Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Day One

After much anticipation, we have finally arrived in New Orleans! We were very jet-lagged from our overnight flight, but we were thrilled to be in New Orleans putting together our new temporary home. One of our student teams, The ONEders (Rachel, Kellie, Tommy, Aaron, and Soraya) created this video to help our friends and family to envision the place that we are staying. . .

We are REALLY excited to be back (or for some of us, to be here for the very first time)! We took a redeye flight out of Oakland and truly had red eyes all day to prove how exhausted we were. Our sore and tired eyes got a big treat in the Houston airport as we stood at the gate with basketball star Clyde Drexler; honestly, though, it was too early and we were too tired to appreciate the experience.

Though our main goal was to establish our camp/home back in Eddie Conrad's lot in Algiers Point, we also checked in with lots of old friends from last year as we began to plan out our schedule for the week.

We got to meet our new bus driver (and the owner of the bus), Dan Bryant, who is an incredibly warm and happy person to be around. Our driver from last year, Leo Rutledge, will join us next Tuesday and stay with us through the end of the month as Dan returns to his family in Indiana.

We started by setting up the huge canopies that will serve as our kitchen/dining room and our changing rooms. We used three 10x20 tents for our new expanded food center (again lit with Christmas lights, but now with added red “chandeliers”), and we saved one tent of that same size for our divided luggage storage room.

Our shower truck (four shower stalls and three sinks on each end of the divided trailer) from last year was already in place when we arrived, and as we rolled in from the airport we had visits from our portapot provider (this year the company we chose is named “Doodie Calls”) and our water company (who brought us 55 bottles at 5 gallons each).

We organized our food, consisting of all nonperishable items, including some indescribable soy products and even dehydrated vegetables and butter.

We got our teams’ tools together, and customized our hard hats (all donated this year by Webcor) with decals of our team names. We began to capture our experience with pictures and video, learning how to see things as they happen through our lenses rather than posing for shots as we smile at the camera.

We all joined the Transformers (a team consisting of Brianna, Lindsay, Justin, Matt, and Julie) as they produced homemade tortillas for a surprisingly good dinner of fajitas featuring canned chicken and tofu.

Though we worked hard today, tomorrow we begin the work that really brought us here. We will rejoin our friend Don Palmer in the Upper Ninth Ward and help him to bring his already-started process of rebuilding to completion.

Don had hired a contractor to install drywall throughout the house that we helped him gut last year, but a disgruntled employee of that contractor broke in after hours and kicked in most of the walls. The contractor has agreed to take care of the repairs, but after four months has not managed to follow up on that agreement.

Our plan is to patch the drywall that is damaged, then finish the trim that was left undone. We think that we can also fix the floors and complete the painting of the interior. If all goes well, Don and his family will be able to move into the house before we leave Louisiana.

We sure do hope so . . .

Below are some fun pictures of today's events:

Amidst our nation’s colors, one can see a glance of New Orleans from our bus

Julie and Bree help the rest of the crew set up the kitchen tents.

The group attempts to create their kitchen by building a tented off area.

The dawn of a new day!

The Knucklebusters are well represented on their hard hats.

The bus is here! The bus is here!

The hydration station. Protecting our water, one jug at a time.

Tim has impressed us all with his ability to fall asleep anywhere.

Bree, concerned about complex carbohydrates, rolls out whole wheat homemade tortillias.

The first part of organizing camp was separating tools from food. As you can see we have a great variety of food.

We decided to make tortillas for dinner and realized if we wanted to have enough for everyone we would need to start early. We began the tortilla making process ( from scratch) around three o’clock, and did not finish with dinner until seven o’clock.

After camp was set up we began assembling our hard hats. We were surprised by the decals Shawny had made of each team's name to adorn our hats. Kate found herself quite busy as the calligrapher/artist of her team's hard hats.

This year we upgraded our kitchen from two tents to three. It took us a bit of time to maneuver the three tents around the fire-ant hills.

Songs of the Day:
"Hurricane" by Mindy Smith
"Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans" by Louis Armstrong
"Fix You" by Coldplay