I’m still diving. The water is still in the 80’s. For those of you in the snow and sleet of winter…my regrets. This image was taken during a night dive. The shrimp is about the size of your thumbnail. It’s small! And it’s shy! The tip I got was from master photographer who said they were there to begin with. You look under the coral and look for something reflecting back your flashlight beam. Once you see two glowing eyes, shove your camera in there and shoot. The shrimp are not hanging around to get their picture taken. They move. And you can’t see to shoot because you have your hand under a coral to get the camera close enough for a decent magnified exposure. You are really just in a ‘shoot and pray’ mode. The photographers with the big rig – macro domes, wide-angle lenses, and articulated armed flashes – probably have a better percentage of success. But as always the trick is to find these guys first. I have several images and someday I’ll get a better one. If you look closely you can see the eyes and six legs plus two long antennae. The creature is not even enough to make a mouthful.
It constantly amazes me how well the camera processor/sensor can analyze a scene and get a decent exposure. Basically I’m lazy. I don’t want to be twirling a lot of dials and adjusting shutter, ISO, and aperture. So the camera does the work and I compose and try to crop in camera as the image is taken. You could never do this with film. And you never had a chance to make instant corrections. Immediate feedback has made things so much easier. I will also admit that I am not shooting raw.
I’m saddled with slow shutter speed, image stabilization, high ISO, and a cropped image. You can see the movement blur. All in all I consider this a satisfactory grab shot. The beauty of auto focus is that you really do just point and shoot. In truth this is what I have come to know as street photography. I’d rather not tangle with folks who don’t want their picture taken. So I just shoot from the hip. This opens up a whole discussion on whether it is proper to just shoot like this. It is in fact permissible in a public space. My kids would rather that I didn’t do this and risk harm to myself. I’m just discrete and haven’t run into any problems so far. Hey, he was a cute kid.
They turned on the fountain late today. It is a worthy addition to the landscape scene. If you look carefully up and to the left of the plume, there is a small white dot. It’s the evening star. Which one I do not know. The internet does not identify it reliably. No, it’s not an artifact or dust. And once again the camera sensor was able to expose for this and keep the scene exposed evenly. Film could never have done this for me. Oh, and if you get a passing bird into your shot, it’s an added bonus.
There aren’t too many landmarks here in Jeddah. The fountain has a listing. It’s about one of five. They are building the world’s tallest flagpole nearby. Currently this has caused major traffic slow downs because the traffic circle is inconveniently located. In an area without a really tall building around there is also a plan to erect the tallest building. I can hardly wait.
There is a uniform dress code. Women must always wear an abaya in public. And that abaya shall be black. For the most part men wear white. For kids anything goes. All I keep thinking about is how Julia melted when she wore her abaya while visiting me in March. She literally melted inside the black (and she’s no witch). The weather is a lot better now. It’s almost pleasant in the evening. The downside is that the sunset is early and soon it will be dark at 5PM just like home.
I have to get a new wallet. Mine smells from all the perfume and cologne. It gets on the money and my wallet and even my scrubs have a scent. You pretty much have to wear something to cover the scent of wearing a black abaya or long sleeve thobe in 100 degree weather and no where to hide. I’d just like to have my wallet not be scented when I get back to NY. Most natives consider me barbaric for declining any supplemental scent.
I have been taking multiple images and stitching them together. It’s never quite perfect and it’s time consuming. So I cheated here. I took a single wideangle shot and cropped it down. You lose lots of information and I won’t get to blow it up to mega size. Since I mainly planned to post the image to the internet, this has not presented a major problem. The camera had a setting for sunset but this scene option was dropped from the G11 to G12. Secret: just run up the saturation and voila. It’s what the camera’s processor does to ‘pop’ the sunset.
I have to say that the little point and shoot outdoes my big DSLR in low light. You really can see the fast lens make a difference. The Canon S1000 has an f2.0 lens. And that darned lens is sharp. I took out the Canon G12 and did a comparison shoot. The evening sunset night shoot got me some nice shots of the mosque. I was going for a sunset image with the blazing sun setting just behind the mosque. My only problem is that the setting sun has moved on the horizon with the change of seasons. I’m taking my shot now and not waiting until next year. I got a very decent handheld night shot. There’s image stabilization. After all my problems with underwater exposure and white balance, it was a pleasure to let the camera decide for itself this time.
