Like any student trained in Anthropology, I've learned to constantly observe and note the subtleties of the world around me. And to, moreover, do this in a consistent manner by recognizing features of life regardless of their perceived importance or mundaneness. That skill becomes quite useful when moving to and attempting to understand the character of one's new home - especially when that new home is a place as quirky, beautiful, and sometimes strange as New Orleans. My noted observations of the city's unique characteristics have quickly grown during my first month of residency. Wonder along with bewilderment still defines my experience here, and I've taken a strategy of simply trying to absorb everything around me while also making a feeble attempt at understanding the city's unique history, culture, and complexity. What follows is a laundry list of my initial observations. Although many of the lawns and gardens overflow with lusciousness, it's the grass that seems particularly green. After leaving my dishes out to dry, the intense humidity in the air makes my silverware rust at an annoyingly fast pace. The lack of open container laws continues to give me this feeling of 'shouldn't somebody be stopping this' or 'oh man, we are SO going to get in trouble.' My living room leans to the right. However, it turns out that in the soft soil makes many houses have a slight lean, so I feel a little bit better about my mini ski slope. Gas lanterns lighting the front porches of many homes provide a sort of charming ambiance, yet also make me feel like I'm about to walk into a horror scene of an old black and white movie. Although many types of people wander the French Quarter during the day and night, I would have to say that the greatest percentage of this population seems to be young males sporting flip-flops, plaid shorts and pastel short sleeved collared shirts. This type of visitor also seems to prefer walk in a straight line formation, rather than side-by-side, which I believe is a mechanism to increase their efficiency at reaching two-for-ones, three-for-ones, and bottomless whatevers. Driving, at least at first, often lead to confusion. Like when I encountered designated u-turn areas that entirely take the place of left hand turns on some roads. Or, when the street became so bumpy and full of pot-holes I fear my suspension may suddenly decide to give up. On St. Charles Avenue, the need to constantly look for runners, sidewalk walkers, streetcars, and oncoming traffic can just plain lead to headaches. The first time I saw the street name "Tchoupitoulas" (pronounced chop-a-two-liss) I kept on thinking it looked like the name of a dinosaur. A chalapolapogus or something like that. When I finally looked up on many of the main streets, I realized that Mardi Gras beads cover the trees, powerlines, and basically anything overhead. Overall, during my short stay in New Orleans I've observed many interesting aspects of life that truly make this a unique American city. Yet, the one thing that surprised me the most hasn't necessarily been something I've been able to see - but is nonetheless an essential aspect of New Orleans today. For whatever reason, I thought that the gulf of four years separating the landfall of Hurricane Katrina's and my arrival in the city was enough time to place this event solidly in the past. Although I didn't doubt the extent of damage and destruction, and the struggle to rebuild the city afterwards, I somehow imagined that New Orleans would be largely past having this event still defining everyday life. I thought it would be a city much like its metropolitan counterparts throughout the U.S.; that it would be a city struggling like many others to simply improve the quality of life for its citizens. I genuinely thought that although Hurricane Katrina would be part of the collective memory, it would somehow be an event that most were just trying to forget. Instead, I found a city where this epic storm is still very much a part of public consciousness and dialogue. Time and recent history seems to be defined in terms of 'pre-Katrina' and 'post-Katrina.' Everyday, newspapers and television reports continue to rattle off the name of Katrina, or the generic equivalent of 'the storm.' Even today, changes in one's personal life - such as new jobs, schools, or homes - or in public policy and spending directly stem from the havoc wrecked by Hurricane Katrina and its immediate follow-up of Hurricane Rita. Moreover, I've come to realize that neighborhoods, institutions, families and individuals can vary dramatically in their placement along the spectrum from emergency recovery to complete renewal. For example, in my neighborhood, the prosperous Uptown section of New Orleans, houses are well maintained, cars fill and even congest the roads, people walk and mingle throughout the streets, and coffeeshops, bars, and restaurants are full of patrons. Most of Uptown lacks any real sign of distress and feels profoundly normal. Yet, a short drive to Lakeview, New Orleans East, or the Ninth Ward reveals neighborhoods still struggling to return. Although scattered between dilapidated houses and lots overgrowing with weeds sit newly constructed homes, entire sections still lack adequate access to basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, and grocery stores. Although people hope to return their neighborhoods to their pre-Katrina vibrancy, the struggle continues for many and the future may feel questionable. Perhaps my misconception of New Orleans stems from a more national state of "Katrina fatigue." With two prolonged wars and a failing economy to cover - among a myriad of other public issues - national media coverage of post-Katrina New Orleans now seems mostly limited to yearly anniversary specials. A local editorialist recently wrote that the national opinion of New Orleans seems to be one of 'why can't they just get over this.' Yet, in my short time here I've come to realize that the intense process of recovery continues even with a relative veil of normalcy in many neighborhoods. Every single aspect of life - both public and private - was affected by the storm, and I finally realized after moving here that for many people four years is not enough time to forget, to move on or to even simply feel normal.