Monday, September 11, 2006


Well, here I am! After months of planning and a week of Dartmouth's all-expenses paid Civic Skills (leadership) Training in Washington, DC, I am finally in New Orleans.

I'll say right here at the outset, I don't know how often I'll post here. I'm shooting for twice a week, but we'll see what works out. For the time being, there's no regular Internet access at the house I'm staying at. Hopefully that will change, but for now I have to use a coffee shop across the street that has free wireless (and plays Bob Dylan). Thankfully, this place is open until midnight, and I figure I'll usually go to bed between 10 and 12, so that's fine. The only real downside is they'll ask you to leave if you don't buy anything - so no kicking the coffee habit this term!

Anyhow, over the next three months or so I will attempt to use this blog to update you on my work here, the status of recovery overall, and personal insights and thoughts I gain while here. This is, so I think the blog has an RSS feed, if you know how to use those. Otherwise, just bookmark the link and stop by once or thrice a week if you're interested. :-)

The week in DC was fun. It was mostly seminars in a think-tank conference room - we covered fundraising, networking, project management, office communication skills, that sort of thing. The best part of it all was the people - I hope I can establish lasting friendships with most of the other nine students there when I get back to campus in January. They were all cool, some just way awesome. We also met with young alums who have cool DC jobs, some older alums, and a Congressman who strangled his mistress. I met my own Congressman, too, randomly walking on the sidewalk just ahead of our group! I talked to Howard Dean's Chief of Staff (a wonderful lady and part-time pastor) and an alum who knows all the staff here at the Diocese of Louisiana, as well (small world!).

But, the name of this blog is "Nathan in New Orleans," not "Nathan in DC." I arrived here last night a little after 10, and a fellow named Sam picked me up and took me to St. Andrew's Chalstrom parish house, where I'll likely be staying for the next few months. Take a look at There are only four of us living there right now, all of us long-term volunteers. Short-term volunteers come in droves during academic breaks.

Most of what I'll be doing is gutting homes, it turns out. I won't describe that process now; you can read about it in my Free Press article at When there are no short-term volunteers, like now, we interns form a team and get 'er done. When there are more volunteers, we lead the teams. Sometimes there's office work to be done, as well, something I don't necessarily enjoy but am quite skilled at - so maybe in a couple weeks I'll do more of that. I spent this morning working in the Diocese's storage warehouse - they've rented a huge swath of a cabinet store's warehouse to store their thousands of bottles of water, paper towels, etc. There were a number of boxes of records and personal effects salvaged from a lady's home; I was sorting it all - cards and photos here, pre-'00 tax/legal/medical records here, more recent financial stuff here, etc. She's probably not coming back, so we're going to mail her the memories and important records. Sadly, you learn a lot about people doing this - she was a good Catholic, sent her kids to Catholic school, worked as a school secretary, her husband was a retired Deputy Sheriff. Then you learn personal stuff you shouldn't know, and I won't share, but that's the nature of the work. Tomorrow, if my stomach is feeling better - and I think/hope it will be - I'll go to an actual job site.

One last little thought: it was somewhat eery flying into the city at night. As I recall, flying in during the day in March was odd because you couldn't see much damage (I guess we weren't close enough to the flattened neighborhoods). Nighttime was weird because of all the neighborhoods still without electricity - odd spots in the city that should been lighted up but weren't.

That's it for my inaugural entry. I doubt most entries will be this long - at the least, they'll be without the DC and wireless/blog-explanation paragraphs. Please, PLEASE keep in touch over Facebook, MySpace, e-mail, AIM, or MSN Messenger. Blog comments are especially appreciated, since I know many of you don't use all those newer communication tools. I've got my cell with me, as well, so feel free to call and say hello! I'm a little familiar-sick right now - nervous about the work, and missing friends. I don't care if it's Dartmouth, home, or with the DC crowd; it would be nice to be with people I know and like right now, some familiar conversation. Obviiously, all new experiences start out that way, this one's just a little more so than most. But that's ok - overall, I'm excited about the possibilities the next three months hold. Please continue to pray for me and for my family, and I love you all!


u2andcomicbooks said...

I'm so glad you've got this up and going. I think you definitely have an interesting and challenging three months ahead of you! I miss you tons and hope we can catch each other on Messenger here and there!

Bob Runkle said...

Greetings Nathan from the cool state of Idaho! Spent most of the day @ EfM and thought of your week and trip. Glad that wireless seems to be feasible. Talk later and thanks for keeping all of us posted.

Bill Grote said...

9/6/08 to Nathan from Bill Grote: When I copy and paste section on St. Columba's, it prints too light to read. How can I produce readable copy to email and/or print?

Nathan Empsall said...

Wow, Bill, odd post to put this comment on. But ok.

When I copy the text into Word it's the regular black color so I'm not sure what the issue is, maybe it's the program you're copying it into? Try copying it into Word (or another word processor) first and then from there into your final destination, and if it's too light when it's in Word, at least it's easy to change the color there with the font option. Hope this works! Thanks!