This coffee urn is the style here in Jeddah. It is old style and still in use. They served me with this type on the plane from JFK. I purchased an old one in an antique store. I was passing a traffic circle and stuck in traffic. I happened to see this sculpture. And the extra bonus was the full moon and clouds. These point and shoot cameras are so darned smart. It’s a more interesting sculpture than a stacked set of microwaves. But still….
There’s a formula that they seem to follow. There is usually a super grocery store. There’s a food court. There is entertainment consisting of amusement rides and video games. What I don’t get is that they are so large it really is ideal to exercise in a climate controlled environment. Instead people visit the food court and gain weight.
I might as well write about the other deep dish pizza in town. So far I’ve only seen one branch. It is run by Filipinos, what else. They sing happy birthday very loud. It’s decorated like any other in the US. The pie is about the same. You have the Numero Uno Supreme because that’s why you came. They put a head on your iced tea. It’s doesn’t matter. I don’t drink beer.
I may have written about Pizza Hut before. Pardon me. I am photographing restaurant food lately if I’m not shooting the fishies. I have to say that I was never ever in a Pizza Hut while in the USA. So it is no small measure to say how desperate one can become if you need to choose eating establishments by what is within walking distance. Like everywhere else, it’s made by Filipinos here. And it might surprise you to know that many pizzerias in the NY are now run by Albanians. I know, but that’s what someone told me. Deep dish pizza is better in Chicago and even in Uno’s but ‘any port in a storm’ so they say. Yup, by golly! That’s a glass of Mountain Dew… might as well go all in.
Most folks like to eat around midnight. And maybe that has contributed to the enormous obesity problem. Anyway the dumplings look like NY but they are definitely not! As I said recently, sizzling anything is reasonably decent. Here it’s chicken.
There’s a lot to learn here. First it is against the rules to show faces. So it is routine to have missing faces in advertisements. This is all well and good until a patient arrives in the clinic with a completely veiled face or at most the eyes showing. Then they ask me if I remember them. It would not be polite to laugh. But seriously…..!
Behind closed doors, high walls, and covered windows someone is pretty racy. Ah? Remember Victorian England? One more comment – no one is as thin as the display models. When the average BMI is way over 30….
And men were this style like a suit. If you look there are choices in color. But 95% or more are all wearing white. So it is unusual for me to notice there’s any color choice.
Right there! It says ‘Happy Thanksgiving – photobackstory.’ I am absent from Thanksgiving holiday in NY once again. Farid’s kids are off today. They go to the American International School. So naturally they have off for the holiday. He graciously suggested we have dinner. He was reminded of that quintessential menu item – “Gravy.” Well, that’s true but it does need a turkey to go with it. Where to eat? I started a web search for a restaurant in Jeddah where we could go. I’d also pay for dinner if I could get the bill first. Nonetheless, there are no viable suggestions. I tried the American junk food places – McD, Burger King, of course not; Fuddruckers, no way; Friday’s, Tuesday’s, not a thing on their website or anywhere else about Jeddah. No American chain hotels. To be honest until Farid suggested, I was just going to have a very quiet dinner out. I was going to drag my iPad along and read a digital book and look at the many photographs of the fishies I have shot. We’ll dive in the Red Sea tomorrow, of course.
There! Right there on my search page screen capture. It’s even on the first page! There’s a reference to my blog post last Thanksgiving. It’s irrelevant to my search. But the tags and key words put me on the first page of the search engine. That is too cool! It also means there is no where you can hide. (Note to myself: “self, don’t put anything into your blog that you would be embarrassed if your mother should read it.”) … which means that no one will be seeing anything about the inside workings of the world of neurosurgery anytime soon. It would prove way too politically incorrect. I have no particular desire to be the nail that gets hammered. Happy Thanksgiving again to one and all for whom this is a significant day (which excludes most of the rest of the world). …For the historical record, I had dinner with Farid and Silva, and the kids. They both (the kids) passed out by the end of dinner. We ate after 9PM in an Italian restaurant. It was quite a find. I have been up and down this boulevard countless times and never looked up to see a restaurant on the 4th floor with an outdoor balcony (smoking). The menu had hamburger, and spring rolls. I had veal scaloppine – after all it’s Italian. It was breaded, deep fried, and very tender. It wasn’t Turkey (Friday’s or Chinese), but it was very flavorful and enjoyable. I fought once again but lost out in paying. It wasn’t family; it was close friends and that’s a wonderful thing too.
