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This week’s guest post for the ‘Day-to-Day’ series comes from Vinayakan Aiyer who’s originally from India but currently working and living in New Orleans. If you’re an expat and interested in sharing the day-to-day details of your city shoot me a message at thepaperplanesblog @ gmail . com.
As an Indian national where chaos is the order of the day, orderliness of western world gets to me at times. Make no mistake, I like order but too much of it inhibits the day to day surprises life is capable of dishing out. Those surprises are needed for a creative person’s thoughts to flow freely. That is why I think USA was blessed with a city like New Orleans (fondly called Nola/Big Easy). The vibe of New Orleans is such that it loosens up everybody. There is just no tension here – if there is one, it is a positive brand of tension that New Orleanians are experts at practicing.
New Orleans is a city that feels so different from any other big city of US I have been to (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Miami, Houston, San Diego & Washington DC). To me, New Orleans is that rebellious, indifferent teenager that has a mind / attitude of its own. It simply refuses to be anything else.
After hurricane Katrina, the city is a rebel with a cause and seems to have got a grip on its mind. I do not know what it was before. Every time you strike up a conversation with a local or anyone who has lived in New Orleans for around ten years they always speak about their life here as “before” hurricane Katrina and “after”. Some parts of the city was unaffected by the direct impact of the hurricane but everyone was affected. As we all know, calamity can be a character builder. I reason that is what happened to New Orleans. Locals say, the storm and its effects changed the politics and business of the city forever. More money has been spent on infrastructure, areas that were ridden with crime are being cleaned up, more and more people are getting involved in charitable work.
I am usually up by 05:45 – 06:00. But I don’t get up from my bed immediately. I spend 10 – 15 minutes gathering my thoughts for the day. I get ready, have a quick breakfast (bread, fruits, milk & nuts etc.) and ride 3 miles by bike to the office. My routine in Bangalore or Delhi would be to start my car. Riding my bike around town lets me have more fun than driving a car as I am open to the world outside.
Just outside the apartment complex I live in, there is a lady in her 60s who takes her two dogs for a walk at about the same time I go for work. When we see each other, we make sure we give a “Good morning” shout. Regardless of the rush I am in, when I see someone crossing a street, I make sure I stop and let them go first. And if it happens to be a lady, I smile and say “ladies first”. It is a selfish act because there is real positive energy to having a lady/girl smile at you and say “thank you” in the morning. I want all of that positive energy before I am at work everyday. It helps me to get my whole self to work.
I work at a lumber trading company that’s a family owned business run by an old Nola family. Lunch is between 12:00 – 13:00 and I usually get a salad. I finish work by 17:00 and am home usually by 17:30 hrs. I go running at a near by park or hangout by the pool. I really like the parks in Nola (Audubon Park, City Park, Coliseum square park etc) as they are lined with live Oak trees. These tress are native to this part of the world and they thrive in their natural environment. To catch Oak trees at their best, I high recommend Oak Alley plantation and other plantations which are driving distance from Nola (about an hour).
Tourism contributes significantly to city’s income. As a tourist, it is important you take at least one ride by the storied Nola street cars. Seafood is of very high quality in New Orleans and there are plenty of restaurants competing in that space. During summers, crawfish boil parties are a regular feature as well. I wish I could share more information about food in New Orleans but my options are limited as I am vegetarian. As long as one is prepared to cook, it is not difficult living as a vegetarian in Nola.
Yoga studios are coming up in Nola as well. It is somewhat unfortunate that not a lot of people seem to be curious or aware about Yoga originating from India. Maybe it is the American way of celebrating everything that comes from outside as their own – and I am all for it. Along with message of peace, I opine Yoga is India’s finest export to the world. Part of me is delighted to see western world embracing yoga but part of me despises creative geniuses trying to “package”, “patent” or “sell” Yoga as a “product”.
Music is a big part of New Orleans tradition. There is some live music event or festival going on here all the time. Popular ones are French quarter music festival, Jazz festival, Essence festival etc. Aside, there are block parties, White linen night, Rock N’ Roll marathon, Red dress run and numerous other events. In summers there is live music every Wednesday between 5 – 8 pm at Lafayette Square. Close to Lafayette Square are museums and art galleries. World War II Museum is a must visit and beautifully laid out.
In summary, if you happen to swing by Nola, then wear that smile and “laissez les bon temps rouler” (Cajun expression that means “let the good times roll”).
You can see more of Vinayakan’s thoughts about traveling and living in New Orleans buy following him on Twitter.