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16 August 2012, 09:16

      WORST PLACE I HAVE WORKED         (Uranium Mine Namibia)   1980  All names are  fictitiousPrior to working for this mine I was working as a senior technician for the department of Water Affairs at their Pumping Installation just outside Swakopmund.  The work was pleasant yet boring: doing the same thing everyday. Government department pay was not so good and I had a wife and 5 kids to support. 

Being electrical by training I also picked up a solid background in mechanical engineering. I and a German Engineer, working for the mine, soon became friends. He asked me coaxing and teasing me to come over to the mine with its better perks and salaries and they need qualified people etc. I fell for it hook line and sinker. At the time I was studying for the certificate of competency. Electrical. Some time later the engineer invited me to accompany him to the mine recreation club for a few beers. He had other ideas unbeknown to myself. At the club he introduced me to an elderly gentleman, The Engineering Manager himself.

I was heartily welcomed at the club and the manager told me without much ado That I will be starting immediately on the mine. That was not negotiable. This was a Friday and I was to report in on Tuesday. Never did a beer taste so good. And so it came to pass.
On my entry I was accosted by a surly foreman who took me through the processes of signing on and induction etc. He took me to his office and explained my duties to me. He was the electrical foreman and my immediate supervisor. After some  chit-chat I touched on my studies. This guy went rigid immediately and I wondered what his case was. Later he took me to meet the engineer and there he spilt the beans: “Mr Pay here is studying to be an engineer”. Sarcastically.  The engineer grunted something inaudible. Later I was introduced to my workmates.  After the handshaking and greetings A chap a bit younger than myself took me aside and told me to never let it be known that I am studying for the certificate of competency.. I asked what was up but he refused to say anything and left. It struck me then that my studying had never come up with the guys on the floor. The foreman must have told them in advance.     About 15minutes before knockoff the electrical staff come together to discuss problems they may have had during the day and solutions thereto. The foreman was doing his shift- closing rounds. I, being the new guy, was casually asked how I came to be on the mine. I mentioned, jokingly, that JP the engineering manager, had arranged my employment. The conversation ended, people were coming to conclusions. Sucking up to management, he is, the bastard.
It was difficult to study at home with the normal demands made as a father and husband and I struck a good idea. I wrote down all the electrical and mechanical formulae onto a piece of paper and with a sharp erasable pencil  re-wrote them very low down onto the walls of my sub-stations. Low and out of sight. When I entered the Sub-stations alone I would select some of the formulae for memorising. So it went on.
The nightshift staff would sit around in the tea-room reading while I studied.  This guy comes up to me and demands to know why am I studying on duty and why am I defacing the sub-station walls. My reaction: “Ok Piet, kom saam” He wanted to know where were we going to. I told him substations. Inside the subs I told him to point out the places I defaced. He was unable to do so. 
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