Saturday, January 13, 2007

Day Five

Today is Shane’s birthday! And what a day it was. The Knucklebusters are our video loggers for the day, so click here to see a brief bit of their perspective for the day.

Happy Birthday, Shane! What a way to spend it! He literally raised the roof (more on that later. . . ) And, Saints win! Saints win! Lots to celebrate today! We rolled out REALLY early (wakeup time: 6:15) to make it to the Habitat for Humanity staging area by 7:15 (we were a few minutes late). The area of the Ninth Ward where we’ve been working is really close to the well-publicized Habitat for Humanity project called Musicians Village. We wandered over there to talk to them about what they are doing and ended up getting interested enough to schedule a day with them.

It was rough to get out of bed after our fun night out at the Portside (thanks again for the tip, Lisa!), so we had already agreed to eat granola for breakfast, brush our teeth, then leave. Once we connected with Habitat, we were sent offsite into a project in New Orleans East. One team, the Knucklebusters, decided to return to Sarah’s house to continue working on the Happy House paint job. Justin, Chris, and Aaron all had projects to finish at Don’s house, so they peeled away from their groups to follow up there.

We’re all really comfortable in our little area of the Ninth Ward now, and we know LOTS of people by name. People wave and honk at us all the time (in a friendly way) and we are sometimes able to give directions to people who are wandering by. The Knucklebusters got even more acquainted with our Ninth Ward neighbors today, as they worked outside while neighbors gathered next door to watch the progress on Sarah’s house. Sarah remains really happy, though she has become somewhat convinced to change the color of her trim. Once she decides on a new color, we’ll be glad to change things out. Her neighbors have decided that they will benefit from the main color of the house, as they can now say, “When you see the bright green house, I’m the one next door.”

The Knucklebusters have managed to have some very serious bonding time due to their commitment to Sarah’s house. They have stayed right with that job no matter what the other options might be and they are growing closer and closer as the days and minutes pass. Further, they are really demonstrating our policy of “good enough is not good enough.” They are treating Sarah’s home as if it were their own and their work makes that commitment clear. The coverage is even, the lines are straight and the messes are cleaned up. There is still more to do for Sarah’s paint job, but things are looking close to completion.

As for the main group, we went to a house that will soon be the property of a wonderful woman named Natasha. We met Natasha at the staging area, then she joined us for the day of work at the house. When we arrived, our staff host, Alicia, immediately put us on some pretty specialized jobs. We divided into groups, with The Transformers installing windows, Mannschaft hanging doors, The Fab Five blocking kitchen cabinets, the ONEders chalking out lines for wiring to be installed, and a “special ops” team (Shawny, Courtney, Dan, and Shawny’s sister Sherry, who is visiting from Indiana) moving a window that had been cut in the wrong place. Though few of us felt like we knew what to do when we got our assignments, it was no time at all before we felt like semi-pros. We easily could have committed to stay with our assigned jobs all day, but we were well aware that there were big plans in place for today, involving the expected arrival of roof trusses (pre-made segments to establish the shape, size, and pitch of the roof of the house. Alicia had told us that no matter what, we were going to put everything aside when those trusses arrived. They did.

Most of us stared at the pile of connected 2x4s and could not quite imagine how they all figured into the house. We loaded them off the enormous flatbed that brought them to us and wondered how in the world structures that large were going to find their way onto the roof. We thought maybe a crane was coming, or maybe some complicated pulley system. Because of some prior experience, though, Shane knew just what needed to happen. He, then, was not surprised when Alicia told us how they were really going to get onto the top of the house: by hand, carried up by us. We waited until after lunch to figure out just how this whole process was going to work.

As lunchtime approached, we noticed that Natasha was gone. When she returned, she came bearing gifts for all of us: fabulous southern fried chicken, orange and strawberry drink, and a birthday cake for Shane. She was so amazed that some college kid from California would spend his birthday working for her that she insisted that we had to throw a party (her first in her new home!) for Shane and all of us. We were very moved.

We gathered around in her framed-out house and spilled onto the porch as we ate. Many students said that they had never had such good fried chicken in their lives. Many of us also exclaimed over the greatness of “orange drink,” the existence of which we had kind of forgotten until we tasted it. We talked and laughed with Natasha about her image of her new house (which will eventually be purple, with two purple chairs on the porch) and we told her all about our current bus/home and why we love it.

