Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gustav journals

8/30 at 5:24pm

So I just got the call, Gustav is coming and I start working tomorrow at 5:00am. I'm sitting here watching the news, waiting. I already packed my bag, hid everything in my closet, taped my windows etc. Someone should be here shortly to put tarps over our windows. Right now, all i have left to do is wait. Gustav, now a category 4 storm, should hit the LA shores at Monday at 1 pm. Tomorrow at 4 am, contraflow will start, and I believe at 8 am the mandatory evacuation will begin. Most people have already evacuated. Over 8,000 inmates, the second largest prisoner evacuation in the state's history were already evacuated. Most of the hospitals and nursing homes have already evacuated. All of the schools have shut down and most of the tourists have left because the hotels are closed. I went into the French Quarter last night and there was barely anyone around. We were almost the only ones out on the streets. Two of my roommates have left already as well as most of my neighbors. It's fucking scary here, God help the people of New Orleans.

8/30 at 8:59pm

So I just met my neighbor Tharren. He used to live across the street from us while he was rebuilding his home. Fuck man, he just moved back into his home after three years, and now he's packing up again. Some way to meet your neighbor! I also met my neighbor Joe. He said he's trying to figure out a place to go. Our unnamed neighbor "the tough ass" said he's going to wait until tomorrow to see what he's doing. Nagin said "this is the mother of all storms." Basically the worst numbers I've heard is that Katrina was 400 miles across and Gustav is 900 miles across. This is going to get bad. The only tolerable piece of information that I have gotten is the fact that the tourists have gotten out, the people in hospitals and nursing homes are out, the prisoners are out, over 15,000 were evacuated today with the help of the public evacuation service, and countless others left by their own means.

8/30 at 10:49pm

I just finished repacking my bags. It's hard to see things and wonder, am I ever going to see this again? Who knows if my home will even be standing when I next see it. I don't even know how I would feel if this was my home for years. I am just not looking forward to tomorrow. I have a feeling there will be a lot of desperate people there, simply trying to get the fuck out. There may also be some crazies there, or some mentally disabled from ptsd from Katrina. Most of the folks here just moved back into their homes, or are still living in trailers. I just keep thinking about all of those who are staying. Yes it's their decision, no it's not the right one, but I still feel for them. They are still humans, and still deserve to live. These people have gone through enough. Although the government may be prepared to deal with the storm this time around, mother nature is a bitch and you can't control her. I just keep thinking about all the people I have met down here, and keep thinking, will they get out? Will I ever see them again?

I'm back, and a little less busy

So I've realized I haven't posting in a long long while. How unfair of me! To you, possibly the one blog reader out there reading this, I have neglected you and to that I apologize. I escaped from Gustav, spent 15 hours in the car to get to Atlanta, 24 hours there and then 8 hours to get back to my lovely NOLA, helped people re-enter, was cursed at, befriended National Guardsmen, helped clean up, and now am back to the "usual" schedule. In my defense, things have been crazy, totally out of my control, and life's been a trip. I have been keeping a written journal and vow that in the next week, I will transfer these journals into my blog. Please keep in mind, some may sound bitter, some scared, some simply burnt out. I felt that it was better to simply rewrite them as I wrote them in my journal, word for word. I apologize for any bad language or irrational thoughts. I hope you "enjoy" these thoughts and my hope is to start blogging fresh on Wednesday, or more realistically friday. For now, Adios and stay tuned!


Friday, August 29, 2008

Gustav, you Bastard

So yeah, it seems as if we are going to get hit. This may be my last post for a while. This city, has turned into a time bomb. Everyone is tense and going crazy. It's fucking scary.

Suppositly, contraflow will now begin on Sunday. Basically what that means is that all traffic goes out of the city and no one is allowed in. This means the mandatory evacuation will begin sometime Sunday, but now it seems as if it may start today. I went out to dinner last night in the French Quarter. It was a ghost town. There were maybe 10 other people in the restaurant with us, and maybe 15 other people with us at Cafe Du Monde. This is unheard of especially on a Friday night. There was no one walking around and everywhere you went you could not escape the word Hurricane, and I'm not talking about the drink.

The worst I believe is the National Guard. I mean I'm glad they are here, so that they can "keep the peace" once everyone leaves, but man is it a scary sight. I think that's what's most frightening. I feel like we are being invaded. There were so many humvees and tanks and amphibeous vehicles as well as helicopters and most scary, men and women with guns. They have started patrolling a little, but there presence is felt everywhere. I'm not trying to judge from past experiences, but the last time they were here after Katrina, they were abusive and harrased the locals. They were in a power struggle for control of the city and did not act appropriately. New Orleans turned into the wild west, and seeing them made my stomach drop.

I have also never heard this many helicopters in my life. They fly by constantly, doing God knows what. That noise, well it's pretty scary.

