Wednesday, May 25, 2011

These roofs are huge! What happened to a simple A-Frame roof?

We successfully explored Houston this past weekend.  We all went down and checked out the Museum district.  There were tons of people out, and we ended up just walking around the different parks.  It was gorgeous and super relaxing just to hang out and not do anything.

We started trying to get into the swing of this tarping thing this week.  It is proving difficult.  Our Sponsor wants us to get up to completing four roofs today, but so far the most we have done is two.  If the roofs were single tarp projects, I think we could most definitely get that many done.  However, when its multiple large sections we have to overlap, which takes more time.  Unfortunately, we just aren't as good as professional contractors, so I am shooting for getting twenty done total.

We have had the opportunity to work for some really gracious people, and I am sure we will continue to meet similar people.  Yesterday, the whole team was able to go work on a home where an 80 year old great grandmother lived.  She recently had both hips replaced, and she was moving around the yard better than some of us.  She showed a few of us her dog and two new puppies, as well as her garden and grapefruit tree.  She was so proud  and thankful of everything she had.  She told us that she had all the help she needed to get her roof fixed, just not enough money.  We tried to help her as best as we could, but its obvious she has some pretty extensive damage that might never be fixed.  It is sad and yet awesome to see people who have so little or are in need of such great things, but are thankful beyond all of their problems for family, friends, their home, and any help they receive.

I am so looking forward to this weekend.  Arlyn and Madison will be arriving on Friday, and I cannot wait.  A visit from them is just what I need after not being able to help Chris celebrate his birthday.  Their presence and positivity will be what helps me make it through eight more weeks.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

TomTom, You Suck

We arrived in Houston on Wednesday.  This place is HUGE.  I am definitely not going to be relocating to this area. 

We are staying in the Lutheran Church's Family Life Center.  It's a nice facility with a huge kitchen and an indoor basketball court.  Unfortunately, we have a babysitter every night from 6-10, and she has been less than hospitable; turning the lights and a/c off on us, fussing at us for going in rooms other than the two we have to sleep in.  Seems a bit ridiculous that she is so harsh, but we are only here for 3 weeks, so we will deal with it.

We started work on Thursday morning with an orientation the the Neighborhood Centers, Inc.  We learned all about the organization and what it is involved in within the community.  It is basically a community development organization with several different branches, including early childhood, asset development, and senior centers.  The branch that we are working with is Disaster Recovery, implemented in 2008 in response to Hurricane Ike.  This program has been working to repair the homes of victim's, primarily roofing repairs.  There were over 11,000 people affected by the hurricane in the area and just over 1000 have been fully helped.  While here, we will be working on homes replacing their temporary tarps because they do not have the funding right now to repair the roofs completely.  The tarps will hopefully sustain the homeowners through this next hurricane season.

On Friday an Army Corps of Engineers employee came to train my team in how to put the tarps up on the roofs.  We went through a slide show, which seemed simple enough, and then went out to the first house.  It was ridiculous.  The house had three different pitches, so four valleys, which made the tarping extremely tedious and difficult.  It was a very slow process for all of us, since the Engineer was unable to be physically on the premises due to government policy.  I think once we get a routine going it will be far easier for us and go much faster.  Right now they would like for us to do 100 houses, however, we will really have to pick up the pace for that to happen without anyone experienced to help us.

This weekend we are going to explore the Houston area a little more.  Annie, Emma, and I have already gone on quite the adventure this morning just looking for an open post office.  Madison and Chris, expect some mail this week!  This afternoon we plan on going down to the museum district to check stuff out there.  Emma and I are planning on going to the science museum for sure, they have interactive exhibits that I am really excited about.  I have spent the morning looking and applying for jobs in South Carolina.  Keep your fingers crossed that someone wants to hire me!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Round 4: Taking it to the End

We left Denver for Round 4 yesterday.  My final round!  I am so close to being done with this program, and I am scrambling to find future employment.  (Spread the word and my resume)

For our final project I am back with my permanent team, minus two members.  Josh and Louise joined a composite team that stayed behind in Colorado to take on a last minute project.  The rest of us are on our way to Houston, Texas until June 8th.  We will be working with Harris County Neighborhood Centers, Inc. replacing old tarps on 99 houses that were damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008.  The Center has run out of funding to continue providing the support that the city needs, so a donor has provided all of the supplies, and my team will be providing the labor.  This is considered a disaster response project, so it is cool to have the opportunity to do something disaster related, since I was under the impression that I would get to at some point anyways.

After our project in Houston, we are schedule to go down to Big Bend National Park.  There we will be camping for the duration of the round and helping with tread work regarding drainage and water run off as well as helping with the restoration of a historical site.  Two of my teammates spent their shuffle round in Big Bend, so they are familiar with the work and the camping situation.  We will most likely be spending at least a week back country camping, which I'm not thrilled about, but it's a growing experience right? 

There is a possibility that we will get pulled for disaster while in Big Bend, especially with all of the flooding that is going on in Louisiana from the Mississippi.  If this happens, we will be working 6 days a week, 10 hours a day.  It would be an intense experience, but one that most of the time is interested in having.  Our campus already has 8 teams deployed on disaster so far.

While in Houston, I will be receiving mail at the office.  Once in Big Bend, I will still be able to receive mail, but most likely at a much slower rate.  However, I encourage you all to write to me.  I loved the cards and letters I received last round in Oklahoma.  They truly made my day most days.  While in Big Bend, I will have very limited access to the internet, but while I am in Houston, I will do my best to keep the blog updated and y'all updated on my next move.

Love and miss y'all! 12 weeks until I am home

Round 3: Lots of Rain, 2 Tornado Warnings, No Bears

Round 4 was interesting to say the least.  We stayed at a beautiful campsite on Cedar Lake.  We had three campsites and the Forest Service provided us with a camper to cook and store items.  The view of the lake was a wonderful site to come home to everyday.  The weather was less than cooperative.  It rained a lot, sometimes days at a time, and there were tons of tornado warnings during this time also.
The work was challenging.  Some days we were very busy and others we were very bored.  We completed over 23 miles of trail work, which included tread work, brushing, and blazing.  We worked on a variety of trails including hiking, ATV, and equestrian trails.  The forest was beautiful and even in the rain, I still enjoyed walking in the forest.  We did not receive No Trace certification, but we did receive chainsaw training.  All of my team are now on the Apprentice level as Sawyers, which is cool, but not so useful in my future endeavors probably.

I loved my shuffle team, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to be with several of my friends during this experience.  We enjoyed working together and sharing the experience of camping together for eight weeks.  We spent time going to Poteau to grocery shop and go out to eat.  We spent time on the lake and played A LOT of cards.  We were invited by our supervisor to a local Native American Pow Wow and also attended the Heavener Lamplight Jamboree, which reminded me of the Grand Ol' Opry.
For Spring Break (a long weekend)  I was able to go into Oklahoma City and spend time with Chris.  It was definitely a break that I needed.  It was so nice to sleep in a bed and not have to walk 100 yards to shower or go to the bathroom.  We enjoyed one another's company and just lounged around for most of the weekend.  However, we did go out to dinner, see a movie, go to the bookstore, and go to the Science Musuem while I was there.
Overall the experience was positive, but I was definitely ready to get back to Denver and get the last round underway.  We had a difficult time getting enough work from our sponsor, and the bad weather was taking a toll on our team morale.