Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Introducing Ann-Marie!

This new semester at Tulane brings a lot of exciting changes to the Peace Corps Program. Five of our students received their placements in the Peace Corps, we have a load of new students who joined the program, and we have a brand new coordinator, Mrs. Ann-Marie Yongho! Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Ann-Marie is a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Cameroon who will be studying in the Global Health Systems and Development program. Read on to learn more about our new coordinator, and the exciting plans she has for our program! 

Where are you from?
I am originally from Michigan and completed undergrad at the University of Michigan (GO BLUE!). I double majored in Political Science and Sociology. For the last 3 years I've been living and working in Chicago. I started undergrad thinking I would be pre-law and eventually go to law school. Blah! That lasted about 2 years, until I really got into my Sociology courses and the study of people. I focused on race relations in the US as well as African studies and when I studied abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, I realized then that my passion and living and working in the developing world.

Where and when did you serve in the Peace Corps? What was your project area?
I served in Cameroon. I was an education volunteer and taught in the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) program to francophone students.   I lived in a small capital city of Bertoua in the East province and class sizes were huge so I had anywhere from 60-150 students in each class. I also ran an after school camp focusing on healthy sexual decision making and leadership development, and worked with rural teachers on how to incorporate health and wellness topics into the existing TEFL curriculum.

What was one of the hardest things about your Peace Corps experience?
Besides being away from my family for 2 years, the hardest part for me was the issues around being a white female in the developing world. There were a lot of cat-calls, marriage proposals and just general dérangement (Cameroonian slang for harassment). Eventually it got better as I got to know more people in my village, but I was looking forward to anonymity when I got home. 

 What was one of the most memorable moments you had in your village?
At the end of the school year I had all my 6eme (5-6th grade) students who had passes over to my house for a party. They were SO excited to come to my house and they all showed up in their best dress clothes, dress shoes and had their hair braided. One even brought me a flower she had picked. We just hung out and danced and played American board games and had an awesome time.

 What is an example of an “only in Africa” story that happened to you?
Wow, again so many! Two stand out in my mind. Cameroon is SO corrupt and bribes are just a normal part of life. One day during my 6eme (5-6th graders) class, Kumalo, one of the class-clown types, could not pull himself together, so I kicked him out of class and told him to bring his machete to school tomorrow so he could do manual labor (only in Africa do you tell the bad kids to bring a 24 inch sharp blade to school!!).  A few minutes later he knocked on the door and in the most serious voice I had ever head come out of his mouth, slyly tried to bribe me with 25 francs,( less than 1 penny), to get back into class. Funny thing is, that actually worked on some teachers.
Another experience involved eating at my favorite Anglophone restaurant when my sister came to visit. We were eating Achu, which is basically a thin yellow soup in a bowl of pounded banana's and coco-yams that you MUST eat with your hands. It's delicious! So I ordered and was trying to teach my sister how to eat soup with your hands when it came to our table. I noticed a small fly in my soup right about the same time as the waitress did and she quickly took her fingers and scooped it out for me. I said thanks and dove right in. The look on my sister's face was priceless. I had forgotten that it was probably not normal for someone to put their fingers into your soup let alone to scoop out a fly! It's amazing how you lose those American social graces very quickly! I finished every bite and would kill for some Achu now!!!

Do you think that Peace Corps experience is relevant to students who are getting their masters degrees?
Absolutely! I've now had experience working both internationally and in the states and I am excited to see how those experiences translate into the classroom. 

What advice do you wish you would have been given either before or during your Peace Corps experience?
I wish I had been encouraged to work for a while and gain some experience before joining the Peace Corps. I graduated from undergrad in May and left for Peace Corps in June.  I had a great experience and loved every minute of it, but ultimately I would have been more effective as a teacher (and believe this is true in any program) had I had some work experience first. It was definitely not your typical "first-job"!

What did you do after the Peace Corps?
I returned to the states in July of 2009, which was one of the worst times in history for finding a job.  I was lucky to be hired by a small non-profit in Chicago working with youth and coordinating the prevention education department. It was a great transition back to the states and definitely impacted my decision to pursue my MPH. After I was hired, I realized that my Peace Corps experience was one of the reasons they called me back. They had over 200 resumes for this position and Peace Corps was what stood out to them!

