marathoner452: (rebirth)
New Orleans has the highest murder rate in in the United States, twice as dangerous as Detroit and Baltimore.  95 per 100,000.  Detroit is 46 and Baltimore is 45, and those are the cities the rest of my family lives near and sees on the news all the time.  We're also the second most dangerous city in the world, behind Caracas, Venezuela.  I also live in one of the more dangerous neighborhoods of New Orleans.  I like to shock people by telling them I live in the 9th Ward, like the kindergarten aide at the faculty meeting this afternoon who's a New Orleans native.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself and ask if this is really my life.  Three years ago I was fresh out of college and back living in very safe and comfortable Hampstead, Maryland, working as an AmeriCorps VISTA.  I could safely go out for a run at 11 pm.  Then I came down to New Orleans for what was supposedly just a volunteer trip in March 2006 and, as D. would say, New Orleans had "somethin' to say" about me ever leaving.  As they say, "New Orleans chooses you."  I live in the 9th Ward and teach at a school named hope.

I never had romantic ideals of New Orleans, never spent spring afternoons sipping coffee in a courtyard in the Quarter or at Jazz Fest or riding the streetcar down St. Charles.  Heck, the St. Charles streetcar wasn't even running when I came to visit and the Canal Street streetcar just ran as far as Claiborne and was free 'cause hardly anyone was visiting.  My first Mardi Gras was spent at the St. Anne parade through the neighborhood followed by dinner at Sugar Park.  My first impression of New Orleans was from the Claiborne bridge down into the Lower 9th Ward.  But jeez, I never expected to have a drive-by shooting 2 doors down on a Sunday evening.

In more positive news, Chicago came to visit and brought us cake this time.  If only all faculty meetings consisted of 6 layer lemon cake.
marathoner452: (Default)

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children's mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother's milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive

- Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn

marathoner452: (Default)
How do you flip pictures 90* so they're not lying on their side?

On that note, my flight leaves at 7:25 tomorrow morning so I'm off to bed.  I'll be back New Orleans, I promise!
marathoner452: (Default)
You can start here.  Donate your time or resources.  Come and visit.  Recover Rebuild ReNew Orleans.

D., I broke the rules.  I heard more tragic stories tonight.  It's hard not to when you're workin' in the Lower 9. 

If you know where I can rent or buy a reasonably-priced videocamera, please let me know.  I go to Emergency Communities every Saturday to work and to listen to stories, but these stories need, nay, deserve, a wider audience.
marathoner452: (katrina relief)
When I got the last seat on the plane in Chicago, last stop before New Orleans, the woman I had had to climb over turned to me and said, "Where have you been?  We've been waiting for you."  Welcome back to New Orleans, how was your vacation, it's been way too long and we've been waiting for you.

I took a much-needed almost day off yesterday.  I pulled a muscle either having too much fun on Mardi Gras or lifting too many boxes of orange juice and cambros of chicken alfredo.  So instead of chopping squash and strawberries and potatoes and serving all of the above to hundreds of residents and volunteers, I spent most of the day in bed reading Soul Kitchen and most of the night taking a real shower and hanging out at Sugar Park until 1 in the morning.  You need a change in scenery every once in awhile.  It's not going to do anyone any good if I get burned out from hearing so many "I was there when the levees broke and I was in the Superdome for 6 days" stories.  I think the breaking point was the gut I went on a few days ago.  The downstairs of this man's house had already been gutted, but then the roof leaked into the upstairs bedroom where he and his wife went to escape the floodwaters when the levee broke.  Had to be a major trigger for him.  We threw debris, his books and clothes and magazines and carpet, out the window that he climbed out of to be rescued.  He showed us how high the floodwaters were, where neighbors of his lived who didn't make it.  When I needed a break pulling insulation out of the ceiling I just stood by that window and tried to imagine 125 mph winds and 14 feet of water instead of a beautiful sunny day.  Fortunately, here and now the sunny days win most of the time.

I want to hear the stories, need to hear the stories because the residents here need someone to listen and to care and because people back in Maryland need to get as angry about this as I am, as invested in the future of New Orleans.  But sometimes it's too many stories all at once and you need a break.  Now I'm ready to get back in the game.  Perfect timing because tomorrow night's red beans and rice.  Of course it is, it'll be Monday in New Orleans.

So life is for living and right now life is good.  It's not always easy, but I'm where I need to be.
marathoner452: (Default)
Last year for Christmas I'd been training for 2 marathons for 6 months and asked for almost all running gear-socks, shoes, clothes, gels, training diary, race entry fees, heart rate monitor.  It's amazing how much stuff there is to buy for a sport that is supposedly so simple, one foot in front of the other.

