Mine Camp Diaries: Dingoes Are Buggers And Old Mate Is Bored

Like I already mentioned, I’m very confused as to how these people get paid so much to do what appears to be nothing. It’s kind of like how the dental hygienist does all the work and then the dentist who never knows your name comes in all high and mighty, pokes the inside of  your cheek, says “great job” and walks away with his $150,000 salary. Even so, this means that as I’m discreetly mopping their mud-stained floors I get to overhear some of their conversations. *Sinister smile*

In one of the control rooms last night I got to be a third party observer with absolutely no personal interest in the matter (Name that movie! You win a virtual high-five if you guess correctly!) and overheard one guy discussing his upcoming trip to Melbourne. He can’t wait to go party at the Crown Casino and on Kings Street, the footy is waiting for him and mate, you wouldn’t believe the great deal he got on an Airbnb in the city.

When people keep to themselves and I overhear it, it’s cool. But when they interact with you and tell you all gossip, it’s even cooler. When boredom sets in I’ve noticed people love to chat. During one of my trainings at the water treatment plant, the guys told me stories of how sometimes people accidentally sit on their radios, allowing the entire mine to overhear. On one such occasion, a maintenance guy with a long mullet told his entire workplace about something he and his wife recently did that involves sticking things up his bumhole.

Now let me vent to you here

Distraction takes over. Sometimes when I get tired I get a bit loopy. It’s kind of like being hungover or intoxicated where the concept of time is completely off your register. Sometimes when I go to the bathroom, which is always, I realize I do everything twice as long as it takes. I fumble and I stare at the piles of fast-moving ants carrying dead beetles up the wall. More than a few times a night I suddenly “wake up” and am staring at myself in the mirror intensely analyzing one aspect of my facial structure. It could be three seconds or it could be five minutes. And each time I stare at myself, I don’t look any different. I’m still the sweaty, hat headed mess that I was the last time I checked. Shocking.

What’s the color of your urine? And newest obsession takes up a lot more time than necessary. I end up catching myself staring at the color wondering if I’m hydrated enough. I stand up and button my pants at sloth-speed, my head moving back and forth from the toilet bowl to the laminated dehydration chart on the back of the stall door.  Is that a beige yellow or a clear with hints of lime juice? Is that a white cotton shirt that got stuck in the wash with a yellow scarf? And the biggest question of them all is, is it still possible for me to be dehydrated when I drink minimum one liter of water an hour? 

Why didn’t you turn in your homework? A DINGO ATE IT! I’m so good at jokes. If you leave a bag of trash in the laundry room, dingoes will still walk in and rip it apart and throw it all around the floor until they find the leftover food they’ve been smelling. We left our trash there for a quick “morning tea” break and by the time we got back one of my workmates was cursing those “bloody turds!”

English language segment: bugger
If it has buggered up its broken. If you tell someone Oh, bugger you!” it’s a nice way of saying f*ck off. When my workmates are buggered they’re tired and if someone shouts oh, bugger! they mean “shoot!” If something is a bugger it’s annoying you.
“This vacuum buggered up, we can’t use it”
“Yeah, bugger that, we’re not going!”
“Ah, yes, Dalia* was so buggered last night after housekeeping she barely stayed awake at dinner.”

Weather considerations. Here in the Territory it’s still technically the “dry,” but based on the frequent torrential rainstorms and sauna-like humid clouds floating around me I’d say the “wet” has already arrived. Yet, when I say things like that out loud, people still are all “smh” about it and just tell me to wait up, mate, and stop your whinging because it’s “nuthin’ yet.” I keep waking up to the pounding rain and soon as I think maybe there’s a hurricane I just remember its the wet coming to pay us a visit.

Mayhem. Like I’ve already mentioned, night shift is twisting my insides all up and around and out. Yesterday it was 3:55, just a mere twenty minutes before I needed to sprint down to the mess to eat dinner before night shift starts and I still don’t have a uniform to wear. I had just recently realized, in a frantic lapse of memory and suggestion that maybe someone broke in and stole my uniform, that I forgot to put my clothes in the dryer. So I had two options in case they didn’t get done on time: go naked or wear wet clothes. Which do you think was going to help me keep my job? Better question: Which did I choose? ANSWER AT BOTTOM OF THE PAGE.

*Again, not their real names. For fear that one day they’ll realize I’ve been talking about them on my blog for all this time.

