Sunday, 14 March 2010

Is Your Workplace as Rough as The Arctic's Mackenzie Delta.?

Arctic Business Travel: And You Thought Your Workplace Was Rough | Slow Travel


I was there to work on a media production that shot on and between the natural gas fields of the Mackenzie Delta. The field crew at the sites told us to wear a hard hat at all times. They told us only go to the bars in groups. They told us not to go to anyone's house, "especially if they're native." The acrimony between what they call "the oilpatch" and the locals has left blood in the snow of weekend mornings for decades. Even in a just world, if you take away the sunlight for a month, there will be fighting.


You might wonder how people live there, but they have for thousands of years. There are two indigenous populations in the Mackenzie Delta, the Inuvialuit and the Gwich'in. The desk clerk at the Gwich'in-owned hotel told me that the two groups are old enemies from way back. In the bars, after a few drinks, each group unites in their prejudice against any kind of outsider, but even in the daytime, I heard racial slurs directed against me. You can brush it off at first, remind yourself that it's not personal, but it wears on you after a while. The Inuvialuit and Gwich'in men and women that owned and worked at the trucking companies that serviced the drilling sites were uniformly friendly and generous, but in my two-plus months in their world, I heard far more overt public racism than I hear in Los Angeles over a span of years.


By the time I left the arctic, in April, the temperature was above freezing. The frozen river was closed to travel. The sun was out for 18 hours a day. You could see people's faces when you ventured outside. I even saw someone in shorts.

I flew back with an associate producer named John and a petroleum services company employee named Marcel. John and I took Marcel out for dinner as one way of saying thank you for his participation in our project. For the first time in months, I had cell phone reception, drank fresh fruit juice, and saw attractive young women.


J. Ryan Stradal

J. Ryan Stradal was born and raised in Minnesota, and now lives in Los Angeles, where he writes fiction, sometimes plays in bands, volunteers with students at 826LA, helps create products for the Echo ...
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