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Clarity – It’s an illusion

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Here’s a neat trick. And even more so, it’s a neat trick to illustrate this illusion. A picture is worth a thousand words. Succinctly, look at picture and one and two. Yes, do a double take. The facing wall is wood art. Brilliant! 3D from 2D. I think I got it illustrated well. And you still don’t get it? Look. Look. Again. Ah!

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Waba – Mecca

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On the road to Taif (remember the field trip?) you have to go around Mecca. No non Muslims may enter Mecca. (That would be me.) And the road splits and the sign says, “All non Muslims, exit here.” The exit is on the right and I was in the inside lane on the left. I missed the exit. I did not miss the sign. David accused me of deliberately breaking the law. Honest…not me. He hunkered down in the passenger seat and pulled his collar up over his ears. What? “I’m trying to look Muslim dad…”

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This was the second try on the second day of our attempting to visit Waba. It’s a crater somewhere to the north and east of Jeddah. It’s inland. I ddi not have an iPhone and no GPS map. We had a computer with maps. But unfortunately, the roads are extremely poorly marked. There were missing roads and then there were roads where the map showed none. Yes, we spent two days wandering. But! We got there! It’s a nice crater. It’s a nice picture. And then we had to turn right around. David had a plane to catch home. And we were out of time. Yup, arrive, take a picture, walk five minutes, hop back in the car, and speed home. Now I have an iPhone. I’m not saying I’ll go back. I just have an iPhone now. Oh! Yes, I missed the exit on the way back too… it was dark.

Mosque – Sunset

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Did I mention Saudi Arabia is Muslim? And they do not allow any other religious symbols to be displayed. No cross or bible. They are confiscated. And the censors….well I was on Saudi Airlines and a scene was edited with blurred bubbles. What? It was a cemetery. And there were crosses. And all the tombstones were blurred out. Geez. Actually it’s amusing to watch censored movies. You see there is considerable latitude for the particular censor and the movie he blurred. Some will blur a woman’s bare neck. I’m not talking cleavage. Anyway, there is hardly a block where you don’t see a local mosque. My hospital has one built in and available on the ground floor. Hey! Catholic hospitals have chapels. And the minarets are striking and picturesque.

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And sunsets are spectacular. A water treatment plant is nearby spewing lots of pollution. My partner always said sunset in Bayonne was spectacular because of the pollution…  The minarets all have speakers that blare out prayers at prayer time. Five times a day starting at dawn, they pray. Well, not everyone prays each and every time. But there is plenty of call and plenty of opportunity.

I Save The Day

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Visiting Taif. You drive up mountain roads. And it seems the bus was slow. And there is a zoo which was on the list of activities and places to visit. I had a camel encounter. Friendly, I’ve heard they can be temperamental. But the zoo camel was friendly. The elephants sprayed water at you. Fortunately, I watched as a couple nurses were set up and drenched. Those elephants are smart.

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The group but their banner across the front of the bus. Nice touch. About 30 minutes later the bus overheated. The driver stopped, pulled his cellphone, and called the hospital for help. No A/C, it was getting hot on the bus! Light bulb! Yeah, you guessed. That darn banner cut off air flow to the engine. We removed it and were on our way in 10 minutes. Saved! Yes, I did save the day on that one. Did I tell you I know a little bit about lots of things…

Field Trip

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I was fortunate to be a favorite with the nurses. I’m nice to them. They are nice back. It makes life so much easier. I learned to be nice and polite as an intern. Nurses, otherwise, could make life hell. When I rotated onto my pediatric neurosurgery rotation the night nurses were nice enough to have a going away party for me. They didn’t wake me for the party. They wanted to let me sleep. Imagine that!

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In Jeddah the nurses invited me on a field trip. A few husbands… and me – they insisted I ride in the front of the bus. So far this is my only field trip though they threaten to organize another. For sure they have a sense of humor. And they like to live large.

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One nurse was ecstatic to ride a camel. “It was something I promised myself before the age of thirty.” My kids rode a camel in the Bronx Zoo when they were small. So far I’m waiting for my first ride…not.

