TRIP 2007

Update #32 - November 30th
Waveland, Mississippi
11,192 miles (17,907 KM) since Jan 01st
1,249 miles (1,998 KM) since November 15

I have made the decision to get back on the road again tomorrow morning. These two weeks here at the Katrina Relief Center have been hard and I'm a bit burnt out. I can understand why they have a constant turnaround of volunteers here. It wasn't that I really worked hard but I'm burnt out emotionally from all of the negative energy here. There is one person here who I will not mention by name who isn't happy if they don't have something to either complain about or gossip to somebody else. That person also has a ton of excuses why they can't do certain things around the place. One thing that he does make sure to have is his constant cigarette breaks.

I never really was utilized like I hope that I would have been. I never got to really use the skills and talents that I have. I never really met the homeowners or the people coming to the center for assistance. I was only out on really one job site and I didn't do much since the job involved heavy lifting and was on 14 foot ladders on a house that was on 12 foot stilts. Most of the time spent here was just being a grunt finishing up tasks that people started and forgot to finish.

For the past five days, I cleaned up a huge mess in the paint tent. Whoever put the paint into the tent from the warehouse didn't even think about putting the paint into some reasonable order. There must have been 500 or more gallon cans of paint and other stuff thrown on top of 10 pallets into piles that came up to nearly chest high on me.

It took me three days to get things sorted into paints that were acrylic and those that were latex along with separating them from the different types of glosses and also between base paints and regular paints along with those used inside or outside. Yesterday and most of today, I sorted and arranged around 200 quart cans of paint and stain and put them on metal racks in the center of the tent. I was so glad to put the last can of paint in place. It will be a long time before I get another can of paint.

I've only been off the property of the compound less than a dozen times. The yard is getting kind of small and the semi-broken down metal fence around the yard seems like a very tall prison fence to me. I've got to get away. The only real people who have showed some interest in me is an elderly retired couple who have come down from Pennsylvania to help out and of course the three cats here who come and go when they want to. I have a bad case of cabin fever and I need to wide open spaces away from here to cure it.

A couple of days ago, I finally got into some kind of conversation with the director of the program. The last time I heard from her was four days earlier complaining that I wasn't fast enough for her or couldn't really read her mind as me, another guy, and her tried to put on two large tarps on top of this long army tent that had a leaky roof in a rain storm with high winds. Sometimes, I felt that she didn't even know that I was still around.

I don't know what the problem was with her not wanting to talk to me. She had no problem talking to the other people. She got into long discussions with the other volunteers in the groups. There were a few good moments when something could have been brought up but she didn't want to take the initiative. One of the things that irritated me was her constant trying to call me nicknames like "Baby" (I'm 51 and it's been a long time since I needed my diapers changed) or "Honey" (I'm wondering whether the reason why there is friction is that she is disappointed that I'm not sexually attracted to her).

It's kind of funny that my friend back in Americus told me that I must have been nuts about me coming down here after my last fiasco trying to volunteer down in this area with several other agencies last year and I should have listened to him. I'm going to have to think long and hard before I ever put myself into another situation helping out after another disaster. What the director didn't know was that I was sort of asked by some churches up in Georgia and several other states to check out this place as an advance person to see whether it be worthwhile to send a team of their people down here. I guess that you know that I'll not be sending them a good report.

Another thing that I'm tired about is the living arrangements. For the first week, I was staying in what was the master bedroom by myself. It wasn't the best situation. The room had a lot of physical issues and there were several panes of glass broken out in the window and the holes were covered with clear plastic film. The whole inside of the house was a disaster area. During the hurricane, the house was flooded and pushed off the foundation so now it couldn't be insured. This is why the owner of the house abandoned it and gave it to the center.

There was a lot of stray light and noise to deal with, people coming into the main room to talk or watch TV either late at night or early in the morning, the TV been left all night with the volume up loud, the squawking of the director's parrot, and the noise of the four dogs in the house at night. There was one small dog who always wanted to bark at me. All of the sofas was covered in dog hair. You never knew whether there might me a puddle of dog urine some place on the floor.

Sanitary facilities were downright unsanitary. Port-a-toilets would have been better than the arrangement set up. You needed to make sure to avoid a certain areas of the yard after they pumped out the septic system , which was not connected to the main city sewer system, and the waste water was piped out back of the compound and dumped in some marshland so the back woods is being made into a hazardous waste area also.

I should have known how bad things were because the first real job was to help with the digging of a large hole for them to make a makeshift and illegal septic system that didn't have the proper drainage or septic field. The water table was too low. I didn't have any idea what they would do when the 55 gallon drum would get filled with raw sewage and no chemicals were put into the drum to break down the sewage.

To take showers you had to go outside and use showers in a trailer. This water along with the water from the washing machines was allowed to drain into the back yard. The bathrooms inside had toilets but no sinks to wash your hands after going to the restroom. I'm surprised that nobody including myself have gotten sick.

A group of volunteers came down from Minnesota earlier this week and the director didn't want to put anybody in the tents until they were waterproofed. There's a big difference how the director treats the individuals who pay to come here and those who exchange their labor for room and board. It would have been too crowded in the small bedroom with four adult men including me. I've got a problem with sleeping with other people (especially other men) after the problems that I had about a year ago when I had to stay at several shelters on my trip westward since there wasn't a compassionate minister who would allow me to sleep in their church for the night. I tried to sleep in one of the offices on a sofa but there was just too much light and noise.

There wasn't much for me to do but to go out and sleep in what would have been the ladies tent. The tent isn't really that bad. This tent must have been newer since the roof didn't leak much. It's a square green tent on a raised wooden platform that might have been from either China or Russia and looks like one of the Korean tents that you saw on the TV show "Mash".

The only thing missing is the metal stove pipe sticking out the roof of the tent from the small potbelly coal stove that Hawkeye, Hunnicut, and Winchester used. Of course there isn't a gin making still. I picked out one of the eight army style folding cots, made a sandwich out of two army blankets and my 20 degree rated sleeping bag. There is a light to use, electricity, a small space heater, and I'm at the far range of the compound's wifi system. Being connected to the internet has kept me sane.

This morning one of the crews couldn't find a special drill saw that can be used in cutting holes in sheet rock. I went out to the warehouse and found it. There wasn't a vehicle around to take it to them so I took the initiative to get on my recumbent and take it to them at their job site in Bay St. Louis about seven miles away. It was such a pleasure being on my recumbent that I didn't want the ride to end.

Well, I'm going to be back on my two-wheeled steed and head out again. I've got some friends in Galveston, Texas who invited me to come and visit them. Galveston is 500 miles away from Waveland. The thing that I got to do is to try and take more than eleven days to get there since my friend doesn't arrive home from a business trip till the 11th. I'm not too sure how long I will be there. It will probably not be through the holidays. My friends are having their house remodeled and one of the mother-in-laws is over for an extended visit.

From Galveston, Texas, I'll probably be heading up to the Waco, Texas area to visit with the gentleman who is hosting my website. After Waco, I'll be turning back eastward towards Americus, Georgia traveling through the central parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. I'm not interested in tracing my trip along the Gulf of Mexico as I had ridden to get here. I'll probably arrive back in Americus sometime between the middle or end of January. Then, I'll try and take February off before thinking about starting out on next year's real mission trip, which will be my 17th.

I'll try and post and update as often as I can if my plans change. The next update should be posted between December 7th and December 14th.



Bicyclist in Sunset



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