Monday, January 30, 2006

I sold my house... NOT!

Well, I just found out today that our Lakeview house, which has been under contract for the last month, is now going to be up for sale once again! The contract fell through because Randi, the girl I was dealing with, couldn't get the financing! Rich and I were really scared about this but there is really nothing we can do at this point. We were basically a casualty of the Baker's Bill.

To help you understand what it is (which is kind of confusing- I copied and pasted this from the TP)
" Baker's bill, which enjoys broad bipartisan support among Louisiana politicians and planners, would create a public corporation financed by the sale of federal bonds. A board appointed by the president would use the proceeds to offer buyouts to the owners of flood-damaged homes for at least 60 percent of the equity based on pre-Katrina value. It also would pay off the mortgages, heading off a possible wave of foreclosures.

Unlike the block grant approach, Baker said the corporation would attempt to recoup some of the money -- and fuel the economic recovery of the region -- by selling tracts of land to developers who would rebuild communities according to local plans.

The bill passed a key House committee 50-9 in December but stalled in the final days of the 2005 congressional calendar. The White House was noticeably mum on the bill until Wednesday, when Bush's hurricane recovery chief, Donald Powell, came out against it. He said it would add a needless layer of bureaucracy, run up astronomical costs and return less than what Baker has predicted. The president himself echoed the complaints a day later.

Instead, the administration has urged Louisiana to tap $6.2 billion in Community Development Block Grants awarded to the state this week to help uninsured homeowners outside the flood zone, a plan assailed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco as "a kick in the teeth."

Because this did not pass, banks are asking for additional homes, etc.. as collateral for financing, which many people don't have clothing, much less additional property for collateral. So now- we have to try and find a buyer with straight up cash. More to come... I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Anna Corrine turns 1!

Today was a nice day to the end of a very long weekend... well, week actually. Cory and Jason had a birthday party for their daughter, Anna Corrine who just turned 1! She is the cutest baby and definitely has her parents personality... outgoing and hilarious! It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon today, the weather was in the low 70s and sunny outside! A perfect day for a party.

It is always great to hang out with the Haiks.. but it was a lot of fun to hang out with friends Sarah, Cory and Kimaree. Kimaree I have just known for about a month before the storm (I met through Sarah) but I feel just as close to her as I do the other girls. It was nice to be with friends, to be out and not have to worry about my houses or insurance or work. We planned a night together on Thursday to just hang out all together before I leave to go to California for 6 days for a regulator test that I am going to be doing wth Scuba Labs/Scuba Diving Magazine.

I just posted the pics from the birthday party on my flickr account.. check it out!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bob Visits New Orleans

Today, I got to have lunch with my old friend Bob Kelly. We went to college together and have stayed good friends since. You know those kind of friends that you could talk to once in a couple of months or even longer, but when you talk, its like you never skipped a beat? That's my boy Bob. He is one of the most kind, genuinely sincere people I know. He has such a good heart and I know we will always stay great friends.

We went to eat sushi at Tokyo Bistro and like always lately, its always a quick hour or two that we get together. But it was great to catch up and hopefully, I will be able to visit Bob soon in Pheonix and maybe at that time, he will have opened up his new practice! I am so excited for him-- he has worked so hard for this and totally deserves it. It seems that we both are at big crossroads in our relationships (who isn't, right?) and got to catch up on everything, including all the hurricane stuff and my next steps. Well, I'm still working on that.

Here is a picture of us at the restaurant. I forgot my camera so this was taken with my pic phone. You gots to love those camera phones!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Living in New Orleans...5 months later

A lot of you have asked me what life is like in New Orleans now compared to when I first arrived in mid- October so I decided to write about that and the latest other breaking news in the city.

There are many ways the city has changed, some for the better, some for the worst and some in just very different ways- not better or worse. The population has increased since the college students are back- Loyola, Tulane, UNO, etc.. and also some of the families have moved back since the holidays as they were waiting for the semester break to move their families back. However, the amount of places open for business- especially the restaurants-- have not. Waits in restaurants are longer- anywhere between 45 min and 2 hours. You have to be mentally prepared to go to the grocery store to fight for a parking space and then rush inside, only to wait a half hour to check out. And don't go right after work (when the rest of everyone who is back is going) because it will take much longer. One of the main drags Uptown-- Magazine Street-- is bumper to bumper traffic anytime of the day, much like St. Charles Avenue. Just about everywhere you have to be prepared to wait in lines.

So in addition to the waiting and long lines, there are still hummers cruising the streets- although much less than when I got here in October, where every other car was a military vehicle. FEMA has started laying the pipes and groundwork to put many trailer parks where there were once playgrounds and pretty green parks. The spanish population has doubled, or tripled even. Trash continues to pile up on curbs and medians and when you go to the really devastaed areas of Lakeview, the 9th ward and NO East... it still looks untouched and the area uninhabitable-- although you have your die-hards living in trailers on their space or even on the 2nd stories of their houses with full-on generators to give them power.

