When the FIFO shoe’s on the other foot

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Sarah Long arrived in Australia from the UK in early 2010 and met her Mr Miner soon after. They're based in Sydney and he does drive-in, drive-out (DIDO) to country NSW. Sarah came out to Oz as part of a six-month backpacking trip around the world, and never went home!

At the beginning of last year I changed jobs, which means that after five years of Mr Miner going away for work, finally the shoe’s on the other foot and it’s my turn to travel!

And I’m pretty excited to go and try out this lifestyle for myself, let me tell you. Not only does flying for work sound pretty glamorous, we all know from our FIFO partners that it’s basically like one big holiday camp, where workers go to get drunk, meet other people, and maybe have an affair, while someone else does all the cooking and cleaning.

It’s a well-known fact that miners have it pretty easy.

So when the alarm goes off at 4.30am, I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, excited for my first 'FIFO' adventure and not at all cranky from lying awake all night worrying about missing my alarm and my flight.

I turn up at the airport after an hour’s drive, because we live all the way across the city, and I am not at all pissed off by the cheery holidaymakers, sauntering through the airport as if they have all the time in the world. Not even when they talk loudly and animatedly on the plane for an hour and a half while I try to squeeze in some extra sleep.

The men in high vis around me seem to be taking it all in their stride, heads down stoically and headphones in. They all seem a bit tired to be honest, but maybe they’re just gearing up for all the drinking and sex to come…

I get off the plane and meet the colleague who’s picking me up. Ooh, maybe he’s one of the ones I get to have an affair with? Except he’s 15 years older than me… and married… and not my type… oh, and he’s gay. Ah well, at least I’ll be able to have a drink with him at the end of the day.

But strangely, after getting up at 5am to go to the airport and then spending a whole day working, in and out of meetings and rushing around a university campus (I should’ve worn work boots instead of high heels!), all I really feel like doing is getting back to my hotel room.

Luckily my colleague has a life to get on with and doesn’t actually want to drink with me, so I go back to my hotel room and think about putting my feet up.

Perhaps I'll order some room service, have a bath with all the free toiletries and put on one of those fluffy hotel dressing gowns and pretend I’m some Hollywood star on a promo tour (they’re forever doing interviews from hotel rooms).

Not strictly FIFO, but we know they have it pretty easy at camp.

Except the room service doesn’t look great (possibly not a Hollywood-level hotel) and I’m too tired to run a bath, and I probably should catch up on those emails I missed. So I grab some takeaway from the place across the road and work until 10pm. By which time I’ve been up for nearly 18 hours and just about manage to crawl under the covers before I fall asleep.

I’m not sure where I’m going wrong, but Tuesday night and Wednesday night seem to pass in the same way and to be honest I’m feeling pretty bored and lonely and sick of the four walls of my hotel room, which seem to be shrinking and closing in on me. How big is a donga, I wonder?

I’m also sick of eating generic, fatty, hotel food. I wish I could just make myself some dinner, but I don’t think there’s much you can cook with a kettle. And I’ve used my tea cup and spoon for my morning porridge.

Then I strike gold: a text from my friend. She's in town on business and wants to have dinner. This is more like the FIFO I hear about on the news, let the drinking begin!

Not only do we go out for dinner and drinks, but it’s on the company money and cooked by a proper chef, just like camp food.

You know what it’s like when you’re with your mates: once we start drinking and chatting it’s hard to stop us and suddenly it’s 11pm and I’ve definitely had a few too many red wines, but it’s been a lot of fun. I think I’m getting the hang of this FIFO lark!

That is until I wake up at 7am, hungover and with a full day of work ahead of me. What was I thinking? Imagine if I had to operate heavy machinery?!

With the help of a cheese and ham croissant and plenty of coffee, I make it through the day with a thumping head, until 4pm when my other colleague (hot, but female and married with three kids, so probably not interested in an affair) drops me off at the airport for my 5pm flight back to Sydney.

I arrive home exhausted and I’m just about ready to settle down in my own lovely flat on my own comfy sofa when Mr Miner rings. He’s just finished a 12-hour shift. It’s his seventh in a row. It’s been 40 degrees underground all week. And now he has a seven-hour journey home and he’s tired.

It’s OK, I tell him, everyone knows that miners have it easy!

Our Miner's Girl now has her own website: check out her blog here at http://minersgirl.com/

And here's lots more from Sarah on Mining Family Matters:

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