Day 29 – Back Home

Sunday, April 7, 2019

After 24 hours in airplanes and airports, I finally arrived at home on Sunday evening  ( Monday morning in Saipan/Guam ).

I left the hotel in Guam at 5:15 am and arrived at the airport before 5:30.   I checked one of my bags and I was told that it would be sent all the way through to Buffalo.   We boarded a little early and we were on our way to Honolulu by 7:10 am Sunday ( 5:10 pm Saturday EST )

After ~ 7 hour flight, we arrived in Honolulu at 6:10 pm on Saturday ( 12:10 am Sunday EST  ).   I had a 2 hour layover in Honolulu and I needed it.   I arrived at gate D21 and the passengers were instructed to pick up their checked luggage from Carousel 1 and then place it on a ‘ Smart Cart ‘.  We were then directed to proceed through customs & immigration ( even though we came from a US commonwealth country to a US state ).  After clearing customs, everyone who was continuing to another destination was instructed to give their checked bags back to a United Airlines agent and then walk to the other end of the airport to clear security again.   Almost 1 hour later I cleared the security check and went back to gate D21, where the boarding process had already started for my flight to Denver, into what appeared to be the same plane from Honolulu that I had just left.

The flight to Denver took a little more than 6 hours and it left at 8:20 pm Saturday ( 2:10 am Sunday EST ) and arrived in Denver at 6:30 am Sunday ( 8:30 am Sunday EST ).

There was a 3 hour layover in Denver, so I took the opportunity to get a coffee and a small snack.   The flight to Chicago was only 2.5 hours long and I arrived in Chicago at 1 pm Sunday ( 2 pm Sunday EST )

My next flight left Chicago at 2:15 pm Sunday ( 3:15 pm Sunday EST ) and arrived in Buffalo at 4:30 pm on Sunday.

My brother picked me up at the Buffalo airport and I arrived at home shortly after 6 pm on Sunday.

In the 4 weeks that I was in Saipan, we were able to rebuild 8 roofs.   We had as few as 6 volunteers and as many as 11 volunteers working on roofs each weekday.  Currently the work for the project will end on April 26th, however, there are still hundreds of families that require assistance, so plans are being made to continue to re-build homes for another year, perhaps longer.  Most of the homes that we worked on still require walls, windows and doors in order for the people to move in, so there is a lot of work to be done.

The economy in Saipan has suffered greatly due to the 2 Typhoons that hit the island during the last 3 years and many of the homes are shared by several families, so the need is great.   Some of the volunteers have already discussed going back to continue  to help rebuilding homes and I am inclined to do the same.

Day 28 – Flight to Guam

Saturday, April 6, 2019

I woke up at 5:30 am and got ready to leave for the airport.   At 6:50, I left my room for the last time and met Jeff M, Sandy, Dan and Robert at the car.   Robert came along for the drive to the airport so that we could transfer the rental van into his name, however, we found out that he couldn’t rent the van because he had forgotten his wallet at home and although it was being mailed to the hotel in Saipan, it hadn’t arrived yet and he needed his drivers license to rent the van.  Harold had also come to the airport to extend his rental car for a few days so he gave Robert a ride back to the hotel and they would have to try another solution.

The others had checked their bags and cleared customs, but when I gave my passport to the ticket agent, he contacted a supervisor who told me that my flights had not been confirmed.   I sat down on a chair near the ticket counter and activated my cell phone to call National Travel in order to get assistance with my tickets.   It took about 15 minutes for them to correct the problem before I returned to the ticket counter and checked in.

I cleared customs without any further incidents and then met Roger, Jeff K, Sandy, Jeff M and Dan at the gate.   There were no further incidents and we arrived in Guam at 10 am.

Everyone else was continuing to the Narita airport in Japan, some of them staying there overnight,  before flying back to the mainland so I was the only one staying in Guam.   At 10:30 am, I took a taxi to the Wyndham Hotel and spent the day relaxing in anticipation of my marathon flight back home.

During my supper at the local Applebees, I was quickly reminded of the small, invisible cuts on my hands, when I got some juice on them as I squeezed lemon wedges into my ice tea.  I had worn gloves most of the time, when I handled metal or the splintered wood during the past few weeks but my gloves were too thick and cumbersome for the work I was doing and I obviously didn’t wear them enough.

During the 4 weeks in Saipan, no one had been seriously injured, which we attributed to the fact that we had prayed every morning for safety on the job site.   However, once we had forgotten to pray before starting our work and one of the volunteers injured his rib cage when he tripped.   Fortunately he hadn’t been seriously hurt but he reminded us that we hadn’t prayed, so we immediately stopped our work and prayed for continued safety.

