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Looking Back

Posted from Camarillo, California, United States.

About 3 and a half weeks ago my classmates, or should I now say friends and I got on a plane to New Orleans and arrived in Louisiana on Saint Patrick’s day.  We were all excited to explore, learn, and give back to the community of New Orleans.  We all began the class knowing very little about the Hurricane Katrina and the city and people of New Orleans and returned with a much deeper understanding of the impact Hurricane Katrina had on lives of the people of New Orleans and the city itself.  Being back now and reflecting on everything that I experienced and learned  in New Orleans I can truly say that I am much more appreciative of home.  Getting to first hand see how the lower ninth ward has not fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina despite it now being almost a little over a decade after the levees in New Orleans failed was very heartbreaking. However, I found comfort in realizing how optimistic the people of this community are about the future and how alive the diverse culture in New Orleans is despite everything that this community has experienced; I find peace in knowing that through this course I was able to contribute and help  the people of New Orleans though our involvement with community food gardens and our Woodland Trails restoration and vegetation work which plays a part in conserving the wetlands of New Orleans which provide a large ecological service and acts as green and blue infrastructure against natural disastrous such as Hurricane Katrina. While the work that we did was helpful and meaningful it is also important to realize that there is still a lot more work to be done in New Orleans and I definitely plan to go back and contribute even more.

There truly is no other place as unique and as alive as the city of New Orleans.  Being back now family and friends ask what New Orleans is like but the truth is that they don’t know “what it means to miss New Orleans” it is a place one must visit and experience first hand.  The food, people, music, and culture that exists in New Orleans no other city in the U.S. or the world can offer , it is a place like no other and I cannot wait to go back. This is experience and city is one that I will treasure in my heart and memories forever.  My short time in New Orleans defenitly helped me grow as a person.  It is by far my favorite college experience and memory thus far.

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Rain rain rain

Today has probably been the best day in New Orleans so far. It was a beautiful rainy day and we all got to see really big alligators up close and personal. We then attended an event here in NOLA known as China Lights and finished off the day by attending an awesome jazz club,eating beignets and drinking hot chocolate.

   
    
 

The southern most point of Louisiana 

Today we helped with another community food garden planting. We then ended our day by visiting the southern most point of Louisiana and eating some crawfish. 

Tonight we are sleeping at an old plantation which appearntly is one of the top ten most haunted places in the state of Lousiana. Should be interesting. 

   
 
  

Making a difference 

Today we spent most of our day at the lower ninth ward volunteering for an organization by the name of Capstone.  New Orleans is a food desert, making it very much difficult for low income communities to have access to healthy food. Due to this issue Capstone has adopted several plots in the lower ninth ward and have used them to establish community food gardens that help feed the local community. 

  

Woodland work

We began our first field day yesterday. The first day was a slow start as we all tried to get familiar with the vegetation down here in New Orleans. Today however, went a lot faster as we got more familiar with the plants.  It’s sad to think that so many people here have taken their environment for granted but especially their wetlands for granted. Wetlands and vegetation in general provide an imense ecosystem service by helping create a buffer against natural disasters such as hurricanes. The field work we are doing involves doing a vegetation inventory of native vs non-native and invasive plants in hopes of gaining a better understanding on the health of this valuable ecosystem and then determine how we can take a positive step forward in protecting these wetlands. 

   
 

Vegetables

Today we took a cooking class and for the first time since we got here we had a meal with delicious fresh vegetables from the local farmers market here in New Orleans. As Jay said earlier today, ” [we] didn’t think New Orleans believed in vegetables” given that we have been having a lot of foods with food really  high carbs, tons of brisket, pork, Mac n cheese, and coleslaw. Highlight of the day  was trying an amazing avocado Popsicle and exploring more of the city.      *Avocado Popsicle 🙂


Tomorrow will be our first day out in the field where we begin our wetland restoration work and really start getting intimate with the swamps and the unique ecosystem New Orleans has. Should be fun and exhausting. 

History, levees, food, music, and changing a tire….?

We started out our day by visiting the New Orleans Historic Collection Musuem and learning about the history of how New Orleans really came to be and how it morphed into this colorful and vibrant city filled with such diverse people. It turns out that the largest demographic/ethnic population here in New Orleans are African Americans at around 87% and Vietnamese being the smallest group making up only 3% of the population. That being said we ended up having lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant were I had some delicious yellow curry. 

  
 
We then got a tour of the levee system here in New Orleans which really put things into perspective as to what really happened during/ after Hurricane Katrina. It’s interesting yet sad to see how much of the lower nine ward has been pretty neglected as far as restoring back the community. Sad reality is that half the time we can’t tell if communities look the way they do because of poverty or simply the effects of Katrina, or both. 

 Perhabs the most unplanned for event today has having one of our vehicles get a flat tire. It was defentily funny seeing 2 Professors with a pHd and 14 college students all trying to figure out how to change the tire. It took a while but it was all figured out. 

  
We then ended our day at Chickie Wah Wah were we had some amazing southern food and listened to some amazing local musicians. 

   

First day in NOLA

So far our first day here has been amazing. We got here at 5:30ish (am) and the whole group hasn’t slept for atleast the last 24 hours or so. We started out our day by visiting Jean Lafitte National Historic Park & Preserve were we all got to see our first real alligators really up close and personal. We followed that up with lunch at Parkway beakery where we had some poor boy subs and listened to Harry Shearer talk about the army corps of engineers and the disastrous levee incident that lead to the massive flooding event during Hurricane Katrina. However, perhabs the best part of the day was walking around the French Quarter and really immersing ourselves in the NOLA culture. The only negative is that the humidity here sucks and you can tell by simply looking at my curly hair lol.  


-Dulce