When lunch was over, we turned all of our attention to the roof. The system worked like this: three of us – the bravest of all – would perch on the tops of the 2x4s of the frame and wait for the rest of us to do our jobs. The first job was for no fewer than six people to pick up a truss and walk it in unison up to the back of the house, where three ladders were standing. From there, everyone on the ground would help to support the piece until the ladder walkers (Bree, Shawny, and Lindsay) had climbed out of their reach. For a few steps, the ladder walkers would carry the trusses alone (while climbing a ladder), until they connected with the roof walkers on the top. Throughout the process, three people supported the ladders from the underside and once the ladder walkers had climbed about four steps, three others would also support the ladders to help stabilize the people who were on them. Once the truss reached the roofline, Shane, at the center of the house, would guide the truss across the entire roof, all the while doing a balance beam routine across 2x4s. He was fearless. We were impressed.

And then we got to raise the roof for Natasha -- literally. We were all so excited about the whole macho undertaking that we practically ignored the unbearable heat and the blazing sun that were beating down on us. The end of the workday arrived and we had not quite finished the job; we’re going back on Tuesday to be sure that we do so.

We left the Habitat site and returned to our old stretch of the upper Ninth to rejoin our other groups. We assessed what jobs needed to be done and everyone, even our tight-rope-walking birthday boy, jumped right in and grabbed paintbrushes and nail guns. Sarah came around, Rosie came out, and Mr. Pitts (another neighbor) chatted with us all. And EVERYone expressed excitement about the Saints playoff game tonight.

We decided to stay in our NOLA homesite and watch the game at our own private tailgate party. We got out a big grill, bought hamburgers, chicken legs, and sausages, and we had a feast. Shawny’s sister Sherry swiped the TV from the house where she is staying and set it up along with the one that Dan carries in the bus. We all hooted and hollered and pleaded for the Saints to win. They did.

We wound up our night with notes from our website and with an unusual treat: individualized notes to each of us from the students in Sherry’s sixth grade class back in Indiana. These notes contained beautiful words of encouragement, admiration, and appreciation, and some even contained drawings or pop-up features. We loved them.

It seems that things clicked together on a whole new level for us today. We were floored. Natasha was roofed. And the Saints won. Oh, lord, we want to be in that number. . .

Come on ride the train. On top of the roof as the trusses were being raised.

TEAMWORK! Bracing the ladder while Lindsay scaled the ladder.

Emily and Janeva of Team Mannschaft are caulking the edges of the wood to create a seal for the window.

Lindsay diligently hammers nails into the window. Team Transformers hung numerous windows in the Habitat house.

The sun comes down as Matt holds the last of the roof framing to be raised up for the day.

Afraid of heights? Not this team! Shawny, Lindsay, Bree, Jed, Soraya, and our birthday boy Shane “raise the roof,” as the rest of the team holds ladders and provides moral support.

Jed pays close attention to detail as he cuts the plywood for the roof framing of Natasha’s new home.

Emily shows her guns as she and her Stanley anchor the roof.

Rachel handles the chisel, Vince saws the roof framing, and Megan hammers away at the newly cut pieces. Great job team!

The group prepares to walk the tress to the ladder where it will be lifted up to the students waiting on the roof.

Even though Alicia, our Habitit leader at the site, assured us the ladders never break she insisted we have someone hold the ladders as the tresses were carried up because knowing someone is there provides mental ease. Tim, Natasha, and Linzy prepare to steady the ladders for the tress carriers.

Our afternoon project at the house consisted of literally “raising the roof.” It took most of our team to perform this task we hope to finish when we return to Habitat on Tuesday. Jed, Shane, and Sariah lifted the tress out of the arms of Shawny, Lindsay, and Bree who lifted it up the latter in synchronized steps.

The homeowner of our Habitat build, Natasha, surprised Shane with a birthday lunch of fried chicken, ice cold drinks, and a delicious cake. Not only was he surpised, but Shane was thrilled to celebrate his birthday in such a unique and heartfelt way.

The Oneder's have included pictures from our previous day of work that they weren't able to post the night before:

Contractor and friend Chris takes a break from hammering nails all day to join in friendly house painting. From this picture it looks like Chris may just have a new night job. Contractor by day painter by night.

Our spectacular bus driver, Dan, is truly a jack of all trades, navigating the high ladders and the streets of New Orleans, all in the same day!

Our bus driver Dan and Feke paint Sarah’s house from tip to toe after having scraped for an entire day. The house has brought smiles to neighbors.

A bucket of bright lime green paint: $10, brushes of all sizes: $3 a piece, a complicated ladder: $25, Mentor and friend Shawny Anderson smiling and viewing from corner as her goals unravel with full of joy: PRICELESS.

There is no I in team especially when building and painting houses of all sizes. Here Soraya spots fellow classmate and friend Matt to step up to paint the top of Sarah’s house.