I got an almost immediate response to my resume and scheduled my first Skype interview with Spa management. Even still, the idea of teaching Pilates and Fitness for two years at a private resort island in Turks & Caicos had absolutely no appeal to me. I felt totally resistant to the idea of uprooting my life in NYC no matter how ungrounded it already was. I'd already moved three times in the last six years so, knowing that a two year contract would culminate in yet another apartment search made me cling even more desperately to all the familiar discomforts of being a forty-three year old single-itis sufferer with an unstable career and no place to live. At the very least, getting through each day gave me the satisfaction of being a survivor.
The interview process only solidified my resistance.
Over the course of two Skype interviews, the position seemed even less appealing than I’d already decided in my mind. There were no promises of an incredible career opportunity, no information about the company culture or its core values, and not even a job description. There was also no conversation about my skills or experience or how I might contribute positively to the guest experience. But I was forewarned about the potential for island fever. It was made quite clear that the resort island was exactly that; an island with a resort on it and nothing else. And that all resort amenities were strictly for guests; including the spa facilities where I'd be working. There'd be no soaking in the hot tubs or inhaling eucalyptus in the steam rooms; even after-hours. Spa services would only be available to me when therapists were learning new treatment protocols and needed practice bodies. I would, however, be living in tropical paradise with access to the beach; albeit the staff beach, away from the guests, comfy chaise lounges, shady umbrellas and fresh juices.
I was also forewarned that most employees (including my 13 housemates) would be other expats primarily from Southeast Asia (many with limited English) who are singularly focused on the financial opportunity. They work really hard from 9am-9pm, go home to unwind, sleep and repeat. (A willingness to work really hard was emphasized). So if an active social life or nightlife was important to me, I should take that into strong consideration. After all, there's no downtown scene with clubs, lounges, cafes or theaters. Just the resort. Oh, and fraternizing with the guests is only allowed upon permission from management.
I was also forewarned that people who prefer healthy food or have dietary restrictions tend to struggle on the island. Although lunch and dinner would be provided daily at the staff canteen, the menu would mainly consist of fried chicken, fried fish, white rice (for the Asians), rice and peas (for the locals) and "burger day" (for the Americans). Oh, and limited vegetables which are usually drenched in oil. The good news was that I could order take-out from the resort's two award-winning restaurants plus certain grocery items from the kitchen or pantry like chicken, steak, eggs, bacon, a limited assortment of fresh veggies and some dry goods. But the nearest grocery store would be a 25 minute boat ride away on another island. That meant I'd only be able to go shopping on my one day off per week because boats don't run like the subway system. Transportation to and from the resort would be limited to the arrival and departure times of the guests. That might require catching a 6:30am boat and returning at 3:30pm.
At the end of each interview with different people from the management team, I was told I had quite an impressive resume, that I came highly recommended and seemed ideal for the position -- on paper. But they wanted to make sure the island was ideal for me -- in real life. Aha! So that cryptic interview process was a unique vetting system to weed out those who might be good and experienced teachers, but abandon the job once the novelty of living on a private resort island turns into loneliness, isolation, boredom and island fever. They wanted to see whether or not I was high maintenance or adaptable. If I could embrace a completely different lifestyle where "convenient" and "readily accessible" is rare and the pace is much slower. If I could comfortably live and work within an international community of skilled professionals and do so respectfully.
The irony was, the interview process was far more of a turn-off than the lifestyle change or possibility of island fever. As much as I appreciated management not falsely glamorizing the position, I still wanted to be enticed with a few exciting possibilities. I wanted them to woo me at least a little bit.
But something told me not to dismiss this opportunity. After all, it did arrive at a most auspicious time in my life. So I kept trying to think of this as a smart financial opportunity like the other expats apparently do. Surely I could keep my nose to the grindstone for two years even if it was merely money that fueled my interest rather than passion.
So I accepted an invitation to visit the island for my third interview.