Back to Columbus

Lora_Said

We’re back in Columbus again.  We arrived yesterday.  The first thing we did (after unloading our car) was to go to Chipotle for some burritos!  I sure have missed Chipotle…

We spent last Wednesday night in Atlanta with my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Henry, then pushed forth to Virginia Beach to spend a few days with my parents, grandparents, sisters and my uncle’s family.  It’s an annual thing, and it was a nice way to get acclimated to the north again and to see my whole family all at once.  (Yes, Virginia feels very “north” right now.)

Mike and I ate dinner alone at our house tonight (the first dinner I’ve cooked in three months!) and since even Kathy wasn’t here our dinner felt so lonely!  I’m used to eating every meal with a team of thirty five and a bustle of activity!

Since we’ve only been back for two days, I still don’t have my mind around our time in New Orleans.  Leaving was difficult and teary.  My Uncle Henry made a comment over dinner about how New Orleans seems to be the one place in America that has really kept its culture.  He said other places used to be known for their various customs and foods, but that most of America has all blended together.  Except the Big Easy.  I think our misadventures there will attest to that!

With half of the population gone, and probably not returning, I wonder (sadly) if NOLA too will lose it’s distinctness as people from all over the country begin to move down there as the city is rebuilt.  Already the city is full of people from all over (like us!) who are working to save it.  I hope they save not just the structures, but the traditions and recipes and vernacular…

Well, I’m not sure if this will be my last post or not.  Does anyone know where I can buy crawfish in Columbus?  I’m “home”sick already.  😉

Add comment September 13th, 2006

Homecoming.

Mike_Said

I haven’t posted much lately, mostly because I’ve been doing a lot of processing about everything that happened this summer.

I am finding myself once again in a place of uncertainty. Some of the most important works in my heart, mind, and life happened down here. I am now leaving something that has become familiar, to go into a future that is unpredictable. It’s something everyone experiences, but no matter how many times it happens, change is often… difficult. I wonder how all of this will affect my life back in columbus. I do know home will be the place to see what sticks and what fades. Time will tell. And though it is hard to leave, I am happy to return home.

And like any good story, there are beginnings and endings. And as this chapter in our lives closes, I am reminded that this is not the end of the story, just the end of the beginning.

Add comment September 12th, 2006

Goodbye, N’allins

Lora_Said

We’re leaving early tomorrow and we said all of our goodbyes tonight.  The church staff took us out for a goodbye lunch, and Mercy Response staff took us out for goodbye dinner.  Right now my stomach hates me.

We’ll be travelling for the next week, visiting family in Atlanta, Virginia, and then Pittsburgh, and we’ll won’t be back in Columbus until next week!  I’m sure we’ll post some reflections on our trip after we get home, but for now I leave you with this:

I’m sad.

Add comment September 6th, 2006

1 Year Later

Lora_Said

I thought I’d post a few pics that I’ve taken over the last week, since it’s a year after the storm, and we’re leaving in two days! This time last year, all of these places were under water.

This first few are from a Hurricane Katrina memorial at Metaire Cemetary. You can see it from the interstate, but we actually went to the graveyard to take these pictures. Each flag has a victim’s name on it. Many of the flags had flowers and other items set beside them.

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That area of town is several miles from the Superdome. There were about five or six feet of water there.

This house is in the Lower 9th ward. Though this neighborhood didn’t face the tidal wave-like destruction that other parts of the Lower 9th faced when the Industrial canal broke, it still sat under 12 feet of water for several weeks.
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These photos are from last week’s cookout. This neighborhood, Gentilly, had six to eight feet of water in it. The first picture is of Stacy handing out Hope Boxes. People from churches all over the country fill them (there are three categories: Food, Hygine, and Baby) ship them to us, and then we pass them out. We handed out over a hundred in a half hour!  You can see the FEMA trailer park across the street in the background.
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This photo shows the line for meals! It wrapped around the corner like that the entire evening, until we ran out of food! It was the best turnout we’ve had yet.

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This hotel is in Kenner, where our Vineyard church is. Guests are actually staying in this hotel.

