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Soon a small float plane buzzes into view and skims in for a landing.
My bags are tossed on board, and I climb in beside the pilot, trying to keep my knees from banging the stick and my feet off the pedals.
I rise at every morning for 20 days, then pack my belongings off to storage for eight days at home.
Stereotypes paint construction workers as burly men with tattoos, beer bellies, and not much between the ears. Many will surprise you with their depth of knowledge and thoughtful intelligence.
Grabbing a tray from the pile, I shovel orange and grapefruit slices into my bowl, and line up for a neatly institutional square of omelet, followed by a dipper of oatmeal in a white china bowl.
Exactly eleven minutes to eat breakfast, then through the Wapasu Lodge doors into a blast of cold in the predawn Arctic darkness.
Crammed in by 125-foot reaction vessels under construction, one of my friends mans a crane with a boom a city block in length and a control room larger than some New York City apartments. He can pick up a half-million pound tank to with the precision of a Chinese chef with a pair of chopsticks. Wapasu in the winter can only be described as bleak and institutional.
The manager of CJM Trucking joins one of my classes. Next lecture – My other fellow teacher, Libertad, is from Peru but lives in Colombia, where she has to worry about workers who keep machetes in their tool bags when labor relations get touchy. She’s great on getting the guys moving and doing role playing. Rows upon rows of barracks-like, three-story, prefab buildings, austere in the Arctic night, bring to mind prison camps of the Soviet Gulag.
I step out into the cold with a hundred more thickly bundled figures to wait under the baleful red lights of Brass Alley.