About Me

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I am embarking on a road trip from Boston, MA to New Orleans, LA. I am a 36 year old single mother and a high school teacher in Boston. I love my job and I can't wait to learn everything I can and bring it back home to my students.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Goodbye Nawlins!

Our last two days in NOLA have been spent exploring the city and visiting some popular sites, like the Aquarium!

We walked the Riverwalk and the French Market- both of which were amazing!  The French market is the oldest open market in the US!  

 We even fed some parakeets!

 Which was great until one jumped on my back!!

My time in New Orleans was amazing!  I drove through the Marginy and the Ninth Ward, but it didn't feel respectful to pull over and take pictures as people were working to rebuild their lives and homes.  It was a stark reminder of how much LA has survived!

I am always excited to come back to Boston, but I can't think of a place that I will miss more than New Orleans.  I have loved every minute here and I cannot wait to come back!

I am packing up my bags tonight and getting ready to fly home.  I have a whole new bag of books and memorabilia that I am bringing home to share, and that is only a drop in the bucket when I look back at my pictures and think back on my stories!  What an AMAZING trip!  I will have a few weeks to look everything over and start preparing to share the wealth of information that I have learned.

I could not have done with without FFT, and though I am so sad to see the end of my trip, I am so excited to welcome the beginning of my chance to share everything that I learned!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Plantations- Not quite like Tara

Today we spent some time in Creole country looking at some of the surviving plantations in Louisiana. It was amazing, and once again I feel like my head is filled up with facts and interesting stories!

Our guide explained that Creole is actually a word that means someone who is the child of people who were settled by Europeans.  It is literally a blend of cultures.  So in LA there are French Creoles, Spanish Creoles, African Creoles and German Creoles.  In fact, Louisiana had a very significant population of free, educated African Creoles before America took over the government and banned non-English in government places.  When American ideas of slavery were imposed in LA things were even worse for the slaves in LA.

The plantation we started with is known as Laura's plantation.  It was run by four generations of Creole women.  These women did not leave their land to their eldests children or sons, but rather to their smartest children.  It was colorful and had many characteristics of a classic Creole plantation.  We then went to St. Joseph's plantation which was about 80 years younger than Laura's, and was built under the Anglo rule.  It is white washed and done in a much different style.  Lastly, we visited Oak Alley- a very large plantation nearby.  In all of these we visited slave cabins and other aspects of plantation life.  Louisiana is still one of the biggest producers of sugar, and many of these are working sugar plantations now.

Interestingly enough, in our first tour we learned that the very first stories of Brer Rabbit were recorded from slaves from Senegal right on that property.  They were written in French patois, and then that writer befriended Harris, and he wrote them in English.  Three of our stops have ended up telling me the whole history of these African folktales and all of them were amazing surprise discoveries for me!

Fats Domino was also the son of former slaves who lived on this first plantation!

 Laura's Creole Plantation

 Oak trees dating back 200+ years

 These carried olives and olive oil and were stored underground where the water kept them naturally cold.

 These markings were made by slaves who built the house.  One slave, the builder, lived in the swamps for 11 mos cutting down Cypress beams, numbering them, and setting them up back at the site using no nails, but a system of pegs and locks. 

 This is a typical room. 

 Slave quarters that remain on the property.

 A bell that was wrung daily to call the slave children to meals.  They walked seven miles twice a day just for two meals. 

 Photos that remain of former slaves.

 The seconded plantation that was built in a much more Anglo style.  Many Creole houses later switched to this style to avoid negative attention and to acclimate to the new power structure.

 We learned a lot about Creole mourning which required mirrors to be covered, clocks to be stopped, and widows to wear black for at least a year.

 In our last plantation we saw shackles made for small ankles for child slaves.

 These Oak trees are over 300 years old!

Today was fascinating, again!, and such a different view of the South.  I can't wait to share these stories with my History teacher friends!!

Cajun Connection

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was the see life outside of the big cities of the South.  When I first arrived in Louisiana I didn't know the difference between Creoles and Cajuns.  To be it simply, there is a lot of debate about the actual line between the two, but common consensus is that the Cajuns are the descendants of the Acadians who moved into the more swampy, country parts of southern LA in the Bayou.  Creole tends to refer to a different style of cooking and life that is often more city-based.

Yesterday we drove out to Cajun country to tour the swamps and communities that make up the Cajun life.  It was such a learning experience! Though it was not a literary event, it certainly gave me a much better appreciation for a life that is rich in history and culture and is very different from my own!

One of the first things we did was to visit an alligator farm.  This farm has been owned by the Kliebert family for generations.  The grandson, Tuck, took us on a tour of his farm.  He told us a lot about the life of a gator farmer.  As he said, to him, gators are just cows with teeth.  He raises them for meat and skins and sells their meat to local restaurants, as well as to many that are across the ocean!

 Here is one of his breeders.  He is a 13 foot male.

 Here he is with a nesting mother.  He clearly knows what he is doing!

 At the end, I got to hold a gator baby!

After that, we went on a swamp tour!  We saw many gators, as well as many examples of Cajun life in LA.

 These gators can jump!

 A wild blue heron.

 This is a Cajun shrimping boat.  We spoke to some shrimpers who told us about how the boat worked and what the life was like.  The season began just a few days ago, and as predicted, it has started out tough for these fishermen.

 This is a Cajun fishing area known as a Indian Village.  These houses are only accessible by boat and some people live here year round.  During Katrina, these houses were completely covered.  These Cajuns survive by fishing, crabbing and shrimping.

 A great view of the settlement.

 Abridge outside of the settlement requires 4 hours notice to raise.

 A raccoon in the swamps.  She is a young nursing mother,

 Another beautiful view of the swamp.  It is both haunting and gorgeous there.