What drew you to Tulane University?
I was applying to schools all over the country, and a few things went into my decision to study at Tulane. First, my husband and I LOVED New Orleans when we came to visit. He is from Cameroon and New Orleans has such a unique vibe that at times feels much more like Cameroon than any other place we'd been in the US, and certainly different than Chicago! There are also so many RPCV faculty members at Tulane, and having that Peace Corps connection was important to me. Finally, everybody knows, that for international public health, Tulane is one of the best!

What do you like about New Orleans?
I like the vibe. Its super chill and everyone is SO friendly. Even those people who were born and raised elsewhere have figured out that southern hospitality thing! The music scene is amazing and I'm looking forward to exploring all that New Orleans has to offer over the next few years!

What do you hope to accomplish in the office this year? What are some goals that you hope you will achieve during your time there?
I hope that I am able to be a strong support system to those looking to serve and those overseas. I would also love to incorporate some of my experiences and expertise into the monthly seminars, including LBGTQ Peace Corps experiences, and a discussion about race and gender as a PCV.

So Long New Orleans - Leaving for DC

As my impending departure from New Orleans loomed in the middle of the summer, and reality sunk in that I would soon have to leave for Washington DC, I began to realize how much I would miss the BigEasy. My mother came to visit me in my last days, and as I began to organize all of the things that I wanted to show her, I realized that there were still so many things that I myself had not yet seen that I wanted to, and so many things that I wanted to show her in the city that I had lived in and loved for the last 15 months. I decided to make a list of sorts – to organize what I wanted to show her and more importantly, where I wanted to take her to eat before I headed out to Washington DC.  I present before you now, my version of a list that probably exists many other places on the web –but this list is unique in that there are the top ten things that meant the most to me while I was in New Orleans – and I offer it to you as a list of things you may want to check out whether you are visiting or just staying for a weekend.

10. Touring the Lower Garden District
As an avid dog walker, I couldn’t have picked a better area to live than the Garden district. Walking through the streets at night with my dog I admired the beautiful architecture that lined the streets, and the lights that flickered from each doorway. The smell of the honeysuckle and the flowered branches that had to be stepped around on the path made me remember that New Orleans was much more than just Bourbon streets and parties all the time, it really showed me how beautiful New Orleans was.

9. Touring Mardi Gras World
Admittedly touristy, because my mother missed Mardi Gras by about three months I decided to take her to Mardi Gras World, where all of the floats are housed and where others are in the making year round. The sparkle and pizazz contained within that warehouse is amazing, and because you are allowed free-reign with your camera, touring Mardi Gras world gives you the unique opportunity to take the pictures of floats that you probably missed while trying to catch coconuts and shoes.

8 A visit to the Lower Garden District Bookstore
Just one of many of the little shops located in the LGD, this bookstore has an incredibly impressive collection of autographed books and the book store owners seem to have a sixth sense if you ask them to help you pick out a book. This store also has an entire section just on Louisiana culture and food – a excellent resource for anyone who wants to get to know the state or the city a little bit better! 

7. A jaunt through Audubon Park
Located uptown in one of the prettiest neighborhoods in New Orleans, Audobon Park is one of the best places in town for a run, mostly because the paved trail does not sport the oak tree roots and crooked sidewalk panels that are found throughout the New Orleans sidewalks. Audobon is also the place to go when you want to start a friendly game of Frisbee or kick ball – I’ll miss my Tuesday/Thursday Ultimate group! 

6. A visit to City Bark – the only New Orleans Dog Park
Watching dogs play at City Bark was one of my favorite pasttimes – and it was one of Casey’s (my dog) favorite pasttimes as well. Only in City Bark can you see dogs jumping together like small children and romping free, in the pool, in the agility area, or into the many mud holes around the park. A wonderful place play, laugh, and meet other people whose crazy dogs make you feel better about your own.

5. A ride through the swamp
You can’t live in Louisiana without going to the Swamp! There are many tours that take you through the Bayou and introduce you to the REAL Swamp people (though don’t go there assuming that they all hunt Gators…they may just leave you in the swamp). I never knew that Alligators had such a love for marshmallows and hotdogs, and the swamp was definitely a wonderful place to see them chow down! 

4. Who Dat?
I dare anyone to live in New Orleans and NOT become a Saints fan. I was lucky enough to make it to the Dome on one occasion – best day ever. Those days I wasn’t able to go, I managed to make it to one of the many New Orleans bars, where the “who dat” cheers are almost as deafening as they are in the stadium. Even if you don’t love football, out of respect for the city that loves them, turning out to a Saints game at the bars is a MUST. 

