When people ask me how the trip was, I usually say that it was really fun. When they ask more about it I tell them about the poverty I witnessed and how much still needs to be done 5 years later. I tell them about the wide spans of new levee I saw, representing the area that had been breached in the hurricane. I tell them about the gutted houses we worked in. I’ve asked myself why this more detailed response seems to contradict the initial one-that I had fun. I think that the people in New Orleans and Houma, as well as my classmates, had such a positive attitude about Louisiana and it’s future, that it was easy to overcome the sadness of the situation down there, without forgetting it’s importance.
When we came back from Louisiana I did not know what I thought about our trip and experience so when people asked how it was, my response was “It was interesting.” Of course that lead to long conversations of walls, trees, and multi-grain bread but everyone was always impressed with knowing that a group of us went to Louisiana to help someone else besides ourselves.
In my opinion, this trip could be revamped in numerous ways that probably will or will not be explored. Right now we are in the process of writing our papers and preparing for a presentation later this month. Even though my first word to describe this trip is “interesting,” I had plenty of fun and made new friends.
It has been about two weeks since we have been back from New Orleans and I have had much time to reflect on the time we spent down south. It’s interesting because when you come home everyone always immediately asks you how the trip went. My first instinct it was to say “Great!” While it was a great trip, it was difficult at times. I find it necessary to discuss how the trip was difficult because it would be misguiding to let everyone think it was all just a joy.
There were many times which one found themselves to be frustrated with either the conditions of southern Louisiana, or with the amount of work which one personally accomplished. At first I didn’t feel as though I accomplished as much work as I thought I would prior to going to N.O.L.A. However, it was hard to judge exactly how much work I did think I would be getting done. I keep reminding myself that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. While one can have a clearer understanding of the conditions while being in New Orleans for two weeks, they are unable to fully grasp the weight of the situation down south. Sometime you have to accept that there just isn’t enough time in the day to finnish what you had once hoped to finnish and that not meeting ones complete goal is O.K.
Overall though, our time in New Orleans was well cherished and I hope to make it back down to continue to help with future projects.
Viva La New Orleans!!
It’s been more than two weeks since we left New Orleans, and i must say that it has been more than exciting to be back home and back to Union.
Being in Dulac was unlike any other experience I have ever had and is definitely considered the biggest amount of ‘culture-shock’ I have ever been a part of. The big question that I have been hearing from all of my family and friends was ‘HOW WAS NEW ORLEANS?’
My concise answer is ‘good!’, but I am more than certain people do not want to hear about every little thing I did each day. Furthermore, people do not have a clue what Dulac is or where it is located, so it was very difficult for people to comprehend that I didn’t spend my whole two weeks in New Orleans.
If I had the opportunity to elaborate to each person that asked me how the south was, I would inform them of the work we did with Ameri-corps, the struggles we faced and Dulac, and how this mini-term was an eye-opening experience much different from any of the other mini-terms that students went on. With all of that said, it’s awesome to be home, but I will forever have memories from the 1 intriguing week in New Orleans and the 1 infamous week in Dulac.
So today is January 5, which makes about two weeks since we’ve come back from Louisiana.It was a relief to be home finally after a very stressful/difficult week in Dulac and talk to my family. I think that now being back at school its become very challenging to come up with the best answer to the question “How was Louisiana?!”. I have very mixed feelings about how I should respond. Part of me wants to go into a deep explanation of the stressful situations that we faced due to our environment and the dynamic of the group and group leaders. While part of me also wants to just say “It was fun and very rewarding.” because there were many aspects of the trip that I did enjoy and that were very rewarding and eye-opening.I usually tend to say a mixture of the too, because I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone about the experience. I wouldn’t want them to think it was a bad trip because it most definitely was not. However, I wouldn’t want them to think that it is a relaxing mini-term like some of the other mini-terms. There are multiple aspects of the trip that I would change for the future, but overall I do think it was a very valuable experience.
To be honest, leaving Dulac was somewhat of a relief. I was feeling sick, the days were exhausting, and it seemed like tensions were rising within the group. I was excited to see my friends and family and be able to talk about New Orleans and what a great experience I had. However, my recollections of the trip were somewhat tainted, presumably because of the last few days at Dulac. I went from raving about the trip the first week to whining about how much work I had to do. Instead of telling friends and family about Bourbon Street, the Jazz, and the Rock and Bowl, I would say I worked from 9-4:30, I was so tired, and we didn’t get out much.
After sharing my story I became surprised as to how much I complained rather than how much I talked about the fun I had. I began to wonder if it was because of how much stress I began to feel in Dulac. It is so easy for me to look back and think about the great experiences we had and the moments where my whole perspective on topics such as community service and New Orleans had changed, yet it is even easier for me to remember the times people were crying or complaining. It is extremely unfortunate that bad memories often take precedent over good memories in our minds, but the more I talked about the mini-term the more I recalled the great times.
