Day 13 – November 15
On the schedule for Day 13 of our trip was rest and relaxation. Instead of waking up at 8 AM as usual, people slowly made their way downstairs after a few extra hours of sleep. It was sunny and warm outside, so the porch of the Blue Moon was filled with students wearing shorts and writing journal entries. The free time gave some of us the opportunity to explore the city of Lafayette. A short walk away is Louisiana University at Lafayette. At the center of campus, there is a small cypress swamp area, which contains alligators. Lafayette is also home to a number of small art galleries, many of which we saw during an art walk earlier in the week.
The city of Lafayette has a rich history and a blend of cultures. It is known as a center of Cajun and Creole culture, and has French, American, Spanish, Indian and African influences. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area was inhabited by the Attakapas, Opelousas, Alabamons and Choctaw Indians. Traders and trappers lived in the area in the mid 1700s, before the Spanish occupied the area in 1766. Different areas of Louisiana were occupied by the Spanish and French throughout its history. Acadians moved into the area in the late 1700s after being exiled from Nova Scotia in 1755. They arrived from areas all along the east coast and the Carribean, after being given permission to settle in Southern Louisiana by the King of Spain in 1784. At that time the city was called Vermillionville. Many French settled in the area following the French Revolution in 1789 and the land became a part of America in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. The city was renamed Lafayette in 1884 after the French leader of the same name. Today the city is known for its Cajun music, food and art (For more information see: http://www.lafayettetravel.com/culture/history/) .
Today, I was sitting on a swing behind the Blue Moon, thinking about everything that we’ve done and seen since we’ve been in Louisiana. Someone we met was saying that he didn’t like how close Lafayette was getting to the Gulf of Mexico. But the people we’ve met in Louisiana don’t seem as angry as I expected them to be about coastal land loss. Everyone knows it is happening and that their land will keep getting closer to water, as storms like Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike take away miles of land and leave water behind. Instead of being angry, they are all trying to come up with solutions, even if they are small or unlikely to be implemented. And perhaps they are learning to accept what they cannot control.
Also, it’s true what they say about southern hospitality. I’ve never been in a place where so many strangers talked to me or asked me to dance at a dance hall where everyone was just there to dance. I’ve also never been to a breakfast that felt like a Friday night, as I did with a Zydeco breakfast we went to a couple of mornings ago in Lafayette. The room was packed full of people dancing to zydeco, and eating eggs and grits, just listening to the music.
For dinner tonight, most of us went to Artmosphere, a café/restaurant/music venue across the street, and then to Borden’s to get banana splits. As we understand it, this is the only remaining Borden’s ice cream store in the country – and the company has turned to manufacturing chemicals! After dinner and dessert, everyone made their way over to the music and the dance floor. It was the CD release party for a band called Major Handy. Beans (with sausage) and rice were being served and continued late into the night.