A Travellerspoint blog

Settling In


So I've been in the South for about one month now, and it has been amazing. I am almost getting to the point where I know my way around and have a normal schedule, almost.

We were assigned to our construction managers and to our own houses on Thursday. Mark is my manager, and I will be working on N Tonti, just two blocks away from the house I worked on in NCCC! The house is almost done, it only needs random things and touchups done for the most part, but it will probably still take a month or so to get done. I get my own volunteers next Thursday, and I am very excited!

I celebrated my birthday over the entire weekend, who says 23 can't be special?? Every day is special when you're in New Orleans! There is a custom here that you pin a dollar to your shirt and then everyone will know it's your birthday and will contribute a dollar to your fund. I made $25 doing that. Mostly from people I knew (a local at my landlord's bar gave me $7, and my landlord gave me $5). I also got a free drink at the Ernst Cafe, where I went on the actual day of my birth. It seemed right.

Every Thursday, before the Office comes on, I play Ultimate Frisbee with a random assortment of strangers. We all met on craigslist looking to start playing, and voila! it happened. We've gotten together twice now, and it has been great! It's fun, and good exercise... Plus, we play right during the sunset, and boy is it a beautiful sight from Audubon park. The sky here is really beautiful almost all of the time. Especially when the moonlight reflects off the bayou a few blocks away from my apartment.

Tomorrow is my first day of bartending at the Saints game, we are very excited! Unfortunately we have to check in at 7am, which means it's going to be an early night tonight. But there are only four home games that we can work at, so it's not too big of a sacrifice.

All in all, I'm very happy to be here, and I'm really enjoying my time here. Thank you for your continued support!

Posted by mernst 18:35 Archived in USA Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

Life in a Hurricane Warning Zone


Well, I made it to New Orleans safely, and my job has finally begun. But let's start at the beginning...
The road trip was pretty uneventful, then I got a call from Julie, my Project Homecoming (PH) boss, telling me that New Orleans was evacuating on Sunday. So instead of heading to Nola, I drove to the Feliciana Retreat Center in Norwood, Louisiana. Unfortunately, all of the big roads going south were operating in a "contraflow" system, so I had to find an alternate route on country roads. But hey, there was no traffic driving down!
The retreat center was beautiful. We were staying at the lodge, Habitat people were staying at another main building, and a Korean Pres. Church was staying in the cabins. I wish we had been there on vacation, there were two lakes with paddle boats and canoes; it looked like fun! But this was no vacation. I got there on Sunday night and had dinner and met everyone. Monday we watched Gustav make his move. We then lost power around noon. It was raining and very windy, but we had a bunch of generators so we hooked one up for the fridge, and another one for the tv and lights. We played a lot of cards to pass the time, but it wasn't a horrible experience. Tuesday afternoon we heard that Tier 1 responders were being allowed back in to Nola, and all of the construction managers are Tier 1 (I am Tier 2). So we were going to caravan and hope that they'd let us all in together. Unfortunately, we had most of our cars parked at the lodge, and between the lodge and the highway was a low point, which had turned into a raging river. So my car and the other low cars couldn't get out. It didn't stop pouring rain until around 3pm or so, but if we had left then it would have been dark by the time we got to Nola, so we stayed another night. Wednesday morning the rain had subsided and the river was only a tiny stream that we could all easily pass. We planned to leave around 7am, so we left the lodge around 7:30 and got to the exit when we realized we forgot two people. So we finally got on the road around 8am, driving very slowly because there were twelve cars and we all needed to stay together (they still weren't letting civilians in). We made it around 11:30 and somehow we made it all together.
Phil and I didn't have a place to stay, so PH let us stay in the Young Adult Volunteer house until we found a place. Which was awesome of them. We had a generator hooked up to the fridge so our food didn't go bad, and we were all set. Noelle, one of the construction managers (CM), invited us over to her house for dinner. She and her husband grilled food and they hooked up their window unit A/C to the generator so we were very comfortable.
Thursday we had half a day of work, which consisted of driving around checking up on all of the houses that PH had ever done. All of the houses I saw looked like they were in good shape, except for a few minor wind damages here and there. I got to meet some homeowners who were very excited to see us. I liked that we checked on houses that have been completed for a while, and not just the ones that were in progress. After work I was hanging out at the volunteer house when the power came back on. We were so excited that we immediately unhooked the generator and moved it into the locked trailer in the parking . About ten minutes later, the power went back out. We waited for 45 minutes, and still no power, so we took the generator back out and hooked it up again. About 45 minutes later, the power came back on, this time for good. But we left the generator out just in case. That night Mark, another CM, invited us over for dinner at his house. We watched the Giants game and the Republican Convention and ate some delicious food. And then went back to the volunteer house to sleep in air conditioning (we hadn't been able to since Sunday night).
Friday was our day off, since we didn't really have off on Labor day. Alex, Rose (two Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs), Phil and I went to a coffee shop and went on the internet. Phil and I searched for apartments. And then all four of us went to the Superdome and applied for jobs as bartenders during the Saints home games. We will also be able to bartend at the Hornets home games and any concerts in the Arena (NKTOB is coming soon! haha). The rest of the weekend was spent apt hunting.
Monday was our first day of work. We met the rest of the Deltas, and had did some paperwork and listened to Vann (CM) tell us how to build a house. Now I know the difference between a king stud and a jack stud. Phil and I picked an apartment, but we couldn't move in until Tuesday, so we spent our last night crashing at the YAV house.
Tuesday was our first day of hands on training. We split into two groups, my group went with Vann to hang sheetrock. We were trained to use two methods for hanging it on the ceiling, the drywall lift and the T-thing. It was interesting. My favorite part was the way we attached it to the studs, we had a screw gun-most amazing thing ever. You know how useful that would have been in NCCC? Very. Anyway, that night Phil and I moved in to our new apartment! We finally emptied our cars and settled in. We borrowed cots from PH for the night. The apt is really nice, it has a lot of storage space-though we don't have a lot of storage.
Wednesday was mudding and sanding drywall training day. And even though I spent two weeks mudding and sanding, I learned so much that day. First of all they had tools I had never seen, including the earmuff tool and the boogerhog (not technical terms of course). The earmuff tool looks like an earmuff on a stick, you dip it into the mud and roll it into corners, it makes it so much easier to apply mud! Then I learned the proper way to use a corner tool, which makes corners ridiculously easy (compared to how I was taught to do them in NCCC). And sanding involved the use of the boogerhog. It is basically this huge sander (about 1' in diameter) connected to a hose which is connected to a vacuum cleaner. So it's a bit heavy, but it suctions itslef to the wall, so you don't really need to apply pressure. It is pretty amazing, and reduces how much dust is in the air. Then after work Phil and I got mattresses from PH and got our neighbor to help carry them up the stairs to our apt. So now we're living in luxury-sleeping in beds in a spacy air conditioned apt. And we got dinner made for us by Susan, who works for PH and lives in the bottom apt of the YAV house. She likes cooking, and we love her.
Thursday we all got back together and had a day of Tile training. Oh tile. The first one I put down had to get taken out and redone. I did another one after that and it seemed to be okay. Then I moved into the bathroom and helped David (Delta) to put tiles around the bathtub. The tiles are 18" and ridiculous. It took us about two hours, but somehow we got three up. And I walked out of the house covered in the paste we used.
Today, Friday, we have a late start because of the inclement weather. Ike is approaching the coast (but no worries we're only getting hit with some rain, the eye is way way west of Nola). So I only have to go to work at 1:30. We are going to learn how to texture walls and paint them. And then it's the weekend, a rainy one, but a good break from all the hard work we've been doing this week.
So that's my update, hope you enjoyed it.

