By J-skills correspondent Charlotte Spence
Have you ever been to the Great Wall of China? Have you ever been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans or seen firsthand the devastation of Hurricane Katrina?
One of Godwin’s students has traveled the world, experiencing what very little have seen. Freshman Devon Furash has lived in China and also Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit.
Furash was born in Nashville, Tennessee and later moved to New Orleans. She and her family lived there when Hurricane Katrina hit, and then moved to China for her father’s work after his office building was destroyed by water.
Once Furash moved to New Orleans from Tennessee, they lived on the Western Bank of the Mississippi River in a neighborhood called English Turns.
Furash lived in New Orleans for about eight years.
“Living there was an amazing experience (not as diverse as China but still incredible). There’s a saying in New Orleans that goes, ‘If you’re ever bored in New Orleans, it’s your own fault.’ Which basically means if you’re bored then you’re doing something wrong because there’s always something to do or go see so there’s no excuse” says Furash.
Many Sundays, the Furash’s biked on the levees into the French Quarter where they spent their day eating and shopping.
Those same levees ended up being destroyed by Katrina.
One of Louisiana’s best known café’s, Café du Monde, was a special spot for Furash.
“They are best known for their Café au lait milk coffee, their variety of coffees which are blended with chicory, an herbaceous plant with bright blue flowers, and their phenomenal French-style beignets,” said Furash.
Beignets are deep fried pastries that are well known in Louisiana. They are square, deep fried donuts heaped with an endless amount of powdered sugar. Considered a “must-try” for tourists.
The Furash’s had lived in English Turn for a few years before a new family with three kids moved in down the street.
“Once we met, the two kids that were my age and I instantly clicked. Their names were the Carney’s and the family consisted of John and his wife Holly, their oldest son was Luke, the middle son was JD and the youngest girl was Kiki. Kiki, JD and I became best friends and were positively inseparable,” said Furash.
John Carney became the kicker for the local NFL team, New Orleans Saints. Every Sunday, the Furash and Carney families piled into a limousine and go to the football games.
“This was such an amazing experience and I was so blessed to have met these wonderful people,” said Furash.
Furash was able to go down on the field after the game and meet some of the other players. They were good friends with quarterback, Drew Brees, and running back, Reggie Bush. Sometimes even after the game, they would all go out to dinner.
The Furash’s lost touch with the Carney’s during Katrina, but managed to hear from them a few years ago and now still keep in touch today.
New Orleans is also known for its wild festivals and extravagant parties.
Mardi Gras is New Orleans most well-known festival because it’s to celebrate Fat Tuesday, the day before the fasting Lent season.
“This festival was so bright, big, and extravagant that people from everywhere would come just to experience some of the magic,” said Furash.
Krewe’s are a group of people that are a part of the parades who make their own themes and floats and throws beads to the crowd. They drive these floats through the streets of New Orleans throwing beads, small toys, and stuffed animals, doubloons with the Krewe’s logo on it, cups, and small shot glasses.
“This one time when I was younger I went to a parade with my dad and I wasn’t paying attention to the next float rolling down the street so a Krewe member threw a whole 4 pound bag of beads at me, knocking me in the back of head and causing me to lay sprawled out on the ground on my stomach wondering what had just happened,” said Furash.
Mardi Gras in known to be dangerous, but the overall experience seems to be eventful.
Jazz Festival is another memorable festival New Orleans, also known as Jazz Fest. Jazz Fest is a music festival where top name musicians come to perform for two weekends.
Furash and her family also attended Jazz Fest and was able to see top musicians perform live.
“You would buy tickets for the weekend and spend the whole day with tens of thousands of people listening to your favorite bands and performers sing. Some performers we got to see and listen to when we went were- Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Earth Wind and Fire, and many more,” says Furash.
Furash went to a school in New Orleans called St. Andrew’s Episcopal School for Pre-K to almost third grade.
St. Andrew’s was located to the south of Lake Pontchartrain and was also relatively close to a curve in the Mississippi River.
Furash would have been going into the third grade, but Katrina hit so it threw off the entire school schedule.
“My school experience in New Orleans was nothing like mine in China. At St. Andrew’s they would hold all sorts of fun things during the school year like, Crayfish boils, field trips to Audubon Zoo, pet blessings and Mardi Gras parties/mini class parades,” said Furash.
Furash lived in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. Her and her family experienced unimaginable disaster, but was strong during the process.
NOLA was told on August 23 2005- warnings are sent out for a hurricane forming down below the Gulf of Mexico, it was not relatively big yet and it’s only a category 1, no need to panic.
NOLA was told on August 25 2005- this hurricane now named Katrina was making good progress up the coast towards the Gulf, it’s getting stronger and more violent and it will most likely hit us pretty hard.
NOLA was told on August 26 2005- Hurricane Katrina has now just hit the Gulf of Mexico and is now a full-fledged category 5 hurricane and is making its way up toward New Orleans. Be prepared for evacuation.
NOLA was told on August 28 2005 at 9:30 am- the National Weather Service and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagins sent out a citywide evacuation effective as of immediately to avoid the flood waters that were making their way up the Gulf.
This was the first ever evacuation order for the city. Everyone was warned that the floods will most likely come up to the levees that surrounded the city.
