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.
Is it really so? There are some extremes that I just can’t fathom. At the airport J says there are separate entrances through the gate for men and women. This would be Saudi Arabia because it ain’t so in NYC, JFK.
We were in a marina north of Jeddah and here it is, a sign of the times. Huh? To go out you step through separate gates. I just don’t get it. Families walk together and singles, that would be me, are allowed to walk anywhere public. Imagine a market in which there was a men’s section. Perhaps we should have exclusive hospitals for men and women staffed by same sexes. It just doesn’t make and sense some days. Ha ha, it’s a joke right?
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.
Online the name is spelled Al Wahbah. At the site it’s spelled Al Waba. I surmise it’s phonetic differences. But no matter how you pronounce it there’s not much chance you’ll get good directions. We kept missing turns and ending up on the wrong roads. There were roads that were not on the map. Google earth can’t save you. There were cell towers in the middle of nowhere. And we had a wireless modem. It couldn’t save us. But we persevered throughout a day of solid rain. It was only dry for the two hours we spent at the crater. We debated about telling J. She had left for home a day earlier. Sorry. Wish you were/had been here.
If your timing is right it looks like you’re jumping in the crater itself. Well, that’s what David says.
It has rained twice in a year and a half since I’ve been here. It rained twice in ten days that David was here. On his last day going to/from the crater, it rained/poured all day. So the storm clouds we saw over the crater are probably not a common sight.
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.
They speak of impressive sandstorms. I haven’t seen one. It’s all desert and it’s dry out in the country. We did happen to find a sand dune. It was not much of a dune. We did have a great time on it. One of the silly things we do is to jump. Get it?
Somewhere in a movie I once watched a narrator said that special moments in life come and go before you realize it and only in retrospect do you appreciate how special that time was. As I look at the images and remember the moment, this was one in my life. I guess it doesn’t get better when you see your kids jumping, rolling, and playing with innocent abandon. All the other worries of the world are suspended for that moment. Speaking with them while they were here I realize as adults how rare we have these unguarded moments.
I mean we drove until my calculated ‘drop dead’ time. J was leaving and we had to return in time for her to be at the airport. No crater!! The roads have no signs, signs in Arabic, and no one seems to have heard of Al Wahbah. No amount of stopping for directions helped.
Directions, me, never. But the kids have no qualm about asking. My motto, “As long as you never put the car in reverse, you are never lost.” Well, you make do with what is at hand…. We found a sand dune!? (one not too large one)
There was another side benefit; we had a camel experience. The last time J was here we saw a camel from a distance but never up close. This time we were face to face, nose to nose. Yeah! It was an alternative happy ending. And did I say that we more or less drove right up to the camels.
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!
Omar, from my last story, showed J and I a very picturesque passage through the coral back in March 2013. You have to swim in from a certain direction to appreciate it. J remembered this and took David through it. I followed. As J emerged on the other side she suddenly swam upwards. David paused too. I swam into his fins.
I have been diving for over a year… and one, only one time did I see a turtle.
It looked like it was sunning itself. It turned its head slowly from side to side. And then it began a leisurely swim first in toward J and then under David’s fins. I followed and got more shots. We had a fabulous ‘turtle experience.’
(I bet maybe you thought this was going to be about something else, eh?) A while back I related the story about how Omar, one of the dive instructors, had caught a puffer fish in his bear hands. The girl I was diving with did not let it go until we left the water. She held so tight, I thought she was going to go home with it.
We were on a fun dive again with Omar. We started by seeing a stone fish and a moray eel right next to one another. It was a great dive for seeing things. With J off photographing something, David would swim above just observing. Then Omar came along; he’d done it again… caught another puffer barehanded.
This time J and David were horrified. Their mother had raised them with strong morals and they were against harassing the wildlife. Omar came along and tried to place the puffer in David’s hands. Omar mistakenly thought David was afraid. And J took the puffer only because it would be the only way to let the poor fish be released from torment.
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.
There’s a recent article in the NY Times about a Brooklyn fish store called the Octopus Garden, which is very busy for Christmas and sells octopus for all manner of the Christmas eve celebration of the Seven Fishes. They also supply many restaurants in NY. And there was another article I saw where a fisherman/diver took a Pacific octopus in California and was scorned by other divers and has since been refused training as a rescue diver in retaliation.
It’s darned hard to see an octopus in the Red Sea. When you find one it’s an event! I have had limited opportunity to photograph any octopi. They are on the menu for dinner and it is found in the fish market. You can’t have it on a restaurant menu if it can’t be caught in sufficient quantity to serve for dinner.
My problem, like the Pacific diver above, is that the dive resort is like a zoo. We dive and look at the fish. We don’t kill them and eat them. Yes, they are caught somewhere and indeed seafood is a major part of the diet around here in Saudi Arabia. I just have trouble with someone going to an aquarium and eating the fish in the tank when everyone else is there to see the fish.
I had just arrived to dive and was laying out and organizing my stuff. There were some tourists snorkeling in the water. I paid no attention until a clamor arose and someone was wading into shore with an octopus attached to his arm. I initially thought he had brought it in to show his friends.
No!!! There was a Styrofoam box with a couple conch shells. He put the octopus into the box as his friends gathered around. In a moment and with a sickening feeling I realized what I was photographing. He was about to kill the creature! And he and a friend proceeded to strangle the octopus and gut it right there. The octopus had a brown pigmented color which soon drained away leaving a pale blue colorless cadaver and a lot of brown ink in the box. I am still shaken describing the scene.
