30 September 2005

Joe Hits the Hump (at 25!)

So Joe Smith turned 25. I'm 29 and he tells me to go ahead and kill myself. No sense waiting around those extra 6 months. He HATES that he's getting older. Irregardless, his best friend, Andrea threw him a surprise party. What a sweetie!
Note the "Over The Hill" candle...
Andrea and I had fun making up the "Joepardy" game. If you thought some factoids were crazy, you should hear the things we DIDN'T put in.
Sometimes Joe had fun with the game too.
And sometimes, not so much...
Nothin' but love Joe! Don't hurt me...

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18 September 2005

Katrina: The Aftermath T+3 weeks (Slidell, LA)

My family had not even been home (because the power was finally back on) one week before I ventured up there to help with the clean up work. My ward from church was assigned to go to Hattiesburg, MS but I went down a day earlier to help in my hometown of Slidell, LA. I spent the morning raking layers of pine straw and pine cones from our front and back yards. My father had done a majority of the work and still we didn't finish. You can only work for so long until it is just TOO hot. I spent the afternoon at the Bishop's Storehouse helping to get all the work orders arranged for the crew coming from the surrounding areas to complete the next day.

I'm standing at the end of the driveway at my parent's house looking left in the below picture. That's our mailbox at the bottom left. That's the tree at the edge of our property that had to be cut down. It's just hang out there. You can kinda see the street lined with all the cleaned up debris and trees chunks just waiting for the government to come pick them up.
This one is looking straight forward from the end of the driveway. It's a much better view of all the rubbage lining the entire subdivision. You used to be able to see houses instead of dead foliage.
The apartment complex as you enter the subdivision. The entire thing is blue tarped. The fence what surrounds it is completely gone too. That mess you see in front is the pavillion where we used to play at kids before it was smashed by at least 4 trees.
I didn't have time to get into the city to see the damage there. I would rather be working and being helpful. My subdivision seems like it cleaned up (the outside yards, at least) rather quickly. Besides, you don't know what it looked like before so you really wouldn't know the difference.

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Katrina: The Aftermath T+3 weeks (Hattiesburg, MS)

The next morning after helping in Slidell I went to Hattiesburg, MS to meet up with others from church to fulfill our assignments. Basically we cut up trees and hauled tree chunks, branchs, pine cones, pine straw and other yard debris to the street to be picked up at a later date.

The first 2 houses we went to were horrendous. They practically lived in a forest. In some cases, we cleared and cleared only to feel like we made no headway. From this picture you can see how the trees fell over with their comeplete root system intact. I find that amazing! Those were some powerful winds.
This house couldn't be saved. There are going to bulldoze it but the owner still needed to get as many of their belongings out as they could. We were just asked to clear a path to the house so they could get inside, which they hadn't been able to do yet.
This is about half of our group from the Northpoint Ward in Atlanta, GA. The other half got a different set of work orders. One lady commented how we could be doing the work we were doing and still have such smiles. Another man, who worked at Lowe's so has been there since the hurricane, thanked us profusely and started to cry as we were doing a service for him that he could not do himself.
I learned how to fall a tree. That was cool.

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Katrina: The Aftermath T+3 weeks (Waveland, MS)

On the way home on Sunday, we went to Waveland, MS to attend sacrament meeting with a friend. Waveland is closer to the coast and much of it was reportedly in matchsticks, if that. We didn't have the opportunity to stop and take pictures so these are taken from a moving vehicle. I did the best I could...

This house has an "X" on it. I've heard diffenent stories about what it means. Some say it means there is someone dead inside, some say it means they've checked the house and it's empty, some say it's ready to be torn down. I don't know. Either way it was interesting to see how primitive, I guess, the marking system was.

