Sunday, January 28, 2007

Day Twenty

The Knucklebusters had the camera today. Click below to see how our Sunday went.

We woke up to an overcast morning with big dark clouds on the horizon threatening more rain. We had plans to go to our neighborhood southern Baptist Church, having been invited by Miss Nikki, whom Courtney met at the Laundromat around the corner. Miss Nikki has two daughters who are WNBA players, one of whom is in California, so when she heard about the group from California for whom Courtney was washing clothes, she wanted to learn more. She invited us to come to her church this morning at either 8:00 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. We decided last night that if it looked like a clear day, we would go to the 8:00 service so that we could get to work on Sarah’s paint job. If it looked like rain, we decided that we would stay in bed and get a later start on the day. Shawny and Courtney got up early and decided that it looked like rain.

We all started moving around at about 8:00 and found that Tim had already been up for an hour peeling shrimp that was left over from last night. He was imagining shrimp omelets for breakfast, but he had forgotten that we are out of dehydrated eggs. Thus, Shawny and Justin made a run for eggs (with a lot of king cake on the side). When they went into the grocery store, the sky was dark and foreboding. When they came out a few minutes later, the sky was blue and clear. The blue sky held for the rest of the day.

We gorged on eggs, king cake, and orange drink (pronounced “drenk”) and still made it to the 10:00 service at New Home Ministries. When we entered the church, we were immediately hugged and greeted warmly by each person we encountered. The music was already jamming, with a choir rocking out at the front of the sanctuary. We got two whole rows of seats about ten rows back and we hardly noticed at first that the entire large room filled to the brim just a few minutes later.

The music flowed from one piece to another, one soloist to another, one speaker to another, with all of us on our feet clapping, swaying, and singing (when we could figure out the words). The singing was incredible, as was the flow of the accompaniment, including electric bass, keyboards, and percussion. Every once in awhile it seemed clear that a saxophone, trumpet, or clarinet had joined in, though there was no such instrument in the room. One tentative soloist began slightly out of key, and the congregation cheered and lauded him, effectively drawing a better solo from him by the end.

Joy flowed in the room, especially through the jubilant harmonies of the congregation and the choir. People jumped up and cheered during songs and during the sermon, so much so that an observer might have thought that an athletic event was unfolding in front of a very well-dressed set of sports fans. And these people WERE well-dressed. Many women wore hats with feathers, fur, satin ribbons, rhinestones, or silver accessories on them and all of the men wore sharp suits in an array of colors. We looked pretty goofy in the midst of them in our jeans and camp shoes, but they never let us feel out of place.

At one point in the service, Miss Nikki (her last name is Johnson, just for the record) whispered into the pastor’s ear and he called Courtney to the front of the church. She joined him at the altar and he asked her to describe our group. She told them that we were college students doing relief work and she talked briefly about the fact that many of us had been there last January as well. She told them that we felt very honored and privileged to be asked to join them in worship, and they responded with a big long standing ovation for us all.

Once the service ended, it took awhile for us to leave because so many people wanted to hug us, thank us, tell us how beautiful we are, offer us food, etc. We felt pretty rejuvenated as we walked in the sunshine back to camp. A few people had stayed behind and we were thrilled to learn that they had washed the muddy and wet clothes from our last two gardening excursions AND they had cleaned out the bus. We sorted laundry out on our finally-dry lawn and headed off to the Ninth Ward to finish some jobs for Rosie, Sarah, and Don. We have been thwarted in finishing most of these jobs by the rain and continuing cold weather so we were eager to make some progress.

One crew finished Don’s floors and did some trim work. One crew sanded Rosie’s security bars so that they can be repainted soon. Everyone else worked on Sarah’s paint job. We discovered a few sloppy places on Sarah’s house that we needed to re-do, and there are a few random places that haven’t seen any of the new paint yet. Monday, our last day on the job in NOLA, we will start early on Sarah’s house and we won’t leave until it is finished.

Tonight we had a special dinner treat (again!). We went out to Lisa Trigo’s house in Destrehan where Rosie had left us four gallons of gumbo, a dozen or so loaves of French bread, bottle upon bottle of our beloved crème soda (known as “red drink”) and a really great king cake. They also had guests from the bayou – two sisters who were born and raised in the real live bayou about 35 miles southeast of New Orleans. Annette Bourgeois and Julie Sapia run “heritage tours” in Cajun country called “Angel Tours, Etc.” They helped us to understand some of the finer points of Louisiana culture, geography, and topography, including the fact that our course title (“Bringing Back the Bayou”) is totally illogical, as we have been nowhere near a bayou in any of our actual work. They told us some Cajun jokes like the ones that Lisa has been posting to our list every night so we felt like we were really in the know on that particular part of local culture.

