I first had plans of going to New Orleans back in 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina left the city under water. Many organizations were working on getting teams in to bring relief to the area. I had just returned from Nairobi, Kenya where I had been a volunteer in a baby orphanage. I was supposed to be recovering from malaria but I was “home sick” for my life back across the ocean and I desperately wanted to be back out doing what I love. After several meetings it was determined that I was not strong enough to join the group given the health concerns in the affected areas.
Little did I know six years later New Orleans would bring relief to me.
Derek had been talking about New Orleans, Gumbo and Louis Armstrong since I met him. We often talk about the places we want to visit together.
New York City
It’s a long list and we plan on getting to them all! But back in July I returned home from a networking group and Derek announced that it was time to go to New Orleans. After some research we decided that October would be a beautiful time of year to visit The Big Easy. We got the plane tickets and hotel and decided we would close the office for a week and really enjoy ourselves.
To tell you the truth I wasn’t sure if I’d like New Orleans.
I wanted to go when it was for a different purpose, but to go for vacation… I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t party ’till the cows come home. I just wasn’t sure if it was my kind of place. I wasn’t sure what it would be like after Katrina. And I didn’t know what the people would be like. San Diegans have not been what I hoped for but to be fair, Tucsonans are a tough act to follow! :)
We arrived a couple hours late due to rain in Houston (big shocker, I know) and we needed a taxi to our hotel. We found a very helpful lady outside the airport doors organizing taxis and we got in line. It just happened that the woman behind us was going to the same hotel so we decided to share a cab. As it turned out our new friend had lived in Tucson and taught at the UofA. We had a great time reminiscing…the weather, the mountains, the people.
After throwing our suitcases in the hotel we ran out to the French Quarter to have dinner. We had stumbled upon a restaurant called The Court of Two Sisters, it was a beautiful courtyard filled with trees covered in white lights…
Right then New Orleans swept me off my feet.
Our waiter, Kris, who must be the kindest soul I’ve ever encountered, shared with us that he was a local. He told us we had to try all the new food his city had to offer. He obviously loved his work and it was our pleasure to be served by him.
After a dozen encounters like this I was informed that this beautiful way of living is called “Southern Hospitality”.
While on the street car I witnessed a man get up to give his seat to a woman. I heard a man say, “after you ma’am”. When taking photos in a lovely neighborhood a car stopped so as not to be in my picture. And maybe my favorite…One morning we were walking past a man who was sweeping his yard. From a distance he looked a little rough and I wasn’t sure taking this street was such a good idea. As we walked by him he looked up with the best smile you’ve ever seen and said, “Well good morning. It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it.” I’m pretty sure Derek and I were both just standing there with our mouths open for a few seconds before answering him.
I wanted to bottle this sweet spirit up and take it everywhere with me.
No, I never did make it past about 9 p.m. in New Orleans. And believe it or not it didn’t make me into a party animal, but it did transform me. Perfect strangers, probably unaware, made my days wonderful by just being themselves. By doing regular, mundane work with great love they made it sacred.
Most people don’t realize they make the world a better place by just being here.
Let me say this more directly…
YOU don’t realize that YOU make the world a better place just by being YOU.
Hungry for More, A. Monika
p.s. If there are typos, spelling or grammar mistakes in this post don’t worry about. Those are the kinds of things I’ve worried about for FAR too long. It’s time to just get it out and who cares if it’s not perfect, it’s from the heart!