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.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Is it possible that I am here?

After all of the months and months of planning, I can finally call New Orleans my home! I have a great house in an awesome neighborhood with cool roommates! I start work on Friday but until then, I have no worries!

So I arrived, barely, with one checked suitcase, and one carry on. My checked bag weighed a perfect 48.5 pounds, it could only weigh 50 pounds or I’d have to pay an extra $50! So I arrived, and walked into my room, to find it was huge! The only furniture I really have is a queen sized airmatress, which is also bigger than I imagined! The cool thing is that it deflates itself, and has like 2.5 layers so it is about the same height of a regular bed! Shortly after I arrived, two packages came in containing my bed sheets and pillows and towels and hangers! It was so perfect!

So I've been running around, exploring the area, and all is well! I will hopefully upload more pictures of my house on my photo page soon, and keep y'all updated. Until then, Bon Temps Roulez!


Friday, August 8, 2008

Bon Temps Roulez

So hello again, it's been a while, but I believe I have an excuse, I leave for NOLA on Monday! I leave early in the morning too, so I only have today, Saturday, and Sunday to prepare!

It's been nuts, I feel like Im running around without my head, but I'm so incredibly excited! I'm going to pack some stuff up in boxes today to mail because the stupid airline fees for traveling with more than one bag are so high!

I got word a few days ago that one of my roommates has arrived at our house.... He loves it! He said the house is nice and the neighborhood is great which is great!

I have a few worries, but I believe it'll all work itself out. I need to get a bike, and some form of a desk. Supposedly there is a bike shop around the corner from us, which shouldn't make the bike hard, but we'll see about a desk. Also I have to get a taxi from the airport to my new house, and well I hate taking taxi's, especially by myself.

Well at least I don't have to be worried about getting my license! I got that a few weeks ago, and have been driving around since. It's been really good.

Well I think I should get back to packing and cleaning... I can't wait until Monday morning!


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Falcon Ridge storm

So the reason for me not posting for a while has been the fact that I've been bouncing around festival to festival. My most recent festival was Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, NY. It was a total blast, especially the dance party to Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams!

So on Sunday, it was not looking so good, weather wise, but I was sitting outside of our vending tent, my friends runs a kick ass jewelry business called SOASA designs, check it out at, but any way, I'm sitting outside reading The Great Deluge, and all of a sudden, the skies open up ( of course someone had to make a comment about me bringing the book to the festival and then storm... ) We ran into our small easy up, and held on for dear life. There was like 15 minutes of heavy rain, big hail, and high winds. In the end, the water was up to our knees, but overall, we were ok. We were safe, but a little scared. After we opened up the tent after the storm, we discovered that some of our neighbor's were completely destroyed. There tents had not survived the storm and were twisted up like pipe cleaners. There were also two big white circus tents that had collapsed.

The festival was cancelled, and we all got home some how, but it was definitely an adventure.

So this is my apology for not writing for so long, but hopefully I will pick it up again now that the festivals are over and there are
11 days left until I leave for NOLA! I can't wait!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Newly Found Momentum

So I've been feeling a little weird about NOLA. I'm totally excited but I guess it's all hitting me at once, and I've been feeling a little weird about it. However, today, I received newly found momentum.

Today, July 13, will mark one year since my grandfather "Vati's" passing. This may seem like a random spot to write about this topic, however, I assure you it is totally appropriate and relevant, as well as it being all I can think about now.

Last summer, I went to Hungary with my uncle and a few others to work with Habitat for Humanity. It was an amazing experience, however, a few days into the trip, I found out my grandpa was not doing so well. I knew he had cancer, but it was sort of under control. He had a previous operation to take care of some of it, but chose not to go through chemo, a decision I both respected and selfishly hated. I knew he would soon die, which of course frightened me, however, I knew he would die on his terms in his comfort zone, and his wishes were well respected. When I came home from Hungary, my parents met me at the airport. We went to my house quickly and grabbed a bite to eat, and then my mom and I drove upstate to my grandpa's house. I lugged all my dirty stuff from my trip to my room, and then immediately went to my grandpa's room.

I wasn't sure what to expect. My parents hadn't told me much about his state, I think they didn't want to upset me on my trip. I walked into the room and saw my grandpa, my Vati, helpless in his bed. He was still very confused because he had just been on morphine which did not agree with him, but as soon as I walked in the room, his eyes became bright. We had explained to him that I had just come back from Hungary and he began to sing a little song about the Danube river. It amazed me that he was able to recall such facts, and we stayed up for a little while talking about my trip. After that I went to my room, began to unpack some of my stuff, and broke down. It hit me that my grandpa, my love, was not going to be around for much longer. I got it together and decided that I was there for him till the end, and would be as strong as I could for Vati. With that, I went to sleep for the night and then some because I was completely jet lagged.

