My name is Maria and I am this year’s trip leader for the Gracenotes Habitat for Humanity week in New Orleans. After two days in the birthplace of jazz I finally have a moment to sit down and write some thoughts.
Yesterday, we took a day to explore the city and get to know each other. We decided to take one of those hop on/hop off tour buses around the city to get the lay of the land. Despite some often colorful (and perhaps not always accurate) dialogue from our guide it was a lot of fun. We got off in the Garden District, which is the “fancier” part of town. The houses are just beautiful there with overly tall windows, columns, and lush landscaping. It seemed that wherever we walked the scent of flowers was in the air. We stopped by Lafayette Cemetary #1, which is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. Because of the water table crypts are used instead of graves. Many of them have beautiful carvings or statues and most were from the 1800s or early 1900s. A few of us strolled down the trendy Magazine Street where others headed off to galleries and Mardis Gras World to see the floats of parades past. In the evening we enjoyed the local cuisine and then took in a show at Preservation Hall, which was truly amazing. It was opened in 1961 to preserve traditional New Orleans style jazz, and boy does it ever. The musicians were fantastic and we were all dancing in our seats. All in all it was a wonderful and full day. It was so nice to have some time to get to know everyone on the trip before we started work.
Today we were up early and at the work site by 7:45am. Our house is in the 7th ward was a good way along when we arrived. I spent the day with Benai nailing in supports for the walls and caulking windows and trim. I forgot how hard it is to swing a hammer and my right arm was pretty much shot after about an hour. (I have so much respect for builders!) Although the work is strenuous, after a busy spring in the office it is such a refreshing change of pace to be physically working outside. Neighbors say hello as they pass by and there is a gentleman two doors down who lets us fill our water bottles from his hose. We were reminded that the area is still in flux when at the end of the day two under cover cops drove up and stopped two men walking by our house. They frisked them, checked in our dumpster and ended up driving away without making an arrest. Our build leader is named Evan. She is an Americorps volunteer with lots of spunk and an equal amount of patience. She works Ben, who was actually the build leader when I was here three or four years ago. Funny enough he remembered our group and could even recite all the projects we worked on!
I am looking forward to another delicious meal with the team tonight, then early to bed to get ready for another work day tomorrow.