Day 4: I've Seen Fire and I've Heard Some Really Obnoxious Music (But That's Okay, It Was Still Awesome)
Today marked our third day on the job site. We returned again to the Rockgate community, where we continued to work on taking down the offices that have been set up there for quite a long time. Today's projects were basically a continuation of projects started over the course of our first two days of work.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: Anyone that has been on a RoCo Habitat trip knows the importance of nametags. Every day we all wear name tags with different themes. On our first day, it was first names. Yesterday, due to the nature of the day, we skipped the nametags. TODAY the theme was redneck names. Examples: Jed Clampett, Jenny Jo, Ricky Bobby, etc. And for the discerning/experienced reader, we had burgers for lunch. StevEarl had to venture to Food Lion to find some veggie-friendly burgers for the three vegetarians on our trip. When he couldn't find them (they're stored in the breakfast food section), he asked one of the Food Lion employees where to look. Apparently, the employee gave him that look: "Oh, you're one of those..."
OKAY. Back to our work day.
The largest group of workers spent some solid time in between two old trailer-containers that sit behind the Habitat trailer offices. Over the years, pricker bushes have commandeered the land between and underneath the containers as there own, rendering the land basically impenetrable. With some sturdy gloves, saws, and a variety of other tools, a group spent some time whacking away at the unwanted vegetation. They ALL have battle scars to show for it. (Prickers hurt.)
The stuff that was pulled out from these in-between grounds was used to build a massive fire on the work site. The fire was maintained for literally the whole day. (For much of the day, it was tended by William Greer, director of church relations for RoCo, who came to work with us for a couple of days.) This didn't totally make sense... today was easily the warmest day we've had working, and it just got warmer as the day went on. (Today we got legitimate sunburn.)
A small coalition of gentlemen continued working on El Diablo, the dilapidated truck that's been parked behind the Habitat office trailer for two years. After de-installing the truck's starter, they replaced it today. They freed the fly wheel, replaced spark plug wires, and put a fuel stablizer in the fuel tank. (Readers should be aware that this information is all coming from the mouths of those gentlemen. Whether or not they actually DID any of this, remains to be seen.) Towards the end of the work day, they managed to cause some sparking [nearly setting one of their number on fire in the process]. As they put it, the have made PROGRESS. (Progress, is, of course, a very subjective term... but regardless, we're considering it a move forward.) It is also worthy of note that during one of their handful of trips to find equipment for the truck, they discovered a Cadillac hood ornament. StevEarl has referred to an old-but-still-functioning wheelbarrow as his Cadillac. As a result, the hood ornament was bestowed on the wheelbarrow (which is now the ritziest thing I've ever seen. Except for, like, everything else. (Just kidding. I concede, it looks coolish.)) It's worth noting that the large box van has been determined "lost cause".
Another large group continued the work on old garden boxes positioned next to the office. They had made substantial progress on these boxes and as of today, all of the physical boxes themselves have been removed. The dirt that sat inside of them was used to fill some holes around the site.
One group has taken it upon themselves to build and decorate a new cornhole set for CSCHabitat. CSCHabitat has been using a set built by Matt Henrickson for as long as we can remember, which function fine, but lack the RoCo glamorization that this new set is sure to provide. (That was only slightly sarcastic.) (This led to a trip to Lowe's to pick up some paint, which ended with everyone returning to Rockgate successfully and no one getting lost. Unlike yesterday.
Another smaller group worked on the demolition of the truck porch. This was a somewhat sentimental demolition: this particular porch was where Matt had interviewed for his current job, and at the foot of the porch, when the concrete was laid, StevEarl and his dog, son, and other coworkers had written their names. This showcases the finality of this trip for the first time... it's Rev. Paul's final trip as the RC Chaplain and it's also marking the beginning of the end of the era of Rockgate. After the group completed the demolition of the porch, the cinder block wall that served as the trailer's semi-permanent foundation was demolished. (Seriously, if you ever want to de-stress, try knocking down a wall. It works wonders. Note: this is not a recommendation to go start knocking down walls.)
In addition to the special appearance by William Greer, RoCo was treated to two other visits.