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This church is also in Kenner. Kenner had anywhere from inches to four feet of water.
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I liked their sign.  :)

Add comment September 4th, 2006

3 Days, Count ’em, 3

Lora_Said

So… We’re leaving Wednesday morning, but before the sun comes up. We have three full days to go. Because of this, we’ve been busy lately… and so I haven’t posted much. Some random musings:

  • Last weekend we visited my cousin, Kim, in Florida. She lives on a military base and went to the, I don’t know, “Military supply store” and bought us enough plates and cups and silverware to use at the cookout one week! I’m still floored by how much people want to be a part of what we’re doing.
  • The flame of Mordor Norco has been quite high as of late. We could even see it from the highway a few nights ago.
  • During our time down here, we’ve seen four or so nutria (including a baby), and probably six or eight gators (and we watched one do the “death roll”). My favorite animals here, though, are the white, S-necked egrets that hang out at all the canals.
  • In most places, you can recognize a person by their footsteps. However, at the church office here, everyone sounds the same: like flip flops.
  • We cooked an amazing grill-a-thon for the teams this week. Phil taught me how to saute garlic and make some stuffed portabello mushrooms that have changed my life. And… if you let me cook them for you, might change yours.
  • Yesterday we had to throw out some canned meat that had been donated after the storm and because it was stored outside and had gotten rusty and… well… rotten. I was standing on a ladder as we threw it all into the dumpster and… I have never come so close to vomiting from a smell before.
  • There was a team here from Michigan last week and all the guys kept trying to convince me that they have “Saber Toothed Frogs” up there to keep the mosquitos in check.
  • Everything in this city has a yellow brown line across it: highways, houses, the cars (before they were towed away). It’s the water line from the flood… still visible a year later. Every building also still has a spray painted FEMA code on it from when the houses were searched last year.
  • Mike has had several phone interviews from companies fixin’ to hire him. A few leads look quite promising… I think we’re both excited.

Sometimes I get sad when I think about how soon we’re leaving, but I’m trying to just get the most out of every day here… I know we’ll be back to N’allins, eventually. So that helps. :)

Add comment September 3rd, 2006

Peggy

Lora_Said

Since we have less than a week to go, one of the women at the church has taken to asking me every day, “So, Lora, how does your last Wednesday feel?” or “How does your last Thursday feel?” just to get a rise out of me.
All in good fun, but I’m so not excited about our upcoming departure. :(

Add comment August 31st, 2006

August 29th, 2006

Lora_Said

Tuesday was the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It came and went without much attention. I think outwardly at least, it was a bigger deal throughout the rest of the country than it was here. Most people I talked to didn’t “do” anything (go to any of the ceremonies, or special concerts being held) they just went to work, and intentionally didn’t turn on the TV. (I think internally it was a different story, though, but I didn’t hear much talk about anything from anyone.) I didn’t watch any of the news, but I heard that it was over kill on the television–and that the news kept showing the same couple clips of people doing the same violent behaviors we all saw last year.

This week we have a team from Michigan with us, and one of the women told me how refreshing it was to be here and realize that the people aren’t all crazy and irrational–they’re people just like anywhere else. All she’s seen on the news are the looters and the few crazies with guns.

I did notice all of the construction going on in the city that day. I don’t think that it was any more activity than on any other day, but just that I noticed where the city was one year later. Roads being rebuilt, electricians out, drywallers, people putting in pipe lines, trees being planted. There are always lots of workers out and about everywhere you go, but I had just gotten used to seeing them.

In other news, a cold front came through today. It’s breezy and cool and probably in the 80’s for the first time since we’ve been down here. You can breathe when you’re outside–it’s so refreshing. I sat out and talked to Pam and Stacy for a good long while this morning–none of us wanted to go inside!

Last night was our final Wednesday night cookout–seeing as how we’re leaving early next Wed morning. We fed over 200 people! and ran out of food at seven o’clock! (It’s supposed to go until eight!) I got to say goodbye to Tyrone, and his daughters, and a few of the guys from the Gideon church. I sure am going to miss it.

