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Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Adventures with All Hands

I have been working with All Hands Volunteers since the last week of January, when I met my awesome coworkers; my amazing yet quirky boss Andrew, my groovy development soul sister Kat, the tech genius who does not use any social media site J. Hatter, beer loving guru of disaster recovery J. Horan, communications extraordinaire and wizard of life Aaron, finical master with a huge heart Dominique, and the man who brought us all together with his will to make the world better David. 

I arrived in New Orleans, proudly wearing my Project Tohoku t-shirt not knowing what to expect.  As I sat in the backseat chatting with my new co-workers I was quickly put at ease when they called me out after in the middle of sentence, pausing then saying shoot instead of shit.  They laughed, and said did you really just pause and not curse.  You know working at All Hands is just like being on project, we are a bit rough around the edges, can handle communal living, and working hard if it means empowering volunteers to help communities following a natural disaster.  From that moment on I knew my job would be like none other I ever neither had nor could imagine ever having.   

Three months flew by and I received the word I would going to Cagayan de Oro, Philippines the "City of Golden Friendship" for my first international project. I was excited and nervous, I would be now be on the staff side and not the volunteer side, plus I would be meeting coworkers I had only emailed for the first time. 

When I walked out of the tiny airport I was flagged with requests to be my taxi driver, I nodded to one and was relieved he knew exactly where my home for the next three weeks was and sat back in the comfort of air condition which I would now only feel when I went to into town.   I had arrived at 5am so the house we still quiet, I put my things down and curled up on the couch until people started stirring.  The first hello was from Mike, as he walked from his room to the bathroom in his boxers, next was Loc a familiar face from Japan, a few new people, and then I felt something land in my lap it was Toby-san my frienemy from Japan as well. 

It was familiar yet completely new, bunk beds but only 15 of them instead of 40, bucket showers but this time cold instead of hot, breakfast, lunch and dinner but no dishes, a free box and a laundry box since we paid someone to do our washing.  It felt good to be adult summer camp again. 

My first day in the field, was a half day and so was my second, and boy was body thankful for it.  90 degree heat and not much shade you are dripping in sweat in a matter of moments even before you start working.  I felt inspired and amazed at the fact that my job was helping volunteers to donate their time, blood, sweat, labor to help people who lost so much.  I joined their sides painting and framing the lid for a septic tank.  Little did I know that my first full day in the field would be “helping” to dig one?  They are about 6 feet tall and about 6 feet wide, and I probably dug and cleared only about ½ a foot of dirt, because I had to do more watching then acting since I felt like I was going to die.  People were to kind and kept saying I would do better because it was my first full day, I was and still am not to certain because I have yet to work another full day. I am going to try to do at least one and do half days for the rest of this whole week, so I can say I did more than make friends and work on my computer all day even though that is what my job description requires me to do. 

I will let you know how it goes and other interesting things about my trip soon.  

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