Dec 21, 2005

i have returned...

Well, the posts have been lacking because I spent last week in New Orleans. I went with a group from my church to do disaster relief stuff. It was intense, but a very good trip. We stayed at Metarie Baptist Church and worked with the Southern Baptist disaster relief organization.

Being in New Orleans and seeing the damage there is weird. I've lived in Florida my whole life, so I've seen my fair share of hurricane damage, but what you find in New Orleans is mostly flood damage, which is completely different. For miles and miles and miles, everything is completely deserted... homes, stores, everything. It's like a ghost town. Even cars have been abandoned everywhere. And for the most part, the damage isn't all that visible from the outside. It's just that everything had been flooded, so the insides of everything (houses, buildings, cars) are waterlogged and/or rotted out. Our first few days, we went into homes that had "minimal" flood damage, which means the water levels weren't very high and it was mostly clear water as opposed to really dirty water. But in these homes that had "minimal" damage we still ripped out all their floors, trim work, and the lower-half of their drywall. At least most of their possessions were salvaged. In the other homes we did, where the water levels had been much, much higher, everything they owned was completely destroyed. We went into those homes, often for the first time since the storm and flood, and literally threw out everything these people owned. Books, blankets, clothes, furniture, computers, televisions, appliances, kitchen utensils... everything. It was all destroyed. The furniture would literally crumble as we picked it up to carry it out of the house. And the mold. Everything was covered in mold. The smell was suffocating. (Needless to say, we worked with masks and gloves all week.) The worst of it all was when we came across containers that had been holding water for the past three months. If the containers had previously been empty, it wasn't too bad (bowls and cups on shelves, etc). But if the containers had other things in them as well, such as books in one case, three months of standing water only increased the "rotting" process, so the stench was increased. The only way to explain the smell of these containers is like a fish tank that hasn't been cleaned in a very, very long time, and the fish have possibly died in it also, and as you empty the water out and the sludge on the sides of the tank is revealed the smell hits you in the face and makes you want to puke. Worse still than these small containers were the refridgerators that had been lying on their side for three months, holding old food and flood water. The team always waited until a house was almost finished to even attempt doing anything with a fridge, but in both houses where they attempted to move one, the most putrid water and smell you have ever experienced came seeping out as soon as they moved it. These attempts were quickly abandoned.

Okay, so mostly I've rambled about how gross some of the stuff was. But realistically, the damage we saw was really sad. All week I kept dwelling on the fact that material possessions really just aren't important. The biggest thought I had was that I'm glad that we were able to do this stuff for the homeowners, because we don't have the same emotional attachment to the stuff that they would have. It would be way harder for them to throw away all their things. I don't know if that came out right, but it makes sense in my head.


In other news, Rob and I have been together for a year and a month, as of yesterday. Amazing. This weekend we are spending Christmas Eve and Day with my family in Jacksonville, which should be a pretty good time. I'm nearly done with my Christmas shopping. I still have to get my mom's gift, and then I think I'm shopping a little with my mom tomorrow, after going to my dentist appointment. I'll actually make the trip to Jacksonville three times this week... today I'm riding with Kathy to pick up her wedding dress, tomorrow I have the dentist and shopping, and Rob and I will be back again on Saturday. At least it's not too much of a drive.

Anyway, now that you are up to date with random facts about my life, I'll go. Hope everyone has a great Wednesday. Later.