It’s finally REAL Friday, Apr 30 2010 

I can’t believe it. After all our classes, and stress, and packing, and for me… getting my identification troubles… finally we’ve arrived here, and everything’s become so real. My mom drove five of us to Buffalo, and we crossed the border quite easily… which we’re grateful for after hearing some others horror stories! A bunch of us arrived at the Buffalo airport to find it closed! We met up with another group of us, and we weighed our bags getting ready to check them. Some people were over, and others luckily under, so we distributed the weight evenly so none of us had to pay extra! We went through security quite easily, no issues,.. for anyone! So then we headed to the waiting area, and it wasn’t long before they were boarding our flight.

Take off was LONG, and slow… ears were popping like crazy! The flight was fine, until the landing! Our pilot went down, and then back up, and down again, and back up… like a roller coaster! Ridiculous! Our stop over in Atlanta was seamless! We quickly found the next gate, checked in and boarded! This take off was much quicker, and painless! The flight was great, and the landing also quick! Much better! We went to pick up our bags, which were ALL there, and we took mad pictures! We were so excited to have finally arrived in New Orleans!

We found Pascal outside, and loaded our stuff in the HUGE van! We drove toward the Camp, but the GPS … not mine!… wanted us to take a closed bridge! We took a detour, and decided to find a spot for Breakfast. We ended up at ihop, which was great! One of the waitresses warned us that she was sitting us beside a crazy lady, who’s not all there and would talk to us… which we were looking forward to… but she didn’t say a word! We had a great breakfast, and explained to the waitress on the way out we were disappointed, which she got quite a chuckle from!

We then headed to Camp Hope, Pascal showing us tons of great things along the way! We couldn’t believe that we were actually seeing the destruction of Hurricane Katrina for real. Not from a movie, but from our own eyes! Everything became so real at that moment, and we were just taking it all in. Once we got here, we met up with Tanya, and a couple others. We got our tour of Camp Hope, and found our beds! We chilled for a bit, then some people decided to go into the city. Rebecca and I, tired from being up since 6:00am Thursday morning, decided to stay back. We were writing our journals, but there seems to be a line across the page, where our pen slide, because we crashed! We woke up, tried again, and crashed again! Finally, we woke up around 5pm, went to the drug store for some medication, and made it back in time for dinner!

Camp Hope had some pretty awesome pizza, and salad, and we were quite satisfied! After dinner, Tanya and Pascal were picking up other students, and doing some running around, so Jason, Rebecca and I toured the block! We walked around, and some of the neighbours were telling us their stories. It was unbelievable! One lady told us how she had to leave when Katrina hit, and had to go live with her daughter in California. She’s back now, but the stories are just… words can not even describe it.

We’ve all split up, and a few more students have arrived. I went with them while they had dinner, and they went to Waffle House. Man, Femi and Jai sure can EAT! We’ve headed back to camp, some people were in bed, as it’s lights out, and everyone’s exhausted! Breakfast is at 6:30am tomorrow! We have a tour which we’re looking forward to, too!

A few students missed their connecting flight, but got on another, and should be here soon! Poor Chantelle explained her troubles at the boarder, but we’re hoping she gets here soon too! The showers at Camp Hope are surprisingly AWESOME! The perfect way to end the day! I’m so excited for tomorrows adventures! I never knew what to expect, and still don’t, but so far, am loving every minute of it! After everything, it’s finally real, and so unbelievable!

Krista

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“Now you has jazz”…it’ll be true May 15th at least! Friday, Apr 30 2010 

First of all: safe travels to everyone in the first group tomorrow! I hope everyone’s experiences leave them with something to talk about (oh my, I was just listening to a cover of that — strange!).

Well, I am definitely excited for this trip, as I’m sure everyone else is. Fundraising has only built that further. After finishing a pretty packed exam schedule and recovering from a wisdom teeth operation, my timing options were pretty limited. So I headed out to Toronto last Saturday with a few friends to sell some Mardi Gras necklaces and masks, paint faces, play music, and hand out info sheets. Very few things actually turned out as planned though; and I think it was for the better. After speaking to passersby, most of the ones — who stopped, at least — just wanted to donate with nothing in return (hmmm, what to do with 150 necklaces?). I was also surprised by how many people knew what was going on in New Orleans, and could tell me more than I could tell them. One man even described what a FEMA camp is like, and the problems with people being unable to collect their welfare checks because their mailboxes have no locks. I remember approaching a few people to say “would you like to read about what’s going on in New Orleans?”, only to hear “I know what’s going on in New Orleans. I have family there.” The expressions on their faces, well, I can’t really describe. It just showed me how far-reaching the devastation still is, and how much it has hurt people. Even though we raised a super modest $55 all day, I think spreading the word, and learning more myself, made the time we put in more than worth it. Plus, seeing my best friend of 17 years bust out her accordion with my acoustic-playing brother on Toronto’s evening streets, was absolutely priceless.

