Tuesday, October 30, 2007

getting started

We've been in New Orleans for two full days, and we're settling in nicely. On Sunday we did chores and finished setting up our bunk bed area. We like our compact space-its simple and fun, and we’re right by the window.

My Sunday chores included a trip to the Verizon store. My cell phone - the one Erika and I are both using these days - died midway through Mississippi. It was a strange new kind of broken, and one that resulted in the irretrievable loss of all of the phone numbers stored in our cell phone contact list. Consequently, we can now call only the two phone numbers we still have memorized: our parents. If you are not they, please send us your phone numbers! E-mail us, call us, text us your name so we'll know it's you and can save the “unknown number” accordingly! My/our cell number is the same. Thanks in advance!

On Monday we started our projects! Erika’s rebuilding Miss Evelyn’s house, a two-storey Victorian. Miss Evelyn couldn’t get back into the city for months after the storm, and when she finally did she discovered that the storm had blown her roof off. Rain had been collecting in the house during her absence, ruining the interior. The house has been stripped to the studs now, but the volunteers were miraculously able to save some of the original wood details (which are very nice).

Erika accomplished a lot on Monday. She patched a big hole in the wall by installing new siding (slow but satisfying work), then cleared scrap wood from the house. Using a big car-style jack, she then jacked up a corner of the house to make it level (which was totally exciting). The end of the day found Erika tiered but satisfied. It will take some time to adjust to doing this kind of labor again - this is no desk job!

I’m currently staffing the library at a K-8th grade charter school not far from where we’re staying. Hands On volunteers established the library about a year ago, raising money and collecting donations of books. Prior to that, the school had no library and the book-to-child ratio in the neighborhood was something like one book for every twenty-four children. Today, I’d guess that the library’s got about 7,000 books-hooray! The shelving system seems to be a bit haphazard, so I’m reorganizing.

It’s disheartening to see how many children are reading well below grade level. Only two or three kids have checked out the kind of books I would expect them to be reading at their respective ages and grades, and I’ve only met one kid reading books I would consider advanced for her grade. There's a fourth-grade reading group that meets in the library every morning. Most of them couldn't make it through a Berenstain Bears book.

In spite of this melancholy reality, it's a pretty fun place to be. The kids are high-energy and friendly, and the novelty of the library has definitely not worn off. There also really excited about Halloween tomorrow. They get to wear their costumes to school, and most of the teachers (including me) will be giving out candy in their classrooms. I've stocked up on almond Hershey Kisses and Tootsie Rolls.

We're also excited about Halloween in New Orleans -- it's supposed to be quite the festival! This evening we went out for ice cream with a bunch of our fellow volunteers, and most of the houses we walked past were already decorated. The large stately mansions, many of which sport decorative gas lamps on their porches, and the enormous live oaks arching over the boulevard make for a very spooky setting indeed!

1 comment:

Reed said...

Thanks for the updates. Good to hear from you, although the labor and the reality are certainly going to take some getting used to. I will email contact information. Let me know if your cell phone number changes, or if you ported the number. Take care both of you. Love - Sue and I.