Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Orleans 2: Cultural Differences

Back to the keys after a little more time. Yesterdays post was a little disjointed, due to being interrupted with grant news. An interruption I'll always be happy to take! Hopefully now I come back with a bit more of a gathered focus.

In this post, I'll muse about some more about cultural differences, particularly where the city itself is concerned. As far as the city, the first big thing I can say is that when I look around, I find it difficult to believe that most of the buildings down here, like anywhere else in the metropolitan U.S., are equipped with internet, and that we are in fact in 2011. The presence of history here is quite literal, and I wonder if that is part of what makes race relations so fragile. You look around and there is constant reminder of history. Then again, I think this is relatively true most places, but maybe not to the extent so clear that it is here. Gaggling at the old buildings makes you look at them closely, and while you do that, you realize that some are kept in excellent shape and therefore still majestic, and some are left to fall into ruins. This at first seems like a matter of carelessness, until you realize that the level of upkeep often corresponds to the economy of the neighborhood. Again, things are fragile here, and in talking to people, it seems that it is even more so after the hurricane; that any progress that might have been made in certain parts of the city was just whipped away. The feeling is that it will take another how many years to build back up that progress.

The living history of the city does seriously intrigue me, to the level of wondering what it would be like to be a resident and actually have time to be a part of the culture. I'll note that this feeling is gathered from my short amount of time out, because as I'll remind you, I am here to dance; I have been using my day time for 6-7.5 hours of class and breaks for meals and recuperating to go back to class! But I am indeed intrigued. Maybe it is because I have an amount of natural wanderlust. Maybe it is because I am noticing something that I think I can have a hand in changing, and I am a glutton for social punishment. Who knows exactly what it is. It could also simply be that when I am somewhere new, I want to get a pretty good idea of how the city lays, where things are, where to do what, so that I feel like I have an understanding of where I have spent my time. Then in comes a reminder that I will provide to myself; you cannot do everything all of the time. I came here to dance, and I should probably do myself a favor and focus on doing that and building relationships around that. It seems that sometimes, my tendency to want to do everything gets in the way of doing anything to my best. Am I seeing a pattern? 'I am stick of doing 9 or 10 things at 65% when I could do 4 or 5 things at 100%.' Have I not been repeating that over and over lately?

Getting off topic. Back on; It seems that I'll just have to keep getting out to explore as much as I can, however it might happen. In the course of my explorations, I have also come across some cultural differences that are not intriguing. As a Twin Citian, I am fortunate to be used to very cleanly public surroundings. Not the case here. I am also used to pretty easy access to well-organized information. I have been very surprised here at the lack of public information, and what I can find is not well organized, incomplete, or not very well presented (many of the websites down here look like they have not gone through an update since 2000!). This suggestion will probably come as no shock to anyone who has spent a fair amount of time in the South (maybe I am generalizing, who knows); Sometimes it feels laid back here, to a fault. I will be the first to admit that I think Midwesterners, including myself, can often be too uptight. However, that tendency certainly serves it's purpose. This laid back feeling here has manifested itself primarily through timeliness. We in the Midwest are pretty well on time. Here, everything starts late and goes late.

That's enough about the city as a whole. I guess I can sum it up by saying that I'd need more time here (like most places in the world). Damn that curiousity!

No comments: