New Orleans in a nutshell…

… or whatever else I should entitle my post about New Orleans.

It was one CRAZY Internet lacking week (okay so I found free wifi like all of twice in New Orleans, hence my lack of postings etc. via social media or otherwise). And I mean it when I say CRAZY — I was busy enough that I rarely got more than 6 hours sleep (and I know that on one day I actually couldn't sleep properly and ended up with a couple naps during the night rather than a full night's sleep), this in combination with a large amount of hearty fried food rather than vegetables, and I inevitably ended up pretty rundown upon my return home. And given that I got to bed at like 2:30am after returning home and worked at 8:15am on 15% Tuesday… uh… that sleep deprivation thing didn't end after I returned home either. But today's going much better: although I had a wonderful misadventure trying to run an errand on campus (eventually I succeeded, but the office being closed when I arrived was not expected or appreciated), I'm in a better mood than I was earlier at the moment. In addition, my ear finally popped this morning so I can finally hear from both sides of my head though I'm still a bit stuffed up. Of course I still have a few hours of hard work ahead of me (thesis work, yay!) today, but I am getting sort of caught up on things of import. I actually can't wait until my crazy travel season ends, not because I have to get motoring with thesis work (and I certainly will have to do that!!) but because I'll be able to settle into a proper routine of sorts with getting sleep, getting things accomplished and whatnot!

So, NOLA (New Orleans), began with arriving. I flew through Toronto in Executive Class (yay for using the last of my e-Upgrades… though that means no more upgraded trips in my near future… and as I doubt I'll qualify for such next year, for the forseeable future as well) and to New Orleans airport which is undergoing considerable construction. The shuttle ride took me to the hotel (which is located above a parkade which is above a mall (fancy mall that is)), so the lobby is on the 11th floor and the majority of convention events (for CKI and LSSP) were on the 12th floor. My room was on the 19th. Heavy use of their elevators meant that I didn't spend much time in my room save in the evenings when getting some rest (and TV time, really, as no internet! — I wasn't going to pay exorbitant rates to just check my email).

LSSP was pretty awesome though. I was part of the only ALL-girl group, and we were the Voodoo Dolls. Our first project was at the SPCA where we split into groups (my group was repackaging syringes). Then we got to play with animals for photographers. The dog I spent time with was on a leash for the VERY first time in all likelihood, and definitely didn't understand what was going on. It was very odd. He kept going completely rigid when people picked him up too (a larger beautiful dog). I much preferred playing with the cats. Magonigal was great — very playful and the other cat was wonderful too!

In the afternoon we went to the Latino Farmers Co-op and sold fruit by the side of a road to raise money for them on a ridiculously hot day. The conditions weren't pleasant (and I worried about the safety of my group a bit) but we had fun and raised some good cash for the organization that serves the Spanish speaking population in New Orleans (which grew tremendously after Katrina, though the services for this population did not keep the pace).

The next day our service project was with Habitat for Humanity for everyone (my group was working on a house in the 7th Ward, mostly doing siding). I was on the roofing crew for my site and it was my first time roofing in harness. So that was nice. That said it was ridiculously hot on that roof with no shade. And I did have to lie down and rest for a bit in the afternoon as I am not as young as I once was but I was having a great time — particularly as I love heights (though I have a healthy fear of hurting myself so I stay safe!).

On the third day I did some in-house service helping with CKI Convention set up, with a LSSP thank you gift and making Eliminate flowers among other things before the CKI Convention could begin. And that was a whirlwind of activity of course! I was really proud of my CKIers however, as they did a great job with our district cheer. We had our own bit of excitement when one of our own was encouraged to run for Trustee for Sub Region A and she was indeed elected! Our district will also be co-hosting next year's CKI Convention in Vancouver so it behooves us to represent We-Can VERY well!

Kiwanis convention was pretty awesome as well — the CKIers did a Flash Mob (yes I participated, why not?), and I enjoyed all the sessions I was able to attend. I was rather glad with how the House of Delegates worked out, and I rather enjoyed the general sessions (though not necessarily the keynotes this year — they weren't really as much my thing for several reasons). I didn't enjoy having to literally run across to each convention, so that wasn't terribly fun given that both conventions were simultaneous. Indeed because of CKI convention (I run the oratorical contest every year and this year's included some AWESOME entries), I missed lunch completely on one day in the process of running to Kiwanis International Convention.

I wish I could have seen more CKI alumni who were present, but seeing Carrie and Helen among others was really nice! After the CKI convention ended (RATHER late) I ran to meet them and Stephanie to go on a Haunted tour of the French Quarter — my first real sightseeing adventure since getting there. The tour was really macabre, but our tour guide was awesome and talked about the science (things like body farms and whatnot) explaining some of the 'hauntings' and then what was less explainable… Most interesting to me was the history of the area. People did some of the most grotesque things to each other!

I had a couple extra days in New Orleans and the first included my souvenir shopping (I got a mask for myself, some things for friends and family, and a few other items that are less souvenir like — I have a lot of conference swag — I don't think I'll run out of grocery shopping bags anytime soon!). It was great to just walk down to the French Market and wander the stalls. I even found this wonderful booth with GREAT prices where I bought a board game (I would have bought more, but I limit myself to one game a trip maximum — I'm bad enough when it comes to purchasing games when I'm at home!), and I'm totally looking forward to playing Red November as a result. The person running the booth does the convention circuit and she only sells games she actually likes playing so that's a pretty huge vote of confidence. She also makes Lego figurines so there were tons of great ones there to but there's no way I would have been able to choose one of those!

The rest of the day was pretty lazy though we did do some more shopping at times and took the historic St. Charles Avenue streetcar to gaze at the homes. I guess this would be a good time to talk about New Orleans food: it turns out I rather like alligator sausage (most places), po-boys, crawfish etouffee (except at Daisy Dukes — Daisy Dukes had great other things though!), fried green tomatoes, and rice and beans among other great dishes. We ate a lot of fried foods of various sorts and that was occasionally frustrating from a nutritional standpoint. Portions were large (generally) and I'm pretty glad to be back home and eating healthier. Had I had more time to get food (and/or more money), I'm sure I would have had some more awesome meals, though I didn't have anything that was bad. A lot of the food I ate was quick as I ran off to something else. Hopefully we'll fix some of the scheduling issues in Vancouver when the conventions will also be concurrent.

On Monday, my last day in New Orleans (I flew at around 5pm), I took the best tour of the entire trip. It was in an air conditioned shuttle bus type vehicle (though we did stop to walk around a cemetery and a sculpture park among other things). We began in the French Quarter, went to the Garden District, the cemeteries, the parks, the 9th Ward, and around. I probably got the best understanding of the city through this tour (it's only too bad my trip didn't START with such a tour!). If I had a few more days I would have spent it on Frenchman's street (for the music and culture) and some of the great recommended restaurants I think.

Flying home meant for a long day that day, but I got home safe and sound, evidently. I did rather enjoy New Orleans (though not the ridiculous record-breaking heat wave or humidity — yuck!), and wouldn't mind returning someday but Bourbon Street is not really my thing, the crime rate is too high (thefts from the hotel among other things), and staying in a hotel with free wifi would have been useful (as would more free time!).