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Now Playing: “When You Get Back” – Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen

Posted from Ventura, California, United States.

I still feel New Orleans in me with a weight similar to a very full belly, a heavy presence that leaves me wondering if it might be embedded in my belly forever. At no other point in my life have 10 days gone by so quickly. Never before have I felt so fulfilled from an amount of work that felt so small, in context. There is a part of me that is New Orleans, an itch I can’t ignore, but can’t yet scratch. I find myself wishing I’d brought more home. The voodoo doll from the French Quarter, cajun seasoning and sliced garlic from the cooking school (the vanilla bean extract was confiscated at the airport), bottle-cap framed ouija board from Dr. Bob’s, the “past cards” I’ll be sending away to parents and grandparents, the 3 CDs I acquired from musicians that inspired us all, the magnets on my fridge, the mud on the bottom of my suitcase, the crumpled up boarding pass in the front pocket of my backpack… I can put all these things in a pile in the living room but I can’t bring New Orleans home with me, at least not physically. I mean it honestly, though, when I say it’s a part of me forever.

New Orleans made me want to be a better musician. It made me want to forget the stupid little day-to-day things and focus on the important stuff. It made the “hard work” at home seem insignificant. I wanted to stay for a year and keep working, keep asking the locals to tell me their stories, keep learning about the history. I wanted to contribute. I learned things about gardening that I convinced myself I would re-create at home. I learned more about a history of a town with more stories than I could probably ever hear in one lifetime.

 

I did things I never thought I’d be able to do in less time than I would have ever imagined, like, for instance, when I was able to identify tree species by day 2, or hack through 100 meters of blackberry in an hour and a half. I got a taste of what strength really looks and feels like, and it was gone too fast. Does anyone know of any place around Ventura County where you can chop wood or hack at something with a machete, for recreation? Does anyone have anything invasive they need help tearing down? You have my number.

 

Whitney Plantation

Posted from Austin, Texas, United States.

This is a plantation that is now being protected by a private citizen. This in itself is controversial because they can do whatever they want to without needing to go though a dozen hoops to get things done but now they just pick and choice what to do without worrying about the hoops that they would have needed to do other wise. This is the first plantation museum that focuses on the slavery that was happening on the plantation and not the owners of the land. They do talk about the owners but it is mostly done through the eyes of the slaves that worked for them. The land we call the Whitney Plantation was bought by a man Ambroise Heidel who was a German immigrant that moved to the United States with his family. He bought the land in 1752, and grew a plant called indigo and he did fairly well for himself. He had called the plantation Habitation Haydel. Then his youngest son Jean Jacques Haydel got the land and he changed the crop from indigo to sugar cane. He had found out about a whole new method of take care of the sugar cane that it would be one day a lot more economical then indigo and so he made the conversion. His brother however was not the best at keeping out of debt and so he was starting a plan so that he could buy his brothers shares and be done with it. So his wife had taken over and Marie Azelie Haydel had taken over. She was a very smart and brilliant business women and this was due to the fact that she was very good to keep her books straight and tight. Her brother was the face of the plantation but she was the true brains behind it all.Now the truly horrific events that happened because of slavery where made more clear at our second stop. At the first stop we went to a church that talked about how a society was born because of the slavery past that wanted to free everyone but to still remember it all. This was at the Antich Baptist Church. The society that was born called themselves the anti-yoke.

the outside of the church

Inside the church with sculptures of kids

The second stop was at a place called the wall of honor which had names of all the documented slaves on the plantation, there were only 354 names there had to be many many more that they couldn’t find. The wall would have there name that they were born with if it was found as well as there christian name which was given to them when they got to America, there age and the skill sets that they had. There was one place that didn’t have any names and this was because they wanted to leave space in honor of all of the names that have and may never be found. On one side they had a list of names of slaves that were sold with what they were good at with a price to it. This was because the brother of Marie’s husband was often in debt and would sell slaves to alleviate some of it. For 43 slaves he got $56,000 in those days in todays market that would be around $60 million. There was one name that was taken note and this was Victor Haydel he went on to become a rather important figure and he was the son of Marie’s brother and a slave by the name Anna. This name was noted because he was related to people that would become great business people and would eventually become the first black mayor of New Orleans.

