There’s a ski slope inside a mall in Dubai while there’s a beach inside a mall in Edmonton!
The Fifty Fifty Club was formed during the winter of 2006, in Edmonton, Alberta. I am the founder of the club.
It’s an elite club, though not elitist. It has only four members in it. Two of the members are Japanese, one of them my sensei aka, guru-dev. And, the fourth is an Indian. The club’s charter is very simple. Everyone is welcome, but membership is restricted to those who have worked in Plus 50 Celsius and Minus 50 Celsius environments for a minimum of five years each.
As for my credentials, the minus 50 I worked in was in Fort McMurray, Alberta where I worked at the oil sands projects. My plus 50 was a few years ago, within the oilfields of the Middle East countries.
Surprisingly the changeover was not too difficult, neither in terms of the physical aspects of the job nor in its cultural dimensions. I guess, I need to explain this in a little more detail since the overall experiences of moving countries is not always successful — immediately, or in the long term.
Firstly, I worked for the Japanese. That ensured I uncomplainingly worked 16-hour days in all kinds of (hot, hotter and hottest) weather.
Secondly, my conservative estimate is that I personally cut and inspected close to 7,000 truck tires with my own hands, in 20 years. I may have forgotten to mention that I specialize in Off-The-Road (OTR) tires, the giant kind you see in mines and excavation sites. At approximately 100 kg a tire, that is an awful amount to lift, cut open and roll away by a single person.
On the positive side, it did bring about an almost magical skill in being able to stand away at a distance and identify the exact reason for a tire’s failure; a skill I employed and raised to another level while working in Fort McMurray.
The similarities of living and working in extreme conditions are striking when you give it some thought. There’s the safety aspect of working and travelling in hostile environments. Driving in deserts — icy or sandy — engender a certain amount of self-discipline, advance planning, and technical knowledge.
In addition to these work factors, the cultural aspects have some similarities too. People generally tend to congregate indoors in malls during the bad months. To give you a sense of indoor activities, there’s a ski slope inside a mall in Dubai while there’s a beach inside a mall in Edmonton!
The dynamics of the oil industry is generally the same all over the world. The industry is driven by coin-flipping corporate heads.
All over the world, the oil industry is populated with westerners. Many Canadians work in it outside of Canada. This allowed me to learn the cultural skills required to communicate and understand people across a wide swathe of backgrounds.
But, the strangest part of the story is now apparent to me. Working in the regions of the “first 50” is what I really should be most grateful for, because it helped me make a success of the “second 50”.
I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but…
As people in that part of the world would say, “Mashallah!”
The wonders of God…
Keshav Das: Keshav is a tire industry veteran who lives in Edmonton, Alberta. He specializes in Off-The-Road tires which take him to the less travelled parts of the world. He is a true outdoor enthusiast, music lover, and always up for a hearty debate over a good glass of wine…