What if you had taken a different step or had said a different word?
Have you ever wondered what your life would have been like? I have the strong believe that we all have a specific purpose to fulfill in this life and that we were equipped with whatever we need to pursue it. Whether we choose the direct path or walk a few times around the rose bushes, some call it coincidence or chance, but I call it destiny ( however Disney -fairy-airy-headed it might sound).
When my Dad told me that a Swedish sailor tried to persuade him to get on his boat and travel across the world with him I immediately thought “ If only he had said yes, I could have now watched all the Astrid Lindgren films in their original language”. However, there was another path waiting for my dad which he decided to explore in his early 20s. He was the youngest of his siblings and born in a small village called Lione, Mocambique.
The stories he sometimes tells me of his childhood are both fascinating and heartbreaking. Memories of war, malnourishment, burning huts and desperate escapes through the forests are some of the tales, which still leave me stunned and absolutely humbled. Coming from a background filled with uncertainty and sadness, my dad learnt to push his way through at a very young age. This led him to work in a restaurant owned by a Portuguese family, who wanted to adopt and take him back to Portugal, but again- he rejected as if he knew at the tender age of around 10 that this was not his plan. The money he earned bought him his school uniform, pencil and paper and was the beginning of a journey he never thought would end up in East Germany on a train to Borsdorf. Working in a factory which produced agriculture equipment he was offered a few years training in East Germany, which at the time was still divided from the West. Whilst some of his colleagues received a bike or a radio as an award- he was on his way to Germany where he lived in a boarding school with other guest workers.
At that time my dad and his fellow country man did not speak a word of German which was the source of some brilliant stories which still make us laugh to this day.
Who wouldn’t buy washing up liquid and marinate their chicken with it, if they weren’t able to read the label or moisturise their face with “nappy Rash Cream”?
A few years and a 3 months German course later, he ended up on a train where a young, blue eyed girl was knitting. My dad never told me what it was about her that made him ask “ Could you knit me a jumper?-its so cold here” but after she replied “if you send me the wool, I will” they broke the ice and became pen pals.Friendship turned into affections and a few years later I was born.
Times were quite different back then and the unity my parents still nurture to this day was not welcomed by the majority of people. The government would not allow my parents to be married ( I found out that at that time a lot of children born into a relationship between German girls and Guest workers were sent to orphanages and their dads sent back to the country they came from) and even the closest people, which you would have expected to be the backbone and source of strength, had trouble accepting that my mum chose an African man over the bachelors in her small village, somewhere in the countryside of East Germany. My mum once told me that she was locked into the house so she wouldn’t be able to go and see my dad but found a way by jumping out of the window in the middle of winter. It was painful not to be accepted but we became our own family and comfort which created a safety net for any challenges life decided to throw at us. Years later, after my two sisters had been born and Germany had finally been re-united, my parents decided to travel back to my dad’s home country. So there we were, 3 children under the age of 6, no Malaria Vaccinations (we didn’t have enough money for them) in a country that was just recovering from a civil war.
Would you call this madness or a great adventure?
People say that when you are that young you barely remember anything but let me tell you, all the extraordinary impressions, scents and sounds have forever been turned into precious memories. I will never forget my mum sitting in front of a crowd of people, crying as she hadn’t anymore clothes to give away or the big cloud of sand and joy that welcomed us when we arrived at my dad’s village, after everyone thought he had died.
As soon as we had returned from this extraordinary trip I remember going to a big department store with my school class asking for 100 notebooks which we wanted to send back to Lione. This was the beginning of a beautiful supporting network , which we still thank my wonderful school: Nachbarschaftsschule for. Every concert, St Martins procession, race or any other event you can think of, helped to raise money for the school, my dad decided to build in Lione.
I remember hundreds of donated chairs, tables, maps, wheelchairs, Pencils, Crayons, Blackboards- and all other things you would find in a school building, piled up in every spare corner we could find. Crazy years of colourful events, achievements, plenty of setbacks (corruption is the reality unfortunately) resulted in a school, a maternity clinic and water well which eliminated a lot of sickness.
When I asked my dad “Why do you do all this?” he replied “God sent me from nothing to this country where I now live in abundance, how can I not reach out to other people and share it?”
This is the life my dad has given me. A life that is filled with truth, compassion, hard work, kindness, so much joy (if only you could hear his laugh, it is full of life) and a warm heart that sees peoples suffering, despite of the hardships he encountered throughout his life.
I cannot even begin to express how proud and thankful I am for having him as a role model. Whenever I am faced with problems, my dad always reminds me that I AM his daughter and there is nothing more I need to know.