning.
As word got out that we were leaving, people started to warm even more and some of the socializing was really special, especially in the last few weeks, when we had informal dinners and lunches and just impromptu gatherings with the many people we had come to call friends. All of these were special and easy on the adult heart, as they did not have any real sense of finality. My daughter's goodbye to her best friend and her friend's brother and mother was, however, very tearful, as our two families had lived close to each other and really become very close. But, we hope that the young children do as they often do--bounce back fast and stay happy.
Some people asked "Why are you leaving?" It was simple to explain, but it was interesting that people felt that somehow we had become fixtures. It was impossible to say a proper goodbye to many people, even though I tried to arrange a few special trips to see people whom I thought would be very upset if I had just upped and left. For a while, I just let the departure matter come up if it did, as I really felt that I was missing people a lot just by mentioning departure dates. In the end, the final days were near and departure was nearly a fait accompli. Not neat and tidy, but the event would happen.
As a good many people know, I found myself turned into a sort of pundit on things economic and financial. That is perhaps not surprising, given my background, but it is surprising given that I had no intention to do any such thing when I arrived in Barbados. An accidental contact had led me onto that path, and becoming a known voice on Down to Brass Tacks or making occasional written contributions in the mainstream press had been things far from my thoughts on heading to Barbados. I also commented on issues through several of the local blogs. For the most part, I enjoyed having a chance to say my piece, and from reactions I had along the way it seems that I was regarded as someone who made sense and was frank about how he perceived things. I never had any axes to grind--other than trying to see things for what they really are or pointing out too much acceptance of mediocrity--and I think that for many people in Barbados that was hard to understand, as they needed to put me into a box to then deal with my views.
With that said, I was still taken aback when during the last week in Barbados I got a call from the Nation asking if I could write a short article on the need for a fiscal stimulus package. I had declined the request before the question had been put fully, as I really knew I could not focus on any such request. The Editor concerned was amused that I knew what the request was ahead of her finishing her plea. I reminded her that I had never been paid for my pieces and the 'price' that had been agreed--a visit for my daughter and her class to see the newspaper office--had never been exacted. I let her know that I was due to leave the island by the end of that week and she lamented the prospect of no more writing from me. A few hours later I got another call from her asking if I would do an exit interview. I agreed and set it up for July 29. Somehow, I had been had, but I did not complain.
On the day concerned, I was staying at Accra Hotel, and I had other things beforehand, so agreed on 10am; the interview with Stacey Russell lasted about an hour. We sat near the outside walkway and I talked about the economy as well as my broader experience in Barbados. I did not realise that things would move so fast, and a piece on the economy appeared in Barbados Business Authority at the start of this week, about which I got a few messages. I had forgotten that Senator Boyce had been due to speak to the press about the economy later that day, so my remarks were not influenced by what I later heard him say. My daughter was headed out to meet her mother and got in on the interview, too. She may feature in some other piece that is being prepared.
IMF staff are used to being seen as ogres, so it was a nice feeling to have given a sense that some of us are really less scary.