Wall of honor

List of name, skill and price for slaves that were sold

The next stop was made possible by a women named Allées Gwendolyn who had done thousands of research to find names and stories of slaves that were in Louisiana from 1719 to 1820. There are 107,000 names in the this area with stories written next to the names. Most of them were really sad, there were some really sad moments  in the mall.

Story of Henriette Butler

Story of Manda Cooper

A photo of the hall

After seeing all of those names of slaves we moved into an area called the field of angels. Which had a nice statue of an angel and we found out that it on all of the stone slates were names of kids that had died due to being salves. There were 2,200 names. The most common cause of death was malnourishment. There were some that died of other means but that was the most common. On the slates it had the child’s name, age when died and if possible the name of the mother.

We then moved on to where the slaves would sleep when they weren’t working. They had very little room and in total there were 20 cabinet for them but they were very tiny and had to fit many more people then there should have been. We did talk about how resilient the community was for the workers. They would welcome new people and would adopt kids that didn’t have parents when they would be there and they would look after one another. At night they would sneak into he fields to do songs and dances to relieve stress. The people were also very hard and resilient they would often walk 25 miles in one day to go from the upper south to the lower south in one day with a big chain around there neck. The workers would also resist there masters in small ways like work slowly, fain sickness and the likes. If they were caught though they would get severally punished and get whipped 30 times very quickly. Or they would do a more direct method of resistance which was running away. However if they were caught the workers would get branded with the state symbol, if they got caught again they would get branded again or sometimes get there hamstring cut, so that the slave couldn’t run any more but still work they would be in extreme pain the whole time though of the rest of there lives. If the salve was caught a third time then the slave was killed. However some families would give the slaves Sundays off and the Haydel family did.

were the slaves would sleep

While we were their our guide told us about the common ways that the workers had died. One of the most common was malnourishment the others were cuts that got infected that were easily treatable and burns. These injures were infected during the time of them working in the sugar can fields. There were two shifts a day and a night. During the day slaves would be out in the field cutting the sugar cane with a machete like knife. They would first burn the leaves off since that was a faster then doing it by hand. Then the slaves would go out in the field and cut the cane up for further processing. The problem was that the cane was often so thick that the workers couldn’t see what was directing in front of them and would often accidentally slice into the person that would be right in front of them. This would often lead to death, but not always. Then during the night shift it is when the slaves would process the sugar but crushing the cane to get the sugar out, then the sugar would go through a few periods of heating up and adding things to the sugar before it was ready to leave the plantation. The slaves would need to be really close to the fire and would get burns. This was more deadly then the cuts and happened often. To fully process the pots there are 4 giant pots that are required. 2 of them are large and then 2 small ones and it would take 50-70 slaves to take care of the sugar. The Haydel family had 2 sets. The reason why there was a day and night shift was because the sugar cane doesn’t hold very well it, it goes bad/drys up very quickly.

We then meandered over to a jail that was there. The one that we were looking at came from Pennsylvania. What it was used for was to keep slaves that hadn’t been sold yet. The jail had 3 cells and each cell would hold 4 slaves so it could hold 12 slaves all together. When it was summer time in the south, were the temperature is commonly in the 90s or even 100 with humidity also around 100% it would make the air fell significantly hotter. Anyway during the summer time the salves would be out of the cells during the day doing work for the auctioneer and then go back into the cell at night. During the day the cell would be collecting the heat and it would also be collecting heat during the evening since it would still be around 80 in the evening. These jails were used when the salves were “free”. However the catch was that when a slave was convicted of a crime then they would go back into slavery. During that time in the south the crime rate flew up and the common group was freed salves.

