Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rest Day

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Today is our day of rest. Some folks got up early and went to Café Dumond for Bienets. Some folks slept in. That would be Emma and me. We opted for sleep! We realize we missed out on a New Orleans Classic, but we needed/wanted sleep. Some then went to church at the church where we are staying, others did a little shopping. And some of us kept sleeping.

After everyone woke up and the others returned, we loaded up the vans and went to Stein’s Deli for lunch. Carla’s doctor is best friends with the owner and so we had to check it out. It was everything a Jewish Deli should be and was very good food. Highly recommended!

After lunch we headed over the canal to the Lower Ninth Ward. We were under the impression we had seen horrific destruction around our work sites. We were wrong.

This was a blighted area before The Storm. It had buildings in disrepair to begin with. The area we drove around was densely populated. Single family homes… small single family homes…. but packed in tightly on narrow streets. One of the reasons they had such high losses in the flood was because they simply had more people packed into a square mile. Our neighborhood, for example, just doesn’t have that kind of density, even though we feel pretty darn packed in. Our lots run in the 1/9th of an acre range. I would say these were more like 1/18th of an acre. We can park cars on both sides of the street and still have room to drive down the middle. If a car is parked on the street, there is barely enough room to drive between car and opposite curb.

One of the things I noticed was there were not a lot of FEMA trailers in this neighborhood. These folks were renters, not homeowners. They went off to Houston or Little Rock or Atlanta and never came back. They had nothing to come back to. The house they lived in was unlivable. Their possessions were destroyed. Their family and friends were scattered around the country. So they had no need for a FEMA trailer. It makes me wonder if that’s why so many FEMA trailers have gone unused. There are a few FEMA Trailer Parks around the city that we have seen. Surely there are others. We saw one Tent City underneath a freeway. According to the papers, there are a lot of squatters in the condemned housing. But many many have simply left. They will probably never return. They just don’t have a reason to come back. No family here. No friends here. No job here. No property here.

We drove up to the levee that is against this neighborhood. The water is high today. It rained hard last night. It wouldn’t take much more rain to have that water come over the levee again. A breech would send an unbelievable amount of water back into this neighborhood. Just like every neighborhood built against a levee. So many neighborhoods in Sacramento face this threat too.

We decided to head back to Rampart Center as we became increasingly uncomfortable. It wasn’t so much that we felt unsafe, but we felt intrusive. There were people out. Some working on their homes. Most just trying to live in these houses. We were looking at them like a tourist attraction. We weren’t really… we just wanted to be able to tell their story.

We regrouped back at Rampart Center. Giles and Mary wanted to do some shopping in the Quarter, so they went off to do that. The rest of us got on the Canal Street Streetcar to go out to one of the historical cemeteries. On our way there, it started to rain. And by “rain”, I mean a torrent. Firehose like. Sure, we get those kind of red cells moving through back home. But this didn’t move through. This was the kind of rain we had going out to meet Kurt the night before. The kind that your windshield wipers just cannot move the water off fast enough. We decided to just look at the cemetery from the Streetcar. The rain started to let up on the trip back. By this time we had decided to transfer to the St. Charles Street Streetcar and take a ride through the Garden District. The rain had returned with a vengence by the time we had to switch Streetcars. We got soaked.

We enjoyed the ride and the glance at the old money homes of New Orleans. Such a stark contrast to where we had been earlier. We went past Tulane University and Loyola University. At the end of the line was a small café where we got some coffee, hot chocolate, cookies and croissants. The rain had stopped again and we were able to sit outside and dry off a bit. We headed back to meet Mary and Giles for dinner. We had dinner at a place where I don’t think anyone got what they thought they were getting. Except for maybe Emma who ordered Chicken Tenders. Emma and I left the group and did our souvenier shopping and we walked part way down Bourbon Street. There was a section that was just raining beads and Emma got a bunch. She wanted to just stay there and get more and more beads. I finally reminded her that we had a weight limit on our suitcases and we had enough.

Today’s Volunteer Labor Debt Reduction:

0 hours x 9 people x $18 = $0 It was a rest day after all. But we did put some money into the local economy!

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