Six steps and a patch

Hey Guys.

Turns out, graduate school= no time to write. In fact, this very second I am putting off 30 pages of Making Task Groups Work in My World to write this update. I’m risky like that.

The thing is, crazy Ike is right outside my window knocking things around, and Chelsea Handler’s book, Are you there Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea (which I got 60% off thanks to my nice gig at the bookstore) is staring up at me from the night stand begging for a quick chapter or two. I need a break.
I came home and the building next to me was on fire- FIRE- and smoke was coming into our lobby. Also, we were having 50mph wind gusts that blew open all the doors at Starbucks on Magazine St. (I know, what am I doing at a Starbucks on a street like Magazine, right? Comfort in familiarity…) and I couldn’t walk around outside without having to hold onto a building. I decided today was not the day to quit updating. I need a program with at least 6 steps and a patch.

School is overwhelming and time consuming, and I am in full list mode. I walk around with a highlighter crossing off things like: call the grandpa, microwave dinner, wash face, etc. because I have forgotten how to manage my time. I set my alarm 20 minutes earlier than necessary because I know that I will need to lay in bed and pretend to feel carefree. Even with the structure, every single morning I end up running down the street trying to catch the 7:45 bus at 7:46 with my keys, phone, granola bar, sweatshirt, ipod and bookbag hanging off me.
I have not had time to unpack from Gustav yet, either, so every morning I dig through laundry baskets and boxes to find an outfit that is less wrinkled than other outfits, and spend another 15 minutes locating things like my watch, or earrings or matching socks. Usually I forget my lunch or something and spend $7.50 in the food court on carrot sticks and a diet coke, which I am half-tempted to eat in a bathroom stall for lack of friends, still. I wonder if they are secretly lunching in some special grad school cafeteria laughing about my 4 inches of grey hair. I have not yet managed to color it, because finding another Hannah is a hard task.
Even harder are things like biostatistics and health and economic development and policy: the core of the MPH program, which I did not understand would be the case. I could spend 5 years explaining the confusion of the last week and the revelation of an outdated program description on the school’s website (from 04) or I could just tell you that I dropped the MPH component. It was not the program for me. I am strictly an MSW girl now, focusing on Disaster Mental Health and International Social Work. This decision saved me $30K and an extra year of school, thanks to a competent and honest advisor and a surprising ability to advocate for myself. But you should have seem my face in that biostatistics class-omg.

Whatsoever things are praiseworthy:
In the middle of this mess, an anonymous friend paid the balance for my Belize trip.

(Stop. Breathe. Smile. Breathe. Relax. Breathe. Cry.)
This friend has pointed my over-ambitious, under-resourced heart straight to God’s eyes. He sees me. He sees Belize. He loves me. He loves Belize. He can juggle what I can’t, and he helps us care for each other.
I love you, friend.
What I need now is a good coffee with my good friends. I would give anything for a Saturday brunch or Firefly run to sit down, throw my purse on the table and say, “You guys will NEVER believe the week I had…”
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Orienta-uh-Evacuation

Today I had orientation!

I couldn’t decide between a t-shirt that said, “Be my friend” or a cute jersey-knit dress with a sash tie…

I opted for the jersey dress and took a picture of myself on the way to the bus. Yes, I take a bus. Yes, I had to use the self-timer mode. SJP would have offered to take it but she can’t move her elbows or hands, and she can’t move her eyeballs or talk. So she just watched while I positioned the camera on the counter and waited for the ten-second countdown. School, here I come.

Orientation was fantastic, and I met all the MSW/MPH people.

We also met the faculty and campus police, the librarians, the spiritual resource person, the work-study coordinator and a bazillion other campus organizations, then ate a red-beans-and-rice lunch with our orientation groups and adviser. It was all just perfect until we got a collective text in the middle of the afternoon telling us school was canceled and we had to evacuate by noon tomorrow.

Obviously THIS year, school, for me, is like a dangling carrot. Or, more accurately, a dangling slice of chocolate decadence cake from Whole Foods. It’s always one scoop away…

Ironically, the text came as we were discussing emergency preparedness with the campus officer, so we got all the latest information straight from the source. Apparently, Tulane has its own weather team contracted to provided updates in cases like this, and Louisiana has a state-wide plan to begin emergency evacuations 60 hours from predicted landfall. Thanks to Katrina, they said the days of “Well by-golly, I lived through Betsy and Camille, I’m just gonna ride this one out,” are over. The governor has already declared a pre-state of emergency, and 150 of the 700 busses needed to evacuate New Orleans are already here. If nothing else, they sure learned to evacuate.

Tulane has evacuated twice before—once for Ivan, which veered at the last minute, and once for Katrina. The year Katrina hit, 1500 freshman had moved in at 9am, and by 7pm they had all been evacuated—750 students went home, and the other 700 were bussed to Jackson State.