This year I asked for a Saints hat, fleur-de-lis earrings, a Poppy Z. Brite book, and Fats Domino and Dirty Dozen Brass Band CDs.  I got my first digital camera and my first thought was that next time I go back in February for Mardi Gras and gutting houses I'll be able to take more pictures than last time and maybe start to impress upon my family and friends what's still happening down there.  In March I let the New Orleans bug bite me, and now I'm infected and there's no not going back.

January 13th I take the PRAXIS I.  February 14th I fly back to New Orleans.  Next fall, I move down there for good and start with my teacher education coursework.

What a difference a year makes.


[profile] roadwarrior220, I can't get my mom to make up her mind about a good day for Bahama Breeze/hanging out, so let's tentatively say the 26th because that's usually a mellow day in our family Christmas.  Let me know if that doesn't work for you, and I'll let you know if I hear different.

[profile] ratkrycek, I got your text message from Dulles.  I want to hear all about your trip as soon as you're ready.
marathoner452: (Default)
This is as much for my future reference as for anyone else.

I'm planning on going back in February for Mardi Gras. My sister leaves for school up in New York on February 12th (Monday), and I'm thinking I'll fly down to New Orleans on Wednesday or Thursday, whenever I can get the best rates. I'll stay for about two weeks, volunteering with Hands On to gut houses or whatever else they need at that point. I'm thinking fly home on or around March 1st-once again, date to be determined by when I can get the cheapest flight.

I'd love to stay for more than 2 weeks, but I need to be subbing to keep the money coming in. Also, I'm really hoping to get started on teacher education classes this winter/spring, so I won't be able to take unlimited time off from school. And once I become a certificated teacher, maybe I can move down there for good. Maybe.

I'll be there for Mardi Gras and the Mardi Gras Marathon. You're welcome to join me for any portion of that time. Not only can they still use your help, it's a lot of fun. This'll be my third trip in the past year, and it'd be more if I didn't have to work (silly work).

marathoner452: (Default)

That sums up my experience down in New Orleans more than any story I could tell you or any picture I could show you, and that's why I'll keep fighting for the people down there and keep telling my stories in hopes that more people outside of the Gulf Coast will realize that New Orleans is NOT OKAY. Not back to normal, either, no matter what they might show you in the news, or rather NOT show you. Just because the Garden District is pretty much back to normal and the French Quarter is all spiffed up and they had Mardi Gras does not mean everything is okey-dokey. 

For one thing, bureaucracy is keeping the levees from being fortified in time for hurricane season, which starts in 55 days.

For another thing, if you drive through St. Bernard Parish, you can still see stuff like this.  7 months later.  If us disaster relief workers who helped out down there need a mental health screening before we come home, I can only imagine what the people down there are going through.  Hats off to you.

Beyond that, there just are no words.


On a different note, Adam and I went to Copeland's in Columbia, Maryland today.  I got a hurricane made with the last of the mix on the premises, crawfish etouffee, and white chocolate bread pudding.  The hurricane wasn't nearly as strong as the ones I had down there, thank goodness, but they did serve it in the right glass.  Plus, where else can you find crawfish or anyone who even knows what etouffee is around here?  Anyone else who wants to try a little New Orleans food, let me know.  Michelle, you're getting there whether you like it or not, though I imagine you won't protest.

I love the kids over at Kemptown Elementary.  They were rather a disaster in and of themselves back at February's flood safety presentation, but they were so much fun today.  One of the girls saw my Katrina hat and told me about her cousins who are hurricane survivors and had the shirts to prove it.  Another girl grew up in Texas and knew all about tornadoes, but wanted to know why houses in the Dallas area don't have basements.  Water table too high, maybe?  Or possibly they're too expensive?  You got me, I gotta do some research.  Besides, there was at least a tornado watch out on Monday night (right during our hurricane debriefing), so the kids were extra-attentive.  They realized that what I was telling them was important.

Not including the Walkersville presentation Betty gave on Wednesday (she hasn't gotten me the numbers on that yet), here's my progress towards my goal of reaching 700 kids this month:  

Stupid word meter thingie isn't working.  Here's a link. 

I think that's enough for now.

marathoner452: (Default)
I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but in case any of you haven't been reading my journal, here's another reminder that New Orleans is NOT OKAY, despite what you may have heard on the news:

I'd also like to point you in the direction of [profile] roadwarrior220's new community [profile] betherevolution if you're an idealist looking some passionate discussion about social justice kinds of issues. I highly recommend it.



marathoner452: (Default)

May 2010

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