Posted by: jlogue | June 15, 2007

From she who says little…

Throughout the week, I have said little but I have kept my eyes and ears open at all times.  The things I have seen, heard, felt, wondered, and learned are still spinning–waiting to be fully digested.  As such, my post will remain superficial yet hopefully informative. 

The second day of work, I spent a lot of time talking to a woman (Carolyn) who will be living in a Habitat House.  In order to live in the houses, people complete a significant application process and in addition to the financial considerations, they must complete 350 hours of what Habitat calls “sweat equity.”  Of these hours, 250 are on any project and 100 hours are on their own house. 

Carolyn and her husband were working on site for their first day of “sweat equity” and they did not yet know which neighborhood they would call home.  Carolyn told me her story in bits and pieces throughout the day and for you, I will summarize what she told me.  The pieces might not fit together because I am unclear on all of the details and specifics but, at best, you will get a smally glimpse into her life.

Carolyn, her daughter, and her granddaughter first went to a hotel when the storm was coming. She was not even aware a storm was coming b/c the pastor at her church had recently died so she had been involved in the celebrations of his life/burial/etc. so apparently, that had taken up all of her time for days.  Carolyn’s husband (Woodie) spent the beginning of the hurricane at work (I think).  Eventually, Carolyn, her daughter, and granddaughter ended up in Texas as the stadium there. Woodie ended up in Boston. 

The details of this are foggy but some things that highlight her experience include–being fed well at the Superdome (what’s that place called in TX?) and having “an entire Wal-Mart” opened up for them at all times so they could just go get whatever they needed or wanted…not getting to talk to her husband for a few weeks…the children were well taken care of and got to play together in TX…all of Carolyn’s family stayed out of NOLA after Katrina.  Carolyn’s mother and daughter returned. Her other children stayed away (except the one who lives in MN) as did her sisters.

The thing Carolyn misses the most is her pictures and her children’s trophies. She was very sad about that.  She repeated it several times, actually.  Carolyn also repeated how “blessed” she was to have the Habitat house.  Her daughter, who will not live in the house with her, filled out all the paperwork, etc. for her.  Carolyn, her husband, and their 6-year-old granddaughter will reside in the house. Right now, she is living w/ her daughter and says it is hard because she is used to having her own space.

They are excited about the work and was glad to walk through to see the houses, as hers will look similar. Something else that she told me that I find interesting– the children have a “school” that they go to through Habitat (I’m thinking like a summer camp type thing) and the time spent counts for 25 of the family hours of “sweat equity.”  I’d like to know more about that program.

Those are the details as I remember them.  While I realize I will never see her again, I think this little bit of her life touched me somehow.  Rob got part of their story on tape but Carolyn and I talked a lot more after the recorder was off. The picture of me with them will not be public but I hope to have it so I can look back and revisit Carolyn’s story.

 I will post again–maybe even using spell check; forgive any errors/typos you see.

Posted by: Rob | June 14, 2007

RAIN O’er Me

Day two at the Alvez St. house site was my favorite of our four days so far at Musicians’ Village. We had one person from Oklahoma, one from Maryland, one from Americorps, and three from Berklee working all day carefully making sure we were creating a level floor. This involved a lot of hammering and removing of nails, leveling of boards, and even standing on cross-boards to help make everything flush. You do what you have to. The weather was a little better (we had some clouds and a much-needed ten-minute rain break) but what made it really great was the deepening of our collaborative efforts. I guess you could say it’s something like what happens when a band plays together for a long time. We were starting to fall into sync, getting smarter about what we were doing, making real progress, and yes, having fun.

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That’s me, attempting to get the floor level. Note the substandard application of sunblock.

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Jenna is way up on the ladder, showing us all how to putty and prime.

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Kris waits out the rain on the porch.

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Roya and Matt dream of someday cohosting a home improvement show of their own. Great idea, guys, but consider keeping those day gigs.

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Our Habitat group leader Eric Trombley, who just happens to be a drummer from the Boston area, gives us our end of the day wrap-up talk. He says we’ve all been doing a great job, and hands out Habitat t-shirts to show his appreciation.

Posted by: Matt | June 14, 2007

This is my reality.

Picture this…200 workers of all ages, from all over the country working in 95 degrees of pure humidity for absolutely no compensation. There are no egos, no slackers, everyone is friendly, equally contributing to the task at hand and enjoying learning about one another. ABC News in New Orleans came today to shoot footage of this reality. It’s hard to believe amongst all of the negativity in our media that this environment really exists but believe me when I say it does. I have been cut, bruised, had fiber glass in my eye, even felt like passing out at times and I am loving every minute of it. I am beyond blessed to be here and can not believe tomorrow is our last day. I will miss the love here but hope to spread it on to all of you. Take care of one another for me and we’ll do the same.

My best always,

Matt

Floor Board Message

Posted by: Rob | June 14, 2007

What Was Lost, What Remains

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Matt used this power saw to slice wood like a knife through butter.

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Views of the Lower Ninth Ward, 20 months after Katrina. On my lunch break today, new Habitat friends from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, took me on a drive through still-devastated neighborhoods.

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Catherine and I talked about Berklee and the college’s relief effort while listening to some student and alumni recordings during the 5:00 p.m. hour of a WWOZ-FM jazz show hosted by Judy Wood (center).

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We ended our night listening to legendary New Orleans bluesman Walter “Wolfman” Washington (right).

Posted by: Christopher | June 14, 2007

Day 3

Today we arrived at the work site and managed to hook up with a crew working on two houses with a lot of work left to do.

I paired up with a couple of Memphians and we worked on installing fascia and soffit all day. First we nailed in a strip to hold the soffit (if I understand the terms correctly…), down the length of the house.


