Let's imagine a day in Biloxi. I don't have to imagine it because I'm here, but I’ll help you by walking through it.
You wake up around 7 when the lights come on and breakfast is being served. You roll out of your bunk (or off of your air mattress on the floor) and groggily notice the dozens of other volunteers dragging themselves into consciousness.
Breakfast and dinner are prepared by volunteers here—the food somehow magically appears in a big kitchen (I still haven’t figured that part out) and groups of 4 or 5 sign up to prepare meals. Breakfast is usually pretty standard, lukewarm pancakes make a regular appearance, there’s cereal, and every now and again eggs or something sausage-related shows up. The groups start heading to project sites at 8.
The activity on site is pretty varied. There are volunteer leaders who run the projects, but of course the work itself can be just about anything. Things always appear to be right on the edge of chaos (in my brief experience anyway), but the leaders keep things under control just enough to get stuff done.
The Salvation army serves lunch to volunteers from Hands On Gulf Coast (us) as well as other groups in the area. Lunch is served in a tent on a big football field where we’re able to play volleyball or soccer or just kick back in the grass and enjoy the sun.
At which point I’m going to digress briefly and call out the word “sun”. For example, we don’t have rain or snowstorms right now, just warm, sunny, beautiful weather all the time. (Granted, I’m down here as a result of an adverse weather pattern, so everything isn’t always roses…).
The afternoon always seems to fly past, then we pile back into the vans and head back to headquarters. Dinner is served at 6:30 and, as mentioned, is prepared entirely by volunteers. The “Seattle Group” took over dinner tonight, so we sent a crew back from our project early to fix up an absolutely delicious enchilada feed. It was definitely the highlight meal of the week so far—thanks guys!
After dinner, there’s an all-hands meeting. First a representative from every group stands up and gives a rundown of what they worked on during the day. That rolls into general announcements and a description of the projects that are planned for the next day. The “general announcements” part can take a pretty long time. We then say hello to new people, who have to stand up and give us some personal info (who are you, where are you from, how did you find out about us, what’s your favorite 80s hair band, etc.) and goodbye to people who are leaving. It’s actually quite touching to hear from the people who are going—this experience can have a really positive impact. Most people promise to come back soon.
After a bit more miscellany, the meeting is through. Everything wraps up by 8 and quiet hours start at 10. We’ve been taking advantage of the local sights most nights (there’s a cheesy pub down the road with cheap beer and pool tables) and tend not to roll in until well after quiet hours start. A bit of reading, catching up on e-mail, and you’re done.
All in all, a pretty decent way to spend a week.
PS - To follow up to yesterday’s post, my camera repairs went roughly as well as they usually do…um…which means I’m going to be relying on other pictures for the next few days. But fear not! The picture blogs will return very soon!
PPS - This entry's a little less elaborate than I'd like because we A. took advantage of the local cheesy pub with cheap beer and pool tables and B. are on an "early crew" that leaves tomorrow morning at 6am to go drywalling!