Return to Idaho and ongoing Kauai Reflections


Team Smidge, Susan, Joe, Ann, and Susan.
Trim work, sawing, caulking, painting, hanging doors, power nailing.

Last week at this time, I was enjoying the tropical climate of Kauai.  After dropping a couple of our teammates at the airport, the remaining few headed to the beach to snorkel, soak up the sun and take mental snapshots of the scenic ocean one more time.

My return home was pleasant and tinged with excitement about a new chapter in my career as I join the High Performance Computing research team writing grants at BSU.  I was also anxious to spend time with my daughters as Jen is on her way to New Zealand, and Molly starting a new life in Portland, Oregon

Yet, I miss my teammates and the daily interactions.  I miss walking out to the kitchen to see the early morning crew reading or working on their computers, and then at night hearing the laughter of the night owls playing cards.  I miss chasing the sunrises or sunsets with our team, particularly Pat, rating them on scale of 1-10 and discussing why we gave it a certain score.

There has been a nice flow of emails, reflections, thank you notes, and our team leader, Rick, sent a booklet of pictures with commentary that had me falling of the couch laughing.

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Jessica, volunteer coordinator; Bob, construction superintendent; Cynthia, ReStore manager.

Daily I recall sparkly moments, such as:

  • Jessica’s lively laugh and knowledge of the island, learning about the Hawaiian culture and people.
  • The Rooster Chorus.
  • Bob the builder’s broad smile and humor.
  • Mara and I nailing hurricane straps on the work-site.
  •  Introducing Mara, Paul, Pat, Maria,and Nancy to spiritual face poses.

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    Maria, Susan, Nancy, an infamous spiritual face pose

  • The ukulele jam concert with Nancy, Paul, Drew and me on the banjo.
  • Kate and I talked about breaking difficult moments in our lives to write “little glimmers” of our stories.
  •  Hauling our rain-soaked bodies in and out of the van during our tour of Waimea Canyon.
  • Hanapepe Friday Night Art Festival, strolling, eating at least 6 inch high mango pie, excellent music and art.
  • The cute young couple who bought a chilled coconut for us to try during a lunch break.

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    Charming young couple that bought us a chilled coconut to sample.

  • A ride with volunteers in their convertible red mustang with the top down to lunch on the beach.
  • Nancy’s quest to buy a mighty fine ukulele and multiple visits to the Kauai coffee plantation.
  • Working with Joe, Susan, and Ann as we fine-tuned our smidge technique to install floor molding.

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    Ukulele gal, Nancy

Before going to Kauai, I told my friends that I felt it might be my last build.  One reason based on a concern that still plagues me, even after over 20 years of time with Habitat.  My building skills are still limited; can I really make a dent and be useful on the work-site?  Yet, I have already committed to joining Rick and Stephanie for a build in Taos, New Mexico next fall.  I also would like to return to Kauai and specifically volunteer in the ReStore.

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Part of the Best Team Ever!

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Rick and Stephanie, the best leaders ever!

Habitat Global Villages include people who enjoy travel, want to experience a country beyond that of a tourist, and give something back.   Our outward focused goals always take a distinct turn, as the gift of what we receive from the host country and each other is greater than what we give.

We become recipients of grace, hope, and humor as we share stories about our families, friends, jobs, successes and dark moments in our lives.  Each Habitat build has unique occurrences, and the team-members are fascinating with interesting stories and lives.  Kauai Habitat was special and the team extraordinary.


Reflections, last Saturday in Kauai

SAM_2773Saturday, November 16, after a luxurious swim/snorkel beach time,  our team split into two groups with a larger faction taking the Napali coastline cruise.

The remaining four, Nancy, Pat, Susan and myself toured the Kauai coffee plantation, and shopped a bit.SAM_2779

Later, we checked out Poipu beach where a  large sea turtle had crawled ashore to rest.   Earlier in the week, we had the opportunity to swim with a turtle which was a thrilling experience.

We treated ourselves to a happy hour hors d’oeuvres, fluffy, sugary mango drinks and then chased a gorgeous sunset.SAM_2785

By  9:26 pm our time three of our team has already departed.  Rick, Kate, Nancy, Paul lounged at the kitchen table, and Susan and Pat  kitchen visiting.  Maria and Barb on the couch discussed  books.  I rallied and stayed up late Saturday evening to play a competitive  game of dominoes with Maria, Nancy, and Pat.