Even still, Onur and I are organizing a marshmallow kegger for next Friday night (i.e. there will be a fire to roast marshmallows)! Hopefully all of the funds put together can put a bit of a dent in the cost of next year’s trip? Plus, I can hand out all of those necklaces before they collect dust in my room!

Wow, this is only the preparation! I think I’ll be really surprised by what and how much I learn on the trip, because the whole issue is so complex. I’m really looking forward to meeting new people, and getting my hands in there to rebuild. Hopefully this will get me ready for some Habitat for Humanity volunteer work when I get back!

Oh yes, last thought: my packing goal is to fit everything into one backpack. We’ll see how that goes!

Lori Dagenais

Chantelle’s FRUSTRATION Friday, Apr 30 2010 

I’m sitting here in the McDonalds across from the Buffalo International Airport, exhausted, frustrated and annoyed.

(Other than for the Free WiFi – I’m pretty p’d off)

My flight was at 12:40pm with Rachel and I was up all night restlesses waiting to leave.

Minutes to 11am, we pulled into the booth at the border and my father explained why we crossing over and I piped in that I had a letter. The officer at the booth didn’t even look at it but proceeded to pop our truck, check out our luggage and then wander off for a few moments. After about 10 minutes he produced a small little of piece of paper and directed us into a building.

My dad automatically started muttering under his breath “little buggers” and my mom was asking “how come? why?” I tried to keep my cool assuming that it would only take a few minutes and then we would be on our way.. but No0o0o0oooo..

After a few moments of impatiently waiting I started to get upset – my mother spoke to one of the officers  who said that he could not locate our passports and that the officer outside had written down that I was an exchange student which would prolong our wait.

As soon as 12:40pm hit I was so pissed off. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I blocked my parents and even my grandmother out because I was EXTREMELY ANNOYED. I almost blew up on the officers and swore.

Sad? But true.

After waiting two hours, a officer called my name and asked the purpose of my travel, if I was a student etc. He looked at the letter and said, “I don’t get why they told you to come here” then asked “Let me guess you missed your flight.”

DAMN RIGHT!

He stamped the paper,  said “Sorry for wasting your time” and sent me on my way.

When I got to the airport I was about 20-30 minutes late .. and the flight attendant said there were no other flights available for the evening!! I can’t wait to see my phone bill as I spent nearly an hour on the phone negotiating a way for me to get to NOLA quick, safe, and cheap! (They wanted me to pay over $700 to rebook my flight) However we managed to get a flight for 6pm tomorrow evening – and quite possibly 6am if there is space.

Downsides?

– I had to prevent my parents from going to work today and tomorrow – we decided to sleep in buffalo so that we wouldn’t get stuck trying to cross the border again or questioned.

– I’m missing the Jazz Festival, moving in to Camp Hope, calling dibs on the bunk beds, the tour etc. and most of all the rest of the Group One students!!

Upsides?

– we got to do a bit of shopping

– my parents each got a new set of pajamas! (Hahaa for sleeping overnight)

– I should be on my way SOON!

So apart from having a bad day? I can’t wait to meet all my peers, Tanya & Pascal tomorrow! Hopefully the rest of the trip has a better after taste.

❤ Chantelle

Exams done – here I come! Thursday, Apr 29 2010 

I just literally walked through my front door after finishing my last exam. I am so excited to be done! And now, I finally have a chance to sit back and let it hit me: the realization that I’m heading out to NOLA tomorrow morning. Up until this point I didn’t really have the time to even think about it.

Despite not having much time to think about the flight departure, and the whole experience thereafter, I’ve spent the last couple of nights packing (when I really should have been studying). I felt so spoiled being able to fit everything I wanted into my suitcase. Last time I went travelling for over a week was my trip to Europe, which lasted two months, and I brought five shirts with me. The list of belongings I could bring with me was very limited. This packing experience feels so luxurious in comparison. Last night when I realized I could actually pack more than I had intended, I started to get really excited; I’ve been excited about the trip all along, but this was a more tangible feeling – I guess you could call it butterflies in the stomach, or something along those lines. And now I find that I’m getting excited over the little things – like the length of my packing list…like the fact that most of what I packed is shorts and tank tops, that the weather is going to be so warm.

And my excitement stemmed from there. And now, there is so much going through my head. I’m excited for the landing in New Orleans, settling at Camp Hope, touring New Orleans, going to the Jazz Festival, the swamp tour….so many things! I’m also really excited to get started on working on houses; I’ve never done anything like that before, so I don’t even know what to expect or how to imagine it will be, but I’m ready to put in a lot of effort and have a good time while doing it. I’m excited for attending the home-comings of families who lost their houses in the hurricane. Overall, I think I’m just excited to be part of something like this, that this CINT course and the St. Bernard Project make possible for me to get involved in.

Departure’s tomorrow morning at 6am. My mom’s driving me to Buffalo tonight, and I’m taking a very early shuttle bus from our motel to the airport. I can’t wait for it all to get started!

