Here’s a party view I don’t often get to see. I was descending on the escalator overlooking Starbucks. A birthday party? Yes, I think so. Cellphone’s the recording device. I was to far away to hear any singing. Happy…happy.
It’s made in fired ovens. David thinks that it’s two layers and the ‘puffy’ bread rises because of the construction of the dough. To me the dough looks like a single pancake. They make a lot of it. It’s the sliced bread of life here. It’s the Middle East equivalent of French bread served in NY. And then there’s the Tandoori oven. They slap pieces of dough against the sides and make another form of bread. When I attended a banquet at a home, there was a portable Tandoori available for on the spot baking. My assessment – it sure beats sliced white ‘Wonder Bread.’It looks like there’s something stuffed inside. Either way the food is good.Since we were in the outdoor kitchen, it afforded us a view to some pretty good cooking.
Shortly after I arrived in Jeddah I was faced with an extremely difficult medical case. By difficult I do not refer to the technical part of surgery. Right now great technology is a given in neurosurgery. But it is the ethical decision making that is involved in whether or not to recommend surgical care. A young 29 year old ICU nurse suffered a major stroke of the left brain hemisphere which is ordinarily a devastating brain injury. Recovery is poor and usually associated with major neurological impairment (speech and paralysis) and a good possibility to remain in a vegetative (unaware) state permanently. There was no family available for consent and her nursing colleagues became her health care proxies. In the glare of this discerning audience I would have to make some tough decisions and the outcome would affect my very reputation within the hospital medical community.
Many of my colleagues here in Jeddah have counseled me to be very conservative and not to take any medical risks. This has been a mantra for care since I have been here. It puzzles me because there are inherent risks in any neurosurgery decisions and the results are never guaranteed to go exactly as you plan. Balancing failure and success has never been more difficult than in the past two years. One thing that I have noted is that there is a definite tendency toward unrealistic expectation by patients/families that everything done must be successful.
Our young nurse had deteriorated neurologically and brain death seemed imminent. So a split second decision was made based on my gut feeling and medical experience; the plunge was made. We took her to surgery and in a series of operations proceeded to remove her skull bone, evacuate the blood clot, remove dead brain in order to preserve the brain that would survive, reconstruct her skull, and finally insert a ventricular shunt. I summarized about six months of hard care in that previous sentence. There were many times that I questioned myself as to whether it was the right decision that I made to try to save her life. My questions came because for many months she was completely neurologically severely impaired, unable to speak or care for herself. Mom arrived more than two months later. She had been unable to obtain a travel visa from the Saudi government.
The hospital and the nursing staff were wonderful in supporting a nursing colleague. And day by day my patient became more and more responsive to her environment.
I received this thank you text from her mom at the airport just before they departed for home in the Philippines. My patient, her daughter, was now communicating, not yet speaking, feeding herself, and walking with assistance. She needed help to take care of herself. Her mother was happy for her recovery. And knowing what I knew as she left for home I have no regret in pouring out a maximum effort to save her life despite the tremendous odds against even a fraction of the recovery she made so far. Some days it’s worth being able to think back that we did something that no one thought we could do.
No one likes an unhappy ending. Some years ago it was noted that movies with unhappy endings are not popular. Really, think about it. At the time, it was said to me, Robert Redford in “The Natural” hit a home run to win the game to end the movie. But in the book David Mamet wrote, the character strikes out to end the story.
I have experienced my share of unhappy endings. It can’t be helped. But there are those times when a decision and good skill will touch a life in ways that everything was worth all the hours and work you put into your profession.
I had a patient come to the office this past January 11. She had had emergency surgery exactly one year before. That day she had been found at home collapsed and unconscious. A large intracranial hemorrhage was discovered and I soon had her in the operating room for emergency lifesaving surgery. As is usually the case we took her to the operating room in a rush as soon as I arrived in the ER. It really does work that way sometimes. The patient had a stormy post op course. She was paralyzed on one side and couldn’t speak or write for many months. Money was no object as she bounced around rehab programs even taking treatment in Paris. But as with most brain injuries, it is time that heals and I had repeatedly told the patient and her family that it would be a year until the outcome and recovery would become more clear to all. And so on what she refers to as her new “birthday” my patient arrived in the office with the deepest thanks. She brought me a letter of thanks, which she signed in front of me. Just writing was a big achievement. Her speech and strength had returned. She still had deficits but overall she was living life and appreciating her family. As I have often said, “It’s the smile of your thanks that makes all the work we do so rewarding.”
