Monday, March 30, 2009

Auggies in NOLA: The interviews

I recently wrote about 46 Auggies who decided to spend their spring break in NOLA (that's "New Orleans, Louisiana"). Well, I decided to interview a few NOLA kids (both pals of mine) and compile my interesting findings here. My time spent interviewing Caroline was much shorter than my time spent interviewing Beau, as I could find time to interview Caroline only after our three hour International Economics class when we were both exhausted. Therefore, Beau's experiences dominate this entry.
I should also mention that the full interviews are much longer than they might seem, as I only touch on a few parts (to me, the parts that are most interesting).

I interviewed Caroline Bredal, a third-year Honors Program student from Sandefjord, Norway, and Beau Hansen, a second-year wrestler and Honors Program student from Albert Lea, Minnesota. Both are Christian.

When I asked Beau about the religious nature of the trip (it was led by Augsburg's Campus Ministry, and His Hands 2 Go, a "faith-based," meaning Christian, organization), he surprised me by answering, "The other groups that came with were much more, uh, Christian than we were." He went on to mention the guest-speaker group (called The Traveling Team) that presented to them Thursday night. After some prodding, he admitted The Traveling Team “was very offensive to a lot of people," (especially the Muslim students on the trip), calling people who didn't "know Jesus" "Unreachables." Beau then said, "I didn’t notice [the offensiveness]...It kind of slipped past me. I kind of just got caught up in the presentation," adding that he realized the insulting nature of the group after offended Auggies spoke out.
When I asked Caroline about The Traveling Team, she too spoke harshly of them, saying, "The Muslim students [on the trip] were basically told they "didn’t have a chance."

The trip was certainly more good than bad, though. Both Caroline and Beau reflected passionately about the state of affairs in New Orleans, especially in the 9th Ward. Without a prompt, Caroline despondently told me it upset her, "hearing their stories, and seeing how much damage there [still was] and how much rebuilding there was yet to do."

I asked Beau "When you think about the trip, what images come to mind? What did you take personally from the trip?" He fervently answered, "There’s so much to be done, and it’s not advertised. Four years since [Hurricane Katrina] happened, and you think ‘Oh, as a whole, the problem’s been solved,' but it's not. Stuff isn’t being covered. There’s still so much to do. As much as we did in a week, there’s still so much to do on that guy’s house. It’s depressing to think about the people who are still going through a major struggle—and we complain about stupid things here."
Eagerly continuing on about how his experiences in NOLA have changed the way he sees the world, Beau observed, "I’m more aware. I want to help in other areas: in this country, even in this neighborhood, and across the world."
Then, speaking candidly, he said, "I've realized how spoiled I am. I could give a lot away--daily necessities I could give up. At first it would be hard, because I’d say 'I might need this,' but...we should be happy with [just] food and clothing. If everyone in the U.S. would realize ‘we could help each other out,’ think about how much better off we'd be.
Acting as the devil's advocate, as Yours Truly so often does, I asked, "But doesn't our wanting nice things, our materialism create jobs here in the U.S. and especially in poorer nations that need jobs so badly? Where do you draw the line?"
Responding intelligently, he said, "I don’t know. That’s not for me to answer. I wish I knew."

Overall, both Caroline and Beau found the NOLA trip to be a positive experience and well worth the mere $300 which covered all expenses, including food and air travel.
When I asked each of them if they'll be going on the trip again next year, both gave thoughtful responses. Caroline said she might, citing the sometimes bizarre scheduling as her primary reason for hesitating. Beau also refrained from committing, saying, "I want to do more missions trips. Saying and doing are two different things; I want to do more. I want to match what I say with what I do."
Spoken like a true Auggie.

My gratitude goes out to Caroline and Beau for taking the time to explain, in painstaking detail, all the finer points of the trip--and for opening up, on a personal level, about their experiences.

Caroline (second to the left) in NOLA

Beau (on the right), with Robert, the man whose house (damaged by Katrina) Auggies helped to "gut," (or, strip out wrecked flooring, wiring, etc.).

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