Friday, October 13, 2006

Katrina Country Mission Trip Day 5– Friday, Oct.6, 2006

Disclaimer: as if the fact that this is a personal blog doesn’t make it obvious, the opinions expressed here are solely mine, not my 11:00 church’s, not the members of my Katrina Mission team, and not the Relief Organization that ran the show. This is now a tired disclaimer, but I’m paranoid. Is anybody even reading these things anymore? Blogging every day is really exhausting, just so you know.

I’m starting to hate the Relief Organization devotionals every morning. And I feel so awful saying that, because it’s not that these people aren’t sincere, or that they didn’t go through horrible things, or that they didn’t really honestly and truly find Jesus, because I don’t doubt for a second that they did. But to hear a never-ending parade of them reduces their meaningful experiences to nothing more than a clichéd grief train running through the cafeteria twice a day.

We’re excited that it’s our last work day, but man, I’m tired enough that I don’t wanna get out of the car when we get to the site. “You are not the boss of me! You are not the boss of me!” I chant to Native Chick. “I’m gonna need to start drinking now if you’re gonna be like that.” Native Chick jokes. It becomes the running gag of the day, and I add a little booty shakin’ move to it. “You are not the boss of me! You are not the boss of me!” T-Roller promptly identifies it as the Teletubby Dance, which I’ve never seen and am horrified that my booty shakin’ moves are akin to them. Though I was trying to imitate a two year old at the time. Maybe that's where they get it.

I pray for us before we go into the house, and it’s my usual Amy style prayer, “Hi God, it’s us. The Crew Of Destruction.” I pray that God keeps us safe today, “no stepping on nails, no bonking on heads.” that the time goes quickly and that we use it productively. Everyone seems to like the prayer and off we get suited up and then the Chaplains pull up. Now we have to stop and pray AGAIN because they’re here and they want to. It’s rude to say “Umm, we already did, thanks.” So we circle up again and they pray, “Sweet Jesus, please watch over these faithful workers…” the style of prayer is night and day.

Native Chick and I decide we’re gonna tackle the front bathroom, which is the biggest disaster, as you can see here. I saw Native Chick at a home group meeting last night, and she said “I realized that you’ve been with me working in three of the most disgusting bathrooms ever” for various service projects we’ve crewed up for during the year.” “It’s like we need a tiara or something.” I joke.

So we poke out the plaster, we pull down the insulation (which is thicker, and either moldy grey, or pink panther thick. But very thick nonetheless.) We pull out the nails, we truck out the debris via wheelbarrow.

Do you know where roaches live in your house? I do. And it’s not on the floor like you think. No, they hang in the corners between the walls and ceiling. We’ve seen so many bugs that it doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m not a freaker of roaches in general, so I just mutter to them. Move along, move along, no, you can’t stay here, I’m pulling down all your shelter. If roaches were Christian, I’d start praying now. There’s a few baby frogs in the tub, the size of your pinkie, and they keep hopping and hopping to get out, but the side of the tub are too tall for them. Ahhhh, metaphor for my life, har de har har.

Native Chick and I find ourselves staring at the bathroom tile wall in the bathroom. “How do you think it should come out?” “I think we’re gonna have to whack it from the front.” And so we do, with a sledgehammer. We trade off every two whacks, because the sledgehammer is that heavy. It’s somewhat satisfying to crack the tile, like satisfying your inner juvie delinquent, or the drunken frat boy that EVERYONE has inside them, but the tile is f’ing HEAVY, man. Not a picnic to cart it all outside.

We break for lunch (Powerbars for me), and the chaplains come back around and pray for us AGAIN, for the food. I totally feel like I’m kicking my grandma here. You can tell they’re trying so hard to reach out and connect with us, but that generation gap is just SO wide. When they’re telling us about the people they’ve met on their walks, they always preface the phrase “black man” with a polite adjective, so as not to seem racist. They meet “A very nice black man,” “a polite black man,” “a well spoken black man.” This one man (“ a well dressed black man”) invited them into his house to show them all the renovations he’s done to the house. He’s already a Christian though, so they don’t get another notch in their saved belt.

We’re just about to suit up after lunch when the owners Brett and Liz show up. They’re a black couple (“a smiling friendly” black couple) in their mid 30s. He was so excited to get the box of pictures that Fearless Leader rescued from the closet “Some of those are from high school and my wife hasn’t even seen ‘em.” He had a collection of watches that he pulled from the wreckage when he snuck back in two weeks after the Hurricane, but looters came through and got most of them. Fearless Leader has also found a Fossil watch he had pulled from inside the wall, and Brett is happy to get that as well.

After visiting time, we finish up the work. The bathroom now looks like this. I did that. With Native Chick. Yay us!

We go back to Base Camp, sweating in the rental van (Thank God it’s a rental van.) As we’re turning in our tools for the final check in, Mike the foreman checks out our respirator filters and throws them away “What were you guys doing, rolling around in it?” We get showered and changed, and head out to the Quarter.

And there’s not a lot of people out for 8pm at night. Just the fact that we could park IN the Quarter (on Decatur street, a few blocks away from Jackson Square) is amazing in and of itself. Me and Native Chick lead everyone to the Tropical Isle, so I can get my Hand Grenade drink. Giggly instantly gets buzzed off half of one, making her the SuperGiggler.

There’s hardly anybody in the Tropical Isle, no audience for the lonely little guitar singer. I’ve been here for Mardi Gras more than once with my college crew, and you usually had to push and shove your way to the bar, avoiding gropy college guys, slurring college girls, beads, plastic cups, football egos, what have you. And now it’s this.

I take pictures, of the empty Tropical Isle, of the near empty street outside. I don’t think it’s spooky (it would be spooky if the Quarter itself had been flooded and bodies in the gutter), but it is a little weird.

Brett wants to help us out for helping out his house, so we meet him at the western end of the Quarter, where his buddy is the chef at a chi chi fou fou restaurant. We wait in the ally behind the restaurant, and he brings out a pan of Barbeque Shrimp and a pan of rosemary biscuits for us. YAAAAAAAAY!

We all jump in the back to Brett’s pickup truck, driving through the alleys of the French Quarter to the Moonwalk (Which I’ve always called Riverwalk and apparently am grossly mistaken.), hunker down on a patch of grass for an impromptu picnic, and dig in. And it’s all sorts of yummers good.

And I think that’s what it’s all about. There’s no way you could’ve planned something like a Barbeque and rosemary biscuit picnic by the river. You just take it as it unexpectedly comes to you. And I absolutely think it counts as a blessing from God. It’s not the same as trolling the streets, shoving Bibles in peoples’ hands. It’s not the same as sharing your testimony over morning grits. But it still counts. And I much prefer it to anything else.


Carlen said...

I've been reading EVERY DAY. I've loved all of it. :)

Peter said...

i read it all too! i like when you talk about food best.

Alexa said...

i laugh and i agree.