Monthly Archives: July 2010

Dust and Dedication

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Last night we enjoyed the hospitality of the Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church—incredible Cajun food (even for vegetarians!), great laughter, and a lot of passion. The people were wonderful, the presentation they gave about coastal wetlands, their gratitude to volunteers who’ve helped restore their lives, and their passion for helping others was hard to put into words.

After dinner, it was our group’s turn to lead devotions for the whole camp.  Our youth did a FABULOUS job, leading people in reflecting on what it means to be a neighbor, complete with a Harry Potter version of the parable of the Good Samaritan. They taught and led an energizer, they did a great skit, they prayed, they led conversation, and even had Scott (and site organizer Colleen) lead us in singing With My Own Two Hands. It was truly a sight to see these youth in this leadership role—a role they have grown into handsomely over the past several years.  I can’t wait to see what they might do next!

Today we split into two work teams.  My team went to the same house we’ve been working in—and we had the extreme pleasure of SANDING DRYWALL!  YAY!  It was such a good time.  From 8-2, with breaks for water and lunch and the pleasure of sitting down…sanding drywall.  There aren’t many pictures because it was so ridiculously dusty that all the pictures were terrible and we feared for electronics in the dust cloud.  (don’t worry-we had masks and glasses!)   But even though the work was hard, hot (masks + glasses = HOT faces, even when we had both the air conditioning and the fan on…and they blew more dust around!), and tedious, we had a good day.  At one point I was taking a break outside and through the window I heard the group inside SINGING!  There were camp song classics like “down by the bay” and “I saw a bear”.  Awesome!

The other group had a strange day—they went to the house that needed to be finished ASAP because it was being dedicated this afternoon at 3pm.  Unfortunately, their supplies and tools and construction manager didn’t arrive until almost lunchtime, so they did a few things, they napped on the floor, and they visited a local gas station for snacks.  Then they had 2.5 hours to finish all the flooring—installing carpet in two rooms.  By the time we all arrived for the dedication at 3pm, it was all done and looked completely fabulous!  It was a joy to attend the dedication, to see the woman who is able to move back into her house (when they began, several people thought the house should just be torn down, but they worked with it and were able to turn it into a nice home for this woman, Magaline).

Now we’re showered and waiting for dinner.  Tomorrow we have only a half day of work, because in the afternoon we’re headed out for a SWAMP TOUR!  Yes, we promise to wear plenty of bug spray….

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getting down and dirty!

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Well, last night turned out NOT to be spaghetti night—our inside source was, umm, apparently not inside the dinner calendar.  But no disappointment here—it was red beans and rice night! YUM.  We loved it—great flavor, both sausage AND vegetarian options…and we finished up with banana pudding topped with Nilla Wafers, so all in all a great dinner!  The granola cookie bars were the nighttime snack, and they were also as delicious as they smelled!

We had our first experience of the evening program last night, too.  We began with some trivia about the area we are living in this week, then moved on to the slideshow of various teams at work-sites.  Lots of teams look like they’re having a great time, though our group thinks they look like they’re not getting as much work done as they should.  (Our worksite was visited today by the photographer, so we can see how that would happen—she loves to find things and get people to have some fun on breaks from work, taking funny pictures. Here’s the AFTER-the-photographer shot. 🙂  )

Anyway, after the slideshow, one of the groups leads devotions for the whole camp (about 90 people including all the staff).  The group from Decatur Georgia led last night, with a devotion time that included singing, scripture explained, and a game where we practiced (and then talked about) teamwork and how when we all work together we can accomplish great things—much more than we could do as individuals.

After devotions it was off to free time, which for two of our girls and me meant moving!  We discovered that our pod was SO ridiculously humid and hot we couldn’t handle it anymore, and we moved to an empty pod that had good air conditioning.  This also required moving our stuff and some cots, because the pod was empty due to being furnished primarily with broken or sub-standard cots.  We soon sorted that out and now we have two pods—one for our dirty clothes and shoes (the humid one), and one that’s nice and cool and not at all humid (for sleeping and keeping the rest of our stuff in).  We joked that we’re living like millionaires, with a separate house for a shoe closet!

Today we were off to work by 8 (after half our group got up at 5.30 to prepare breakfast for the whole camp—good work ladies!), and once we got to Miss Barbra’s house we got busy finishing up the drywall and mudding. We hoped to be done by lunch so we could sand in the afternoon, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.  We mudded and taped and hung drywall…and half the group painted outside too (the house is now yellow with green trim)…and we took our lunch cooler to a local park…and we had snow cones (called sno-balls)…and we went back to discover that we still had more mudding to do.  We were covered in drywall dust, mud, paint, and sweat and we still have work to do.  But tomorrow we should be able to finish that and move on to sanding and even texturing the walls. woohoo!

