The Return of the Black Ninja

I have running apparel for the cold weather, and I have featured my all-black running gear many years ago in this blog. But for the past few years I chose not to run much outside during the winter, especially if the temperature is below freezing, and instead went mostly inside the gym during winter months.

However with this COVID pandemic, I am still avoiding going to the gym where people not too distant from each other are panting, and yes, it is impossible to keep a mask on when you’re exercising and breathing hard. But I don’t want to stop exercising altogether during the winter as I need to stay healthy. So I think I will be running outside even through this winter.

Thus, the Black Ninja has returned.

taking a pose in our front yard
got to go
off and running

(*my wife took the photos of my craziness)

Bahala na si Batman: Revisited

(I’m reposting an article I wrote 9 years ago. The message still rings true today. Happy New Year everyone!)

Kumakaway-kaway ang bagong nakalambiting pahinang papel sa dingding, nagpapahiwatig na pumasok na naman tayo sa isang panibagong yugto.

Bagong kalendaryo. Bagong taon. Lumang pananaw?

Tunay na ang panahon na ginagalawan natin ngayon ay walang katiyakan. Kasing linaw ng tubig-kanal ang ating kinabukasan. Halos gumapang na parang pagong ang ekonomiya, kahit anumang bansa ang pag-usapan, kahit na sa Amerika. Naghihirap na parang daga ang maraming mamayan sa iba’t-ibang lupalop ng mundo. Walang gobyerno ang ligtas sa gulo at eskandalo. Walang sinisinong pamilya ang mga problema at kahirapan, kahit pa Dimaano o Dimagiba ang apelyido nila. Walang tao sa kasalukuyan, ang hindi apektado ng walang-kasiguraduhang bukas.

Sa kabila ng lahat ng ito, sino nga ba ang nakakaalam kung ano ang ihahatid ng bukas? Kahit pa mga manghuhula sa Quiapo, ay hindi nakatitiyak. At mayroon nga ba tayong magagawa tungkol dito? Mabuti pa kayang maghalukipkip na lamang at magpawalang bahala, at tanggapin na lamang ang anumang barahang iaabot sa atin ng tadhana. Kaya?

Bahala na.

Iyan ang katagang kinamulatan nating mga Pilipino. Ito rin ang pilosopiyang nakaukit na sa ating kulturang kinagisnan. Bahala na. Bahala na si Batman!

Pero kung susuriin, ang katagang “bahala na” ay nagmula  sa “Bathala na,” kung saan ang isang tao ay ipinauubaya na sa Maykapal ang kaniyang kapalaran. Maaring maganda naman ang saloobing ito, dahil ito’y nagpapakita ng pagtitiwala sa nakatataas na kapangyarihan. Ngunit ang masama, ay maraming mga tao ang ipinauubaya na ang lahat lahat, at hindi na nagsusumikap na ibangon o ibahin ang “kapalaran” na hatid sa kanila ng pagkakataon. Suwerte kung suwerte, malas kung malas, parang Sweepstakes.

Ika nga ng sinalumang kanta ni Rico J. Puno: “Kapalaran kung hanapin, ‘di matagpuan, at kung minsa’y lumalapit ng ‘di mo alam.” Kaya ba walang nang saysay ang habulin ang ating kapalaran dahil hindi mo rin naman ito maabutan? Sadya bang ang lahat ay nakasalalay sa “Gulong ng Palad” na parang lumang tele-serye?

Hindi ba nga’t si Juan Tamad, isa sa mga kinagigiliwang kwentong Pilipino, ay humilata na lang sa ilalim ng puno at nakangangang naghihintay na malaglag ang bayabas? Naghihintay na ang biyaya o suwerte, na mahulog na lang sa ating kandungan. Ito nga ba ang kagawiang Pinoy? Maging sa ating kanta, tele-nobela, o tradisyonal na salaysayin – bahala na.

Bahala na lang ba talaga?

