The Canadian years, 96, the change

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Friday 27 February 08:48

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The change

Thus passed two weeks, I kept a very low profile, because to quote Don's words, I wanted to make it to May. I only had to get 15 points to complete high school and succeed. The sciences had gone well and I made plans, but yes we all do that at times. Fifteen out of one hundred credits were peanuts, everyone would be able to get those. So I went up to the last few months, up to May. My father and Betsy announced that they had a getaway with the girls on Friday and that she would be late coming back. ‘The surprise,’ I thought, and put it right next to me, I was really busy at school and that filled my mind completely. So Friday came along and I went to school, while Betsy, my dad and the girls left. That did not matter to me. It is striking how the human mind fixates on the business, you are doing then you have little regard for other details that pass by.

 

 I ate again at POPs and then went to Richard who had a colleague that had come to see him. He spoke with a strange accent, not British, not Canadian. He came from Australia and told hundreds of stories about life there. He had wanted to see the world and worked his way around the countries of the Common Wealth. That were quite a few. He had been in Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand, and now he wanted to know Canada. Afterwards, he said he would go back to Australia and settle down. He had been working in construction in Alberta, but  had also worked up North in the oil camps.

He said that the pay was good in construction but folk did not last long because of the conditions, which were not so great. But it was nothing like the working conditions in Australia. He named Richard invariably Rico and when I asked why he did so he said they all had nicknames. ‘You too,’ I asked?’Oh yeah,’ he laughed, ‘they call me Kiwi, which is wrong, because the fruit actually comes from New Zealand, but they are not bothered about that’. Look, he said, we always need people, because the work is hard going and people leave quickly on injuries’. ‘Oh yeah, ‘I asked? Yes, Kiwi continued, ’but if you are planning to do so, do it for a short time, then there is nothing the matter, otherwise you’ll stay stuck in that work.. and you’ll work only with colleagues that grunt and swear.

‘Not like Louis the Lip, who has been there donkey years.’ ‘I guess that his real name is not Louis the lip,’ I laughed? ‘No, that's true,’ Kiwi said, ‘he is all lippy, he has got a big mouth.’ I had a little chuckle. ‘We are now working in the high-rise, our boss has a contract in Place Concord, which is going to be 24 stories high.’ ‘What do you do,’ I asked? ‘All  that the lip thinks I should do. If you would like to work in the summer there, we are now 19 stories high, then you can simply begin. The highest workers are Indians who bolt steel structures to each other and then it is us. Do you have a fear of heights?’ ‘I do not think so,’ I said, ‘normally speaking but 19 or 20 floors up sounds very high.’

‘Look,’ said Kiwi, ‘even though many accidents happen, working conditions are really bad and you get paid per hour and can befired per hour. If you see one sail down, blown away by the wind and there is always wind up there, well, then two or three boys will quit.’  Don’t you have you no safety  lines or something,’ I asked? ‘Oh Yes there are safety lines, but we don’t use them, that interferes too much in the work. That's what I mean about other working conditions. In Australia, the inspection would stop the work, but here you have formally a helmet, a safety hat and you have your line that you can click on, your safety line but nobody uses that as the lip thinks you're a pussy boots.’  ‘Strange,’ I said. ‘No,’ said Kiwi, ‘you don’t know but out there is a whole different world. You can not imagine how the world is outside school.’  ‘No,’ I said, ‘that's right.’ ‘For example,’ said Kiwi ‘in Australia every one is meber of a union, here I was told, that if I joined a union, I would be fired. So you earn well but you have no rights.’

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I suddenly looked at Richard through other eyes, here he had never talked about, so he belonged to that macho cowboy world, where people can work safely but didn’t to be tough, or to fit in. What Kiwi had done was pretty smart. The penny dropped for me right away, I had never thought about it but as a citizen of a Commonwealth country, as Canada was, I could do the same and half the world was British, so plenty of choice. Wow, that was something else. I could go very far away from my father and go to work in a pleasant climate. Asians and Asia didnot appeal to me so, so mentally I crossed out Singapore and Hong Kong and out the stories it appeared that New Zealand was quite old-fashioned, but Australia seemed like us, but with a good climate. Kiwi was really nice and he found a good hearing and told us so much.

 Too late, much too late I got home. The family sat at the table and the TV was on. ‘Shall we say it then,’ Betsy said to my father. ‘You first’, said my father. ‘No,’ she said, ‘it's your house.’ ‘Our house,’ my father laughed. What was this nonsense, I thought? ‘Okay,’ said my father and my sisters looked quite expectantly. ‘We,’ my father said, and he pointed to Besty and himself ‘got  married today across the border.’ Betsy kept a hand up with a gaudy ring. I was stunned. ‘That will prevent a lot of trouble with her parents, ‘my father laughed.’ As if I would need permission.’ ‘The legal age is lower there, ‘he clarified. ‘This is your new mom.’ The stab was complete.’Nice huh,’ said the girls, ‘we knew it but could not say anything’. ‘Yeah, nice,’ I said. ‘What do you say boy to your new mom.’ ‘Not so much,’ I said, ‘I suppose I’ll call her Betsy or so, that is how she came in and that does not really change.’ ‘Nevertheless,’ said Betsy, ‘you live in my house, under my roof, and I really do demand more respect. I am the mother of this family.’ ‘She is mad,’ I thought, ‘that is not how it  works.’ ‘I'm going to study again,’ I said. ‘You have nothing further to say,’ my father said? ‘How happy you are for us?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘not really’ and went downstairs. I just had neglected all the good advice of Don and knew that, but it meant nothing to me.

San Daniel 2015

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