Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Day Two

Today we hit the Ninth Ward and got the hang of what our work lives will be like here in New Orleans for the next few weeks. The Transformers (Julie, Matt, Bree, Lindsay, and Justin) provided this video montage of their experience for today. . .

We kicked into full-fledged work mode today and we couldn’t be happier. Our breakfast crew (The Fab Five: Kate, Jed, Yessenia, Vince, Megan) was very ambitious. They rolled out at 7:00 a.m. and cooked powdered eggs with optional ham along with oatmeal and granola. Apparently we enjoyed ourselves a bit too much, as we had quite a tough time tearing ourselves away from our kitchen tent and getting ourselves to Don’s house to start patching his drywall.

We arrived in the Ninth Ward at about 9:30 and Chris gave a quick tutorial refresher in drywall repair. Each team had a bucket of tools that few of us have ever owned before and – even better – we each got our own tool belt! We got a pretty big kick out of wearing tool belts, hard hats, and safety glasses while wielding drywall cutters and power drills to change the appearance of things in Don’s house. Each team took a room and repaired the damage done there by the disgruntled worker we talked about in our last post. Chris circulated constantly and patiently reminded us about how to improve our overall technique. We are lucky to have Chris and his brother Justin with us so that we can learn these important skills and use them in service to the families we have grown to love in New Orleans.

One group was around the corner from Don’s house prepping the exterior of Sarah Mercadel’s house for painting. Using the pressure washer and hand scrapers, the Knucklebusters (Feke, Kellie, Bryan, Tommy, Vanessa) with assistance from Justin got the house ready for paint in the next few days. We need to caulk some edges before we begin, so that job will have to be first on the agenda tomorrow. We fear that we might face rain over the weekend, so it is important for us to time things carefully if we want to do a good job painting Sarah’s house.

As we walked back and forth between Don’s house and Sarah’s, we kept passing the trailer occupied by our great friend Rosie and her roommate Janet. Everyone who passed by when Rosie was outside got a big hug from her and many of the passersby came back with treats from Rosie for all of us (including fruit, cookies, and little after dinner mints!). We got a quick historical overview of the street from Rosie, in which we learned about her family’s commitment there since 1917. As structural workers pulled out yet another dumpster-full of lumber and flooring from Rosie’s gutted house, she kept staring into the pile and exclaiming over the fact that those nails right in front of us had been driven by her father and her grandfather almost 100 years ago. She also told us about “barge boards” that were used in the construction of many of the homes along the block, including hers. As it turns out, barges would make their way down the Mississippi, but their operators had no reliable way to make it back upriver with such large boats; thus, they dismantled the barges and New Orleanians took the planks by horse and carriage into the neighborhoods to build their homes in the early 20th century. The barge boards served as the only walls of the houses (Rosie’s house was still without insulation, though it had been sheet-rocked inside, at the time of the storm).

Back at Don’s house we were moving quickly to smooth the walls that had been damaged so that we can move toward texturing them tomorrow to match the undamaged parts that remain. Further, we took on the job of installing a new door so that Don’s house can be locked securely for the first time since August 29th, 2005 (the day that Katrina hit). Justin, Feke, Shane, Jed, Aaron, and Matt all joined forces to make sure that the door would be lockable before we left the neighborhood. Though hanging a door is a difficult job no matter what, this job was harder than most because the house had taken on a noticeable tilt that probably preceded the storm. The old door had tilted with the house, but no new door was ever going to match that slant. It took several hours, but our guys miraculously walked away at the end of the job by locking that door and handing Don the key. He was thrilled.

We’ll continue working at Don’s and Sarah’s houses tomorrow and we’ll also check in with Parkway Partners about some work that we hope to do in one of their community garden lots. More to come. . .

It was good to see another friendly, familiar face. The group was working on a house in the ninth ward when Rosie found her way outside. It was weird being back in the same neighborhoods that were once deserted and destroyed, but once Rosie came by everything seemed to be all right again.

Linzy and Emily representing Mannschaft, winning best patch work for the day. Way to bring home the gold.

Welcome back Elijah! Literally today, Elijah flew in around 12am. Since last year Elijah has graduated from SMC and began going to film school in Burbank, California. Here, in this picture he is enjoying the lunch his group made while he was sleeping an extra hour. Although he did not help with Lunch we are very happy to have him here and his assistance and expertise on film and video.

Linzy and Janeva gleefully repair the assaulted wall.

Thank you Mrs. Verrips for the delicious cookies!

After a long day, everyone packed onto the bus and we headed home.

We be grubbin’. Quinoa, sundried-tomatoes, and canned ham or tofu… Our favorite! On a special note, fellow relief workers from another organization dropped off two pizzas which we fought over like a pack of lions.

After working so hard during the afternoon we all got together to have a great lunch! Provided to us by the ONEders, the tasty treat was well appreciated by all.

Kellie and Emily work hard to remove excess paint chips on Sarah's house. The pressure washer didn’t quite get all the chips, but it sure did clean the house well!

Team Knucklebuster’s take a quick break at Sarah Mercadel’s home, while Feke shares a funny experience about last years Jan term.

Bryan and Soraya happily rocked their new “tool time” gear: gloves, hard hats, and protective eyewear.

The crew does their best to scrape off the old paint from Sarah Mercadel’s house.

Feke, Emily, Vanessa, prep the house for paint work.

Rachel reflects on the activities of the day, while Bree enjoys the fruit given to us by our beloved friend Rose.

Tommy, Juan, and Elijah get down and dirty pulling up tile from Don Edwards’ crib.

Here, is a time to rest and socialize. The group is resting on the porch of Rosie’s houses. The lunch prepared consisted of whole grain pasta, accompanied with sun-dried tomatoes, oil-vinaigrette, and a choice between pork and tofu. For a side dish there was applesauce, cliff bars, and of course the most popular and most consumed Ritz crackers. There was a lot left over.

Songs of the Day:
"Feels Like Home" by Bonnie Raitt
"Tougher Than the Rest" by Bruce Springsteen
"Shine" by Cyndi Lauper
"Wash Me Clean" by K.D. Lang