The next month would be the biggest adventure I've ever been apart of. I was by my grandpa's side everyday, for exactly a month (June 13-July 13) and I wouldn't have it any other way. I begged to hear every story he could think of, every recipe he could come up with, I took in all his smells, how his face looked, and of course those beautiful blue eyes. I wanted to remember every last thing I could.

That month was no picnic, Vati had his good days and his bad. There were some day where he would go into the living room with us and watch The Deadliest Catch on tv with us and tell us stories of how to measure a crab and what the best ways to cook it were, but then there were other days when he wouldn't recognize where he was. My strong grandpa sometimes broke down and those were the worst times. He would look at me with his beautiful eyes and ask me, "why can't I just die" or "when am I going to die." He also admitted to me that he was scared to die. That was the hardest thing I had to deal with. I was never sure how to answer those questions because if it were up to me, we would both live together forever, but I did recognize that this was his journey, and I was truely blessed to have been able to be apart of it.

I learned so much in that month that I have never thought I'd learn. I learned what was important, and how much my grandpa meant to me. This is where this idea connects to New Orleans. My grandpa would sometimes talk to me as he was going to sleep. He sometimes said things about how I was so good to him, but sometimes he would give me advice or talk about the future. He told me I was going to be a good mom some day, and he told me to go out and see the world. My grandpa has been all around to world, and has told me of beautiful places. I always told him about my Habitat for Humanity trips and he was always so excited when I would show him all of the pictures. He would tell me how proud he was of me, and that positive reinforcement especially from a man as accomplished as him, meant the world to me. I really took it to heart and have decided to go after what I want in life, and live to my fullest extent. Going to NOLA next year may not be the best plan, but it's my plan to be happy and enjoy doing what I want to do.

When my grandpa died, I was heartbroken. He will forever be the strongest, most loving, most amazing person I have ever known. However, when he died, I didn't really cry. Yes he was gone, however, I had just spent his last month with him and I will never forget it. So this post is for you Vati, you will forever be my inspiration, my mentor, my favorite story teller, my favorite chef, my friend, my grandpa, and most importantly, my hero.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Feeling Guilty...

So one of the hardest parts I've found about doing volunteer work, is returning to everyday life. On my first big Habitat for Humanity trip to Guatemala, I met a woman named Colleen. She was amazingly bright and funny and she worked in Afghanistan with women and also worked for Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica. She was telling me about how it would be hard for me to go back home and adjust especially since I would return right before Christmas time, but she looked me straight in the eye and told me, "As cold as it may sound, when you live in the "real world" or when you go back home, you have to switch the channel in your head. You cannot live in one world feeling sorry for the other because you'll drive yourself nuts!" As cold as it sounds, it was so true, and this is how I've mentally handled the devastation I've seen. Although it changes you and although you constantly think about it, I've learned how to not feel guilty for doing things like buying a new digital camera, or so I've thought.

I've spent two weeks in New Orleans within the past few months, both times I worked with Habitat for Humanity in the rebuilding process. Both times were amazing, and I will never forget any part of it. And for the first time, however, the transition back into everyday life has been tough. I mean it always takes some getting used to, but it's been real tough. Well now I thought I had gotten back into the swing of things, not that I don't constantly think about how many days I have left until I go back there, but I had stopped thinking about what I could be doing now, and started thinking about what I did and what I will be doing in the near future. Then out of nowhere, comes this surprise attack.

Last Friday was July 4th. My whole family headed for the Jersey Shore like we always do, and we all went to my Uncle's house the night before because there was a big fireworks display at the Harrahs casino. He lives right on the bay so it was a perfect view. So I was standing alone on the dock watching the fireworks which were awesome in every sense of the word, and all of a sudden I felt so incredibly guilty. All of a sudden I felt so emotionally guilty for not being in New Orleans and simply stand there enjoying this horrendous display of obsene wealth. I tried to talk myself out of it, but I was just so overcome. I have never felt that guilty for doing something in my life. I just couldn't stop thinking about all the people I had met in New Orleans, and how many more there are and how much help they need. I think it was also the fact that July 4th is a celebration of America, a country which I don't believe deserves a lot of pomp and cercumstance especially after we are forgetting about the Gulf Coast. Also, I looked around at my family who was so joyous and so unaware of the situation in New Orleans, and I was mad, irrationally mad at them.

