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.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mist and Rain in the Mountains

After my last botched attempt at Piney Branch and Thornton River trails, I was hopeful I would have better luck this time, since I was better prepared for the terrain and know the trails a little better now. So I decided to do the 12-14 mile loop from Hogback overlook, through Sugarloaf, Piney Branch, Hull School, Thornton River and over to AT going North back to my car. I was prepared this time. Had enough carbs and water in my backpack, knew the elevation gains and had hiked part of the trail before, so knew what to expect. I also planned it in such a way that I did the downhill on the AT between the moderate elevation gain of Thornton River and the final push on the AT after Rattlesnake Overlook where the elevation gain is quick and pretty high. The reason I failed at my last attempt was cause I did not have adequate water and body fuel (aka carbs) in my backpack, and took a wrong turn and ended up on a different trail. So, this time was doubly careful that all should go well for me. I was prepared right, nothing should have gone wrong, right!! Doubly wrong!! The one factor I forgot this time was mother nature herself. Goes to show, how after all meticulous planning we can never be sure of the outcome.
So, I was about 2/3 of my way into the hike. Did good timing. Was almost at the AT and noticed dark clouds in the horizon. I had been hearing the rumble of thunder for about an hour, but thought I might be able to beat it since it was still pretty sunny. Little did I know that my plains knowledge of weather serves no useful purpose on the mountains. I looked around and saw the clouds moving away from me in the direction opposite to my hike, so was pretty sure I could at least make it to Elkwallow where I could take shelter if it rained. Sure enough it started pouring by the time I reached the AT. I still had another 3 miles to Elkwallow, and then another 3 miles on from there to the end of my hike. I had no rain gear was wearing my cotton shirt and socks and had no clue if my $30 hiking shoes were water-proof. Initially I thought I would take shelter; however it took less than a minute to realise that I was going to get wet no matter what, so I decided to just hike it in the rain. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, although I was soaked and shrunk a little bit. The most disapponting part was finding out that my hiking boots were not water-proof and were a soggy mess by the time I reached Elkwallow. The rain lasted just 20 minutes, but it did its mischief. I was not sure I could complete my hike as planned. I almost asked a lady to give me a ride back to my car, but then decided to hike another mile and decide at Rattlesnake overlook, cause that is where the trail became really steep. I managed to reach Rattlesnake in one piece but was sure I could go no further and decided to hike the last mile along Skyline Drive to get to my car. In some ways I am glad I did that because it gave me some of the most beautiful views of the mountains around me shrouded in mist after the rain. Driving back on Skyline Drive was wonderful, as the elevation dropped off, the mountains were alternately misty and clear and a pleasure to drive through. I have always loved the rain, but rain in the mountains is an entirely different and even more beautiful experience.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The wait for Harry Potter 6 is over (Spoiler Alert)

and I can't say I am not a little disappointed. It seems like JKR washed her hands off this movie. There were several parts of the movie totally not in the book, including the first scene of the movie where HP shows interest in a muggle girl. C'mon!! Please keep the integrity of the story. As an independent movie The Half Blood Prince lacked even a basic plot. The viewer is left bewildered as to what is going on on the silver screen. For an action packed book, the movie was a big disappointment to me, especially since the trailers lead to such anticipation. I found the editing sorely lacking in quality. Reminded me of the days I worked for the radio and tried editing my first feature and kept getting these horrible fade outs. Only here the sequences seemed like a jigsaw puzzle that had to be put together in order by the audience. I was horrified that the Burrow was burned down in a by-line that forms no part of the original story. Luna Lovegood seemed like an after-thought in the movie and had no part to play. First off she is shown as peddling the Quibbler on the Hogwarts express, and secondly, her Lion's Head hat at the Quidditch match was in-animate. Did they not read the book at all? Where was the story of the Gaunts so crucial to the story? Where was the quick summary of Tom Riddle's life within and after Hogwarts? Who were they pandering to showing the movie as predominantly a bunch of love stories of the students? I agree that was part of the story, but that is not the crux of the story.
As usual I was very disappointed in the characterization of Dumbledore by Michael Gambon. Jim Broadbent was ok as Professor Slughorn although I feel like he could have brought more to the character. Tom Felton has really grown into a strapping young man and his performance as Draco Malfoy was remarkable in this movie. Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange has given a truly good performance. Alan Rickman of course as Snape was his usual reticent self and as impressive as always. Hero-Fiennes Tiffin who plays Tom Riddle age 11 is a rising star. He is truly talented. He brings the cruelty of the young Tom to life with his eyes, but there was nothing more in the movie besides what I had seen of him in the trailer. Frank Dillane as Tom aged 16 was another remarkable performance in the movie. Besides them except for Danny, Rupert and Emma no one else really had a role in this movie which seemed like a last minute hocus pocus version of the original story. As a die hard Harry Potter fan, I am truly disappointed. I am horrified that they changed the story in so many important places. They kept us waiting a whole year for this? Huge Disappointment, and not worth the $11 at the theatre. The special effects were not even that great, and to think I contemplated seeing it at the IMAX. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, both thumbs down in my review. Stay away if you are a true Harry Potter fan and avoid a giant disappointment.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

A sea of giant Broccoli

I was hiking in the Shenandoah yesterday, and part of my hike took me through this clearing on top of a small mountain. I took a break at the clearing and looked around to face a sea of giant broccoli all around me. I was about 2000 ft high and in front of me was this beautiful valley filled with tree tops. I could not make much else but that it looked like broccoli all around me. It is ironic cause broccoli is my least favourite vegetable and this was a breathtaking sight. Yesterday, I parked at Elkwallow, hiked down Jeremy run, up Neighbour mountain, met the AT going North, and hiked down to my car. Neighbour mountain was pretty challenging. I forgot to ask the Ranger what the elevation gain was and ended up going up about 2000 ft. This has been one of the most challenging and beautiful hikes this summer. Jeremy Run was fantastic. I crossed the stream 10 times (yea I counted). It was a pleasure to look forward to these stream crossings. Most of Jeremy Run is an easy hike. Neighbour mountain is moderate with quick elevation gain. AT going North to Elkwallow is all downhill and is a good tail-end of the hike. Next time I would like to do the Knob mountain trail which is parallel to Jeremy Run but with no stream and much elevation.