Sunday, March 29, 2009

B-B-B-Beth's Pix (slightly out of order...)

Team AWOL is ready to go to work! We have finished orientation and have loaded the paint, brushes, ladders and drop cloths. Yay Team!

Sean, Jamaica & Norm on Bourbon St. This is before Norm got his snazzy new hat!

The rest of the pictures are from the Volunteer House. It used to be a preschool for the People's UMC however, after the storm there were no attendees so it was turned into a volunteer house. It is definitely the cushiest of the volunteer accommodations. We met another team who was sleeping on the floor in their house. We were very fortunate to be staying where we did. Curfew was 11 pm but no one ventured out alone after dusk. The streets of New Orleans are not safe at night.

We had a really nice ice machine and we used it a lot! Andy is patiently scooping up individual ice cubes into his water bottle. Be sure and ask him how he got forks in his bed...

David's ready to see Bourbon Street and the French Quarter!

Sean and Allison are looking over the tourist information

Here is Towel Land. We all brought much more than we needed. We were instructed to bring sheets and towels and then found out it was all provided after we arrived.

Lots of donated shoes in the shower area. Anyone without proper footwear was welcomed to take a pair.

One of four showers in the building.

This is the dining room. We didn't use this room much as the larger team from Hamline needed the space for their meals. This was our first morning when we feasted on leftover airplane snacks.

Here's the kitchen where I spent most of my time. Pretty nice set-up here! The two dishwashers you see in the front of the picture are for stacking things on. The person on the left is Scott. He was a team leader for one of the Hamline College teams. Melanie is enjoying her coffee!

This is the inside part of Tool Alley and the only path into the kitchen. Friday morning this area was flooded due to the heavy rains.

This is the ladder storage and trash area. You will not see ANY recycling bins here!

This is "Tool Alley". This is one busy place on the first day when all the teams are trying to get their tools and head out to their sites.
Meghan behind the counter in the tool area

This is the TV room where we spent most of our free time. The lovely couch on the right was the most uncomfortable thing you could ever sit on. Each evening before the team arrived home, Kathy and I set the tables and tried to make the room welcoming and relaxing for the group. One night we made chocolate cream pies with Easter Peeps in the middle because we were "here for our peeps!"

This is "Guy Land". Fitted sheets were hung on the ends of the bunks to create privacy and block light.
Jamaica, Allison, Roxanne & Meghan's bunk area

This is where the girls lived. Karen is getting ready for our trip to the French Quarter. My bunk is to the right with the lovely hanging towel. Mel's bunk was left of Karen's. Karen's hair always looked nice-mine did not! For those of us who never went to preschool, we finally got to have our own cubbies.

Rebuilding Together Pics

"Dont Stop Believing", sung with gusto by Andy & Sean!
Norm: Watch those Worms :)

Seans Trim... Happy Happy

Alison says, "Please Steve, dont lick the paint!!!!"

National Guards search for victims: Upper=date; Lower=# of dead found; Left=guard team #. Every house in New Orleans has these markings spray painted on them.

Distruction of New Orleans Pics

Robert Green's fema trailor & the memorial to his wife & granddaughter. We are praying for you!!
Church in Lower 9th Ward. Still sighns of life...

Roof that has been kicked in to escape flood.

" OMG", says Karen & Beth as they hold their breath from the stench of mold in the church.

Gutted home on Papania St.

M-M-M-More Pics from Sean & Jamaica

Lower 9th Ward. This is what remains of the old houses. Its a stairway to heaven...
Go Green by Brad Pitt!

Whistling Dixie @ the Missippi River :)

Jamaica's $20 shoe shine...

Hurricanes on Bourbon Street anyone?

The Long Road Home....


After about 18 hours of travel, we rolled into the church parking lot-to be greeted by a Welcome Home sign! That was soooo nice!

Our hats are off to Doug Johnson and En Soo Park for driving to Seattle twice to drop us off and pick us up at the airport. En Soo had quite the journey going to pick us up. The Korean Community Center van broke down before he got out of Portland. He called AAA and they towed the van to the repair shop. Then En Soo got on the phone and started calling car rental companies to find a 15 passenger van - not an easy feat during Spring Break. He finally found one at Enterprise and made his way up. He then spent an hour waiting for us at the wrong baggage claim area because our plane had been re-routed to the opposite side of the airport due to some runway problems. We got loaded up and took off. I don't know how he managed to keep awake and keep us all safe thru the dark pouring rain as we all fell asleep. I did hear a huge sigh of relief out of him when we crossed the border into Portland. :)

