Thursday, March 19, 2009
I come to you from a bus ride (thanks to Apple and the iPhone) in a mist laden New Orleans. We are about to begin day three on the worksite, which has come along way since we first saw it on Tuesday morning.
Yesterday, we began (and nearly finished) installing doors and windows on the home. We also completely enclosed the house on the front and back, and made major ground in our preperations for shingling.
Members of our group who weren't on the side of the house, in the rafters, or working on the windows/doors were busy painting the wood which begins the siding process, another step we will begin today.
We had a great team reflection last night to discuss our thorns (cold showers, small meals, early mornings) and our roses (Habitat for Humanity, Eric (our contractor), and each other). Despite challenges, all forty of us are incredibly happy to be here and proud of what we're doing.
Today, as I said previously, we will begin to side and shingle the house. We have a great opportunity to leave a nearly completed house when we depart on Saturday and everyone is excited at the prospect. Viking Expeditions has recieved major compliments for our competence and dedication on site and it shows in the progress we've made.
After work today, we get to spend some more time in the French Quarter exploring fine food and fun shopping. Some of us are considering exploration if the more art filled Garden District. I will try to get some more NOLA pictures up here after our return.
All in all, great trip so far. I promise more photos sometime today or tomorrow. Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Apologies for the large gap* between posts. See, we have been rather busy here at Camp Hope. Yesterday our afternoon and evening were filled with a trip into the French Quarter and an hour-plus long orientation back here at camp. Afterward, most of our group--myself included--were extremely tired and went right to bed. This morning, we left camp around 7:00am, once again leaving little time for an update here. So, I will spend the next thirty or so minutes working tirelessly to update you on the events of yesterday post-1:00pm and today also.
Monday, March 16--1st Day in NOLA
As mentioned previously, Viking Expeditions spent the afternoon and evening in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Because our bus driver was over his maximum number of hours, we had to take public transportation from Camp Hope in St. Bernard’s Parish to the city. The journey included two buses, the first of which could only hold about half our group, so we made two trips.
As I was part of the second group, my story relates to their journey. When our first bus (the smaller of the two) was about to arrive at the exchange point for the connection to downtown New Orleans, our driver noticed that the other bus had already left the stop where she was going to drop us. Instead of making us wait for another bus, she hit the gas and the horn, drove up next to our connection and cut it off, forcing it to pull over. As a result, we were all able to board the bus and make our trip a lot shorter. This type of hospitable persona has already met us several times on our trip. The people here are wonderful, doing everything possible to make our stay pleasant and enjoyable. Also, chasing down a bus with another bus is awesome.
After that memorable ride, everyone hit the streets, enjoying food, culture and a lot of shops filled to the brim with peculiar trinkets. We had the opportunity to spend about five hours in the city and it was more than enough. The food here is great, and certainly unique. Selections ranged from Alligator appetizers to Crawfish entrees, but there was no shortage of classic American favorites, like a good old grilled cheese sandwich.
Canal, Decatur and Bourbon Street are filled with odd shops that make for a rather interesting day of browsing. Typical items such as postcards and t-shirts are abundant, but there are certain items--voodoo type artifacts, masks and, well, rather suggestive/sexual items--of a less common type, which are available. Some of the t-shirts are too funny to forget, with phrases such as "I got Bourbon Faced on Sh-- Street." Our travelers got to see the French Market, which features open air displays with belts, jewelry, hats, masks and, of course, more t-shirts. The atmosphere is very unique and adventuresome.
Our orientation last night was very basic, covering some ground rules and guidelines. The staff here is very dedicated, most of them volunteers on a long term basis; most have been or will be here for at least a year. They spoke about our mission, the progress made so far and the things that still need to be accomplished. While a large number of Camp Hope's occupants are working with Habitat, there are also quite a few from other, partnering organizations. Overall, a very interesting group of students.
Tuesday, March 17--2nd Day in NOLA
Today was a day filled with construction. We left camp at 7:00am and arrived at our worksite within about 45 minutes. Habitat for Humanity has the entire Viking Expeditions team working on one home, in the eastern New Orleans area.
