NOLA is only 10 days away.  I can’t believe it’s so close, a few months ago it seemed so far and I had so many obstacles in my way during that time.  Now that school is done for the summer I feel like I have no time to prepare for the trip!  This is the part I hate: packing, shopping and getting everything ready but always with the anxiety that I’m forgetting something important.  I just need to remember that once I get there, it will all be worth it.  I feel that this has been the toughest year of university, so I’m glad to be getting away and doing something meaningful, getting to put some of what I’ve been learning over these past 4 years into practice.

I have just gotten around to reading Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell since I had a hard time getting my hands on it before.  Even though our classes are over, I wanted to read the section on New Orleans before I went on the trip.  For anyone who has not read it, I highly recommend it.  The part that struck me the most so far was the chapter “What Difference Would It Make?” when Solnit discusses how during/after Hurricane Katrina, the citizens of New Orleans were treated like the enemy.  The fact that the government was more concerned with the protection of property than people’s lives was extremely upsetting.  I wish I could say that this shocked me, but honestly I was not too surprised.  North American society (as well as many others) has become so materialistic that inanimate objects are awarded higher value than human lives.  Obviously, money and material goods are essential for people to survive.  However, I don’t believe that they should be placed above human lives and health. 

As mentioned by Rodriguez and Barnshaw (2006), “disasters serve to bring to the forefront the social inequities that characterize contemporary societies”.  Sorry for the quote, I’m still in essay mode :P, but I think that it is a good representation of what happened during Hurricane Katrina.  Obviously, I am in no way implying that this is a good thing, but I do think that we, and especially governments, should learn from such experiences.  Unfortunately, the government usually uses these situations to their advantage in order to capitalize off of the “rebuilding” process, if we can even call it that.  Why is it that 5 years later, New Orleans has still not been rebuilt?  I guess the government feels that it has more important things to worry about. 

That being said, I’m so excited to finally be going to New Orleans and helping out in any way I can.  I can’t wait to become better acquainted with my fellow volunteers as well as the residents of New Orleans we will be meeting.  I hope you’re all having fun getting prepared, and I’ll see you in 10 days!

-Paulina Kubara