Then we started measuring out how wide to cut the soffit that goes under the overhang (photo by R. Hochschild).


Kris, Roya, and Matt were hammering away at the floor of the house next door. Roya is in the front with the black hat. Kris and Matt are wearing the yellow hard hats. Kris is in a blue shirt, Matt to her left in a white shirt, leaning over.


This evening we met up with a group of Berklee alumni and a few soon to be first year students for some food and conversation, which was a blast!

Then we headed over to Frenchman street with a couple of Alumni and heard some excellent music…

Posted by: jclinks | June 13, 2007

Started this blog Tues. before dinner…

Riccardo was awesome yesterday!!! He provided us and many others with shade and entertainment during the lunch break. He played many different songs, from previously mentioned “No Woman, No Cry,” to “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” and some Beatles. He added in some of his original Brazilian sound and a few of his original songs, which were very good. Riccardo was a great example to all the volunteers of the musical talent that this city has to offer and why we should be proud of what we are doing here. He made all comers feel as though they were family, and treated us accordingly. This was just one example of how the general feel of the day was upbeat and positive; I felt a real sense of community within the ranks of the volunteers today. I met a group of guys from Missouri, a father, son and two guys that work with the father as contractors. We talked about sports and traded jokes while putting in posts that will be fencing for two back yards in this community. As well as a girl from Colorado University that was given the name Sledge because of her work with a sledgehammer during the day. Once again the sun was brutal, but not as bad as day one, in which we hit a record high in the heat index for the date in New Orleans. The heat however couldn’t stop us as we got much more done on this day in terms of work an meeting others who felt the need to lend a helping hand to these communities.

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Accurate fence post placement requires huge amounts of concentration.

Posted by: Roya | June 13, 2007

About Face!

It’s day two at the Musicians’ Village and I continue to be amazed by my Berklee colleagues and their dedication to the project. Today felt a little like Habitat Boot Camp (in a good way). Kris, Matt, Catherine and I spent the entire day insulating one of the handicap accessible homes in the Musicians’ Village. We had to do an army crawl to get under the house. The fiber glass insulation was our barbed wire and we had to be careful not to cut ourselves. We also had guns. Okay, they were just staple guns, but still cool. By the end of the day, we were covered in dirt and basically camouflaged. The experience tested us and brought us closer together. The sense of community was palpable.
Kris Quinones, Matt Iorlano, and Catherine Boger

Posted by: Rob | June 13, 2007

Laying Down Sod

When a day of hard work in the hot sun begins with some live music performed by a talented Brazilian musician, you know you’re going to be okay. Riccardo Crespo, a long-time New Orleans resident who was one of the first to move into the Musicians’ Village, gave us a song and sing-along just before our daily safety talk.

Ricardo Crespo

Riccardo Crespo

By mid-morning, Christopher, Jason, Jenna, and I, along with some nice fellows from Missouri, placed fence posts, mixed cement, and poured the gooey gumbo into holes. This was surprisingly satisfying work. We also hooked up with Habitat volunteer groups from California and Virginia as we layed sod in the front yards of homes on Bartholomew Street. Jason and an Oakland Raiders fan exchanged some playful NFL trash talk, and then we got down to business.

A huge high point for Jenna and me came from spending time chatting with future Musicians’ Village residents Carolyn and Woodie, a very kind and gracious New Orleans couple who have been married for 45 years. They lost everything in the flood, but things have been looking up since hearing that their Habitat application was approved. After they put in a combined 350 hours of work time, they will have their home.

Posted by: Kris | June 12, 2007

Lawd, it’s HOT

Spent the day crawling under a house with Matt, Roya, and Catherine, installing insulation.  It was hard work, but I was grateful to be out of the sun for the majority of the day.  The sun here is NO. JOKE.   Slather on the SPF 2000 every 30 minutes.  Seriously.  It was exciting to see a project through to completion today.  To look at a house, and say “I did that.”  I took the liberty of branding my name and today’s date into one of the beams under the house. Food here is great and on every corner is music.  At lunch break on the site today, one of the Musicians Village residents and Brazilian musician, Ricardo, invited us over to his home for a little concert on his porch.  When someone asked him if he played the Blues, Ricardo said, “Yeah, but playing the Blues is like a feeling.  And I don’t feel that way now.  I feel love and celebration.”  With that, he broke out into “No Woman No Cry”.

Posted by: jlogue | June 12, 2007

Exploration

Since I have yet to post, I feel like there are too many things swimming in my head, all shouting for my attention as I type.  Perhaps that is a good way to begin the blog…

Being that we are here for just one week, I feel like I will most definitely miss many things about this place that make it unique.  The primary reason for the trip is, of course, the work with Habitat for Humanity.  The nature of our work and the weather come together to make exhaustion win out over exploring the city, I think.  Yet, the work we are doing is fulfilling and important–even if frustrating at times.  The numerous volunteers, the heat, the skills required for some of the projects (and required explanations to go along), and other factors come together and make the less patient wish for a more “organized” day.  That said, however, I am exploring my own ability to be patient and have found the Habitat site to be a learning experience.

Exploring Habitat for Humanity and the lives of the people to whom we have been introduced because of our involvement in this project will be a fascinating experience. I am thrilled that Berklee has given us the chance to do this and am lucky to join the others on this trip.  We are learning about people who lost everything (material) yet have seemed to gain so many other things (insight, wisdom, perspective, faith…) from the hurricane that took place two years ago.  tool room

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All of that said, we have managed to explore the city–including the voodoo museum.  Once I learn this site, I will post pictures from the voodoo museum.  It was a pretty interesting place.

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