Hurricane Katrina had wind speeds up to 175 miles per hour and a minimum central pressure of 902 mbar, this made Katrina just barely less fierce than Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Wilma.
Furash and her family were very fortunate to evacuate the city to Virginia on August 26 at around three in the morning after the NWS sent out warning of the storm hitting the Gulf.
“Many of my friends, from what I heard when we came home six months later, were not so lucky and didn’t make it out of the city. Many people found shelter in places that offered it to those stranded and not able to evacuate,” said Furash.
One of the main shelters was the New Orleans Super Dome where some of Furash’s friends stayed.
“There were a few people that I never heard from again, meaning either they left and were safe or, like a lot of people that were left in New Orleans, died or drowned,” said Furash.
It was very important to stay out of the water in the streets the best they could because the water was contaminated with lots of debris that can hurt you or even take your legs off.
“There were plenty of dark Water Moccasins (venomous water snakes) flowing along as well that would have been willing to bite you while passing by,” said Furash.
Furash and her family’s original plan was to head to Texas, but most Louisiana residents beat them to it. So, they took off to Virginia where Furash’s mom’s family lived.
About six months later after the Hurricane, they returned to New Orleans to see the damage from Katrina.
“After crossing over the state line and getting deeper into the city I could barely even recognize anything we passed. There were trees in the road and some had gone right through buildings, there were homes in overflowing rivers as well. You could sometimes see bodies that had not been found yet lying in piles of debris and underneath things. It was gruesome and horrifying,” said Furash.
In the neighborhoods, there was be a spray painted number and names of the dead bodies remaining in the house.
“By the time we reached our home it was hard not to cry. Our house was still standing thankfully but was not too stable, as my dad unlocked the front door a light gush of brown water was flushed out of first floor and went down the driveway. After checking our house for any people or animals, we went to work cleaning and gutting,” said Furash.
After the day of gutting the house, they lit candles in the house since there was still no power, drew the shades closed and locked all the doors before leaving. Furash describes that night as the scariest night of her life.
“Somehow animals from somewhere had gotten loose during the storm and ended up near us so we had animals like wild boars, horses, and a few others roaming our neighborhood. It was scary to hear them run by or snort and grunt as they searched for food through the night. They would sometimes come right up to a window or door to sniff or grunt trying to find something to eat,” said Furash.
Trying to rebuild and clean New Orleans was easier said than done. Much of the city was destroyed and some of it still is today. People from across the country came into Louisiana to help in the rebuilding process.
“A few of my friends that had their homes destroyed by the floods would live for a little while in small trailers outside of their homes so that they could work on fixing up or rebuilding their homes,” said Furash.
Hurricane Katrina is the strongest storm America has ever seen, and the process of rebuilding seemed nearly impossible, but New Orleans today is running with pride.
“I will never forget New Orleans and everything it has ever taught me. I hope to go back someday to see how well it is doing and visit my old home and go everywhere I used to visit while I lived there,” says Furash.
After they visited New Orleans, Furash’s father found a new job based in China.
Furash moved to Shanghai, China with her family when she was in the third grade. Shanghai is located on the east coast, beside the East China Sea.
“Shanghai was like a bigger and crazier version of New York City,” says Furash
She attended an international school, Concordia, and was being taught from international teachers. Concordia taught the students at a very advanced level. While Furash was in the third grade, she was being taught fifth and sixth grade level material.
Every day they had Chinese lessons. Furash became fluent in the language while she lived there. Her neighborhood and school were very diverse. Since it was an international school, Furash met lots of new people worldwide.
“In China my school and neighborhood was very diverse, I ended up having friends and classmates from places like, Russia, Poland, Germany, Spain, Africa, Japan, Canada, Australia, and quite a few from the US. Concordia went Pre-K through 12th grade and had about four separate school buildings that were four stories each,” said Furash.
Shanghai has a population of 14 million people. One of the main grocery stores there, Carrefour (pronounced ˈkarəˌfo͝or), is compared to a Wal-Mart or Target of China. Carrefour sells scorpion, turtle, rat, bunny, cats, dogs, snakes, fried pig ear, and much more.
The culture in Shanghai is much different than here in America. The Chinese didn’t see American people that often, so when they saw one, they would get very excited.
“At least 7 times a day I would have random people that I do not know come up to me or even come up behind me to pet/grab and touch my hair. It was very rare for people in China to see anything other than black hair. Me, having blonde hair, I was pet like a dog and grabbed away from my parents and friends in public places just to have people touch my hair and take pictures with me,” says Furash
For vacations in China, they went to Beijing to see the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and the Tiananmen Square.
They also vacationed to the Harbin for the Harbin Ice Festival. The ice festival is a large carnival consisting of castles, rides, slides, mazes and games. The whole carnival was made of blocks of ice with lights on the middle.
“It was breath taking,” said Furash.
The Furash’s also went to the Siberian Tiger Park. The Siberian Tiger Park is a huge area filled with Siberian Tigers. Furash describes it as beautiful and powerful.
Furash and her family haven’t gone back to Shanghai since they moved to Virginia, but they had some great memories.
“China was the most diverse place I’ve ever lived in and I hope that I can go back someday soon,” said Furash