Mawalang galang na lamang po, ngunit hindi ako sang-ayon sa pananaw na ito. Hindi rin ako naniniwala na wala tayong magagawa para sa ating kinabukasan, o kaya’y ibahin ang barahang tangan natin sa ating palad. Oo nga’t may mga bagay na lagpas sa ating mga kamay, at si Bathala (hindi si Batman) lamang ang may kontrol nito. Sang-ayon ako na mahalaga ang pagtitiwala sa nakatataas na kapangyarihan. Ngunit maraming mga bagay ay nasasa-ating palad, at ang magiging kahihinatnan nito’y bunga ng ating pagsisikap, at hindi lamang sanhi sa guhit ng kapalaran.

Kaya sa bagong taong ito, sana ay mayroon din tayong bagong pananaw sa buhay. Bagong pakikipagbaka. Bagong pagsisikap. Bagong pag-asa.

Bangon na aking kaibigan, ang bukas ay naghihintay sa iyo. Ang “suwerte” ay nasa pawis mo.

(*photo taken at Musée d’Orsay)

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Added feature: Bahala Na Si Batman by SOLABROS.com

Help My Unbelief

(I was asked to lead a devotional in a group of Christian doctors. Here is what I shared.)

One man was telling his friend about his doctor. He said, “my doctor guaranteed that I will be walking in just a week after my big surgery.”

The friend remarked, “Wow, that’s impressive.”

The man added, “Yes. I have to walk now because I have to sell my car to pay my doctor’s bill.”

Most of the times, we doctors guarantee healing. But our story today is about a failed healing.

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Our story for our devotional today is found in Mark 9: 17 -27

17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.”27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

The background of the story is that Jesus just came down from the mountain where he had his transfiguration. Though it is really uncertain what mountain, traditionally it is believe to be the Mount Tabor. With him were Peter, James and John. When they got down from the mountain he was met with the rest of his disciples and was told that they failed to heal a boy from his illness.

I want us to view this story from a doctor’s or a healthcare provider’s perspective.

Let’s first examine the boy, the patient, in our story. How old was he? I don’t know, but most likely he is in the pediatric age. Since I am an adult medicine doctor, he will be somebody that will not be brought to me.

What is his illness. If we look at the description of what his illness is, we would say that it is epilepsy with the classic tonic-clonic grand-mal convulsions. The seizures seems to be uncontrolled and frequent that it can come any time, as he would fall in the fire or in the water. Being unable to speak, maybe he also has cerebral palsy with speech impediment.

How long has he been sick? According to his father since his childhood. So for a long time this boy has been suffering. One reason why I did not choose to be a pediatrician, besides I hate placing an IV on a baby is that I cannot stand the sight of suffering children. Especially those sick kids that had poor outcome.

Are there any pediatricians here? I admire you, caring for the most vulnerable among us. May God continue to bless your profession and your ministry.

So if this sick boy was brought to you, what will you give him? Keppra? Carbamazepine? Phenytoin? Or perhaps you will request for CT head, EEG and lumbar puncture first.

But something tells us that this is more than physical illness. Rather, it is an spiritual illness, or more specifically demon-possession. As it was told in the story that Jesus drove the deaf and mute spirit out and ordered it not to come back.

I have witnessed demon-possession when I was still in the Philippines. It happened on an evening prayer meeting and this young lady jumped out of her seat and attacked the speaker. Her voice changed and it took several men in the church to hold her down. It required some intense prayers of the church before the demon was driven out.

Let us examine now the father, the other patient. One thing for sure is this father was desperate. If your child is sick for a long time you will be desperate too. He has been disappointed before, perhaps by other healers that he brought his son to and they tried to heal him, including Jesus’ disciples, but all were unsuccessful. Because this father was let down in the past, he was having trust issues. He has become a skeptic. He told Jesus, “IF you can do something,” (emphasis on the IF), but honestly admitted his doubts by telling Jesus, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

This father is also suffering. It’s not just the boy, but the father as well. Maybe not much physically, but more on emotionally and mentally. Note on verse 22, he did not say “have compassion on my son,” rather he said to Jesus: “have compassion on us and help us.”

He is undergoing mental agony. Perhaps anxiety and depression. Would you give him Prozac? Or maybe a psychotherapy session? But most likely he just needed his son to be healed and he will be healed as well.

Let’s apply the story to our day to day experiences.