Featured photo: No relation to this post. Barbies just wanna have fun. 

Answer to uniform question:









Read other updates from life on the Mine Camp here.


Update: I’m In The Middle Of Nowhere, Again

I’m into letters lately. So here’s another for you, friends and family:

I felt like I was sitting in toy plane, bobbing around in a child’s hand as we fly into the outback yesterday. There were only nine of us on the aircraft. I sat in the back, breathing deeply, clutching my stomach and hoping that by focusing on the words of my podcast I wouldn’t feel every dip and bump and maybe I wouldn’t spew and make a great first impression with my new colleagues. (This wasn’t Formentera, so, I didn’t throw up.)

After that tumultuous start, I ended up here. Here, not being nauseous, but content with a good first day on the job. I’m writing to you from my frigidly air-conditioned living quarters, in room 157 in the last octagon at “camp.” This tiny trailer box with a bed and bathroom will be home for the next two weeks, until I have a week back off in Darwin then repeat the 2:1 schedule all over again.

And where am I? I’m on mining site on aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. Well, technically the mine and camp aren’t aboriginal owned. They’re owned by a corporation. But the land surrounding it is. I can’t wait to dish on more specifics after I stop working here, but for now, just know that it’s called “the mine” and “the camp.” The “town” surrounding the mining camp consists of a golf club, a sports club, a post office, grocery store, bank, school and a few houses, mostly owned by miners. It seems like a calm place to be living. “Yeah, everyone in town is pretty nice, most of the time,” said Gale, a woman I met in the mess hall today. We’re lucky – most mining sites don’t have any sort of civilization near them.

What am I doing here? According to my tough supervisor, I, along with an older, spunky Maori woman who loves to talk about when she’s going to the “watering hole” (a.k.a., the pub), are her new “jack of all trades,” helping her with anything from unloading trucks, moving things around, housekeeping, kitchen hands and anything else she deems appropriate. I don’t quite know how to do any of those jobs beyond the minimal experience I’ve had in Australia so far – my college degree didn’t really help me gain any trades. Thankfully, just like I found a friend in the housekeeper at the house I lived in in Ibiza, I’ve got another guardian angel – the Maori woman who loves her booze- here to show me the ropes. She’s worked for years on different camp sites around Australia. And while most of the time she runs into old colleagues from previous sites and speaks with others in a mining lingo I can’t understand, she always takes a step back and makes sure I’m up to speed and well informed.

And she’s respected by others. She’s already won the hearts of the male colleagues and goofs around like one of the boys. She and her way of interacting with others defies the expectations people in the outside world have. “Be careful out there,” a new friend in Darwin warned me, “I mean, I don’t know what miners are like but you should watch out.” And even my recruiter from Darwin told me to watch how short my shorts were because after all, “they are miners.” Maybe I’m speaking too soon, but I’ve been shocked at the lack of sexism. For one example, my supervisor is a woman – so are several others. The woman who trained a new group of employees today is the health and safety officer for several mine sites around the country.

The moment that prompted me to rethink my stereotypes of people here was when I mentioned that I was frustrated with not knowing typical “male” things, like what goes on in the hood (referred to here as a bonnet) of the car.

“I can’t wait until my little girl grows up and I can teach her all about cars,” said a man with a mullet and several missing teeth, “I want her to know all those things!” Then he added, “Yeah, I reckon girls should drive forklifts and that, too.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we are changing the world.

And this camp is already changing my English. Get ready for the new Yasmine. The bogan one. She’s coming out. Two weeks may seem short, but mate, it’s a long time. I’ve already been here 24 hours and I’m already speaking like a proper Aussie. And my vocab’s already full on. You’d think after six months of being in Australia I’d have picked it up. Yeah, nah. Nothing prepared me for this. “Yeah, my shirt’s buggered, I rocked up for the job today thinking it’d be cruisy but man, my supervisor’s a ripper and made me nervous so I stuffed it up and ruined it all so I’m just going to knock off now.” (<< massive exaggeration maybe, but not even really)

Catch you later, I got to go put some socks on because my feet are freezing from this aircon.  And then watch Pizza because it’s one of the only interesting things on cable TV right now. And then kill all the tiny insects crawling on the wall next to my bed. So, right-o, got a lot of things to do before I go to bed.

Featured photo: Devil’s Marbels in the Red Center