We're back from Alternative Spring Break, and I have to say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! I'm so glad I was given the last minute opportunity to go on this trip. It was such an enlightening experience.
The first day was mostly travel, and we were all tired, but we all watched the documentary "Trouble the Water" which gave us a firsthand account of what happened during Katrina. It really helped me understand what happened, and why we were in Louisiana to help. The following day, we went into New Orleans, and we took a Katrina Bus Tour. I was shocked to learn that the disaster of Katrina was not a natural disaster, but a man-made one that resulted from the collapse of the levees that were improperly built. We saw the damage that was still not repaired 5 years later, the empty lots where houses once stood, and the marks that demonstrated how high the water was when the city was flooded. It truly motivated me to help out as much as I could while I was there to rectify what was lost during Katrina for the families that had to leave their homes and relocate. It made me see what a difference we could make. I was excited to start working on the houses.
That afternoon we had the opportunity to explore the French quarter a bit before we all met up to have dinner at an authentic New Orleans restaurant. The food was really good, and the live jazz band made the atmosphere feel all the more authentic.
The next morning, we all woke up bright and early to get to the work site and get started on the houses. Our group was split that first day between two work sites, and I ended up going to work on the roof of a house. When we first got on top of the roof, it was really scary because there were only a few beams to stand on and we had to balance on them. But soon enough we laid down the boards to create the roof and got to work nailing them in place. By the end of the day, you could no longer see the beams that we were standing on at the beginning of the day. The house had a roof!
For the next two days, I continued to work on the roof and we managed to lay down the boards, tar paper, and nail down a significant number of shingles. I was very sad to learn at the end of the third day that we would not be able to continue working on the roof for our last day, but I was also excited to work on something different.
On the last day of work, half of us went to work on a site with a group of boys from Indiana University. We were able to finish nailing down the subfloor on this house. Then we began putting together the frame pieces of the walls. After a little bit of effort, we got to raise a two walls of the house! It was so exciting to see the walls go up because they are a visible result of all the energy and hard work we put into the houses.
That night we all went out to dinner in Slidell, before heading to New Orleans to celebrate the end of out trip together. The food at the Times Bar and Grill was really good, and it was pretty funny to sing to Angel for her "birthday." When we got back in the vans to head into the city, we turned up the radio. I laughed so hard with everyone singing and dancing to the music. Then New Orleans itself was such a beautiful place and so much fun to experience. Walking down Bourbon Street was definitely a scene I will not forget soon. That night I also saw a wedding parade that had a marching jazz band, and saw the bride and the rest of the party dancing in the street, celebrating. I thought it was such a unique idea. That last night in New Orleans (or N'awlins as many signs proclaimed it) was such an amazing way to finish our time in Louisiana.
After a week of hard work, we got up nice and early again to return to Massachusetts. I wish we could have stayed in Louisiana to see our houses through to completion, but I will have to content myself for now with the work we did.
Words cannot truly express how much this experience has impacted me and how much I already miss it. I got to spend my spring break with an exceptional group of people in an amazing place that really needed our help. It was so inspiring to actually see the difference we had made. Today, after the snow and cold weather here in New England, I longed to be back in warm and sunny Louisiana continuing to work on the houses that we helped build last week with all the amazing people I got to know.