Meaning of Home Sunday, May 26 2013 

I miss New Orleans soooooooooo much. It literally hurts to miss it this much.

 

miss new orleans

In my Homelessness in Canadian Society class that I taught at Ryerson University for several years, we played a “game” called the “Meaning of Home”. It was an interactive activity designed to get students thinking about the most important factors in defining home and what the loss of these factors (in the process of becoming homeless) might be like.

Having moved around so much in the past few years, and living in a bit of a tenuous housing situation now, I am starting to understand it in such a different way myself. June 2010-February 2012 I lived in Arabi, St. Bernard Parish (I arrived at the end of April but was staying with my students for the month of May). March 2012 to (technically) mid March 2013 I lived in Abita Springs, St.Tammany Parish. But, I spent a month (end of August to end of September) in a hotel in Metairie, and most of October 27 to March 17th in New Jersey in shelters, tents and hotels.

Moving back to Canada, I didn’t know where I would be staying. I planned to couch surf; crashing at my parents or friends until I found something more permanent. I lucked into a great condo for the summer through my PhD supervisor’s connections. It’s very much lacking in furniture but it has (now, thanks to the donations of friends) the basic amenities.

So I have a house (in a sense) but do I have a home? When I was in Louisiana, home usually meant Toronto. When I was in New Jersey I always had to clarify because “back home” could mean Toronto or Louisiana depending upon the topic of conversation. Now that I’m in Toronto, I miss my home/friends/networks/communities in Louisiana. A friend told me today that it was time for me to come back home to New Orleans, and a big part of me agreed with her.

There is also a part of me that I suspect revels in the rootlessness; I know that if I was in Louisiana last week, chances are I’d be in Oklahoma or Texas now helping with recovery efforts in those states. I miss the ability to pick up and go help people, especially because I get so fulfilled from doing that work. In Toronto I feel more stability, in NOLA I felt the freedom of the casual culture.

Of course, there are anchors here in Toronto. I’m dating two amazing guys who I’m very fond of and our connections grow stronger with each date; that couldn’t be maintained if I wasn’t here (at least not to the same degree). I have a fabulous job as Project Coordinator of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network. It’s temporary (til May 2014) but I’m sure there are ways to stay connected to their work after that. I’m back on campus at York University; I lectured twice last week, joined the Senate as a student senator for the Faculty of Environmental Studies, and am lecturing again this week. I’m closer to my family and friends, geographically anyways. I’ll get to go to PWAC@MagNet this year after missing it last year.

And yet, my soul is in New Orleans. There is something about that city that drew me in from the first day I set foot on the soil back in 2008. I miss it every day. There is an expression/picture that became really popular after Katrina that said “Roots Run Deep”. Indeed, in Floodlines, Jordan Flaherty explains that more people from New Orleans live their whole lives not just in the city (compared to other cities across the US) but in the same neighbourhood, often on the same block.

roots run deep

photo by Amanda Fotes

I don’t have those historical roots, but the graft took. I’ve grown into the city and into St. Bernard Parish. While I know I will visit, and hopefully soon, I don’t know when, or even if, I’ll ever be able to spend large chunks of time there again. So much of my heart is there though….

Where does the time go? Friday, May 10 2013 

Really? August 29th 2012 was my last post?!

So much has happened since then. It will take a while to catch up but I’ll hit the highlights and have committed to my paramour to get back on track with the blog writing so hopefully more details will follow soon enough.

Hurricane Issac – I volunteered from August 27th through to about the 25th or 26th of September. A brief time off to refocus on the PhD and then came news of Hurricane Sandy. I could never imagine how much a hurricane could change my life; maybe I should learn to call it Superstorm like so many others do.

I deployed to New Jersey with the American Red Cross on October 20th and ran shelters for 2 weeks. Large, full-scale evacuation shelters; the first and the last with next to no staff. Then did a month in Community Partnerships travelling across the state, all along the coast. I went back to Louisiana on Dec 8th; 6 weeks in, exhausted but the operation was shutting down that weekend. Arrived late Saturday afternoon; was called Monday to go back because the relief operation was reinvigorated. My luggage hadn’t even arrived yet so I begged a week’s grace. Worked a shelter in nearby Walker for a tornado response on Tuesday. Luggage arrived Wednesday so I did laundry, saw friends, caught up on life and repacked. Flew back out on the 20th of December intending to stay 2-3 weeks maximum. Didn’t go back to Louisiana until March 17th – that’s right 13 weeks. In total, I spent 130 days in New Jersey. It was the best of times; hard work but oh so rewarding.

I ended up leaving a week before the formal operation wound up because my passport was about to expire and I thought that the Toronto side of the border was a better place to be when that happened.

I’ve been back since March 25th and so much has happened. I’m slowly adjusting, culture shock hits me hard sometimes. I’m working full-time filling in a mat leave as the Project Coordinator at the Canadian Homelessness Research Network at York University.

So much more to say…but it’s going to come out slowly I think. The blog should perhaps be renamed too – Toronto2NOLA2Toronto, but no matter where I am there are always pieces of my heart elsewhere.

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