Camels

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One thing I wanted to see upon arrival was camels. It’s the desert! But it’s the city where I am. Three million people – more – it’s a freakin’ city! Camels are not wandering the streets. When I first visited there was a road outside of town where Bedouins camped and offered up fresh camel milk for sale. Passing drivers would get the product off the hoof and drink it straight away. Healthy? Some cautioned me against it. And, I’m not a fan of warm milk… After that, the powers that be shooed them away and I never came across the sellers again. Out in the country, faraway from the city, out in the desert, my kids and I came upon camels on the hoof.

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Yes that spot beneath is not welcoming us. And the camels were hobbled. Though they could not wander far, they were free to graze. Mostly camels are a novel sight enough that local city people crowd around to photograph them when someone brought them around the old city. Think, cows wandering down Fifth Avenue in New York City. Nope. There would be a lot of curiosity. No cows. The law says milk comes in a plastic container pasteurized and homogenized. And cold with a sell by date!

Nature

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I dive to see the fish (in the sea). I take pictures. Hey! It’s what I do for fun now. Some people like watching paint dry. I don’t watch golf. I played tennis. They told me there are golf courses in Jeddah. Imagine that?! Too hot!

The flip side – go to a fish market and they have displays with untold numbers of squid and octopus. It’s a very big part of the seven fishes feast at Christmas for Italian Americans. I heard about this for years from Ginny.

I will insert an aside – non sequitur – but sort of related. When I was a kid, my dad came home with a live carp. How? He, like many Chinese, love fresh fish. How? He brought it home from the market in paper and it was still alive. How? He put it into the bathtub and it swam. Ah! No more baths for me…ever! I tell you, that was exactly my thought process in that moment. A bit later he slaughtered that fish. Yes, he cut off its head and I saw blood and the tail flopping. I was changed forever. And that memory sits burning brightly. I also realized that baths would resume shortly after.

When I learned to dive, I quickly found out that seeing octopi is rare. They do not congregate. They are very shy and solitary. Which translates – they are hard to see and harder to photograph – if you see them in the first place.

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Ah! I was early to the resort. I was meeting some other divers. There are tourists in the water. And! Whoa! One caught an octopus bare handed. I moved in for a photograph. No problem. Then… he strangled it in his bare hands! It turned all colors and tried to camouflage itself till it died and reverted to plain brown. The killer left it in the Styrofoam cooler with life juices on the bottom while he sought other prey.

Yeah, I was stunned. If I had to slaughter my own cow, for sure I’d be a vegetarian… It was pretty graphic to watch him kill dinner in front of me.

Fish – Underwater

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Ah! No secret! And you figured this was coming. An excuse to post dive shots! Free divers – their name – it means no scuba. Scuba – self-contained underwater apparatus – you knew that, right? I started very basic. I have a good camera. Nope! It’s not going underwater. It would break my heart to wreck it with saltwater. Be sure that at some point every camera has some saltwater.

It’s not good. I have personally fried a couple cameras before I learned to dive. I have a healthy respect for watertight. It’s very hard to do. And it’s easy. I see other divers casually treat their stuff. And I watched a poor guy fry his iPhone. Yup, dead. It was pretty funny watching him try to revive it. No, rice did not work.

It was about as funny as watching my kids when they each respectively dropped their cellphone into the toilet. Now ask yourself, how was it so, that I was there when it happened to each of them at different times? Yup. Timing! There’s a story. And so I bought insurance for each phone. And it cost ?$99. And I used it once. Yes, one kids had another water accident. And I denied it fell in water. And after the accounting, it was break even. The cost of insurance was the same as the phone.

That happened with my last Volvo. I got the extended warranty. $1500. And wouldn’t you know it. Nada! Till… the alternator went. Interesting. The car died just outside a McD’s in Maine. And wouldn’t you know it! There was a Sears down the block. Towed – AAA – first time I used that insurance too. But no, it was the alternator. New battery died at the intersection a few days later. The new alternator cost $1500 – break even. No, I do not buy extended warranty any more.

So, the free divers wear camo – and they are elegant looking. The purpose is to dive to reach depth on one breath and surface again. Not too interesting a process, but they call it fun. Long fins, a small weight belt, a snorkel. They hang weights off a rope and go up and down. I’m good in my gear and tank and one hour ticket to see the fishies.