One of the things we knew about but couldn’t quite conceptualize until we got here was the wildlife situation.  There are crickets/grasshoppers/locusts (jury’s out on what exactly they are, since we can’t just google the picture in our curiosity!) that are almost the size of our hands.  There are lizards everywhere (today we watched what we think might be a bizarre mating ritual!). There are frogs—one even hopped into our pod the first night and took up residence on my pillow, only to be evicted by Molly.  There are fire ants—including a whole nest of them in a flowerpot near where we were washing paintbrushes today!  There are dragonflies in all the colors of the rainbow.  There are bugs of all kinds.  Our bug spray gets a workout every morning and evening, but there’s still some mosquito action.  Aside from flinching basically every time something flies toward us, and running to try to catch lizards (and failing every time so far), we’re handling the wildlife pretty well. 🙂  There’s also a dog at our worksite, a 4 month old boxer-german shepherd mix named Scotty.  He’s very adorable, and commands much of our breaktime attention, and is also teething so he attacks everything with his mouth—shoelaces, Katherine the alligator, everything. And yet we love to play with him!

Tonight we are headed out to a local church (or possibly a rec-center run by a church? the directions aren’t completely clear yet)—the Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church—who will feed us Traditional Cajun Food.  They have been feeding the groups at this PDA camp every week for four years, with great love and great homemade cooking.  The staff are all very excited, which tells me this might be one of the best meals of the week (at least for people who eat meat or seafood…but I have high hopes on the vegetarian front too!).  Can’t wait!

First Day At Work!!

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We just got back from our first day at work.  We’re working in the home of Miss Barbra, remodeling her add-on room.  We’re trying to get the project finished by the end of the week, which means today we hung drywall, taped and mudded. Tomorrow we’ll finish that up (hooray for sanding!), and maybe get started on texturing and painting.  We also hope to be able to do some work on her lean-to patio area, which has some wood-rot and other issues.

It’s 95 degrees today, and probably 95 percent humidity too.  We watched the temperature climb in the room where we’re working, from 79 (with a fan) when we arrived to 87 and still climbing when we left.  We’re fortunate to have Carl, who actually knows how to do things like hang drywall, as he’s helping us all find our way and do the best job possible with the resources we have available.  We’re also fortunate to be an awesome team that knows how to work together, to divide labor, to do what needs to be done, and to work hard with positive attitudes! I can’t imagine doing this with any other group.  🙂

Tonight is spaghetti night…and I just walked through the kitchen to smell some delicious oatmeal/m-n-m granola cookie bars. The whole place smells great!

You might notice a small stuffed alligator in some pictures—it’s our workteam mascot.  I don’t think the alligator has a name yet, though that may be coming tonight.  Watch for this alligator to make appearances throughout the week.  🙂

we’re here!

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Our travel experience was uneventful, even for Amanda who was flying for the first time.  Everything went smoothly and we were able to get to the French Quarter in time for lunch—beignets! mmm, beignets.  fried, donut-esque goodness covered in powdered sugar….

We spent the afternoon exploring the French Quarter—until a rainstorm forced us to spend just over an hour in the covered flea-market-y bustle of the French Market.  When the rain finally stopped, we wandered through the neighborhood (including along the ever-famous…or is that infamous? Bourbon Street—but don’t worry, it was 430 in the afternoon!) toward

La Bayou, where we enjoyed traditional (yet really nice) New Orleans food, thanks to a generous RCLPC benefactor.  Some of the more memorable things include many in our group

trying alligator (tastes like chewy and juicy chicken, apparently) and a few muffalettas (we LOVE the olive salad on top!).  And be sure to check out Scott’s po-boy, with shrimp and fried green tomatoes—it was a sandwich as big as his head!

After dinner we made a stop to pick up sunscreen and bug spray, and then started the drive toward Houma.  About an hour southwest, we got here at about 7.45pm and have been getting used to life in the PDA camp.  We sleep in “pods”—corrugated polypropylene tents (they actually look sort of like laminated cardboard)—that fit three of us, on cots, in each one.  They’re air conditioned at night, at least supposedly.  The one I’m sleeping in is on a faulty circuit and so the air turned off several times during the (very humid) night.  That’s supposed to be fixed today—hallelujah!

This morning we are having orientation with UMCOR (the Methodist equivalent of PDA) who is coordinating our work this week.  Then it’s off to work!