Rewards in a career – when it all falls together.

I am not an educated man and never had the chance to educate myself further than High School. Yes, I completed a home study Agricultural Diploma that I received the highest distinction results for but it was as if I was revising notes that I had learnt at school. I don’t credit myself with that Diploma. At 56 years of age, what I know and implement on a day to day basis at work is what I learnt, at work. The daily motivation from a young age to feed and provide for my family kept me going. The need to learn and my hunger for knowledge kept me asking questions.

Today I run a pallet factory that, in the last 2 years has been through so much, it should have shut down. I was employed by the oldest of two brothers to carry out my role as Factory Manager. Hired locally, I was paid and treated like a local. (In Ghana, this is a big difference to that as being hired as a foreigner.) I was referred the job by a friend of mine and at the time I had a choice of two jobs to take. He said, “Alan, I know you, go and fix that factory. ” I have no idea why I took this job over the other two as it paid less, working conditions were not good and my then Boss had lost all interest in his business for various personal reasons. He once told me that he wanted to sell up and buy a boat and live on it.

Some days I hated the job. I hated my boss and I hated the challenge set before me. Some of the labour were militant against management and it was difficult to get things done. Finally I got the chance to make a change and reluctantly I fired the main Foreman as he was actually as demotivated as my Boss but more militant in his behavior. One day he refused an instruction from my boss and I had all the reasons to have him on Insubordination charges. He was gone. My Boss then asked me what I was going to do. I had no answer for him at the time.

A couple of days went by and I remembered back to a pineapple farm that I managed in the Ciskei in South Africa. I had a very militant lazy tractor driver that basically did what he wanted. I solved his problem by promoting him to Leader Tractor Driver and part of our management team. Overnight he went from being the most feared worker to work with to being a strong supporter of management. The next day I went into work and told my Boss we would promote the biggest trouble makers and make them Foremen in the Factory. He laughed and told me I was crazy.

Two of the biggest trouble makers were promoted and now 18 months later we have come to the end of May 2019 and just experienced our best ever production Month coupled to the best ever sales month in this companies existence. This has not been a small achievement in any measure.

My biggest regret about this effort is only one thing, in January 2018, my Boss (the one that hired me) died on his motorbike and will never see what we have done and realized with his dream. The dream he nearly gave up on. When he died I stood next to his lifeless form and in the hospital tried to get him out of his coma, and in his coffin, made him the promise that we would stand together and reach the goal that he always wanted to reach. Well, I think we have honored that promise and you can now rest in peace.

Everything I have learnt, taught myself and experienced went into this effort. When I needed it, it all finally came together. What I know can not be taught out of a book or in a classroom, you learn it by getting dirty and working and understanding people.

I hope that this is the last job of my life because I now love it.

The “planned” future.

There is always a danger of posting one of your children’s picture when you have four kids. I am sure that they will all understand as my life takes another turn on my life road. At some stage I will write about all of them separately as no two kids are the same.

It is now the plan that I will spend the rest of my life with this beautiful child, Choochie. Well, that is what I call her anyway. I renamed all my kids with their own special names that only a father can give.

In 2017, after a very tough divorce, my second wife sold and packed up all our belongings and decided to move to Morocco. her mom was there and her family needed her to go there and care for her mom on behalf of the family. Unfortunately this meant that because she had custody of our daughter, Choochie, she would be moving as well. This broke my heart because at the time, all my kids had left me in this country to live out my years alone, childless and lonely.

Allow me to explain how I was alone although I had 4 kids…..

My first wife, Carol, left me in Ghana because our kids were schooling in South Africa and she wanted to be with them. Apart from that, our son was not taking to school discipline very well and needed a parent nearby. I could not find work in South Africa so had to stay in Ghana and support my family as they lived in South Africa. So, Carol to my two oldest kids to South Africa where I would visit twice a year. Since then, my two kids have moved on to the UK and USA. I don’t see them at all.

My second wife, Lucy, after the divorce moved to Morocco, but at this time Vivi, our oldest daughter in my second marriage, had already moved onto study in Russia. So, I was effectively left here alone as Choochie moved to Morocco. I will elaborate on all of this in future blogs. Vivi is also back with me but is a special gift. I don’t want to reference her now, she is worth her own blog.