I hadn’t intended to do much for Thanksgiving. It’s not a holiday here. But the market had some chestnuts (from China). I kept remembering the tainted milk. All the produce is labeled with its country of origin. I got an Egyptian pomegranate and bananas from the Philippines.
Everyone I speak with has a different way to do it. I’ve used a microwave, boiling hot water, and oven roasting. I went with roasting. As usual there were a bunch of molded spoiled nuts. There’s nothing you can do, it’s built into the process. I had a pumpkin that was a chance spontaneous purchase a couple weeks ago.
So I made a passable soup. It reminded me of the soup my daughter took over a few years ago. She took the recipe my wife used in the Silver Palate cookbook. Anyway it was a good soup. I had some fresh bread, cheese, and corn fritters. It reminds me that sliced white bread is sold in the market. But it is the flat breads and all the other variations, which make bread so much fun. There is focaccia, Egyptian, Ethiopian, and you name it. I never see the same thing twice. The price can be as low as 25 cents. It turns out that this is a real bargain. You just have to remember not to indulge too vigorously.
I like to multitask while cooking. So I was roasting peanuts as well. The have loads of beans, grains, and nuts available in the market. I made all this stuff weeks ago and enjoyed it thoroughly. For Thanksgiving I’ll phone home and then avoid turkey sandwiches.
It’s a decent restaurant – Chinese of course. And it’s part of an international chain. They have branches in Lebanon. (I didn’t think they were that good.)Lately they give you roasted cashew nuts and raw carrots. A tart flavored tea is also complimentary. There’s a flower on the table.
The duck roll is really Peking Duck style. I’ve given up on soup because it’s way too starchy. For main courses, I’ve discovered that no one does too much to kill ‘sizzling’ whatever. So you are safe with beef or chicken. Otherwise the sauces can really kill a dish.
When I am able to drive around, I am rewarded with some nice sunsets. This is near the Corniche (beach). The pollution from the nearby desalinization plants gives a wonderful evening hue. I apologize for the light poles. I was just passing and pulled over to the side, rolled down the window, and shot as cars were passing me.
This restaurant would otherwise be the equivalent of a Brazilian churrascaria. Basically it’s the same setup – salad followed by grilled meat carved from the skewer at the table. You eat till you drop. Our nurses eat like birds so that the consumption of large quantities of meat is lost on them. I had a great time. It was a meal sponsored by one of the drug companies – a touchy subject these days. And the representative was stuck in traffic so she arrived for dessert. Me, I was just along for the ride. I was told to show up and I did. One thing that our nurses enjoy is taking group pictures. So we did.
While Farid and his wife were away, their kids were with Grandma. As an act of good will I took the kids to the amusement park. They have a setup in many of the big malls here. This mall actually had an ice skating rink. Nicholas was excited to skate until we got on line and then he claimed he didn’t want to do it. No amount of cajoling could get him to put on a pair of skates. He’d been skating before but I think he just got a little nervous and scared. Ok. But which rides did the kids want to do. Kelly is younger by about two years. The rides she liked (merry go round) were too young for Nicholas and he told me so. I got Kelly on some rides too young for her but she was fine. Kelly made me ride on one with her that left me queasy and dizzy. Oh great! Then I made Nicholas go on a ride with Kelly that tilted, swayed and swung. He didn’t like it but he put up with it. Ah! It’s so touching to see kids grow up and outgrow things in such a hurry.This ride is a bit childish, but it was no problem.
I was driving Farid’s car for a few days while he was away. My nurses have been pretty wonderful in making life a bit easier. So I took them on a field trip as a way of thanking them. Jen runs my clinic. The other Jen is my OR nurse. They are both left handed like me. Anna joined Jen and is not left handed. We went over to the Corniche (beach) and caught the sunset – not too spectacular this particular night. Then we ate in a Chinese restaurant. Hey! I gave them a choice and this is where we ended up. Finally there was a late night shuffle through the Balud – the old city. We ended in a Body Shop – just like the USA – where I stood outside (family only- female). What I did not know was that it is illegal to be out with a woman not your relative. Come to think of it I have been single with other families. But anyway, I read somewhere that it is forbidden to be out with single women, morality and all that. So here I was with three (women) and in trouble again without realizing it.