I’m not famous. I’m not a celebrity. Really! But it always seems that I run into people who know me in the places that I visit. Jeddah has 3 million people give or take. And when the kids were here, we were cooling our heels waiting for a table at the Palm Garden. Just as a table opened up, I had my camera up and taking a picture. As you can see, a fellow diver greeted me with open arms as he recognized me behind the camera. Coincidence, yes, but not isolated because in this same 10 day period David saw me greeted by a patient I had operated upon in another restaurant far away from this site. This woman graciously invited him to her daughter’s engagement party so he could taste a different aspect of Jeddah. It certainly remains interesting who you meet and who knows you while you try to remain anonymous.
David said don’t do it. He said it’s a chain and it’s not too good, too formula…. He’s eaten in a lot of places by now, so he’s more sophisiticated in his taste and evaluation. Unlike Ajii which both of my kids approved, PF Chang was a place to avoid according to both children. With a lack of choices I found myself drawn to try it. All local reviews were positive and everyone raved about the dynamite shrimp. Now I have found out that the entire six restaurants at this site are owned by a single company group. So far it’s been very successful with no parking and lines everywhere. I’m not impressed that cheesecake costs $8 (33SAR). A burger at Shake Shack is only $8. But my eye was on PF Chang. The singles section is like an afterthought. The space is small and cramped. Service is very attentive. They do a little show to mix some dipping sauce tableside. The food – dynamite shrimp is the local NY version of deep fried shrimp covered in a mayonnaise sauce. It’s pretty funky in NY and so what else can you say. It is a recipe that was made on the spot in NY with ingredients at hand in a combination of ingredients put together from a bad dream. Not bad…. Just not worth mentioning again. Dynamite – it’s in the hot cloying sauce. Anywhere else and without the sauce, this is tempura shrimp.
Chicken lettuce wrap has the standard iceberg lettuce – ice cold – to wrap around diced chicken and deep fried crispy rice noodles. Decent. The shrimp dumplings were covered by steamed wonton skins and were largely tasteless, hence the dipping sauces. There was green apple soda, way too sweet, but with a crunch green apple slice. I’ve not made another foray to try the mains yet. But so far David and his sister were right.
Yes, it is possible to be asleep on your feet. Actually there was a time when I was an assistant surgeon (residency) and it would happen regularly. Up all night long, then leaning in able to see the operating field with only one eye open (and the other closed) as the surgeon worked. Before you knew it I would be bumping his headlight as I dozed. When I finished my training he said to my wife/significant other then, “Great guy, I just don’t know how he ever managed to learn any surgery.” (I just didn’t sleep when it wasn’t boring.)Well, I told you that J had been through multiple time zones from LA to NY to Jeddah. David and I had no mercy. So it was no surprise to have her sleeping during our self-portrait. Not just eyes blinking, no no no, it was a full blown drowse. She’s a good sport about it and we even went to dinner afterward. We just didn’t keep her up later.
I bet you wondered when I spoke about Amara (lukewarm) if I had left out the pictures of the restaurant because it wasn’t the greatest. Nope, just a senior moment. David was the one to find it. He pushed me on a quest to find roadside sculpture. And with a family (J, daughter) we could eat upstairs!Yeah, it’s a lot different view. If you are single you eat somewhere else. Same food, just different view. As a single, I read. I’ve got a library on my iTouch. Reading ain’t conversation. But a good page turner is a distraction. Yay for ebooks.
It’s a multilevel restaurant. Singles (men) sit in the open air sidewalk tables. Families (aha! I had one with me) can use the outdoor terrace overlooking some apartments, police station, hotel, and an unfinished tower. Did I mention a view of the ocean? But you can’t see this at night. Of course you never have a chance if they seat you away from the view. Which they did, even though they promised a nicer table if we had a reservation. It seems my (our face) face didn’t rate. Dinner wasn’t bad. And afterwards we had the pleasure of walking across the street to the mosaic octopus. Yeah!
It was in the same building as Ajii. Actually we found and targeted Amara first. We had to return to Amara twice when we were out of restaurant options because of the late hour (11:30PM) and the failed attempt at Palm Garden. It was so late because of that night dive. See… all my posts have lately tied together in a logically illogical way. Horray!
Yup! It’s a big giant mosaic octopus off the beaten path in the middle of a traffic circle behind the Corniche (beach road) that you would have to actively seek out. And what do you do after dinner in Ajii…. I guess we were in a pretty good mood after a satisfying meal. The only thing was risking life and limb to cross the circle and get to said octopus. And then J wouldn’t standby for any fooling around in plain view of all the passing cars. David had fewer qualms so he shot his dad embarrassing his kids.
