Canada, Red Deer

17th May 2006 – 21st November 2006

After taking one month holiday in New Zealand from working the world I was ready to hit the ground running. The goal of this chapter was to earn enough money to attend the 2007 Cricket World Cup in Jamaica, then travel through South America.

With 3 months left on our 1 year work visas, Barney and I were headed for the Albertan Oil Fields where we had heard there was plenty of money to be made if you had two arms and two legs.

If you have read the first two Canadian chapters you will know the ingredients  required for this chapter already; car,  job, house.

CAR: with a Canadian track record of two cars in 8 months, we were extremely cautious not to make it 3! With only $1500 to spend on car, safety check (required to get insurance) and insurance (expensive for foreign drivers), it was going to be tough. After weeks of test driving Calgary’s future scrap metal we came across a 1991 Chevy Lumina sedan with 191,000kms in great condition. It seemed too good to be true –and yes it was- so we took it to the mechanic who gave us the thumbs up. We paid the stereotypical greasy Lebanese 2nd hand car dealer $850, got it registered and were good to go.

The newly purchased Chevy Lumina The Rockie Roadie

Little did we know we would be dealing with him again in a dispute settlement. After taking the car to get a noise in the back brakes checked out a couple of months later, we were told by the mechanic we were lucky that the car even stopped! $1200 later we had completely new front and back brakes, and a new dispute on our hands that saw us awarded compensation.

WORK: We needed work, well actually we needed money. We headed north to the Albertan oil towns, like gold miners in search of gold. After getting brushed off due to no experience, we stopped off at a company a Banff friend worked at and recommended. They said they would consider us if we came back qualified. We bit the bullet and forked out the money for the 3 relevant courses, leaving us broke.

I’m ready for action. Drilling Derrick in background The flare stack - worlds biggest cigarette lighter

The following week Barney and I started as Junior Operators for an underbalanced drilling company. The only thing I knew about this work was that the people who worked on the oil rigs were called ‘rig pigs’, the work was hard and you worked 12 hour shifts.

We didn’t make the best first impression. The night before flying out we decided instead of driving the 2 hours in the morning we would sleep in our car by the airport and meet our supervisor for the early morning flight. Long story short, we parked our car in a field that happened to be mud. We got stuck and couldn’t get it out. An early morning phone call was made to our new supervisor explaining the situation. While we were unloading the car of our work gear a cop car pulled up on the scene after receiving calls from concerned motorists about ‘two dodgy guys breaking into a car’. You can imagine our new supervisor arriving on the scene with our car stuck in mud, police questioning us, and our flight left in 30 minutes!

Stuck in the mud - Our first impression Fun in the mud, this was a clean photo.

HOUSE: From the story above you may ask, ‘why were we sleeping in our car’? Our car was our home. Until we got our first pay cheque, we were broke. So for 2 months whist getting qualified and later working, the car was home, public restrooms our bathrooms, local park fire pits our kitchen, public library our living room, local river our bath, the soup kitchens our restaurants and the front seats of the car our beds!

Our first couple of weeks having no job and getting qualified were our hardest. Our day would go like this, when the course finished, we would go to the local town river (that was bloody freezing and we never saw anyone else swim in) jump in and scrub ‘back, crack and sack’ as fast as possible. Then we would cook sausages in public park fire pits, or attend one of the local soup kitchens with the rest of Red Deers homeless which was an experience in it self.  After dinner we would find somewhere inconspicuous to sleep and pray that it wasn’t going to be a steaming hot night as there was no air conditioning. 

Sleeping in the car Back, Crack and Sack! Bathing in the local river (we never saw anyone else swimming in it.

When I got sent out on my first job it was like a holiday, a horizontal bed, clean sheets, a shower, three meals a day, house cleaning and TV. To me it was like ‘club mud’, club med in the middle of Northern British Colombia’s mud. Surrounded by electric fences to keep the bears out and 2 hours from the nearest place resembling a town. Working 12 hours a day, getting constant remarks about ‘which team I batted for?’ due to my curly shoulder length hair, my kiwi accent and a barrage of sexually oriented sheep jokes. To me it was paradise and I loved everything about it, especially the banter! And I got paid for it, and paid well!

‘Good morning Barney, feeling fresh for work?’ Club Mud - It was like a 5 star hotel compared to the car

After 2 months sleeping in the car a fellow workmate and his wife let Barney and I rent out there basement room. Then I moved in with friends at Sylvan Lake, a local lake town. After nearly 2 years of being a nomad sharing a room,  I had a room to call mine.

Life was cruising along great, plenty of camping road-trips exploring the Rockies and beautiful British Colombia and the unforgettable cross Canada Roadie from New Foundland (furthest eastern point of Canada) to Alberta (This completing a Coast to Coast crossing of Canada, as the summer before we had done the Roadie around Vancouver Island). I had my own place. I had a dream job, work were sponsoring both Barney and I work visas. This would allow us to work the 4 busy winter months earning more than enough money to go and travel for 8 months. I remember having a toast to “not working $10/hour jobs again’. Perfect!

New Foundland with our New Foundland workmate DJ x Canada Roadie, Niagra Falls (I really need to pee and theres no toilets onboard the boat)

Well, not quite perfect. I arrive on a Monday morning after a 4 month ordeal of dealing with immigration, to a letter stating ‘your work visa has been refused’. Boom! Long story short, the reason my visa had been denied was because when HR had sent away my application they had sent it with Barneys application. So Barneys had been put in the processing queue but mine had been missed. After the problem got rectified and my application put into the queue, they were unable to change the system to allow me to keep working while it was processed. So I was still treated as though my work visa had been denied, meaning I had to cease work immediately, and leave the country within 2 weeks!

So turning a negative into a positive, I tossed a few summer clothes into my second home (my pack), paid three months rent on my room and escaped the clutches of Alberta winter. I bought the cheapest ticket to Mexico to start my next chapter.

PS Our car crapped out aswell making it 3 cars in just over a year!


3 Responses to “Canada, Red Deer”

  1. jodi at 4:12 pm #

    not to sound like i think we r special or nothin but i think we r special and i wanna hear more about how u felt about your experiences here i cant beleive u didnt write about shambhala scardey cats car hiding. here is some quotes 4 u about being the all knowing wizard.your body is just the place your memories call home. the return of the magical can only happen with the return of innocense.

    • Hap at 10:19 pm #

      Sup Jodes,
      long time no hear, I had to edit your comment, bloody classic, I had a good ol laugh, people looking at me strange as sit and check it in the internet cafe. but the comments can be viewed by everybody that checks my blog. They get sent to me first for approval, so did a little editing, I think I nearly deleted it all, haha. Was all gold though, loving the whole red neck Albertan coming through.
      Hope Justin’s foot OK and he stopped foaming at the mouth and Nova has her farting undercontrol. Big love to you, cheers for writing. You should sign up to get email updates of where I’m at sent to your email address, and then when you reply it goes straight to my email and I can email you back direct to your email address.

      Gotta fly, Nuthin but love to the Sylvan Massive

  2. pauline at 8:52 pm #

    some funny stuff here…back, crack and sack!!!lol

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