This reminds me of another way to get into trouble around here. English is really a second language for everyone else. Most of the MD’s are Arabic speaking. Our nurses are mostly Filipino except for batch of new Chinese nurses recruited by the last nursing administrator. One day it was dim in the OR. One of the spotlights we use had a missing bulb. I asked for a candle. (It’s a joke!) Usually the nurses ignore me. Once in a while they pause and actually look to see if I’m serious. I never get a candle. (To be honest I’m old and I need more light to see. – Another joke.) On this particular day the new Chinese nurse took exception to my request for a candle. What did I say? She just stopped talking to me. No, I don’t speak Chinese. What?! Well she told Jen, my regular nurse, I had just insulted/embarrassed her asking for a condom. Huh!?!? It doesn’t sound the same and in the context of the OR I suppose a condom or a candle were both strange requests. I don’t know what to do. They did not fix the lights in any case. Honest! I didn’t make this up and I certainly didn’t intend to insult anyone. At the end of the evening out, the ladies bought bananas – 3kg for 10 SAR about $2.50 – that’s cheap.
They give you a complimentary bowl of chips and salsa. Otherwise you see here a brisket taco. It’s not really Mexican. But it says on the border, just not which border. Dessert is absolutely decadent. It’s a puff pastry kind of dough fritter that comes with a dipping chocolate sauce. I admit I had it once. The second time I took most of it home and finished it over several sittings. And I have not ordered it since then because I know my heart would not tolerate the cholesterol load.
Everyone talks about the rain in Jeddah that happened about three years ago. It nearly drowned the city. Cars were floating down the street! It’s was an event here that was comparable to a big NYC blizzard that can close down the entire city for a day or so.
So it rained on 11/10/2013 for about three hours. It was a light rain that did not require the windshield wipers constantly but just enough moisture to need them run on very intermittent. It was enough to cover all the cars in rain dust and to wet the street enough to throw up a mixture of dirt into your car. The result was complete paralysis of traffic. No one could move.
The cars were all in gridlock. The American Embassy in Jeddah closed down. You would almost think that this was comical, but everyone seemed so seriously stressed out by this light rain. It seems that the last time around there was no system in place to siphon off rainwater. Really! This time no one knows if they actually fixed the system. I’ve seen the youtube video with cars floating down the street so I imagine that has got some folks mighty nervous.
My neighbor’s car drowned and he walked home in chest deep water. Really! The reason for all this mess is that there is no infrastructure to take care of rainwater. The last government officials took the money for the public works and ran. If it rains twice in the last year and a half that I’ve been here, it’s a safe bet you’ll be long gone a long time before they catch up to you.
I was fortunately invited to attend a Saudi banquet in honor of two physician administrators one coming and the other going. Here are some observations. The invitation was for evening dinner. This means come over after the last prayer – about 9PM. You sit in areas cooled by outdoor fans.
Once you are seated there’s not too much movement and social mingling. No women – not even the female medical colleagues. And if there were women, they would have to mingle in a separate area. The pool setting with seating all around. And it was hot so you needed the fans.
You sit and talk with the fellow next to you and you’re out of luck if it’s someone who’s not conversational. This polite conversation goes on for about 2½ hours. Everyone who arrives after you comes around and shakes hands and then drifts off to sit in an empty spot. I suppose the next time I will know this and pick my partner a bit more carefully. And I think that I will make it a point to move around anyway. Little cans of soda and a bottle of water at each place setting. There were a few cans of diet Coke. No alcohol allowed.
Dinner was buffet style but we changed seats to a formal table setting. Everyone ate quickly like they were famished. I certainly was hungry since I didn’t know dinner would be served at nearly midnight. After 30 minutes everyone started to say goodbye and quickly departed. I am told this is the style. So my observations are based on this experience and the questions I asked afterwards.The buffet line loaded with too many interesting choices.
….of course I ate too much.