My flight from Guam is scheduled to leave at 7:15 am Sunday morning ( Guam Time – 5:15 pm Saturday EST ) and my final flight arrives in Buffalo at 4:57 pm EST ( 6:57 am Monday morning Guam Time ) which means that I will be travelling for ~ 24 hours.




Day 27 – Saipan

Friday, April 5, 2019

By 7:00, we all left the hotel for the job site where John’s team of Sandy, Jeff, Dan and Anet were working to repair the roof for Lou.  When we got there, Anet asked me to take the following picture of the flowers on the tree at the front of Lou’s house.

As usual, we had a prayer for a safe and productive day after we had unpacked the tool trailer.  We picked up a few tools that we needed and then Robert, William and I drove to our job site at ‘ Junior’s ‘ house.

When we arrived at the job site, we found Junior sleeping after a long night of shuttling people from the airport to hotels.   We tried to keep as quiet as possible while we started installing the metal on the right side of the hip roof and secure the plywood to the walls.

At lunch time, Junior told us that he was involved in a program to support youth by teaching them car maintenance and helping them rebuild cars which were sometimes used for drag racing on the island.   Apparently, drag racing is legal but only late at night on the north end of the island and the youth would frequently race on Thursday and Friday nights at 11 pm.

By 2:30 pm we had completed installation of the metal on the right and back side of the house.

We packed up all of our tools and headed to John’s job site to put the tools in the trailer.   When we arrived there, the other team had already finished the roof on the house and had left.  Lou was very pleased with the results.  We packed our tools in the trailer and then returned to the hotel shortly after 3 pm.

Harold had told us that Ashlyn from FEMA would be at the hotel to review the expense report process with us at 4:30 pm, however, she cancelled shortly before the meeting, so we decided to have our review meeting and devotions, early.   Afterwards we went to the Spicy Thai restaurant for supper and to ‘ Scoops ‘ for some ice cream.

Robert, Dan, Jeff M, William and Anet wanted to see the drag racing, so I agreed to drive them to the north end of the island at 10:30 pm, however, when we got there, there was no racing, so we drove to the top of Suicide Cliff to get a high view of the island.   It was a clear night which allowed us to see the different areas of the island as well as experience some star-gazing.   By the time we arrived back at the hotel, it was midnight.

Roger, Jeff K, Sandy, Jeff M, Dan and I have been scheduled to fly out of Saipan on  Saturday morning at 9:15 am in order to return home and we each have long flights ahead of us this weekend.

Day 26 – Saipan

Thursday, April 4, 2019

After breakfast, I left a little early in the morning to get gas, top up the pressure in the tires of the rental van and pick up some ice for our job site.

I arrived back at the hotel at 6:50 am, in time to pick up Robert and William before driving to John’s job site to pick up some tools.   After helping John’s team unpack and picking up some tools, Robert, William and I drove to our job site to find the owner, Junior, leaving for work.   We unpacked our tools and continued to add purlins to the back and right side of the house.

Robert spent most of the time installing the purlins on the back and right-hand side of the house

as well as, installing plywood on the outside of the house to help support the roof.

William cut the wood for us and helped me rebuild the centre beam which had been damaged.

and then he added he added the hurricane straps to the purlins.

By 2:30 pm, we had the back and the right side of the roof ready for the installation of the metal sheeting.  As we were packing up, Harold arrived with Roger Sharp, Jeff Koller and  John Colvin, the new site director.

The other team of John, Sandy, Jeff, Anet and Radar finished most of the roof on the house they were working on and are close to finishing it.

By the time we left and arrived at the hotel, it was shortly after 3 pm.   Radar and Anet went swimming at one of the beaches and I went for a swim at the beach by the hotel, before taking a shower.

John, Roger and Jeff joined us for our review meeting and devotions.   Afterwards, we all went to the Country Restaurant for supper and by 8 pm we were back at the hotel.


Day 25 – Saipan

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

We all went to Lou ( short for Lourdes )  house in the morning.   John, Sandy, Jeff, Dan and Anet continued the installation of the rafters, hurricane straps and plywood support on the back half of the house.

Meanwhile Robert, William and I gathered tools for our next job site and then we cut some metal for the owner of our previous job before delivering it to him.  He was very happy with his new roof and the family had already painted the concrete walls and cleaned up the area under the new roof.