I finally got a grip on myself, and realized that it was silly for me to get this upset over fireworks, but it just made me think about New Orleans even more. I don't know what came over me but it was irrational and upsetting. This city has simply changed me, and wrapped it's hands around my heart. I have never had a place effect me like this before, and I am curious how spending a year there will effect me. As cold as it sounds, I will continue to try and not feel guilty when living my life in NY, and so far it's been good, although I do not forget about New Orleans for a second, and I am counting the days (currently 33) until I will once again return to this city.


Monday, June 23, 2008

The numbness of being a photographer

When I went to New Orleans last time, with the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project, I was thrown back by a comment a friend had said. We were driving back from a long hard day of work, and we were talking about the destruction we were seeing. He then remarked sort of off hand that he had seen some sort of a house that was completely destroyed and it made for a sick picture. After he said that, we sort of gave him a hard time, and he said well to be a good photographer, you have to be numb to the pain and just think about getting the story out.

At the time, I dismissed it and thought it was rude... But lately, while reading the book The Great Deluge, I've been thinking about it a lot. All of those photographers who went there to tell the true story had to have been numb. It is impossible to take the pictures I've seen without feeling sorrow or grief. I've begun to wonder if I can be tough enough to document these horrible things I may come across... but I think I've worked it out.

I read a story about Tony Zumbado. He is a so called "hurricane hunter" and traveled to New Orleans before the storm to document it's fury. Days after Katrina hit, he ventured into a Hospital to see if there were any survivors or dead. At first, this camera man walked through and saw bodies and videotaped them thinking of the story versus his feelings. Then he came to the church in the hospital, and there were bodies everywhere like someone had been giving them their last rites and the stench was overpowering and he lost it. I totally understand why, but it seemed out of his character.

I've come to the conclusion that as a photographer, I must have a thicker shell than the average joe. I must be able to document things for the good of the public, and not think so emotionally. With that said, of course there it will get to a point where the hard shell cracks... After all, I am only human...


Monday, June 16, 2008


So last night, well I guess this morning, at 1:00am, I bought my plane ticket to NOLA! It's a Jet Blue flight which is always nice, I also have to rack up my points so I can get a free flight! I'm really excited now!

Today I was fishing around the Rebuilding Together web site and found a link to all of their photos on flicker... Of course I went through them and can I just say, damn I'm excited!

All my paperwork is in too, so now all i have to do is wait and not freak out until August 11 comes around!

This is going to be one big trip!


Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Great Deluge

So my new read is The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley. It is a great read, although it's size is definately scary. The book is great, it shares stories of hope and of heros as well as trying to figure out who's to blame for the misfortunes of Katrina.

I'm totally engaged by this book, it is so immensly filled with information, it traps me. Unfortunately, I do not get to read as much as I'd like and my reading seems to be pushed to late at night before I go to sleep. Well last night, as I was reading, all of a sudden, a lot of information about St. Bernard's Parish came up. They started talking about St. Rita's Nursing Home, which was a nursing home in St. Bernard's Parish which did not evacuate and as a result, 34 people died. As I was reading it, everytime I saw the words "St. Rita's Nursing Home," it was like I was hearing John say it, instead of me reading it. John is a man I met the first time I was in New Orleans in St. Bernard's Parish. He was an amazing local resident who hung around CAMP HOPE, the volunteer center, and told all volunteers how great they were for going down to the Gulf Coast to rebuild. I know this sounds strange but that's what kept happening.

With that said, yeah I want to go back as soon as possible!


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke Continued

Ok so I've had sufficient time to think about this, and here is my reaction to Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke...

At first glance, it is a close up look at what happened during the storm and reactions from people who survived it. It is a "dirty" film in that things are not censored and nor are the people's remarks. It is raw and full of emotion delivered in a shock and awe manner.

I liked this documentary because of all these reasons. I also like it because of the same reason I appreciated Kanye West for the brief moment in time when he said what everyone else was afraid to say, "George Bush hates black people." Now this may have not been the most intelligent way to say this, I'm sure it's not even close, however, it did at least get people talking. I feel like this movie said some things that needed to be said. It also documented this horrible event for the future, which is important.

That being said, I do not go away from this documentary using any of the information gained as fact. Because it is a Spike Lee documentary, you really do not know what is fact and what is "Spike Lee" fact. He is known for throwing the race card everywhere and it was very clear in this film. I think the blame is not necessarily put in the best places, and certain parties interviewed in this film escape blame they should not escape.