We all got up at 6 am, grabbed some coffee and yummy muffins that Kathy had made. (yes, we finally got a working oven by Friday). We made it straight to the airport without circling the Superdome! Sean and Roxanne dropped off the group and then met Kathy and I at the car rental area and we returned all the vehicles. We got back to the airport to find out that there were problems getting our boarding passes printed. We all got in line at the ticket counter and discovered that since the first leg of our journey home was on American, we had to pay $15 for each checked bag - something we didn't have to do on the way out because we had been on Alaska Air. Then there was the problem of the checked bags only going as far as Chicago. So the agent had to go into each of the 13 tickets and override the system to get the bags to go to Seattle. Then each bag was individually charged on the credit card. They were also unable to print boarding passes for our second flight and said we would have to go back to the ticket counter in Chicago to get our passes. All in all, about an hour for this fun process! Fortunately we were able to print our boarding passes in Chicago right at the gate and didn't have to go thru security again.

Kathy, Allison and I sat in the same row on the way home and we were definitely the "fun row"! Well, at least we thought we were, we don't know about the rest of the plane... Allison was bored so we kept ourselves entertained for the 4 hour flight that was actually almost 5.

The week went by so fast! We are all exhausted but it is a happy exhaustion. You know how these mission trips go: you think you are doing something great for someone else but you end up being the one most blessed. We can't wait to share our stories, pictures and pig lips with you! (yes! they made it home in my suitcase) We couldn't have done it without the support of all of you and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Now...for the next trip....

Friday, March 27, 2009

Melanie's Turn - Okay so I said I wouldn't touch a computer for a week. Well, I almost made it. With all the rain we've had during the past 24 hours you'd think we were back in Oregon (except that the rain here feels like you're in a warm shower and then in a sauna when it stops). Today we arrived at the house only to find "Lake Oregon" in the back yard - kinda reminded me when we had Lake Sedler in our back yard after a downpour a few years back! I'm sure glad I don't have any painting to do at home for awhile (ESPECIALLY edging and bluish-grey paint). After almost 5 days I finally had a chance to work with some white paint - MORE EDGING!!! I guess it's the steady hand OR the ability to scoot along the floor (concrete or sometimes [but not often newly laid Pergo [which should NOT have been laid down before the paint was done]) on my butt.

Tonight we all "embellished" one of my Rebuilding Together Washington County tees with notes to those we leave behind and those who will arrive after us to help in their own ways to rebuild this city both in structure and in soul. Thank you to all who encouraged us through your prayers, friendship and financial support. Without you we may not have had this wonderful experience of helping others who have lived through such a horrible time in their lives. May our time here in New Orleans be a good memory for those we have touched along the way.

With a song in my heart AND a paint brush (for the past 5 days) in my hand!!!!!

God bless you all and I'll be home soon!!!!


P.S. Disregard all those comments by on previous blogs by my AWOLian "friends" about my inabilities to........... They probably did mention that I tend to have a speech impediment before have my first few cups of coffee [preferrably without grounds in the coffee AND the coffee in the cup] :)

Karen's Blog

Final day and we are winding down. Suitcases are packed, floors cleaned and muscles tired. I worked on finishing the last of the doors with Norm and Andy. It was great spending some time getting to hear all about Norm's life and travels. I counted 6 doors, and 4 sets of closet doors each needing a double coat. David and Meghan painted some so no one had to do it all, but it was still a job. Living with an Engineer for 20+ years I have found something else that I am picky about, much to the irritation of my fellow workers. I kept trying to tone it down, only to have my husband's voice in my head saying, "brushstrokes one way so that they disappear into the previous ones. Do the panels in the door, then interior parts before doing the vertical board, etc. ". Truly in the early stages of our marriage I could have cared less which way my strokes were going. But judging from the way I supervised the painting of the doors, I have definitely gone over to the dark side. The only upside to my team losing all patience with my suggestions is that I know there is ONE person in this world who will care! Another discovery is that Andy has not wandered too far from the tree cause he totally got me! He became as picky as me and even found a few of my mistakes - so proud! I really had a great time here and am so touched that these people have opened up to us and told us their stories. They have been so grateful that we were willing to come help them. It is such a tragedy to see up close how much these people are still suffering. I have also enjoyed spending time with my wonderful son - wow, he's like a real human being when you pull him out of his room. HMMM maybe next spring we can do this again????) Just kidding, Andy!

