Rock ‘n Bowl, Friday free-day and the 18-hour marathon drive back to Baltimore

So unfortunately, spotty internet reception at our hotel and time that seemed to slip out of our fingers prevented me from blogging more while we were actually in New Orleans.  My apologies!  I guess it only confirms that we took full advantage of what NOLA had to offer and what we could offer it 🙂

Thursday was a very busy day.  Allison and I volunteered at the Lower Ninth Ward Health Clinic in the morning, working in triage mostly. The nurses and doctors working at the clinic were very kind and gave wonderful insider’s perspective on what healthcare in the Lower Ninth has looked like post-Katrina.  Mental health disorders are particularly noted in lower income residents who suffered greatly from Katrina’s destruction.  Sadly, limited resources and a small number of treatment facilities serving this patient demographic in New Orleans lead to few actual mental health diagnoses being made and treatment options being presented for these residents.  It was a powerful learning and service opportunity to serve in the Lower Ninth Health Clinic learning more about these types of situations, and we are grateful for the patience and willingness of the staff to allow us to work with them throughout the week.

Thursday happened to be a beautiful, sunny day, too, so Allison and I walked to the rebuild site where our other team members continued to nail up paneling on the side of Ms. H’s house.  The end product looked fantastic.  I think we can all agree that it was very rewarding to see the fruits of our efforts at the end of the week in helping a resident of the once vibrant Lower Ninth Ward re-establish her home there. Be on the lookout for a group photo in front of the house soon!

Throughout the week, locals kept telling us that we had to check out the Rock ‘n Bowl, complete with a live Zydeco music band on Thursday night!  Some of us volunteered at Touro that evening but ended up meeting with the other group members to enjoy the music and dance the night away afterwards!  As soon as I walked in the door, my feet started moving to the rhythm of the unique sound of washboards, mandolins and accordions. 100+ people were on the dance floor, couples and singles alike, all letting the music lead the way!  It was so much fun and quickly turned into a sweat fest as many of us didn’t stop dancing until we left a couple of hours later.  This coupled with long day of volunteering in the clinic at Touro left me pretty exhausted. Thankfully, Friday was our designated free day so we didn’t have to worry about alarm clocks beckoning us out of bed the following morning!

While everyone on the trip was fairly healthy in eating and exercise habits (hey, if our patients have to do it, so do we!), New Orleans cuisine isn’t exactly the most waist-friendly fare one could eat.  And so on Friday, we let ourselves indulge in everything NOLA had to offer concerning food 🙂  I met up with a friend who lives down there, and we enjoyed throwing a frisbee in the beautiful Audobon Park in uptown New Orleans.  The sun was shining and it felt like the entire city was outside!  We enjoyed shrimp and calamari po’boys for lunch, complete with the sweetest sweet tea imaginable.

While walking around the uptown residential area, we also got snowballs, a local favorite comprised of shaved ice drenched in delicious, unique flavors.  I put together chocolate and mint creme, a classic but unbelievably tasty combination if I do say so myself.  But the indulgence didn’t stop there!  All 12 of us gathered in the French Quarter at the French Market, a fun tourist destination with every souvenir imaginable, and later meandered the streets, eventually landing at the Praline Connection, an old diner known for its Creole cuisine.  Few items on the menu were not fried, so we decided to go big or go home, ordering an appetizer of fried pickles and entrees of fried catfish, chicken and, of course, collard greens 🙂  Despite the large of amounts of food and my ensuing “food coma” post consumption, we all agreed that our trip to New Orleans wasn’t complete until we got beignets from Cafe Du Monde, one of the oldest cafes in the country.  The line was long but it was worth the wait!  Puffy squares of warm fried dough coated in powdered sugar…..mmmmm

With a 5:30 am wake up call, all 12 of us were back in the vans driving back to Baltimore yesterday morning.  Several stops, more fried chicken, many hilarious “would you rather….?” questions and 18 hours later, we were back in Baltimore.  Although tiring, it has been nice to recover from the trip today (including detoxing from fried food for the next several weeks….) and to consider the mutual impact we may have had on the city and the city may have had on us.  We met some awesome people sustaining the relief efforts down there and certainly found that hope is alive and well, despite visible remnants of the storm that remain, particularly in the Lower Ninth.  It was such a blessing to be able to bond with the team, too, to feel support and encouragement from one another not only in our work there, but in our efforts as we continue our nursing education here in Baltimore.  I have nothing but deep appreciation for those who supported our trip, not only financially but with their thoughts and prayers as well.  It was an incredible, humbling experience that laid the groundwork for returning next year…..4 years of the Hopkins Student Nurse Relief Corps going down to New Orleans now and we still can’t get enough 🙂

Many thanks for reading throughout the week!  Glad y’all go geaux Big Easy with us!

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