You can never really tell where you’ll be able to park an RV, unless you have some grand insight that Juan and Mike don’t. Case in point: we got to what we thought was close to our spot to meet for our next interviewer and started walking. It was toasty, Maps seemed to have entrances and walkways that didn’t actually exist, and so we turned around to the RV to recollect ourselves. We ran into some rangers who pointed us in the direction, said, “you the ones in the RV? You know you can drive up there, right? There’s plenty of space. It’s a pretty long walk.” We were the RV ones and we did not know we could and we definitely didn’t want to melt on the long walk. Yay asking for directions!
We met near the Audubon Riverview Park, known as The Fly, and got to connect with Aron Chang ’05. Aron has done incredible work for the New Orleans community as it relates to the connection with water. He has done work in education, urban planning, and community development through food. After going to architecture school, he has ended up in New Orleans and will continue working on a water map of the area.
After our conversation, we waited eagerly for our New Orleans cohort to arrive on what was apparently a “cool” day for natives. Mike and Juan would disagree, but hey, it’s all relative. We had 6 alums and a parent of a ‘19 come out and say hello, which was a delight and even the regional leader Anamaria Villamarin-Lupin ’95 was impressed! We also got to meet yet another dog, named Buster, who is adorable.
At the recommendation of Natalie Bliss ’10, we stopped by the Tree of Life, a magnificent nearly 300 year old tree near the zoo. There were some lovely photos. We also happened to run into another alum who would like to remain anonymous. We connected, shared stories and an appreciation for nature. During our stops, we ask alumni to write us a note in a small journal book. The alum wrote the following note and also traced an outline of a portion of the tree:
“Welcome to what is called New Orleans and is Bulbancha, which means place of many tongues, unceded land of the Chitimacha, the Houma, the Chahta Yakni (Choctaw), the Atakapa Ishak Chawasha, and all Indigenous peoples of this region.”
One of the key parts of our conversations in this space has really been a strong connection of people and place. New Orleans itself is one of many identities, voices, struggles, and complicated history (aren’t most places really?). We were honored to be able to be here and think about how that all connects in stories. The privilege we have to travel around and get such a small slice of people’s stories is wonderful, but we would be remiss to not acknowledge all the voices that we miss from this project, Williams, history in these regions, and the spaces that have participated in erasure of voices. There are many resources about the lands we inhabit, so check some out like this one to learn more about the lands you are on. We have work to repair relationships with these communities and that starts with understanding our gaps.
Afterwards, we headed to get some food, including beignets. Juan parked and left one of Nelly’s tires up on the curb. To solve this, he decided to lightly kick the tire. This did not work and Mike just stared blankly at the act before suggesting driving forward like a foot. The heat was getting to Juan, we had a laugh, and got some beignets.
The evening focused more on winding down, indulging in crawfish at Boil Seafood House, catching up on work, and getting ready for the final week of Ephs on the Mooove being on the road, with many stops ahead! We know, we can’t believe the time has flown. We appreciate all of you who have followed along with this blog for our musings of the journey, words of wisdom, sarcasm, and photos. Don’t worry, it doesn’t end on the 30th as we have many stories to continue to share!