First, have you experienced that you were unable to help your patients, even how hard you try, like the disciples did? You probably tried all the medications and procedures known to you, but still your patient was not getting better. I know I have experienced that, all the time. Being a Critical Care doctor, I have lost many patients, which is part of the specialty I chose, especially in this time of COVID pandemic. How frustrating that has been for us. We felt incompetent. Is our training not enough? Is our knowledge and skills not enough? We felt helpless.

But in our story, Jesus said (verse 19), “Bring the boy to me.” Yes my fellow doctors, we can bring our patients to Jesus. We can bring our frustrations, our incompetence and our helplessness to Him. We can bring our problems to the Lord, not just in our patients, but our own personal failures to Him.

Many times though we are also like the child’s father, we suffer with unbelief. As trained scientists and professional clinicians, we believe more in our medications, or in our surgical skills, in our medical science and technology than in God. Have you felt that way sometimes? I know I felt that way, many times!

When I was sick with a flu last year and I felt so awful, I prayed that God will heal me quickly. But I felt I have more faith in the Tylenol that I took to make me feel better than in God who can really take my illness away.

In this story, when the father told Jesus “If you can do something” Jesus used that same words back to him and said “If you can” believe “everything is possible.” May we also pray that father’s prayer, “Lord, help, my unbelief.”

Lastly when the child was taken to Jesus, it appears that he even got worse. The boy had more violent seizures when the evil-spirit saw Jesus. The original text used a term that meant worse than before. The boy went into a grand-mal status epilepticus, worse than he ever had. After the seizure, the people thought that the child was dead (verse 26)! Did Jesus made the situation worse?

Have we experienced something similar? We prayed to God already, and we call on Him to heal our patients, but they seem to be getting worse, not better. Was God not hearing our prayers? Was He not listening to our pleas?

Then when people thought that the boy was dead, (in verse 27) Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him on his feet and he arose. The healing came in God’s way. The healing came in God’s time.

For us today, when we are struggling in our practice, when we are getting discouraged in the outcome of the patients that were placed under our care, we just have to trust in God’s ways, and we have to trust in God’s timing.

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I would like to tell a story that happened to me last year.

It was the height of flu season last year, and this was before COVID, which made this year’s flu season worse. I was working that weekend, and I was in the hospital for 36 hours straight. We had several patients in the hospital that had complications from the flu. There were five on ventilators due to respiratory failure from Influenza A in our ICU. Two of them were on ECMO. 

ECMO is short for extracorporeal membrane oxygen, an extracorporeal life support. It is an intervention to provide adequate amount of gas exchange or perfusion in patients whose heart and lungs have failed to sustain life. It is done by placing a large bore catheter in the patient’s central vein or artery, where the blood was sucked out from the body, then ran through a machine to bathe it with oxygen, then flow it back to the body. We also have used this intervention now for the very severe COVID patients.

Saturday morning, I got a call from another hospital for a woman in her 40’s who had Influenza A and who was rapidly deteriorating. She went into respiratory failure and was placed on ventilator. They want to transfer her to our hospital for possible ECMO.

We rarely have two ECMO patients at the same time in our ICU. Even one patient on ECMO makes us busy, so two was really demanding. But a third one at the same time? That never happened in our hospital before. 

I made some phone calls to verify if we have a machine for a third patient and if we have enough resources and staff to handle a third ECMO. After confirming, I was given the green light to accept the patient.

Additional ICU and ECMO staff were called to come in. I called the interventional cardiologist-on-duty who would assist us to put the Avalon catheter, a dual-lumen catheter half as big as a garden hose that goes from the jugular vein and through the heart. The cardiologist in turn called the cath lab to prepare for the arrival of this patient.

The patient was flown in via helicopter to our hospital and went straight to the cath lab where me, my ICU and ECMO team, as well as the cardiologist and his cath lab team were waiting.

We were ready for the challenge and eager to make it happen. 

While we were doing all this, our patient’s oxygen saturation was only in the 70-80% despite maximum ventilator support, so we knew we needed to work fast.

However problem struck. Working for more than an hour, we had difficulty placing the Avalon catheter in good position. We tried different approaches with different instruments, but cannot get the ECMO flow going.

After deliberation, we decided that we cannot sustain this patient on ECMO. Perhaps it was her vascular anatomy, or perhaps there was a big clot in her vein. Whatever the reason, we could not proceed.