When the kids were here they were very considerate and accommodating. We ate Middle Eastern food mostly. David never cared for it much in NY but he was in country and determined to sample local fare. We ate in Yildizar a restaurant rated all over the internet as one of the best in Jeddah. I can’t say that it was particularly special, but separate searches by all the family came up with the same name. Maybe they stacked search engine? On the last night together both kids determined we would try Ajii an oriental fusion restaurant that we had found. The food was surprisingly good. Funny for me was that it wasn’t the food that was important as much as the company. Now that the kids have returned home, the food is more attractive looking back at the pictures. We arrived just before evening prayer time. It was strange to be in a good restaurant as the only patrons from start to finish of the meal. No matter, it was the ultimate in private dining. Pick a table, any table at all….
It’s an Asian fusion restaurant. We ate there and it was empty except for us. Like anywhere else it’s a mystery how some places are popular and others are empty. It was a very good menu and food was very good. J got into the car to drive. Nope, we (she) didn’t break the law. There were still some time zone issues. It’s hard to eat dinner when your body thinks it’s 2AM. And afterward you can walk over and have an experience with a mosaic octopus sculpture in the traffic circle.J wasn’t here long enough to recover from jet lag. She’d left LA, flown to NYC, and arrived in Jeddah pretty much discombobulated. (I always wanted to use that word in a sentence!)
It’s an inside story. He’s not a regular reader here. But I had a discussion with him as to whether there was any picture taking in Mecca, spelled Makkah in Saudi Arabia. To be honest I can watch the Mecca channel 24/7. I don’t see any cameras or photos being taken. They always walk counter clockwise. From all the smart phone pictures I see being taken at the Corniche (beach) there are plenty of photos there at the beach. But the number of serious cameras. DSLR or advanced point and shoot, are pretty limited anywhere I have visited. I put this image in for David as an indication that Nikon thinks the visitors use Nikon cameras when they visit Mecca. I still haven’t noticed a DSLR in Mecca. But Dave, I think pictures are ok. Wink! What happens in Mecca stays in Mecca. Non Muslims, that would be us are directed to take the road around Mecca. No Christians allowed…. This image was a throw away that I took in the Balad with him. I didn’t know it would have more meaning to us after he completed his trip.
What do you expect from a restaurant named Ketchup. It’s an American grill staffed by Filipinos serving burgers. Nope, we didn’t try it. And just down the other side is a Johnny Rocket’s, don’t ask. And nearby is a Bentley and Lamborghini dealership. We chose Maesti an Egyptian menu. All the food styles tend to run together. I think you can get falafel across all cultures here. Good? Yes.
And then there was the Palm Garden on the Corniche. We wandered by and were drawn in by the lights. Ah! A really big men’s section. David made it a point to remember this place so we could drag his sister in for a good time. And later on we did.
I have a bunch of non sequiturs. Actually I uploaded some shots from the Balud and they appear to be orphans at the moment. There always seem to be a few men bundling sticks cut precisely the same length. The bundles sell and I must remember to ask why they sell?Digital is a lot smarter than me. I shoot and the camera makes me look good. Mixed lighting and high contrast scene… no problem. It’s dates.This is as close as we came to actually buying anything. It was an old jewelry store, which is to say that the jewelry looked old. Nope, made in Pakistan, recently. Neither J nor David bought. Dave could have used something for his girlfriend….Shadows are a great subject. We’ve done some strange shapes. But the kids would have none of it as we walked at night. Patterns, I like patterns and especially when you have willing/unwilling subjects at hand.
I was wandering behind my kids as we walked through the Balad. It doesn’t embarrass them so much when I take photos from the hip. The kid with the hat carrying dried flowers was a natural subject. Before I could position myself for a shot, he stopped, posed, and nodded for me to take his picture. His companion stood shyly to the right. I beckoned him to join and took this image. Ordinarily I am aware of the background distractions. The guy standing behind was actually trying to position himself into the picture as well. The moment passed and the background fellow introduced himself and told me he was from Yemen. I smiled and hurried to catch my kids.
My daughter is self conscious when I do ‘street photography.’ I just shoot from the hip and get the street scene without posing any subjects. Here, the kids feel that if I should encounter any objections, it could go badly for me. Perhaps?
But on the same walk through Al Balad, I had three different sets of experiences to the opposite. People saw that I had a camera and just posed for me. The kids still think I shouldn’t invite trouble.