3. FOOD, FOOD, and more FOOD.
It is impossible to live in New Orleans and not be overwhelmed by the amazing options for a culinary experience. One of my friends put it best, when he said that one of the best things about New Orleans is that anyone can take a falling down shack on a run down street, throw some great paint on it, and wind up serving the best food in the city! I cannot even begin to list my favorites, but I know the ones that I miss the most are Dat Dog, Surreys, The Blue Plate Café, Tru Burger, and the Cooter Browns. 

2. Art in the Quarter 
 If you love art, then walking down Royal Street in the French Quarter is an all day expedition. There you will find amazing hole in the wall boutiques with unique paintings, as well as the Blue Dog made infamous by George Rodrigue. Walk towards the Lake Pontchtrain and you will see paintings and caricatures detailed by aspiring artists who paint on the sidewalk as you pass the decorated gates of Jackson Square.
 Wander up to the Garden District and you may find Simon hiding somewhere on Jackson Street – just remember to Be Nice or Leave! The Freret Street and Palmer Park fairs are also excellent places to find trinkets, or to simply eat fish tacos and watch the Tubador. No matter where you go in New Orleans, you cannot leave until you take a little piece of New Orleans with you! 

1. Walking through the Big Easy
New Orleans may be the big easy, but it is easily accessible by foot no matter where you may go! I loved the easy access to everything when I lived in the Garden District, the bars, the hole in the wall grocery store – I miss all of those things where I live today! The two mile walk to my school never seemed that long to me, I was able to go through the Central Business District and stare up at the huge skyscrapers and receive a 10 minute greeting from whoever I may pass, not to mention the occasional hey baby. 
 New Orleans is a magical city, and everyone experiences it differently.  I hope that by reading through some of my favorite experiences in the city our readers can go out and discover the things that are unique and loveable about the city for themselves. I’ll miss New Orleans, but I’ll always keep trying to come back!!!

Spring 2012...Endings and New Beginnings!

The close of 2012 brought the end to an exciting semester for Tulane Peace Corps Programs. We released the Spring edition of The Internationalist, we held a fundraiser and goodbye celebration for Penny Jessop,  we congratulated our five graduates from the Tulane Masters International Peace Corps Program, and we cheered the five Masters International students who got their placements in the Peace Corps! 

The Spring/Summer 2012 Edition of the Internationalist was a huge success, and included feature stories from Thailand and Niger. There was also a large piece about the legacy left behind by Penny Jessop, who after more than 30 years of teaching at Tulane is leaving the Big Easy to retire to Florida. 

Internationalist Contributers (L-R) Molly McGuire, Lauren Brunner, Aimee Edmondo, Alyssa Young, and Alicia Cooke

Co-Editors of the Internationalist (L-R) Matt Ward, Megan Sauer, Taylor Bednarz, and Krystal Seger

 At the end of the year, the Peace Corps Programs office sponsored a night out at Willy's Bar next to the Tidewater building, for Penny Jessop, a Tulane educator with a huge heart, who was always there for the Peace Corps Programs Office whenever there were questions with volunteers, or whenever anyone needed a little encouragement overseas.

  Together with students and faculty, more than $500 was raised that night for the Penny Jessop travel fund! Though we will miss Penny, we all know that Florida is only a state away!!!

 We proudly graduated five students from the Masters International Program this year! 

Aimee D'Avignon RPCV Albania 

Ron Ikechi - RPCV Ecuador

Shawn Peterson - RPCV Peru

Merritt McMullen Driscoll - RPCV Tanzania

Shawn Peterson - RPCV Namibia

Kourtney Rusow - RPCV Senegal

Finally, we are proud to announce the placements of five of our Masters International Students! 

