It's been three days. Three days, man... We just love ya, we just love ya. (That's a not so oblique reference to Woodstock, for you oldies out there!) We are back in Algiers. It's been an interesting, almost surreal experience at times.
We got into town later than expected on Friday (around 7:30). We were able to come in all the way on I-10 and cross the Crescent City Connection. It was already dark, but we met up with Kenny and Ellie and headed over to Kenner to try to get something to eat. We tried three places, two of which had about 50 people on their waiting lists, and one (Olive Garden) had alreadly stopped putting people on the list. We finally found Cafe Roma was open with almost no wait, so we stayed there and had pizza and cokes. It was ok, but they were obviously rushing the food out because the pizzas could have been cooked a bit longer. On the way to the restaurant(s) we noticed that I-10 eastbound was being diverted at Bonnabel Ave, which is the last exit BEFORE New Orleans, so we had to take Huey P. Long bridge to get home.
Saturday we met with the insurance adjustors and tried to clean up around the t
wo addresses. Mowed the lawn and discovered that our looters had made off with all our gas cans!! Every day we find a couple more things that had been taken. To make matters worse, one of the suspected looters was on his porch working on refinishing a table (to make it unrecognizable to the real owner?!?!?) when his roomate came to the door holding a purple maglite flashlight which just happens to be the exact color of the maglite stolen from our laundry room! Hmmm... coinkydink? I doubt it. Later we found a bag of potatoes that had rotted in a cabinet and stunk to high heaven! Ruined the shelf completely.
Saturday evening we all got together and went (earlier) to the Olive Garden in Kenner. We tried to cut through Esplanade Mall, but it is cordoned off, probably to prevent looting, so we were turned around and had to take an alternate route to get there. We got on the waiting list, and after just over an hour were seated. The limited menu still had a lot of variety, and the Asti Spumante was just what the doctor ordered! Tearful goodbyes to Mike and Hannah, then everyone went home, again via Huey P.
Today we slept until the birds woke us, got up and had coffee and started puttering around the house again. So much to do, so little time. About 10 AM we headed to the coffee shop to have breakfast, but didn't actually get there until after 11. We ran into the kids making final preparations to leave, so we stopped to talk to them for awhile. Anyway, once we got to the coffee shop (we're talking 2 blocks, here) it was too late for breakfast, and they weren't really set up for lunch yet. Linda communicated her displeasure in no uncertain terms. If, as they say in Uganda, "A hungry man is an angry man", then a hungry woman is off the charts! Needless to say, we were served lunch.
We were looking around the front apartment of our rental and noticed an envelope stuck behind the washer/dryer combo. After fishing it out, it turned out to contain some sort of voodoo hex doll, complete with pins! On the envelope was written something like, "What goes around comes around" and "You won't ruin anything of mine any more". Maybe a former renter was putting a curse on rodents or roaches? Scary stuff.
Wandering around the neighborhood all you see is piles of trash bags, or piles of tree limbs, or piles of wood from damaged buildings. Our neighbors Guy and Susan said the trash has been picked up three times already!! In five weeks, that is.
Another of our neighbors, Steve, is letting friends stay in his house while his wife and kids are in Pennsylvania, where they are enrolled in school. The school enrollments seem to be hovering at about 60% for those that have reopened. Not all teachers have returned, though, so substitutes are being used, and they are not always accredited, so the quality of education for the short term remains suspect.
Overall the weekend has been eye opening. Speaking with one of the teachers from Holy Name of Mary School, she mentioned that although some stores are open, you can buy things, but they are generally out of what you really want. When she learns that her kids are heading to Baton Rouge, she gives them a shopping list of what to bring home. If you need anything after 6PM you can't get it in Orleans Parish because of the curfew that is still in effect.
It's kind of eerie the way people are trying to cope during the day, then at night they seem to all head to Kenner to try to have a semblance of a normal life by dining out and just enjoying one another's company. Sometimes you can't even tell that the city and surrounding area is in the midst of a disaster, but then you run across a military roadblock, or see some soldiers patrolling down your street. Shakes you back to the harsh reality that is New Orleans, and will continue to be, at least for the next few months.
As always, please continue to pray for us and for all those affected by Katrina and Rita. We need your prayers and appreciate them. Take care, and may God bless you!