Beer brewer’s ac­count of ex-pat ups and downs

Talk of the Town - - Serendipity - ROB KNOWLES

IT WAS a full house on Tues­day at the Port Al­fred Ski-boat Club, where Kowie Probus Club in­vited for­mer South African Brew­eries (SAB) brewer Ray de Power to speak of his ex­pe­ri­ences as an ex-pat liv­ing abroad.

Born in East Lon­don and ed­u­cated at Queens Col­lege, De Power joined SAB East Lon­don in 1974 af­ter qual­i­fy­ing as a brewer in Lon­don. For 12 years he was the Am­s­tel brewer in Cape Town be­fore be­ing asked to move to In­dia to over­see the brew­ing op­er­a­tion there.

“I was given LSD, but not the type you’re fa­mil­iar with,” he said. “It was Look, See and De­cide.” The pack­age they of­fered him as an ex-pat was too good to turn down, and De Power and his wife moved to New Delhi.

“Liv­ing in In­dia is not easy,” he said. “But as a se­nior per­son you get show­ered with gifts. Lan­guage was not an in­sur­mount­able prob­lem. You can eas­ily get by.”

Cul­tur­ally it was dif­fer­ent and De Power spoke of driv­ing along the Ganges River and see­ing what he as­sumed were braai fires along its banks, later dis­cov­er­ing they were fu­neral pyres set up to cre­mate the dead.

His two daugh­ters were able to visit their mom and dad on free flights and he and wife could travel back to South Africa. He said the money was great, in­clud­ing al­lowances, and all he and his wife needed to buy was their food.

He said that beer con­sump­tion among In­di­ans was about 0.3 litres per capita.

“This could be be­cause it is dif­fi­cult to carry a crate of beer on the han­dle­bars of your bike,” he said.

Al­though De Power and his team strug­gled to get go­ing, by the time they left there were 10 brew­eries there.

“There’s no booze at the air­ports [the only way to travel as the roads are ter­ri­ble] so, while wait­ing for a plane we would buy a bot­tle of brandy and then drink it with coke in the air­port lounge. Se­cu­rity used to find it strange when we would be­gin to get louder by just drink­ing coke,” he said.

From In­dia De Power was trans­ferred to Nepal where he was lucky enough to fly up to Mount Ever­est on what his pilot told him was one of the clear­est days he had wit­nessed.

From Nepal he moved to China, a coun­try De Power’s wife did not en­joy. He spoke of the lan­guage is­sue, and how no one spoke English. Each ex-pat was al­lo­cated a trans­la­tor. Where De Power stayed, tem­per­a­tures reached -16°C in the win­ter.

The av­er­age beer con­sump­tion was 30 litres per capita, which he de­scribed as “a hell of a lot of beer”.

Af­ter China it was Le­sotho, what De Power said was, “the best” and “bliss”. Then he was off to Nige­ria un­til, fi­nally, he flew back to South Africa, re­tir­ing in Fe­bru­ary af­ter spend­ing 18 years as an ex-pat. Would he do it all over? De Power hes­i­tated be­fore an­swer­ing.

“No. Well, I missed the sport and the food and the peo­ple. But maybe I would.”

Pic­ture: ROB KNOWLES

DE POWER OF BEER: For­mer SAB brewer, Ray de Power, left, spoke of his life as an ex-pat at the Kowie Probus Club meet­ing, held at the Ski-boat Club on Tues­day. Probus president Doug Suther­land gave him a hearty hand­shake af­ter his talk

Pic­ture: SHANI STEW­ART

ARTIS­TIC FLAIR: Grade 3 pupil at Shaw Park Pri­mary, Mnombo Mbong­wana, gets lost in the mo­ment dur­ing art class as he draws his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of heat

Pic­ture: SHANI STEW­ART

HOW FAR CAN YOU GO? Prac­tic­ing cross-coun­try on the gravel roads at Shaw Park Pri­mary School are U7 pupils Okuhle Halom, left, and Sa­vanna Stew­art

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