Everything people owned would be out on the side of the street as it all took water damage and was rotten now. You can kind of see the mold on the brown dresser towards the bottom left.
People wrote there addresses and other information right on their homes. This one tells us that they have State Farm insurance and gives their contact numbers if an agent were to come by and not find them there.
A little red house just picked up and dropped on it's side somewhere else...
Everything has to be gutted. With the wind damage and the water damage, everything pretty much has to be destroyed.
--More information written directly on the homes. --A taped up ice box. I guess they decided to put it out taped up rather than clean it out. --Martial law. The miliary was there keeping order, directing traffic, what-have-you. --This one is not real clear but it was supposed to show you the water line on the trees by the trash that's still stuck there. --Billboards that don't exist anymore. --The dried, cracked mud that exist everywhere now (driving in, the whole state smells like dead aquatic life). --Cars that floated away and were deposited on the side of the road somewhere (just one example). --Boats on top of boats.
The church building in Waveland took at least a foot of water. This is the removed sheet rock, insulation and other debris from the building. I don't know where they put the carpet but it's gone too. Still... the building was being used as a command center for the area. The second picture only starts to show the amount of stuff there. They had family kits with a tent, sleeping bags, water containers and food. Also cots, clothes, chainsaws, cleaning supplies, water, food, and other aid products. Anything I could think of was there.
They say that all the active memebers of the church in that area had actually moved away before the hurricane hit. A bishop there said it a wake up call for him to reactivate the numerous members who were not coming to church. I don't know if it's spiritual or temporal help they are looking for but people are returning to church there.

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12 September 2005

Egypt - The Destination Point

So I went to Monte Carlo for work and was lucky enough to grab some time off to extend my stay in that part of the world. My thought was that since I was so close to Africa, I just had to make it there. Africa was next on my list of big places to go and I told myself that I wanted to get out of the country this year so, with a little flight arranging, I made it. I know Egpyt is more Middle Eastern than African but it still counts!

I stayed at King Tut Hostel in Cairo and was greet by Ahmed #1 and Ahmed #2. I ended up on Ahmed #6. Ahmed #3 was a waiter, #4 was a guide, #5 was a driver and #6 was my felucca captain. Anyway. Ahmed #1 (black shirt) went out with us to get cash, go shopping, visit an Internet cafe when we first arrived. He seemed a little stressed being responsible for 2 little American girls on the busy streets of Cairo. Auto traffic is nothing to be triffled with and crossing it with us nearly gave him a heart attack. I was hardly ever alone in Egypt so I felt safe. That seems to be the first question out of everybody's mouth.

If you can see the red cirlce, that's me and Laura on the largest of the Pyramids at Giza. There are actually about 120 pyramids in Northern Egypt. The three that everyone visits were built as tombs for a father, son and grandson.

At Queen Hatshepsut's Temple. She ruled Egypt for 20 years and was very successful because she ruled with her heart as well as her head. Her husband died and her son was very young so she sent him away to boarding school and decided to rule Egypt. In my own words, she paid a high priest to tell the people that she was half-god and that the god part was not the female exterior. So she dressed like a man and went about ruling the country. I like this picture because it shows her in a false beard but the remaining red coloring looks like she has rosey, feminine cheeks. It's not supposed to look like that but it does and it makes me laugh.

Partial statue of Ramses II at the museum at Memphis, former capital. They say Ramses II was in love with himself. Maybe that is why there are so many statues of him. He also used to put his name all over things that other pharohs had built. To prevent that from happening to him, he wrote his name all over the things he built.

The next 2 photos are inside some of the tombs at the Valley of the Kings. You aren't supposed to take pictures there either but I tried to see what I could get away with. Hence the photos aren't great but it gives you an idea of what's inside. I can't believe the colors have lasted so long.

This is my special friend, Atef, who happens to own the King Tut Hostel (go there, it's nice). He was very kind to me. I hope to be able to spend more time with him soon and see Egypt the way the Egyptians do.

More often than not I was able to watch the sunset while I was in Egypt. I miss that. Even if I had the time, I wouldn't know where to find a good viewing spot. I must work on that...

Atop the hotel in Luxor.
On my felucca ride in Luxor.
Giza desert.
Overlooking Cairo.
With the pyramids.
Along the Nile River.