Parenthetically and off topic, I misspelled … as Balud. Because of this the Google search engine lists my misspelled posts in the top few finds on the first page. Wow! Who’d have thunk that a mistake would get yo to the toop of a search page?
I told you and you have seen the jump series. We started guinea pig faces in Peru. They eat guinea pig. It’s poplar and served in the street festivals. I’ll post a picture someday. Meanwhile every once in a while we continue the tradition. At times it’s downright strange.This image was one of several. One image shows J leaning against my shoulder with her eyes closed. Ordinarily it would be a mistake image. But with her jet lag, she actually dozed as we took the image. I was tempted to prop her eyes open determined to get a shot or else.
David had me pursue the road to an interesting sculpture and we found Amara. It has an upstairs terrace for families only. There is a view of the ocean, which you can see at night. (Remember they don’t light the ocean?) We did a set of faces on the elevator. And when we brought J, she wouldn’t do it. I suspect that she has always know that we are strange. And I believe it is the responsibility of every father to embarrass their children.
There aren’t too many attractions in Jeddah. One, is the King Fahd fountain. The challenge, get a picture at night with the fountain and the kids. The real challenge is to get the kids together. Sometimes I’m surprised. The fill flash and the fountain balance one another. So you get everything you hoped for as long as you don’t set the bar too high.Then there’s the added trick… all three of us and the fountain … without Photoshop.
David and I found this restaurant on the first night when we toured the Corniche. It had a very large men’s section to which David commented, “If we eat in every restaurant once with J and once by ourselves, it will truly be two different experiences.” Go figure.
The first try with J did not work. We arrived at rush hour (10PM) and decided to try again. The kitchen is near the waiting area so I took the opportunity to look and get some images. The cooks didn’t mind.
J was embarrassed so she didn’t look. Bread, two kinds, are made in a brick oven and tandoori oven. Yes it was interesting enough, that when J finally came with us to see, she shot a video of the bread rising in the brick oven. It was a worthwhile effort and another good memory for me.Waiting!?Falafel is not on the menu. But with our pre meal tour of the kitchen, I knew we could order it and it was certainly good to eat it.
It’s not much to see on the outside. And parking in the area is a nightmare. But the crowds must have been onto something. We’d have gone twice if time and parking had permitted.The men’s section had a distinctively different vibe.
This trip we made several excursions to the Balad. We just wandered the narrow winding streets. The kids didn’t buy a thing. We just looked at the street life and commerce. J didn’t like me just shooting the camera from the hip. David inadvertently distracted her with his patter so I got to trail and shoot. We passed a lot of interesting merchants. One thing I found is that it helps to ask about strange products. We found that gum is sold in blocks. Silva told me it’s to flavor certain dishes in cooking. David and I just chewed the gum and found it to be enough to make you stop chewing gum. It had the consistency but the taste…ugh!
The last time my daughter (“J”) visited I had borrowed an abaya and she wore this in keeping with local (mandatory) custom. This time around she did not want to wander Riyadh the airport waiting in transit without proper attire. So I tried to order a garment online. Amazon, sorry, they had basically one company that had the majority of offerings that couldn’t be delivered in time. It seems that they are made to order.
Ah! Ebay! Yay!
I found one size small or maybe “S.” It’s all about the “S.”
Ordered, paid – Paypal, done, shipped. The delay was shipping just before Xmas. An email later and the seller revealed she worked for UPS and that there could be no slip ups. I was just a bit worried when tracking the package I saw it was held up for two days in NYC. Arrived – too small!! It came down to J’s knees, too short, made for a child… child’s small?
I put out inquires among my nursing colleagues. My clinic nurse, Jen, graciously volunteered to loan J an abaya and promised it would fit J’s 5’4” frame. Ha, what do I know she’s 5’6”. She got two inches taller when I wasn’t looking. Don’t laugh, I remember her birthday, I just didn’t notice she got taller.
David arrived before J and we toured the Balad (old city). Aha! An abaya store, how convenient. I was determined to have an abaya for J when she arrived. I looked through the racks of black garments. I asked for a small. I told the shopkeeper J was 5’4’. He handed me a garment. We looked at the label it was XL, too large. I picked out an ‘S’ and asked David to try it for size. He flatly refused. Darn! Well holding it up, it did look the right size.