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There are things to see! One instructor kindly pointed into the blue. A school of fish approached. If it is the first time to see this, you should be duly impressed. It is a nightmare. With open mouths, it looks like they are on the hunt and you are the meal in their sights. Yeah! They swam around us. And then left. I got a few shots. The behavior? Beats the heck out of me. I was there. I have seen it again. I see these fish all the time when they are not exhibiting this behavior. But once in a while they school and swim with their mouths open. And it is impressive. Really! You don’t see this every day. And yes, I’m still impressed when they do this. Fierce! If you can see, they just have their mouths open. The gills are spread wide. There’s nothing. It’s the classic “Bark worse than your bite!” I’m suitably impressed – I told you, right?

Diving

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The first new thing I learned upon arrival in Jeddah was to learn to scuba dive. Yes! Mike Neslon – Lloyd Bridges – Sea Hunt! – my childhood – a fantasy in reach of fulfillment. The process is like anything else. They teach you the basics. A dive in the pool. And then the Red Sea.

Then it’s mileage – time in the water. The more time, the more experience, and thusly the more fun follows. It’s easy! Not so! As I have learned, things that I believe are simple are a bit more complex. I have seen so many others take lessons and then fall off. They don’t dive much anymore. I’ve found lots of people who are afraid of night diving – afraid of the dark. I am too, to the degree that I faced my fear and got past it. It was exhilarating. And itis something I look forward to doing.

The knife and BCD are new in these pictures. No longer. I think I passed 350 dives a while ago. The knife is lost at the bottom of the sea. It pulled free. I tend to scrape the coral a bit when I dive chasing the fishies. The knife is not to fight underwater. It is hardly enough to defend yourself. And sharks move way faster than I could ever. No! It’s for cutting yourself free. Right, you knew that? The hat is old. It’s my daughter’s college. I don’t have a college hat. But I paid for this one, so it’s mine – if you understand my drift. Someone else recently has tried to co-opt it. It’s old and been through lots of sweat at college rugby matches. But….well… I guess it’s time to break in a new one….

New Friends

The hardest thing about leaving anywhere is the friends you leave behind. And there is a certain familiarity to sameness. Folks don’t want to break away from the familiar. Would that be a contributing factor to mid-life crisis… fast car, girlfriend, new wife…? I grew up in a lot of different places. I’ve worked in a lot of places. Some things are constant – my profession and specialty. But otherwise, I have moved among groups and things with relative aplomb. No! I do not like to learn new operations. But learn we must. Or retire. It works that way. Watch. Observe. Shake your head. I watched my senior partner who could no longer operate. He’d failed to learn new tricks. It forces you to depend upon others or… retire. I promised myself never to be so. Fortunately, folks are friendly enough wherever you go. Characters! For sure! They are not family. They are friends. So I made some when I arrived.

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Wissam , neurologist, sometimes scuba diver, with a poor sense of direction – in the sea. He once tried to Sudan. I pulled him back, pointed him correctly, and told him it would have been a very long swim…

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Rida, ophthalmologist, a man with muscles who could do delicate eye surgery, someone better with 10-0 suture than me – by far!

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And Nasser, GS – general surgeon, no – he does not dress like this for the OR. But the man undeniably has style.

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Farid, orthopedic surgery – are you seeing a pattern here? Farid is the closest buddy I have here. Curiously, I’m older than all of them. See that? I apologize to him for this picture. Things will tie in eventually… He got me to learn scuba diving. And then we went on a boat trip. He’s very gracious. Shhh.. don’t tell him. He gets sea sick and actually hates boats. To be sure he gave me some pills for sea sickness. Yes, I toss my cookies too. Actually the secret is that when the boat stops, the up and down immediately makes you hurl. Got it? Laughing yet. It’s hard when you are green! What Farid neglected to say, was that he took six pills. We literally had to push him over the side to dive when the time came. He did not remember too much about the diving that day. That would put him high on my friend list – to take me – when he’d rather not. Yes, you make friends. Life is about change. It sometimes feels like jumping from the fire from the frying pan. But on the other side, the experience is exhilarating. One go around, life is one way. I’m thinking I’d like to have been in new situations and recall the stories with fondness.

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