All of my neighbors are boarding up and getting the fuck out of here, something I will be doing shortly I'm sure. Right now, however, this waiting, is just fucking killing me. I need to know a plan, and it seems as if there isn't one. The phone calls to the family are hard, because, well I can't lie, yes I'm scared, no I don't know what is going to happen, yes there is a plan, but that'll be in effect until shit hits the fan. It's all sort of up in the air, and I feel like I'm on a roller coaster and the tracks up a head dissapear into nothingness. I'm trying not to worry, I mean, I will get out, I will be away from this, and I will be safe. But for now, everything is sort of in a frenzy and unknown.

My neighbors were meeting outside discussing possible evacuations routes. No one is staying. They were saying that how this storm will hit us, it will be what is called a wet storm. Basically they were saying that the Lake will flood and topple the levees, and then there will be more flooding in areas along the Mississippi because the levees in spots aren't fixed properly or there aren't any at all because they haven't finished them. The thought of more flooding in the city is horrifying. This city has just been through so much, and the people here are on the brink. So many say, if this storm is bad, they will not come back home.

So for now, I will prepare. I'm taping my windows and putting my stuff in water proof bags. I'm packing my evacuation bag, and trying to eat something. Then I'll just be trying to enjoy this beautiful weather we are having, I guess, and just waiting to be called to duty.

I wish the city my best. I hope all get out safe, and I hope there isn't much damage. I know a ton of people resorting to religion at this point, it's called foxhole religion. Basically when put into an extremly stressful environment, such as a foxhole during a war, you find God. Well I just can't help but ask myself, if there really was a God, well then why is he letting the people of New Orleans go through this again?

I'm sorry if this post is terribly truthful, but I don't have the mental capacity right now to separate what is professional to write and what I am feeling.

Until next time.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

First Days of work/ A possible blip on the radar

So I haven't updated in a while, and I figured I'd type a little something for ya. I've been rereading Bayou Farewell, which has gotten me so pumped about finding more out about the environment of New Orleans and well the whole Gulf Coast. I have also done a lot of research about the architecture of New Orleans and how it reflects the area's environment. I'm also in the process of transfering all of that from paper to internet.

So the first days of work were great! I'm currently working on a house located at 1729 Marais Street. It is in pretty bad shape, but we've already made a dent in it. Basically what happened was the homeowner had hired someone to help her redo her home. Something was screwy and he work ended up looking like shit. Well Rebuilding Together has since taken over the site.

On the first day we did some blow out patches in the walls, mudded and sanded the sheetrock, and primed certain areas. We also did simple things like scrape tons of old paint off of the windows or mantle. Rebuilding together does a ton of historical renovation which I think is really cool. It allows you to keep the look and feel of New Orleans, and allows you to recycle old pieces.

On the second day, it was more and more priming and sanding. I worked mostly in the bathroom which was a huge pain. It is such a small space and there were two of us in there. We also had to paint the ceilings, which are higher than I'm used to, as well as being a huge pain to paint with rollers. I also got to lay the tiles in the hearth of the "fireplace" It is no longer working, but it looks great!

I've learned a lot about our neighborhoods, as well as some not so nice things. I will just have to make sure and keep and eye out while I'm working. I'm sure it'll all end up good but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Now the thing on all of our minds right now, Gustav. For now, it's a tropical storm, but don't let that fool ya. It's the topic of conversation on the job site, in the store, on the street, basically everywhere. People are not making the same mistake as they did during Katrina. Noone is saying it'll be no big deal, but rather people are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. The plan now is to simply wait. If a mandatory evacuation is put into effect, I will pack up my backpack and aid in the evacuation process along with Homeland Security. Then, when the storm is a coming, I get on the last train out of here to Memphis, Tennessee. It's good because I know I have a seat on that train, so I'm not too worried about getting out of here. I will stay with members of my team too which is good.

This is a big deal, and I'm not sure I fully understand it yet. I mean, I've had about a million phone calls with people talking about it, I've gone over the plan a million times, but I don't think it's fully hit me yet. It'll start sinking in my head, in a few days when we really see where it is going and what sort of evacuation plan is in effect. Until then, I'll keep my cell phone charged and some water and granola bars ready, and simply stay tuned to the weather channel. The people of this city have been through enough so I hope it doesn't hit, I really do.

This is going to be a trip.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Make it Right"?

I've been really tired lately which is why I haven't blogged in a bit. I wrote this a few days ago, and just finished it, so I hope you enjoy!

So today was our first official day of work. We went to the warehouse and got the official tour, and actually got our hands dirty. We moved bunch of things around, installed a fence/door for an outdoor storage place for RT and set up some shelving. We also got a chance to go on a tour throughout the areas we will be working in.

One area we did also go to was the Ninth Ward. Now this name alone, brings about all sorts of stories and conflicts, I'm sure many of which will be discussed at later dates, but the current question is "Is Brad Pitt's project Make It Right or making it wrong?"

