Culture of New Orleans

on Friday, February 27, 2009

I wanted to take a little bit of time to talk about the amount and quality of different local cultures I have been able to take in while working and volunteering in different areas either within the United States or overseas. I feel like it is always important to take a while to explain the reasons why I feel the volunteering is so important for everyone involved, but taking a minute or two to explain some fun aspects that you don’t normally think about at first can be a fun thing to share about.

I will mention that I am an Anthropology major here at Purdue University, which focuses on the looks at cultures from a completely holistic perspective, allowing you to look at completely different aspects of an area, trying to tie everything together and appreciating their culture. Looking at the differences within or between cultures has always been an interest of mine, even long before I even knew that the anthropological field existed.

When I was able to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana in both 2006 and 2007, the group I was working with had the pleasure of taking a day to see the sights and sounds (and tastes!) of the French Quarter which is the more economically developed area of New Orleans but that also was not as substantially affected by hurricane Katrina.

We were able to walk around the city, taking in everything from the live bands playing and leaving their souls on the cobblestone street to the relaxing splash of the water hitting the shore. The air was filled with laughter and the smell of authentic seafood which seemed to be the norm of what to expect around this area. The French Quarter is this gorgeous area that is lined with shops and restaurants, above which are lovely town homes that have flower boxes and balconies, while above the cobblestone roads. It is an atmosphere like none other, with a large city benefits intersecting with the a small, old town feel of safety and community.

While on site, we had to pack lunches, which were drab--filled with dry sandwiches and Hooah! nutrition bars (which tasted like a combination of cereal and charcoal)--and for dinner, we were fed by the church that was housing us, which consisted of solely red beans and rice…every day. Needless to say, meals that were provided for our team were less than desirable, so when we had the opportunity to branch out and purchase our own food, we seized the opportunity as if we hadn’t eaten in an entire month.

My savior of foods that week is called a Beignet which is a pastry covered in powdered sugar. Simple, but pure delight. After a week of drab food, we were able to munch on these wonderful, pretty cheap treats! We sat at the restaurant, Café du Monde, for quite some time, just relaxing and eating and when we decided to venture out into the rest of the city, we purchased some to-go. These to-go beignets were placed in a paper bag, with what seemed like a pound of powdered sugar at the bottom!

These little moments seem to be crucial to what ends up being my whole experience in a certain area, understanding the background and lives of those that I have been able to help and make an impact with.


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