This swing I made a new friend. I have heard about my new friend before but we haven’t really had a chance to get acquainted. My new friend is Manual Labour and boy! did we get to know each other well over the eight days of my third swing.
Oh the pain! It is day three of swing three as I start typing this and I am in a bit of pain. The walking and stair master work has nearly tripled this time – that’s just in the first three days too. My (newly discovered) muscles were screaming by the end of day one. My heels burning by the end of day two, thanks to fabulous blisters which resulted in a couple of days of tip toeing around the place. Falling behind as everyone walked due to the blisters – not the best way to be a positively contributing team member. As various equipment around the plant come to life, teeny tiny bits of me seem to be falling apart! However, having chosen this path, I must push through the pain barrier and no, I am not going to the medic for the blisters. I am tougher than that, even if it means walking on my tippie toes!
Whinging about my tootsies aside, it has been a very interesting swing. Even before I jumped on the plane I was already told to get my wellies (gum boots) and shovel ready. We were faced with bogged pipes which meant flooded and extremely muddy walkways. About six inches of mud in the shallow/safe parts and close to knee high in the no go unless you have wellies zones.
Walking from one end of the plant to the other can occur several times a day. The same goes for stairs – up and down, and up again, then down again, then up again… You get the picture. Sadly though, even with all the walking, my pants seem to get tighter. At the moment I am blaming this phenomenon on the dryer. It has to be the dryer, not the bacon and eggs breakfast and the dessert that comes with every dinner and sometimes after lunch all through the swing. Not fish and chips Friday, BBQ Saturday or roast Sunday. Surely not, it’s definitely the dryer!
Halfway into the swing the stairs and walking was replaced with hosing. As we are now starting to get the concentrate going, there’s some trial and error. I have learnt that trial and error is the technical term for things bogging and spilling over. At least half the swing was spent on the hose. Not your garden variety green hose. This hose is a lot heavier and the water pressure a lot greater. I don’t know how some of the experienced guys manage to stay clean while hosing because after a few hours on the hose I usually end up looking like I have spent those hours rolling around in the slurry rather than trying to hose t clean. Mind you, it is great fun – at least I am making a contribution to the crew even if I spend all day frolicking in the mud. I still haven’t had to shovel the concentrate off the ground. I think the crew knows I am too weak for the shovel and I need to build up my muscles. Maybe another few days of hosing will build up my arm muscles. I tell you I most certainly feel it at the end of the day. One night as I sat on my bed it felt like I was still hosing. It was akin to sea legs but on your arms – hose arms!
As much as I want to be able to do the simpler tasks on my own, even if the intention and the spirit is strong, certain tasks are just impossible! Getting supplies out of the container. Simple enough… Until I had to close the container. After what felt like 10 minutes of trying, some bloke finally got feed up watching me struggle with the door and came over to close it himself. He did it in two seconds. VERY embarrassing but it’s the reality now, I do have to ask for help when it involves muscle work. Same goes for changing the hoses or unplugging them. I know how it’s done but when I try to do it myself, the thing just doesn’t budge. The harsh reality I have to accept is that I will not have the strength of The Hulk overnight; I may never be able to do certain things these guys do easily. That doesn’t mean I stop trying. I refuse to be the weak girl on the crew. So, does anyone out there have any tips on how I can be as strong as the green dude? Minus the angry bit – I have that covered.
The reality of not being able to keep up with the guys hit home this swing. Especially after a random contractor tapped me on the shoulder and grabbed my hose. He then went on and started hosing whist explaining, “see… dirty, now clean”. Please note, he was doing exactly what I was doing. I was completely baffled by him taking over that I stood there dumbfounded for a few seconds. He then followed up his comments with – “easy job for man, not easy job for a lady.” Yes, true story. At that point all I really wanted to do was push him over the edge into the mounds of slurry we were hosing but instead I just took the hose off him and told him to get real, at least I’m trying here mate. I was under no illusion that I wouldn’t encounter scenarios such as this but it still blows my mind when it does happen.
I have done the most physical work in my whole life over the last eight days. How do I feel? Achy but fantastic. I feel like I have achieved something and I am in for a lot more challenges in the swings to come. When I did arrive back in Perth, I was convinced there was something wrong with the car as it felt very, very heavy. Of course, there was nothing wrong with the car – my weak arms were just extremely achy. Even my palms were aching! Did you even know that could happen? I most definitely did not!
I wish I could give everyone an insight into what next swing will involve. There may or may not be mud, there may or may not be lots of stair master and walking, there may or may not be shovelling and lifting (or in my case lifting attempts). I cannot tell you for sure, but I will most definitely keep you all posted.