Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Monday, August 29, 2005

I was very impressed with the professional set up at Sealord's - such a contrast to the lily bulb packhouse in Ashburton! Just after arriving, I had my medical which involved the usual procedures like eyes, hearing and urine tests. No problems, although I explained that my heart rate might be higher than usual after such a hectic day!

In my interview, the very friendly lady asked, in all seriousness, whether I'd be doing the Kaikoura to Nelson journey every day - not likely! The interview was a mere formality really, and subject to attending an induction at 5pm, I could start the next day. She told me that the Hoki season is due to end in roughly 3 weeks, which is ideal for me as I usually get itchy feet around that time anyway.

The induction lasted a couple of hours, and included a tour around the grounds of the factory. It was a sprawling place and I could see myself getting lost at times! I was surprised to enter the canteen area during a scheduled break to find over a hundred people enjoying the impressive facilities, each one dressed in identical white overalls, white gum boots and white hair net. It was at this point that I realised that it could be quite a messy job!

I spent the next morning wandering around town, and Nelson appeared just as nice as I'd remembered. There are enough shops, restaurants and bars to keep you entertained, but it is a lot smaller than the big cities like Christchurch and Auckland...and cleaner. There are numerous immaculate gardens in the area as well, and I plan on relaxing in them prior to a shift at work - Nelson is known for its excellent climate afterall.

Just before 3pm, I made the 20 minute journey to Sealord's and met the other new starters outside the gatehouse. We were soon greeted by a supervisor, and we spent nearly 2 hours with her, getting acquainted with the factory and its functions. A tour of the work area provided a first glimpse of what to expect for the next few weeks, and it wasn't pleasant. Rows and rows of people stood along conveyor belts, doing a variety of different things to the fish. Our supervisor pointed to the filleters and said we'd be working with them. I didn't fancy this job, as I watched them cut the fish's head off, then slice into the body to get the fillet!

Luckily there was a last minute change of plan, and they were opening a new row for us beginners. I landed a plumb job at first, simply putting (headless) fish into boxes as they emerged from some kind of cutting machine, and passing the boxes onto the next person. We had all been issued with our white protective clothing, but my face was uncovered and thus wide open to the occasional splash of blood and guts! This wasn't a job for the squeamish.

However, the shift passed quickly, and I didn't mind my job at all, although it was quite damp and cold at the start of a session...but you soon got used to it. I spent smokos with Ben and Josh, a couple of youngsters who'd only recently left school. After each break, we had to wash our hands and aprons, and walk through a pool of water to clean our gum boots. It was very thorough.

I bumped into Javier at the end of one smoko - I had no idea he was still working there as I'd not texted him for a few weeks. He told me that Diego lasted a full 50 minutes before quitting! I couldn't believe this, as Diego had led me to believe that he was still working there, obviously embarrassed by his complete lack of staying power. It wasn't surprising in one respect though, as I suddenly remembered his unwillingness to get his hands dirty at the kiwifruit packhouse...the real 'pajero!'

The machinery on our row experienced some teething problems late in the day, and so we all relocated to another row for the last hour, and it was the most gruesome job I've ever had to do. Basically, we all had a bowl of fish guts in front of us, and we had to put our hands in there, rip apart the various organs, and make sure that there were no major blood vessels left. I had a constant grimace on my face, but occasionally Ben and me would burst out laughing in sheer disbelief at the things we were doing for $12 an hour!

That last hour dragged, and it was a relief to get back to Shortbread Cottage just after midnight to find the log fire still burning brightly. I'd survived!

I actually quite like working 'nights' as it means I can wake up whenever I want and relax for a few hours - I hate the feeling of having to get up for an early start. Even so, I didn't sleep in the next day as I wanted to maximise my free time, and I soon got talking to a Scottish girl called Elaine. We ended up walking into town together as she wanted to know where the second hand bookshops were. Afterwards we went to the library, and I became a member as it only cost $15. Predictably, I got a book out about one man's experiences while teaching in Japan for 3 years.

My second day at work began badly, as I was transferred from my easy job to a much more physical one that involved emptying heavy crates of fish onto a conveyor belt. I always get roped into these jobs! The up side was that I was working with Cobain, a Korean guy who I'd made friends with the previous day. Obviously a Nirvana fan (hence the name he had given himself), we got on well, and he bore a striking resemblance to Buddy Holly, complete with thick black spectacles.

Thankfully, I returned to my original job after the first hour, and enjoyed a comfortable shift, in stark contrast to Cobain who looked absolutely drained at the end of the day! I was disappointed to learn that there was no work on Saturday, so after just 2 days I had the weekend off! I wanted to be earning money, but I suppose it wasn't a disaster to be able to relax in the sun on what turned out to be a scorcher of a weekend - hopefully 'winter' has passed!

I went to Nelson's market on Saturday morning with Elaine, and browsed the vast number of stalls on show. Then in the afternoon I spent a few hours reading, writing and listening to music in the quaint Queen's Gardens, surrounded by fountains, birds...and peace and quiet! I had an interesting conversation with a very enthusiastic English guy back at the hostel, after spotting a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) cd on his bed. It turns out he's been doing the qualification whilst travelling, and I didn't realise it could be done so cheaply and without any class time. Still, I do think it's advisable to pay a bit extra for the tuition, especially if you've not got any teaching experience.

For the first time in ages, I had a TV night when I barely moved off the sofa! I was joined by a German guy, and we became engrossed in the All Blacks v South Africa match (the one I could have gone to). It was a great game, with the ABs winning thanks to a last gasp try. I was then introduced to K1 - a form of kickboxing - that is apparently growing in popularity in Europe. It was great stuff, much more entertaining than boxing as each bout only lasts 3 rounds, and one brutal knock out kick to a Japanese guy's face was a real sight.

Sunday was a very similar day, and the sudden change in the weather had put me in a really good mood. I listened to music that reminded me of summers gone by, and once again went to the Queen's Gardens for some more rest and recuperation.

The gorgeous sandy beaches of Mount Maunganui provided a haven for escaping it all, and I see the tranquil Gardens in Nelson as being equally as therapeutic...
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