Here we are, at the end of our journey, writing chapters upon chapters about our experiences here in this heavenly place.  I’m writing my last “during trip blog post” a day in advance since we are all packing up and jumping on our planes tomorrow morning.  Let me tell you,  I just got back to camp after having such a lovely day sitting by the water in  City Park listening to Joni Mitchell, playing frisbee and finishing up shooting the last bit of footage for mine and Isabelle’s video! Then we ventured onwards in the thick humidity to this restaurant I suggested to the group after reading about it in a travel magazine. It’s called Bacchanal and was by far one of the greatest dinning experiences I have had in this city. As we sat in the restaurant’s beautiful backyard garden, sipping wine and indulging in fresh toasted baguettes, brie, rosemary and blue cheeses, I couldn’t help but get sentimental and reflect on my time here in this charming city.

I felt swollen with a mix of emotions: gratitude, inspiration, happiness and motivation. Sitting there beside some of my fellow teammates (now people I consider to be great friends) I couldn’t help but feel so proud of the work we accomplished throughout our stay. I also couldn’t help but feel proud of myself for pushing engaging and connecting with the community as much as I did because without this element of my experience, I certainly wouldn’t have grown in the ways I feel I have. Many of us have addressed the weight of the social injustices we have witnessed in New Orleans and how heavy this knowledge can feel sometimes, especially when you are directly immersed in it. Despite the pessimistic nature of these injustices, I am leaving New Orleans feeling hopeful. This place has reinforced (like Caitlin has so poignantly stated) the need for human connection and how beloved community is crucial to overcoming struggle. There is spirit everywhere you turn in the city, even after such trauma. Their capacity for resilience in light of such unfathomable circumstances truly puts things into perspective looking at my own life.

It’s time now for me to figure out how these revelations can be carried with me back home. I intend on doing more than simply sharing the stories of all the incredible people I have met in New Orleans. It’s a matter of discovering how I can transplant what I have learned here to continue contributing to social change, action and recovery in New Orleans, as well as how this new knowledge can do the same thing in Toronto and other parts of the world.

I’ll finish by thanking from the bottom of my heart the group of intelligent and inspiring individuals who shared this profound journey with me. I think it is really special that we now have this collective experience. I will never forget you guys! And to finally conclude, in true southern spirit and as an ode to all the insane live music I have listened to since I’ve been down here, I must share this a gem of a track that takes the words right out of my mouth.