Non Resident Alien

This is a chronicle of my tragi-comic life as a foreigner in the United States. My official status when I started school in 2004, was that of a Non-Resident-Alien and that's where the title of the blog is from. My status has changed to Resident Alien since then. My personal experiences are a unique roller coaster mundane everyday experiences for locals, but unique from the eyes of a foreigner. I started this blog to share some of my experiences beginning my third year living in this country.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Prince William Forest Park

I went hiking at the Prince William Forest Park today. Its an hour's drive from Fairfax and a beautiful place to spend the day. There are multiple trails with varying levels of difficulty. I picked one of the longest trails, the South Valley Trail (8.7 miles) which wound alongside the South Fork Quantico Creek. Of course, I knew I could not go all the way on the trail and get back to my car in good shape, so I mixed up the hike with other trails and did a smaller loop. It was still a good four hour hike, and I probably covered 8 miles anyway and I loved every moment of it. It was a pleasant day and most of the trail was in the shade so I did not feel the heat. I somehow managed to startle a deer which bounded right in front me across the trail. I was also accosted by an Eastern Box Turtle. So, I stopped and let him cross the trail, which took him about 3 minutes, especially since he wanted to stop and investigate everything along the crossing. It was a fun hike and I plan to go there again for a longer hike and complete the South Valley trail. 

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Outsourced: Spoiler Alert

Once in a while there comes a movie that captures your attention through and through. Outsourced would make top of the list in this category. It is a romantic comedy about a young American who goes to India to train call-centre employees and his own replacement. I am not American, but I can relate to every single experience he goes through, beginning with the crowds in Mumbai, the interrogation by the lady who hosts him, down to the way businesses are run in India. Him falling for the best employee was cliched and expected, but other than that the movie was a laughter riot. It is as real about Indian conditions as Flavors was about Indians in America. Not a dull moment in the movie and there is the required song and dance sequence to keep us on our toes. The acting meets and exceeds expectations. Josh Hamilton was the best person for the role of Todd (aggravatingly pronounced Toad by the Indians) Ayesha Dharker was barely recognizable in her role as the top employee Asha. I would have preferred a less romantic relationship between the two, but it is what it is. However, the course of the relationship, secretive, no Public Display of Affection etc is so true about romantic relationships in India. Outsourced, is a warm, funny comedy which will keep you rolling on floor laughing. You need to know only about the Indian or the American way of life. If you know both, then you will appreciate both sides of the story much better. Its slightly reminiscent of Bollywood Calling, another wonderful movie about an American in India. I will see it again and enjoy every joke as if it was my first time seeing the movie. Hilarious comedy, two thumbs up!!

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Terminator Salvation: Needs Salvage!! Spoiler Alert

My roomie and his buddies live life on the edge. I saw two movies with them and both times we were late, missed the previews and half of the opening credits. However, the late entrance was just the beginning of a disastrous hour and a half at Terminator Salvation.. Yawn! Is it over yet? The CGI was fake, Arnold was fake and the story-line was mushy enough to be a Bollywood movie, especially with dialogues like "I have been around so man bad men", "Your heart beats so real", "Everyone deserves a second chance", "Here take my heart". Puhleez! I know the original Terminator was bleh.. but at least update the dialogues for the 21st century!! I had to suppress my gag reflexes everytime there was mushy dialogue. Felt like I was watching a B grade Hindi movie instead of a Hollywood production, complete with mute gal, hero in distress, a bad guy turns good cause he listens to his heart, and ultimately sacrifices himself to keep the good guy alive. Give me a break, no just some HEAD-ON! The design of the robots is reminiscent of Transformers. Motorcycles and airplanes breaking away from the main pod. Isn't there any more imagination to this story? The CG effects looked obviously bad CG and fell flat. I could almost see the green screen in the background. Sam Worthington did a good job in his role, although the dialogues he had to recite. urgh!! Christian Bale was unremarkable and unmemorable. Terminator Salvation is in serious need of some salvation. I think it all comes down to bad direction. C'mon MCG stop making bad movies. You turn even good actors horrible on-screen. None of the actors, not even Bale had a screen presence. They were just there as if they were automatons with no acting skills or experience. If nothing else, I hoped to enjoy the sound track! There was very little of the Theme music in the movie and.. Oh! What's the point! Just wait for the movie on DVD or University Theatre. Not worth the $11, and running red lights to catch the start. 