 Molly McGuire is a Masters International student in Global Health Systems and Development. Molly was an active student in the Masters International program, participating in many of the service events and making sure to be there for every care package filling! She will be leaving for Peru in September.
 Page Miller is a Masters International student in the Department of Tropical Medicine! After her undergrad at Tulane University, Page continued an additional three semesters as a part of the 4+1 program to get her MPH. Page has already left for Zambia, in South East Africa!
 Megan Sauer is a student in the Masters International program in the Department of Tropical Medicine. Megan has already departed for her Peace Corps service in Zambia! Megan was very active in the Masters International program, often working as many hours as the office staff, and participating in almost every single event! We are excited to see what great things she will do in Zambia!
 Will Saitta is a Masters International student in the Department of Global Health Systems and Development. Will has received his placement for Peace Corps service in Cameroon, West Africa, and will be leaving in mid-September! Will's enthusiasm at all of the Peace Corps Programs events, as well as around the school each day made him a wonderful asset to our program, and we expect the Cameroonians won't ever want to let him leave!
 Matt Ward is a student in the Masters International Program in the Department of Tropical Medicine. Matt is the most recent recipient of his Peace Corps Placement, he will be leaving for Ghana in late November. Matt has experience traveling to Uganda for mission work, and most recently has done a great deal of work at clinics in Haiti. While at Tulane Matt served as editor for the Internationalist for two semesters, and was a huge participant in almost all of the projects done by the office. We hope that Matt will find fish to catch in Ghana, and can't wait to see what he does during his service!
Alyssa Young is a Masters International student in the Department of Tropical Medicine. Alyssa also did her undergrad at Tulane, and will graduate at a student in the 4+1 program at Tulane. Alyssa received her placement for Benin, West Africa, and she departed in June! We expect to hear from her soon as a sworn-in Peace Corps Volunteer!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shoes and Coconuts: A Beginners Guide to Mardi Gras

It's about a month too late, but still worth the post.

Mardi Gras: the two words that invoke sheer happiness and a feeling of giddy youthfulness among New Orleanians. Everybody loves Mardi Gras here. It's essentially Christmas for adults; only better because you get to fight people for prized beads (and other bling) you NEED at the time, but then feel infinitely stupid about wearing as soon as you walk away from the parade. I cannot emphasize enough how seriously people take Mardi Gras around here. I mean, it's FOR REAL.

Elaborate Costumes of Zulu
This city is on a whole other level in February. Although Mardi Gras is just a day the city celebrates for a month beforehand. There are parades happening all over the city starting the first day of February. You can even download an app that tells you which parades happen on which days. There is even a parade tracker that lets you know where the parade is in relation to where you are standing. Let me please emphasize how amazing this app is in a city that doesn't even do that with their own transit system. Yes, you can track a parade, but you cannot track the bus you would like to get on to go home. It's incredible.

You have to know which parades are worth your time and the ones you can live without. As far as I know, you must be at Krewe du Vieux, Muses, Orpheus, Bacchus, Endymion, Zulu, and all the ones I am forgetting. There are so many! You also have to know what sort of bling you are looking for at the parade. For example, at Muses you want a shoe. At Zulu, you want a coconut. The likelihood of you getting either of these things will be addressed later in the post.

One of the basic things you must understand is that Mardi Gras is not a sprint, it's a marathon. Maybe I would even equate it to one of those super marathons that only really dedicated people consider an option. Starting on the Thursday night before Mardi Gras, when Muses begins to role, you have to be on your game. You have to recall all those old basketball moves and be ready to box out, elbow, screen, block, etc. in order to get what you want. Then, you have to stay in this mentality for the next 5 days. The parades last forever and you are running around grabbing beads here, light-up rings there. You get tired...doesn't matter. You stay the course. You get home at 2 am, you get up at 7:30am to do it all over again. That is the spirit of Mardi Gras and when you are here in New Orleans, you are compelled to do it with the rest of the city.

Location is also key. I met a man this year who told me he and his wife have been standing on the same street corner to watch the parades for 45 years. That is the level of commitment and determination New Orleanians have about this holiday. And, let me say, it's a really good spot. That's where I chose to stand for the 5 days I watched the parades.

Some of the things you should avoid when picking a spot:
  • Standing in front of children because you'll never get anything
  • Standing with people who have elaborate costumes because, again, you won't get anything
  • Standing close to a balcony because the throws REALLY love to see if they can make it up there instead of handing it to you.
Another thing you should be aware of is whether you are a street-side person or a streetcar-side person. This is just one of those things that you HAVE to have a firm belief in, choose, and stick with that decision. It just is. 

