Seattle Alternative Spring Break '12

Saturday, March 10th, 2012 & Sunday March 11th, 2012

After saying goodbye to the new friends we had made on the work site and getting a taste-test of Seattle, we settled down to prepare for the last day of the journey. It was bound to be an adventure and I can say for certain that I was not disappointed.

Our first stop: a volcano. Yes, a volcano, called Mount Rainier. While it hasn’t erupted in over 1,000 years, it is still active and poses a huge potential threat to the outlying area. We ventured to a point called Paradise and enjoyed the beautiful snow-filled scenery that the site offered and attempted to stay on our feet despite the slippery ice.

Once the cold got the best of us, it was on to the next stop: Jack in the Box. Predominately found on the West Coast, it’s a fast food restaurant that has quite a unique selection of items. From burgers to grilled cheeses to teriyaki bowls, Jack in the Box amazed me with such an odd array of food choices. This pit stop provided us with the fuel to last us until we got to the big city of Seattle.

The group traveled up the Space Needle to get a 360-degree view of the city and I must say it was breathtaking. We then headed off to Pike Place Market, which was so full of life and culture that I could’ve spent hours walking around. Fish were flying in the air and flowers were being sold almost every 20 feet that you walked. So many trinkets and chachkies were on display and for sale, and live music filled the halls with soulful jams. People were dancing and the vibe in the air was pure joy. I never wanted to leave the stores, but the growling of my stomach told me it was time to eat, and eat we did.

Pike Place Bar & Grill filled our stomachs with delicious food. Oddly enough, JW celebrated his second 21st birthday in the past two days. I had no idea someone could turn a certain age so many times, but it’s become a bit of a tradition to embarrass him with a birthday welcome from a restaurant during the spring break trips. Unlike the night before where we sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” we chose a more traditional approach at this restaurant and sang the typical “Birthday Song.” Still, it involved free cheesecake, laughter, and singing so there were no complaints.

Following the meal, we headed to the airport where we spent the next 12 hours or so either on an airplane or waiting for flights. My first red-eye flight experience wasn’t so bad, but I think I speak for everyone when I say we were truly exhausted when we finally landed back in the ‘burgh.

The sun welcomed us home, but it was a bittersweet feeling for myself. Having been on the alternative spring break trips before, it would seem as if I understand the procedure: head to the destination, volunteer and explore for a week, head home and continue on with the daily routine. It isn’t that easy though, and every time I land back in Pittsburgh I find myself wanting nothing more than to go back to the worksite.

This trip was filled with so many beautiful people that are wonderful both inside and out. They have all taught me so much about myself. To all of those people: thank you so much and please continue to make a difference both in the lives of people as well as the world. You are a motivation to all and I am so grateful to have had this experience.

I am extremely proud to say I have been a part of this group of students and that I was able to spend time working alongside so many inspirational people in Tacoma. Each of them has left an impact upon me and I can only hope to one day inspire them as much as they have motivated me.

—Kelly Cline

Friday, March 9th, 2012

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Today was our last night in Tacoma/ Seattle and with our friends from east Carolina and habitat. After our wonder full showers at the YMCA we went to dinner at Beth’s diner. Beth’s dinner is a 24hr diner that serves mostly breakfast. They are famous for the many drawings that customers have left. We left some of or own representing Pittsburgh of course.  After a great dinner with a newfound friends we visited the Space Needle. We got to walk around the gift shop and take pictures from the outside on the ground. We did not go to the top of the space needle to tonight because of the rain but we do plan on going back in the morning before our flight.  Tonight was a fun but sad day it dinner was a great way to wrap up the week with our new friends but sad that we had to say goodbye.  Hopefully we will see them again.  

—Patricia R. Gooden 

Friday, March 9th, 2012

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Reasons why I love Friday: 

1. Visible progress. Throughout the week we painted a whole house, constructed fences, set three foundations and more. Imagining the number of Habitat sites times the number of volunteers times the number of projects completed means a lot happened this week all over the place.

2. Guy’s gift. Guy, one of the project overseers and head workers, gave me a tool. This was the ultimate show of his acceptance. I may not have a future in house construction, but Guy sees my potential for some Habitat continuance in Pittsburgh.

3. Practicing Jamaican Patois. The previous day, Karly, Dale and I practiced his native language while painting. Today at the site we continued to shout random phrases to each other including a personal favorite, “Kiss me neck back.”

Reasons why I strongly dislike Friday:

1. Goodbyes. There were a lot. I didn’t want to leave any of the phenomenal people I had met on site. Thank the Lord for Facebook.

2. The end. With the goodbyes came the end of a really great mini chapter of my life. Habitat for Humanity and the opportunities of the week led me to a lot of laughs, a lot of learning, and a whole lot of wonderful.