So, 2017 came along and I experienced the worst Christmas, Father’s Day, Birthday and holidays that I had ever experienced. My kids and I are close but do not contact each other unless we have to. They would only contact me on these special days. They used to be special when I got spoilt by my girls with breakfast in bed, hugs and kisses and sometimes gifts. Suddenly there was nobody. I lost my smile, my laugh, my sense of humor and developed a new grumpy attitude hiding my hurt behind my quick defensive wit and sarcastic comments.

Living with the idea of dying alone and never seeing all my kids as often as I wanted to, started eating me from inside out. I used to watch TV but if a movie or a scene came on that had a child hug her father or achieve something on a sports field, I would burst out crying. I used to build up to strengthen myself to make a call to them by drinking large amounts of beer and slurring my courage at them. Most video chats ended with me crying, my sadness being sheltered by my drunken wit. Somehow I used to want to portray to them that I was fine, managing, alone but not alone. I never wanted them to feel sorry for me and feel that they needed to contact me more often. It was a dark period of my life. One day you wake up and you are a Dad, husband, provider, comforter, and role-model. The next day, it is all gone.

In January 2018, on the 12th, my life took another turn. My boss died in a hospital after a bike accident with me watching the life leave him. Not the start to a year I thought it would be. More about this period in future blogs.

Come February, I was expecting the worst to happen after January. But, it never did. I received messages from Morocco from Lucy saying that she was coming back to Ghana and that I would need to take Choochie from her to live with me. It all happened so quickly and so secretively that my head spun. The next thing I knew I was waiting at the airport in Accra for my little baby girl to come home. And she did.

I now have her living with me. We have big plans for the future. We have so many memories to develop. We have so much to live for. I still cry when I watch kids on TV, but now it is from the lonely memories that shake me to remind me what it was like.

Choochie was born, 14th July 1996, named Thalia Alexi Efua Bouwer, but I call her Choochie, my Choochie.

2019, the year for decisions.

After 2018, a year that really was a challenge from start to finish, 2019 is coming up with it’s own challenges. And they are not easy ones.

My partner, Sparlyn Reeves and I have been together for over 3 years. We met on Facebook an basically hit it off from day one. I was hesitant at the start once I received her friend request but was somehow satisfied that she was not another scammer when I recognized other mutual friends on her friend list. We started chatting on Messenger and chatted for about a week just generally getting to know each other. One day, after about 3 months, I made contact with her again and set up a date. We agreed to meet up near where I lived. She would travel from a town not too far from where we were to meet.

I was going through my second divorce and was free to meet and go out with other women so I never felt guilty about what I was doing. While waiting for her, we continually chatted as we were somewhat excited to finally meet each other. Finally she called me from the parking lot telling me that she had arrived. I was sitting close to the parking area as I did not want to miss her arrival. I had surfed all her pictures on her Facebook profile but this could never have prepared me for the person I was about to meet. I searched the parking area for who I believed I was expecting to see. What I saw was a beautiful young woman standing talking on the phone. I dismissed this person as being her as I could not believe that she was there to meet me. Well dressed, hot body, and a poise that was stunning. In my stupidity, I killed the call that I was on and called her. The woman in the parking area lifted the phone to her ear and spoke, and at the same time I was listening to her one my phone. It was her, she was there to meet me. Was this all possible. In my confusion, I had cut the call to her only to phone her back. I can blame this on the 3 beers that I speedily drank in preparation for our meeting. LOL. We waved and she came to my table and we introduced ourselves. The rest, as they say, is history.

As mentioned before, we have been together for over 3 years. I don’t remember dates too well so an anniversary was always out of the question. During this period I learnt quite a bit about her. Her family history, her dreams, her likes and her dislikes. She was brought up in traditional African ways and cared for her man like it was what she was on earth to do. During this period the only thing I ever promised her was that I would improve her life. Everything that I did, I made sure it was an upgrade to what she had before. I always wanted her to be better than before.

