Monday, June 7, 2010

New Orleans

It was a much desired and anticipated destination, and Badger 1 was estatic to find out that New Orleans wouuld be the location of their next project. I found out when my boss made a quick site visit... he pulled out the piece of paper and handed it to me. Not the most exciting way to find out the next round, but hey, cut to the chase I suppose. Wasn't going to be so easy for my team though.

It was difficult to hold it in, because 10 minutes after my boss told me where we were going, he told my team that I knew where we were going... so of course they were on my case from then on out to know WHERE we would be going and WHAT we would be doing for the next 6 week project known as Round 2. I smiled and said... "I think you have a debrief to get done." (The debrief is about a 20 minute presentation that the team presents to the Region Staff and Directors. It highlights what we learned about the project, things that could have been better, what we liked and all the bits and pieces that go into an Americorps Round).

It took about a week, maybe a little bit longer, but the morning came where we all headed out for PT... just like EVERY other morning in Rhode Island. Morale was average, and the team was not excited to be doing another "same 'ol routine" of circuits for their PT (Physical Traning). But we headed out, did pushups, sit ups, etc for the first 30 minutes, and then I changed it up and said "lets hit the running trail." That went over well... especially since one of the girls had to pee so bad she was in pain...

Like always, I said "run together... make it tighter...stay together." It didn't take long though before the team realized this wasn't a normal run... Along the path their were clues... such as "Good bye 1-bedroom apartment" & "Hello 3-bedroom house" & "can you say couches" & "can you build a house?" The very last chalking, which I had woken up at 5:15am to post on the trail said..."We're going to.... (20 feet further up) NEW ORLEANS!!!" I had never seen the team jog that fast during a PT... now I know they can do it!

After a 1 week transition back in Perry Point, MD, our homebase, where we did our debrief (rocked it) and our project brief for New Orleans (with a little bit of a lady GAGA introduction - "RaRa RaRaRa, NO LA, NO LALA, BADGER 1 IS GOING TO, GO TO NEW ORLEANS - yes, the background music was there [and NOLA stands for New Orleans, Louisiana]), we hit the road for our 2 day venture to New Orleans. Nothing too exciting... which for a drive is generally a good thing. We stopped overnight in Alcoa, TN, just outside of Knoxville. Our hotel did not have a pool, but the one next door did, so some of the team took advantage of that. Also, most of the team had not been to Cici's Pizza before, so after we discovered there was one down the road, that's where we went for dinner. However... there was NOT a Cici's there anymore... so we drove 20 miles towards Knoxville and tried it out anyhow. A couple of the guys on the team had a pizza challenge.. I think Bob took the win with more than 25 pieces... BALLER! Steve said he stopped ONLY because there wasn't anymore pizza that he liked...

We got to New Orleans, found our 3 bedroom house, with 3 couches, a backyard and a frontyard, did some grocery shopping, and settled in - we had to be at work at 7:45am the next day.

The experience down here has been incredible. We work with Habitat for Humanity. We do a lot of different things... we unload storage units at jobsites and bring materials back to the warehouse, we help lay foundation, we frame and do everything up to the shingles and then back down to the base trim... we literally do it all. After being in an office for nearly 6 weeks, the physical labor is a welcomed change of pace. Though, with temperatures in the 80's - mid 90's daily, and humidity lingering at 80%, there is certainly an acclimation to this climate. I love the similarity of this weather to the Wisconsin summers... summertime in WI is an ultimate high for me, but the lack of fresh water around here to enjoy via beach or boat is a bit of a letdown.

We've all got GREAT farmer tans, and the need to wear steel toe boots makes it look like we're always wearing a bright white pair of sox when we take our boots off. And the grueling days in the heat do not end at 4:30 when we leave work.. we still have to go home and do PT three times a week - so after an 8-9 hour day in the sun, lifting, hammering, doing masonry work, we go workout for roughly 45 minutes... Badger 1 is DAMN tough... though the complaining that creeps in may not lead you to believe so.

Then we head home for the night, usually make some food, and just relax. A few nights we'll head out and do things on the town, but usually it's just enough time for us to relax before hitting the hay... we wish... we have cots and matress pads, not quite as soft as hay, but it works. Last week most of us got out on the town and went on a VooDoo tour, accompanied by a few drinks, it was a LOT of fun. The Celtics are in the Finals for Basketball... so a couple of the team folks head out and watch that regularly. Wednesday nights we have team meetings, so we usually put in a 12-13 hour day on Wednesdays... Tuesday is shopping night... which was awesome this week. The first thing I found for the team was a grill... so Saturday night we had a grill-out with Badger 6... hamburgers (made up of ground beef, minced mushrooms and onions, and mixed with some fajita seasoning... OMG - good), veggie burgers (ate my first one ever, and it was excellent!), and jalopeno cheddar sausages - it was great.

I've had some away time and relaxation time recently too - I had a good friend come down to New Orleans a couple weekends ago. Spent three days with him, we had a pool day at the hotel with the other TL's, which was highly enjoyable... really good to relax. The following weekend, Memorial Day weekend, I went out on a "photo tour" of the city with another TL, Sadie. She picked me up at 6am, and we hit the town with our cameras.. I have a facebook album that I'm uploading right now with all those photo's, it was great. Later that weekend Aunt Denise, Andrea and Noah made their way into town. Spent a couple of days and nights enjoying food and drinks with them, including AUDUBON PARK, which has the incredible "Tree of Life."It's magnificent!

Settling back into the groove of things now. We had two teammates in Mississippi working on the disaster relief efforts from the tornadoes that tore through Yazoo City, but they came back on Thursday... it's great having them back. The team is in high spirits, we enjoy what we do, and we're having a great time! We also have these things called "ISP's" - they are "Independent Service Projects." Basically, Corps Members (CM's) have to volunteer 80 hours in addition to what they do during the work week. IT can be at festivals, museums, etc. Well, Badger 1 is DONE as of yesterday. We may be the first team done in the ENTIRE CORPS! That means all 9 CM's have their 80 hours done... that is an additional 720 hours of service that they all did... AND we were on disaster first round, and 2 CM's were on disaster the first part of this round... it's super impressive and I'm more than proud of them... they really are a great team. In fact, one of my CM's said at our team meeint Wednesday "As far as I'm concerned, we ARE the best team, because we get the MOST done." Agreed.

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