Monday, August 01, 2005

Weekend Update

So, since the cell phone typing was getting irritating ("okay, I need an "S"... press that button four times. great, now i need an "O"... press that button three times..."), I'm back on the computer for the actual weekend update. I needed to convert my visa from TN to F-1, meaning I had to officially end my position at Cornell on Friday. On Friday, my "last day" (I'm going in tomorrow to clean out my desk, say goodbye, and maybe run an extra reaction or two to finish everything up... free of charge, of course), I took the time to go to the border and get my paperwork taken care of. I had made my car reservation earlier this week and was all set to drive to Niagara Falls, make it there by lunch and be back in Ithaca for the King of the Hill marathon (starting 7pm on FX -- yes, I schedule my days around television). Of course, things never go as you plan. I woke up at 7:30am on Friday, with my paperwork already laid out and triple-checked (anyone who knows me knows I get paranoid around "visa time") and ready to go pick up my car. So, I call Enterprise for my morning pick-up, and am told that they didn't have a single car on the lot. Not a single one. And would I please wait an hour until someone dropped a car off? Frustrated, I waited. And waited. By around 9:00 am, I was a little perturbed. By 10:00am, I was upset, and by 11:00am, when they finally managed to get a car in from Cortland, I was pretty furious. The thing about the border is that you never know what can go wrong, and there've been several times when I drove all the way there only to find out that I was missing some form, forgotten to bring the right passport photo, or even found that the one agent in the Niagara region who can process my forms was leaving on a long weekend. I wanted to get to the border with plenty of time to spare, just in case I was going to encounter that last situation, but of course, by the time I hit the road at 12:30pm, I knew that I was either going to speed and just barely squeak in at 4pm (when the shift ends for the daytime border security) or gamble having to spend the night in Niagara and get my stuff done Saturday morning. The second option was less than ideal, but I packed for it anyways. The car was a sturdy little red Dodge with broken windshield wipers. Probably the worst deal I've gotten from Enterprise thus far, and I'm practically a frequent flyer at the Ithaca branch. The only decent highlight was the fact that the branch manager, feeling bad that they had put me so far behind schedule, gave me a free weekend special rental. Which is useless since I'm moving away next week. Doing 85mph (I can't believe I'm actually starting to think in miles...) all the way to the border, I beat the mapquest time by a couple of minutes and actually managed to cross into Canada and be back in line to enter the States by 4pm. Of course, I had to wait in the line to cross the border for another 45 minutes, so my plan to get in before the shift change was shot. Luckily, F-1 visa processing is easier than TN visa processing, and I didn't encounter any issues at the border itself, which is revolutionary given my history at the border. As I was waiting, watching the DHS woman type stuff into my record, I actually got paranoid that I was going to get denied for having a loud mouth. Perhaps this blog would do me in, after all. Well, there were no issues, and I had even brought unnecessary paperwork and forms (I had a stack of extra credentials, including my Cornell diploma... feeling a little like Buffy did in that episode when she brought her middle school report cards to the bank to try and get a loan). With my brand-spankin' new F-1 visa in my grubby little hands, I crossed the border into Canada for a second time, this time to unwind and relax before a long drive home. Dinner at Planet Hollywood (not that great...), a trip to the Hershey's chocolate factory (I still have a slice of Cookies 'n Cream fudge left; it's sitting by the keyboard), a new Canadian Girls Kick Ass T-shirt (my old one was shrunk, and who was I kidding? I'm not a size S, anyways...), and I wound things down with a trip into the unknown, which proved to be the highlight of the day. I ventured into an attraction a little off the beaten path of the tourist trap that is Niagara Falls and ended up at this really awesome tropical birds aviary. It's touted as the largest indoor aviary in the world, and it is incredible -- it's as close to a natural ecosystem as most zoos will ever let it get. There are predatory birds (toucans, African hornbills) allowed to prey on smaller birds, and birds of all shapes and sizes marking territory, mating, and flying about over your head. There were three levels you could walk on, allowing you to see the birds "face-to-face" at tree-top level or walk along the ground and take a look at ducks in streams or nests in the ground. Birds were so used to people walking around that they would fly up to the railings and preen for you. It was quite incredible, and made better by the head keeper who gave a late-night tour complete with extra trivia and bits of knowledge about the birds and other animals. I saw him feed a crocodile a rat, and than watched an owl rip another mouse to pieces. He regaled me with stories of how he had designed the aviary (from moulds from the set of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider) and how he planned on installing a room for penguins on the second floor, next year. He also recounted a story about his time in the Cincinnati zoo a few years ago, when a 21-year-old zoo keeper had her arm ripped off by a polar bear and eaten in front of a bunch of unsuspecting children. I'm not entirely positive, but I think that one gave me nightmares. After the aviary, I headed home and crashed. Didn't make it back into my bed until 1am. Yesterday, was a trip down to NYC to collect some stuff for electroman from daisy, so that he would have clothing and stuff for the roadtrip to Arizona. After an eight hour drive to Canada, another eight hour drive to Valhalla was starting to wear down on me, but on the plus side, some fun was had at the hugest mall I've ever been to, the Palisades mall. The Palisades is literally five levels of mall-rat goodness, complete with indoor climbing wall and roller coaster. I stumbled into Ithaca at 1am again, and headed straight for bed. Don't pass go or collect $200. Today was just some random errands, taking full advantage of the little red Dodge, which has so far collected 800miles in two days. Enterprise will love that. The highlight of today was my semi-spur-of-the-moment purchase of a new cell phone. I've been using the same crappy cell phone for three years now, and, as I told my Sprint salesman, it's little more than a glorified walkie talkie. You know it's bad when the Sprint salesman can barely stifle laughter at the idea of having used the same phone for three years. Needless to say, I qualified for the $170 instant rebate for having been a long-term customer. So, with my instant rebate in mind, I picked out a new phone. Retail price was over $200, but I paid a whopping $50 for it. It's got some awesome features, all novel to me: a display with colour in it, a battery pack that doesn't die after two minutes of calling someone, a display on the outside of the phone as well as when you flip it open (even flipping is something I have to get used to), and, best of all, a camera and internet. I have glory-filled fantasies of blogging on the road to Arizona, complete with pictures of Utah or something. Y'know, truly share this next great big adventure with you guys. Not much else to report, other than I'm certain that packing is going to suck horribly. I packed my bookcase today, and discovered that my books alone filled seven boxes. This is going to be a long couple of days...


Anonymous Kaede said...

Good luck with everything Jenn....hope it all goes well after the weekend's excitement :) Where's that aviary at? Hubby's thinking of hitting Niagara on the way back to Toronto and I am thinking it would be a great place to go to.....

Have a save trip *mwah* and keep out of trouble, hey? ;) *hugs*

8/01/2005 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

the aviary is in Niagara Falls, along Falls Ave., next to the Hershey's factory and near Planet Hollywood. it's sort of expensive to get into (just like all the other attractioins in Niagara) but, in my opinion, worth the price of admission.

8/01/2005 11:37:00 AM  

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