I agreed to go out and around with them the next day. We went in their car to meet up with some of their friends -the rest of the Indian gang lol- we went all around the city.
We ended up at another hotel where I saw many more young Indian fellows -I hadn’t really realized there was a good number of Indians already living here in California. It was a nice sociable second day and I was beginning to feel more comfortable with my surroundings.
Third day. Three young men, friends of Shekhar and Ramesh, came out from Marysville and from Yuba City to join us. What better way to get acquainted than over a nice meal and so we went to have an early lunch at a Chinese restaurant.
Now that my new acquaintances were up to speed on my situation, they invited me to go out for the week and earn some money with them. One of them offered, “You come with us and we’ll help you get a job where we work. At the very least you’ll have an income.”
Another agreeably stated, “Yes do come out to the fruit farms and work with us. We tend to the trees there.” Okay I thought, why not? I was a gambler of sorts anyhow and always was willing to take a chance.
Besides I liked the idea of an income almost immediately after landing in California and along with it, try out a new experience. The third chap said, “Yes and do keep your room here in the city, we’ll be back of course.”
The next morning came awfully early as it always seems to do. I packed a few items and left my key with Lalit at the front desk. Four of us piled into their car and began the drive out of the city, well beyond the outskirts of San Francisco by at least a couple of hours.
I remember looking out the window a lot and whatever I saw seemed to be sparse and boundless.
We arrived in the early afternoon at a peach farm. From what I could see it appeared the majority of the farm hands were Indians and I quickly learned that most of them were from Fiji.
These guys were hard workers I was told; already familiar with their duties having come from farming backgrounds in the islands. It looked like they all worked well together.
One of the guys in the car told me, as new men from Fiji arrived into this part of California, somehow they’d find each other and make their way out here. These are the guys who weren’t well educated enough to come here and land big-time careers yet here we were all given the chance to get a little cash flow.
Perhaps there were 2-300 workers all around the area. Here’s where I take a chance and try something new. I was assured by one of the guys, “Don’t worry Blue, you’ll be shown by the foreman exactly what to do and we’ll most likely be nearby you anyway.”
Everything there was set up as a permanent camp of sorts. To be sure the workers wouldn’t feel deprived of life’s daily needs, a sort of mobile bank, postal services, personal necessities vendor and girls, yes that too, came into the camp on various days of the week. There was always medical attention on-staff too.
Well there’s no time like the present to get earning that paycheck. Of course I was hired on the spot and then shown around the camp briefly, starting with the off-duty accommodations.
Within each camp or barrack there were about 10 single beds with an individual night table beside it for personal storage. There were fresh pillows and blankets laid upon each one and thankfully these rooms were kept very warm.
The pay offered was $1.00 per hour and days were basically 12 hour days, seven days a week. I noticed there was quite a few Punjabi Indians there working alongside the handful of assorted other Indians and a small number of other nationalities.
Next morning is my full day; there’s white frost on the ground everywhere, it’s just inside dawn and bitterly cold. We wear beanies on our heads. Big ladders are leaning up against the large trees.
After being instructed one-time by the foreman as to how they wanted us new guys to prune the peach tree, I’m off to work on my own. I stayed close to the guys I had come there with just incase I had questions or needed help.
Though I thought it would never come, noontime finally arrived and with it came the very welcomed meal truck sounding his horn. We stop to rest a little and eat some hot lunch; the menu consisted of roti, pumpkin curry and hot tea. Thank goodness!
But you know, the same curry meal after meal got old very fast and a few of us guys together decided something had to be done. I am not sure how we actually succeeded but we managed to drum-out the cook, replacing him with a non-Punjabi Indian cook; one from my Suva no less.
Understand this, the Punjabi cook was an all right fellow mind you, great tea and the pumpkin curry was nice, the 1st time, but the same old thing every meal? and the rotis were just too thick to be enjoyed. I know they wanted to fill our stomachs but come on!
Excellent choice on the changing of the guard I tell you. This different fellow turned out the very best masala pork curry and the softest, thinner and most perfect rotis, with chutneys and delectable dahl. Now we felt like we were really eating and every meal was a near feast to be sure.
I would say the days and weeks went by but in this case, the truth is the hours of each day passed in bitter cold and well, I worked for 3 days and realized I just couldn’t do this anymore.
I wasn’t cut out to trim trees in the cold I guess. My shoulder swelled in great pain. The wet cold was too much for this guy. I feel I really tried, I did –but this adventure had to close … it was a no-go Joe.