Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Second Day of Volunteering

Today was more painting. I don't have a lot of fresh observations on that. We painted. A lot. Of the same things we painted on Monday. I can say that the second coat goes on a lot faster and looks a helluva lot better than the first. Wow, my spellcheck didn't underline helluva. But it did underline "spellcheck" - apparently it is two words.




We painted a lot more.


What fascinated me most during today was a long session of "absorbing" (it's only eaves-dropping if they don't know you're listening) a few of the teachers (and our very own soon-to-change-life-courses-and-go-that-direction-Rachel and Tony Peloquin, AKA Mr. Quinn. (Refer to two days ago - yeah, same dude)

I don't want to give his whole life story (since it isn't mine to give), but here's a man of integrity and commitment.

His observations run so much deeper than our observations of a school where we're painting some trim. Fun and all, sure - but why are we doing it.

Maybe to make their schools look a little less like prisons?

John Dibert sat in water for weeks after Katrina. Even after initial work had been done, it sat. Rotting in itself. Work was done and it was open in '06 - but barely. It doesn't function like you might thing a school should. Sure, they have kitchens, but they haven't operated since the storm. The desks and books and even some chalk boards are new. Newer than many other public schools' things. But what does that mean?

I have so much respect for the teachers in NOLA and other struggling school systems. (And yes, Seattle is one of them.)

After Katrina there was - and still is - a mentality that blames the President and white America for everything. This mentality was stretching into Chicago, where some of the other volunteers taught. Young children believing that it is a racist society to blame.

People like Troy are evidence that this just isn't the case. It wasn't a specific demographic that was devastated by Katrina. It was an entire region.

That isn't to say that racism isn't a prevalent issue. But you can't blame just one issue.

One thing I learned yesterday was the concept of "wards" and pride in your ward. We've all heard of the 9th ward - but there are 17 wards in New Orleans. People from different wards either like or don't like each other. There are rivalries and alliances. And simple cultural things, like who makes better beans and rice. So imagine you already have these preferences, but its cool because you live near the people in your ward and you go to school in your ward. Then Katrina hits - and you have to live between people from rival wards. And you have to go to school and sit between people from rival wards.

This whole ward division may sound trivial, but we all do it to some point. As humans, we want to connect to a community that's our very own. Family and friends knit together in commonality.

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