Attention all: when sanding drywall, keep mouth closed and safety goggles on.Also, when hammering in the rain, expect to be splashed and do not be surprised when your box of nails gives out on you and leaves a soggy mess in its place.
These are just some of the examples of my construction learning curve; it is a constant process and one that I enjoy immensely.We have been working at three different job sites with Faith Communities for Disaster Relief since Tuesday:
·Patricia's house - one bedroom, one bathroom, plywood floor, no kitchen; she and her sister live there, with 3 and 2 children respectively, for a total of 7 people; she does not have a car or speak English; her 2 year old son was currently sick with a stomach virus.
I learned most of this, along with the fact that she most wished for a washing machine, through my conversation with her in my broken Spanish and her sign language.I had been elected as the ground guide for the ladder/roof work and therefore had an easy time making her acquaintance.Looking around, I was surprised to feel quite comfortable in her home but now I realize it was her attitude that made the interactions so pleasant.
·Maria's house - three bedroom, one bathroom, tile floor, kitchen overrun with water damage/mold; she, a daughter and a few grandchildren live there full time with other family members coming and going; she understands and speaks a few words of English and is generous with hot chocolate and tamales.
I accompanied Roland, one of our site supervisors who is interestingly, a beginning Methodist preacher, to her house on the first day to scope out the situation.It appeared that her family had been doing pretty well before the hurricane struck but it was the need for major repairs that broke the bank and put them on the list for help from this organization.Two foot high mold on every wall made it clear that there had been serious flooding.Without central air or heat (they keep their gas cook top on for heat), little ventilation and time had compounded matters to the point that all Roland and I could do was spray Clorox and hope for the best.The next day, four of us went out and moved furniture, tore out dry wall, cut new and replaced it.Next step: mudding and sanding!
·House #3 - Unfortunately, the family living here is quite skittish and we have not been able to get a lot of information regarding their personal lives.I do know that they live in a pretty active neighborhood with homes ranging from a two bedroom to a trailer that you could pull behind a car.They have at least 4 cats always hanging around outside, a small dog in a cage fashioned out of a utility trailer and a variety of other feral dogs roaming about beyond the driveway.
We are insulating, putting up drywall and roofing a section of the house that seems to have been an addition around the time of the hurricane.The work goes best when two to three people are focusing on a task and it goes the worst when all eleven of us are trying to take turns on one mini project.One of my highlights so far has been tarring the roof with Andrea and Don, our other site supervisor.Yes, it was raining and yes, we were up there to fix a leak.I realize these are not ideal working conditions to be on a roof but here is the silver lining!If it hadn't had rained, which is does not do often in south Texas, we wouldn't have known there was a leak until it was too late.And let me tell you, having the knowledge to fix a leaky roof with your own two hands is powerful indeed.
I also enjoyed being up there because it meant that I got to spend more one-on-one time with Don, a 66-year old from the U.P. of Michigan!!For those family members out there, he reminds me exactly of Uncle Bill - kind of shy, with a heart of gold and always with a twinkle in his eye.And if I had to give one word to describe him I would say "patient" because I cannot imagine how frustrating it must be for a man of his experience to have to teach a bunch of novices the basics every few months.He has actually been doing disaster relief construction for most of his career, commuting back and forth to his farm in Newberry.Unfortunately however, his move to Texas is now permanent as he just sold his farm last year after the loss of his wife.He is making adorable efforts to fit in however, telling us about his forays into the country western dance hall dating scene!This, of course, fills me with joy while filling my teammates with laughter (at me)… need it be said that my love for Texas culture is quite a running joke?
I really love it here overall actually.I think it's clear that the most stimulating parts of my day are speaking with the homeowners as we work.Although one or two of my teammates know more Spanish than I do, I'm the only one with no fear when it comes to trying a bit of conversation.As a result, my Spanish improves daily and it only gets more exciting as I learn more vocabulary and make more connections.Some may say that I'm overzealous (I made everyone label items in our living spaces with Spanish vocab equivalents) but hey, I've become the go-to person when a translator is needed.I think that's an accomplishment and I think that it can only make our work more meaningful.