No use crying over spilt paint

Ahoy! Allison here, filling in on some vital info that every other blogger has left out so far. First off, I must explain to you the dangers of painting the whole inside of a house (including ceilings) that already has been partially floored. Thank goodness it's not carpet! There's just something about paint that attracts it to those areas of the floor that haven't been covered by a drop-cloth.
On the very first day that we painted, Norm was working in a closet. I heard, "Norm needs paint!" So I got Norm paint, one of those paint trays with a moderate amount of grey paint. As I returned to my room, I heard, "Allison, Norm spilled!" Almost all of the tray's contents had slopped over the edges. There was so much paint that the most efficient way to clean it off the floor (that hadn't had the wood floor added yet) was to cup your hands in the liquid and dump it into the trash. There was a lot of paint. It was just a closet, without a floor yet, so all was well.
But the bad luck continued the day after that, when lucky me, lucky me, spilled three cups of paint. At the same time. On hard-wood floor that had already been installed. I have some serious skills. Andy and I freaked out trying to clean it up, so did Sean and Steve. We used up a whole role of paper towels, lots of wet rags, and some dry ones too. In the end, you can't tell there was ever anything on that floor but clean feet, and you may not even be able to see that either.
We had a day of rest, (the half day we took on wednesday) and then it was finally some one else's turn to spill. None of us ever knew that Melanie had such a dirty mouth. There was, "Oh *bleep*! Oh *bleep!" twice. There was a small cup of paint that she had been useing for touch-up work in the closet. It was the last of the light grey, and it tipped over. Not near as much as all the other times that spills happened, but then again, she wasn't me or Norm.
Thankfully, not a single person knocked over paint today beyond an over-stuffed paintbrush. All blobs have been cleaned up and the floors have been swept. We're done!
I must say, if it wasn't for Andy's mp3 that was built into his cell phone, we may have all gone crazy a long time ago from boredom. (Apparently, these crazy people think that christmas carols aren't appropriate to sing during spring break...) Who knew that there was so much music from Scrubs on his phone, or that he and Sean both liked journey music so much, or that they were so open about singing loudly along with it? (I took a video of it, the tech wiz here is trying to figure out how you guys out there in cyberspace can watch it.) Let's all give a big "halleluja! to god for music!
Needless to say, we're all pretty done. Of course, the fact that we still have cleaning to do doesn't help, neither does the need to wake up uber early in the morning to catch out flight tomorrow. Last travel day, we didn't find our way here until 1 in the morning, hopefully that won't be the case tomorrow. We'll have the time zones working in our favor. :-)
There is so much to write about here that you can't possibly fit into this whole blog, let alone one post! New Orleans is truly a party city. There are always people up and about at all hours. All of us are leaving one of the Rebuilding Together T-shirts where we're staying to help sruce up the place. (Which is already pretty nice, Missy says that this is one of the nicest housing buildings, there are some that have the toilets outside, are really tiny, and have barely any towels/bedding/sources of entertainment.) We're all signing it, to leave behind as a momentum of out stay.
Over the week we've worked 434 1/2 hours of joint community services, which adds up to $8,472.75 for the program to fund future project. We've all done a lot of work and we all have learned so much. Everyone here is both tired and busy, and I should probably go help out. Flying out tomorrow, signing off, here's Allison.

Two Updates in a Day, Pictures below this article (Andy)

P-P-P-Picture Time!!!

Hey guys and gals, we finally have the motherload of pictures ready, and if the cameras, the laptop, and the slow internet connection here hold out, we should be able to put up even more.

Also, for those who didn't believe we were working, here's some cold - hard - evidence.
Not really, but you get the picture

Get it?


The creative genius at work, blogging his heart out.

The house we're working at. The paint fumes are everywhere man!!!

Melanie hard at work on her trim!

The people who stayed behind to help finish up got to sign their names or make a custom signature. Here are a few...

In Order - Allison, Sean, Andy

Jamaica is working hard, or hardly working....... Not really sure which...

The Whole team gathered outside Mike's house. Yes, we are doing things other than sightseeing. Isn't it amazing?

