I can't believe the experience that we've had so far down here is Louisiana... or as we call it sometimes.. Ouisy. When I was first accepted into this year's Alternative Spring Break program, I was a little nervous and unsure about what to expect. Would I know anyone else going? Did I have the ability to do the hard labor that working with Habitat would require? There were a lot of unanswered questions. But as time went on and we had our weekly Friday meetings, the trip leaders really did an AMAZING job at making us a tight knit group.
We started our journey last Saturday when we were able to have pre-trip bonding time with a sleepover at Kendra's house. From the first time we were altogether as a group, I feel like we all became sooo close really fast (Molly and I bonded over a special game of Words with Friends.. the rest is history). Our long day of travel on Sunday led to nothing but inside jokes and some crazy pictures.
Our first day (our only day off from work), we ventured out into New Orleans... aka Nawlins. We were able to take a bus tour for about 3 hours, and our tour guide was a very knowledgeable and interesting woman who experienced the effects of hurricane Katrina first hand (or as she referred to it as a man-made disaster). We were able to see the Lower 9th Ward where the effects of the disaster can still be seen today. I have never felt more emotionally connected to a situation that I wasn't actually involved with than I did while on this tour. The tragedy and its effects that changed (and ended) the lives of so many is still so prevalent in this great city. The people here have persevered and there is definite hope for a brighter future. Following the tour, we were able to experience some New Orleans culture (and delicious food!) through shopping and eating our first meal together as a group at The Market Cafe right in the city.
The past three days we have been working on site in Abita, Louisiana in Unity Square, a Habitat community in St. Tammany West parish. Since we are such a large group and there are 3 houses that are being built at the moment, we split up and each worked on a certain site. I chose to stay at the site where I started each day because seeing the work that is accomplished at the end of our taxing but very rewarding 8 hour days is astonishing. On the first day, we struggled a little getting into the swing of things, and there were some minor setbacks. But we kept moving forward. The first day, we started simply by putting the termite shields in and raking a lot of dirt... and I mean a LOT of dirt. Learning to use the tools was great, and I have to say that Nick and I are pretty skilled at using a pic axe (sp?). Today, we were able to hammer away at the floor boards, and it was amazing to see that we accomplished so much since our first day.
Tomorrow is our last day of work, and although it's sad to know that we won't be able to see our finished product first hand, it's so important that we are making such an amazing difference in people's lives. This experience has been life changing so far and I'm so happy that I've had the chance to be here. The friends that I've made here are awesome (and the chaperones are ok I guess... haha just kidding they're awesome) and I hope I am able to participate in next year's ASB!!
p.s. - a little sunburn never hurt anyone... right??