The house already had a basic structure and foundation. Different groups of workers tackled projects including braces in the attack, attaching plywood to the roof, building a porch railing, and enclosing the back of the house. We have contractors on site at all times, answering questions and guiding the work. With more than forty (there is another team on our site too) people working on a site, progress happens quickly and alot was accomplished today.
Tomorrow we will begin siding the house, and finish enclosing the roof, which can then be shingled. Interior work is also beginning, with drywall arriving on site today. Most of that will go in over the next several days. With any luck, it looks like we ought to be able to get close to finishing the big projects on the house this week--very exciting news for the group.
Tonight, we've had the chance to relax and enjoy some free time. A few people--myself included--donated blood to an American Red Cross bus visiting camp and others have engaged in a very tumultuous game of Risk. This is all I have for tonight. Look for another update tomorrow--sometime after 5pm.
Credit to Heidi Vielhaber for her photos.
And the perfect way to end it...
Monday, March 16, 2009
The Viking Expeditions team arrived here at approximately 7:45am, after a nineteen hour bus ride. It goes without saying that the group was rather enthusiastic about vacating the said bus, considering the rather uncomfortable sleeping conditions we encountered. While we are on the topic of long bus rides, I would like to paint a quick picture for you...
We encountered some rain storms last night. Nothing extreme, but a rather steady downpour for the majority of our evening. As far as I am aware, the storm did not present a problem for our driver, but rain like that late at night can provide a passenger with a fairly startling realization of just how harrowing control of a bus can be. On to my story... Sometime between 4:00 and 5:00am, I awake to complete darkness, save for the headlights on the road in front of us. We are somewhere in either Alabama or Mississippi--I am not sure which, it is late and I am confused--and we are the only vehicle on the road. Everyone around me is asleep, or trying to be, and the rain is coming down in sheets. I look forward and see our driver, drumming on the steering wheel. I look in front of him and see ten feet of road, sheets of water and our light beams--nothing else. A full 360 degree scan reveals nothing. It feels like our bus is floating along in a world of wet emptiness. It was a pretty startling experience, and leads me to tossing some serious kudos up to our driver for getting us here so quickly and safely. Those were some tough conditions, especially when you (our driver, in this case) are in many ways the only person around.
So, about Camp Hope and the rest of today...
Breakfast was provided for us, in a large cafeteria type place. The food was not bad, but it also was not anything to write home about. (So, why am I writing about it?) At this point it really does not matter, most of our travelers just want to nap.
Our facility is a converted middle school. It is a rather spacious complex with several buildings. The classrooms are converted into dormitories, segregating males and females. Cleveland State's men are in Room 1 on the second floor, with the ladies in Room 25 on the first. There are shower facilities inside and outside (in trailers) of the building. They were rather cold when we arrived today, alternating between "Cool Spring Mist" and "This is what Antarctica feels like." Alas, I suppose it is better to have cold showers than none at all (or in last year's case, cold showers that are 20 minutes down the road). Tomorrow, I will try an early morning attack to see if I can discover hot water...I will be certain to post those details.
Several TV lounges, and a computer room adorn the building, so there will be plenty to do when we have downtime. We have easy internet hookups, so you can hear from me even more often. Don't hold back your excitement. Really.
Right now it is about 10:00am and we will be relaxing at Camp Hope until 1:00pm (or possibly later if the information I just received is correct.) The group really needs a few hours to recover from the journey. At 1:00(ish) we are going to New Orleans for the remainder of the day. As someone who has experienced the French Quarter, I could not be more excited. It will be fantastic to be back there again--especially with some folks who have never been.
Rob Morabito forgot to bring a towel, and I have been very entertained watching him search through piles of lost (or left) linens to find one. Nasty, nasty stuff.
This is all I have for right now. I will certainly post some New Orleans pictures--I am sure Heidi will take about 7 zillion--when we return from the city tonight, as well as update you on the happenings of the day and our plans for tomorrow. I hope you find this enlightening and informative. Spread the word...we would love to have all the readers we can get.
Until next time.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
point--trying to sleep on a noisy, uncomfortable bus.
We are rolling through Kentucky now, approximately 5 hours into our 19
hour journey. The crew just had dinner outside of Louisville at some
wonderful fast food locations.
There isn't much else to report at this point...everything as
expected. I'll be sure to update as soon as something exciting (ie,
puke on the bus) occurs.
Keep checking in.