The end of a Habitat build always sneaks up.  Months and weeks before the build the anticipation grows daily as preparation for the gathering begins.  At the beginning, the days seem to stretch out in front of us.  We wonder what the workload will be and hope that we can provide a useful, skilled dent in the build process.

Then suddenly our build time is over and members of our team begin to peel out.  While our electronic age allows connection with family and friends back home, I still experienced moments where I nearly forgot I had another life in Idaho.20131112_132641 (1)

Kauai:  I am going to miss looking out the back window, seeing the mountains and on some days the rain clouds draping down the hills.  And from the front yard the view of the ocean.  I struggled at times with the tropical heat and sun, though I had some reprieve with clouds, cool evenings, and even a rainy day.   However, in 2 weeks, I grew accustomed to the lush green of the land, open space, fresh air and being close to the ocean.  I enjoyed snorkeling and swimming in the ocean.  I brought my banjo with me and played publicly which is living a long time dream.

The on site constructions managers supplied patient, supportive instructions as they assigned work tasks to our team. I appreciated learning to use a variety of SAM_2786power tools, exercise math and measurement skills as we finished the trim on one house.

 As in my prior builds,  I leave our two-week Kauai, Hawaii Global Village experience feeling that I belong to a big family.  I plan to continue with Habitat for Humanity and advocate for decent, affordable housing.  SAM_2702

Time Warp – Friday November 15 already!

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Nearly full moon at the beach Mahalo dinner.

The now predictable flow of traffic and chorus of roosters at 4 am signal another incredible day in Kauai.  I dozed until 5:30 and then followed the rich smell of freshly brewed coffee to the kitchen where the usual early morning folks, Barb, Susan, Joe, Ann and Rick have gathered.

Usually I remain in my room for a bit, but this morning ventured out to the living room to blog where a code of silence exists until about, well, 5:30 am when Ms Nancy enters the room (in all fairness, she honored the quiet time successfully this morning.)

Today is Friday, our last build day and the week has flown by in a blur of building, island touring, snorkeling, eating, sharing photos, laughing, and our ukulele/banjo jam session.

Ms Nancy receiving instructions.

Ms Nancy receiving instructions.

Last night, Thursday, was the Mahalo gathering at the beach with Kauai Affiliate staff, construction managers, families and our team. For our last workday, we split our team again between the rehab home to finish detail work while others travel to the Anahola work site to work on the (32)

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The majority of our group will leave the warm, moist, tropical Kauai environment and plunge into winter, so we cling to the warmth.  However, a few will return to sunny states such as Arizona and Texas.

Time feels suspended. The rhythm of the island has tucked and lulled us all into a soothing existence.  Our skin is soft and hair fluffy from the moisture and big smiles are the order of the day as we anticipate the fun of attending a traditional Hawaiian Luau this evening.

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Team Kauai, Fall 2013

photo (21)For this build we are located in a Habitat neighborhood and staying in SAM_2715a house currently retained by the Kauai affiliate for volunteer teams.

Past builds, our teams have stayed in hotels, and in Belfast, Northern Ireland a retreat center.

Renting the house has significantly decreased the cost of the trip, and the team organized to cook 90 percent of our meals.  We bunk 3 to a bedroom, have a comfortable living roomkitchen area, and a porch with a view of the ocean.

Backyard view, mountains on the horizon and coffee plantation located behind the barrier.

Backyard view, mountains on the horizon and coffee plantation located behind the barrier.

I can already tell I am going to miss interacting and being around this group of folks.  What we all have in common is a desire to travel and participate in activity, such as volunteering for Habitat Builds, that works with the community to give something back.

We all have our quirks, routines, distinct personalities, stories, have snippy, tired irritable moments, and yet the cohesiveness of our team is quite remarkable. And I am going to miss each person terribly.



Our massive shoe collection.

Saturday Build with the Habitat Families

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November 9, 2013

The usual morning cacophony of rooster chorus signaled a new Habitat build day in Kauai was about to begin.  At times, we heard solos by the usual players, Pavarotti, Tiny Tim, and John Denver. Occasionally we got lucky as they gathered their cock-a-doodle-do resources in harmonic chorus.

