My new location is split up into crews, much like Houma. Each crew has a crew chief. The crew chief I worked with this week is a black Sudanese man named Wesley Snipes. His fellow operators really do call him either “Black Sudani” or “Wesley Snipes.” He is cheerful and friendly, and we speak in Arabic together. The other members of my crew include a man named “Buddy”. This is his actual nickname. I went through extensive research to find his actual name to properly assign him on my job tickets. Buddy reminds me of Harry2. Buddy is Filipino. Most of the operators I have encountered are Filipino. They cook delicious food and are always yelling at each other in Filipino. A common theme I observed working with these operators is their inquisitiveness about America. I often hear questions like “Is America same?” followed by motioning to a landscape or situation. Other popular questions are “Where in America is cold?”, “Do you have driver license in America?”, “Are mountains in America?” or “Is some people black in America?” It is amazing how movies can shape people’s view of a time or place. How little do we really know about the world?
“Where in America is safe place to raise family?” Wesley Snipes asks me, opening up a long discussion lasting a 45 minute car ride. “A friend told me there are places where if you don’t have money, you can not go out. Someone will flash you his gun, and you give him $50 or something, whatever you have. If you no have money, they shoot you.”
“Is it true in America, anyone can shoot you?” Buddy looks to me, desperately hoping I will deny this. “It is true,” he sighs, “They will shoot you if you no have money.” I tried to explain that in theory, it is not allowed to just shoot poor people. I found it hard to convince this group that they would not be shot in America.
“You hold the most powerful passport in the world…. U S A” Buddy informs me.
“And me too!” Wesley chimes in, “Mighty Sudani passport is very powerful!”
Wesley is a joker. He is constantly harassing the other operators by wiping his greasy hands on them or slapping them around. He plays practical jokes and likes to tease me. He tried to tell me that Sinbad was talking badly about working with me behind my back. “Don’t say that! I would never say that! This is my future FSM!!” Sinbad protests. Later at dinner, Wesley quietly sat playing Candy Crush on his phone. Sinbad poured water into cups and some spilled on the table.
“See Sinbad, if you don’t like Laila, dump water in face.”-Wesley, without even looking up from his phone.
We ate at a restaurant run by an Egyptian. I ate too much. Waddling back to the car, Wesley suggests, “We take picture of Laila now, and Laila in one month.”
Please enjoy these pictures snapped illegally in the desert field where I was working this last week:
This place is almost like Arizona. Sometimes when I’m walking around, I pretend I am Arizona or California, and just around the corner is an In N Out. Other times I look out on the field and it looks like New Mexico. I think the Rio Grande may be just on the other side of some plateaus. It’s not though… still more desert.