Paradise??... In a PIG'S EYE!!!

Trip Start Sep 09, 2008
Trip End Apr 2009

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Sunday, December 14, 2008

 We've taken refuge inside the tent. We have been watching this storm brew for the past hour or so - since coming home from the cool oasis of the movie theatre which has been our habitual retreat from the heat for a few weekends running now. There was no doubt when we saw the brooding sky that Zeus was about to put on a show for us, complete with the waterworks.
The thunder rumbled first, low and distant to begin with, but getting louder as the cloud tumbled towards us. Lightning followed suit, wasting little time to light the stage. A massive bolt sliced through the atmosphere, illuminating the sky and unleashing a heart-stopping CRACK. The ensuing thunder was so loud I could almost feel it rattling my bones. The rain snuck up quietly with a few harmless drops subtly warning us to take cover. Within just a few minutes, the floodgates of Heaven were open and the rain pounded down furiously. Instantly our tarp began collecting reservoirs, causing an unsightly sagging, like an aging woman losing the battle with gravity. Dave decided it would be wise to lower one of our height-adjustable poles so that the water would have an exit point. The plan was quite simple: Dave would be ready to tighten the guy rope as I loosened the locking bolt thingamy-hoo-ha that kept the pole at its current height. We moved swiftly and adeptly in the rain, accomplishing our mission quickly and efficiently... just one slight miscalculation: as the pole descended and opened up a floodway for the pooling water to escape, I got caught in the cascade that rushed off the tarp! You would be surprised at how much water comes out of a sagging tarp reservoir...
Our little street within the caravan park is looking more like a creek and we have a small lake between the edge of our concrete pad and the step up to our bathroom. But almost as quickly as it arrived, the storm has passed over us, heading toward the coast. Thunder and lightning are still grumbling and flickering in the background, and the rain continues to patter away lightly, but it would appear that the worst is over; which is a relief as our poor tarp is almost quite literally hanging on by a thread since the last big storm about a week ago. Dave has had to get a bit creative, though it's really only to postpone buying a new one until we leave Townsville. This one is working about as well as a sieve at the moment (I wish that was an exaggeration!!).
Meanwhile, as the sky cleared to the west, the sun (as if on cue) was in the midst of setting radiantly in a glorious act of defiance against the darkness of the storm. Where there had been dark, tumultuous clouds moments ago, was now a shimmering, silken sky, spun from pure gold. Its luminous glow reflected in our newly formed creek and rippled gently with light rain still falling.
Of course, being the true West Coast girl that I am, the rain appealed to me as a brilliant opportunity to embrace a little Christmas spirit. So here I sit, sealed up in my "house" with the Christmas tree plugged in (the colours of the lights reflecting in the rain drops that have not yet dried on my arms) and Christmas carols setting the mood (Bing serenades me with "Silver Bells" right at the moment). All I'm missing is a nice glass of thick, creamy eggnog... that, and I'm trying to ignore the fact that in place of a cozy fire, I have a pedestal fan.
Aside from the fact that we have survived another storm, I'm very happy (ecstatic even!) to report that we have only 3 days left of work!!!! Now, there is something to be jolly about!
In a surprise turn of events we're not picking melons anymore, however. A week and a half ago, our boss informed us on a Wednesday afternoon after work that we were no longer needed - effective immediately. We did sense it was coming because clearly work was running out but we were hoping he'd give us a bit more notice. But, since Michael and Vicky had been given even less notice, we were a bit na´ve to think that such a courtesy would be extended to us.
HOWEVER, John was at least kind enough to make a phone call to an acquaintance of his who runs a pineapple packing shed about 30min up the road. She was very happy to take us and even ready to for us to start the next day. So in the end, we didn't really skip a beat. If anything we're actually better off - well, financially speaking. I think our wage is a bit higher to begin with, but on top of that we actually get overtime!! Last Wednesday we were earning double time (approx. $35/hr) for pretty much the entire shift! I think we made as much in a week at the pineapple shed as we would for a week and a half of work at the watermelon farm! And the best part of all: all the free pineapples we can eat! I LOVVVVVVVVE pineapples :) We were kicking ourselves for not having found this job sooner, but the reality is we'd never have known about it had it not been for John. Not to mention, it seems to be even more taxing on us than the melon picking, if you can believe that. The shed is called Paradise Pines, and the running joke to welcome new workers is "Welcome to Paradise!!" (These people are sick!!)

We're in a massive shed (as big as a football field, I reckon, maybe bigger) with two different packing areas for the two types of pineapple: the "hybrids" have their crowns cut off and get washed before packing, whereas the "smooths" (don't let the name fool you, they're just as rough and prickly as any other pineapple) come complete with crown and all kinds of DUST. We spend half the day packing each type (swap at lunchtime) and I can't say that either is preferable to the other unless you've been doing one kind for a couple of hours and ANY change is a welcome one... for five minutes at least ;) At either packing area, we are basically pummeled with pineapples relentlessly for hours at a time. When reaching for the fruit in the bin, it helps to have lightning fast reflexes to avoid your hand getting thrashed by an incoming pineapple (it really hurts!!)
The hybrids are wet, saturating our gloves before 10 minutes have passed. And not much longer after that the gloves begin to smell - a musty, wheeze-inducing kind of smell that chokes me whenever I have to brush a hair out of my eye our wipe the beading sweat from my brow. I tried to pack the hybrids without gloves one day, but my hands were so red and raw and chapped for days after, that the gloves seemed to be the lesser of two evils.
The smooths are at least dry but the aforementioned dust has "health hazard" written all over it. It gets in our eyes which is terribly uncomfortable, but what's worse is the copious amounts that we inhale. It lingers in my nasal cavity and I can only pray that a good sneeze will grace me and discharge it. Then some gets in my throat, making me cough and sputter, almost until my eyes water (which would actually be quite helpful to get the dust out mf my eyes!). Dave has developed a lovely and very attractive "smoker's cough" that haunts him even after our shift is over. The crowns are also very scratchy and we have to wear leather covers over our forearms to protect them from getting scratched and rashy. And my hands... oh the pain in my hands! And my wrists!! By the end of the day they just ACHE and I can barely grip anything. I'm beginning to think that I have the pleasure of carpal tunnel to look forward to.
Our co-workers are a very colourful bunch. There are quite a few travelers like us, and they're the "normal" ones. The regulars... well, they're Queenslanders. If you're an Aussie, you know that the people in this state GENERALLY have a reputation for being "madder than a cut snake." Basically they're a bunch of nut-jobs. I hate to encourage stereotypes but these people are a testament to the rumour I'm afraid. I've counted 5 that are missing teeth, some of them multiple, and that's just the icing on the fruit cake my friends! It makes for an interesting place to work at any rate ;)
But like I said, ONLY 3 MORE DAYS!! And then I will be a lady of leisure once again (for a while anyway). And that, my friends, is as it SHOULD be. I believe it's my true calling ;)
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