Meghan's blog

Here's my thoughts on New Orleans. Some areas looked really awesome and pretty. Others looked like a disaster(Obviously). I would not suggest coming here with children. My mom doesn't feel like blogging so I will do it for her.
The absolute worse place I went to(I didn't go to the 9th Ward) was Bourbon Street. It smelled like a combination of urine/vomit/bleach. It was full of strip clubs and bars selling pizza and mango daiquiris. Little kids were crying over the smell and loud noises. On sunday, we went to the La Bayou restaurant were Allison and I had the Shrimp Ya-Ya. It was basically shrimp in a spicy pesto sauce.
On monday morning, we went to the People's United Methodist Church to get our assignment. Lucky for us, we got painting. When we got to the house, we met a man named Mike who was the son of the owner of the house. We worked on the ceilings. When we went to Winn Dixie, we met Pastor Verona Brown( aka Bunny Ear Lady). She was very nice.
Not much else happened this week.
As you have read earlier, we got off early on wednesday. Kathy had given the details of my afternoon. One thing she didn't mention was that I had Oyster Pasta. It was awesome. When we were heading for the job site today, the GPS was acting a bit odd. We named her Bolivar(Ball-eve-are). She wasn't speaking to us and got my mom totally lost. We finally got her talking after a while. On thursday night, a few of us played pictionary telephone. We came up with hilarious stuff like The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy; Poached Eggs Edition.
Now I have to talk about something completely un-work related. On monday and tuesday night, my parents, Melanie, and I insisted to watch Dancing With The Stars. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniac( aka The Woz) scored 10 out of 30 which is the lowest score since season 2( It's season 8). He competed with Denise Richards in a dance-off and Denise was eliminated. Shawn Johnson, Melissa Rycroft, and Gilles Marini tie the best score of the night with 27. This week was week three of the competition. I forgot a lot of stuff that happened this week so I have nothing else to say.
Have a nice day/night

Final Workday


The alarm went off at 6 am and I got up to make the coffee. I quickly discovered that the heavy rains overnight had caused flooding throughout our building. A good portion of the floors in the common areas, including bathrooms and the shower room were covered with water. Kathy and Roxanne quickly got to work laying towels around to soak up the water so that people didn't slip as they walked thru the building. Evidently this happens on a regular basis when it rains a lot-the staff here didn't seem too concerned. Needless to say, mold is an issue....

So in my earlier epistle, The Story of Day 3, I forgot to write down a major important fact (I wasn't tired or anything...). The barge, which was parked in the canal by the 9th Ward and was not supposed to be there, is what broke the levy and caused the horrendous flooding. Robert Green, Jr. showed us pictures of the barge before and after it broke thru the levy. It is interesting to note that a great number of the books about Katrina forget to mention this-they just talk about the flooding as a result of the storm. The flooding of the 9th Ward, destruction of homes and loss of lives was caused by human negligence. That is why it is so amazing to hear the survivors talk of the blessings in their lives and the thankfulness they feel for the volunteers who continue to come and help rebuild. It is going to take a long, long time.

FEMA Trailers - I don't know why, but I thought FEMA trailers were going to be some sort of industrial looking, standard issue trailer. Boy was I wrong! FEMA trailers are cheap RV's not built to withstand the dampness and humidity of this climate. They are run-down and mold covered. Melanie told us she can smell the mold from inside the FEMA trailer at our worksite from insides the house. Yet people are very thankful for the trailers as that means they are back home. It gives us all some perspective on how blessed we are.

Today the team will finish our assigned project. The interior of the house is almost finished and today is the final detail work and clean-up. The house looks beautiful and we are proud of what we have accomplished. We will also be doing a lot of cleaning around the volunteer house and packing up of our stuff. We have to get up pretty early tomorrow and be on the road by 7:30 am. It promises to be a very long day. :)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jamaica's Blog

Just filling in the blanks for our chefs... The city is full of music, and jazz which makes for great dancing. All the victims that we have talked to speak of how blessed they are to be back, and see the rebirth of their city. Despite the blocks of empty neighborhoods, loss of loved ones, and lack of housing. People are still living in the moldy houses that are bare to the studs. They have oil lamps for lighting, and are lucky if they have a mattress to sleep on. The referb of the 70's was only a patch job. Now the people here are happy to know that the rebuilding is providing them with housing that is better than they have seen in generations.
The stories here are profound... A family had climbed 30 feet up a tree to escape the flood waters. The entire family clung to the branches during the hurricane with wind speed, rain, and rushing water. The sound of the storm was so loud they could not hear their own screams. They had decided each individually that if one member let go that they would all let go. Luckily they survived to tell the tale.
The damaged church that we had looked at in the Lower 9th Ward was the point at which the direty of a situation hit home for me. 22 people had died in that church looking for salvation of some kind. May they rest in peace... Life is still there though. Evidence of child play is scattered across the soft squishy floor. Sidewalk chalk, and markers strewn, a preschool chair by a broken window, and newly pinned school cut outs of colors and animals on the walls. They are only happy to be home even though their home is destroyed.


