Between Work and Play Vacation this year was an odd mixture of delight, wonder and realization about the world. It was the first time I had left New Orleans since returning last September after being evacuated for a month because of Katrina. My family and I headed for vacation to the same place we evacuated for that traumatic month of uncertainty and tension -- my parents' home in Northwest Arkansas. I still have close friends who live there and I'm always anxious to see my family, especially when a reunion means my siblings and their families meet us there, plus we get to explore places that take my memory back 30 years.
This year, however, the road trip itself was a discomforting déja vu of traveling the same path we did a year ago albeit without the feeling of fleeing a dangerous situation and going into the unknown. The thing I noticed this time around was how clean the world looks outside New Orleans. Twisted metal and debris piles are not the norm as they are in our city; I think I had halfway forgotten that. There also is a noticeable lack of blue plastic stretched over roofs and gaping holes in buildings, and the roads become fairly smooth once you are an hour inside Mississippi.
The vacation provided a much needed break from work and a subconscious, continual anxiety about the slow pace of recovery in New Orleans as a whole. While I welcomed the time off and the refreshing energy of a new place and the welcome arms of friends, however, there is an underpinning of sadness when I compare where I am to the city where I live and the battle scars that are still obvious on the landscape.
I also feel anxious, like I need to return to New Orleans and get back to the day-to-day tasks of recovery and the companionship of other survivors of the hurricane wars.