Alex Agbulos Alternative Spring Break 2019

Throughout ASB, our team did flooring. There’s nothing fancy to it – you just lay some floor boards down and because of their tongue and groove application, they connect like a puzzle. Although an effective design, the installation process is meticulous since not every piece is connected due to the unflushed floor, scattered debris, underlinement installation, odd angles, replacing damaged rows and incorrectly cut pieces. Since other dimensions are involved i.e. the utility room and kitchen entrance, members cannot simply lay down full-sized boards, then cut the difference of the remaining space –instead, a starting pattern was devised to accommodate the rooms perpendicular to the floor and to prevent ourselves from cutting pieces smaller than 6 inches because anything less would be susceptible to cracks. As a group, we learned to compensate for each other’s strengths and weaknesses and by combining our efforts, communication was flawless.

Another job we covered was casing out windows. Admittedly, I was confused with the process but that was overthinking on my part. However, all it took was grabbing some lumber, measuring the length and width of both bottom and top casings, then trimming it with either cross saw or table saw, depending on the measured cut. Measurements had to be exact as possible; if not, caulking or wood glue would be applied but the closer the casings are, the less work and time spent to finish the windows. It might have been helpful if I had asked what kind of wood we were installing because although it is just tedious work, the details are worth noting i.e. not all wood is the same just like not all pipes. The wrong type of wood (i.e. wrong species, wrong hardwood mill, etc.) can cost the construction timeline to move back even further than it already has for the past 7 years.

In all, about 95% of the floor was completed but unfortunately, I was unable to complete the 1st Bedroom’s window casing. Nevertheless, nobody died of food poisoning or went missing in the middle of manhunt so in all, I’d say this was an overall success.

I feel it’s safe to say that everyone was enlightened after the trip. Obviously, ice-breakers were awkward and not everyone can learn each other’s names in one night (or several, despite prior instances), especially if you don’t understand why. Before now, I constantly moved and I hated it because it felt lonelier each time. Maybe it’s because I have trouble accepting life’s impermanence or because I become attached to the people I care about. Life’s easier when you’re apathetic. Depending on your line of work, maybe you’ve noticed it too where certain colleagues act that way because in business, emotions cost you. You deal with snakes so much eventually you learn that any act of kindness makes you vulnerable and potentially weak. A friend of mine agrees and he proves some valid points – but we’ll table that discussion for another time.

The reason why I hated moving was because it felt like I never had a place to call home. It seems bizarre since I’m from a working middle-class family, with a roof over my head, food, clothes, electricity, water and family 24/7 while others are not as fortunate but it’s not that simple. An idea we discussed in our reflections was vulnerability and identity and although “corny”, these are complex ideologies that form the bigger picture of our actions. These homeowners are aware of an inevitable storm, yet they simply cannot ‘move on’ because they are attached not to their homes but their soul. They’ve lived their best and worst memories in these homes, kept photo albums, valuable family artifacts, celebrated birthdays, holidays, graduations, anything worth celebrating with the people they care about – all gone, because of something not in their control. Especially when you’ve lived a major part of your life there, home is home, regardless of the conditions. True, it’s “the people, not the place” but what do you call home when you don’t have much company and that place is all you have?

Victor Frankl wrote: “We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matter is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Although our efforts may turn out to be a disappointment due to another storm or perhaps a job done incorrectly, there is no greater cliché than to say that I hope our work and our words inspire the next set of volunteers because frankly each of us have an education and although it’s not always perfect, we should always value the people we meet and learn from because one day, their story might teach you something you were too arrogant to understand. They will change your life.

I’m thankful to Tyler, Dan, Blake, Jay, Brett, Jackie, Madeline, Kristina, Rachael, Emily, Julianne, Breanna, Ashley, Noelani, Jaida, Samantha, Sandra, Karen, and the St. Bernard Project.

I’d also like to thank Nelly and others who have inspired me to “Do something with my life…” because when you are faced with something that’s bigger than you, you’re going to have decide what kind of person you are going to be. You might fail at it spectacularly which is not okay (I don’t want to say it is or that it gets better because it might not. If anything, it’ll get worse or even worse.) But if you accept it, own it, and handle it right, it will become a catalyst for a better you.

I may not have looked so appreciative towards the end of the night but that’s really because I hate goodbyes. I know these things are ephemeral and in the end, everyone moves on. But I’m glad I made this choice. I’m glad I didn’t waste my Spring Break. I’m glad I met all of you and I hope that anyone still reading finds a group just as ‘dehydrated’ because you won’t regret it. To ALL of you, I wish only the best in your endeavors. Take care of yourselves. Always have a ‘white-belt’ mentality. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Use your ‘I feel’ statements. Cheers.