It was a weekend from hell. It started well. I met a group of divers whom I knew and was welcomed to dive with them. After the second dive I came out of the water to find my dive bag gone. My work card, driver’s license, car keys, batteries, cell phones including my iPhone, and underwater flashlights were all gone with the bag. Another diver in our group lost a bag with his clothes. The disaster was the work card and car keys. We had set up our gear next to another dive group. They overlapped our dives and when we came out this group was long gone. No one had paid particular attention to them and we did not know any of their group’s names.
An intense hour of investigation got us the name of the dive instructor and the name of one of the group. We began to make calls. Of course we called my cellphone to see who might answer. And no, I did not have my iPhone finder app and location was off to preserve the battery. We got hold of the instructor. His phone was initially off. He did not find any bags. We urged him to call his group of students. He did so but it sounded reluctant. About five hours later and with three handoffs and plausible deniability I finally received my bag. I was told no one had opened it. But it was obvious that the zippers had all been resealed inside. And my bag with all the salt stains was now clean again.
All my stuff was present and accounted. Horray! We simply made lemonade out of the lemons and went ahead and did a night dive. In another post you will see a cuttlefish from that dive.
My woe was not over. My camera immediately malfunctioned at the start of the night dive. The flash would not fire. In the dark ocean water this is a serious handicap. I switched over to ambient light of the flashlights we were using. White balanced and my camera was not too bad although exposure and shutter speed bedeviled me. I got some decent shots. When I got home I discovered the cause was related to a water leak in the camera housing. The next morning the flash functioned flawlessly.
That day I took the camera into the water again and it is still leaking. It leaked only a few tiny drops but it is definitely not watertight. I have resealed the O rings with the hope that this will work.
Having been thoroughly rattled about losing my bag and ID, I was not quite right in my head when I packed to leave after the night dive. I was packing up next to a couple of instructors – husband and wife – whom I knew. In the confusion I did not pack my regulator. That would be the yellow hose equipment in the picture. It was either in the dive shop or with this couple. The next day the dive shop did not have my regulator set aside. They had about 200 regulators hanging up and each one looks pretty much the same as the other. No dice, not there, and then I figured my friends had it.
But if it was with other rental gear then I worried they would return their students’ stuff without noticing my gear. I did not have a phone number. The instructor was a friend to one of my patient’s father, another diver. It’s a small world. Unfortunately the father was in Jordan. More calls went back and forth and I was about to give up seeing my gear again. Then, out of the blue, I received a call from my clinic nurse. Bless her, she was protecting me from being bothered. She told me someone had arrived to speak to me. It was Khalid, my friend, who inquired whether I would like to have my regulator back. Oh joy! He had found it among his gear and deduced we had mixed our stuff. He kindly brought it to the hospital and I am reunited with my gear again.
Now to find out if my camera housing is repaired and will not leak. Cross fingers and keep thinking positive thoughts. So far so good. As bad as it all went, I am essentially back where I began. It was as I would say making some easy dives the hard way. Oh! I did see some pretty nice fish when I was able to dive.
Why? I smile and ask myself why. After months and months, the traffic circle has the world’s tallest flag pole. This is added to the world’s tallest fountain which is only minutes away. Yup, the internet proclaims King Fahd fountain as the tallest. Now I suppose this is the world’s tallest flag pole. There is access hatch at the base and guards are present 24/7 to be sure no one climbs to the top and jumps to set some other sort of record. I wondered about the flag too. It needs to be light enough so the breeze will catch it, in case anyone would make crude remarks about how limply it hung. And on the day the flag was raised, Saudi National Day, I was absent from the country. A friend told me that it produced a record traffic jam as people simply stopped their cars to see it. This traffic circle is in the middle of some major crossing highways. Even on a good day traffic slows around it. You can be sure this traffic circle will not be changed ever again to allow for better traffic flow. Yes, it all works. Every time I pass it now, I wonder.