We stayed later than we should have, partially because groups were doing last-minute interviews with Lisa and other guests at the house and partially because the Trigos are just plain nice people that we like to be around. They sent us home with leftover French bread and a box of grits that we can make for breakfast.

We feel very fortunate to have so many people in our Louisiana family. Along with the Trigos, we have a couple of blocks on North Claiborne and Bartholomew where we know someone in every house. We have our Chalmette and Violet friends, though we might now have to start calling them our Slidell friends. We have Courtney’s actual family members. We have Parkway Partners and Catholic Charities. We have Natasha and Alicia, both of whom we met through Habitat for Humanity. We have Yvette and her mother Sandra. We have Macon, our favorite gardener. We have our neighbors in Algiers and the members of the New Home Ministries congregation. We have the students and administrators of the Algiers Charter Schools and we have the owner of the land on which we set up our NOLA world: Eddie Conrad of Riverbarge Excursions.

We will miss Louisiana when we leave, and we have every reason to believe that Louisiana will miss us – and our beautiful funky bus – too.

Rachel and Linzy sand the security bars on Rosie’s windows so they can eventually be resurfaced and repainted. This job resulted in most of the sanders having brown rust freckles.

As the end of our time in NOLA draws near, we took a moment to appreciate our moving home while parked near our favorite neighborhood in the Upper Ninth.

Emily also helps in the sanding by tackling the intricate bars on the front door. The sign on the door indicates that Catholic Charities has provided assistance in the rebuilding of Rosie’s house. These signs are sporadic throughout the city, but are nonetheless a sign of hope.

The bright colors of Sarah and her neighbor’s house rub off on Bryan as he gets excited to finish.

Most of us had never seen the above grown cemeteries we’ve grown so accustomed to in New Orleans. Tonight we learned that the tombs are placed above ground not only because the city is below sea level but also as a tradition carried on from France.

The state of our bus this morning. Not to worry parents, we do clean up occasionally. As some chose to attend a Southern Baptist church service, others stayed and cleaned up so that the bus looked almost as good as new…almost.

Laundry time! Special thanks to Kellie and Rachel for doing our muddy, rain-soaked laundry from the last couple of messy jobs. You rock our socks! (Pants, shirts, jackets and unmentionables too!)

Linzy, Lindsay, and Janeva all meticulously sand the iron burglar bars of Rosie’s house to prepare them for some freshening up. These three used small rectangles of sandpaper to smooth out the bars.

Here’s a good look at the contrast between a corroded portion of ironwork on the left and the sanded down portion on the right.

Tim sits down with Julie Sapia, a genuine Cajun from the LaFourche Bayou. She and her sister Annette Bourgeois joined us at Lisa’s house for shrimp gumbo and gave a fascinating presentation on Cajun history and culture in traditional dress complete with bonnets made from their grandmother’s patterns. They can trace their Bourgeois family history back to the 1700s and an ancestor who immigrated from France to Nova Scotia, Canada to Louisiana.

Soraya receives more blue paint from Jed, who holds her ladder attentively. Soraya has become quite the expert painter, especially since height does not phase her skills.

Look at that color and new blue trim! The crew tries to complete Sarah’s house as quickly as possible, but we’ll be returning tomorrow. Can you find Tommy?

This fabulous duo are in the process of painting Sarah’s rafters.

Feke shows off Emily’s new makeover: blue paint lipstick. As you can see, Emily doesn’t mind the taste. Work it girl!

Everyone all the time can be seen here. We had a late start on Sarah’s house but we got to work right away. At the end of the day we were all rewarded with homemade pralines. Everyone enjoyed the special treat.

Before we came to NOLA Shawny emphasized the importance of perfection that should go into someone’s home. Today we lived by that standard. Bree, along with others used small ½ “ paint brushes to touch up all of the small blemishes.

Shawny assisted us with the painting today. The majority of the group had the common goal of finishing the painting job at Sarah’s house. There are still a few touch ups that need to be done tomorrow.

J. Fed holds the ladder as Soraya paints the upper trim of the house.

Today, Kellie, Janeva, Linzey Rachel, and Tommy did over 100 lbs of laundry while the rest of the group enjoyed the morning at a local church. Sorting the laundry was more difficult than the wash, drying, and folding process. This was the first time that everyone’s everything was washed together. It was a race to the finish, who could grab their clothes first. Kellie was the winner by 1 hour. Those who did not claim their clothes will have to dig through the trash at the end of the evening.