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Bracing for Katrina

sent: 8/29/2005

Howdy all,

I assume you’ve heard of Katrina by now?

That’s the evil hurricane that may turn out to be the strongest storm from the Gulf of Mexico to ever hit land. It’s reached category 5 (they’re saying 175mph winds and 200+mph gusts right now) and headed directly towards New Orleans. Should hit land by later this afternoon or evening.

Looks like I chose a bad year to move to this area!

I’m in Baton Rouge right now at a friend-of-a-friend’s apartment, about 80 miles west of NOLA. Looks like we’re going to get hit by high winds and rain here, and we’re bracing to lose electricity for about a week –right in the heat of summer– but hopefully we’ll avoid significant structural damage and major flooding. I left my apartment in Kenner on Saturday, exactly a week after moving in. Given the latest news, I’m assuming everything that I left behind will probably be lost.

I certainly can’t complain that my summer has been uneventful.

I’ve been moving for the last several months, and never felt completely settled in yet. Since May: I moved out of my CA condo and into my mom’s place for a month, then moved out to Nat & Joan’s in Southern LA (friends of family), helped four TGNO friends with their moves, moved to NOLA, moved back to Nat & Joan’s after getting burglarized, moved some of my possessions to two friends’ apartments, and then eventually reconsolidated all my possessions into an apartment in Kenner. And then on Saturday, I had to leave my new home! It’s a two-story townhouse apartment with bed and bathroom on the second level, and living room plus kitchen on the first. I moved almost everything up to the bedroom, and initially assumed they’d be safe up there. We’ll see…

Now that they’re talking about 20-25 feet of floodwater though, I assume nothing’s safe (including all the brand new computer equipment that I bought to replace the stolen system).

Of course I brought Macy with me, and the people with whom I’m staying are being very welcoming and accommodating. Depending on how Baton Rouge fares, a few of us may take off for Houston or Shreveport in a few days if electricity is out and heat becomes unbearable. Of course traffic gridlock and blocked roadways may put a stop to those plans. It’s being reported that we will probably not be able to return to the NOLA area for weeks, or possibly even months. I don’t know to what degree the “certain catastrophy” in NOLA necessarily extends to the surrounding cities such as Kenner. I guess I’ll find out shortly.

Of course, that leaves my employment situation up in the air. I had just finished my first week as a 9th grade math teacher at Bonnabel High School. It was very chaotic, exhausting, and overwhelming, but by the end of the week I at least was optimistic that I would eventually be able to set into a groove. I felt like I was just beginning to convince the kids that professionalism and respect would be the cornerstone of my classroom. Pretty funny coming from me, huh? Can you believe that I wore a long-sleeve dress shirt and tie on the first four days of school? Quite a change from my old Lockheed attitude, but I felt that this was the most promising persona for me to adopt as a new teacher. Before I can even get too heavy into the math material, I need to get the classroom management established right off the bat. I’d love to take on the drill sergeant role, but I don’t believe I could pull that off convincingly. On the other hand, I’m told that I’m obviously not from around here because I “speak too proper.” Thus, the strictly-business teacher persona was born. I can’t yet tell how many students like me or don’t like me, but I’m satisfied as long as they demonstrate respect and order in my classroom. After I had to make examples out of a few troublemakers, they were starting to understand that good behavior would earn rewards and poor behavior would bring on consequences. I spent more time talking about rules and respect than math this week. Since I’m starting off with a remedial math class, which will eventually transition into Algebra I, I know the challenge to get the kids interested in the subject will be particularly great.

My most interesting class must be second period. The first time I met them, they were extremely unresponsive. No matter how much I prompted them to participate, they just sat there with blank expressions. Finally when I got to the point of having everyone introduce themselves to the class, I realized the problem: About 6-8 don’t speak English. Several are Honduran (which seems to be the main Latino population in Kenner), and I also have students from Cuba, Venezuela, and Mexico. Should be an adventure…

Anyway, I’d better wrap this up. The winds and rain are kicking up, and the power just went off briefly. It may be a while before I get Internet access again. We’re in a second-floor apartment built of brick, so I feel relatively safe. I’m stressed about all the material things I may lose, but I’m not too concerned about my personal safety right now. I can be thankful for that.

Wish us luck out here!