I went out to the cath lab’s waiting room, and gave the sad news to the patient’s family that we couldn’t do the ECMO. All I could say was that we tried and gave our best, but it was unsuccessful.

I felt that we betrayed this patient and her family. After I thought I moved heaven and earth to get this patient to our hospital, only to end up like this was really deflating.

The worse part was, I knew that without ECMO, this patient had little to no chance of surviving and possibly could be dead in a few hours.

We transferred the patient to the ICU, but we left the big neck catheter in place even though it was not hooked to the machine. We have to wait for the heparin we gave when we attempted to start the ECMO, to wear off before we can pull the catheter out.

After about half an hour in the ICU, I was informed that the blood test showed that the heparin had worn off and I can remove the catheter with less risk of bleeding.

When I pulled the Avalon catheter out, I applied direct pressure in the patient’s neck to control the bleeding. I did this for 30 minutes. I was alone in the room with the patient most of that time, with the nurse intermittently coming in and out of the room to adjust the IV pumps or to check on the patient.

All along while I was holding pressure, I was watching the monitor which showed that the patient’s oxygen saturation was staying in the high 70’s to low 80%. I thought death was imminent.

During the time when I was alone with the patient, I felt helpless and defeated. I failed her. We failed her. 

Then a thought came to me: I don’t save lives. It was not up to me. Only a higher power determines who will live or die. That’s when I reached out for the Higher Power.

As a doctor, many times, I put more faith to the medical intervention than God’s healing.

With my hands on the patient’s jugular holding pressure, I turned my thoughts to heaven: “God I am nothing, but an instrument of Your healing hand. I failed. But You never fail. I don’t know this patient personally, but I am personally praying for her. Please heal her in my behalf, and let me witness Your awesome power. Amen.”

After 30 minutes of holding pressure the bleeding stopped. I left the room and went to see other patients, especially the new ICU admission, a young man in his 20’s who had a bad asthma attack, so bad we had to place him on a ventilator.

As I was busy attending to other patients, I was just waiting to be called back to that particular patient if she goes to cardiac arrest or expires.

More than an hour later, I went back to the room of our failed ECMO patient. I looked at the monitor and her oxygen saturation was 100%. I was amazed! The respiratory therapist told me that she even titrated down the oxygen level on the ventilator to almost half as the patient was really doing good.

What happened? I had no other explanation but one: God heard my prayer.

I went down to my call room to be alone. With tears welling in my eyes, I uttered a prayer of thanks. Never would I doubt the power of God again. 

My friends, God healed my unbelief.

May God heal us all with our unbelief, this is my prayer.

Christmas Morning

I woke up at home this Christmas morning, and with Jose Marie Chan’s “This Beautiful Day” playing in the background that I am enjoying this sunrise.

On a beautiful day that I dream about,
In a world I would love to see,
Is a beautiful place where the sun comes out,
And it shines in the sky for me,
On this beautiful Christmas morning,
If my wish could come true somehow,
Then the beautiful day that I dream about,
Would be here and now.

Merry Christmas to all!

(*photo taken with an iPhone; lyrics from Jose Marie Chan’s “This Beautiful Day”)

Lost in Celebration

This year 2020 is coming to a close. I don’t think I am alone on feeling relieved that this very challenging year is finally ending. Perhaps many of us would even say “good riddance!” However, I still would like to make a wish as we conclude this year.

We were in Paris about this time last year for our 25th wedding anniversary and we were able to visit Sacre-Coeur Basilica. This church was built on top of butte Montemartre, which is the highest point of the city. When you’re there, you can have a panoramic view of Paris.

Besides visiting the church itself which is free, you can also climb up the dome of the Basilica for a little fee. But be prepared to climb more than 300 steps as there is no elevator.

I told my wife, with that kind of climb we should be the one being paid, not the one paying. But the “breath-taking,” both from being out of breath after going up the steps and also stunningly beautiful view on top of dome of the Basilica, I believe is worth the effort.

Above photo is from the top of the dome, and Eiffel Tower can be seen from the distance.

