Jules Delahaije is such a dad. In fact, he is so dad he can’t help but be the windvane of all things dad—the stereotypical dad joke: “Did you know that every animal in Nairobi National Park is polygamous? Well, of course, except the ones in the car.” He lets it sink in, bursts out in laughter, and you can hear the poor captive audience sigh with audible weltschmerz.
Oh, yes. About that. We are at the Nairobi National Park because game-watching is one of his favourite activities. It is 6.45am, one of those cold Nairobi days that if you squint, you can see the sun shivering and asking for a comfort blanket and a cuddle.
In here, surrounded by animals, he unravels like the frayed end of a rope, recounting wild stories of his youth—especially that one story where he lived on planes, footloose, full of the recklessness and restlessness of youth. Now, sharp-witted andexuding realism, he loves game drives or driving. He can’t wait to take his daughter, Mapenzi, for drives. Now it’s all about enjoying quality time and loving what you do.
What does he do? He is the head honcho at SGA Security, a security solutions provider in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, leading almost 18,000 employees. With a backdrop of ICT, security, and cybersecurity fields in Europe, he is adding silk to SGA’s steel.
But here in the 29,000-acre Nairobi National Park, machismo boiling in our blood, we have breakfast alfresco at Leopard’s Cliff, him talking, me watching my six because no story is worth dying for. “Did you know the male animal is predominantly more attractive in the jungle?” He asks. “Well, of course, the case is reversed when it comes to the human kingdom.” He bursts into spasms of laughter. The leopards roll their eyes. I’ve been had.
Without saying you’re fine, how are you?
Well, I am great! Look at this [points to nature]. These are places you can really enjoy and relax. This is a place where you don’t have to think about work or anything else. We need to take care of nature.
Do you do game drives often?
Yes, quite a lot. We do simple picnics whenever we have a chance with family and friends. The park [Nairobi National] is fantastic, with many animals. If we have an opportunity during those long weekends, we visit more parks upcountry. Masai Mara gets crowded, so we visit Ol Pejeta, Tsavo, Amboseli, and the works.
How did you get into this habit?
We have to go back in time, haha! We have been living in Kenya for seven and a half years. Before that, I had visited Kenya as a tourist, so when the opportunity to come and live here presented itself, it was a no-brainer. The moment I am in the park, there is no stress. Sometimes I go with my wife and our four and half-year-old mtoto (child), whom we even enrolled in a kind of outdoor school. Whenever we can, we go to the park or art gallery.
What has changed since you became an outdoorsy guy?
I found a better life-work balance. We are only here [earth] for a short period and need to enjoy ourselves. Being out in nature is a good way of understanding life—I am not thinking one more moment about the office. It is fascinating how nature works and regulates itself. Human beings occasionally make life too complicated.
What have you learned from nature?
Nature recovers itself. There is survival of the fittest and the evolution of how the environment changes. The flora and fauna will do anything to survive. If you come here during dry seasons, it is scorched. A few drops of rain and it changes. It is how nature prepares for the next step. It is fascinating, almost philosophical.
What was your worst experience in nature?
I was with my family in Amboseli when the weather suddenly changed. We got in the eye of a heavy thunderstorm, and it started to flood. It was exciting, at least for me, but my family and friends weren’t amused. The road was very muddy and slippery, and they were pretty scared, but I was happy to be home, haha!
Do you have a special memory in nature?
Spending time with my wife and child during sundowners. Those are fantastic. There is nothing comparable to a good drink and friends watching the sunset. My wife is a photographer and fine artist. She’s working when we are on a game drive, and I am relaxing. When I drive in nature, I love it. This is what life is about. Freedom. You feel free when you are out in nature. Just look around.
How has fatherhood taken away some of that freedom?
I am actually a father of two other elder children. Being a father makes me appreciate responsibility. As a parent, you have two major tasks: to ensure your children are happy and give them skills to take care of themselves. The meaning of life is to survive, and that’s what fathers impart. It’s fun, and I like it a lot. My children have a good sense of humor; a day without laughing is wasted, haha! We have inculcated this culture in her [daughter].
How different is fatherhood then vis-à-vis now?
Now I am more conscious but also more relaxed about things. There is a much better balance between private and business life, and I don’t have the feel that I need to make a career. Back then, it was stressful, and I didn’t even realise it. With all the meetings and travelling, I forget to enjoy my family and children. I used to say it doesn’t matter how the balance is achieved, be it 50-50, 60-40, or 80-20, as long as it is there. I never had time to relax.
