Sunday, September 30, 2012

One Small Step...

Saturday/Sunday Sept 29/30, 2012

I was walking through one of two largest electric furnaces in the world today thinking how fortunate I am to have a part in this project.  For those readers, who don’t generally walk through gymnasium-sized furnaces, let me paint a description with words:

I feel like Buzz Lightyear… no no. Umm… Buzz Aldrin, or maybe it was Neil Armstrong. Yea that’s the guy I think... the guy who walked on the moon and now no one believes it.  Entering the furnace through a crooked scaffold and up a dusty ramp, I step through thick clouds of dust floating heavy over a rust coloured moonscape.  Vague shapes of men in their protective suits, respirators, helmets and gloves take shape through my dirty face shield. Loose rubble rolls into jack hammered craters as I make my way past pancake-flat mushroom-shaped deposits of hardened nickel under each of six electrodes, between which man-made lightning usually forks.  Through my foam ear plugs, I hear the deafening rat-a-tat-tat-tat thuds coming from strange looking machines mining away at the cooled slag and nickel. Climbing the highest deposit of nickel, I raise my flag and plant it deep in a crack, mouthing those infamous words through my dusty respirator, “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…”.  Then I called mission control on the radio and they told me to get the hell out of the furnace.


Back to the reality of being Kevin Nichol, I’ve been spending my nights in a simple room, sparse with furniture and accessories.  My luxuries include a twin bed and a single bed depending on my mood, a flat screen tv on the wall, a fridge, a telephone, a recliner and a single plug-in. Here in Brazil and throughout most of my travels in South America, the showers are not piped in from a hot water tank like in Canada where power and water come cheap. The water is piped in cold and an electrical appliance is mounted on the shower Fawcett which warms the water in a coil when you turn it on.  Unfortunately, about two weeks ago I was showering when the plug-in above the shower started popping and cracking and a plume of smoke filled the bathroom.  From then on, the electrical breaker has been popping a couple times every shower and I have learned to quickly lather up and rinse off before I have to slip and slide out into my room and reset the breaker.  I reported this to the owner yesterday and an electrician is supposed to change the shower head today.  It turns out my present shower head is rated for 220 v but it’s plugged into a 110 v outlet. The thing about appliances here is that they come in either or both 110v or 220v.  The other day, my boss and I unpacked a brand new printer, plugged it in and pushed the start button.  It immediately burst into smoke and flames and is now being used for parts.

Plug-ins in Brazil
 Dinner tonight was "Find your own" and I had the benefit of a company pickup so I drove the strip with my arm out the window a couple of times, and stopped at a Churassca on the other end of town.

 I managed okay considering the soup of the day was made with tripe (cow's stomach). Yum! My Portuguese is now sufficient that I can greet the local proprietors, ask for food, pay the bill and say thankyou.  Sure I use a few hand gestures and my fantastic smile but it works!