My Zulu coconut!
Finally, the likelihood of you getting really sought after Mardi Gras bling is slim, especially Muses shoes. You really have to know someone, be extremely lucky, or willing to run blocks and blocks with the parade. Zulu coconuts are easier to come by and just as fun to proudly display on your mantel (I say this only because I didn't get a shoe, but I got a coconut).

Mardi Gras is amazing and just one of those added perks you got when choosing a grad school in New Orleans. It's a holiday that truly embraces the spirit of this city and it's people. It's a holiday that is worth seeing at some point in your life. I am so happy I got to experience it this time as a resident.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From the Coordinator's Desk

Thanks for visiting our blog! We are really excited about this project and hope that it is a helpful and informative way to see what Master's International students are doing both at Tulane and abroad.

MIs and RPCVs posing with the trees we planted in Belle Chasse

This semester we are working hard to provide our students with meaningful service projects that will both provide useful skills for their futures as Peace Corps volunteers and give back to this unique New Orleans community. In February we went to Belle Chasse, LA to help rebuild Louisiana wetlands by planting native trees. This work is so incredibly important for our coast land not only because it allows us to restore coastal ecosystems, but this work also helps to mitigate hurricane damage -- an issue closely tied to New Orleans.

This March, MIs and RPCVs will be running the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen 5k benefiting the NO/AIDS initiative. This service project is appropriate for us on several levels: First, it provides us with an opportunity to emphasize and engage in healthy lifestyle choices. As Public Health students, we actively discuss preventable diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease on a daily basis. In participating in this 5k, we are able to encourage MI students to do more than just talk about living healthy. Secondly, as many of our MIs and RPCVs are currently (or formally) serving in Africa, running to raise awareness of  HIV/AIDS is a cause very near and dear to their hearts.

In April, we plan to team up with the Louisiana Peace Corps Association and Second Harvest to assemble produce baskets for people around the city. Providing families with the right foods to enrich their diets with essential nutrients is a cause we can all get behind!

For more information about Tulane's Master's International program, please visit our website.

One MI's Thanksgiving in NOLA

This year I was fortunate enough to spend my Thanksgiving with family visiting friends in New was therefore unable to experience the holiday in NOLA.  This post will therefore be written by my first guest writer- my much esteemed MI & Graduate Assistant (GA) colleague, Will. Will is a fellow 1st year at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine; however he is in the Department of Global Health Systems and Development (GHSD) specializing in something…

To say Will has embraced NOLA and its culture would be an understatement. Originally hailing from Apalachin, New York, he graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2011 with majors in Anthropology and French. Will is an outgoing and enthusiastic fellow and we think he may be a hard worker.  In his spare time he has been coerced into working as a GA in the GHSD front office. This entails odd jobs such as sorting and delivering mail as well as “scanning files until his fingers fall off.”

Will is also currently in the Peace Corps application process. He is slightly ahead of me, having just finished the medical portion, and is anxiously awaiting the next step. He either wants to serve in Rwanda or “one of the random –stan’s out there.” Will has previously made appearances in this blog; first he was mentioned in “B-Movie Night” and then was exploited for his ‘photogenic appearance’ in “Biking in New Orleans.”

As a disclaimer, the following words are solely Will’s and therefor I relinquish all responsibility for anything written or conveyed here forth.  So please give a warm welcome to my esteemed and often shoeless colleague, Will!!

Thank you, thank you. You’re too kind. Well I guess I am only getting to write this blog by virtue of the fact that I was technically in New Orleans for the Thanksgiving holiday. However, I will make the most of my platform whilst it lasts.

I’m sure most of you readers had a typical Thanksgiving with family, or perhaps friends. For me, I don’t exactly have a tradition; since going away for college I’ve always been just too far away to make a few days off worth the trip. Over the past six years I’ve had a hodge-podge of Thanksgiving experiences: going to my girlfriend’s beach house, spending it on my apartment balcony because I locked myself out (personal favorite), and working. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about being thankful and appreciating what you have and who you are with. For me, that ship has sailed. Now, I’ve moved on to a new holiday: MeGiving.

                Now yes, calling it MeGiving sounds really selfish and counterintuitive to the whole point of the real holiday, but 1) it’s my blog post, and 2) it’s not as bad as it seems.

Senior year of high school and all four years of college brought me varying degrees of Thanksgiving success and failure. Either way, it seemed like my fate was always dependent on others, whether I was crashing their family dinner, customers making me do my job, or unable to get into my apartment (still bitter). So I decided to make Thanksgiving all about me for the last couple of years, hence: MeGiving. I do what I want. I eat what I want. I watch what I want on TV. I can sit at whatever table I want. And I clean up when I want (i.e. never).

