Into a new world – 1980.

Svein Åge Mathisen

Svein Åge Mathisen 1980

After nineteen years, along comes my father with promises of a new life and a family in Norway. All I had to do was get my papers in order and the necessary vaccines. My grandmother was very happy for me, and I was very excited. Thought I was only going away for a while to work on the ships and see the world.

Got on the plane and flew to Durban, there I would meet my dad and board the ship. What I didn’t know was that my dad had gone to customs and removed my chances of coming back to South Africa. And because my South African Id. card and papers were destroyed on the border there was now no way for me to come back home. Now I needed a visa to enter.

Leaving Durban harbor was a special experience, wondered how long it would be before I saw my family again. Like a kind of sinking feeling. Now into a new world with a strange people with a foreign language, new foods and alone. My dad was well liked amongst the crew, but had a strong thirst for vodka. After work we would spend time in his cabin drinking, he would talk about his new family . Didn’t take long before he tried to form me, told me to shave off my mustache or I wouldn’t be accepted into his family. This guy didn’t even try to get to know who I was, forgot it was he who failed his family.

Well I wasn’t going to put up with that, so in the next port I said farewell to my salvation and bought some pot (dagga), the easiest comfort I knew worked. Involved one of the crew and got him into a lot of trouble. My father regretted taking me away from South Africa without knowing who I was, expecting me to be like him and the other Norwegian boys.

In Holland the ship was ordered to take part in some Nato maneuvers  in the North Sea. I was not allowed on board during that time, so they sent me on to Norway. I remember arriving at Fornebu airport and taking the taxi to the central train station in Oslo. There I got on the train to Larvik to meet a family I’d only seen in pictures.

Reidun my dads new wife was there to meet me, she spoke only a few words of english. It must have been strange for her also, she was only a few years older than me. Their home reminded me of the sound of music, everything was so tidy and my new brothers were programed to jump when our father commanded. He was a tyron and everyone was scared og upsetting him. A great contrast compared to the life he showed his buddies on the ships. Ended up eating hamburgers nearly every day, she didn’t know what else I liked.

Met my fathers parents and his sister. They couldn’t speak a single word english, so they bought beer thinking it would make me happy. They had tried to keep contact with us over the years by sending christmas cards, and when we were conformed we were given jewelry. At least they tried, my dad never even sent a card.

Reiduns younger sister Anita was very kind, she and her boyfriend drove me all around showing me the nearby sites. Anita was fluent in english, so we spent much time together.

A few weeks later my dad came home, then we went to the government offices to get me settled in as a Norwegian. I got so angry when they wanted me to do national service again, not respecting that I’d just come home from a war. But as long as I was a seaman in international waters the next five years then I could go free.

The next week I left Norway for Miami, my first real job onboard ship as a seaman. It was good to get away from my father, there was no love lost. He was so angry because I cost him a lot of money, hello, train and taxi fares to the airport.