Someone has told me the pole is 271 meters tall and the flag is 500kg and half the size of a football field in area. Yup. Big deal.
By agreement I refer to Jules by the nickname her friends use. Too many of her students stalked her name searching the web. She thought it was weird. I guess I agree. But here we are again, another birthday. She always had a celebration that began at the end of the school year with her classmates. This was well before August. Then, the excuse was everyone would be on summer vacation. Then, we were on vacation, the Tyler Place. This called for a second celebration, cake, party, the whole works. And then there was the extended family of cousins, and grandparents at home. And on her actual birthday we had a family celebration. So it became a summer long party. For a kid who seemed deprived because of her August birthday, Jules would be about 100 by now if each party counted. And for the birthday wish, I wish her happiness. I think she is. Happy birthday kid.
Ghosts, gliding majestically along blithely oblivious to a couple of divers, Farid figured that if we were deep we might see them again. Typically he pointed too late for me to get an image of the first one that practically swam into my face. You can’t speak underwater so his strategy was lost as I followed him to 140 feet. We had just completed our rescue diver certification I was idly wondering if his brain was addled from the depth. Nitrogen narcosis is insidious. He pointed and even with max effort I was not going to get close to this trio. So the silhouette had to suffice until I get a better opportunity. Majestic.
Rain or shine – well it never rains…but the men’s dominos game goes on whether or not there’s a crowd. The guys are tolerant. People were crowded all about them snapping pictures. I mean the crowd was in their space! The game was on and no matter the crowd, it was proceeding. Just one table and one game…. The last time I saw this group, it was on an evening tour of the Balad. The tourists crowded and shot images. The men ignored them and played on.
Plop! Yes bring a rug and plop down in any open space. No one seems shy about bringing along a rug and just claiming a spot in the middle of everything. I can’t say that it appears comfortable. Selfies in the background!? It’s midnight and joint is hoppin’! I’d ordinarily think a nice soft patch of grass would do. But there ‘s no grass in sight. Folks will set up in the most unlikely and most uncomfortable looking locations. And despite the hour, no one appears ready for bed.
My guide told me that there were typical drinks that were served at Ramadan. These things create the familiar memory of a holiday as eggnog would remind me of Christmas. The dark purple drink is served everywhere. The origin or berry is unclear to me. The taste is distinctive. The other drink is newer and is seen together. But it is the purple stuff….has an odd distinctive flavor. It is sweet without citrus tartness. Initially I did not like it but it becomes an acquired taste. It was new for me but is typically served where ever I go. Most vendors served it up from plain plastic containers. Here at least the display had some style and was worth sharing the image. Otherwise for the rest of the year I don’t see this drink.
More street photography – I got a second chance. Well okay. This time I wasn’t under pressure. If I got a shot or not, there was already one in my archive. So now the goal is to get a better one. Smile, get eye contact, and shoot.
Someone I know, knows all about second chances. This really isn’t. You have already seen two shots on a recent post. This time with nothing to lose, I relaxed, smiled at the kid, made eye contact, and got him to engage with my camera. Instead of a distracted look, I got a smile. Like many of my street photography subjects, this kid will grow up. But for this instance I have preserved his youth forever.
The last time I made the mistake of coming at 7PM. The action I spoke about starts after the last prayer. So this is the crowd milling about at midnight. This is a one-way thoroughfare. Are you kidding? Nope, it’s one way. I got caught about half way along and had to walk to the end twice. Pain! No one sleeps during Ramadan. They stay up until 4AM, then try to sleep all day to minimize the time of fasting and hunger. I’m saying that families and young kids are all up and active at this hour. If the routine change has affected me so, it must be hell on little kids. Once a year for 30 days…..
My guide told me that this is typical food served at Ramadan. It is liver she said. Diced liver and mixed vegetables are added to a hot grill. The savory smell beckons. It seems this is the specialty of the house and at every table multiple orders were being eagerly shared. No one seemed to mind me taking images, so I did.