27/02/2015 06:36 GMT | Updated 28/04/2015 06:59 BST

When Things Fall Apart

We were told that someone requiring treatment for Aids had died because they could no longer afford to pay their medical bills. Wives of some of the workers started to turn up at our house (R now worked from home as the company offices had no electricity) with babies and small children, asking for help we couldn't give.

Things began to fall apart with R's job around the time that I moved. There were hints that all was not well but hope is usually the last thing that dies and so we hoped at first that things would improve.

We knew it was over when we were on our way to the Maasai Mara to celebrate my birthday, but put this looming shadow aside until after the weekend and to give ourselves time to think. The shareholders who had appointed him were about to pull out. They could not continue their involvement in a company that was being slowly suffocated by the personal politics of its owners.

Company funds had dried up because potential backers felt the same way and we were never sure when R would be paid. We were fortunate that I had picked up a teaching gig, with my one student, and so he look enough to look after the children in South Africa and made sure the staff, including our maid, Alice, who also worked for the company, got something too. They knew it wasn't his fault, that he had done everything he could, and I was moved by the things they said about him.

Many were still in dire need though. We were told that someone requiring treatment for Aids had died because they could no longer afford to pay their medical bills. Wives of some of the workers started to turn up at our house (R now worked from home as the company offices had no electricity) with babies and small children, asking for help we couldn't give.

Then, at some point, after the staff began to stage angry protests to attract the owners' attention and R was sent to address them only to be told that no-one could guarantee his safety, he knew he had to resign.

We had looked, both of us, for jobs in South Africa and then across Africa, contemplating life in Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana. Options in Kenya were hindered by ongoing delays issuing new work permits and we didn't think we could wait that long. The job we considered for R in Ghana was in a forest. I tried to imagine living in a forest and couldn't, though I'd have gone anyway and written a different kind of blog. I wondered how I would manage my charity and upcoming plans and commitments in East Africa, which had already been forced into a hiatus while there was so much uncertainty and transition swirling around us, if I were in West Africa and when we would need to travel to SA instead. I didn't know when I would make it back to England, much less, Ireland, where the rest of our family were.

'You're not in danger, are you?' asked Mum when we Skyped.

The screen was blurred and she was pixelated, but I got the impression she was probably frowning.

'No,' I assured her.

I didn't think we were but as with most things, I tended to update people after something had already happened and when news was better; that way, they could be worried and reassured at the same time.

We woke up one morning to find that R's phone had been cut. Then burly men came to take away the company car. My heart was pounding in my chest as I stood on the porch with Alice while R delayed them, convincing them after four long hours of small talk, phone calls and cups of tea to let us keep it for one more week. The house would probably be next.

We had a plan. When job searches proved futile, and because R's was more urgent than mine, we decided to take the bull by the horns and put the future in our own hands.

R's position, and the company he worked for, had made him quite well-known in town and, in lighter moments, we joked that what was happening had all the intrigue, power and suspense of a Hollywood movie.

We couldn't discuss it in public but told a handful of friends of our intentions and let Alice know that we were leaving the night before, earlier than previously thought and 24 hours after we had been allowed to use the car.

Alice shook her head.

'All the good people leave,' she said softly.

And some good people stay, I thought, as we said goodbye to Alice and her family, knowing that we would most likely never see them again. I wished we could do more for Alice, with her quiet integrity and humble nature. In another life, she might have had so much more.

R had seen an opportunity in Kenya and we began to run with it, although it resembled more the faltering first steps of a toddler than a straightforward run. It seems now that setting up a business in a foreign country should come with a health warning.