Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Days 7-8: All Good Things Must Come to An End

Days 7-8: Love on Love on Love

Quotes of the day
"Discovery Channel is a very reliable source."
- Jessica, AmeriCorps volunteer at the worksite, on Discovery Channel

"You should write a book on passive-aggressive humor. It would sell like hotcakes."
- Jesse Griffin on one of your bloggers.

"Open hands. That's what I tell my kids. You can't get your blessings if your hands are like this" (closes hands into fists).
- Katherine Hutton

"Friends are treasures."

"Lose one friend. Lose all friends. Lose yourself."
 - Eric Matthews, Boy Meets World

Apologies for the delay in this final blog entry.

Our final day on the site began earlier than usual with a McDonald's breakfast. We were the last remaining group at Prince of Peace, so they stopped feeding us effective Friday night. (That's okay, though. We had reallyreallyreally awesome food on our last day. More to follow.)
After breakfast we once again headed to the construction site for the first legitimately sunny day since early in the week. Our jobs were similar to previous days. Groups continued to work on front and side porches. Groups continued to soffit and work on various house trim. As the day progressed, more and more people took on finishing touch jobs, namely caulking. Caulking is one process used to try and fill/cover gaps and crevices that can cause issues with aesthetic that can eventually sink into structural problems.

One group actually got to take a field trip to the other site where Roanoke students worked earlier in the week. Ditches that had been dug to give way to foundation for a new house were being filled with cement. That group returned to the main site for lunch stained gray but raving about how cool the act of dealing with cement is.

Lunch today was provided by Katherine, next-door neighbor to the site. We had been warned the day before that Katherine only prepares food on two Fridays each month and that people come from all over to get some. So the smell became stronger and stronger as the day progressed. And, of course, we got hungrier and hungrier.

Two of Katherine's children trickled outside to play late in the morning - Isaiah, 10, and Jeremiah, 6. Katherine had told us the day before that Jeremiah loved construction and when he had heard that a site would break ground right next to his house, he had wanted to help. Jeremiah and Isaiah wandered  around the site for awhile Jeremiah's bike had some problems, so RoCoians went over to fix it. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah wanted playmates. Jeremiah challenged basically the whole lot of students to races on his scooter (and daaaang he was fast - he beat a Marine!) Right before lunch, a couple of students set about teaching Jeremiah how to ride his bike sans training wheels. Then Jeremiah operated our hand-washer (a filtered hose).

And then Katherine's food came. We were offered one of three options: stuffed peppers, fish, or chicken. And it was quite literally the best food I've had in a very long time. And there was a lot. With my chicken meal, I got macaroni and cheese, potato salad, corn, and poundcake. SO GOOD!

And, in true NOLA style, Katherine was a very bubbly woman. She told us about her Katrina experience (she had evacuated). She told us about her plans to open a restaurant (and be assured I will be taking a road trip to NOLA specifically for that). She talked about her job at a community center. She told us about her kids (she has a 17-year-old football player in addition to Isaiah and Jeremiah). And she talked about the neighborhood in which she lived- how she'd been displaced from her neighborhood and how excited she was for neighbors to move in. A wonderful woman. So glad we got to meet her.

After lunch, progress tended to slow down as we got to savor our last moments of New Orleans and working with each other.

And then came time for clean-up. And this happened.

Nothing quite like a rousing rendition of Stand By Me to delay clean-up progress and make the last moments of a Habitat trip even more poignant.

We are so grateful for the New Orleans Habitat workers who put up with us for the week - Patrick, Jessica, Faith, Josh, and Joe. Y'all are really awesome, and just so you know, the majority of the group spent some time on Friday night passing around an iPad with the AmeriCorps website up, investigating potential futures with the program. Thank you for your encouragement, knowledge, patience, and willingness to let us screw up majorly. :) (Okay maybe that was just me. And Mollie.)

For the record, two of our own Habitat-ing Maroons in the last year have gone on to work for housing projects through AmeriCorps - Talisha Beha and Alyssa Bostrom. So glad we get to count them as fellow Maroons.

After our goodbyes, we headed back to Prince of Peace to clean-up our stuff.

And so began a rather confusing saga of transportation problems. Our initial intention was to leave early Sunday and get back to Roanoke around 9 PM. When we got back to Prince of Peace, the plan had been amended to leave NOLA at midnight, get back between 2 and 4. This saga will continue in a moment. (OK, saga is a totally overblown word, I admit. But I got super-confused. Maybe that's just me. Yeah. Never mind.)

The conclusion of every Habitat trip is marked by two things. (#1) We always end every trip with a series of toasts, honoring every individual on the trip. These names are assigned the morning of our last work day, and then are done at a special ceremony that evening. (#2) When we are in New Orleans, we eat our last dinner at a somewhat ritzy marina café. Our final evening in New Orleans we combined these, toasting one another over a loud football game and then jumping into some delicious sea food.

When we got back to Prince of Peace, we changed our travel plans again. We left New Orleans at 9:00 Saturday night. That launched into a long day of travel on Sunday.

We arrived back at Roanoke on noon on Sunday.

I always say that Habitat for Humanity has been the best experience of my collegiate career. I suppose I could elaborate on that so much more. But I will say this: a Habitat for Humanity trip will change your life and give you a fresh perspective. And I’m so blessed to be able to call my fellow Habitat-ers friends.

So, until spring break in Columbia, SC [which is only in, like, 44 days!!],
Andrew Dittmar
Mollie Gleason
RoCo Serve staff