Monday, May 19, 2008

Well, looks like we're heading back again this summer. I hope to travel with a group in August, 3-10 I believe. The hotel we were at last summer welcomed us back, and I believe the pool is now open. I look forward to the walks, but also to seeing the school again and some of the friends we made. Please consider joining us. Email Karen ROth ( for more information!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

August 29

2 years ago today. I wake up and expect to see a headline in the Tribune. Maybe some special interest story. Nothing. I skim through the paper, finally, on the editorial page, a commentary. "Ignoring New Orleans' Poor, Again" writes Clarence Page. "Two years later, too little has changed."

I've thought a lot since I've been back about NOLA, but it wasn't until the storm hit the Chicago area last week that some of my thoughts came together. I lost power in my home for 3 days. I threw out all the food in my refridgerator. I relied on friends for company and support. I felt like I was disorientated. And it was random. Neighbors across the street moved on as if nothing was different, and I sat in the dark. One morning I left the house and my clothes didn't match! And I waited. No information, just dark and quiet. Some friends were hit even worse - I was actually one of the luckier ones. One lost a good part of her home, furnishings, files, furnace, roof. Needed to move to a hotel.

We take a lot for granted.

3 days for me. 2 years for others. I can't imagine how one ever recovers from the traumas of losing your home, community, security, money, schools.

Now the question I ponder, and I address the 11 others who went on the Service Learning trip - what can we do? Having seen first hand what some of the people are going through, how can we continue our service?

Here are a few more pictures - some of the devastation, and some of the rebirth.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I had my first NOLA dream last night. It was, of course, spooky. What I remember most is waking up and gasping for air. Feeling dirty, dusty. The trip has snuck into me - images and memories come at strange times. I think back to what Jocelyn, our guide, said to us. Bring our stories back. Tell people that NOLA still needs us. The rebuild process is slow, and is still going on.

I've been thinking of how we can extend our experience. What can we all realistically do from far away? Especially since many of us are busy with our own lives. I know Trisha starts school today, our university classes start soon. Do we think of another trip? Can we find ways to individually connect our own lives with others in NOLA?

In the meantime, I'm collecting photos from others on the trip, and will soon post some of their comments and thoughts. Here are a few more photos of the devastation, a peak at the rebuilding of one of the levees that broke, and a shot from the end of the week pizza lunch hosted by the KIPP staff.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


It seems appropriate that we experience first hand just a touch of the anxiety that a potential incoming storm brings. As we were getting ready to leave for the airport, the storm clouds came in. Rumors started to circle about "Dean" - would it take a turn and hit this area again? As we drove to the airport, the traffic thickened. We really didn't want to talk about it - but were people evacuating? The clouds were thick, and the rain was coming down hard. What we would have seen as a simple rainstorm in Chicago had a different definition in NOLA.

Arriving at the airport, we sensed the storm started to break. Our flight home was uneventful, and on time, and all of our luggage made it. We hugged at the airport and made our way home - now, how can we take what we learned here in NOLA and bring it into our lives, and our teaching?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's Wednesday, and while I'm sitting here trying to update this blog, a 5 block party heads by complete with music and dancing. Sorry. I had to step away and now have a neck full of beads.

Back to the story - the city is interesting and sporadic. Some days things seems to work fine, there are neighborhoods that seem like what we find back home. Internet connection seems that way too - when we find it, it's slow, and tunes out at will. So sorry for not posting.

Today at Kipp Central City Academy, we did everything from take off old doors, drill and hand new white boards, data-entry hundreds of books, and even starting helping teachers arrange desks and cover bulletin boards. All in anticipation of the first day of school - which has been pushed back to next Wednesday due to many issues...meanwhile our group of 12 from NLU service learning team have grown closer as we learn about the conditions of the schools and each realize that we have the power to do something to help.

Weather has been hot, hot, hot. Luckily many of the rooms at the school have window air units, so we get a rest.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Day Two, a short story

Internet access is sporadic and hard to find, so I'll grab it while I can. We are now at the wharf, getting a tour of the areas hit by the storm. What at first glance seems like a regular neighborhood is spotted with signs of storm and flood damage. You can see water lines on homes, signals for search parties right next to beautiful homes.

We are blessed with a wonderful guide - Joyceln, a minister from the Loyola Academy. and she is part story-teller, part activist. She brings us into a house that is owned by one of her colleagues at Loyola. The house was destroyed by flooding, as was the neighborhood it seems. And since there was no assistance, her friend got together her other friends, and at this point, they have managed to tear down the house, to the bare basics. And it sits, empty, what seemed like a nice, local family neighborhood. Now it's a shell of what it was. Seems like some are slowly coming back. But it takes a lot of work, money, and patience.

An hour later, we're at "ground zero" - total devastation. The 9th ward. Unlike the other neighborhoods we visited, this one has no signs of life. Huge, empty lots, or spaces with nothing but a cement slab where a house once stood. Street after street we slowly drive, and we are quiet. I've never seen anything like this. A hollowness, where are the people who used to call this home? Where are their children? What will they do with their spot of land? Joycelyn says many of them are still paying mortgages, property taxes, cable bills, and they have nothing but a square plot of overgrown weeds. There is no power, lights, water, trash pickup. We leave this area, confused, and all deep in our own thoughts.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Day One, Delays, lost luggage, "we're staying here???"

We made it. Our flight was so perfectly on time it was a bit scary. Because that meant that the luggage didn't make it. So after about an hour at the airport, we were finally on our way to the rental car company, for more waiting.

Then, after driving over the same bridge several times, we drive right by our lodging. Okay, now is when you should look at the picture. Trisha said, "Where was this in the brochure?"

Still, we weren't expecting luxury accomodations, so everyone was open-minded. There were rows of cots, and a private area on the second floor. We decided to head out and get a bite to eat, and decide what the next step would be.

We grab some jambalaya and oyster poorboys, and Karen and Jill decide to go back for the luggage delivery. Another case of "hurry up and wait". When they get back to the "camp" the doors are unlocked, and Karen, our fearless leader, calls me and says that I should rally the troops and see if we can somehow figure out where else we can stay. Trisha is on it - she talks to some local folks who happen to manage a lovely inn in the French Quarter. We head right over - and I tell you, some things are just meant to happen, and when you are in the right place at the right time, well, ends up we have reasonably priced, safe and clean, LOVELY accomodations. The journey begins.....