Before, I was always in international business in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas. Our business is now concentrated in East Africa, and the experience is much more relaxed, despite being a 24/7 business. Always ask yourself, “Is it really urgent? Is it really needed? Does it have to be done today?” Be effective, and you will have time to relax and enjoy life.
Is that why we are here on a Wednesday?
That’s why we are here on a Wednesday, haha! You actually helped me out. I am usually not here on Wednesdays. I would love to, but I am taking it if I have the opportunity. I think I could do this more often.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
There are a couple of them, haha! I like food, and sometimes it’s not always healthy. But I think if you can control yourself, then that’s fine. Good food is my shtick. Let’s leave it at that for now, haha!
When you think of the weekend what food comes to mind?
A variety. My wife is a good cook, but I like to cook myself. During the weekends, I do the cooking, and my wife takes over during the week. We bake French fries for my daughter during the weekend. Kenyan restaurants should do more to bake their French fries. But I like meat in there. What I miss in Kenya is good seafood; the variety is limited. Oysters, lobsters. I come from Holland, so we have this tradition of raw fish. I miss that.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?
Oh, wow. To be appreciated as an employer. The best compliment from the staff was that they appreciate what we are doing for them. The other is when my little one says, “I love you, Daddy,” haha!
What is one thing you wish you were better at?
I wish I could play musical instruments. My wife is a fine artist, and I love it almost as much as nature. Despite being a patient person in general, I am a passive music lover, and I am not patient enough to learn it. That just shows you how much work and talent is needed, hehe.
What never fails to make you laugh?
Quite often, children. I like Kenya because we are close to the sun here, in general, but also philosophically. The people here have a good mood and a sense of humor.
If you twist and play with language, you will also make me laugh. I had a dog handler who mixed ‘r’ and’l’, and when we asked how the dogs were doing, he said, “They love to pray.” It was a Sunday, so we were like, “Okay?” Then we realised he meant they love to play, haha! One more, during the election time, it was hilarious when they were talking about the national elections and the person mixed the ‘r’ and ‘l’, haha!
What do you have that money can’t buy?
Family. And health. And happiness too. Money doesn’t make you happy but not having any money doesn’t make you happy either.
Who has your back?
I have a good guardian angel. I have survived difficult circumstances because my guardian angel cared for me. I believe there is something bigger that is taking care of us. At one time, I had a near-fatal car accident; it was a miracle I survived. You could call it God, I call it guardian angel.
What’s the dumbest thing you’ve bought?
My wife was reminding me recently that we like bicycles, and we have a bike rack for the car, which wouldn’t fit. Sometimes you think that with small adjustments, you can make it work, but those adjustments take too much time and effort and are thus not so small.
What’s on your nightstand?
A small reading lamp, a wire to lock my iPhone, a stand from Tatu City to put the phone in, and a mosquito racket. It is electric, so when mosquitoes die, I hear ta! ta! Haha! Beautiful moments for me, definitely not for the mosquitoes.
What is one question people never ask you that you wish they did?
Let’s put it this way. I would like people to be more direct. They don’t like to speak up. If I don’t know your problem, I can’t help you. There are no elephants in this park, but quite often, there are elephants in the room. Speaking up saves time. There are two types of time: quality time and chronological time. Here in nature, we have quality time; at the office, it is chronological time, and speaking up and being direct saves it.
Has being that direct ever landed you in trouble?
Sometimes. Expressing an opinion during international travels was not always appreciated. I am not a politician, that’s not my forte, and based on my cultural upbringing, asking a direct question didn’t really get people to appreciate it, haha. It happens.
What’s the soundtrack of your life right now?
Uuuh! Difficult one that one. I forgot the name but the other day at the gallery with my wife, there was a Kenyan trio combining dance, music, and song live. It was so beautiful but I don’t know their names, haha!
If you could trade places with someone for a day who would it be?
There are quite a few. I sometimes say I would love to be a fly on the wall in some political discussions. Hmm. I have to be careful who I choose. Maybe be the president of Russia so I could stop what is going on. I have worked a lot in that area, so it is close to my heart.
Are you happy?
I am very happy. Here in Kenya, you say it beautifully: ‘I am blessed!’ I really am. Fantastic family. Three children and privileged that I can do most of the things I want, and contribute in my own small way.
Who do you know that I should know?
My wife, who is a fine artist. She is fantastic at it, and apart from that she is a lovely person, but that is my private space haha! She is giving young talented people a platform to develop themselves. Together with nature, art is one of the best expressions of feelings. Picasso said, ‘Every child is an artist. But the difficulty is growing up to stay an artist.’ He also said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” We forgot to remain children. From time to time, I feel like a child, but how do I say this? I am not a child about it haha!
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