You see, Sparlyn was half my age when I met her. At 26 years old, I could only expect that she had dreams of a family, a marriage and kids. And I was right. Having suffered through a very tormenting divorce, I was in no hurry to jump into that again. Off course we spoke of it but the was always a “but” in my voice as I hesitated making the final move to finish off our plans. I did not fancy running down this road for a 3rd time. It scared me. I think that we both realized this and soon we were talking about what our relationship would be like in the future. At first it was silly talk, teasing really but it eventually changed and I sat with her one night and told her that I would understand it if she wanted to move on, meet someone her age and start a life. One day on the way back from work, I said something and she started to cry. I had hurt her feelings about how I saw life. I think I said something stupid about why I never took her out or did not support her dancing. Something stupid that shattered her and climbed all the way up her spine. She turned to me and through her wet eyes said, “You talk so much about your life, how good it has been, can’t I go and build my own dreams, make my own mistakes and try and have memories like you have?” Those words shook me. Made me realize that in some selfish way, I was holding her back form having a life. I think on that night, I became determined to fulfill my promise to her. “I will improve you life”

In January 2019, we were chatting and she mentioned that she had met some people online in a chat group. They were all planning to get together in Amsterdam to finally meet each other. She was contemplating going across to the meeting. I sat long and hard and chewed on my words. For many days after her saying that, I realized that these plans did not include me. It would satisfy her plans to travel and see some part of the world. While thinking, my promise to her came back into my mind. I then suggested that she should go and stay there. She wanted change, I thought it was a good idea. So did she. Our company is based in Holland and I spoke with my MD to ensure him she wanted to do what she was about to do. I asked that she be helped with all documentation etc and he agreed. So, she is going.

Did I just shoot myself in the foot? Again? I love her, love the way that she cares for me. By fulfilling my promise to her, I have harmed my life. Made it that I live alone again at an age when I am not interested in chasing the comfort of a woman’s arms. Have I done the right thing?

2019, what else will you throw my way?

The Unplanned Future

In the beginning, God made heaven and earth. We are consequential to that arrangement. Or are we? Once we are born and lived a life through the various stages of growth and making all the normal human mistakes , learning all the human rules and regulations, our lives start taking some kind of direction either by plan or by consequence. I generalize now but let me concentrate on my life.

In my early 20’s I had it all worked out. Finish my compulsory National Service, get a good job, get married and have kids. The reason why I wanted kids at an early age was to have them grown and out the house so I could live a good married life at a young age. I wanted to be young with Grand kids visiting me on the farm and having the big Christmas meals around a table etc etc etc. But, how wrong I was. Perhaps even naive.

I did not listen to my parents when they said I should do this or that. I knew it all. I thought that I knew what I wanted in life and how to get it. How wrong I was.

It is important to add at this point that I grew up in Apartheid South Africa. Wikipedia refers to the Apartheid Era. An Era when the white minority shielded themselves behind their skin color in an attempt to protect their privileges from the black majority. It was not by choice that I was born in South Africa at this time, it was consequential. This is where my parents were born, met and had me. I had no say in that. South Africa lived in isolation with sanctions imposed by the rest of the world so as youngsters we knew nothing else. It was only when you grew up and left the house and started your life that you realized what the world was about.

South Africa eventually went through changes. The rest of the world put pressure on them to change and the white minority wanted to change. Two Referendums were held. The first one was to determine whether Nelson Mandela should be released from prison ad the second was to determine if the first democratic elections should take place. The outcome of these referendums is now history and the part of South African history that is easily forgotten. I will cover this chapter in more detail later. Right now I want to explain that this had a dramatic effect to me and my future. It helped change my career, lose a marriage and finally immigrate to a country that was not mine. Back then we looked at what was acceptable to humanity and the future of our country, we did not consider how it would impact on us as White South Africans. Regardless of the outcome we wanted peace and we wanted to share democracy. The rest is, how they say, “History”

Regardless, I ploughed forward with my life. Got married, had the kids, worked hard and before I could realize it, I was living in a strange country, divorced twice and now, at 56, single again. This is how well I unplanned my future.