Thursday, May 1, 2008

Day 5

Floor joists and 60 blocks ...
It's Thursday and our trip is winding down. Honestly, I feel like one week is not enough to accomplish so much as building a house (or a number of floor systems). Today was a great day, we are still currently working on two houses. The second house we are working on (located on Desire St.) is coming along well. Today, we sistered all of the floor joists and started the task of blocking. Yesterday, Ryan and If cut out 60 blocks to a length of 14 and 3/8 inches. Of ourse it wasn't close to enough. By the end of the day our team had blocked about half of the house. On the first house (located on Piety St.) a group of about seven of us, including myself, started doing some work on the porch. Nash and I had to notch out a few spots in a joist in order to make it sit properly because the rims at the porch slant downwards. While doing this I measured wrong and Nash and I started to cut out too much wood. Fortunately, Hannah (the house build eader) noticed the incorrect measurement before it became a problem and we were able to still use the beam. Following this mishap, Hannah gave Nash and I the task of measuring out another floor joist that needed to be cut. Let's just say measuring is not my forte. I must have measured it five times and had Nash check it a few times as well. I'm not bad with the cir-saw, but that's only because I was told where to cut and just followed the line. It was good to see that it fit in correctly upon cutting it, it was a confidence booster. That was just about as far as we got on the first house; three o'clock came real quickly.
Following build time, our group came back to Camp Hope and helped them out by cleaning the second story. I'm not going to lie, this was not the first thing I wanted to do after working all day. I much would have rather jumped in a nice warm shower, but even that is unlikely, I have a better chance of winning a million dollars. It seems there is never hot water in Camp Hope. After cleaning up around Camp Hope, we all had dinner than headed out for ome ice cream. After a long hot day, ice cream was great!
Our build team then had some bonding later in the night, where Mr. Greene taught a group of us to salsa and waltz. This was such a good time, and helped me out a little because I'm a terrible dancer; ha ha! Tonight, I felt a lot closer with everyone and had a great time.
It's too bad that we only have two more days left. It feels like we just got to New Orleans; I really don't want to go. Before we leave we have a few more things planned though, which should be fun (like eating some gator). I plan on making the best out of the next two days even if it does rain tomorrow on our last build day. I have a feeling even if it does rain, our group will still have a blast. -- Brett Murphy

Hammers sound like rebirth ...
As a try to reflect on all that I have experienced here, different emotions start to take over - Happiness, sadness, guilt, love, and, most importantly, hope. We arrived Sunday, April 27th, 2008. It is going to be three years in August since the hurricane happened - You would expect much to be done right? - I did. Sadlly that is not what I encountered that day. New Orleans still needs help and more than ever. There are still destroyed homes, businesses, and schools that need to be restored. But there's more. We met a few locals and they all said the same thing ... "Tell everyone not to forget about us.....we are still here!". I felt ashamed in some way because I was one of those people that forgot - Yes we talk about the hurricane and all the destruction it caused, but it does not really hit you until you come down and see the result for yourself.
We all have worked extremely hard with Habitat to rebuild the homes of future families. "Silence in New Orleans is like death" says group leader Mr. Kosow - " But when you hear the sounds of hammers and people it is the sound of rebirth and new life to New Orleans". It is frustrating to know that we are only going to be here for a week. There is so much left to be done and to leave is the worst feeling in the world. I do believe Louisianna will return to its formal glory, but it is going to take time. All we can do is have hope - It is the only thing that can keep us going.
The last three days have been the most inspirational experiences in my life. I have gotten to meet volunteers from all over the country as well as the members of panthers at work (us). This trip has united us not only as a team, but as a family, and the memories we will treasure - We are PANTHERS AT WORK! - Michael Vidal

A mixed bag of feelings ...
First arriving in New Orleans, I never imagined it would be such a dirty, sweaty, and sometimes emotionally draining experience. Well, maybe the sweaty-dirty part, but certainly not the latter. Driving away from the airport I was impressed with some of the rebuilding that had been done there—once we came to the suburban/urban parts of the city, my reaction was just the opposite. I quickly became frustrated with the lack of progress that had occurred since the '05 hurricane. Although everything I've experienced so far seems to be a handful of feelings that I just can't tie together, I wouldn't trade it.
So far, I've blistered a thumb, became a little too friendly with the sun, skinned four toes, scratched both arms falling from a wooden beam, dropped a hammer on my foot (resulting in bruising, blood, and an aching ankle) etc., and I've loved every bit of it. I've become closer to people I never would have guessed I'd even be acquaintances with. I've learned I truly can't dance, I don't like crawfish, I'm terrible at PDQ, and I've slept more this trip than I've slept since...probably last summer. Talk about reducing sleep debt :-). I've learned how to give the best hugs, how to handle a first-grade classroom, and, if anyone needs a new construction worker, I'm your girl (not so much). Maybe another day of work and practice will help. I've met some inspiring people: Marguerite, who lost both her home and her son within the past three years, brought me to tears inside her trailer home with the amount of faith she had in her community and the incredible hope she had for the future. I also worked with Jessica, a woman for whom we were building a house, who had two young children and (as a muralist) spoke of her plans to decorate her childrens' walls in a safari theme. Most importantly, I've grown extremely thankful for all that I do have (including things I usually fail to even think of).
For me, it's always a better feeling to give than to get. I know I'll be taking more from this trip than I could ever have put in. While I'm looking forward to no-time-limit showers, seeing family and friends, etc., I can't help but think I'll leave here feeling like I could have done more. All I really know right how is that I believe our team has found a strength during this build that none of us thought we'd find, both individually and together, both mentally and physically. And now I'm ditching you for a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a pillow. Later, maybe! — Lauren Barry