I viewed the cityscape from the window of the airport shuttle. So this is New Orleans. I thought. I'm not sure what I expected, but other than an occasional palm tree, it looked a lot like my own city of Philadelphia. The billboards that welcomed me, alternately one to my left and one to my right and so on, boasted of an irony I couldn't miss: I was visiting New Orleans to attend The National Conference on Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention and my eyes were being assaulted by sexual images of women, who were once little girls, welcoming me to this club or that bar. And I wondered how many of my fellow conferees shared my observation.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a pessimist at heart. I was excited to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of NOLA. And I did, once I got several miles from the airport.
The first day I ate so much gumbo and po-boy that I couldn't stuff in a beignet (Creole doughnut)--one of my goals. (I love pastries.) I strolled the streets of the French Quarter and saw soulful musicians, sweat glistening, oblivious to the heat, their music--their life. New Orleans was alive, and I was an enthusiastic student absorbing its rich culture. But the majority of my three day adventure was spent indoors absorbing all I could about the culture of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation.
I can't post all I learned in one blog post. The sights, emotions, and facts go on and on, and I'm wondering if my readers really want to know. (Please comment. I'd like to know.) It's a dark subject and for all my optimism, I can't make it light.
But here's some good news. I met a lot of amazing people who are on the front line in this battle. And yes, they shared my observation.
My sincere thanks for all the encouragement and prayers sent my way regarding this venture. I had peace each and every moment.