Heeeey, little update from Andy. After many cameras not foraged for pictures, we finally found 1 camera that we could connect to the computer. We have 3 Pictures for y'all.

The best chili powder in the universe, a nice big ol' can of "Slap Ya Mama!"

Beth and Melanie with Robert Green Jr in front of his new house in the Lower 9th Ward. Robert lost his wife and granddaughter when the barge broke through the levee behind their home. :(

One of the two groups gathered, posed for a picture, at the closed Riverwalk. I am still overcome with joooooy from my rib dinner at Mulate's. 12 Awesome Ribs!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Ahoy, so looking over the blogs posted me and Meghan realized that Beth and Mom totally forgot to mention the Bunny Lady, Pastor Verona Brown. She was collecting money for homeless kids in front of the Winn Dixie. She was uber nice and freakishly awsome. Hi Verona! -Allison

Allison and Jamaica with Robert Green Jr. Happeh People!

More Soon

~Andy The Awesome

Day 4 - The Troops are Dragging

It was with great effort that everyone rolled out of bed this morning. Lots of groans and lots of coffee. Definitely slump day. Shortly after the team got to the worksite, I got a call from Steve asking me to bring bug spray, fans and extension cords. It was so muggy they needed fans running to get the paint to dry. I arrived to find Melanie trying to keep her glasses unfogged as she painted. It is very humid today. Kathy and I brought tacos and popsicles over for lunch. The group had definitely perked up. About half the group is going to stay an extra couple hours today and finish up the trim. That may mean we have completed our assignment and will be assigned something else - but we will have to wait until they return to find out.

Kathy peeled 10 lbs of potatoes this afternoon and only got a little bit of her finger in the pot...

It is hard to believe we only have one more work day left! The week is going by very quickly. Our bunk areas have quickly become home and we are enjoying each other and our community building very much - except, of course, when we are annoying.... (did I mention Andy making Chewbacca noises in the van?)

The Story of Day 3

Greetings from the Chef and Sous Chef! (Beth and Kathy)

Yesterday the team worked until 12 Noon and then returned home for lunch, nap and some sightseeing. Our group consisted of Sean, Beth (in a crabby mood), Mel, Karen, Steve, Andy, Jamaica and Allison. We drove over to the 9th Ward to look around. This was the area most damaged by flooding. We first went to the Mississippi River side. Driving thru the quiet neighborhoods, we came upon a church that was such a sad sight - a mere skeleton of what it had been. We did stop and take a look around but didn't stay long. The smell of mold was so strong it was hard to stay inside. Ironically, this church was located on Flood Street. We drove closer to the water and came upon 2 incredible houses. They were three stories high and octagonal with the most incredible wrought iron fences around them that I had ever seen. Between the posts on the porches were wood garlands that looked like strings of pearls. Hard for all of you to imagine but we do have pictures. We found out that these were historic Steamboat houses. Some of the group walked a bit down the waterfront and discovered some of the Brad Pitt houses. These houses are very contemporary and 'green'. The architecture is pretty amazing. They pretty much stick out like sore thumbs when you look at the rest of the homes, well those that are still standing. We then got back in the car and went to the canal side of the 9th Ward where another street of Brad Pitt homes were being built. We came upon one street where more state of the art homes were being built and came upon a memorial in front of two pretty nasty looking FEMA trailers. The memorial was too a 3 year girl and her grandmother who had lost their lives in the flooding. There was a dual gravestone, wreath, newspaper articles and a pair of the 3 year old's tattered shoes. The homeowner, Robert Green, Jr., was outside and we were able to spend some time talking with him. What we learned was shocking.

Robert said he was very angry for a long time and for many months, his memorial displayed his anger. He said he was most angry at George Bush because he said he didn't do anything. Evidently the Ingram Company blamed the Army Corp of Engineers for not moving the barge. The corp blamed another company, whose name I don't remember. He said the blame was passed around and around with no resolution and the reality of the situation was that those companies and the Corp cared more about saving what was on the barge than saving people's lives. Since then, legislation has been passed stating that any vessels in the canal prior to a storm will be sunk.

Robert praised the volunteer workers and said that if it wasn't for the volunteers, houses would not be rebuilt. He said the government is not helping to rebuild the area and that it is all on the backs of the volunteers. He thanked Allison for giving up her Spring Break to come and volunteer. It was like watching the sun rise on her face when he was talking to her. Robert then told us how blessed his life is and how thankful he is to have a home to pass on to his children and grandchildren. I asked him if he liked the style of his house. He told us that he had a choice of 16 style and was so thankful that the home was being built with green and earth friendly products. After we finished the conversation Allison asked him if she could have her picture with him. We will be sure to have that one posted!

