A Day in the life of a Field Manager – Part 2 – the working day

After breakfast it is usually back to the office to see if there is any paper work or reports to deal with. Then I drive back out to the field to take a walk around and check that the company standards and policies are being followed with regard to harvesting, upkeep and health and safety.  I make sure that all the staff are present and doing their jobs. There are occasions when I have turned up to find that either the workers, or those immediately above them, have decided to take the day off. They get up and go to check roll to ensure that they are paid for the day. They then disappear back to bed or they decide that fishing is a better option (something I sympathise with but can’t allow).

Lunch is usually at 12pm for an hour, sometimes a little later.  Unfortunately, there is not much good on television at lunch time. EMTV broadcasts a lot of programs for schools or children’s entertainment.  Still, half an hours sleep makes all the difference.

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Blu tac repair to the starter wiring

After lunch is usually when we have our meetings, if there are any. These are often drawn out affairs. The upside is we are liberally provided for with coffee, (otherwise mid-afternoon meetings can easily become nap time) and biscuits, which unfortunately I have sworn off these to maintain my waistline. If there are no meetings, then afternoons are often spent in the field making sure that the work for the day is being completed correctly. It is beneficial to the smooth running of the plantation that the manager gets out and is seen by the workers. The manager gets to ensure that everything is as it should be, and the workers see and understand that the manager is working too. It promotes a better working relationship. On occasion I too will do a little bit of pruning or cutting, and while I am woefully inadequate compared to the experienced cutters, I think it improves the morale. If nothing else it can give them a laugh, and I can get some much needed exercise.

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Working in the tropics does involve a little bit of rain occasionally.

From 5pm to 6pm I am back in the office dealing with any paper work. It is also the time I set aside for workers to come and see me if they have any problems or issues.  Managers at any level on a plantation have to be multitalented, and should expect to be a social worker, financial adviser, family planning officer, and marriage guidance counsellor.  Just don’t get talked into being their bank manager.  I get regular requests to lend money to the workers. It is hard to listen to their requests and turn them down. They will ask to borrow money for things we take for granted in Scotland, such as school fees, or to pay for hospital costs. Local custom also dictates that relatives pay for the funeral and wake of a family member.  This can prove very expensive and impoverishes whole families. It is an issue that applies across much of PNG. Debt is a huge problem on all the plantations. They lend and borrow from each other at very high interest rates, and as with any other parts of the world, it is all too easy to get caught up in a spiral of debt.

By 6pm I have finished work and its home to eat, wash and sleep. Part of the package provided by the company allows for a gardener and a house girl (a haus meri in tok pisin).  It might sound like a bit of a luxury, but given the hours worked you really don’t have time to wash your dishes, or clean your clothes, or make the bed. We work 11 days out of 14 (and even on our days off we are often in the office). There is little enough spare time to relax.  Plantation work involves long hours, plenty of head aches and a great deal of pressure, but if you can cope with the trials and tribulations it throws at you, it can be very rewarding.

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Home time

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