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

A little over 100 years of Aviation

The Wright Brothers took-off for the first time in 1903. Today, I saw a climactic performance by the US Air Force Thunderbirds at the Andrews Air Force Base Open House. What amazing progress in 100 years of Aviation. Back in 1903 who would have even imagined a sleek machine such as the Thunderbird!! It was sheer happiness to see them soar into the sky and perform tricks which seemed to defy the laws of physics. If you want to be a Pilot there is no better than a Fighter Pilot. A commercial plane would just not cut it. 

Although the Thunderbirds stole the thunder (no pun intended), the smaller planes, especially the GEICO Skytypers (restored WWII planes) and the Oracle bi-plane did gravity defying tricks as well. I was especially amazed to see a helicopter do a full somersault and fly upside-down. I did not know helicopters were capable of going upside down. 
The F-18 and F-22 stunts were truly captivating, especially the vertical nose-dives. My ears are still ringing from the boom of all those jet engines flying past me just metres away from the ground.
The grand finale was of course the Thunderbirds. They flew flawless formation as if it was one machine instead of four, while two others flew almost right into each other just to swerve in the same direction at the last minute. Of course, they did not collide, but my heart skipped a beat every time they pulled that stunt. Then when the formation was flying in the direction opposite of the runway and all heads were turned away, one plane swooshed right past us from behind very low giving us all a fright. It is a day to be remembered in my memory for a long long time. I am running out of adjectives to describe how wonderful the Air Show was today. 
Unfortunately, I did not take my new camera which is practically useless and since my nice camera is broken we have to live just with my memories for now. 

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Two Movies: Wolverine and Angels and Demons: Spoiler Alert

It has been a very long time since I saw back to back movies. I think it is a fitting end to the semester. I saw Wolverine first with Brian and then Angels and Demons with my roomie and his friends later at the same theatre. Since the movies were back to back this review is also back to back. 

Wolverine was ok in my opinion. I would not rate it great. Hugh did a predictable performance. Liev on the other hand had a wonderful screen presence. He seems to have a penchant for the "other brother", remember Zus Bielski from Defiance. That was captivating performance as well, except that Daniel Craig outperformed everyone else in that movie. None of the other characters were even memorable in Wolverine. The first half of the movie was very slow, slow enough that I could text on my cell phone and not miss anything on screen. If this part of the story was never revealed in the comic then the movie does a poor job keeping my attention. I thought it was pretty lame that Wolverine lost his memory in the end. Colonel Stryker being commanded to walk until his feet bleed is reminiscent of the part of the story in Brisingr when Eragon commands Sloan to walk to Ellesmera after Eragon learns his true name. It was just ok and very predictable. C'mon who would have suspected that Sabretooth was acting alone. It was not even a great moment of dramatic irony. I would say, wait till the DVD release, not worth the $$ in the theatre. If you want to go, take a friend along who can be there for moral support through the first half of the movie

Angels and Demons was the better movie of the evening. In fact it was better than the Da Vinci Code. It was quite fast paced and well adpated. There was not a dull moment in the movie and I loved the several twists and turns in the plot. Towards the end, at one point, I thought it was becoming very Bollywood style, when Ewan McGregor gets into the helicopter and flies up, and I almost wrote the movie off at that point. However, as the plot unfolded to a beautiful climax I was pleasantly surprised and happy that the storyline kept its integrity. The casting for this movie was superb. No one else could have done justice to Camerlengo Patrick's character than McGregor. Ewan has charmed us as the crooning writer in Moulin Rouge and the confused Ed Bloom in Big Fish. I think his performance was superb as the Camerlengo. Tom Hanks' performance was better in this movie than in the Davinci code. Nikolaj was the perfect Assassin.  I have not read the book, but the movie was good. Two thumbs up. 