We then drove around the area a bit more. After talking with Robert, we understood the signs "9...Make it Right" that are posted throughout the neighborhood. We ended up at Mulate's for dinner. Mulate's is famous for their cajun cooking. I ordered crab cakes and subsequently asked the waiter for some that weren't burnt - I now know what "blackened" means. Allision was the brave one and ordered alligator. Her verdict? It tastes just like chicken! Be sure and ask Andy about his BBQ ribs...

Streetcar adventures with the Ushmans, Norm, and Kathy led to some different experiences. We rode to the end of Canal St to see the above ground cemetaries (6 ft down and you hit water here). There are many, many of them and we took time to check out a small one by the streetcar. Some very old, some more recent, some damaged, and some amazing in style. Roxanne learned that the most famous one is not too far from where we are staying (of course, it was not mentioned in the brochures).

An interesting stop on the streetcar was at Thurgood Marshall Magnet Middle School where students were being dismissed. The streetcar quickly filled with girls in uniforms including plaid skirts and white shirts. The boys, also in uniform (not skirts), were waiting on the sidewalk. I finally asked one of the girls why the boys didn't get on too. She said they couldn't and they had to wait for the next streetcar. We learned from Missy, the amazing lady who stays here for a month each year to help the volunteer teams, that education is very important to so many parents and they work very hard to send their children to private school because the public schools are so bad.

We appreciated the assistance of a man on how to pay for transfers (right away or they wouldn't give them to you) and learned about his experience during and after Katrina. He was living a project, which was undamaged, but had to evacuate. His mom's house had mold damage inside because of all the moisture inside when they sealed the house to leave. He said they were sent to Arkansas. He didn't like it at all and was glad to get back home, where he's lived all of his life.

We got off the streetcar downtown and wandered a bit in the French Quarter till we came to a great Oyster House. We had a delicious dinner and I even tried charbroiled oysters. (They're ok in my book). Everyone had a great time!

Next we took the St. Charles streetcar through part of the business district, through the Garden District where there are many beautiful plantation style homes, and past Tulane and Loyola Universities. Very different feel and areas as compared to where we are staying and working. Missy was very gracious and came to meet us at the streetcar when we got back (it's a good 6-8 blocks between St. Charles St and where we are staying on Simon Bolivar) so 'ole hop-along (Kathy) didn't have to wear out her foot. We were most appreciative!

No one slept well last night as there was a huge thunder and lightening storm. Norm said he could here the thunder without his hearing aids!

We are learning lots, are more appreciative of what we have, including the opportunity to be here and help others. Over and over we hear thank you from people we meet for being here to help. We've met many other teams from different parts of the country, especially lots of college students, and a man from St. Paul, OR, who was smartly sporting an OSU Beavers hat. He and his wife are in New Orleans for a True Value Hardware convention and everyone had been out working on houses during the day (he showed us the paint colors they had been using that had dried on his pants).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 3 on the job....

Good Morning! (Just so you know, our blogs have been written by Beth, Karen and Kathy)
(this is Beth)
The team headed off to paint doors and trim today. Feet were dragging as everyone is pretty tired. Norm even has a blister on his hand from all his painting efforts yesterday. We discovered that Karen and Melanie are the trim experts when it comes to painting and gleefully purchased a bevy of tiny paintbrushes to ensure a job well done. Steve did some drywall work and it is quite spiffy. Sean still has hair on his head after directing this motley crew for a couple days. We have been having some pretty good eats, refiguring our meals as there is not a working oven. This morning we had stovetop biscuits and gravy - for which Kathy & I were very proud. The other team is a group of 21 college kids. They eat Lucky Charms for breakfast, PB&J sandwiches for lunch and some variation of tacos for dinner. They look longingly upon our meals....Last night I had a team member from the other group here ask how much I was being paid to make food for the group! Kathy and I have the easy job and we are enjoying every, well almost, minute of it!

The neighborhood where the house is located is pretty sad. We are located a couple houses down from the end of the block. You go around the corner and there is empty house after empty house all damaged or gutted - all with for sale signs. The neighborhood is very quiet. We met the sister of the woman who owns the house we are working on. She is a teacher. She said that after the storm, all the school personnel were fired and only half were rehired due to the relocation of so many students. There is more to her story but I will need another person to tell the rest.

