Friday, March 14, 2014

Laissez les bons temps rouler

Sorry for the delay...the Rock 'n' Bowl got the best of us last night. But more about that later. 

Let the good times roll! We began the day with a hearty breakfast at a nearby diner, where some people tried grits while others stayed more traditional with eggs and bacon. This fueled us for our morning at Grow Dat Youth Farm--a community farm that provides employment for high school students across New Orleans. Our group split into thirds; two groups weeded while the other worked with compost, a very smelly pile of compost. But at 65, clear and sunny, we were happy to soak in the sun while working hard on the farm. This was also a great opportunity to meet and work with other college-aged students from NC State and Cornell College of Iowa. 

The day continued at Rock 'n' Bowl, a bowling alley with live music and good food. This combination brings locals and tourists every night, which was apparent by the many types of dancing we saw as the live zydeco band took the stage. But it wasn't long before Nicki joined them, dancing and playing the washboard. This prompted a fun night of dancing with friends and locals, not to undermine the crawfish étouffée and red beans and rice that we had to start the night. The bowling also got a bit competitive although nobody (except Drew) broke 100. This exciting evening was the end of a great day. We can't wait for more adventures to unfold in NOLA! 

Melissa and Priscilla 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Another Productive Day

After delaying our departure the day before, Jay managed to be on time today to make his own lunch (for the first time), but managed to forget to remove the sticker from his second pair of elastic jeans in his life.
Both groups split to their sites and continued with a long day of work. One group dug holes to put a fence in and others retouched on paint from the previous day while blasting the Beyoncé Pandora station all day. These three days were long days but Kari kept the group energized with her daily supply of caffeine, soda. Thanks for that! As our work came to an end, we approached the time to say goodbye to our dear Amelia. She was great and such an amazing leader that no other group can top! She was definitely what made our experience phenomenal!
The other group had a big day ahead of them, little did they know as they drove to the worksite without knowledge of what was next to be worked on. They ended up removing the entire wire part of a long fence that had sunk into the backyard during the storm. This consisted of four of us shoveling and quickly coming across mud, while slashing the roots of trees to free the wire. The mud was in for the long haul as it stuck to our Walmart workboots. Others painted inside and laid bricks on the walkway they dug the day before. It was safe to say that everyone returned very sore and dirty today.
After our day of work we took a tour of the New Orleans Battleground where the War of 1812 happened. We got a nice view of the Mississippi River where we sat in the sun and enjoyed each others company for the remainder of the afternoon.
We came back to a delicious Mexican Lasagna at Camp Hope, but saved room for the classic Louisana snow-ball dessert!
We aren't quite sure if we will be returning due to the collective amount of time the group spent in the bathroom upon our return..... With one of the bathroom stragglers keeping us from starting our reflection, we broke out in song to pass time and test each other's limits ;). We're ready for another great day in NOLA tomorrow in the community garden! 

Julia and Kim

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rainy Day Turns into Sunshine :)

Today was rainy...but still much warmer than Lewisburg weather! The downpour was definitely not ideal for work outside, and both groups were compelled to find work within their sites. One group continued to secure the inside of their house from mold damage, leaving the walkway for another day. Interestingly enough, when they returned outside after the deluge they found their potential pathway had become more of a moat! The other group attempted to continue their exterior painting, but the rain forced them to find sheltered work. Once inside, they powered up their drills and began cutting into the wood for the wall in new kitchen. While they worked, they made sure to come up with some musical numbers (from High School Musical) to entertain their worksite leader, Amelia. 

Our afternoon excursion featured a very special museum run by an older man named Ronald Lewis called The House of Dance and Feathers. Lewis runs the museum from his backyard in the Lower Ninth Ward and inside it is a collection of items (like costumes, photographs, books, and artwork) he and others have gathered that embody Lower Ninth culture, as well as the culture of New Orleans culture in general. He told us amazing stories of his journey before, during, and after Katrina. How he started his collection over from scratch and even had the President of the United States recognize his contribution to the keeping of NOLA culture.  

Perhaps the highlight of today was returning to the French Quarter to have a delicious dessert experience at Cafè du Monde, which specializes in NOLA's well known beignets. Some people enjoyed coffee and chocolate milk, while others took the fluffy pastries straight; either way we were all soon covered in white powdered sugar. 

Today was a good day :) 

Zoe and Kat

Monday, March 10, 2014

Getting Our Hands Dirty

With an early five am wake up we began our first day out with the Saint Bernard Project. One group got to venture out and sealed wood to keep mold from infesting it. It was a great experience even though more paint ended up on us then the house. The other part of the task entailed digging a path for the new walkway up to the house. They met a wonderful couple of two people who owned the house and got a brief background of their personal experiences with Katrina. The other group went to a house that was considered an "opportunity house" where the house was foreclosed and the St Bernard Project bought it and intended to fix it to sell it to first time homeowners to add to the value of the neighborhood. They worked on painting the outside of the house until there was the opportunity to attend a ribbon cutting event. This event marked the opening of a completed house to a woman who been patiently waiting since the storm hit to come back home with her kids. The amount of gratitude and excitement that came out of the event was truly inspiring. The people there were filled with joy for the homeowner and the homeowner herself was expressing her gratitude by allowing everyone after the ribbon cutting to tour her house and eat some delicious New Orleans food she prepared herself.

