Muddah Nature In His Act

8.20.2009 Comments: (6)
Hellllooo??? Is anyone out there??? It's been 17 days since our last writing. I feel like I need to visit a confessional for my sins of not writing lately. If you haven't noticed, KK does most of the writing, but as she's been overloaded with training for the past 2 weeks, so now is my moment to shine! We have a lot of living to catch up on - there have been weddings, anniversaries, more scavenger hunts, and lots of work ramping up, but before we get to all that - ever more of our Deep South Roadtrip! yay! When I realized how close to the Mississippi delta and bayou we were actually going to be in New Orleans, the first words out of my mouth could have been 'Bourbon St. here we come' or 'Angelina Jolie!' or 'mmmm... Cajun food.' No no. Instead, my mind immediately asks 'Can we please go on a swamp boat!?!' You know, those boats with the big giant fan on the back that look so fun. And so that's exactly what we did. It's shocking that just 30 minutes outside of New Orleans, the landscape changes from such an urban city to swamps and watery roads that people literally call their backyards. Considering it is the wetlands and in the southern tropical climates, we shouldn't have been surprised by the thunderstorms and tropical downpours that rolled in around noon each day we were there. But we were surprised how quickly the storm clouds rolled in. We don't get thunderstorms here. And we miss them. However, lightning storms and big metal boats with supercharged fans strapped to them running across water just don't mix kids. Thankfully, we were able to switch to an afternoon tour and drive around the post-Katrina ninth-ward neighborhoods while we waited. We took a tour in one of the smaller performance airboats that reaches 60 mph, turns on a dime, and can glide down some of the tighter water ways in between the trees. And when we didn't quite fit, well, the boat just hops the dirt/logs/muck/swamp grass in the way. We glided over a very vast calm body of water, hung a left, and all of a sudden everything was green. The water, the trees, the sky, everything! Small lilies covered the water, moss on the grounds climbing the trees, and Spanish moss hanging from limbs as we passed under. It's odd to say, but the swamp was simply beautiful! This literally was our tour guides backyard... as in for real, his family owned part of this green soup. (I still can't get over someone calling the water their yard!) He was born and raised in the bayou, and we couldn't understand a word he was saying. But we had a blast and we highly recommend 1-800-GO-SWAMP. I'm not kidding! You can even have parties and receptions there! Here's KK super excited to be on a boat. Green Watery Road Gator Muddah Nature In His Act

Deep South Roadtrip: New Orleans Katrina tour

8.03.2009 Comments: (4)
So we arrived in New Orleans on Tuesday, and did a whole bunch of fun things before we went on this Katrina driving tour on Wednesday. But, I'll post about those later. I figured we'd start with the heavy stuff and then talk about the restaurants and whatnot. The reverse somehow doesn't feel appropriate. I would suggest clicking to enlarge the photos.
We only drove around one area, the lower ninth ward, and only one small section of it. It wasn't the part of New Orleans that was under the most water, but it is the section of the city that has the least amount of re-building since the hurricane. The part of town we were in flooded due to a levee breach on an industrial canal right next to their homes. The water rose to between 4 and 10 feet, and remained anywhere between 23 and 29 days.
We were there four years later. It's stark and sad and humbling. Everything is gone - these homes were destroyed and ripped apart and then rotted in feet of stagnant water. Some homes are still standing because their owner hopes to rebuild, but it hasn't happened yet. These homes are completely surrounded by 4 years of grass growth and a lack of care.
Other homes are obviously new. But, very few families have been able to completely rebuild on their own. This neighborhood was not affluent. You can tell when you see three remnants of foundations in an area folks from my suburban hometown would call a "small lot."
Otherwise, you see foundation stones. Front gates. Steps leading up to invisible porches. It's clear something is missing. And it's clear much has been ignored. Some streets are completely covered in plant growth and haven't been cleared. Street signs are handmade by residents. Maybe Kanye West was right.
Four years later.
A good representation. We were in the area where most of the red is.
Afterwards, we drove across the canal back towards the French Quarter and diverted down some side streets.
While homes here were not completely washed away, the amount of water and wind damage you can still see is shocking. Some homes clearly have families living in the them. Others - maybe every third home - is boarded up or abandoned. Many homes still have the spray painted tag on their front - left from recovery personnel the days directly following the storm. Businesses are closed. All the signs stapled onto powerline poles are about how to reconnect your air conditioning, or for house leveling, or putting floors down. The sense that so many people were still living daily with such clear reminders of this event was hard to see. You can see a tag, in bright red, on the house below. The date the house was searched was 9/12. The hurricane made landfall on 8/29.
This area was more emotional for me to see, because supposedly, this area wasn't "as bad" in terms of damage. Clearly though, lives were destroyed. And no one has helped put them back together. We had to stop taking pictures.
Four years later.
Before we left, I wasn't sure what we would see, because most of the updated information or photos I could find were not recent. There is a bunch of information from the year anniversary. And then...nothing new. Naively, I sort of thought that no news meant good news! That things were being rebuilt, citizens being helped, support systems in place. That's not what we found.