This was the year that I changed the most. The things I started doing then and the things I stopped doing in that year still influence me now and have shaped the way I think now. It was influential because of the people I met in the year of 2004.
Companies were moving to Madagascar at a fast pace because of a couple of reasons. The first reason was the availability of cheap labor. The second big reason was the tax exemptions given by the US government to companies that moved their factories to Madagascar. There were companies opening right left and centers whose origins were all over Europe. My company was the very first Korean company to set up a factory in Madagascar.
The buyer of the products we made were big wealthy Jewish companies operating in the US. The orders came down multiple times for us to produce. There was no creative process involved as we received the base design and had to produce as many units as we could, as quickly as possible.
I didn’t like the work very much even though it paid a lot. We were producing hospital gowns for patients and scrubs for the medical staff. On one hand we were producing large number of these products but on the other hand the workers in my factory had no hospital facility of their own to go to. This made me feel sick to my stomach, seeing such poverty and frustration.
It was very tough on the local people, and I felt helpless in this situation. I started dreaming of the day I could open my own company which would be different than all the other companies working in Madagascar at that time. My company would not only be a source of income but one of social support, too. I wanted to change the way things were in this country. However, at the humble age of 26 this was too much to ask for. Although it was frustrating, I made some amazing friends while I working at this company.
The two people who influenced me the most
The one person who influenced me the most was Michelle. From the start, we were buddies who hung out and shopped together. However, later in 2004 we moved in together and became roommates. I had initially met her in a Madagascan community called Vision Valley and still am glad that I bumped into her.
She helped me a lot in learning English. Something I still use as a tool for success. If you had met me in 2004, I would not have been able to tell you about my life journey like I can now. I learned a lot about different cultures and how to live together. Michelle and I had nothing in common but we somehow clicked. She was a very amazing person. I could write chapter after chapter about her.
Kevin was the other person who had a big influence on me. He was a worker in the factory, a pastor and also my friend. He taught me the concept of church and invaluable lessons on living in a community.