We ate lunch, had some down time, went to Walmart and had a tour of the lower ninth ward. We ended our day by listening to a first hand story of a doctor who experienced Katrina in a local charity hospital. Some of the stories and pictures opened our eyes to the devastation and the humane gestures of the community. It was motivational to see how in such a devastating time such a large city can come together in order to persevere through hard times.

Enjoy the pics!

-Nicki and Cheyenne 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Exploring the French Quarter

After a good nights sleep we awoke to the symphonic sound of a 36 man choir, snoring melodically as if it was Christmas mass in Rooke Chapel, under the direction of our fearless leaders Merrit and Chris. A few bowls of cereal and a couple of cups of coffe later, we were off to our first taste of the French Quarter. After a trip to the designated selfie-zone in Jackson Square, we found ourselves in the Katrina museum, where somber reflections on one of the most significant events in recent history put our trip into its proper perspective, leaving us excited to fulfill its mission. A brief trip upstairs to the Mardi-Gras exhibit left us disappointed that we missed it. The rest of the day was open to exploration, jamming the snapchat server, and just enjoying the culture  with friends. The food was better than advertised, except for those gullible enough to be tricked into believing gator meat was chicken and some of us who signed the waiver to try the Death Nectar hot sauce, sorry Nikki. Street performers entertained while traditional jazz music lent the perfect soundtrack to an otherwise perfect day amongst friends, new and old. Once Dean Conrad finished tweaking a couple rules of the road to meet our navigational needs, we found ourselves back together reflecting on the day's events, preparing for what we have come to do and ready for the week to come...

Pictures below for those who have been waiting...

-Drew and Jay

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Long Day

We began our travels leaving Bucknell at 2:09AM, it was supposed to be at 2:00AM sharp but the two of us may have overslept....BUT we did get dressed and to the bus in 15 minutes after Kat called us at 1:54 to wake us up. OOPS. 
The next 3.5 hours are lost to us as we entered a deep sleep, waking up groggy to a cold Newark International Airport. Shockingly, the next 2 hours leading up to our flight were flawless for a group of 17 really good looking people. We grabbed some mango smoothies, chocolate muffins and boarded for NOLA. After a 3 hour plane ride filled with music, some on-board selfies, and the flight attendant flirting with one of our group leaders, Merrit, we landed smoothly in the Big Easy. 
It was 66 degrees with a slight breeze, beautiful weather for our first day in Louisiana. After unpacking at Camp Hope we drove down the block to Arabi's finest Po-Boy restaurant. Dean Conrad scarfed down a large sandwich while holding Bucky, the flat picture of a bison, close to her heart. After seeing such life-altering sandwich guzzling Bucky washed his hands of DC for the day. 
We brightened Bucky's spirit by bringing him to one of New Orleans oldest and most memorable sites: Lafayette Cemetery #1. It's a landmark filled with above ground tombs, some of which belonged to historically famous figures such as John H. Ferguson--from the infamous trial Plessy v. Ferguson. 
After a hauntingly beautiful walk through the cemetery, we traveled to visit the campuses of Loyola University and Tulane Univeristy. We quenched our thirst with a few iced coffees, and prayed they would wake us up a bit. Our energy was fully rejuvenated when we ventured to Audubon Park and witnessed a "unique" wedding ceremony. The bridal party was sporting some neon sneakers, while the groom was flaunting his "long hair, don't care" mentality...that is, until he ubruptly asked us to move out of the way of the wedding. We relocated to a bench nearby and admired the enchanting environment filled with willow trees, sunshine, and energetic runners. We were taken back when we heard the song "Best Day of My Life" spilling out of speakers as the bride danced towards the fountain, ready to embrace her new husband. 
After witnessing such love and adoration, we were exhausted and headed back to Camp Hope to regroup and rest. For dinner we tried a new 5 star restaurant in the area, "Pizza Hut". Safe to say we are all going to sleep with stomach issues tonight. Upon our return, we showered up (the few clean members of the team anyways...) and got ready for bed.
So now we lay here, eager for our adventures tomorrow in the French Quarters but ready for a good night sleep. Bonne
Grace & Gabby

Friday, March 7, 2014

Pre-trip dindin

We got our first taste of the New Orleans culture with jambalaya and king cake at our pre-trip dinner! Dean Conrad spoiled us with a warm welcome and delicious food. We are beyond excited for our 2 am departure for the Big Easy. Be ready for tons and tons of pics.. Here's our first one!
Kim and Jay