outside looking into a cell

the inside of a cell

one of the doors to keep them in

Some of the salves would be a lot more valuable then others. One of the most expensive/useful salves was a blacksmith. They would be able work in the plantation that they are in salved in but can do small little projects on their day off if they are able to and get a little cash. They wouldn’t be able to enough to get there freedom ever but they could at least make life a little nicer for them and their family. The inside of the blacksmith shop was actually used in Django Unchained when Jamie Fox was hung upside down. However we were unable to see inside because it was closed off. The other incredibly useful salve was the cook. She had to extremely trustworthy because she was the one that cooked for everyone and needed to not poison everyone in the house or do other such things. The owners would not only be buying the women as a slave but they are also buying her knowledge as a chef, she needs to be able to read the recipes as well as remember other recipes. They would cook in a creole fashion, which was a combination of white and African food. The kitchen that we went into was a fully functional kitchen to the day that it was built it is all original. The kitchen was detached from the main house just in case there was a fire in the kitchen and not burns the house to the ground and because there was a need to continually need fire and during the summer time it could get very hot so they could cook.

The outside of the blacksmith shop

To get into the house the slaves would need to enter through the back doors NOT through the front that was punishable. There are two floors; this was not always the case it use to just be on stilts like many of the houses that we have been seeing around the town. The bottom floor was added around 1850. When floods would come through, the salves would break down the furniture and take it up stairs so that it wouldn’t get damaged during the flood. Then they would also open up the doors to let the water through. There was also a prepare for last minute details for food and a wine cellar that the masters would drink. The spices that were used had to be kept under lock and key because they are exceptionally expensive and they didn’t want people to take it. Out front of the house there were these live oaks that were very old and abundant. There were two that are closer to the house that are the oldest not sure on how much older but they are definitely older. There was a store off to the right of the house that the “freed” slaves would use to buy things but it would just keep them on the plantation. We made our way up stairs where there was Marie Azelie Haydel bedroom and living room area. Marie Azelie Haydel had a slave who’s name was Anna that was bought by the Haydel family to keep Marie company. Anna had it a little better then most of the slaves but she was still a slave and Marie’s brother actually rapped her and Anna had Victor who went on to do things as well as his kids. The truly tragic thing was that the fait of Anna is unknown. The only thing we know was that once Victor was born and was about 7 years old she seemed to have disappeared. They think that she got put into a mass grave but it is unknown.

 

The preproom

Marie Azelie Haydel’s bed

The oaks infant of the house

The front of the house

more dinning room table

dinning table ground floor

All of this was made possible because in 1930 FDR made a group called FWP (Federal Writer Project), where writers all over the country were hired to tell the story of Americans all through out the lands. A few of the writers talked with freed slaves about there stories. The owner of the Plantation now is also preserving the history by making this museum. All of the stories are told from a child’s perspective because all the slaves that were talked to were all kids at the time of their enslavement.

The Debate for a Delta

Posted from Austin, Texas, United States.

The state of Louisiana has not always looked the way that it does today. Over time the Mississippi River has caused the land to change and evolve. Today the river has been channelized to flow straight for the ease of industrial and trade boats to access the city. But it has not aways been this way, naturally the Mississippi River is a delta. A delta is a river that divides into smaller rivers and empties into a larger body of water. During this natural process, it picks up nutrients and sediments from the upper regions of the river resulting in a build up of sediment and organic material deposits at the mouth of the delta. This deposited sediment is highly rich in organic material which is important for the native wetlands and beneficial to the development of new land and crops. However with the channelization and prevention of the delta to flow naturally it has caused many environmental effects.

Currently along the Mississippi River levees have been installed to prevent the river from changing course over time. With the channelization the river has been forced to flow “straight”. This is beneficial to the city economically. New Orleans is known as one of the largest port cities in the United States. If the river was allowed to naturally divide it would result in the development of sand bars. Sand bars would inhibit the ability of cargo ships to access the city to deliver and pick up items such as food, oil, coal, and clothing. This is the reason why the levees were built to channelize the river. If the river was allowed to naturally flow into a delta it would affect the state of Louisiana economically, however the channelization is also impacting the state environmentally.

