My name is Rebecca Norstrom and I am down in New Orleans with Gracenotes building homes though habitat for humanity.  We are working on four homes in East Orleans.  All four homes are in different stages of completion.  It has been interesting learning the various stages of construction, I feel like I’ve gained a whole new skill set and vocabulary.  If I happen to find myself on a job site in the future and someone asks me to hand them a piece of OSB board I’ll know what to look for.  Or if someone needs help blocking, I’ll be able to assist and actually understand what it is and why it is needed.  I’ll be looking at construction differently now, through a whole new set of educated eyes.

I never took notice of siding until now.  After several hours of measuring, leveling and nail gunning siding on a roof top to a section of the house that is only viewable from the neighbor’s drive way, I developed a whole new appreciation for carpenters.  The patience and thoroughness that goes in to siding a home is huge!  I found myself wanting each piece of siding to measure and look perfect, after all I was working on someone’s future home.  I kept thinking if this was my home, I’d want it to look perfect.

Although I was fortunate to use a nail gun on certain siding areas of the house, the majority of our work was done with a good ol’ fashion hammer.  There is something symbolic about building a home without the use of power drills, almost a greater sense of satisfaction and achievement.  It is rewarding to see the gains you make on the home each day and to know that each day you are closer to finishing it for a family in need.

Our site leaders, Vu, Ben and Chris have been delightful.  So patient at explaining and teaching us what needs to be done for the day.  I really admire habitat’s philosophy of “giving up” rather than “giving out”.  All future home owners must put in 150 hours of building before they can qualify for a land lot and home.  Once they qualify they then have to complete another 150 hours to total 300 hours of work.  I like this concept, it not only helps the future home owners gain a greater appreciation of what goes in to building a house but also provides them the skill set to fix small repairs if needed.

We were blessed to meet the future home owners yesterday on the job site.  It was such a treat to be able to show the owners of the home the tasks we were working on and work on projects together.  They were so appreciative of our work and you could see how proud they are of becoming home owners.  This experience really helped solidify the purpose of our trip.

We had one day to explore the city and boy did we explore.  6 miles on foot of exploring!  We started off at Cafe Du Monde and had their famous beignets.  Delicious!  Their Cafe Au Lait is an absolute must.  Next we walked through Jackson square and the French market and took the cable car to explore the garden district and Lafayette cemetery.  The garden district was lovely, gorgeous homes and gardens.  The cemetery was fascinating with all the tomb stones above ground.  Makes you realize how New Orleans is either at sea level or just below, not even a small little hill in site!

The food in New Orleans is like no other; I see why people of Louisiana are proud of their cuisine.  We’ve indulged in just about everything famous from New Orleans; gumbo, jambalaya, po’boys, oysters, crawfish, alligator…you name it, we’ve eaten it. Thankfully (or hopefully!) we’ve been able burn off most of the extra calories on the job site.

They were not kidding when someone told me music is everywhere in New Orleans.  Just about every 10 feet music is permeating through the streets.  Whether it be from a jazz club, bar or some guy sitting on a park bench playing his saxophone.  We got the opportunity to spot a famous musician.  We were all very excited about this and only one thing could be articulated, “Holy banana Christ”!  Music and musicians fill the streets of New Orleans, yet another characteristic that makes this beautiful city so unique.

I was in New Orleans many years ago for a few sort days.  My experience and priorities were very different then.  I am so fortunate to been given the opportunity to help rebuild the city of New Orleans and see this special and charming city through adult eyes.  The group has been such a pleasure to get to know and our trip leader is simply the best!  My only regret is that we can’t stay longer to build.  Four days in you get this momentum and determination to see a house to its completion, plus I am getting use to and liking the hot Louisiana sun!  However, I am grateful for what were we able to accomplish and feel proud of our work.  Thank you so very much Gracenotes; this certainly has been experience that has provided several fond memories and life lessons that I will remember forever.

Rebecca Norstrom
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