Why We Came Home Wednesday, Aug 26 2015 

TW K10 – The K10 anniversary has produced so much media coverage and reminiscences that it has become overwhelming. Instead of writing and posting I wanted to hide. And I wasn’t even here during Katrina. Hence the trigger warning.

A couple weekends ago I was driving to Mississippi with my chosen-sister Alexis. She was 10 during Katrina and lived in St. Bernard Parish. I was explaining to her the nature of my PhD research and its focus on examining resiliency and recovery in order to figure out why people return after a catastrophic disaster.

She looked at me like I had two heads. “Because it’s home sissy. Where else would we go?” This perfectly sums up what I’ve heard from everyone in the 7 years I’ve been visiting New Orleans. Because it’s home. (Now to turn that sentence into a 100 page dissertation!)

Picture by Amanda Fotes

Picture by Amanda Fotes

Last night I read an article by Lolis Eric Elie who I had the privilege of meeting several years ago at a Resurrection After Exoneration fundraiser. Lolis is a brilliant writer and this piece captures the spirit of the city in a way unlike I’ve seen anyone do. “Why We Came Home” looks at the good and the bad, the positive and negative, the hope and despair. New Orleans is not a perfect city and never will be, but what city is? It is vibrant and full of hope though, while at the same time teetering on the edge of depression and sadness.

Like my sister Alexis said it’s about home. The piece isn’t worded “Why We Came Back” because that leaves out the essence of New Orleans. It’s “Why We Came Home” because home = NOLA.

do you know what it means

For those who have never been to New Orleans I hope this piece captures some of the vibrancy of the city and yet explains its underbelly. For those who have visited my wish is that you see pieces you remember in Lolis’ words. For those who returned and are rebuilding your lives and your city I hope the author captured your reasons and if not, please share yours in the comments to continue this discussion. For those, like me, who have moved here since Katrina, I’m sure this piece reminds you of your reasons for planting roots in NOLA. For those who evacuated and have yet to make it back, come home soon, we need you here.

FIVE days… and yes, I’m counting Monday, Apr 23 2012 

Less than one week til we leave for New Orleans and I can’t quite figure out if it feels more real or more dreamlike at this point. May seem strange, but truth often is. On one hand, seeing my bag half-packed on my floor and reading the itinerary emails Tanya and Pascal sent out surely adds to the realness. My mind is running through lists and making imaginary check marks in my brain as I finish the housekeeping tasks that I must complete before locking up my apartment and saying so long to Toronto for a brief – yet inviolable – period of time. However on the other hand, each day that goes by seems a little more unreal than the last. I’m so used to my daily routine in Toronto, having lived on my own in the same apartment for over three years, that any trip becomes quite a production in my mind. I’m a bit of a homebody, so breaking out of my usual habits and going somewhere new is a pretty exciting thought. Funny, because there was a time in my life when almost every day involved going somewhere new… and yet simultaneously staying home. What a privilege to be able to travel for pleasure and know that your home will still be there when you return. Although I believe this is a privilege all should have the right to enjoy, it is clear this is not a reality. It is a rare and wonderful thing to be able to say one’s home is “safe and sound” and I’m humbled by the thought of being able to help others make this dream a reality.

Although this trip is really nothing like living and travelling on a sailboat, I find myself naturally drawing comparisons: the living quarters will be small and communal, we’ll be on the move a lot, we may encounter things that seem unfamiliar, we may miss home, we’ll definitely be excited to learn about our surroundings, and we’ll certainly be eager to contribute in relevant and positive ways that benefit those who have been gracious enough to host our stay.  Most importantly, regardless of how much we read and research about our destination and no matter how much we try to wonder, imagine, and anticipate in order to prepare ourselves, the only way to really experience anything is to go and do and be and see and listen.

And so, my dear Internet, that is what I plan to do. Although I immersed myself in learning as much about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina as possible when I first started this course – and continue to pay attention when I stumble upon new information – I do not want any pre-trip impressions to detract from my ability to experience this new place to the fullest. I look forward to forming my own thoughts and opinions based on all that I go and do and be and see and listen to from April 28th til May 13th, 2012. 

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