When you drive around you will see a building in perfect condition next to one that is destroyed. Bushes are growing out of broken windows and chimneys. Many homes have holes in the roofs from rescuing people. Some have plastic over the holes, some do not. If a house has an X with a number below it, that is how many people from that home died. All in all, a very sad state of affairs.

Today we are stopping work at Noon and then heading to the 9th Ward to have a look, then we will split to do some sight seeing depending on what everyone wants to do. Some want to see the old graveyards, others the plantations, some the shopping district, etc.

I really do want to add pictures but am not sure how. We will need to get Andy to help us. We know you all want to see the picture of pickled pig lips.....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 2 Greetings from New Orleans

To finish Mike's story (the son of the owner of the house).
Mike has a positive, thankful attitude. He says that he had never been outside New Orleans and looks at his experience as an opportunity to travel and meet new people. He is thankful to all of the volunteers who have come to work on the house. He and his mom have been living in a trailer (the size of a travel trailer) in front of the house for 3+ years and it is now coated with mold on the outside. They look forward to the completion of the house and are excited to move back in.

The house is about a 1000 sq ft with a living room, kitchen/dining area, 4 bedrooms and 1-2 bathrooms (no fixtures yet). Mike's mom was thrilled to see how much painting the AWOL team got done and started to cry, possibly because of a miscommunication whereby one wall was painted the wrong color. She was really grateful for all of the work that was done and how much closer this makes her move in date. Not to worry, our amazing team is stopping at Home Depot for excellent primer and paint brushes (Karen, Melanie and Roxanne are particular about the quality of brush).

"Because of Winn-Dixie" (the very nice store near the job site) the team has a bathroom stop and grocery shopping. Interesting to note that the bathroom was spotless at noon and a disaster at 5:00pm on the way home.

Our Construction Leader, Sean, did a wonderful job of organizing the team into groups and keeping everyone going. He is truly practicing the motto here - PUF - which stands for patience, understanding, and flexibility. He was diligently planning for the next day and collecting supplies last night, finally enjoying a Stephen King book for what was left of the evening. This morning the team was adding a few words to the motto like tolerance, team work. Steve and Andy came up with one to reflect their painting - OC - for "oh crap." The team was feeling muscles they didn't know they had and Sean was rallying the troops, and practicing PUF (lots of PUF).

Drivers Sean, Roxanne, and Beth are mastering the traffic and use the Superdome as a point of reference, some more frequently than others.

Our amazing multi-tasking leader, Chef Beth, is keeping everyone well fed and happy. We have had delicious meals and the other teams (2 groups of college students from Minnesota) look longingly at our spread. Course, last night all three teams had spaghetti, salad, and french bread, and ours was awesome!

Last night after dinner, Allison and Jamica were introduced to the world of Scrabble. Beth and Melanie are quite the experts at word finding, especially in speed Scrabble. Andy stomped everyone at Yahtzee (the force was with him). Meghan was delighted to view Dancing With the Stars with her family (the Dancing Ushmans). Steve spent the evening on the computer; must be working on next weeks sermon. Norm did a lot of reading, though admits he rarely turned a page and frequently "rested his eyes."

We are all cringing but adjusting to the total lack of recycling here. Everything is. tossed in the trash. Melissa, more about her later, tells us that they tried to recycle one year and everything was just tossed in the garbarge truck. According to Joy, a friend of Beth's daughter and is here for a year of mission work through college (UE2), explained that the feeling here is that recycling is a sign of white affluency and not practiced. There is very little in the way of middle class here, lots of poor and some very affluent. The working poor have mainly minimum wage jobs. We have also noticed a slower pace in accomplishing things, except driving which is close to kamikaze.

Stay tuned for more, possibly with pictures or the video Allison made of the painters singing "Journey" with gusto!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Day 1 on the jobsite continued...

Well, we are waaaay tired and will work on this tomorrow...and put up some pictures.

Day 1 on the Jobsite

The alarm went off at 6 am and Beth rolled out of the bunk to go make the coffee and start breakfast. Karen immediately jumped up and followed (just kidding-we woke her at 7 with Roxanne doing Revelie) Melanie stepped up in the kitchen to get the hot water going and managed to turn the gas main off instead. When the bacon stopped sizzling, we knew there was a problem....oops! it wasn't the hot water!

Jobsite orientation began at 8:30 am at the Peoples UMC, next door to where we are staying. There were at least ten volunteer teams at the orientation and we were the only new team-all the others had volunteered before. We received our assignment of interior painting (Praise be to God!) and flooring installation at a house about 20 minutes away. We proudly put up our Oregon flag, loaned to us from the Columbia River Council of Girl Scouts.

