Mike's photo adventure weblog

Mike's photo adventure weblog: October 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

MickMike Posi-Bolt

So I'm back at work for my first full two-week swing. The first week is nights, the second days. After my first couple nights of night shift I must say it's been a tad easier than I thought to adjust, and there's a few reasons why. They have made 12-hour day timing symmetrical, basically having breakfast and dinner open from 5 to 7 (for both AM and pm). Whilst underground, lunch times are about noon and midnight. Since it's always dark underground you don't worry that the sun is up or down; and when you begin and end your days its dusk and dawn or vice versa. So in theory the only real difference between day and night shift is which way you look to see the beautiful sunrise/set! Just don't look for too long, or you'll notice which way the sun is moving.

Wasteful Attitudes
We're given cheap tupperware containers to pack our lunches in each day, and I wash mine out and reuse them for a few until they crack and break. A few people have commented "You are the only one that reuses those containers. Why bother when you don't have to pay for them?". Someone else told me that I'm likely to get food poisoning from reusing the containers. I asked him if he washes his dishes at home or just throws them out after every meal.

Last sleep (I can't say last night because I work nightshift) there were power outages because our generators can't quite keep up to the power demands. Without the aircon our small rooms (about nine square meters) heat up quickly to the high thirties, and I woke up drenched in sweat. Last evening the camp manager was asking us if we would please make sure to turn off our aircon while we were away working our 12 hour shift. I was incredulous -- why would she have to ask us something so obvious? It takes literally under a minute to cool down the room, so who would leave it on for 12 hours they're not there? The guys around me were equally shocked. Ah, but not for the same reason! "What?!" they exclaimed. "Our rooms are going to be bloody boiling when we get back each day!"

As part of my training, and the main reason I came to Auz for work, is for practical hands on experience with the underground mining contractor to whom I've been seconded for six months. During my first week, the safety guy handed me the utility belt and I cinched it up as tight as it would go. And it still fell down over my waist. Now, consider the safety guy is referred to as "Big Ben"; he's 6'4" tall and about 250 lbs. When I asked for a smaller belt he said, "You're going to have to fatten up, young fella. It's the smallest we've got." Big Ben now refers to me as "posi-bolt" because he claims I resemble the 220 cm long, 3 cm diameter steel bolts we use underground.

So I witnessed "netball" being played on the UWA campus the other day. What's that, you ask? Well, I'll tell you: First, start with the thrilling sport of basketball. (Can you taste the sarcasm?). Then remove the dribbling -- that takes too much skill and precision. Finally, remove the backboards and stand the nets on a vertical post, eliminating those boring slam-dunks. There you have it! Netball! The dullest sport you've never heard of!

Mick / Mike
When I began with the contractor, a few people called me 'Mick'. I casually corrected them, "It's Mike, actually." But I was scratching my head about why this kept coming up; nobody had ever called me Mick before in my life.
But then after correcting my next-door neighbour in the camp, he corrected me! "No Mick, it's Mick. You're in Australia now. Michael is Mick, not Mike. Get used to it." And now this crazy fad is catching on. It wouldn't be so bad if there wasn't a 'Nick' working on my crew. I'll have to just plant the seed for the name "Fuller" with a few people, and it should spread like bushfire.

I've put a few photos up from my week off in Perth. Working a 2x1 schedule, you learn to cherish every moment in Perth. But it's not hard when there's 100km of beach, a good mate of mine I met in Zambia lives in Perth and owns a boat, and it's sunny everyday!

Check out www.michaelfuller.ca for the photos! (Click the thumbnail above)


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Summer Camp

The Camp
When I arrived at the mining camp, the promised wireless internet connection did not reach my room. Damn. I went into the camp manager's office and told the large woman behind the desk about my complete lack of wireless reception with the hopes of a room transfer.

"Oh, that's because it's windy today", she explained confidently.
Staggered by her response, I couldn't stop myself "Uhm, actually wireless operates using a frequency of light. Wind has no affect on it".
She looked at me like I was exceedingly idiotic. "Well, just wait until the wind dies down. You'll see. OK?". The 'OK' wasn't really a question, it was a closing remark, and she turned her back, to continue her vital work of managing the papers on her desk.

Today, the air was dead calm....
The wireless still didn't work. What, you didn't believe her did you?

Language Difficulties

I've needed to overcome numerous lexical hurdles here. For one thing, Australians use heaps of slang. I can't believe how many words and phrases they've invented on this isolated island continent. Arvo (afternoon), bogan (redneck), CUB (cashed-up bogan, referring to the money-laden rednecks due to the mining boom), stubby (beer bottle), swallow's fart (early morning), fair dinkum (being serious).... more than you'll ever need to know unless you plan to visit.

And of course there's profanity to adjust to, being at a mine. One guy even explained "If you're not being sworn at twice a day, it means nobody likes you". But it's even profane for a mine, and I'll explain why: The first tenet is that you can say nearly anything and it won't offend people, because Auzzies have thick skin. Then consider Auzzies love to make fun, or "take the piss [out of you]". To top it off, being a mine many are naturally quite foul-mouthed. It's all a perfect storm, really. I must refrain from adopting the local dialect or I'll be in trouble when I'm not at the mine.

One more lexical quirk is the fact that I describe myself as "outdoorsy" and am accustomed to people (in Canada) knowing exactly what I mean. But in Perth (and the rest of Australia), everyone is 'outdoorsy'. They all love going to the beach, walking the dog in the park, and the occasional jog. So I need a new term -- how about 'adventure outdoorsy'?

Watching the morning news the other day I had to double check I hadn't accidentally switched channels, when a really corny talkshow style infomercial began. Later I confirmed, to my horror, that their morning news features infomercials (with one of the anchors hosting the infomercial!). The regular anchor actually announces "Now we're going over to Peter, who's got Steve from MagiCook with him. He's going to tell you about a revolutionary new way to save time in the kitchen, by preparing delicious and healthy meals in half the time!"
You really have to see it to believe it. And it doesn't help that Peter has the charisma of wet cardboard, showing painfully forced enthusiasm for the products he's showcasing (on the news!). It really calls into question the credibility of the news channel and anchors, whom we're supposed to believe are unbiased and objective. They're called anchors for a reason!

I've moved into my new place, with two flatmates. I'm so happy to have found a place quickly, with funny (and clean!) roommies, with a gas stove and lots of counter space, in an awesome location and for a unbelievable price! But I must tell you about one thing that blew my mind: Pete was explaining the electricity bills, which sounded really low. I asked "What about in the summer when the aircon is being used"
"Oh, we don't have aircon", Pete replied. (Although it stays over 30˚C for weeks straight). "Alright, that's no problem", I told him. I can get a fan.
"No heater either", he added. (In the winter the temperature is in single digits every night).
Good thing I brought my down booties. But seriously, I've never heard of a house without heating or aircon. But this just shows how perfect the climate is in Perth!

I've been putting up a few photos at www.michaelfuller.ca from Perth and the mine. Check them out! Just click the thumbnail above!

Catch ya,