Sarah B

NOLA Bound!!! Thursday, Apr 29 2010 

A group of us meet tonight to catch an early morning flight to New Orleans! :)… the feelings are all over the place with anxiety, fear, excitement and happiness. There has been a lot of stress and preparation leading up to now, but we are finally NOLA bound!!!
Thank-you so much to EVERYONE involved in supporting our fundraising efforts! Congrats NOLA Team! We raised a lot of money and awareness. Thanks to all of our family, friends, colleagues and supporters; we definitely could not have done it without you!
I’ve been looking forward to this for so long, and it’s time to go! 🙂 I’m not sure really what to expect, but I am so fortunate for this experience. I feel as though I have been prepared through our classes, the films, discussions and readings… but we will see how the “real life” experience compares!
This will be an unforgettable learning experience. I am ready to soak up a new culture, meet people, witness devastation and strength, hear unbelievable stories and help bring a family home! 🙂

Rebecca

It’s Time to Go Wednesday, Apr 28 2010 

WOW. What else can I say? First I would like to thank all of my friends, co-workers and family members for helping out with my Epicure fundraising party. Special thanks go out to Tammy who was the host of my party and donated her commission towards this awesome trip. I cannot thank her enough. Other thanks go out those who also donated money to help make this trip possible.
I can not believe that it is time for us to be travelling to New Orleans to help make a difference. Throughout the first half of this course I cannot believe how much I have learnt about New Orleans, the people, and the devastating effects Hurricane Katrina has left on the people of New Orleans. The readings have brought this catastrophic event into perspective and have made me become even more anxious and excited about going.
I have spoken to a co-worker who has been to New Orleans in the past and recommends (in our spare time) a Po Boy, the drive thru Candy Bar Daiquiri shops and a crawfish bar. I think I will have to experiment with the food as I am not much of a seafood eater, but hey a time for new experiences. Experiencing the culture will be a huge eye opener and a learning experience. I can’t wait.
Being a part of the St. Bernard project will be a great opportunity to learn new skills and meet a lot of people. I am anxious to hear stories from the victims of Hurricane Katrina and to better understand what they went through. I am sure culture shock will quickly set in as well as homesickness but I will preserver and continue to strive for the goal. Rebuild so a family can come home. I know this goal is achievable so this is my main priority while in New Orleans.

See everyone soon!!

Stacey

I CAN’T WAIT Wednesday, Apr 28 2010 

I am sitting in my room reminiscing on the past three months of me preparing for this trip. I have arrived at the realization that there is no wayyyyyy I can prepare for it. Sure I went to the mandatory classes. I watched various films about New Orleans and the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. I listed to Tanya and Pascal tell both depressing and cheerful stories, based on their experiences, as well as those told by many of the people they have met. I talked to my friends about my excitements and fears. I have done research and watched Youtube videos. I have been [slowly..] packing for the trip for the past week. The truth of the matter is I do not know what to expect, however I KNOW that this trip will be well worth it!!!! I just keep saying “ I CAN’T WAIT!!!!”. I’ll see everyone in a couple days!! Yay!
-Cece

Feeling Nervous, I NEED Service… Update! Wednesday, Apr 28 2010 

I got a phone call bright and early,
It made my stomach twisty-twirly!
My brother told me he had signed for some-thing,
My heart skipped a beat, and it started to sing!

I yelled at him “Open it! See what’s inside!”
He said it was nothing! He tricked me. He lied!
He told me, “Just joking, your licence is here!”
Then into his ear, I started to cheer!

So New Orleans bound, I am for sure,
Not sure at all what I’ll have to endure!
Although I am sure it all won’t be fun,
I’m ready for anything under Louisiana sun!

Krista

New Orleans..Here I Come! lol Wednesday, Apr 28 2010 

I am sitting in my room reminiscing on the past three months of me preparing for this trip. I have arrived at the realization that there is no wayyyyyy I can prepare for it. Sure I went to the mandatory classes. I watched various films about New Orleans and the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. I listened to Tanya and Pascal tell both depressing and cheerful stories, based on their experiences, as well as those told by many of the people they have met. I talked to my friends about my excitements and fears. I have done research and watched Youtube videos. I have been [slowly..] packing for the trip for the past week. The truth of the matter is I do not know what to expect, however I KNOW that this trip will be well worth it!!!! I just keep saying “ I CAN’T WAIT!!!!”. I’ll see everyone in a couple days!! Yay!

-cece

Its no dream, its real… Wednesday, Apr 28 2010 

So its 2 days before the trip, its about 3:55 am and today I am getting a Dennis Mock Award, I Have an 8 am exam on Thursday and I leave for Buffalo on Friday morning, board the plane at 12:00, Atlanta then New Orleans. I have been so busy that I haven’t even thought about it and the reality of what is actually happening. Currently im running two youth programs, one in Jane and Finch and one in Regent Park and I’ve been telling them about this exciting experience that I am about to take part in. It’s a very good feeling to say I’m going on vacation to help those in need and do something that can be very life changing. It is both humbling and exhilarating at the same time because the anticipation is slowly becoming reality and I’m excited to see the kind of person I become when I return. You only can do so many amazing things in life and I truly feel that an adventure like this is a blessing. Let the journey begin…

-Femi Lawson

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