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This Morning’s Migrant Workers

Somebody, somewhere, is selling their used, unairconditioned school buses to somebody over here who uses them to transport imported, blue collar workers. These old, yellow school buses packed full of worker bees are a common sight around these parts.

the wheels on the bus go to a labor camp

the wheels on the bus go to a labor camp

Where in the world could they be coming from?!

Oh, right.

Oh, right.

Much more plentiful than the yellow school buses are the big, white Tatas.

No, seriously. Big, white Tatas.

Tata buses

Tata buses taking migrant workers to work


Tata buses taking migrant workers “home” (restricted access)

The Country has been under extra scrutiny, as of late, for alleged mistreatment (forced labor, Passport confiscation, non-payment of wages, denial of drinking water, assault, etc.) of its migrant workers.

All reports of alleged “slave labor” have been vehemently denied by labor officials.

This morning, I woke up at 4:00am. After returning from the US last week, I have had the worst case of jet lag of my life. I fought the urge to play Candy Crush for over an hour, then finally decided to just go on a walk. I headed outside, thinking about how I probably never would have gone on a walk when it was still dark out in Kansas City, MO, but I feel so physically safe here. An American in the Middle East. It’s not at all what Fox news would have you think.

I took “the big dog” aka our Sony fancy-pants camera with me. I’m pretty sure everyone I meet thinks I’m a complete nut anyway, so I really don’t care too much anymore how ridiculous I look walking around at 5:00am in workout clothes and a tourist-style camera hanging around my neck.

As I was leaving, I stopped to chat with one of our building staff members. We have daytime staff and nighttime staff, both consisting of maintenance workers, concierge, and security guards. They are all very nice people, mostly from Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Philipines. As poor as those countries are, they produce some of the friendliest people on the planet. This particular staff member sleepily described their 6:00pm-6:00am shift, and how the bus was coming soon to take them on the hour long trip to their accommodations in the Industrial Area. I asked how it was to sleep during the day there, as I’d heard some areas out there are without electricity at different times throughout the day. The staff member said it’s very difficult. I started to ask, “How many…” when my sentence was finished for me: “In one room? Eight.” Eight workers share one room.

On my walk this morning, I got a little brave. Instead of dropping my eyes to the ground when passing a blue collar worker, instead of pretending they are as invisible as they probably feel, I greeted them and (in hand gestures and diluted English) asked if I could take their picture. I expected a lot of heads shaking “no,” and even to get yelled at by some unidentifiable supervisors. Surprisingly, these guys were quite eager to have their photos snapped. Many seemed as surprised as I was, and politely tried to assemble their very best “Good morning!”

Below are some shots from my morning walk.

I have attempted to protect and censor the identity of all individuals pictured, to include company and country details.


A for effort, but most worker bees don't speak - let alone READ - English

A for effort, but most worker bees don’t speak – let alone READ – English

Clearly, safety is a priority!

Safety is #1 priority, just read the board…



from the morning bus to the job site

from the morning bus to the job site

"Are you conscious about comply others to do work safely?"

“Are you conscious about comply others to do work safely?”


Fire Safety

fire safety station close-up


How does your garden grow?

How does your garden grow?

bus "terminal"

bus “terminal”

If patience is a virtue, these guys are as virtuous as they come.

If patience is a virtue, these guys are as virtuous as they come.

Poseidon and the sea

Poseidon and the sea

paintbrush trident

paintbrush trident

In 1984, George Orwell describes modern war between Eurasia, Oceania and Eastasia. He writes, “…there is no longer, in a material sense, anything to fight about … it is a war for labor power.” Detailing the disputed territories, home to “about a fifth of the population of the earth,” he goes on to say, “…they all contain a bottomless reserve of cheap labor. Whichever power controls equatorial Africa, or the countries of the Middle East, or Southern India, or the Indonesian Archipelago, disposes also of the bodies of scores of hundreds of millions of ill-paid and hard-working coolies. The inhabitants of these areas, reduced more or less openly to the status of slaves, pass continually from conqueror to conqueror…”

Knowing that having moved here makes me a contributor to my surroundings, like staying here makes me a contributor, like looking away makes me a contributor, like not doing or saying anything to advocate something better makes me a contributor, weighs heavily on my conscience. I am part of the demand. But what to do? It is exhausting to care so much about a bad situation you can’t improve, but to care less, or not at all, is surely criminal.

Inaction is action.

“The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything.” – Albert Einstein


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