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11 September 2005

Rome - The Intermediary Point

In Order for me to get to Cairo, I had to use another city as a between point. Since I haven't done Europe yet, I just that stop over in Rome to my advantage. I was there maybe a day and a half but I saw everything I wanted to see and got some great picture and great culture. I am very proud of the above photos of the Coloseum. Below is me with the Coloseum in the background. I was by myself the first day (Laura couldn't make the flight and hung out in Nice, France) so I took advantage of the time by seeing the old city and taking all the photos my heart could desire. I also took the time to offer my services to anyone looking like they were taking a photo of their friend/family. I know how it is to travel alone and not have any one to take my picutre so I offered to let both people be in the picture as often as I could. And sometimes I would get them to return the favor.

The inside of the Coloseum. I can't imagine all the brave, valient (and some shady) men who lost their lives here for the sport of it. There is a cross here now to symbolize that no more lives will be taken here. I overheard a tour below me and the guide was saying that if hell were a place on earth, it would be here.

On a lighter note, a church was the first thing on my list of sites (it being the closest to me) and that is where I met this cute old man feeding the pigeons. He had this huge, crustly loaf of bread that must have been too hard to tear/for the birds so he was dunking it in the fountain in front of the church. After it was sufficiently soaked, he took it back over to where the birds were and continued to feed them. Every so often he would look at me and my camera and make kissing faces at me. Good times...

At the Trevi Fountain. There are fountains and plazas everywhere. This one they say that if you throw a coin over your shoulder and it makes it into the fountain that you will return to Rome. Do you see the size of the fountain?! How could you not make it!?

The Spanish Steps at night. It's like the mall. Everyone just hangs out there people-watching, playing instruments, socializing, what-have-you...

Me at Vatican City.
The Sistine Chapel ceiling. You aren't allowed to take pictures but I got brave.

Me with Giovanna and Laura in the courtyard of the B&B where we stayed in Rome. She was very nice to us. I think I won her over in the beginning when I gave her a hug.

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Monacco - The Jumping off point

So normally for work I bounce back and forth between Las Vegas and Florida, Florida and Las Vegas. Occasionally there's a trip to say Puerto Rico, Cancun or Hawaii. This time, it was to Monte Carlo, Monocco (a little tiny country about 1.5 miles square nestled on the Mediterranean Sea and in the mountains right between France and Italy).

Me at work...
...in Monte Carlo.

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Hurricane Katrina Refugees

These are my nephews, Bryce and Cole, who were part of the many "displaced Americas" due to Hurricane Katrina. It wasn't until I was on my way back into the country that I found out about the disaster and then it was a full 24-hours later before I could make contact with my family. They evacuated to Athens, Alabama and then I invited them to stay with me in Atlanta. My mom, dad, sister, 2 nephews, 2 dogs and 1 cat. My sister left to check on her trailer after she heard it was on top of a truck. It took 6ft of water. She has nothing and is currently living in a shelter in Pearl River. My parents are still with me, going on 2 weeks, and will stay until power is restored and they can start to clean up. Their house survived while the houses on either side of them, among many others in Lake Village, have multiple trees on them.

**Update: My parents left this morning upon finding out last night that power had been restored after 2 weeks. Our neighbor reported that our house seems to have fared the best in the neighborhood. My sister reported that the house smelled a little funny but that it was probably due to the rank refridgerator.**

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09 September 2005

In Memory of a Menden

Today was the funeral for Cameran Menden, the 16-year old brother of my very first friend when I moved to Atlanta. I spent some much time at their house when Lindsay and I were close. Then, a few years later, I lived with them for 4 months while I was between places. What an awesome family. Anyway. I was the last one to take pictures of the kids so they asked me to put something together for the funeral.

For more information on Cameran Menden please visit http://www.cameran-menden.memory-of.com/.

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Natalie Enters Club 29!

A small group of friends got together and went out for Natalie's, my roommate, birthday. We had dinner outside at Houlihans and then went to Riverside Park just to play and be outside enjoying the mild weather we've been having.

Clockwise from bottom left: Dave Cashman, Nancy Pulsipher, me, Greg Allen, Amanda Talley, Liz Cranford and Natalie Douglas. Greg Dahl is taking the picture for me.

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