Monday February 28, 2011
Same old. Same old. These shutdowns become a sequel to Groundhog’s day, only I can’t get away with as much as Bill Murray. I contented myself with a few slices of watermelon for breakfast and hopped on the bus just like the last several days…
The majority of Columbian workers walk and stare right through me like unthinking drones, never ever yielding to a “gringo” nor returning a nod. But yesterday was different… I met a friend while touring the furnace demo. I crossed under both nickel dust kilns which are large pipes about 20’ in diameter and easily a thousand feet long. They rotate and you hear the thunder of a 1000 tons of big rocks rolling around, being crushed and blasted with heat as they are fed into the smelter. After I came through, a Columbian work gang barricaded behind me and I had no way back out of the area. Seeking shade from the 34 C sun, I found myself in the shade of a big leaved tree and an indigenous worker joined me with his broken English. For about a half hour, we chewed the fat about our lives, age (43/44), homes, children, wages and other things only men talk about. His name was Cesar though it is a popular name along with Luis, Juan, Carlos and Eduardo. At the end of our conversation, he removed his sweaty gloves and shook my hand insisting that I was his amigo. One of the best native experiences I have had yet and rare.
I should mention, that most Columbians are about 5’ tall with smaller features, though of course there are some exceptions and they come in various shades of tan to dark brown with the odd pale albino like skin. When I arrived I was given a pair of very nice leather gloves which are about half the size I would normally wear. They are required when one is in the furnace area and coupled with sweat, they are nearly impossible to remove to shake someone’s hand.
Safety rules here are pretty simple. If you get hurt its your fault. The rules for pedestrians reflect this as well because its commonly known that you are fair game for any vehicle if they can run you down. The responsibility is on persons to look each way before crossing a road and run like hell because vehicles have the right of way.