At 8:30 we  drove to the new job site, unpacked our tools and started to remove the remnants of the tarps that had been used to cover the roof, as well as,  remove the remaining metal, purlins and homemade eaves.

The homemade eaves were made from 2 x 4 that had been covered with metal so they were heavy and we had to cut them up and slowly lower them to the ground.   By 2:30 pm we had cut the overhangs in the right side and back of the house to a 12″ length and installed the first 2 rows of purlins.

We packed up our tools and were back at the hotel by 3 pm, in time for me to take a shower before driving Jeff, Sandy, William, Dan and Anet to go swimming and snorkelling at Obyan Beach.

We got back to the hotel shortly after 5 pm in plenty of time for our review meeting.  After the meeting we went to IHOP for supper, and then a few people went grocery shopping while the rest went straight back to the hotel.

Day 24 – Saipan

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

As I ate my breakfast, I was able to get a better picture of the sunrise in the morning as compared to the previous day.

After breakfast, we all headed to the site where John’s crew had been working.    As I had mentioned on a previous entry, the owner’s name is Lou and she lives next to her brother, Joe, whose house was ripped off of its foundation by Typhoon Yutu.

We continued to put up purlins on the main part of the house and plywood sheeting on the end of the house.    At 8 am we were required to go to an orientation and safety meeting with FEMA with the other groups rebuilding homes on the island.

At 9 am we returned to the house and as we started to install the metal sheets, Harold brought another volunteer, Robert Prinse, to the job site, as well as, Roger Sharp ( MDS Region 4 Chairman ) and Jeff Koller ( MDS Region 3 & 4 Operations Coordinator ).

We continued to put on the steel on the left side of the roof, stopping for a pizza lunch that Radar had picked up for us.

At 1 pm Harold picked me up to look at a new job that he wants to start tomorrow.

It’s a fixer-upper, with a hip roof and 2 shed roofs.   Fortunately the roof trusses appear to be sturdy and we may just have to install purlins and metal sheeting.

After reviewing the status of the house, we drove back to the other job site and I helped put one layer of metal sheeting on the right side of the house before we packed up the tools and headed back to the hotel at 2:30.

When we got back, Radar, Anet and William went snorkelling at Pau Pau Beach while the rest of us took showers and relaxed until our meeting at 5:30 pm.

For supper we walked the short distance to the Surf club where John took a seat in a special chair.

After supper I took Sandy, Robert and William to the JoeTen for some groceries before we returned to the hotel for the night.

Day 23 – Saipan

Monday, April 1, 2019

The sunrise in the morning was brilliant and I took a picture of it but it doesn’t quite capture the bright red colours.

In the morning, all of us drove to the house that a few of the volunteers and I had been working on during the previous week.   John and Sandy ( aka Sanford ) worked on an old section of the roof that needed be be repaired in order to connect it to the new roof.   Jeff and I put up the metal with help from Radar ( aka Dan ) and Anet, after they had finished the extra hurricane straps we had decided to install.

In the morning, Harold had picked up William Hynes, a new volunteer at the airport and at 8:30 am, he brought him to the site in order to introduce him to us before bringing him to the hotel to check in.   By 10 am William was back and helped put on the sheeting.

By 11 am we had installed all of the metal sheets and there was only trim work that was required.

At 11:30, we stopped to eat the lunch of rice, samosas, salad and chicken that had been prepared for us by the owners family.

After lunch Radar installed bolts through some of the wall supports in order to further secure the roof.    We also finished the fascia and the trim work.   John had some challenging trim work for tying the old roof that he had repaired, to the new one, but he handled it with flying colours.

At one point our generator ran out of fuel so I asked Radar if we had fuel and he told me we didn’t have any and it was already 3 pm.  I hadn’t been paying attention to the time because we were all finishing the trim work and there was always just a little more to do, so I had to apologize to the team for having them work past the normal time of 2:30.   We started to pack up the tools and the owner brought out ice cream bars for all of us in appreciation of finishing the roof.  After we finished our ice cream bars we had a prayer of dedication for the owners and their house before leaving the site.  We have collectively finished 7 roofs.

John, Radar and I drove most of the volunteers back to the hotel and then I drove Jeff to the Fire Hall to pick up a Susupe Fire Department shirt, as well as go to JoeTen to get some groceries.

After our project review and devotions, we went to the Oleai Restaurant for supper.   After supper I drove everyone back to the hotel and then I drove William and Sandy to the JoeTen in Garapan to buy some groceries.   By 8 pm we were all back at the hotel for some much needed rest.