But for now I’m going back outside… to enjoy the breeze. :)

Add comment August 31st, 2006

Tipitina’s

Lora_Said

It rains here even when the sun is out, and the sky is blue with big white puffy clouds. Crazy.

Last night Pam’s daughter Becky’s boyfriend bought us tickets to hear the Rebirth Brass Band play at a club called Tipitina’s in “Uptown” New Orleans. (Uptown is… actually as far south as you can go–it’s right along the Mississippi river, in a scary warehouse district south of the Garden District.)

Tipitina’s is a favorite of the locals, and Becky told us that we had to go before we left. And, since we’re leaving in a week, yesterday seemed like a good time to go. Rebirth Brass Band is a really popular band around here from what I’m told–they were nine guys who did brass band music with… hip hop undertones. Two saxes, three trumpets, three drummers, two trombone players, and a tuba player. (I know that adds up to more than nine but some played more than one instrument.) They played for two hours non-stop. And by non-stop I mean it was all really one song with lots of movements. They didn’t break and have an end to any of the songs–they all just blurred into each other. Their endless energy and lung capacity were incredible. (Especially the tuba player who never stopped.)

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It really was a crazy experience. I went to a jazz club in Columbus with my friend Jeff once and there were all of eight people in the bar. Tipitina’s sold out last night. And everyone was young–it’s not like the jazz culture is a thing of the past–it’s a part of the city.

I was struck last night by the spirit of this town. On one hand there is a real loneliness and hopelessness down here that you sense when you talk to people. And on the other hand, they also have a strong desire to stick it out and see New Orleans rebuilt. The people who are here are the people who love this town and are willing to suffer through the aftermath of Katrina–even though it will take years (five? ten?) until this town is on its feet again.

Rebirth announced that they will be playing next Tuesday to celebrate the one year anniversary of Katrina. Mario, on Tuesday, told me where he would be: on his knees thanking God that they made it through another year. There’s a slogan around town I see on bumper stickers, yard signs and tee shirts: Rebirth, Rebuild, Re:new Orleans.

I think it’s appropriate that Rebirth Brass Band will play on Tuesday. Before I left to come down here, people would ask me what I thought–should they rebuild New Orleans or just bulldoze it. It made me pretty angry to be honest. I mean, why would we quit our jobs and move down here for three months if we just thought the whole place should be plowed over? But I’ve seen the same attitude even in people who come down here to gut houses with us. They ask “Why do people live here? Why don’t they just leave?”

But… I see that after they work here for a week and meet the people and meet the town, they get it. This city has a soul and the people who live here aren’t ready to just give up and move to Houston or Baton Rouge because it’s easier. This city is a part of who they are. Which is why I am rebuilding New Orleans. Because I think it’s worth saving.

Add comment August 26th, 2006

New Pics

Lora_Said Mike_Said

We added some new pics on our Gallery page.  Check it out for images from the French Quarter (including the infamous red dress runners), Norco (including “the flame”) and last week’s cookout.

Enjoy!

1 comment August 25th, 2006

Worst Friends Ever

Lora_Said

This billboard is self explanatory. This guy has the worst friends ever:

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In other news, Mike posted about the cookout on Wed, but I thought I’d post a few pics. Here’s me and Pam getting ready. (Cooking two giant pots full of dirty rice!)

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Here’s me & Mario–one of the guys from the Gideon Christian Church. We met him at the Fourth of July cookout and he comes every week. He’s been to Columbus a few times to hear Rod Parsley, so we’ve bonded.

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Here’s Scott (“the new guy”) who is leaving tomorrow, but is probably coming back for four months in October, Aaron, the guy who does all the dry walling at the Gideon Church, and Mike.

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And, sadly, the wreck. Good thing that guy was okay–his truck skidded at least 50 yards.

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It’s sad that next Wed will be our last cookout! I’ll be sad to leave all our new friends. Even the security guards at the Fema parks that I bring meals to every week know me now!

1 comment August 25th, 2006

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