8 June 2007

My life’s is headed in a new direction. I now live in the dorms of a Presbyterian college in the southeast Alaska town of Sitka. You think I’m joking, but I am not.

Because this is a brand new plant, we don’t have bunkhouses, so they’re putting us preseason workers up in town. I wake up at 6:15 a.m. We eat breakfast in the college cafeteria between 6:30 and 6:40 (though they have opened 3 and 5 minutes late my first two days). Our vanpool of 7 leaves the college between 6:45 and 6:50 on the 4-mile trip to the plant. Work starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m. We get back “home” about 7:15.

The area is beautiful. It looks like the rest of southeast Alaska, but the big mountains still have snow on them. The town is ridiculously expensive…even by Alaska standards. I had to buy a bath towel at the local mart – budget priced at $10.

I have worked two days so far. The first day was great fun. Aggie from Poland and I are the only girls except Sarah (in the office); Glenda (the cook); and April (the expediter/errand runner). The plant is still in construction, so everyone is rushing around to ensure we’re ready to process in the next week or two. It’s possible, but I think we’ll have to put in some 17-hour days to succeed. We already have a second crew working noon to midnight.

Aggie and I were commissioned to build 20 raingear/clothing racks. We were given 40 feet of 2×6 lumber and a bag of spikes. Pulling out mad carpentry skillz I learned from my pops…and with some power tool crash courses, we measured, power sawed, routered, sanded, screwed (heh), nailed (heh) and painted. We were then given more supplies and told to make 20 more. Our woodshop is thriving, and we are accepting birdhouse and coat hanger orders.

Today we were interrupted from the second order and sent to the new bunk house. The general contractor handed us two power sanders and set us loose smoothing boards on the temporary bunkbeds. With heaters running, windows sealed and no masks around, we set to work on the 22 sets. It was miserable. I had improper safety glasses which kept fogging up, and I’m still picking slivers from my eyes.

In the last room, one of the drywall guys came up and indicated in sign language that we should come down to their bus and have a drink when we finished. With one keg cup of Jaeger and Red Bull for dinner, we made the walk back to the plant to finish our painting project.

Food is another strange thing here. We’re still building the mess hall, so besides the breakfast at the college, we get doughnuts at 10 o’clock break; a simple lunch cooked in the converted RV “kitchen” (this only applies Mon – Thurs. Friday is pizza, Saturday is Subway, and Sunday is starvation); what’s left of the doughnuts for 3 o’clock break; and whatever sandwich material you can piece together from the fridge for dinner. Dinner is often skipped. Everything will change next week when the mess hall is finished, but for now it is odd.

That’s all for now. It’s time to head to the Sitka bars for the first time. So much for a new life direction, huh? Last note: The showering off of dust, sand and sweat tonight was phenomenal as were the dirt boogers.