Mine Camp Diaries: Newbies Can’t Fold Linens

Day 2: I’m a sucker and can’t fold laundry

So as you’ve heard, I’m new to this mining camp thing. I’m also new to hospitality, housekeeping and manual labor in general. I have no idea how (sarcasm) but other people have caught on. My inexperience was apparent throughout this morning as we were changing and making beds, doing hospital folds and placing towels ever so nicely with the company’s name facing up. So much apparent that my work mates decided today to affectionately name me “young grasshopper.” As in, “move along young grasshopper, you’re in  my way” and “you get to sit in the middle seat of the car, young grasshopper, sandwiched between us full grown adults.”

In true Aussie fashion, they don’t mean it in any harmful way, they’re just taking the piss out of me. I guess it means I’m fitting in if I can take it. And I guess I put it on myself. For example, yesterday, in attempts to fully capitalize on the fact that I’m wearing a full body covering high-visibility laborer outfit, also known as a “tradie uniform,” I asked one of my neighbors if he could please take a few photos of me outside my door so I could send them to my family (and now I’m posting them here…).

I shouldn’t have been surprised this morning to find out that not only did he take the photos, but he told everyone who was at the “watering hole” (the pub) last night that I asked him to do a photo shoot. “How’d those photos turn out, ay?” I heard one woman say as I rounded a corner after a water break.

The day went on, business as usual and I tried to keep humble despite my ever-expanding infamy. The sheets were folded and the pillows assembled and covered. The doonas (duvets) were opened from their boxes with a parrot cutter (box cutter) and when it went well it was cool bananas and when it didn’t it all went pear-shaped. Our supervisor warned us that this job wouldn’t be cruisey, but it hasn’t felt like a stressful environment. People took ciggy breaks whenever they wanted and I was allowed to go to the bathroom whenever I wanted. If you’re aware of my habits, that’s a lot.

It’s Saturday, which means that locals bring their families to eat at the mess hall or at the barbecue area at the rec room. I saw babies smearing ice cream all over their faces and heard “The Wheels on the Bus” and was comforted by their presence. After three nights of observing the group of guys that have a barbie near the rec room, I was finally introduced to them all tonight. They’re hilarious, friendly and generous. Too bad I was too stuffed to the brim with the buffet dinner to appreciate it.

But it turns out the real reason I was called over to the barbie wasn’t because a couple wanted me to entertain their four children, but because one East-Timorese man has two young sons working on the mine as well. “I’ve got two sons working here,” he proudly told me. One of them is on his week off, but the other one showed up at the barbecue. His father introduced me to him with fire in his eyes. Like he was calculating something.

When his son walked away, he came close and whispered, “one of the two,” with a confident nod.

Featured photo: mural at the town center. 



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