The citizens of Louisiana have been depleting the land of its rich resources over the last 120 years. As a result, major environmental consequences have occurred such as the degradation and loss of wetlands, decrease in water quality, and land loss. Loss of wetlands have occurred because the channelization of the river has caused it to flow faster and thus not allowing it to divide and disperse its rich sediments. This sediment is an important contributor to wetlands because it accommodates increase land mass and organic materials increasing the ability of wetlands to act as a storm buffer. In addition, man has removed a great amount of the wetland Cypress trees for the use of lumber. Without the presence of cypress trees, the land of Louisiana is more vulnerable to the effects of wind and flooding. Cypress trees are known for their ability to absorb copious amounts of water and act as a wind buffer. Furthermore, the channelization of the river has affected levels of salinity within the estuaries. This means that the oysters have migrated closer towards the shores. As a result, industries have taken advantage of this change and are now harvesting oysters at alarming rates. Oysters are important for their ability to filter water, their loss within the ocean has therefore decreased the overall water quality within the surrounding gulf. Not only does this affect water quality but the ability of the wetlands to survive. The most important environmental effect caused by man is land loss. Land loss is a consequence of the channelization of the river. Channelization due to the installation of levees has caused a choking effect down river causing water levels to rise and speed to increase. The increased water speed has prevented the river to naturally slow and disperse sediments evenly over the land. Furthermore inhibiting the build up of sediments to support the growth of wetland ecosystems and the surface area  of the land. All of these factors put together have contributed to the devestating  effects of Hurricane Katrina.

To prevent a repeat of what happened during the storm of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana has installed a system that is called siphons. Siphons are large pipes that when turned on will pull nutrient and organic rich sediment out of the Mississippi River and push it into nearby wetlands. The goal of this project is to replicate mother natures ability to disperse sediment naturally, just as a delta would. The problem is that these pipes are rarely ever turned on. Some think that the restoration of of these wetlands will be detrimental the city economically. While others think that it is necessary to keep the city above water. However the larger problem in this situation seems to be the debate over whether it is more important to save the city economically or the ecosystem. But what most people do not realize is that without a well balanced and functioning ecosystem, there will be no city.

  • Katie and Hayden

Kevin’s Photo Skills

On our trip this year we were lucky enough to have Kevin, a professional photographer and videographer, join us on all of our adventures. He takes amazing photographs and is always making us laugh, especially when we try really hard to ignore the camera! Kevin snapped this shot of me as we were discussing our fieldwork for today. I could hear the camera snapping over and over and over and I starting cracking up because sometimes it’s super awkward having someone always taking your picture! But he does an amazing job and we love all the great photos he’s producing!

T Minus 2 Days!

It’s hard to believe our NOLA trip is already here! I am super excited to explore the swamps and see all the critters…except for mosquitoes…and poisonous snakes. This will be my second trip to New Orleans and I am happy to be spending time out of the city and exploring more of the suburbs this time around. The thing I am most excited about is all the food, especially the spicy food! But for now it’s off to pack and hopefully I remember to bring everything!

Reflective Post

This service internship class to New Orleans was another experience. I don’t say that to diminish it’s effect more that another has come and gone and I am a changed person because of it. I was introduced to this class when the famous Dr. A came into my History of Economics of North America class and with so much passion and enthusiasm he sold me on the class. I always wanted to go to New Orleans but they way in which Dr. A is so passionate about everything New Orleans, from the food, the culture, the environmental impact, to the rich history it inspired me to want to be apart of that experience. As everyone knows I’m not an ESRM or biology major but instead a business and economics so for me this was a “for fun” class but more for me to broaden my horizons and view this amazing place from a completely different vantage point than the business perspective.

It’s very different going from the profit side to the labor side of things. I view myself as a hard worker but the time we spent in New Orleans challenged me in that aspect and I know for myself that the work we did is good in small doses but definitely not for a career. I respect my professors and the students I went with that do wish to pursue this kind of work for their careers all that much more because again I couldn’t do it all the time. I think it’s also important for people of my major to realize how hard others work because it will most likely be us who hire others to do work and we need to have an understanding of what goes into a job. So instead of just viewing things as “just business” or by the numbers and we can see the blood, sweat, tears and in this case mosquito bites goes into the finished product.