Inside the church are some display of the Nativity scenes, as it was Christmas season. Below is a photo of the manger scene. But notice that it was without the most important character. Do you see it?

Perhaps they were cleaning the Baby Jesus figurine or maybe they were repairing it, but the scene was just odd without it. Whether it was deliberate to take out the baby Jesus from the scene or not, for me it struck a poignant message.

How many times have we taken away Christ from Christmas? How many times have we turned Christmas into some other festivity except for what really it should be. It is quite sad that Santa Claus, the elves, reindeers, snowman, gifts, parties, and the whole commercialization of this holiday have become more popular than the real reason for the occasion.

For this Christmas, may Christ be the front and center of all our celebration. May we all have a Blessed Christmas and a Hopeful New Year.

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Added feature: Here’s a short clip of us climbing up the final steps to the dome of the Basilica. Pardon my breathlessness.

(*photos and videos taken with an iPhone)

A Candlelight Tour at the Biltmore House

Last week we drove to the Smokey Mountains and wandered to Asheville, North Carolina. We visited the Biltmore Estate, a historic house museum and a popular tourist attraction. Biltmore House, the main residence, is a Chateauesque-style mansion, built between 1889 and 1895 for George Washington Vanderbilt II. It is currently the largest privately owned house in the United States with a floor space of 178,926 square feet. Let’s just say it is too big for me to clean.

George Vanderbilt opened his opulent estate on Christmas Eve of 1895 to invited family and friends from across the country. There were notable guests to the estate over the years including famed novelists, ambassadors, and U.S. presidents. Today it continues to attract tourists from all over the world to tour this beautiful mansion.

For Christmas season, they have a special evening tour called Candlelight Christmas Tour to view the mansion that is fully decorated for the holidays, and that’s what we did.

Above photo is the 35-foot tall Christmas tree in the Banquet Hall which is the estate’s grand holiday centerpiece. It took a lot of planning and real work to place this tree in this grand hall. Note that there’s even a pipe organ in this Banquet Hall.

They have more Christmas trees though all over the house, like this one below.

Here’s another dining area decked for Christmas.

Below is the Tapestry Gallery, again with several smaller Christmas trees.

Here is the grand staircase. That’s my wife in the yellow(ish) coat going down the stairs.

There are many rooms, in fact too many, to entertain guests in this house. Below is the piano lounge.

There were live musicians playing Christmas carols during the Candlelight Tour. Below are videos of a violinist in the library and another musician playing dulcimer in a large hall.

Photo below is Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom. In vogue during those times are canopy beds. Though many Filipinos also sleep under a canopy – of mosquito net.

Across the hall is Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom, photo below. Why do they not sleep in the same bedroom? My thoughts exactly.

There are lots of activities to entertain their guests in this house. Here is the Billiard room.

Yes, that’s a bowling alley inside the house (photo below).

There is also a gym.

And an indoor swimming pool. Though there was no water as it now leaks. Too bad nobody can swim anymore in this large swimming pool.

The tour even took us to the basement to showcase the very solid foundation of this enormous mansion, see photo below. Were you expecting some kind of a Batcave at the basement of this large mansion? This is not Bruce Wayne’s house.

The biggest Christmas tree though was not inside the mansion but it was outside at the front lawn. That is one giant Christmas tree. However, there’s no gift for me under the tree.

From the Biltmore Estate,

Pinoytransplant.

(*photos and videos taken with an iPhone)

Overdrive

Noong nakaraang linggo ay nag-drive kami patungo sa Tennessee na may layo na 1400 kilometro mula sa aming bahay dito sa Iowa. Labing-dalawang (12) oras ang aming drive one way, at salitan kaming mag-asawa sa pagmamaneho. Oo, matiyaga kaming mag-drive, lalo na’t panahon ng COVID, at mapanganib lumipad dahil mahirap mag-social distancing sa eroplano at sa mga airports.

Kami ay pumasyal sa Smoky Mountains na isang kilalang lugar na magandang bakasyunan dito sa Amerika. Alam kong meron ding Smoky Mountains sa Pilipinas, pero hindi ito pasyalan at bakasyunan maliban na lang kung ang trip mo ay suminghot ng mabantot na hangin, dahil ito ay bundok ng basura (land fill) sa Tondo, Manila.

