Harrison Hyland, Josh Boal, and Claire Stanley relate the importance of the connections they’ve made amid the work and rain.


 

I’m under a lot of pressure writing this blog. Mr. Chisnell and I got in a spat at the horse farm the other day so I need to earn his approval. With this added pressure I am having trouble finding where to start in this brief account of our trip through my eyes so far, but finding where to start is also tough because there are so many positive aspects of my experience I could focus on. I think one of the coolest parts so far has been seeing and being a part of new and old relationships developing.

I came into this trip already having been close to a handful of my classmates. Leading up to this trip, I expected to be spending much time with these classmates for the majority of the week. On the first day, My friend Ryan and I were separated from the bulk of our regular group of friends and put into a group comprised of mostly girls a year older than the two of us who we hadn’t spent much time within the past. The two of us were a little bummed to be split from our group (and our comfort zone) but this turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. This is for several reasons, one being its effect on my relationship with Ryan.

Now, Ryan and I have not always seen eye to eye. It’s not like we despised each other; we’ve shared the same best friends, lunch tables, and sports fields for years, but we have butted heads on occasion for one reason for another. Being thrust into a group of people in which the two of us were outsiders really helped us bond. We shared the project of power washing this sweet old lady’s house and through collaborating and frankly having a lot of time to pick each other’s brains I think we formed a closer bond. Not only did I get closer to Ryan but I also befriended much of our other group members while we were raising fences, cutting trees, and eating lunch together.

I also had the privilege of spending time with our group counselor Jen who is phenomenal. She was cool to hang out with, always had a plan, and most of all stopped me from doing anything stupid that could have endangered myself or others. Even though she labeled Ryan and I the “group smart-alecks,” she’s the best. She’s not the only chaperone I have bonded with on the trip, as Paul has been hilarious when we all get back to the boys room at night and Mr. Colavecchia seem to think on the same wave length. I’m surprised the two of us haven’t begun to say the same things at the same time in all honesty. All of the chaperones have been great and I could probably write about each one but I’ll spare you, whoever is reading this. Anyways, the relationships I have developed on this trip make me really glad I came.

–Harrison Hyland


 
Going into today, day four of the trip, I was expecting it to be the longest and most tiring day of work. I expected the soreness of the muscles, being soaked all the way through from the downpour the day before, and little sleep starting to catch up all at once, but I was completely wrong. Going to the horse ranch and working in the woods with all of my friends, it actually turned out to be my favorite day of the trip so far, and one of my most memorable days all together.

There is just something about doing hard labor, getting covered in mud head-to-toe and helping people out all while having fun with your friends, that just can’t be beat. Maybe the setting was a huge part of it. Pine forested horse ranches are definitely not the first thing I would think of when thinking about Florida, yet it was so perfect. The tall pine trees, and all the animals along with the warm Florida showers made the worksite feel calm, relaxed and just a good place in general to be. Being in this setting with my friends really made the workload of removing debris and cutting up trees seem almost fun. If that wasn’t enough to make the experience great, the fact that this was all to clear out space for the horses to be out again really made the work feel important and like you are doing something good.

The best parts of the day definitely included Timko’s new Kurtz-esque cult or colony that was started by the massive wood pile, to just petting the horses, to joking with my friends while working, and to Timko’s insane rap in the talent show. Today was just fantastic. Considering that this is my first relief trip, I seriously regret that I didn’t go the past three years. It’s definitely the days like these I will take with me and remember for a long time.

–Josh Boal


 

Waking up this morning and walking into breakfast with the pouring rain, fresh off a game of Werewolf, and ready to work on yet another wonderful Palm Coast day. The rain may have been darkening the sky but it had no chance in darkening our hopes on a new day of demolition at the mobile home site. Today’s goal was to clean out the dumpster and strip the home down to the very base.

As we pulled up, the rain showing no chance of stopping, we got straight to work on ripping the roof apart. Almost all of groups 1 and 4 had to hammer, pry, and rip the awkwardly stapled metal atop the house to lift above the awning and into the dumpster. My favorite part of today was standing in the dumpster and leading the trash crew with Julia, Jenna, and Mackenzie! We ripped all of our trash apart and jumped as hard as we could to squish everything into a mere 8 inches above the dumpster.

As we waited for the dumpster to be dragged away by the pickup truck, we took a quick sweep around the property analyzing what we can salvage, sell, and throw for the next load. But the rain showed no sign of stopping and was killing our vibe pretty fast. Our groups ran through the trailer park, across the street, and seeked shelter under the community center building to take a small lunch break. Little did we know the seniors were just starting their round of bingo and coffee! We stepped in for a minute to talk to the Palm Coast residents and warm up after our boots and gloves were sloshed with rainwater.

Shortly afterwards we returned back to our worksite, we worked out our game plan for completing the demo on the linoleum floor and bordering floorboards. The sun was finally starting to come back out and we even hoped for some tan on our fresh Michigan skin! It was warm enough once the dumpster was taken so we took a quick walk up the beach and finished our lunch feeding the seagulls and cooling off submerged in the ocean. Just the feeling of finally ripping off my work boots and feeling the breeze and salt of the ocean water–almost as liberating as jumping in the dumpster!

Another feeling that was equally rewarding was talking to Bob (the homeowner, and renowned owner of Beach Belly Bob’s sandwich shop) and other people on the street, just driving by or walking their dogs. Having them thank us, when I always see this trip as a reward to give back on an even bigger level of community service. They thank us for helping recover their lives from before the storm, when I always thank them for letting us come down and enjoy their cities- not to mention the warm weather- for a week.

Through all the bug bites, sun burns, fiberglass in my arms from insulation pick-up, and restless nights making friendship bracelets and performing in the group talent show, the amount of enjoyment I have for this trip is beyond endless. You can talk to anyone, rip apart a tree with anyone, toast a pop tart with anyone, but most importantly, become friends with anyone. I rekindled bonds with people I haven’t spoken to since my freshman year, and ripping off some linoleum tiles with them really gets the bond sealed again.

AltFeb is not just about tearing down a house, or building new fences at horse ranches, it’s also important to come back with everyone at the end of the day and play one big game of Nine Square together to remember how close a group of students can get by enjoying the gratifying feeling of completing these tasks hand in hand- or, rather, sledgehammer in sledgehammer.

–Claire Stanley