The trip led me to become more mature and more aware of the world around me. I like to think that this is true for most people in the group and that they think more about the positives than the negatives, even though that was hard for me at first, too.
It’s bizarre being home and not having anyone who shared the same experience to talk to. It’s bizarre walking around my town and neighborhood. All I do is compare it to what I witnessed. Every time I complain about something insignificant, I scold myself. And every time someone asks me about the trip, I try my hardest to define it in a simple, brief, and honest way. But it’s not really definable. Every person I’ve told, I get praise for what an amazing thing I did, and I try to explain how the experience was amazing, but how little of a difference we can actually make, unless we devote our lives to making a difference. I don’t think of this as a community service miniterm anymore. For me, and I think I can speak for my peers, this was more of a community awareness miniterm, which was very significant in my growth as a person and as a college student. Returning to the holidays was very strange. The transition was fast. It was as if time sped up and I was thrown in to the joyful and boisterous holiday spirit. Although it is called the season of giving, I also think of it as the season of forgetting and ignoring, as some people seem to neglect the hardships of others and maybe even their own, and immerse themselves in the moment. But that’s what people do to survive. They live in the moment, like Jimmy and Adelle in Dulac. For the few hours we spent with them, they were so happy to have company and to socialize with us. We were their holiday season and joy. So in that way, we made a difference for a moment. But moments don’t last forever. And that’s what I learned about service. It must last for more than just a moment. It must be eternal.
Being home doesn’t feel like I expected it would. I expected to feel comfort in being around my own things. Instead it felt lonely. I guess it would have felt different if I went home instead of going back to my empty dorm room back on campus. I have to admit having 16 other people around might have been the best thing for me. Growing up as an only child I never was accustomed to being teased or having to share almost everything with any one. To be honest I miss the group which I thought I might but never this much. I find myself watching Saint games, looking at pictures and videos reminiscing on an experience that just concluded. Going out in Schenectady to meet up with my co-workers was a bit of an experience. Some had actually noticed that I was missing and others didn’t care. The same thing happened when I returned from Australia exactly one year before. It really puts the significance that you might think you have into a real context which can be quite painful if the doses aren’t administered slowly or in small increments. When not in the glass half empty mindset I would say that it felt nice and easy to get used to my bed and my computer (all the selfish mine mine mine things). The hardest and saddest things were the loneliness that is associated with not being home for the holidays. The most surprising thing about coming back is the amount of physical and personal growth that had occurred in just 2 weeks. I now know my way around dry wall and other matters of house construction as well as having the ability to start to grow comfortable with all the sides of myself. Next time someone says “Who dat?” I’ll be able to give them a better and honest response of who I am.
This was an amazing experience that will continue to have an affect on me for years to come.
I returned home, selfishly craving the luxuries of my bed, my moms cooking and the company of my family during the holidays. During the final days in Dulac all I wanted was to go home because I felt so useless and alone sometimes and now that I am home I wish I could be more proactive and I almost miss the constant opportunities to help people. As an update I have been in contact with Nat Turner about applying for Extreme Home Makeover and I have written a letter to someone else rather important that I feel could make a significant difference in his life. He really was inspiration to me.
After being home for a week, I must say that it has been especially difficult summing up this trip into a presentable explanation quick enough for the short conversations I have had with everyone I’ve run into since being home. Even though it isn’t appropriate for short passing-by talk, I really want to let everyone know what it was like. I also must say that it has been extremely hard to convey how exactly I feel about the trip to people. When my friends ask about it they expect that it was more recreational in nature and so they don’t understand why I don’t exclaim about how much “fun” it was. How I feel about the trip is way more complex than just an adjective for fun, because it wasn’t all fun, and it wasn’t supposed to be. It was real. We were getting involved in real situations that real people are facing on a daily basis and the disappointment, the poverty and the amount still needing to be fixed is real. And in the end, we had to walk away from these real people, barely scratching the surface of what needs to be done for them and everyone living that way. It is such a contrast to our daily-pampered college student lives, where “the real world” is still in the distance, after college.
As we begin to wrap up our last day of work it is hard to believe that we are going to be going back to New York tomorrow. Our group has had its ups and downs in Dulac but as a whole I believe we really came together. It is hard going from New Orleans where everything is very structured and organized, to jumping into a place where we have to do everything ourselves. There was little instruction and help with our projects so we had to rely on each other to get things accomplished. At first it took a little getting used to but finally, by the last day, we figured how to set our day up so everyone can be involved and know exactly what needed to be done. It took time but we got everything done that we hoped to.