Monday, 19 July 2010

John, Jan, Joan or Juan?

FORGET whatever nonsense I may have spouted in the past - and spouted I have - about doing hard manly work in Canada. It has been made abundantly clear to me in the last week that during my sojourn as a landscaper I was labouring under the misapprehension that I was doing hard labour.

Two weeks into losing my building site virginity and only now have I been able to sum up the energy to do anything other than collapse in a heap and whimper after a day spent on site. The orchestrator of my agony is a framer who inexplicably decided to take a chance on me upon hearing I was unemployed.

For those not in the know - a group that included my good self up until a few weeks ago - there is another kind of framer apart from the one who creates a nice border for your photos.

Unlike all the concrete-built houses at home, builders in British Columbia use wood to make houses in the vast majority of cases. It's an obvious choice for a province with 149 million acres of forestry, most of which has remained unchanged since before Europeans came here.

Unfortunately for this European the lot of the apprentice framer seems to consist almost exclusively of hauling 16-foot two by tens (see how I've learned the lingo already?) from the side of the road on to the first floor of an under-construction house. Before my Canadian reader(s) accuses me of being a pansy, the first floor in Euroland is what you would call the second floor.

My co-workers are an interesting bunch, none moreso than the boss himself, a white amateur rapper who specialises in Christian rhymes. The religious element of his sounds is due to a turnaround in his life two years ago when he decided to shun alcohol and all sorts of other fun and replace it with religion.

There are a handful of characteristically friendly Canadians and also some very amiable Mexicans who could not quite agree between them on the pronunciation of my name.

"Hi, my name is John."

"Hello Jan, I am Antonio."

"Nice to meet you. It's not Jan actually, it's John."



"O, like Juan?"

"Close enough."

The Mexican workers remind me very much of what the Irish were probably like when previous generations came to North America in search of work and a new life. Fond of the occasional drink, they often come into work with more of a stagger than a spring in their step but they are ferocious workers and power through whatever task is assigned to them without a hint of hesitance.

They are in no doubt helped by the fact that they are seemingly unaffected by the scorching sun which from 9am onwards makes me look like I have been swimming in a sweat pool with all my clothes on.

It's back-breaking stuff at times, but the experience and company is good, plus there are rumblings of a potential journalism job, or alternatively a deportation, a few months down the line so I may not be here for too long.

But for now the building site is my new stomping ground, and thankfully it's providing me with plenty of material to potentially write about. Next week; The Honey Bucket.

No comments: