Getting to know New Orleans

Trip Start Jun 18, 2008
Trip End Jul 14, 2008

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Where I stayed
Tulane University

Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sorry it has been so long but here is a really long update!

Wednesday 6/25

Got breakfast at the union and met as a group to meet with people who were coming from Junebug Productions. They discussed with us the idea of entering communities by identifying with communities and identifying communities others would associate us with. These are important to contemplate when entering a foreign or unknown community. After, they explained how to do a story circle by picking a topic and starting with a personal story then going around in a circle and telling personal stories that are triggered by things other people say. They stressed not saying something just to speak. Then we split into 2 groups, did a story circle, and then made a presentation to express our common themes. They then had to cut our time a little short but said the stories will be drastically different in three weeks at the end of our trip once we know each other better. After they left we had lunch at the Union (again) and we were supposed to meet back at 2. Our professor accidentally slept through our meeting though, so we just had all afternoon to hang out and play pool in the lounge. There was an optional conference on campus but we decided a little group bonding would be better for us so we played pool all afternoon with Tamara, Bianca and Mike. Then that night some of us decided we wanted to see what Bourbon St. to see what the night life was like. There were 8 of us and we wandered around and into a couple of bars to dance. We got hit on a lot and saw some very interesting people but it wasn't too crowded because it was only Wednesday night.

Thursday 6/26

Got a bagel with hummus for breakfast at the union, then met up with everyone and headed out for the day. On our way, we had to stop at Lowes and buy work gloves for everyone, then stop and get gas, then stop so Robin and Rodney could buy cheapy shoes to do work in. We arrived at St. Augustin's Church and helped them to clean up their hall and wipe down their kitchen. Then we walked down two blocks and were blessed with pizza for lunch. We worked at a museum for the afternoon weeding and cleaning out their backyard and got to look at the museum and see some amazing original African Art. When we finished, we went to Algiers to work on older people's homes which had wind damage from the storm. We worked in Mr. Joe's house where I screwed in ceiling boards with a power screwdriver while other people installed insulation in a room that he had been renovating. It was touching to see him so elated by the work we had done for him. He said he believed that the progress would make his wife smile for the first time since Katrina. He was so full of life and dedication and perserverance. He knew he is meant to be on earth for a reason and is sticking around until he finds out why. It was wonderful to see how our company and listening to his stories really affected him. Plus, we have started to notice the southern hospitality. Everyone says hello and strikes up conversation. There is a life and survival energy of all of the people we meet who truly love the city and want to see it succeed and its legacy be known.

Friday 6/27

Woke up super early, before even the Union was open, so had to go to PJ's Coffee Shop and got coffee before headed out at 8AM. We walked for about twenty minutes over to a house where we met a woman named Momma Elma. She showed us the house that her father had built and that one of her son's now lived in. Her family supplied us with water, juice, and donuts. There was a large pile of wood and such in the back from a shed that had been destroyed by the storm and they recruited us along with Momma's son and few grandchildren. It was really fun and Momma was willing enough to have us sit at her feet and tell us all stories and read us her poetry about how she was affected by the storm. Her grandchildren were really nice and sweet kids and one of them was contemplating Ross school. We cleaned up their backyard then went back to Tulane for lunch. After lunch, we drove back to the Treme neighborhood and met someone who joined us and took us on a tour of Orleans Parish. He took us to important places like Louis Armstrong park and how it was very controversial because it was erected by tearing down eight blocks worth of black housing in Treme, an originally all black neighborhood. Then our tour guide, Al, took us to the convention center and told us about all of the horrible conditions that the people had to deal with after Katrina in the days immediately following. Then he took us out to Lake Ponchatrain and showed us all of the earthen levees. It was shocking to all of us how they expected for large hills of earth to keep out high amounts of water. Then we went to the 9th ward neighbor hood and saw how some of the houses had been completely devastated and are still sitting looking torn apart but then there are people who came back and fixed up their houses but they are some of the only ones on the block. The lower 9th is completely ravaged and had no homes left but certain foundations or porches and only one or two scattered houses. It was hard to see that these people had come back and redid their homes and yet they chose to live by themselves on their old block. It was devastating. After the tour, we came back to near campus and went to a medditerraean restaurant. Then decided to head to Bourbon street again, but it was not as fun this time because some of the clubs would not let us inside if we were not overage. The day overall though was very life changing and Al was a wonderful tour guide because he was from New Orleans and he showed us the above ground cemeteries (because the water table is too high to bury people underground). He also told us about his family and what he did during Katrina aftermath. Seeing the levees was quite enlightening too.
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