—Zoë Sadler

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

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Thursday PM:

Today, I got named “The Queen of Cement”! Every time they needed to fill holes with cement around the fence posts they asked me to help out. And let me say….I certainly know how to mix cement the right way. It takes one 60lb. bag of cement, one shovel of loose stones, water, and some arm muscles to stir a good batch of cement! Then you carry the cement and fill it around the fence post. So I’m guessing that I’ve filled around 20 holes this week. And luckily, I’ve had some help with it!  Valerie and I made a good team the other day. Shout out to “Team Cement”! Today, I also helped out with the foundation of one house and a little bit of painting on another house. So I was all over the place doing various tasks which I loved because I like to keep busy and learn new things.

This evening after we got done at the worksite, all the girls went shopping on Broadway Street in Tacoma. It’s a cute little street with vintage clothing stores and antique stores. Then, we drove the van to Defiance Park and walked along the water and marveled at the mountains. When we got back to the church after exploring we had chips and salsa all crowded around a small table. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day because we are all together laughing and talking! I have found out some interesting things about my travel buddies. Around 9pm a big group of us met Lauren and Ryan at a restaurant called The Hub.  We had some good laughs there too!

I can’t believe this week is coming to an end and tomorrow is the last day on the worksite. I was asking Sarah today if we could stay another week and get excused from our classes. Sadly, she said that was not possible! I never thought I would hold a heavy shovel and stir cement but man was I wrong! I have learned things this week that I never thought I would learn. My muscles ache after each day but I really do love the pain because I know it came from hard work. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us!

—Anna Rhodes

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

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I’m sitting in the corner of a church basement, wearing a Bill Cosby sweater, trying to gather my thoughts on what has happened today. The rest of the group is eating chips and salsa while playing cards. I think you know where I’d rather be, so this will be short and sweet.

Today was a wonderful day in Tacoma. The weather was sunny and warm, contrary to normal Washington weather. So we finished up our second coats on the house we were painting. I got the chance to talk to the homeowner and she was really really grateful that we were there to help build her home. Another woman brought us homemade cupcakes and we all did various tasks on the houses.

The highlight of my day on site was after we finished painting, one of the construction guys, Guy, wanted us girls to set up our own scaffolding to paint the roof of the porch. I was kind of skeptical. If you’ve ever been on scaffolds, you know they’re already not very stable, but to build it yourself and then climb on it—sketchy. But as a group, we took our time to build the scaffold and all had the chance to climb up onto it. The finished product didn’t collapse, we survived, and I was proud of us.

— Valerie Macher

Wednesday, March 8th, 2012

Woken up by the alarms of my fellow travelers, I realize that I am 1. warm and 2. comfortable. The two towel, scarf, pillow pile I made last night was much more efficient than I hoped. The sun shines and the birds chirp, breakfast is made and out the door we go.

Lauren told us a few days ago that we’d be painting a house, but I had no clue just how detailed that would be. Not only the siding needed to be painted a lovely shade of avocado, but also the porch, the columns, the inside of the overhang on the roof; pretty much every crevice that will only be seen by the homeowner who decides to hang out the window and inspect their new house.

When snack break rang I looked around and saw girls up on scaffolding that was at least 30 feet in the air. I also saw fences being built and a foundation being started. It’s hard to believe by looking at our paint stained and avocado tinted faces that only half of the house is finished. Before we can even break for snack the Honey Pot-ters come to clean out our commodes. Now we can snack with a piece of mind.

When we get back out to paint it seems like only a few minutes go by when Lauren is calling us for lunch. Still perched precariously on a third story scaffold, the girls…and Sean…begin to descend. Lunch today was more of a feast. There was a local church that had members donate their time to making us food. A pastor was there to bless our food and then we really dug in. The food was incredible, but the company was better. With such a delicious smell coming from our blue house, all of the volunteers came down to lunch. We were able to talk with them and our ECU friends and learn a lot more about ourselves and the impact that Habitat has on the community.

I was really touched by the gentlemen who are there everyday donating their time to build houses for people that they may or may not ever meet.

We also got a chance to work with a homeowner today. It’s so incredible to work on a house with someone who will get to live in it!

After our feast we finished the rest of the house and started on a second coat.

When time was called we all packed into the van and headed to the Y. As usual JW has beaten us with his superior GPS device. We get in, get clean, and head out to explore some more of Tacoma.

Today we took the light rail, which is basically an aboveground subway train that you can ride FOR FREE (listen up Pittsburgh), and headed to the museum district. Once we got there some of us went into Union Station to explore some of the work of the incredible glass artist Chihuly.

After Union Station we ventured across the glass bridge (not made of glass, just decorated with it) and over to the Museum of Glass. Although it was too late for us to go in and explore we were able to look around outside at the sculptures there.

We left and went over to Ruston Way, a park that allows you to view a 180-degree scene of the Bay. We were all so engulfed by the beauty of the ocean and of Mt. Rainer that we didn’t even notice the cold…well not for long at least.

We all packed up and headed back to the church for a night of bonding, pizza, a human pyramid and loud card games. Some of us…me…even caught up on the Hunger Games!

