Driven by the Winds of Change: Part 5

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Driven by the Winds of Change: Part 5

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THE FAMILY ARRIVED IN a place called Belo Horizonte in the south east of Brazil, a city of six million people.

Brazil was by far the largest coffee producer in the world. “I was literally working for a coffee company in the world capital of coffee,” Marcel said. If this was to be his new business focus, he was in the right place.

“Marcel (on the left) on a trip to Varginha, one of the world’s major centers of coffee production in the southwest of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

There was a good international school there, so the children soon made new friends, and settled into a different life. At work, Marcel found himself facing new challenges. The management could not speak much English, so he found himself with a “painful but good way” to improve his Portuguese at high speed.

But he soon lost the staff he had worked so hard to communicate with. Strauss formed a joint venture with a Brazilian company owned by three entrepreneurial brothers who many years before took over the company from their father and succeeded in turning it into a big business. The merger led to all the management being dropped except Marcel—and that meant another new address for the family. “We had to pack up our things and move again,” he recalled.

This time they went to the northeast, a much poorer part of the country. That led to some tough decisions – there was no international school there, so the children would have to go to a local school. Their oldest child, Yannick, decided to head to live with Sandra’s brother in Toronto and go to university in Canada.

But the rest of the family stayed in northeast Brazil for the next three and a half years. Yet while the adventurous life would have been fine for adults on their own, things are different when you have the needs of children to think about. “It came to the point where I had to decide whether to renew my three-year contract,” Marcel said. “I had a good relationship with the Brazilians, but I had to think about other factors, such as opportunities for the children.”

He and Sanda decided that the youngsters had reached a stage where they would benefit from a Western education and European qualifications. That night they broke the news to the children. “It’s time to move again,” they told them.

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