The Panamaniac Rides Again

April 11, 2007 at 3:23 am (Uncategorized)

We got an amazing email yesterday from our good friend Abey. He’s Panamanian, otherwise known as my favourite Panamaniac, and he and his Australian girlfriend, now wife, Elle moved back to Panama a couple of years ago. I recently filled in some immigration forms for Abey in support of his residency application, so we’ve been eagerly awaiting news on what we hoped would be their imminent return to Australia.

Wrong. There’s going to be a fairly major, very exciting detour first.

I’ve known Abey since 1989. We went to a secondary college together in Canada, and when he came out to Sydney to do a Masters degree at UNSW, we all spent a lot of time together. After his postgraduate studies were complete, Abey tried to find a way to stay in Australia, but he couldn’t find a role or a sponsor, his visa ran out, and he had to go home. He speaks several languages fluently, has postgraduate Economics qualifications, and has worked and studied in several countries around the world. And still Sydney didn’t seem to want him. As soon as he returned to Panama City, he found a job as the finance editor of the newspaper La Prensa, and Elle got a job at Tommy Hilfiger. I was impressed by the speed with which Abey was snapped up once he returned home, as well as by the seniority of his role, and I could never fathom why Sydney seemed to be such a tough nut to crack for someone of Abey’s obvious personality, qualifications, and skills. The job vindicated Abey’s own belief that Sydney had been a closed shop – a verdict I strongly resisted until the evidence was before me. He’s hardly what you’d call unemployable, and yet finding professional employment in Sydney proved difficult indeed.

Anyway, I’d been wondering about what was going to happen upon Abey’s visa being granted. Would he look for a Sydney job from Panama? Or would he wait until he was back here and start pounding the pavement in situ? How hard would it be for him to find a similar role to the one he held in Panama? Would he have to start lower down the editorial food chain?

We’ll never know the answer to any of these questions, because Abey’s not coming to Sydney, at least not any time soon. His email casually announced that he had received a call out of the blue from the Panamanian Ambassador to the US, asking Abey if he would like to come and work with him in Washington D.C. as the Ambassador’s No. 2 and consul.

Who gets a phone call like that?? Seriously. Who? No one I know. Or rather, no one I’ve ever known except Abey. And no one I’m ever going to know except Abey. This is so out there, so stratospherically huge, that I know in my gut no one else in my world is ever going to have an embassy gig in Washington literally land in their lap. I’m still reeling from the enormity of it. The absolutely stunning scale of the opportunity. It’s just incredible. And it would never, ever, not in a million years, happen here. No one gets tapped for an embassy job in the US like that. If you’re lucky, and you’ve worked toward it your entire professional life, and you’ve worked the right people all the way along, and your profile is sufficiently high in the corridors of power, and you’re a minister maybe about to retire from parliament, maybe, just maybe, you might get sent to some war-torn backwater as an ambassador or consul there. If you’re lucky. But straight to D.C.??!! I don’t think so.

So Abey, mate, I salute you. From a country where you couldn’t even find a sponsor, I salute you. From Sydney, a city that had then carelessly lost you, and whose airport staff always treat you horribly because you look Arabian, I salute you. Congratulations on a massive career coup and life-changing opportunity. We are very proud, and very jealous, and very much intending to dine out on this story until a better one comes along. I’m expecting that to take an indefinite number of years.

Hi-ho, Silver, away!


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