Posted by mernst 08:56 Archived in USA Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

FEMA update.

about Hurricane Katrina recovery.


Here's an article Project Homecoming sent me. Unfortunately, FEMA might have a lot more to handle in the next week or so. Hopefully Gustav won't change anything.

Recovery News

Residents urged to apply today for up to $4,000 in reimbursement funding for relocation expenses

NEW ORLEANS – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) extended its relocation assistance program to March 1, 2009. To date, 8,889 families have been helped with more than $15.7 million for moving and transportation costs incurred as a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"With recovery well underway across the Gulf Coast, many of the more than 1.2 million families forced from their homes following hurricanes Katrina and Rita are ready to come home," said Acting Associate Deputy Administrator for FEMA's Gulf Coast Recovery Office Jim Stark. "We are pleased to provide this extension and urge families who haven't taken advantage of the relocation program to apply."
Applicants displaced from their primary residence in a disaster-declared area as a result of hurricane Katrina or Rita are eligible for reimbursement of up to $4,000 in relocation expenses incurred between Aug. 29, 2005 and March 1, 2009. Relocation expenses may not exceed the FEMA Individuals and Households Program (IHP) cap of $26,200, and the applicant must not have received funds from any other state, federal or voluntary agency subsidized travel home program.
If an applicant is returning to Louisiana, he or she must relocate to housing that is not provided by FEMA and is not a hotel or motel. For those families that are already living in Louisiana in FEMA travel trailers or mobile homes, FEMA will pay moving expenses to a FEMA-funded rental resource anywhere in the continental United States.
Relocation Assistance will be limited to travel costs including airfare, train, bus and/or a rental vehicle. Furniture transportation expenses also are eligible, including commercially rented equipment for hauling and commercially purchased moving materials or moving services. Evidence of expenses, such as receipts, must be provided for reimbursement. Mileage, gas and other travel-related expenses such as food incurred while using a privately owned vehicle are not eligible costs. Moving costs for recreational or large luxury items such as boats or recreational vehicles are not eligible expenses under this program either.
For more information on FEMA's Relocation Assistance program or to request reimbursement of relocation expenses, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) (TTY: 1-800-462-7585). To prevent duplication of benefits, an applicant is only eligible to receive relocation assistance under either Hurricane Katrina (DR-1603-LA) or Hurricane Rita (DR-1607-LA), not both.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

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For more information on Louisiana disaster recovery, visit www.fema.gov/gulfcoastrecovery

Posted by mernst 16:05 Archived in USA Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

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