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Adventurer Fever World Nomads Travel Film Scholarship: New Orleans and Mardi Gras 2014!

Everyone Is Mr. Mardi Gras (First impressions)

ARGENTINA | Tuesday, 15 April 2014 | Views [1257]

“24, 25, 26... Here I am. I´m sorry, would you mind?”

Finally. One last flight and I´ll be in New Orleans - I can hardly believe it. I have just found my seat and I´m already feeling what I know will, in a few hours, will blow my mind about NOLA.

This big guy sitting on the 27 C, knows nothing about me, doesn´t know my name, where I am from or if I secretly sing Luis Miguel´s hits when nobody see me; he is already smiling at me. And he keeps doing it every time he wakes up. I don´t usually find smiles for free in this western and modern world in which most people seem to be more interested in having virtual contact rather than face to face conversations.

His name is Yovane and today, as with every year after Katrina, he flies back to his beloved city to attend Mardi Gras. “This is my 36th year in a row at Mardi Gras. From the first year I was born to now, I have never missed one. And never will!”

I feel lucky to get a seat next to a nice and talkative guy. A few clouds gone by are enough for him to put me in a New Orleans mood. “I have been riding the Zulu Krewe for 13 years in a row now, I was a Mardi Gras Indian when I was young and my uncle was a big chief back in the early 80s”. He was a Mardi Gras Indian! This is one of the things I´m most interested in. Not many travellers have the opportunity of seeing them while in New Orleans, as they come out only during the Mardi Gras day and nobody knows which route they will take. “The itinerary of the Indian Gangs is a secret, so you either get lucky, or they dont exist at all for you. Actually, I was a spy boy once when I was a kid. It was a random position but it´s on my list to do again. I love it, I love the culture and my family is into it. They call me Mr. Mardi Gras, Mr. Mardi Gras! HAHAHA”.

Yovane tells me a lot more about his story but when I ask him about New Orleans and what it is so special about it, he doesn´t really know where to start. I can feel it through his eyes though. It´s hard to explain that it´s not about music, food, culture, party, history, architecture - all of which are great and unique, but about the New Orleans atmosphere itself.

This is exactly what I feel during my first walk around the city after dropping off all my stuff at the house: it takes me 28 smiles and 12 “Hellos” to arrive to the French Quarter. I can´t believe how friendly people are here. It´s not Mardi Gras yet, the city is not packed at all (actually, it looks quite deserted) and I´m just one more stranger walking down the street. But everybody says “Hello!”, gives me a smile and shares their happiness with this stranger. I wasn´t expecting something like this, this is not normal for a city.

But not being normal is what makes New Orleans, New Orleans. A place where everything unexpected, where “normal” is boring, almost prohibited. And where every single person is proud to be who they are. From wearing a weird flamingo suit made out of red beans (and covered in pink feathers) while buying a cup of coffee to yelling (and acting) like crazy just to get some Chinese beads, people just do whatever comes out of their balls. And just being the way they want to be, and not like anyone else, makes New Orleanians feel that they are Mr. Mardi Gras. In the same way this big guy who is seated next to me does - the guy who, before leaving the plane, reminds me: “Enjoy yourself!”.

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