Brad Pitt created a project called Make It Right in which he hoped to use the blank slate provided by Katrina as a place to start a new. His plan was to help rebuild homes in the Lower Ninth Ward, but to make them "Green Houses," basically use recycled and earth friendly products. Well he went forth with this project and is in the process of rebuilding some homes in the Lower Ninth Ward. This is commendable, yes. In a time where it isn't sexy to talk about New Orleans anymore, to come down here and make a commitment, and actually deliver on that commitment is great! However, is the money being spent wisely? Are these new "green" houses what the residents of the Lower Ninth need?

We drove in the Lower Ninth, and let me tell you, it's almost barren. A place that was once a one house right next to the other bustling neighborhood, is now, in certain parts, barren and resembles more of a field than a neighborhood. So in the barren land, all of a sudden, you will see these very modern looking houses that are raised high into the air. In a place like New Orleans where architecture is so important and has so much history, it's hard to see a modern home build there. It's especially hard because these homes may be eco-friendly, but they are also expensive. With the amount that it takes to build one of these homes, Rebuilding Together could rebuild two. Granted Rebuilding Together rebuilds where Make it Right builds from the ground up, but what is more green than using materials that have already been used, a little process I like to call recycling!

Anyway, another problem with Make it Right is that it is rebuilding homes, not rebuilding neighborhoods. It isn't going to encourage too many people to move back, in my opinion, if the only people that have rebuilt in your area have these big expensive, non New Orleans houses. If there is not support system, no infrastructure, it will be hard for the neighborhood to survive.

In the end, yes it's good that Brad Pitt is here helping in the rebuilding process. Lord knows that New Orleanians could use some help, as well as some attention. So thanks Brad for doing what you deem proper, you are one piece of this big ole puzzle.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Being Politically correct

As many of you may know, I am enrolled in two online courses. One of them, which counts for my Anthropology minor, is called Race, Ethnicity, and Inequality. I thought this would be an extremely interesting course to take, especially while I am in New Orleans. After reading my last blog, a question has been brought up about how to be politically correct in my description of my fellow New Orleanians.

I refered to them as "blacks" in my previous blog, but for some reason, I felt it was innapropriate. However, the question was raised, what is the proper term? Some say African American is the proper term. Although this is commonly used, Many of the people that I know who are black, are not from Africa. Also, what is you meet someone who is black in France. They cannot be African American because they are not from America, and what if they aren't even African? If it is fine to call a white person white, well than why is it considered disrespectful to call a black person black?

I asked my roommates about this, and they replied that if in a classroom situation or if they are referring to a person they do not know, they will usually refer to someone as being African American. However, if they are describing someone they know, they say a black person. I thought it was interesting how they thought it was more academic to refer to someone as being African American in a classroom situation, where it is more "casual" to refer to them as being black. One of my roommates also said that they had previously asked one of their classmates what they rather be called, and their classmate replied that it would be refreshing to be called black.

This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately, especially since I am currently the minority in New Orleans. This city has had many problems in the past especially about race and mistreatment, and I'm sure I will be very aware of them by the end of the year. I am sure I will have many discussions on this subject this year in this class, and I am interested to see what others may say on the subject.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

First day of work

So yesterday, Friday August 15, was officially my first day of work. I went to the TCC office at 9 and left at 2. Not too bad for our first day, especially since it was in air conditioning. If anything, I was actually a little cold! We went over the usual paperwork and rules, no dating your co-workers, if you have a problem with something, handle it like an adult immediately instead of letting it build into a bigger and bigger problem, etc. We went through a ton of "fun" situations and activities etc. to read through all the rules.

It was hosted by TCC or the Trinity Christian Community. I believe it breaks down like this. AmeriCorps or the Government facilitates volunteers and money via grants to TCC of New Orleans. Then TCC funnels the grants to organizations such as Rebuilding Together and a Literacy tutoring program.

TCC is run by a man named Kevin Brown, whom I met yesterday and is pictured in the image above. He was a wonderfully friendly man. He is the Executive Director of TCC, and is only the second one, replacing his father after his service, in 1998. He grew up in a black community, which proved to be difficult as a white boy especially during a time such as the early 1960's. His father was a civil rights activist. He said that the Black community didn't really like them because well why was this white family living here, and the white community thought that his family had somehow left the white community by living here in the inner city of New Orleans, so they hated him. He responded to this by saying that well here in New Orleans, you make all of your food with both salt and pepper so why not make your communities with both as well?!

We met all of our bosses and filled out yet some more paperwork, but for the most part, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was. At one point, we all had to stand and recite our pledge which was sort of exciting. It was just another thing to remind me that yes, this is really happening! The pledge was:

I will get things done for America-
to make our people safer,
smarter, and healthier.

I will bring Americans together
to strengthen our communities.

Faced with apathy,
I will take action.

Faced with conflict,
I will seek common ground.

Faced with adversity,
I will persevere.

I will carry this commitment
with me this year and beyond.

I am an AmeriCorps member,
and I will get things done.

After we recited the pledge, we also got our AmeriCorps t-shirts, a shirt that although is exciting now, I'm sure I will be tired of it at the end of this year! I've got a ton of more information for ya, and will be starting to do research for my independent studies, so make sure to check back in if you're interested.