Happy New Year to my few readers!
I have been having a difficult time keeping things updated on here - I went on my Caribbean Cruise vacation, got back and attempted to get ready for the holidays and then actually survived the holidays, and finally had to get ready for another deployment to New Orleans.
This time I am staying in the city itself and working on the cruise ships housing first responders (police, fire and city workers and their families who are from New Orleans and have had their homes destroyed). This experience is only beginning but is VERY different thus far from my first time here. In some ways it is similar - things are sort of confusing and plans change by the minute - for example I thought I would be working with children but now it looks like I will be working more with adults. I also thought I would be on the ships in New Orleans the most but now it looks like I will be in St. Bernard Parish which is just outside of NO and was also hit VERY badly.
I had many feelings coming back into the city yesterday - I hadn't been here since my vacation in November 2004 and things are different - but the odd thing is that the touristy area of the city isn't that changed. If you walked out of my hotel right now things would look pretty regular. The streets are filled with cars and people are out walking around - it might look less busy than usual and some of the businesses aren't open, but it all looks pretty functional. The same can be said for MUCH of the city. There are many houses, businesses, schools and public places that are still here and open. The New Orleans Tourism website is great! It lists many restaurants, hotels etc and tells you who is open - I would highly recommend it!
Today was a day of running around - trying to get a rental car (but of course the "system went down" and they had my reservation wrong in the first place), getting a badge (wait in line...). We also went on a driving tour of the city and saw the incredible devastation that has happened. Now remember there are MANY areas of the city that are doing well. Despite what the media has shown us New Orleans is doing a great job functioning. I haven't been down to the French Quarter yet, but I hear that area is mostly open. However there are areas that have been destroyed for sure. A wonderful resident of the city who is also a psychologist working to help the first responders showed us all around. We took many pictures - though I have to admit that after awhile seeing so much devastation - everything starts to blurr together. Home after home destroyed. Someone told me that it looked like a bomb went off. They were correct. Entire neighborhoods - communities - gone.
I am looking forward to getting on the ship more tomorrow. And to sleeping tonight!
I leave you with some pictures of what we saw today... the bad parts - I will have to take some pics of the good parts while I am here too... (I seem to be having problems uploading to blogger- but if you go here you can see my photos).