Getting Ready for New Orleans Saturday, Mar 2 2013 

I’ve done this so many times in the last few years it should rote, but the excitement takes over every year. Just tonight I’ve been rooting through the basement and closet pulling things out for our stay at the All Souls Episcopal Church in the Lower Ninth. It’s probably not going to be that different from Camp Hope in St. Bernard Parish, or Katrina Relief in Waveland, MS, or the the three years at Madonna Manor in Marrero, LA, or last year at Peace Lutheran Church, Slidell, LA (where the guys slept in a shipping container — no kidding), but you want to be ready.

tappan zee bridgeSo, even though tomorrow is laundry day, I have my fleece sleeping bag, blanket, wind breaker, fleece vest, and a disposable towel and wash cloth, in the washer. I want to be ready. I want to have that pile of stuff on the floor of the bedroom ready to go into my duffle bag. Then there will be a couple of trips to Walmart for travel-size toiletries and this and that.  And in between, I’ll have to work, buy more stuff for the trip, administer an exam, dole out travel money, spend time with my family, and pack. And I’ll panic a couple times in the process. But it will work out. It always does.

It will not be like 2006, when there were no retail businesses — anywhere on this side of the Mississippi. Even though we will be staying in the Lower Ninth, the poor step child to the rest of New Orleans, there is shopping nearby. And unlike some of the residents, we will have access to cars and vans.

tennesse welcomes youBut it will be different. We have spent nearly half a semester learning that, but there is nothing like seeing and living the real thing. I’ll miss what you’ll witness. You’ll leave New England for the hills of New Jersey and Pennsylvania  That seemingly endless stretch of I-81 that goes from central Pennsylvania into Tennessee. And there you’ll enter the Deep South and hills will give way to pine forests as the land flattens toward the Gulf of Mexico. I’ll get on a flight in Boston. Change planes in Baltimore and only know I’m approaching New Orleans as I descend over Lake Pontchartrain. And I’ll meet up with you on this side of the Industrial Canal.

Spring trip van, Abita Springs, LA, March 2012.

Spring trip van, Abita Springs, LA, March 2012.

The weather looks great for all of us. Clear weather for driving and flying. No snow. No rain. When you hit Tennessee, temperatures will be in the 60s. When you hit New Orleans, it will be cloudy, but in the mid 70s. After the last few weeks snow, ice, and cold, I think you can deal.

My advice to you: take it all in. Savor the change, savor the distance, savor the new sites and sounds. It will be different and even your leaders will not be prepared for all of the changes you encounter. These are things that you’ll remember and have the potential to change you. And that is a good thing.

So, sleep when you can over the next few days. Prepare and pack. But think about what you are about to do. And write about it. Absorb it. And learn from it. This is as important as anything you have learned in the course to date.

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New Orleans Journal Assignment Monday, Feb 21 2011 

To my students:

We are about three weeks away from the New Orleans trip and you are probably starting to think about it. The Spring Break trip through UNH-ABC provides a unique and rewarding opportunity to learn more about the New Orleans area, its culture, and its people. In addition, you might learn a good deal about yourself. And that is what I’d like for you to capture in your New Orleans Journal.

Mazant Street, New Orleans, March 2009.

I started my trip-related blog in 2008 to set an example for my students and because I regretted not recording my thoughts during my trips in 2006 and 2007. And I get so much out of reading your thoughts and perceptions of New Orleans and the experience. For that reason, the New Orleans journal assignment has become my favorite one to grade – ever.

As for the assignment: each student is required to keep a journal of their experience. You should begin writing at least a week before the trip in order to record your expectations, interests, fears, etc. You should also continue writing in your journal for at least a week after you return. This will give you time to process and reflect upon your experience. Your journal can be in any form that conforms to your communication style (notebook, illustrated portfolio, blog, etc.) just so long as I can read it!

I don’t want to be too prescriptive about the journal, because I want you to be able to play to your strengths. While entries in a blog work for me, it might not work so well for you. However, I do want to provide some guidance of what I’ll be looking for when I finally sit down to read them.

  • Your journal should include entries beginning a week before the commencement of the trip and for at least a week after you get back, with regular entries in between. I will not be collecting them until about mid-April, because some students choose to record their thoughts for several weeks after they come back. (25%)

Uptown Indian Parade, March 2008.

  • You should aim to describe and provide some context for the sights, sounds, and feel of New Orleans. (25%)
  • I’d like to see a substantial level of introspection about the overall experience, including the trip, workdays, group interaction, etc. This will likely become easier toward the end of the week and following the trip. (25%)
  • I almost always appreciate creativity, insight and humor, i.e. make me glad I get to read it! (25%)

These journals are part of your course work and, as such, I cannot nor will not share them with anyone else without your expressed permission. If you have any questions, just let me know.