Until tomorrow friends!
Rachel Norris

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

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This evening, after a hasty shower, we all hustled over to Broadway Street, a quaint little strip in downtown Tacoma sprinkled with vintage/antique/odds and ends shops. Sadly, many of the shops were closed, but it was still nice to get a good cup of coffee and adventure through the shops that were open. The most fascinating part of this area was “The Garage”, which is a designated graffiti area for artists. A local explained that it is an area where artists are allowed and encouraged to cover the walls with tags and spray paint. “It changes all the time,” the woman laughed while explaining it us. It was the most elaborately decorated and colorful place to park your car that I have ever seen. I really wish Pittsburgh had an area like this.

After that we went to Fireman’s park where we got to see the tallest totem pole in the country, which was pretty cool. There was also a really beautiful view of the sound and the mountains. Up till this point, we really didn’t get the chance to get a good view of the landscape and sound. There are a bunch of pictures from this that I think we’re planning on putting up. So check those out!

We also went to an out look point of the bay. This was the area where cargo ships are unloaded and reloaded. This was a little underwhelming because there really was nothing happening while we were there, but the history is still interesting. Tacoma was a major center for building ships during World War II. By 1944, Tacoma’s ship yard produced 74 vessels and employed 30,000 people, 4350 of which were women. I thought this was pretty impressive.

After a hard days work and adventuring, the fam. Returned home for dinner. As family we cooked spaghetti dinner with salad, garlic bread and cake for dessert. (Hope Lutheran was so nice, and has given us the opportunity to use their kitchen during our stay.) We invited our Habitat supervisors, Alex and Lauren, to come to dinner too. Dinner was delicious and a fun adventure. 

After dinner, a number of us decided to pull a late night movie at the dollar theatre. For 1 dollar we watched Sherlock Holms II. It was a pretty good movie, and definitely worth losing a little sleep for.

I’m looking forward to more adventures through the week!

 —Bethanne Lenhart

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

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This morning I was greeted with snow. I will say that I never expected to see snow here in Tacoma on spring break. Arriving at the frozen work site I started off moving doors into the bedrooms of lot 5 for storage so they could be hung later in the week. After moving the doors I was told to drain one of the foundations so that it would dry out and the framing for the footer could be built.  After draining water for about 15mins JW came over to help ditch the rest of the water to the pump. We ran into a small problem when the pump stopped pumping water. After some creative teamwork we managed to get the pump up and running again and finished draining the foundation. After break time I began framing up a foundation that proved to be a lot of fun and a good learning experience. While framing the foundation we had to place rebar inside the framing. This involved bending the bars and twisting a wire around them to hold the bars together. I now know that I never want to work with rebar for a living. The workday ended with Dale and I driving steaks into the ground next to the frame so that it could be leveled tomorrow.

— Ian Lupo

Monday, March 4th, 2012

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After our “groundbreaking” morning of drenched digging and other merriment, we spent a little more time at the site (I got to climb on scaffolding!) but when the day was over, we faced yet another challenge: getting 20 girls through the YMCA’s four shower stalls in under 30 minutes. What a rush. We also started the latest fashion trend – bag socks — don’t worry East Coast, if you’ve never heard of them, you’ll catch up soon, as a sneak peak is featured below. Not only do the plastic bags the Y provides for wet swimsuits ensure that our mud-laden wardrobes do not mix with our belongings, they came in handy (or should I say foot-y?) when we didn’t want to put our wet socks back on!

For the evening’s adventures, we piled in the vans and headed to a small shopping plaza that was once a train station – somewhat reminiscent of Station Square for you ‘Burghers – for dinner and some browsing in the little shops.

And when we returned to the church, as Karly mentioned, we discovered the heat, and snuggled cautiously onto our cots (they collapse pretty easily, ask JW about that one) for some well-deserved sleep in Seattle.

—Richelle Szypulski

Monday, March 5th, 2012

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Well, after hijacking Kelly’s computer to take many, unnecessary webcam photos, I’m ready to write my first blog post (newbie!) about our first day in Tacoma. Let me preface our first day in Tacoma  by saying that our first night in Tacoma was spent awake for about 80% of the night. I’m sure you’re wondering…is everyone Sleepless in Seattle? Was the group so excited they couldn’t sleep? Were our nerves getting the best of us? Well, all of those thoughts would be somewhat expected, or at least stereotypical, but instead we all laid in our beds Sunday night awake but frozen. We did not discover heat in the church we are staying in (shoutout to Hope Lutheran Church..we love your facilities! ) until Monday night so it’s just now getting a little toasty. Monday morning, though, our night spent as popsicles in our sleeping bags, prepared us for the day ahead, which was jam-packed with cold rain and hole-digging. It rained in Tacoma…who would have thought? And we had the pleasure of digging deep, deep holes. Holes that quickly filled with water. Holes that gained the nickname “ocean hole” and “boulder hole.” Holes that led to Sarah George breaking a shovel……yikes.  But we dug those holes, and we played the category game, and Sarah George managed to contain her rippling muscles and only break one shovel.   We’ll see what the broken shovel count for Sarah George is by the end of the week, I don’t mean to underestimate her self-control, but I know those mom-muscles are something of another species. I’m sure we’ll keep everyone updated on those tallies.

—Karly Shorts