Then we met Mike and here is his story:

Mike and his mom were staying with another family while their home of 12 years was being remodeled when Katrina hit. Water was a foot deep inside the home and they could see it rushing by outside the windows. As the water rose in the house, and up to the roof outside, they had to get into the attic to avoid the water. The water continued to rise and was up to their necks when rescuers arrived and used a chainsaw to cut a hole in the roof so they could escape. They were taken to military trucks which took them to the Superdome where they were turned away and left to fend for themselves on a freeway on ramp for 2 days. They then were transferred around to various cities and states, ending up in Houston where he met a lovely lady and they have a 10 month old girl. He came back to help his mom and oversee the renovation taking place through UMVIM (and our AWOL group is participating

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday, March 22nd

Greetings from N'awlins Looosiana! Karen, Kathy, Mel and Beth are staying up late to send you this message. We rolled into town about 10 pm after an exciting day of travel, by car, train, train, plane, wheelchair, plane, wheelchair, bus, vans and car. After hijacking a wheelchair in Chicago, we ran for our connecting flight. Thankfully one was waiting for us in New Orleans and Kathy had one "hot" ride to baggage claim with Beth sprinting to keep up. After haggling over car rental for 1 1/2 hours ("we can't do that...we can't do that either...") we managed to circle the Superdome (Sean was happy, Norm was drooling) a few times before finding our way to the wrong side of the volunteer house. After what appeared to be a Chinese Fire Drill to the neighborhood, we managed to find the gated parking lot. We were met by Missy & Wendy, who gave us a welcoming tour of our new home...BUNKS! It is just like being at camp - there are even cockroaches. We were all in bed by 1 am-ish. I don't know that we all slept but we were in bed. The guys are in one area and the girls in another - separated by sheets. There is a large kitchen with a gas stove that Melanie's husband, Ted, would love. Then we travelled thru "Tool Alley" which Karen's husband, Howard, would drool over, to see the dining room, TV room, showers and sleeping areas. There is one other team of 21 here from Minnesota (yah!). It is warm, sunny and breezy. (see? God does love us!)

This morning we all straggled out of bed to enjoy some of Beth's delicious DARK coffee. Of course Melanie was a little coffee-pot-challenged this morning but we won't go into coffee running all over the counters or anything like that. After a breakfast of leftover airplane snacks, (because last nite we could not have handled going to a grocery store) we headed to the trolley to take us to Bourbon St and the French Quarter. The bleach aroma was very pungent after morning's street and sidewalk wash-down. In other words, this author and Allison found it rather disgusting (OOOO!) We had a wonderful southern lunch on an outdoor balcony. Lots of po' boys were consumed as well as Jumbalaya, crawdads, crayfish, hush puppies, catfish and softshell crab. We then hiked on down Bourbon St. and spent some fun hours in the French Qtr. We also went to Cafe du Monde and had fresh beignets and cafe au lait. The restaurants here are very leisurely aka veeery sloooow. We returned home and Karen, Beth and Mel headed off to the grocery store with very specific driving directions to Safeway on Ellen St. from Sean and Andy. Unfortunately Ellen was not to be found. (the street-not Kingstad) After stopping in at the Home Depot for directions, we head on over to Casey Jones and bought our source of nourishment for tonite's dinner. (mmm mmm good...) We left in the grocery store in great spirit anticipating the squeals of joy as we arrived with bags of food. Unfortunately, we being the three we are, forgot we had gone over the Mississippi River and got completely lost. We started calling cell phones and finally got a familiar voice. Between Sean typing on his blackberry and giving directions on Kathy's phone while Steve went online to check mapquest, we were re-oriented and ready to travel those 6 short miles back. 45 minutes later, using the recently purchased Thomas Guide, we circled the Superdome yet again. We pulled over while Melanie read map pages in the dark with Karen holding 5 dozen eggs in her lap saying, "don't stop quickly!". We found our way home much to the relief of our team family. We whipped up some tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and feasted with delight. Being the treehuggers we are, we used real dishes instead of paper. After dinner, we found out the dishwashers don't work so hands were warmed in the soapy suds. Everyone pitched in and we were done quickly. Thanks, team!

Now it is after curfew and we have to go to bed. Tomorrow we find out how incompetent we really are - I mean, we find out where and what our work project is. Steve and Sean are our official "Tool Guys" and will be gathering up our supplies and off we go!

AWOL over & out!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Arms Wide Open Louisiana Blog

....Happy Mom?

I'll be throwing up updates every night on the trip.