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New Orleans, LA

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
A very grateful shout-out to Miss Laura Martin for setting up our connection in New Orleans, LA!!

Monday afternoon we set out for New Orleans where the plan was to meet up with "Zac", a mystery man whom Laura said had been working there since Katrina. We arrived around 4:30 and met Zac in the SUM (School of Urban Missions) parking lot, where we would be staying for the night. We'll spare you the details, but Kendra needed carrots and despite having showered earlier that morning, we both could have used some nice hot, soapy showers. After a quick trip to a pretty ghetto but incredible cheap grocery store we changed into some "real" clothes and hit the city with Zac, carrots in tow. It was raining by the time we got into the city so we boarded the trolley and took a free ride (thank you, mr. trolleyman!) on the crickety, creaky, squeaky trolley for over an hour while the rain came down and the lights shorted out every few minutes. It was a wonderful ride, sitting in our puddles, watching the city go by slowly, enjoying one another's company as we shared stories from our trip with Zac, the first person to make us realize that by now we have some pretty good stories to tell!

The next hour we spent walking through the pouring rain as Zac pointed out buildings, brought us to the edge of the Mississippi River, and introduced us to Beignets (glorified fried dough, but oh, how glorious!) and fancy Cafe au Lait with chickory. The air was warm, the rains were refreshing, and we were soaked through and through, but we kept walking and walking through Bourbon Street and old cobblestone alleyways, music streaming into our ears as we passed from place to place. The night had an air all its own, a wonderful, magical air..

A bit about Zac - he's probably in his mid 20's. Three years ago he set out on a road trip to go hike Montana. Through some friends he made his way to New Orleans in hopes of helping out with Katrina relief for a few weeks. Three years later he's still there, helping restore an old church building to its pre-Katrina state and serving as associate pastor to a new church they started post-Katrina.

We couldn't have asked for a more authentic New Orleans experience. We spend the next day laying tiles in the church with Zac and his roommate/co-worker Sam.

In the afternoon we joined up with Marinda who drove us through the Ninth Ward, the area most affected by Katrina where the levees broke and the houses were entirely washed out... how to put this into words... Everyone talked so much about Katrina after it happened and the need that is there, but it didn't become truly real to us until we experienced the effects, effects that are still openly visible four years later. We have a new understanding of the immediacy of human need.

Our time in New Orleans ended with another sampling of the local fare...GUMBO! And not as gooey and gross as it sounds either. Basically it is a spicy chicken, sausage and okra soup on rice...mmm!

Lastly, a Merry Christmas from New Orleans!

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