My overall feeling is that although it is one sided, the film is a must see for all Americans, especially anyone who plans to visit the Gulf Coast, or anyone that plans to work there. It is definitely a good "rally the troops" movie and if you are going down with a group of volunteers i suggest you all watch it together.

I watched it with the group I went to New Orleans to and I think it was a good thing for us all to watch. It is, I believe, my responsibility to warn you along with this review that at points the film it is extremely graphic in nature with cursing, photographs of dead bodies, and horrifying first accounts of the events following Katrina.

With all of that said, I still believe you should watch it!


Monday, June 9, 2008

Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke

So tonight I finished watching Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke and all I can say is wow.

I started watching the film when I returned the first time from New Orleans, Louisiana with my Habitat for Humanity campus chapter in New Paltz. We all had gone to New Orleans together, and watching it together was apart of the whole experience. We never got to see Act 4, which is what I just completed.

I feel the need to sleep on the information that I have just ingested, and will type more clearly on the subject tomorrow.

I'm now going to go continue reading The Great Deluge by Douglas G Brinkley, which I'm sure I will discuss in the near future.

Yes New Orleans has taken over my life and has been in control since September, but I wouldn't have it any other way.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Scary But Exciting Beginning

I guess I should begin with a little background information....

My name is Amanda and I live in New York. I currently attend SUNY New Paltz and am a Photography major with a minor in Anthropology.

With that said, I have never blogged before. I thought it would be easy... I think a mile a minute but when I sat down to write hour ago!... I realized it would be a lot harder for me than origionally thought. But anyway, no more sidenotes...

The reason for this blog is to document my life in New Orleans, Louisiana over the course of the next 11 months. I will be working with an organization called Rebuilding Together New Orleans through Americorps. Although I am not there yet, I am constantly thinking of when I will be and how amazing this adventure will be.

I have worked with non-profit organizations in the past. All of my experiences have been good, despite the usual red tape, and I enjoy the work tremendously! I have mostly worked with Habitat for Humanity in Yonkers (NY), Guatemala, Newburgh (NY), Morehead City (NC), Hungary, and most recently New Orleans (LA). I started my High School's Habitat for Humanity chapter and my love for the organization grew from there. In college, I started as a general member, and then slowly became the co-president of the club. I participated in numerous builds in Newburgh, New York, as well as Collegiate Challenge trips to Morehead City, North Carolina, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

My crazy idea for the New Orleans experience was born sometime in September of last year. I was already settled in college life, and some of my classmates were beginning to think about studying abroad. As I looked for a photography study abroad program, I began to realize there weren't many to choose from, at least not any that jumped out at me. I was also thinking about New Orleans a lot firstly because it was the two year anniversary in August, but also because it was the scheduled destination of our Collegiate Challenge trip for the following March. I was doing a ton of research on the topic, and realized, the city was being rebuilt primarily by volunteers. Next, I began to do research on programs, about a semmester in length, that I could participate in in the city of New Orleans. I found the Rebuilding Together website and although they were a year long program, and although they weren't even taking applications for the following year yet, and although I knew my parents wouldn't be so excited about it, I knew that was what I wanted to do!

The rest is a blur of history. Our spring break trip was amazing and I met some really amazing Habitat people. It was followed my trip with the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project trip to New Orleans in May in which I worked on a blitz build and constructed a whole house in a week! I cut out of school early, and was able to survive taking finals early and moving out of my room much due to the help of my roomates and friends for keeping me sane!

There was one catch to this whole trip, this whole amazing adventure... I had to maintain my status as a fully matriculated college student. This meant I had to take 12 credits worth of classes while working full time... Not to mention, all of the courses had to be offered by my school! Through a long and grueling process, including being said no to about 1 million times, I was finally said yes to a few times, 6 to be exact, so I have four courses lined up for next semmester, and two for the following semmester.

Two of these courses for the following semmester will be independant studies. Thus is the reason for blogging. As apart of my grade, I have to keep some form of a journal and since I can't mail journals back and forth to my professors, I will be keeping this blog. In it, I will discuss all things New Orleans!

Now I realize that I am not in New Orleans yet, although the temperature makes it feel like I am, but I feel like if I start blogging now, I will get in the habit of blogging and it will be easy to continue to do it when I actually get to New Orleans. There is also a lot more "behind the scenes" type of stories that I wish to share in this blog as well about my entire experience. I feel like these items will be easier to share before the adventure begins and it will allow me to make the days go by faster leading up to the actual move in day, which as of now is August 11! (65 more days!)

So hurray for my first of many blogs!