Team Hope for Home: The Great Expectations by Anita Chen

ASB Blog Saturday, March 19 

Riiiinnng! My hands instinctively burrow into my pillow searching for my phone. My index finger slides over the front-side recognition button and I roll myself out of bed promptly. It’s 3:30AM; I had barely been able to squeeze two hours of sleep in before the 4AM bus was set to whisk my team members and me off to the Allentown airport. Our destination for Spring Break: New Orleans, Louisiana, the birth city of Jazz!

At 4AM I pushed open the doors of my dorm building. Trudging hurriedly across Anderson Courtyard in the darkness, I felt sleep-deprived and nervous of what would await me. What if something goes wrong on this trip? What if the team members don’t get along? I could of gone back to New York City and spent the break with my friends and family, all of whom I missed dearly. What if this whole trip idea was a mistake?!

I arrived in front of Williams Art Center expecting to be the last one on the bus, but to my surprise the bus hadn’t even arrived yet.

“Anita, over here!” I heard someone call from across the street. Sure enough, on the other side of the street my team members Erik, Leo, and Mike stood, clutching their luggage, and shifting to ease the dawning cold weather. Exchanging small talk as other members slowly trickled in, I wondered how our team dynamic would be. Apart from seeing familiar faces on campus, I honestly never interacted with most, if not any, of the members on our team. Though we met weekly the couple of months preceding the trip, there was really no way to predict what kind of experience we’d have eating, sleeping, and living together for the next week.

Turns out, the bus was half an hour late; and we all know, slumbersome travellers and late vans don’t make the happiest combination or the grandest start to a week-long trip.

Fast forward to 7AM and we, tired souls, have boarded the plane and will momentarily leave taking off for Atlanta, then New Orleans. Not much to say about this part since we all pretty much slept the whole way there. However, I, in particular, was especially excited to board my first plane flight in ten plus years. That’s right, this girl has less travel experience then a tree frog in the forest! Now that I think about it, I must have looked quite foolish phone in hand, face pressed close to the plane window, and peering eagerly to capture in my memory every minute of the plane ride up. Thanks for dealing with me, Ari (my seat partner for the flights)

We arrive in New Orleans at around 2PM. And boy, oh boy! They are not kidding when they say New Orleans rains a lot, and by a lot, I mean heavy rainfall and misty skies. Like the plane ride, my eyes were glued to the window throughout the whole car ride to Camp Hope, where we would be staying for the next week. New Orleans is a mix of suburban housing and city atmosphere. The houses are painted in every color imaginable; each house having it’s own so-called “character.” Also, palm trees. Ugh, beautiful, beautiful palm trees were everywhere. Even ones shaped like pineapples! It’s absolutely amazing how a few miles here and there can completely transform the appearance, atmosphere, and overall feel of each place. New Orleans, itself, is a city of it’s own.

Soon after we arrive by car to Camp Hope, a former school building transformed into a charity headquarter and living arrangement to visiting college groups on service trips. Walt, the owner of the place, greets us in the cafeteria as we enter the first floor of the building. We toured the facility: communal bathrooms, trailer shower rooms, and bunk-bed lined living rooms upstairs. It truthfully was not the ideal living situation, but for a service trip it would do. After all, our mission was to humble ourselves with the experiences that others regularly face.   

After unpacking and settling in, our team decided to split into two for a late lunch break and hopefully double it as exploration time around the city. I joined Camila, Alleyah, Necie, Ari, and Leo to experience authentic seafood in New Orleans at a Cajun Seafood Restaurant. Confused initially about what to order and how to order, I hastily asked for a carton of broccoli and shrimp with a pound of cajun shrimp on the side. Finally seated, my team members and I joked about the how the trip has progressed so far, how spicy the food we ordered was, and what our plans for the rest of the day were. As we laughed and exchanged our ideas and details about ourselves, I felt a sense of comfort and pride in our team. I knew then that this spring break would be an awesome one with unforgettable experiences and incredible people to top it off.


Later that night, we arranged as a group to go see the renowned Preservation Jazz Band perform at Preservation Hall. We strolled around the heart of the French Quarter, the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans (analogous to Times Square in New York City), taking in the nightlife and rich culture that personifies the area so well. There were people wearing flashy apparel dancing in the streets, gift shops selling one-of-a-kind trinkets of voodoo figures and masks, green and red trolleys passing, and horse carriages waiting to transport people. Everything was a sight to be seen.