The past couple of weekends, I've been living in the French Quarter with some visitors playing "tourist". I've eating at some restaurants, got my coffee and beignets, took a carriage ride through the Quarter, went shopping in the market, listened to music, etc.. and I would have to say the in some respects it just seemed like a normal day in the quarter. As a matter of fact, there were times you just got lost in the moment and forgot that a hurricane passed through the area-- until you started to walk a little farther and see business doors closed for good or overheard someone's conversation about how their FEMA adjuster never showed up. Then reality started to sink back in.

Its really sad to see that there has not been as much progress that we would all have hoped to see by now. Crime has come back and I am sure I don't have to write it here, but there were 3 shooting at the parade last Sunday in mid-city, etc... Mayor Nagin just screwed up royally in his speech on MLK day that was covered by all national media saying that New Orleans is a 'chocolate' city and that God hates New Orleans. (See here: I just don't know what to think of the Mayor and it is really sad that thsoe couple of comments might have ruined his chance for re-election. Needless to say, New Orleans hasn't gotten much good press these last 3 days.... and we so desperately need good news or just something positive to happen to make us feel like the city really is going to come back.

I've posted some new hurricane pictures on my account. You can see pics from my first visit to New Orleans until just recently- and I don't think you will be able ot tell much has changed.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Scuba Diving E-Newsletter

So I just received Depth-Finder, Scuba Diving Magazine's monthly electronic newsletter and much to my surprise, they used my photo (from the spread in the actualy magazine that was out in November)!!! The caption says: "2005 Fin Test-Sixteen fins, five days of test diving and some surprising results. More> You can also Check it out here:

My new baby... The Outback

Ok.. so NO MORE BMW!!! Yea!!! I am so happy to finally have gotten rid of it. Last night, I picked up my new ride.. the Subaru Outback, LL Bean edition wagon, 3.0, 6-cylinder, all leather, AWD and so pretty! Its a metallic opal color with moss on the bottom (basically, the car is light green) and beige interior.

I bought it at the dealership in Covington (the only Subaru dealership close to New Orleans-- such a shame!) and I got a great deal for it! They gave me more than I could ask for trade in on my BMW (not to mention the 1,000 rebate!) and they had the exact car in stock that I wanted to get.

Now, I am ready for a major road trip. Ok- well, almost.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2006 has to be a better year

So I am not doing so good posting in my blog, but I will get the hang of it. Its the first day of the new year in 2006 and I have to think that this year will be a better year for me. To recap the good and bad for me in 2005, it looked a little like this:
- Participated in the 4th Annual Scuba Lab Fintest in Bonaire for a week and stayed for 5 extra days for more great diving!
- Completed my Advanced Diver Course in Panama City
- Completed the CCC10K and two 5ks this year (no triathalon's this year... but will do one next year!)
- Visited the Philippines (first time since '87). There for 2 weeks, my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and we visited Baguio, Manilla (Tiangee!), Angeles City, Porac, Boracay-did 5 dives there!
- Went through a divorce
- Went through the most devastating natural disaster in the history of the us : Hurricane Katrina
- Helped my cousin Michelle re-locate colleges to Loyola/Los Angeles, spent 2 weeks there.
- Visited my uncle Nick and family in San Diego who I haven't seen in a long time!
- Visited my friends Erin & Bones, Molly, Kim, Jill in Denver for Erin's wedding party!
- Visited Cecilia & Jon & friends in Chicago
- Visited my friend CP in Austin for the weekend
- Visited Ron and Emma in Houston to see their new digs and met some people in Emma's new program there
- Spent an awesome thanksgiving in Melbourne Beach, FL at my sister's house for Thanksgiving and everyone was there except Ron! We also celebrated all the Nov b-days including Dan, Rose, me, Cale and Lucas!
- Lived in 6 different places this year including- house on 109, new house on Sycamore, Rose's, Gewls place, Nate's and Mikes.. and thanks to my mom for her place where I evacuated to, my uncle Nick for his house in San Diego, Bob's house in Long Beach and Monique's- all places where I stayed for a short time as well!
- Ended the year by spending the Christmas holiday with my entire family in Pensacola, was great.

I am going to post some pictures soon, but in the mean time, you can check out my on-line photos that I have started to put together-- just click on the Riza's photos link on the right hand side of the page.

I love all of you guys and I hope that each of you have a very happy and prosperous New Year. We have all been through a lot in 2005 and for me, it's taught me how family and friends are the most important assets in my life and I appreciate each and every one of you. Thank you for helping my get through this year!