The first of these was a visit from the director of the community service office that pre-dated both William Greer and his still-current predecessor Jesse Griffin, a man named Ned. Ned's wife ws a part of the first group that ever ventured to CSCHabitat with Rev. Paul back in spring 1987, and Ned himself went on eight Habitat trips from 1990 to 1997. He shared stories about his times on Habitat trips, and the never-changing wittiness of Rev. Paul.
The second of these was from a current Habitat homeowner naemd Sarah, who brought her dog to pick up her children from the school bus. Because the families in the area are all there partially because of volunteers like us, they usually are very receptive to volunteers (at least in our experience), so the idea of them coming to visit isn't weird. But there's always something striking about watching the interactions between Habitat's staff and the people who are on the receiving end. She hugged both Matt and StevEarl, and they got updates from all of the children that were with her (both her's and neighbors'). It really gives an interesting picture at how invested Habitat can be in the lives of the individuals that it works with. And it also shows how easy it is to take for granted the power of the word "HOME". Home isn't just a house. It's where you live, love, share, and learn. It quite literally is where the heart is. Being around a grateful homeowner is an incredibly poignant reminder that what we're doing, even if it seems so far removed from construction as to become moot, matters. It matters a lot.
After we closed up our work day, we headed back to camp to refresh ourselves before heading to the Griffin household.
The Griffins are the parents of Jesse Griffin, director of RoCo's community service office [currently building latrines in Nicaragua with another group of RoCo alt. break-ers]. They've had a longstanding relationship with Roanoke College and particularly with Rev. Paul. (Jesse tells a story that the first time he encountered Roanoke College was when he was fifteen years old, driving a truck to the camp where the RoCo-ers were staying. Incidentally, this would've been a trip that was co-led by both Paul and Ned, whom we'd met earlier in the day and who came to the Griffins with us.) The result of this has been an annual visit to the Griffin household, where we enjoy dinner and playing music as a group. This time around, we were actually joined by some additional Griffins: Charlyn, Jesse's wife, and Sawyer, the couple's six-month-old son.
The dinner was, as per usual, a delicious chicken-rice blend with every variety of hot source you can imagine, with green beans, coleslaw, rolls, and Coca-Cola cake, and homemade lemonade and tea. We congregated in various places in and around the Griffin household.
After we finished eating, we all gathered together in the Griffin living room to play music. Now for those who've never experienced music at the Griffins, it all starts with a melody, played on guitar by Rev. Paul, with the rest of us taking one of a boxful of instruments - clappers, maracas, basically anything that might be also found in a preschool music class' musical arsenal. The result? Just about the most fun we have as a group during our trip. We all get really obnoxious, playing our instruments with pride during brief solos throughout, dancing like fools, and laughing hysterically. Breaking walls might be a fantastic stress reliever, but this kind of fun is perhaps better.
After we finished our music section, the Griffins commemorated Paul's final trip with a gift bag full of instruments to begin his own musical collection. These included nose whistles, a harmonica, and a homemade bass. (This bass is part of the arsenal we get to play with during music time. It consists of a large tub and some specifically positioned rods and rope. When played properly, it produces this really cool sound.) As we've said before, this kind of thing reminded us of the finality that seems to be going alongside with this trip. Tonight, I think it really hit home, for both Rev. Paul and for all of us.
We did this for the Davises last night, and because it's beyond appropriate (and just good manners),
Dear Griffin family,
Thank you for sharing a delicious dinner, wonderful music, and wonderful times at your house. We always feel so welcome at your house, and we always appreciate everything that you share with us. Thank you for making this a wonderful part of our trip, and one we always look forward to.
Lots of love,
Roanoke College Habitat for Humanity
One thing that has been continuously striking us this week is this concept of family. As we sat around screaming and banging instruments with the musical finesse of a broken car alarm, we got a chance to sit around and just look at where we were. I think, sitting in that room, we all felt something: a reassurance that this is where we're meant to be. Right here, right now, this would be a moment we'd cherish forever. And that feeling has made me incredibly weepy tonight.
But it's tears of joy. It's all tears of joy.
So until tomorrow, when a group from Virginia Commonwealth will be coming to join us for the work day [Godspeed to them] and we face a fairly strong possibility for rain,
Andrew Dittmar and Mollie Gleason
P.S. I promise you'll get to see pictures. Eventually. When we figure out how to put them on here...?
P.P.S. Today's quote of the day is an extended joke by Rev. Paul about Nathan Sliwa. Ask either of them to repeat it for you.