Sarah has been in Louisiana for several days now. She worked her first full-time shift on Sunday.
When she arrived in Louisiana on Friday, she spent a night in a gym at a school in New Orleans. The Red Cross HQ was closed by the time she and other recently arrived volunteers arrived in the city from the airport, so they were deposited at that Red Cross staff shelter and told how to report to HQ in the morning for in-processing. The staff shelter had a hundred cots in a gym and a kitchen facility. She spent the first night there after helping in the kitchen to prepare meals for the volunteers. Early the next morning, she caught the first bus to Red Cross HQ where she was assigned to a group that worked in New Orleans but stayed in a town outside of New Orleans proper named Harvey, LA. In addition, she was given a bed in a hotel room with one other lady. So, Saturday, she spent most of the day going through in-processing and getting some sort of transportation to her new digs. The hotel was an upgrade over the shelter since she had a bed to herself, a bathroom shared with just one other person, a place to plug-in her cell phone, and the like.
Sunday, Sarah worked her first day on an ERV. An ERV is a Red Cross acronym for an Emergency Response Vehicle. ERVs in New Orleans are primarily used to distribute meals and water to people living and working in the city. She said they spent most of the day distributing roughly four hundred meals to people in middle-class neighborhoods. Many of the people who recieved meals were spending their first weekends back in New Orleans. Most people seemed extremely grateful for the food.
New Orleans itself is still an ungodly mess. There is trash everywhere, including an army of silent monoliths: discarded refrigerators at the curb in front of nearly every house. Sarah said that when front doors are open, mold is almost always visible from the street inside a house. Imagine the size of a mold infestation inside a house that is visible from the street! Now imagine that mold colony replicated thousands upon thousands of times. That is the state of housing in New Orleans. People who have second floors are living there; others are living with the mold on the first floor.
There are quite a few Hispanic workers working there who are doing many of the hot, backbreaking jobs. Her Spanish language skills have already come in handy as she can tell these workers just what sort of food the Red Cross is distributing.
Apparently, most of the food is prepared by the Southern Baptists, and the Red Cross is the distribution end of the chain. While the Red Cross has a few kitchens operating in the area, her ERV picks up its food from a Southern Baptist kitchen.
Saturday night, the owner of the hotel where she is staying cooked the Red Cross volunteers at the hotel a Cajun dinner complete with red beans and rice; shrimp etouffee; shrimp gumbo; and other cajun specialties.
Monday night, she has the option of going to the Navy base for dinner with other Red Cross volunteers, or eating again at the hotel (where they were promised crawfish pie). Apparently she has already tried the crawfish pie and it is good enough serve as an enticement away from Navy food.
She said that the work she did distributing food on Sunday was hot, hard work, but rewarding.