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Mises Mobile

Tyler Watts is in possession of a car with historical significance. He bought it on ebay and towed it to Fairfax in January this year. Legend has it that this is the same car that Alfred Schutz drove up in to pick up von Mises when he landed at the docks of New York in 1940. Tyler has been fixing it all semester. The mechanical stuff has been taken care of, and only the cosmetic details remain. I have helped with the fixing up a little bit. I helped bleed the brakes, take the window panes out, and just odds jobs here and there. Last evening, the two of us gave the car its first coat of paint and boy does it shine!! It is an exact shade of Hunter Green and looks great. There's still a bit of work before it becomes perfect again. I shall miss the Mises mobile which even as we speak is on its way to Michigan to join the Watts family. 

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

July 17 2009

I cannot wait for the next Harry Potter movie. The wait is too long!!! Here is the latest trailer. Embedding is disabled, so please click on the link to watch it on youtube. Notice the updated original score. Promises to be the best HP movie made yet!! Boy! How the kids have grown since the Sorcerer's Stone!!

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Star Trek Movie Spoiler Alert

Brian and I saw the Star Trek movie on Thursday and I am ready to see it again. For those of us who grew up watching The Original Series (TOS) this is a treat. Chris Pine is certainly eye-candy, and boy he can act as well. He does a great impression of Shatner from TOS. I was particularly impressed with the Starship Enterprise design that has been updated for this century. Karl Urban does justice to the role of Dr.McCoy, and to me the wonderful surprise was Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime. What a treat!! There was never a dull moment in the movie. Even if you have never seen Star Trek before, this is a great stand alone Sci-fi movie, except that you would not understand why the crowd applauded when Leonard Nimoy made a funny hand gesture and said "Live Long and Prosper".  The visual effects were superb and the original score of course is familiar to all of us Trekkies!! Wonderful movie, two thumbs up!! Here is the trailer. Enjoy! I plan to see it again with other friends later this week

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

The current Recession in Pictures

Anyone who knows me here in the US knows that I derive some kind of unadmitted utility out of buying and selling used cars. Its never intentional, but somehow I have managed to buy and sell at least 4 cars in this country till now.

Currently, I am on car number five. This car is also the oldest car I have owned, and I am proud to own it. My new car represents the current recessions nicely in pictures. During prosperous times, cars were sleeker, so were waist lines. The first impact of the recession is on the model of car in the picture. Hopefully waistlines will shrink as well with some belt-tightening during this recession. However, I must say, grad school is never sympathetic to waist lines and I am but a poor, struggling, starry-eyed grad student. 

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

End of another Semester

This semester has flown past me in a blur. It seems like it started just yesterday and now its gone. I gave my Micro class their exam. Had to report the grades in 48 hours. I was disappointed with the class performance, especially since I put so much into that class. Monday, my development class will turn in their essays. With all this hanging around me, I also need to move and that is not something I am frustrated with. 

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Depression in Fairfax!!

Since July 2006, this is the first time I am experiencing incessant downpour in Fairfax. Its a pity I have been too busy to enjoy the rain. Most people think this is yucky weather, I enjoy it!! If only I had time to sit by a nice window reading with chai and pakode, or be able to walk around enjoying the chill of the rain. Reminds me of the June tropical depressions back home when it rains 2-3 days continuously without respite. Virginia is beautiful. It has lush green plants and trees that simply sparkle and shine and become greener after the rains. This weather is making me homesick, not because it feels gloomy, but because its so much like a tropical depression back home!! 

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Moving up in Life, nomad style!!

I have been a nomad for most of 2009 till now. I had to move out of campus due to academic commitments in February, and less than three months since I have moved again cause the house I moved into in February is on sale. My current apartment is also temporary, and I will be here only till end July. I was grateful to have Tyler and Nathan help me move last weekend. My current apartment is on the 4th floor and Nathan generously agreed to hold on to my book boxes until my next move in August. I guess my recent move is an example of upward mobility in my life. I moved from a basement apartment to the 4th floor. :) I also have a car now since this place is about 7 miles from the Fairfax campus and does not have a dedicated bus service. Hopefully my next move will be my last until I graduate in a year.

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