For now, at least, it seems that the warehouse boys' jobs are safe. True, Hugh Marlboro has decided to suspend the import of potatoes and onions indefinitely. There were some serious management issues in the fresh produce operation, mostly the result of jumping at an opportunity too quickly with no structure or procedures whatsoever, and in light of the consequences of said leap, I actually agree that this is the appropriate step to take. As Hugh Marlboro said to me yesterday, not only does a ship need a good captain before she goes out into the open seas, she needs a captain who is armed with a nautical chart, a radio and a clear idea of where he is going.
Ahmed, Paulo and Raimundo are still working during the day (this is where I let out a very selfish "Yay!!"), but have also been put on the night shift for the next few weeks. They will be supervising the loading of the banana trucks before they head out to the sales depots. Apparently there have been some serious problems as of late regarding theft and side sale of bananas. Hugh Marlboro suspects they were being siphoned off by the banana truck loading crew (different from the crew of boys who sing dirty songs and unload the potatoes and onions), so he put my warehouse friends to work with the banana operation becuase, I am happy to see, my boss recognizes that these boys are hard, serious workers.
This information didn't come easily, mind you. Hugh Marlboro avoided (or just plain forgot about) our meeting in which he was supposed to bring me up to speed about the warehouse operations for 2 entire days. We were on site visits with clients, and in meetings, so I couldn't exactly pin him down in that time. Yesterday, while we were in his truck on the way to the Ministry of Agriculture, I hammered him with questions and gave him my straight opinion about several issues related to the fresh produce operation.
Not only am I satisfied with the answers he gave me (as are the boys, let me tell you!), I think the fact that I insisted on the subject actually gained me some respect in his eyes. The core reason behind the decision to shut the warehouse operations temporarily is not a pleasant one; in fact, it is one that I would prefer to avoid altogether if it were possible, but so it goes in business, you have to face situations that you'd rather pretend never existed in the name of what is good for the company. Bringing up this subject, and then pressing for details was a bit hard for me, but I'm glad I did it. Not only was my own curiosity satisfied, I need to be informed of what is going on in the Banana Empire - the good, the bad and the scandalous - if I am to perform my strategic planning and advising function with success.
In other news, two days ago I went on a day-long site visit with Hugh Marlboro, a Zimbabwean man who is the head of agricultural lending at one of the main banks here, and a group of 5 South African investors who want to start a tropical fruit processing project here in Mozambique. The investors would like to partner with Hugh Marlboro in the venture, so we all went together to look at potential plots of land. We spent the entire day in the bush, with the Zimbabwean and I a bit left out of the loop because all business discussions as well as smalltalk were done in Afrikaans.
I had a strange thing happen to me, though. I was in the backseat of Hugh Marlboro's truck at one point, and he was yammering away to one of the potential investors in Afrikaans in the front seat. It was a long car ride out to the land we were visiting, and the heat plus the motion of the vehicle made me dreadfully sleepy. I was in that dreamtime state, just before actual sleep, and a very strange thing occured. Instead of composing flowing, perfect paragraphs in English (the dreamtime writing I talked about a few weeks ago), my mind randomly decided to start understanding Afrikaans. I swear, I listened to Hugh M. and his potential farming partner talk and talk, and I not only could follow the jist of the conversation (pretty normal for me at this point), I was understanding all of the words they were saying!! I even caught exact phrases, and managed to remember them when I woke up.
Yesterday, I told Hugh Marlboro about the experience and quoted back to him some of the things I remembered from the conversation. I'm talking about specific things, like the man in the car saying that he saw the world through rose-colored glasses, while his business partner saw things through black-lensed glasses in the midst of a discussion about management styles. Hugh M. confirmed these and other details, and was just as impressed as I was that I somehow managed to develop a complete understanding of Afrikaans.
Mind you, I still can't speak a word of the language, and my comprehension is back to normal levels in my awake-state, but nonetheless...what a cool experience! The human mind is a fascinating thing.