Though this was a “cheap” way to see New Orleans I paid with those blood, sweat, tears and mosquito bites and I’m very happy I did. It made this experience so much more worth it and I gained a small family which is priceless. Wherever my fellow students end up I wish them the absolute best. Dr. A is known for talking, a lot, but I respect how much passion and energy he puts into everything and his last speech that he left us with really inspired me. Though politics are scary at the moment (a mad man is the front runner for the Republican party) Dr. A said we have to stay connected and that we can’t let that negativity win. We are the agents for change and we have to stay connect and not become bitter, against all odds. Though we may be poor college students at the moment we have the luxury to attend college and afford amazing experiences such as NOLA so in fact compared to most of the world we actually are apart of the 1%. With that comes power and responsibility and we need to use this power for the better and change the world for the good. As much bad as there is in this world there is good and more importantly hope. Even in the darkest room light can get in even if it’s only a sliver and though our efforts in New Orleans maybe miniscule I hope that we will see the much needed change that needs to happen in our lifetime.

With that I leave pictures of my NOLA family:

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Auf Wiedersehen NOLA

Trip Reflection

It’s been a couple weeks since the team returned from New Orleans, and for me personally, it’s given me some time to reflect on the entire trip. First and foremost, this trip hands down was the most rewarding trip I have ever been on. I cannot thank Dr. Anderson enough for giving me the opportunity to partake in such an incredible experience. 

New Orleans is an incredible place, full of diversity, history, and culture. Having this unique blend which is made up of its’ people, music, and cuisine, New Orleans definitely won my heart. It was a trip that was over in the blink of an eye, and I think I can speak for the entire team in saying that we were sad to leave when it came time to head back to California. 

  
Dr. Anderson did an incredible job in making sure we got a full taste of what New Orleans had to offer in everything we did. From our service-learning work; to the people we met; to the places we went, we were able to see all sides of NOLA, both the good and the bad. 

  
I believe our blog does a fantastic job of showcasing the work we did, and the places we went, so I won’t go into super detail of everything we did. But I will say my most favorite aspect of the trip was the service-learning work we did. From our transects at the Woodland Conservancy, to our community gardens and farms at Capstone and Grow Dat, we were doing our part to help this amazing place and its’ people. Which was most rewarding for me. 

  
Dr. Anderson (CSUCI), Dr. Huggins (UCLA), Dr. Lambrinos (OSU), and Dr. Patsch (CSUCI) were a phenomenal faculty team, which added to the overall experience of the trip. I cannot wait for the day when I can return to New Orleans, hopefully to continue working with these faculty members.

Here’s to a fantastic trip, full of many memories that’ll last a lifetime! NOLA 2016!

  

Reflection

New Orleans will always have a place in my heart after this trip. This city is alive with music, culture and cuisine. But this trip showed me there was more to NOLA than Bourbon Street. Places like the lower 9th ward are still broken from hurricane Katrina. The levee tour displayed failures in the system that destroyed areas like the lower 9th. We toured the French Quarter and enjoyed the cuisine and music. 

   
The woodland band transects were one of my favorite parts of this trip. Going through the elderberry and rad maple in search of invasive species was the primary goal of the transects. We did this to compare transects from previous years. We saw various flora and fauna between the woodland park and Jean Lafitte National Park from armadillos, snakes and alligators to willow oak and blackberry. The wildlife was impressive and intriguing to see, it is very different from Southern California’s ecosystems.  

  We got a chance to help the food desert situation in the more remote and underprivileged parts of Louisiana. Through out the trip we had three days to help do gardening for local gardens. We went to Capstone gardens and set up aquaponic systems. The next location we went to was Carols house set up a seasonal garden for the local community. After that we did gardening at Grow Dat a youth group farm to teach skills and leadership to its participants.