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New Orleans is a lot. It has a lot of personality, culture, history, and commotion.

My first impression: New Orleans is a city of wildly different people and places woven together by immense pride and a unique and tragic history.

On the same block, you’ll find two different jazz bands playing at all hours of the day. A ten-minute streetcar ride will take you from multi-million dollar homes on St. Charles Ave to low-income neighborhoods around Mid-city where the Red Cross office is located. I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate the city both in terms of finding my way to work in the morning on public transportation and navigating more challenging situations posed by evident disparities in wealth and status between the community around our workplace and ourselves. I don’t know how to handle being accosted by a man with teardrop tattoos on his face as I walk to work, or how to handle being asked for food by a woman as I leave Whole Foods carrying bags of groceries. I’m finding myself hyper-aware of my race and privilege in ways that are challenging but eye-opening. At the Red Cross, I look forward to continuing to learn about the different parishes and getting to more holistically understand the culture of Louisiana as we begin disaster preparedness outreach into the River/Bayou region. I am still trying to figure out how I fit into the big picture of both the city of New Orleans and the Red Cross’s outreach efforts, but am excited by the prospect of creating something sustainable that continues to benefit the region beyond this summer.