Monday, November 2, 2009

Alea Iacta Est II

Round Two, Fight.

I'm wracking my brain right now, trying to find something that will tie the not so amusing events together, rather than hop scotching from big moment to moment, but it might just have to be that way. Take what you can get.

The Sunshine State became the destination. I remember this initially being met with reluctant exuberance, especially when we began researching where we were actually going. This whole time we'd been built up to believe that the Gulf Coast was still in shambles and needed a fuckton of help. Staying in MD first round and working at school compounded our frustrations and I can't say they were helped when we realized we were headed to extremely affluent, Atlantic coast Vero Beach, FL. But you're not encouraged to ask reasonable questions like, "Why aren't we building in the Gulf?" The line that must be towed seems to be "shut-up-and-do-a-consistently-mediocre-job-while-maintaining-a-creepily-positive-attitude." I'm the idiot who thought bureaucratic government system would function in another way.
Some source of the reluctance came from the fact that 2 of my team members were from Florida and a lot of people on the team had been there. Yet, the reluctance was met with some motivation by the fact that we were finally building--one of the primary reasons why I joined.
Vero Beach has a lot of money. Oslo, FL and Fellsmere, FL don't. That's where we worked, but lived in Vero. The drive down was a little annoying with my team leader giddily forcing us to stop at state lines to take pictures, but what can you do, except stew?
For the week and change I was in Florida it was pretty great. Even though we were staying in old FEMA trailers behind the Habitat warehouse, basically submarine quarters, there was a fantastic lounge with TV/DVD, full kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, etc. The days on the jobsite were decent. New skills didn't come so readily as the Indian River Habitat for Humanity like to build. A lot. Everything was quite rushed and there really didn't seem to be a lot time for questions or teaching moments on the jobsite. They were doing 60 homes a year and trying to ramp up to 100. The other Habitat affiliates I worked with were lucky to do 10. This is due to a ton of money and huge volunteer population with all the retired snow birds. In all, it was pretty great just being exposed to that environment. 2pm thunderstorms and fire ants and all.
Easily, the best part of Vero was the proximity to water. We lived 3 miles from the beach. I've never been a beach guy, that's how it is with fat kids. You end up swimming in your t-shirt because it helps with your self consciousness, but you end up looking worse. Coming out of the water you end up looking like a plastic bag of milk. It sucks, so you just don't go. Or you just don't go until you finally lose a bit of weight, stop giving a shit and decide that one of the fantastically simple moments of your life is finally discovering the sensation of how sunburned back feels. Or could that even be a base tan? Either way in the 9ish days I lived in FL, I think I went to the beach 5 times. Amazing. We'd put up hardyboard siding on houses(a concrete based vinyl siding alternative used a lot in the south) all morning and into the afternoon, pack up during the 2pm thunderstorm, drive home and hit the waves. That life is none too fucking bad. Until there was a phone call from Maryland. Mother nature decided to piss on the Mountaineers.
In mid-May there were some terrible rains in West Virginia and consequently quite a bit of flooding. So much so that parts of West Virginia were declared federal disaster areas. You didn't hear about this because it was in fucking West Virginia. We didn't hear about it either, not even that it was water based, at least not until the day after two girls and myself got off the plane back in Maryland.
Obviously I was really enjoying Florida, but at the time my adventure bug was biting. My working and social relationship was tenuous at best with my team leader, not made any better when she would essentially steal the van without telling to go on "manatee hunting missions." Leaving really seemed like right path to choose.
In the span of about 19 hours we were alerted to the fact that there was a disaster the 3 of us would be responding to in WV and put on a plane back to MD. They did this with 2-3 people from the other 16 teams from our campus. It was weird though, the day after we flew back we had the day off, which obviously prompted us to ask "Was this that bad of a disaster?" This was done with internal monologue or hushed voices in dark corners as to not alert anyone that we were using our cerebral cortexes independently.
4 composite teams were formed. Vans and support trucks were assigned. Some tools were checked out. Extra coveralls, gloves and paper masks were issued. After a pep talk we barreled to the mountains. Then the story gets good. And smells slightly of shit.