Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sand, Mud, Prime, Eat, Repeat...

Today we spent another busy work day at Ms. Gertrude's house in the Upper Ninth Ward. We continued to sand and add mud to the drywall, a process that could really go on forever, especially if you're a perfectionist... We also primed the back bedrooms of her house in preparation for adding some color! Although the work can be tiresome, we found the energy to work for several hours, especially after realizing that Ms. Gertrude has and continues to live in the "house" we have helped build while we are working on it. For most of our group, we always thought people lived in a rental while their house was being built or in this case re-built. Unfortunately, not everyone has the resources to do so. We are excited to start texturing the walls of Ms. Gertrude's house tomorrow and watch the house transform in the next few days.

After a full morning and early afternoon of work, our team headed back to People's Volunteer House for a quick lunch, shower, and change of clothes! Lunch of course was leftovers from last night. I helped prepare last night's feast of spaghetti and garlic bread, but cooking for nine people is a little different than cooking for one. Three pounds of ground turkey and two huge boxes of pasta later, we found ourselves with a little more food than we could manage in one sitting...thus the leftovers for lunch. Also, the oven at People's has been broken for a few days, so the garlic bread was pan fried (it actually turned out very good!).

Sorry for the blogging detour on last night dinner fiasco! So, back to today. Following lunch and a short break, we loaded up the van and headed to the Northeast of People's to East Orleans. We talked with Father Vien Nguyen of Mary Queen of Vietnam Church. It was AMAZING to hear about the progress his community has made since Katrina. Over 95% of the community in the area has returned AND rebuilt. WOW! In most of the neighborhoods we have traveled through, there are still many houses that have yet to be gutted, so to hear that 95% of this community is rebuilt is a sign 0f hope for the entire New Orleans community. It can and will be done, but it takes determination, resources, and help from not only volunteers, but also community members. Their future goals include building a huge urban farm for the entire community to grow organic produce and raise their own food! Additionally, they plan to build a community health center since prior to Katrina there were 3 hospitals within 7 miles of the community and now the nearest hospital is in downtown New Orleans over 15 minutes and 20 miles from where they live. Beyond rebuilding, the Vietnamese community is working to stop the expansion of landfills in and around their property. They have been in constant legal battles with the government to clean up these dirty landfills and prevent new ones form being built in and around their homes. What a fascinating community to visit!

Tomorrow will of course bring new adventures and new stories! Hopefully we will see huge progress on Ms. Gertrude's house and the weather will allow primer and texture work to dry quickly!

Lastly tonight, I just wanted to let everyone reading know we have had three days of gorgeous weather (around 78 degrees)! Hope you're not too jealous back in MN! Talk to you all later!

Bye from New Orleans!

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