"No mom, I'm not married. Just pass me the damn gravy!"
 This year, MeGiving was a great success. First, my Packers beat the Lions to remain undefeated so I was already in a good mood by 2 in the afternoon. Then came the main course: chicken pot pie and the “Intervention” marathon. I had gotten a hankering for chicken pot pie the week before Thanksgiving so I decided that was going to be my feast. It actually turned out (surprisingly) well. As for the “Intervention” marathon, I watched all of season 9 which, let me tell you, was pretty intense. For those of you who do not know, ‘Intervention’ is a show on A&E that follows the lives of addicts (alcoholics, crack heads, opium fiends, etc.). The protagonists believe they are on a show about addiction, but unbeknownst to them, at the end of the episode, the family and friends of the addict will hold an intervention in hopes to get them to rehab. There is something about watching this show that just seems to fit into Thanksgiving. Some episodes are very uplifting, some are depressing, and some are bittersweet—but in every case it begins and ends with the family. I know so many of my friends who go home and say that they feel like this:     à   after being home for just a couple of days. I suppose this marathon is my way of getting to appreciate my family without those nasty side-effects.

As I lay on my couch, getting my glutton on, drinking some grape juice from a box, and watching the television I began to reflect on life in New Orleans so far. Like most incoming students, I had never lived here before, and have only been here on two prior occasions. I remember my first night here, alone in my apartment with no electricity, 100 degrees.... Celsius and thinking to myself “I am going to die tonight.” At this point it seems like that was at least a year ago at this point.  Next I went out to my balcony; It was a bit windy, the leaves across the street were red and blowing off the branches with each gust. “Finally some autumn up in here” I said to myself. I mean it’s basically December, but hey, better late than never I suppose. The city was pretty calm. I got to tear up and down St. Charles on my bike because there was hardly any traffic. These are the little things that must be taken advantage of.

On a more social note, Saturday turned into just ‘one of those New Orleans nights.’ It is one of my favorite days of the year, highlighted by all the big college football rivalries: the Civil war, the Egg Bowl, the Iron Bowl, the Battle for the Golden Boot, and most importantly, the Carolina-Clemson game.  This year was off the charts. The Gamecocks handled Clemson for the third year in a row so I was in a good mood to say the least. I had planned on just quietly staying at home for the night, but the victory kind of pepped me up and I decided to go to the local joint. Next thing I know I’m talking to everybody there, we go across the street to another place, go to a couple of house parties, and wind up out until dawn. [As a side-note in the ever-continuing saga of my shoe-challengedness I wound up coming home with a completely different pair of shoes than I had when I left my house]. Now that I think of it, many nights in New Orleans are like this and it is something I’ve come to love about the city in the short amount of time I’ve been here. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what race you are, where you came from, or where you are going—you can make friends anywhere, anytime in this city. I’ve hung out and had a great time with people I wouldn’t have expected before. For instance my roommate and I have these 50 year-old arch-enemies (read: friends) from a trivia night. I feel like this is something New Orleans does wonderfully. People get together and have fun because they share a common interest. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the same social ring—it’s just people. Also, there is something about this place that can just keep me going. I’ll think I’m getting tired and start thinking about going to bed, but next thing I know, it’s already three in the morning. The city doesn’t need the hurricane-slurping tourists of Bourbon street to keep the party going, the city has so much energy on its own and I’ve come to learn that it is infectious (mainly via droplet nuclei but also in unpasteurized dairy products).

So in this blog-induced reflection on Thanksgiving in New Orleans, I’ve come to two realizations that I previously overlooked. Firstly, I am thankful for the (temporary) relief from the tyrannical sun and crippling humidity. Secondly, I am thankful that in lieu of my real family (whom I will get around to visiting one of these days), New Orleans itself really is a big family (not to get all Hallmark on you). I’ve lived in South Carolina and know all about the concept of Southern Hospitality. I believe that in South Carolina, it exists because it is taught and expected, whereas in New Orleans, I feel like it is just endemic in the population. On that note I will leave you with the overused, yet still sage advice, of simply being more open: start up a conversation…because in this city you never know what can happen next in this city.