Day 4 on the work sites in Anahola, Hawaii, about a 45 minute drive from our home base.

I woke up groggy, low on energy and sensed that many of our team felt the same.  My concerns that the sun and heat would be difficult to handle eased up a bit as the sky was fairly cloudy and the air felt cooler.   Once we reached the site our group divided between two homes, and I remained at the one that had the roof partially on.

Quite a bit of the work on both homes required work on ladders, scaffolding on the roof. I felt discouraged because of the low energy, groggy feeling I did not trust myself off the ground today to scale a ladder or scaffolding.   The work-site leaders are terrific though and had tasks for the “ground crew.”

Mara and I were assigned to cut the base wood from the bottom of the door frames and use a new type of saw – a sawzall.  photo (10)After that was hammer time to install hurricane straps throughout the framing, and again we had an assignment on the ground.   During the installation the rain began and the roofers had to come exit their slippery location.  The light, misty rain soon turned to a downpour.

We gathered for a delicious lunch and home-made bread by a couple of the homeowners. One of the family members, Ness, educated our group on a variety of the trees and vegetation.  After lunch, back to work which did not last long due to increased clouds and additional downpour.

At 2:30 pm we called it a day, piled our wet, red soil soaked bodies back in the van and headed home.



Day 2 and 3 Kauai Habitat for Humanity Build

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Roosters and Chickens on the beach.

Wednesday, Day 2 of work  – I opted to stay at the ReStore with a few others from our team.

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Painted Doors

Well, I am not expecting any sympathy while working in Hawaiian paradise while winter descends on Idaho. However, the heat is a bit difficult to handle at times, even in this lush tropical world.  

Of course the sun feels terrific when snorkeling. 

Meanwhile, our team painted doors, molding and continued to sort and arrange the massive amounts of items at the store.  My experience on past Habitat work sites is to paint everything by hand and not use a paint sprayer.   In some cases brushes are used because paint sprayers are not available or too expensive to rent.  Painting by hand further ensures volunteers will have a job when they spend a weekend on a Habitat build.  

Consequently, I had not yet learned how to effectively paint with a sprayer, and enjoyed using  one for the first time on the lovely island of Kauai. Later I went inside and Cynthia assigned a couple of projects sorting through art and picture frames.

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Painted Trim

Thursday, Day 3  – we all woke up to the usual chorus of Roosters vying for best crow of the year award.  Pavarotti, Tiny Tim, and now a new one I named, John Denver Rooster,  because he has clear, strong voice, pitched a bit higher than Pavarotti.

Four of our team joined construction leader Mark and his daughter Sarah to work on a Rehab project in a quiet neighborhood close to the ocean.    A three-bedroom home that will house a multigenerational gathering of a least six families.VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Day 1: Work at the Kauai Habitat ReStore

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Lovely Sunrise

November 5, 2013

Our team started the day with an excellent early morning orientation by the volunteer coordinator, Jessica, on Kauai’s affordable housing issues unique to the Island.  The Kauai affiliate builds new homes, has rehab projects and assists existing homeowners with repairs to stay in their homes.

Because of the economic crises, existing homeowners struggle to afford household repairs.  Gratifying to learn of a Habitat Affiliate successfully extending its volunteer support and resources  to assist current homeowners experiencing financial distress.

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Inside of the Restore

Then off to the Kauai Habitat ReStore.   After our days of beach and relaxation our energized team feels ready to work.   It is an impressive operation taking in household goods, clothing, as well as building material, lawn mowers, weedwackers, paint, flooring, rows of nuts and bolts, tools – an abundance of stuff!

The Restore is in a constant state of rearrangement working to get the merchandise organized in order for  customers to easily shop.

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One of the projects, we loaded unusable material into the truck.

The day ended with another delicious dinner prepared by two of our team members followed by excellent conversation with two AmeriCorps volunteers, Mike and Drew.  AmeriCorps folks are impressive, bright, talented young people; Mike and Drew contain all of those traits as well as humor, kind hearts and adventurous spirits.

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Partial look at one of the receiving bays.