Makulimlim at magkahalong ulan at snow ang pumapatak mula sa kulay abo na mga ulap habang kami ay nagbibiyahe. Kahit mukhang pang-dayuhan at pang-Amerika ang tanawin, ang aking namang musikang pinakikinggan ay katutubong Pilipino. Ako’y nakatutok sa Eraserheads Radio mula sa Spotify.

Sumalang ang kantang Overdrive ng Eraserheads:

Magda-drive ako hanggang Baguio,
Magda-drive ako hanggang Bicol.

Biglang sumagi sa aking isipan ang alaala ng mahigit dalawampung taon na ang nakalilipas. Kasikatan pa noon ng Eraserheads at matunog pa ang kanta nilang Overdrive. Pinakikingan namin ang Cutterpillow cassette tape album nila habang kami ay nagda-drive dito sa Amerika mula New Jersey hanggang Ohio na may layo na 700 kilometro.

Alam n’yo ba na ang Baguio hanggang Bicol ay may layo din na halos 700 kilometro, at kaya itong i-drive ng sampung oras lang, pero aabot sa tatlong araw dahil sa trapik!

Isasama ko ang girlfriend ko,
Isasama ko kahit sinong may gusto.

Kasama ko noon sa pagda-drive ang aking dating girlfriend na naging misis ko na. Isang taon pa lang kaming kasal nang panahong iyon, at wala pang mga anak. Maingay naming sinasabayan ang kanta ng Eraserheads habang kami’y naglalakbay. Patungo kami sa Cleveland para sa isang application interview ko para sa aking medical training. Simula pa lang noon ng paghahabol ko sa aking mga pangarap. Matagal pa ang biyahe at malayo pa sa gustong patunguhan.

Maliit at compact car ang aming dina-drive noon. Simple lang ang aming kotse at ito ay lease lamang. Ibig sabihin pahiram o inuupahan lang namin, at hindi pa namin tunay na pag-aari.

Magda-drive ako buong taon,
Magda-drive ako habambuhay.

Pagkalipas ng mahigit dalampung taon, heto pa rin kami ngayon patuloy na nagda-drive. Pero natibag na ang grupo ng Eraserheads. Paso na rin ang mga cassette tapes, at kahit nga CD ay hindi na rin uso. At ang kantang Overdrive ay consider na classic oldies na ngayon.

Maluwag-luwag at SUV na ang aming sinasakyan ngayon. Marami rin itong amenities, tulad ng satellite GPS, kaya’t hindi na ako maliligaw. Sariling akin na rin ang kotseng aming dina-drive.

Magda-drive nga yata kami habambuhay. Subalit tapos na ako sa paghangos at pag-tugis sa aking mga pangarap. Maaring sabihing narating ko na ang nais kong marating at inaani na namin ang mga bunga ng aming pinaghirapan at ipinundar na panahon. Malalaki na rin ang aming mga supling, at tapos na nga ng kolehiyo ang aming panganay. Sila naman ngayon ang naghahabol ng kanilang mga pangarap, habang kami naman ay padrive-drive na lang para mamasyal at mag-relax.

Magda-drive ako hanggang buwan.

Pare, nakarating na rin ako kahit sa buwan.

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Additional feature: Here’s a short clip of our drive the next day after we reached the Smoky Mountains. Of note, it’s not Eraserheads playing in the background anymore, but rather it’s Simon and Garfunkel with their song “America.”

Snowy Smoky Mountains

We recently traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains, a mountain range rising along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. The Smoky Mountains got its name as the native Cherokee people traditionally called the mountain range Shaconage, which translates to “place of the blue smoke.”

If you want a nerdy explanation, here it is – the “smoke” is actually an optical result of a natural photochemical process. The trees, shrubs, and other plants of the dense and diverse southern Appalachian forests emit natural hydrocarbons which then react with the ozone particles. When moisture condenses on these aerosols, this scatter the light in the blue-violet spectrum producing the signature haziness.

However, when we visited the Smokies it was not smoky at all. Instead, it was snowy. Here are sample photos of the snowy Smoky Mountains.

From the Smokies,

Pinoytransplant

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(*photos taken somewhere in Tennessee)