Next stop KuwaitSTEIN HANSEN is looking forward to moving to Kuwait with his family.
By Sherie Holder-Olutayo | Sun, June 24, 2012 - 12:03 AM
MAGINE rattling off names like Vienna, Ecuador, Helsinki, Barbados as places where you’ve lived and called home. Imagine picking up every five years and taking yourself and family on a new adventure to a different place. For the past 20 years, this has been Stein Hansen’s life as a diplomat with the United Nations.
While Hans will tell you that he worked hard and studied at Harvard to become an economist, and this led him to work in the foreign service, the credit he gives for the life that he’s adopted and absolutely loves must go to his grandfather.
According to Stein, when he was a little boy in Norway, his grandfather took him into the hills, told him to look out at the ocean and asked him what he saw. Stein remembered telling him, “More ocean” and “the sky”, but his grandfather told him there was so much more for him to discover beyond those shores that he would and must see the world and his life would be richer for it.
Perhaps his grandfather had some divine foresight, but those words helped to frame the man Stein would eventually become and the work that he’s now doing. He went from a career in the Norwegian Foreign Service to a stint with the European Union based in Caracas, Venezuela, and then to working with the United Nations, where he has seen many of the places and new shores his grandfather wanted him to see.
“Every place has been a gift and very special in its own way,” Stein told EASY magazine. “But Barbados is the place that I’m struggling and have mixed emotions about leaving.”
It isn’t just the people, the scenery, the weather, or his Saturday morning swims and jaunts to the Cheapside market to get fresh produce and talk to his favourite vendors. Nor is it his weekly treks to the Oistins fish market for chats with many of the fishermen that he has come to know personally. While he will miss the camaraderie of the people, it goes beyond that.
“A lot of the things I’ve started working on with [the United Nations Development Programme] and gave seed to are now coming to fruition,” said the deputy resident representative to Barbados and the [the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States].
“A lot of the work we started with climate change, renewable energy . . . we’re now seeing the results of that work and we’re leaving when our objectives are coming to fruition. But perhaps it’s a good time to leave.
“I have witnessed tremendous progress with the Government of Barbados and those in the region. We have seen them coming together as one, particularly on issues of climate change. By bringing new partners to the table in terms of financial partners from abroad, we’ve seen results.”
Seeing his work take shape makes it easier to move to his next tour of duty in Kuwait.
“I was given a set of options in terms of the countries I was considering, and Burma was actually my first choice,” he said. “I felt compelled by the challenges there.”
But despite missing out on Burma, he is looking forward to moving to Kuwait with his family.
“It’s very modern in one way,” Stein said. “Kuwait has a lot of wealth it would like to invest in the right areas. It’s called the Switzerland of the Arab states, so it should be interesting. Kuwait is one of the most stable democracies, with more than five million people and plenty of resources.
When Stein started out, the family was his wife and three boys. But his two oldest sons are in university in Denmark, so it’s now just his wife and their nine-year-old son Alexander.
“This life that we live is a very rich life,” Stein said. When we leave, it’s going to be with mixed feelings, and it will be an emotional goodbye. Barbados is a country that we’ll always come back to. Certainly as a family Barbados brought us together.
“It’s a place for families. Our older boys, even though they’re away, have come back here two or three times a year.”
Stein also revealed that he had actually visited Barbados back in 1987 when he was dating his girlfriend.
“I asked her if she would like to come to Barbados with me for two weeks, and she agreed,” he said. “It was exactly 20 years later in July 2007 when we were asked to move here for my job. Taking her here was an investment in us as a couple. She decided to marry me. Then 20 years later we were here with our entire home and a dog in tow, so we leave with mixed feelings.”
But despite the pangs of emotion, Stein says he was looking forward to the next chapter of his life.
“I’m an adventurer or a bon vivante,” he said. “I enjoy life and making the most out of every moment. If I’ve been able to make a difference here, then I have succeeded.”
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