As expected, the Jazz Band at Preservation Hall was well worth the (long line) wait. The show consisted of various musicians performing musical scores with instruments such as trumpets, tubas, bass, clarinets, piano, drums all meshed into harmonious tones. The music flowed easily as my teammates and I bobbed our heads and swayed in unison. Mhmm.Yes! I could hear Necie praise the music behind me. If I could describe the experience in anyway, which I could never do justice in accurately describing, I’d say it was one of those experiences in life you just want to wrap up and keep in your pocket forever.


After the show, we ended the night exploring Bourbon Street. There more dancing ensued, people crowded the balconies atop buildings throwing beads down, clubs and street performers bounced with music on every corner. You could just tell: Everyone was there to have a good time and no one failed, disappointed.



In the car, heading back to Camp Hope, I close my eyes falling asleep tired, but reassured and happy. Although the first day was long and felt like several days jammed into one, it didn’t matter; we were here now. I am here for Spring Break, in New Orleans, in a magnificent city with multitudes to see, with beautiful, humorous, and down-to-earth people, whom I will share this special, remarkable experience with.

Till next time,

Anita Chen ‘19

Jammy claims Mr T is a Russian Spy

You know that feeling when. you don’t want to wake up but responsibility and having to adult takes over? Well that’s how most of my morning went  even with the delicious breakfast set up for us. I really didn’t have much motivation as we pulled up to the project site and dragged ourselves into the house but somehow, in the midst of the music provided by adri and “the white girl” (zack) as well as the constant drilling noise coming from the other room where Seiver was handling the drill like it was her trade, I found the energy to play in mud lol. Well technically not playing; it’s called mudding. From discussing last night’s “catch phrase” connections to talking about our lives before college, the house was bustling with energy and noise. And I have to admit winning the water fight between Adriana and myself was very satisfactory, we are lunch on the side of the road enjoying the beautiful day New Orleans offered us and discussed minorities as compared to armpits( I swear our conversations could not get weirder). by the end of the project day, we felt both accomplished with what small role we played in helping the people of the city but also sorrow from having to say good bye to one of our supervisors, Jay aka Jason aka Jay-Z??

I really didn’t feel like it when I suggested it but doing Shaun T’s ainsanity fast and furious out in the grass with Zack,Kofi and Steve felt amazing and added another item to our list of accomplishments of the week. After we had showered, all of us headed out to the French Market and what a gorgeous place it is. What surprised me the most was how similar it was to what I experienced markets to be in Pakistan not only the ambience but also the objects being sold (some things were even from Pakistan).  We toured through Bourban Street like the touriss we were trying not to be but it was a unique experience of having bead necklaces  being thrown at us by the residents from above.

The most important day for all of us though was the reflections led by Charlotte and Hannah. Filled with laughter and embarrassment (sorry Kofi and yari) as well as a nice conversation about what were trying to accomplish here as well as the hurdles people all over the world face with oppression, inequality and gentrification. It ended with us being much closer that we were and developed a stronger bond which i hope continues to grow.

Highlight of the night though: Jasmine thinks Tim was sent from Russia as a spy. I’ll post future updates as we discover Tim’s identity.

Jammy and Steve , two very newembers of the team

The day began like any other , just casually rolling out of bed at 5:30 in the morning and trying to stay awake for our very first daybon the job. We were pumped but that energy had yet to be awoken by “hotline bling”( I’ll explain that in a bit).We managed to make our way to the volunteer site for The St. Bernard Project (An organization which works to rebuild/repair homes for Katrina victims who had contractors just run off with their money(how can people be so heartless?) as well as provide subsidized homes in new Orleans for the less well off).  Annnnnyyyyways, we got to hear the story of a new orleanian,Mr Felix and how his life played out before and after katrina until his phone starts blaring ” YOU USED TO CALL ME ON MY CELLPHONE…. LATE NIGHT WHEN YOU ..” lol.

Soon after we were at the site of the house well be working on and were learning tools of the trade of builidng homes … mainly mudding and drilling. From Zack being offered mud to eat from our supervisor Jay to music blaring while we sang along, it was a phenomenal experience. It was also there that the big revelations of Jasmine’s nickname Jamie (prefers Jammy) came to light upon which Justin decided to make his long lived desire of being called Steve by everyone known.

The rest of the day went by in a blur from playing pickup basketball (I really need to practice more :o ) to just chilling and playing “catch phrase” where I could swear Amanda, Ayari and Alyssa had this weird connection….suspicious …… But Jammy’s passion and vigorous participation bested the other team.

Last minute shout out to everyone on the team for being as amazing as they are and staying pumped especially those of  us not feeling well. Oh and thanks to Mr T(im) for staying up and letting me distract him from his reading.