My day began with waking up early and getting some breakfast with my roommate. We had yummy Southern food and I even ate the grits. After that we waited and waited for a taxi to take us to the Greyhound terminal. Finally we got there and then waited some more for the bus. It was EXTREMELY hot outside and all the seats were taken inside. Plus there were four of us with a ton of luggage. We took turns waiting by the luggage, going inside to get cool air and standing in the shade to prevent heatstroke. The bus was not on time. We had a chance to chat with some locals and it was interesting as we were totally in the minority racially. (This was the case throughout 95% of my time in LA). I kept worrying because we seemed to be the only Red Cross workers waiting for that bus despite the fact that the three men I met the night before should have been there too. Finally the bus arrived and I slept my way to Baton Rouge.
Getting our luggage once there was an adventure. It took a long time but I am not certain how long. People were getting hot and impatient and begun grabbing stuff out from underneath the bus. This did not make the greyhound staff happy. Finally the luggage was collected and we added another Red Crosser to our group. We hooked up with another guy who was trying to get to Baton Rouge Headquarters as well and phoned for three taxis. We waited, and waited, and waited. Waited for almost two hours. OUTSIDE. IN THE SUN. In almost ONE HUNDRED DEGREE weather. (Thank god my mother made me get that sun hat!) The taxis did not come. At least we were enjoying one another's company and there was a place to get cold drinks and take turns sitting in the AC again.
Then we saw a bus pull up - a fancy bus. A bus with TV's and AC and comfy seats. Best of all someone was getting off - only one person. One of our group members, Kate, headed over to the driver to talk to him about giving us a ride. I swear this woman can work wonders because next thing you know we are riding in style. Six of us in AC on an empty bus. Turns out this bus was a FEMA bus that was being used to transport evacuees. The driver was awesome and used his GPS (how cool) device to transport us right to RC headquarters. He wouldn't accept any payment at all except for thanks and a hug.
Red Cross Headquarters in Baton Rouge is AMAZING - it is in an old WalMart and has everything you need to check in or "in process" and run disaster operations. There are different areas for each thing - Medical, Spiritual, Mental Health, Sheltering, Feeding, Communications, Rental Cars, Cell Phones, Snacks etc. - each area is designated by a huge sign hanging above it from the ceiling or on the wall behind the area. I had a picture ID made, got a staff card (the thing you use to pay for meals, gas etc) and went to a general orientation as well as a Mental Health orientation. At the general orientation they kept stressing that we needed to drink water as it is extremely hot. Mental health orientation was somewhat unexciting as we found that they did not yet know where we would be going. Told us to come back tomorrow at 8AM and sent us off to the staff shelter.
I've been told that this is the "deluxe" shelter. It has showers, AC, cots and food. There are many nice people staying her and hosting us. We had some dinner at the Outback Steakhouse and there were interesting conversations and laughter shared between the four of us. I met one counselor from NY, another from Renton, WA and a third from Ithaca, NY. I didn't realize it that night but Mr. Ithaca was to become an instant Red Cross Friend (Something about this situation makes you bond quickly with others.) I took a shower and tried to sleep on the cot from hell. Somehow it seemed as if there was no place for my arms to go and I wished I could just remove them for the night. I was thankful I had ear plugs and a sleeping mask (Heidi you rock!) So that I could block out the light from the gigantic clock (we were in a gymnasium) and the snoring from the loudest snorer ever who happened to be at the cot next to me. I slept but not soundly. Wondered what the next day would hold.