Today we will visit some plantations in LA and see a whole different view of the South,

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Just Fishin'

Today was our fishing trip!  We woke up at 4 AM, packed our cooler, stumbled into our clothes, and somehow made it into the car and into Lafitte, LA.  We met up with Captain Scott and headed into the gulf!

It was a gorgeous day!  Being on the water when the sun comes up is AMAZING.  It was ridiculously hot, but the fish seemed to like it!  We caught 18 fish and saved four for our lunch!  When storms moved in we had to head back, but after almost 6 hours on the water, we were ready.  Captain Scott was great and he shared with us not only fishing techniques, but a little bit about Cajun life in LA.  He was born and raised here and has been fishing his whole life.  It was a great chance to really learn about a whole new way of life in LA, one far removed from the French Quarter!

In this case especially, a picture is worth a thousand words.

 my first catch!

 First catch of the day, and the biggest, goes to Hank!

 a blue heron!


What an amazing day!  We looked for gators, but though we saw some from a distance we didn't get close enough to look up close, we will look tomorrow when we go on our swamp tour!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cemeteries and Voodoo Priestesses

I will keep this blog a little shorter because we have an exciting, early morning tomorrow.

Though less focused on writing and more on Cajun life, we will be getting up with the birds to catch some fish with Capt. Scott Poche of Lafitte, LA.  I am excited to get out of the city and see some more of New Orleans.

I am so fascinated with the completely different cultures I am finding on my trip, and I am not to proud to say that I was mistaken about much of the South.  At times I find myself in the country, and other times I have found myself in huge cities.  I have seen some segregation and I have seen some terrible poverty, but I have also found strength and a level of friendliness that I had not expected.  Religion is a complex thing here for sure, but in my personal interactions I have felt little judgement.  I do find myself very aware of the religious connections to communities here, partially because I am not religious, and so seeing it so many places catches me off guard.  I see almost no "pro life" or antigay messages that I often associate with extreme religions, though in actuality I saw those more in DC and NYC.  I see many, many churches and many religious signs and billboards, but they are more about calling people to church.  It is interesting to see the differences and see how it affects communities and individuals.  It seems that churches are an integral support system in many small communities.

Today we went on a historical cemetery tour.  It is something that I wanted to see since the graves and tombs are something that New Orleans is so well known for.

People here are often buried for a year and a day, until their body is cooked to ash from the sun and heat, and then new bodies are placed in!!  Some plots are for life, and others are like "condo" tombs!

 The second most visited tomb in the US- Marie La Veau, a Voodoo high priestess!

It was a fascinating tour that we ended by eating in Antoines's restaurant, which we had seen on our tour yesterday!

Tonight we drove to our cottage where we will stay in another part of the city for 6 days before flying home.  It is SO cute here and very different from the frat boy party zone we were in.  I loved the craziness of it, but I did find the homelessness and alcoholism depressing to see so often.  On a side note, a bottle of beer is 99 cents and water is $1.50.  How can anyone who is homeless ever stop drinking with figures like that?

Anyways, this is a different view of New Orleans- I'd liken it to West Roxbury vs the Theater District.  I want to explore more areas of Nola, and it is amazing to see the damage that remains from hurricanes.

Wish us luck on the fishing trip!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

New Orleans!

We pulled into New Orleans to see crowds of men and women in various styles of red dresses.  From tutus to ballgowns, old and young, male and female, everyone was wearing one and laughing and smiling.  Now, I knew New Orleans was a place to expect the unexpected, but even I was taken back for a moment!  Then I remembered that this was the annual Red Dress Run, a charity event, and it all made much more sense!  It was quite a welcome to New Orleans though!

Our first two days in New Orleans are going to be at the center of the literary world in New Orleans: The Hotel Monteleone.  Not only did Capote write here, he liked to brag that he was born here!  In fact, after walking in the front door I couldn't imagine anywhere else from where a young Capote could be born!  Tennessee Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Faulkner were all frequent visitors to the hotel and I count myself fortunate to have visited it, let alone stayed in it! 

It is a GOREGOUS building, at for a while it was one of the only places to stay in New Orleans, but it remains the nicest!  From the rotating Carousel bar frequented by Capote, to the roof top pool (frequented by my son!)

 This display welcomes guests into the Monteleone.

When I made my plans to visit New Orleans and study its literati, I wanted to find a literary tour.  One name came up over and over again, professor and educator Inez!  Inez was kind enough to take me through the Quarter and she filled in our tour with amazing stories from personal knowledge.  A lifelong New Orleans native, Inez seemed to know everyone we met!  I will share some of the highlights of the wonderful morning we spent together.

 This was a home that Williams often stayed in.

 This is a statue of the main character from John Kennedy Toole's a Confederacy of Dunces.  His mother had it published posthumously, and upon her death bequeathed the royalties to the 11 New Orleans authors who supported her son's novel from the start.

 This is one of the oldest and most famous restaurants in New Orleans, and a place where these authors frequently gathered.  I think it is so important to remember that these authors did not live in vacuums.  They lived near each other, they hung out, they shared ideas and they often critiqued each other.  

 A typical and beautiful view from the French Quarter.

 This is a room from Antoine's- a family run restaurant since the 1860's.  It is one of the largest in the Quarter and home to exclusive rooms for the high societal groups in New Orleans.  Inez was able to let us tour the whole restaurant and see rooms that are normally not open to the public!

 This is a restaurant where Williams was a waiter.

 Two amazing houses!

 A great view of the inside court of a typical New Orleans home, now a B&B.

  Hank and I enjoyed our tour and our first day in New Orleans was amazing!  We are going to cap it off with some more time in the roof deck pool!