I’m BAAAAAAAACK! It’s been awhile but I finally have something worth writing about besides the daily school schedule. I will continue to share my big adventures via this website and will let you know if I create another travel blog. I know this one still thinks (and maybe wishes) I am in Barcelona, Spain.
This spring break, I took the opportunity to go on an immersion trip, something that Santa Clara University is known for. The trips are run by the Ignatian Center and they offer a number of trips throughout the year: Mexico during Thanksgiving and Christmas Break; San Jose, San Francisco, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Navajo Nation, and West Virginia during Spring Break; Ecuador and El Salvador in the summer.
So if you didn’t guess already, I choose to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana, which I learned that most people shorten to NOLA. Our group consisted of 12 students, one student leader, and one adult leader. During this trip, we helped build a couple of houses for the St. Bernard Project. This project was started in 2006 by Liz McCartney and Zack Rosenburg, a teacher and lawyer, from Washington, D.C. They had taken some time off to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina. After returning to D.C., they decided that their life would be better spent helping others and so they picked up their lives and created an organization that would provide vital resources and support to these families.
The St. Bernard Parish (the different parishes are like counties) is located in the Lower 9th District, one of the poorest districts, and happened to be one of the hardest hit areas. We spent the week re-building two houses, exploring the city, helping out in an after-school program downtown, and a number of additional educational tours.
This particular trip was also offered to alumni and this year was the first year that the alumni and student trip was scheduled at the same time. We were fortunate enough to work with some of the alumni as well as explore the city and go out to dinner a few times together. I truly think working with them and hearing their stories and perspectives on life helped me get a grip on life currently and gain a better understanding of what is to come after college (wow, that’s a novel concept!)
We all met up around 3pm and took a couple of airport vans/shuttles to the San Francisco International Airport. Once we checked in and checked a couple of bags, we browsed the surroundings for dinner. Most of us carried our luggage on with the exception of Jenny, our leader, and Paul who didn’t have a smaller bag. This helped because I could pack my toiletries in Jenny’s bag and not have them taken away :) Valerie, our adult coordinator, was absolutely adorable and had packed little snack bags for us. I thought I would be “pure” and not eat any snacks during the week. Yeah, right. Those little snack bars and cutie oranges came in quite handy when my stomach was grumbling on the plane flight.
Our flight didn’t take off until 5:55pm, but there was no chance of getting food the rest of the night and the flight would obviously not be serving us a meal. Luckily San Francisco has one of the best food options. There were restaurants, coffee shops, and the best central location of Boudin food, soup bar, pizza grill, and Asian food. Only down side to shopping in an airport or amusement park is the prices – absolutely out of control and outrageous if you ask me. I took along an apple and my Trader Joe’s Eggplant Parmesan, relatively tasty but a little unsatisfying. Spending the week with a group of guys also helped me realize how much food they eat! They always seemed to be hungry and could dominate anything put in front of them. I wonder how Conchita would have dealt with that. I bet she would have loved it.
We arrived a little bit before midnight, picked up the bags, divided up into the two minivans (Jenny and Valerie were driving) and started the 45-minute trek to our home for the week – Camp Hope. It was neat to look around and see the change in scenery – not only change in comparison to California, but the fact that the environment and housing changed dramatically as we drove through the streets.
Camp Hope was an old Catholic high school located in the St. Bernard Parish and was put out of commission by Hurricane Katrina. The flood waters settled about 10 feet off the ground (leaving only about 1 foot of space between the water and the ceiling!) Because there were so many families affected by the storm, the school did not have enough students to reopen and is now dedicated to housing volunteers for the St. Bernard Project and appears to operate as a religious summer camp as well. Other groups (mostly high school students) joined us for the week. Their schools ranged from Indiana, Oregon, and Ohio.
We arrived for a quick breakdown of the rules and such, then it was off to bed. We all slept in old classrooms that were filled with bunk-beds and were all provided with sleeping bags (fresh out of the dryer, so no sanitary issues). Settling in didn’t take long, but it was nearly 2am before we fell asleep. (not bad considering it was only 12am pacific time).
The Dining Hall – Refurbished for our use
Stay tuned for the rest of my eye-opening week!
“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”
– Gilda Radner