Check-in, Tuesday, June 17th, 2008. Sitting in my apartment in New Orleans.
I'm here in NOLA helping the rebuild effort. This weekend will mark the second month of my stay. I've been learning, working, teaching, leading crews, making friends, building homes. I've been growing up at an exponential rate. It's funny what living and working in a disaster zone will do to ya.
I work with an organization called Lowernine.org - a small NPO that provides free labor to disaster-struck residents. Provided that the homeowner can buy the materials, we will go in and do everything necessary for them to acquire an occupancy permit. I came down here with 10 months of carpentry experience and began doing small skilled jobs at any house that needed me. What was supposed to be a trip of 3 weeks was quickly extended to just over a month.
Then it's late April and I get this crazy idea - why not come back down for the summer? Free housing and food, the work is incredible, the people are amazing, and for once I actually feel like I have a calling. But wait, it gets better. I could pack up all my shit and MOVE OUT, and actually move to the beautiful city of New Orleans. And so I loaded up Bertha (that's my van) and made the 1550 mile trip down.
Fast forward to the present. My current position is a Crew Leader at a particular house. This essentially means that I am in charge of seeing this job through to completion. I work mostly with short-term volunteers who more often than not come here unskilled. I teach them what to do, and make sure they don't fuck it up, basically. Some of them are great workers, and others are the kind who you remember for weeks as you're fixing the stupid things they did wrong or forgot. Fortunately, we do get good work done.
The question I hear most often these days is "How long you gonna be here, Ryan?" And it's a great one. Who knows? I certainly don't. But I will put it this way - I have plenty to see and more to do before I ever return to Newton, MA. So i'ma be here a while anyway.
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