A few days later J consented to try an abaya for size in another shop in Al Balad. And finally the mystery was solved! ‘S’ is for short. And ‘XL’ is for extra long. Women in Saudi Arabia are shorter than J. And XL turns out to be the right length. Extra long! Yes, it fits. We bargained for a better price. Yay! But… he didn’t have an XL in the style J wanted. No problem… the shopkeeper ran across to another vendor and showed up with an XL a minute later. Done!
Did I mention that I also bought J a wetsuit online in her stated dress size. The thing didn’t come up over her ankles, it was too small. No more buying women’s clothes, I have been duly informed and will comply.
David doesn’t mind if I mention his name. He got dive lessons and in three days he was open water qualified. He’s a good swimmer. And he is not one to panic underwater. My daughter was immediately protective of him because she worried that I was not quite reliable as an underwater coach. For some reason, they thought I would put him at risk for injury. I skied with them without limits; they survived. So? Ok, ok, I tend to be casual about general things and I only really sweat the details. It seems the kids know me too well.On the very first day of independent diving, I persuaded the kids to do a night dive. My daughter (no first names, please, so now it’s “J”) had done it before and didn’t care to do it. (She’s also afraid of the dark?) Somehow we were there at the dive resort right at sunset. I hadn’t intended to do a night dive. But jeezzz, we’re here… not my fault. It gets dark early here too. So she agreed and we went. Dave wanted to try; he was curious. It was chilly at dusk so the kids wanted to go early before dark until David mentioned that the big fish feed at dusk. It was plenty dark when we hit the water for what was agreed to be a 30 minute night dive.
And it was 60 minutes later when we emerged. The kids didn’t want to come up at 30 minutes! We had had a very wonderful experience. Every dive has one great moment. Ours came when J saw a hermit crab hauling its shell on a coral outcrop. We/she photographed the crab that I would never have seen except for J’s excellent vision.My memorable moment came earlier. I had briefed the kids on how to swim underwater and the safety involved in the dark. They both knew to stick close to me. It was more of an admonishment from J for me not to swim away from them. I led, they followed, and when I turned to be sure they were close behind they were there swimming arm and arm, flashlights swinging in all directions trying to avoid/scare off predators. They refused to get separated and so held one another close. Touching! My wife told me they weren’t getting along so well at Xmas. There’s nothing like a little terror to bring out true feelings.
The kids were recently here in Saudi Arabia. I have learned that tourists were allowed to visit until 2002 and then it became difficult to get any tourist visas. I thought that the millions who come to Mecca put such a strain on the system that it was well enough to not have tourists. That benefits me in keeping the Red Sea and diving to myself. Ha! The downside is that it was hell to arrange the papers for their visit.
I have been told not to mention my daughter in blog or name any more. Why? Her students have been looking her up and being directed to my blog. She finds this very weird. How? They look up her name and it shows up as my last and her first name, since I only mention her first name. But it’s easy to do the connection.
Activities – packed, memories… priceless. David complained that he saw some things only through the lens of a camera because I had recruited him to shoot while I was driving. It wasn’t that bad? He shot 200 (driving, probably more than 500) (iPhone unknown number), Julia shot 500 and I shot the rest. So do the math. Really! I shot up a whole lot of images. The kids were really pretty good sports about the whole thing. I did the math and it turns out that more than 33% of the images included the kids. I had two USB drives filled with all the images we shot and with a very quick pass edit of 700 images to present to them when they left. Thinking back on the film era this would have been impossible and even very costly to do.
When my daughter (remember, delete her name) was here last, I realized that there two types of shots. First there are the images of interest, like diving. And then there are the family memories. I made sure I shot more images of the kids diving, and touring. In the end these are the important images of life and legacy. I hope they will have had good memories of the times we spent together and that the images I took will help remind them of how much I cared. Meanwhile they spent a lot of time admonishing me for my eating habits and scary driving. While my wife was not here, it was as though she was watching with disapproval through the kids nagging. So I promise to be good for all concerned.
I was diving with another experienced diver. It was a treat as he was graciously pointing out things underwater. He suddenly pointed toward the surface and I thought the third member of our group had made and emergency surface maneuver. No, there was what appeared to be a group of bubbles approaching. And as they came closer this was a shocker. It was a school of fish on a mission. They were headed somewhere and with a purpose. There were no predators in sight. The school had its mouth open. They looked prehistoric and dangerous except that they paid the divers (including me) no mind. I just started clicking away as fast as the camera would recycle. With those jaws open they were quite a sight.I am looking through my collected images and it appears that this is the same fish when it is not so ferocious looking. Same tail and it looks so docile….not.