By the time I got to Melbourne at the end of the great ocean road, I was ready to go back to the ground, the simple life and the locals, annoyed by the thousands of Asian tourists running to take pictures at every stop without pausing a second to look at what they came all this way for.
I found a construction job in a little city not far from Melbourne and I was de-lighted. Little did I know that it would be the hardest of all the jobs I had on the road.
The very first day, dressed in my heavy boots, construction helmet, goggles and gloves, I was introduced to the saw mill. This massive piece of machinery, implying a lot of adjustments that I should master pretty quickly, to cut big ass trees into something that could be used in the construction of the house that we were building. That was only the start. Then it was loading heavy metal into my wheelbarrow and dragging it from one side of the job site to the other. It was making mud bricks and turning them every day towards the sun. It was breaking rocks, putting gravels on the floor, sanding and polishing the wood. And, my master piece, by the end of my stay, I was in charge of the mud floor. From the gravel to the bricks to the mud to the beautiful leveling and smoothing it all at the end. It came with sore muscles, bruised arms, messed up hands, cuts, blood, sweat and dust but oh man was I proud.
I guess the other thing about the job was the living conditions. Eco friendly would be an understatement for those people. Mud brick house where it would rain inside as well. One tap only would provide drinkable water, everything else was brownish recycled water. Yes, the shower as well. After three weeks none of my cuts were healed and some of them were just turning a weird black color. The floor was uneven and not finished, you could hear mice INSIDE the walls and by the end they found a huge wasps nest right underneath by bedroom. I would sleep with the sound of those insects buzzing right there all night.
Was I happy to leave at the end ? Yes. But was it one of the best job experience of my life ? Absolutely. Those people were amazing. Honestly. It’s the kind of people you read about in books. The three sons were all working in construction. They would come home late in the afternoon, dirty from mud and paint, in washed up disgusting clothes, and then … One would sit at the piano and just play Mozart. The other one would be talking about the latest philosophy book he’d read. And the third about his soon to be trip to Argentina to perfect his Spanish. The mother was this tiny little thing with messed up white hair and delicate little hands, who would cook this amazing food in this stone age kitchen, loved by her three sons like the goddess she was, reading, listening to classical music while working the whole household and the whole money.
And the father. This eccentric with revolutionary ideas, who had me paint his van in bright yellow and put a big sunshine on it to go to farmers markets and talk to people about solar energy. Who would steal wood from the road to build his son his house. Who would yell at every single worker he ever got and love them all anyway.
Yes, it was rough, and I’m not one to say that lightly. But it is one of those stories I can tell at bars all around the world. And really, isn’t that the whole point ?
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