Most people ran out and bought water and non-perishable food items. I ran to the bookstore and bought Tulane clothes, then to the mall for some MAC eye shadow in case I never see either of them again. We all have our priorities.

I spent the rest of the afternoon re-packing the boxes I just unpacked and moving everything else away from windows and up off the floor (just in case this mandatory vacation turns into a four-and-a-half month effort to get back).

SJP agreed to stay and watch for looters while I’m gone. I am sort of devastated about my first day of school being canceled and really worried about things like having to sit the semester out or transfer to another school if we actually get a direct hit, but I’m trying to be an adult about it and keep things in perspective.

School is scheduled to re-open on Thursday, provided we have a school. In the meantime, I’ll be at Grampy’s agonizing over the 10 pairs of shoes and 12 purses that got left behind.

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Reflexes like a drunk cat

I feel like someone balled me up and tossed me into New Orleans over their shoulder with their eyes closed, and I landed on my feet, but then 10 seconds later fell over and broke both ankles and dislocated my knees and maybe, like, both wrists or something. Then 5 cars ran over me and I fell down a manhole, floated around and flew back to my apartment on a geyser.

The point is, I have an apartment now. Here is the order of events:

1. Arrived at Grad school dorm
2. Tried key to apartment 322A
3. Key didn’t work
4. Moved things into storage closet
5. Manager unlocked door
6. Moved things to 322A
7. Air conditioner froze, then melted, then molded
8. Moved things into temporary apartment 204
9. Waited in temporary apartment for 3 nights
10. Room was ready
11. Room was not ready
12. Went back to temporary apartment for one more night
13. Room was ready
14. Moved into new room
15. Discovered out old room was fine, they had meant to send me to 722A not 322A

Here is my new apartment:

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My original room had a view of the skyline, but that room was accidentally given away when they assigned me to the first wrong room. The new room, and I’m not complaining, I’m just saying, has a view of the hospital. I am not used to being so close to other people who can see me 24/7 and I am constantly forgetting to close the bathroom door. I step out of the shower to see 4 IV drips and a nurse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve screamed and slammed the door. Yes, it’s totally embarrassing and totally true.

Along the same lines, I had an entire list of stops to make at the uptown campus today and walked around for like 4 hours from the Accounts Receivable, which is in the middle, to the Uptown parking department, which is at one end, to the Registrars, which is on the opposite end, to Financial Aid, which is back to the middle, to the Bookstore (where I got a job!) to Student Employment to the food court. Here is where it gets great.

I bought a coke and some fruit. Yes, I said fruit. It’s a new thing I’m trying. I took the full cup of coke into the bathroom and set it on the toilet paper dispenser while I hooked my bag to that little hook. Then I turned around and accidentally knocked the coke over. It just seeped out from underneath my stall toward the drain in the middle of the bathroom. People walked in, stopped, looked at the drain, looked at my feet, and walked out. You can be sure I did not make any new friends today.

But I did get a job, which is important, and I did get a refill on my coke. I also discovered an Aveda salon in the main commons area outside the food court and was thrilled. Also there was a Fedex.

My hair stayed straight all day and I have started adjusting to the heat- I have even been wearing jeans and shirts with sleeves on them, if you can imagine. I am finding new ways to get the same places, and I have learned how to drive without getting hit by streetcars. The crazy thing is that you can never turn left. Instead, you have to do all these unnecessary u-turns. Navi would just love it here!

Sprinky and I found two great breakfast nooks with fantastic pecan waffles, a French bakery & Café (that one is for you, Elaine), two dessert places, two pizza places and two Mexican places. We were also driving down Tchoupitoulas minding our own business when Sprinky said, Giraffes. I looked up and out of the blue, across the street from residential houses, was a bunch of giraffes eating off the trees. I guess the zoo keeps them there…

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I also went to get my ID on the downtown campus and made for the skybridge, when, thankfully (although I think I would have figured this out on my own eventually) they told me that the skybridges connecting one of the 5 buildings collapsed during Katrina, and not to use it.

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Well. I guess it had.

SJP is doing fine, thank you. She keeps telling me how fanTAStic everything is. I love that in a cardboard friend.

Sprinky, on the other hand, left today at 7am. When she left, it occurred to me for two panicky hours that I was by myself here. What would do if my car broke down or if a semi ran over me or if I stabbed my toe on a parking lot spike or got shingles or ran into the bleachers during a basketball game? Things like that ALWAYS happen to me, and who would I call? It was a scary, lonely feeling.

(Pam- you are my closest relative. That means you’re on standby!)

I was thinking today- even though it seems a tiny bit backwards- that I feel like Belize prepared me for this. I have already jumped head-first into an entirely new place without a friend in sight, have even caught parasites and been in third world hospitals and came out just fine.

Welp. That’s it. Tomorrow I am driving to Destin to visit the grampies. When I get back, I start working in the bookstore, which means 35% off clothes and books!