(NOTE: This post was already published on July 1, 2013, on http://www.yarfulaniaturai.blogspot.com the blog has moved here. Though I have made some edits from the original text in the blog, the subject matter is still the same)
July 1, 2013
Standing right by the room window of Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarters of New Orleans; Louisiana, all I saw at that moment were rooftops and the Mississippi River.
Beautiful ships kept coming and going, I could do nothing but thank the hotel for giving me such a room with a marvelous window view.
Poeticizing the scene; the splashing sounds of the waters and the tweeting tweets of the birds, It could have been a wish to be in one of those ships parading the Mississippi river, but the story is different.
Choosing between a life as a poet and one as a prose writer, I will choose the latter because it gives me much freedom to play with words without any fear of being criticized by the literary critics.
I wished I had all day to be right there looking out, perhaps I might have gotten answers to my nagging questions.
“How did New Orleans re-built itself after Hurricane Katrina?”
This was the first question I kept asking myself, and in one way or the other, I wanted to link the answer to the things happening in my country Nigeria.
I am ‘Yar Fulani a Turai, Nigeria is my country and this is my story:
On a Sunday morning in March 2013, the group which I was among left Washington DC to the state of Louisiana. No doubt, everyone in the group was looking forward to the visit, if not for anything, but to witness how a natural disaster has affected an entire population in one way or the other.
We were greeted by the warm weather right on arrival at the airport, contrary to the coldness we left back in Washington DC, which was as a result of a snowstorm a few days ago.
In all my nomadic experience, that was my first time experiencing a snowfall in reality, and you can imagine what the expression might be.
Part of our schedule was to work as volunteers to clean up some parts of the City Park which suffered a lot at the hands of the Katrina, and this made sense to me.
We drove to the park after changing into some convenient clothes perfect for the day’s job. Like my friends, I wore hand gloves, took a deep breath, and it was show time.
Despite the pains in my thighs as a result of some muscle fatigue developed since in DC, I rushed towards a wheelbarrow, grabbed the handles and pushed it with much enthusiasm.
That’s what I was set to do; one of the very good habits of the American People. “I should be doing this at home too;” I whispered. I felt my lips moving as I silently said; “Oh yes, I can mobilize my friends, relations and the people that mean good for Nigeria to help volunteer in many things.”
I joined others while we made several trips of a wheelbarrow filled with wood flakes. Then we change turns and I picked another equipment to label the weeded ground. The more I worked, the more I asked myself this question: “How did New Orleans re-built itself after Hurricane Katrina?”
That question kept coming back to me and I began to wonder if out of the group of 25 from different countries, I was the only one facing a greater challenge back home, or so I thought.
My heart kept aching again and again and it was so painful that it travels from my head down to the toe, and back upwards. I still feel the pains even as I drop these lines.
Like a response to my silent cry, a voice in me said: “This is the spirit that’s lacking back home!” This same spirit helped the people of New Orleans to rebuild their city after Hurricane Katrina. This same spirit keeps the people of New Orleans united. This is the same spirit my Instructors want me to see and feel that is why they brought us here so we can take the message back home. Yes, the spirit indeed.
“It is the Spirit of Love for one another”. It’s called “the spirit of love, peace, and unity.”
Having discovered an answer to my first question, I made a big sigh of relief, and now I know that one is crossed off my list.
(To be continued……..)