Mine Camp Realities

http://journeyswithkaia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Long-Distance-Love.jpgThe answer to the Million Dollar Question of how long before the novelty of life working at a mine camp wore off?

Exactly three weeks.

Long enough for that first seemingly quick two week swing and subsequent week off to come and go. And, after another 8 hour transit back to camp, for me to open the door to my room for the next two weeks, take one look in and realize, despite all the modern amenities, it was what was missing that mattered most.

It was at that exact moment I understood the difficulty of the path I’d set for myself. And for the first time in my life, for my family, as well.

This seed of realization planted, a 5 month process began. A series of departures and homecomings interspersed with stints of thirteen consecutive, 10 hour work days. Work days that began at noon doing ‘general cleaning’ around camp and finished every evening at ten in the tavern serving adult beverages to the natives. Natives being the 12-1600 characters responsible for building, operating and maintaining a liquid petroleum natural gas transfer station ‘mine’ camp there in the middle of pretty much nowhere.

A ‘nowhere’ that just happened to include an artificial putting green, a netted cricket pitch, three cafeterias, a couple media centers, on call medical and physio services, room cleaning, computer rooms, wi-fi, multiple BBQ areas, free personal trainers, basketball and tennis courts and three gyms, one of which that would’ve made the owners at Gold Gym jealous.

All that was missing from attaining resort status, I only half-heartedly joked the first couple months to Bec and anyone else who’d listen, was the pool.

And, then, there were my girls.

While twice daily skype chats and the prospect of moving up the food chain to a position earning substantially more money kept me in the game, it quickly became clear, it wasn’t enough. Not even close.

Being surrounded by a camp full of unhappy men earning four and five times more a week than myself made this point abundantly clear.

And then there was Kaia, whose blank stares in my direction for two days after each completed swing quickly clued me in to the fact my own child didn’t recognize me. With only six nights at home between teary eyed train station good byes, it was simply two days too long. It would prove the final straw and a surprisingly painful one at that.

For close to two decades I’d made coming and goings an effortless practice. And, more than once, a selfish one, as well. Now, with little more than the left-right combination of a big smile and a blank stare, I came to realize every minute of each day at home now mattered. More than I ever could’ve first imagined.

So, five months after having first started, I endured the final, longest 8 hour return bus ride home.

I did so glad for the experience but knowing full well I was a few years late in pulling the trigger and making the experience materialize. I had made a good handful of friends and, as such, would miss our nights holding forth over drinks at the end of yet one more day of ‘living the dream’.

But most importantly, as I received my final ‘Welcome Home’ hugs and kisses from my wife and daughter, I did so knowing I never, ever intended to do such a thing again.

I was home now. Home and, best still, perfectly content to add, after a family Christmas in Fiji, going nowhere fast.

After that, my ‘Stay at Home Dad’ status was ready to begin.

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