I related this find to some of the other dive instructors who arrived after me. One said it was ok, they had caught it to eat it. And the second one chased the other men away and confiscated their gig to stop anymore fishing. There is one less octopus to find and photograph.
I suppose it’s ok. And he did catch the octopus bare handed. And he’s going to eat it ( I hope). And there was the article about Octopus Garden. I suppose if I want to get a picture of an octopus it would not be hard or unusual at Octopus Garden. It just wouldn’t quite be the same. And my timing… I had just arrived to dive and caught the whole gruesome event from start to finish. I had thought to stop the killing but I didn’t feel that I had the authority to act.
Did I tell you that I never had a cooking lesson? And the Food Channel was a recent phenomenon that I watched when all the movie channels didn’t have a single flick worth watching. I discovered I could cook the first time I was away from home in med school.
My mother had a simple rule raising three sons. You help out or you don’t eat. So I cut, diced, chopped, and prepped for years. I had that aha moment when I realized that the final step was to throw it into the pan and voila, dinner. Rice is a challenge for everyone. I eyeball the quantity of rice and water, perfect every time. Smug, aren’t I? Who cares? I don’t starve. I do wish there was a more varied menu but hey that’s my own fault and I can’t readily fire the chef.
I got some Pillsbury biscuit dough and made dumplings. The dough is not expensive in NY but here it was a bit more money. Not enough money to break the deal but enough to make me decide it would be a project to make the dough myself. And it’s not always available in the super market. And it is carried in only one market that I have seen so far. Are you following me?
So the big experiment…I tried with flour baking soda, baking powder, salt and some luck. No go. The dough was tough and didn’t rise. It had an interesting color only a cook (me) would love… and eat (close eyes).
To back up one step, Pillsbury was a shortcut that has been in my memory and I think it was my mother’s invention. (Secret: She once told me Chinese cooking is easy. It’s technique. The ingredients can all be substituted depending on what’s available on hand.) But I’ve been using biscuits so long that I don’t remember the origin. It’s kind of like remembering when I first learned to use chopsticks. Who knows? You’ve just been doing it all your life. Roll out the dough, stuff it with whatever, steam it, and you’re good to go. The primary rule is that whatever your ingredients, you like them, and you will like the end result. I tried to explain this to Julia, but I’m not sure the lesson has stuck.
So I went online with a usual internet search that will virtually tell me any secret of life. And the first page of hits was how to cook with Pillsbury biscuits. No home recipe to make them. Biscuit recipes, yes! But I’m pretty sure Pillsbury is not using vegetable, shortening, butter, buttermilk, and an assortment of other ingredients that got longer and more complicated.
Then it occurred to me that Bisquick in the super market might work. Right! They make biscuits and I had seen some in the store. Of course I had seen it (memeory is still good, spelling just average) but it wasn’t available. That’s the problem. Sometimes they have stuff and sometimes not. It’s random. And a royal pain in the … You would think that inventory in the same store chain would be consistent. No! Some stores have things that the others don’t. And the elves take extra care to move stuff around between my visits. And where you put something is random and seemingly unrelated. Grocers don’t put salt and sugar together, and the artificial (fake!!!) sugar is in another place. Come on where’s the logic?!!!
No Bisquick! Ahh… doughnut mix??? You don’t see that in NY. But, aha, it rises. I got the idea from Pillsbury’s tube which suggested the idea. ???Is it sweet? Well it’s only a couple bucks to try. It’s a bit more complicated than Pillsbury. You have to proof the dough (let it rise) three times. But otherwise it looked similar and tasted similar to the Pillsbury. Pillsbury on the internet doesn’t give out the secret recipe. Hey it’s just a biscuit. Alton Brown food channel uses buttermilk, butter, and an assortment of ingredients that had me lose interest in about 5 seconds.
Doughnuts!!! No holes. Who’s counting. At Dunkin, you buy the holes separately. I just made them together. (I don’t/figured out have a doughnut hole maker). Not bad and would be even better with chocolate sauce.
I steamed a batch instead of frying, which was the original point of this experiment. And the dough rose and puffed just like a Chinese char siu bow. Now and I can make dumplings in the future and not worry about Pillsbury. The next problem will be that they don’t sell doughnut mix in NY. But I got a way to make dumplings like home. Everyone needs a little home?
I did make the sweet potato chips while proofing. I got this recipe from Ruth Reichel, bless her. She was a critic for the NY Times a while back. I saw her interviewed wearing sunglasses and an awful red wig until I found out she was disguised so that the restaurants wouldn’t spot her and treat her extra special.
Getting the chips thin is the trick. Lisa wouldn’t let me use a mandolin (very sharp cutter, not musical) because she cut herself once upon a time. So I have used the potato peeler. It works. But the mandolin is so much faster. And I haven’t cut myself yet. Ha ha it occurs to me that Lisa might object to me using a sharp scalpel blade during surgery. I probably shouldn’t use sharp things. Two of my assistants cut me last year. Now when they hold the knife, I’m standing in the next room (kidding).
The nuts I made (almond, cashews, peanuts) the other day. I have a recipe that is sooooo simple. And they are now in the news as a healthy food. And for my dear wife, I swear that I don’t add that much salt and sugar. I must say that the nuts don’t last for very long when the kids are around. It seems that the Mediterranean diet is rich in nuts. That’s another good thing. I can get raw nuts easily.
And I made red lentil soup. It’s a horrible pasty yellow color so no picture. But the taste!! I used grilled mushrooms, onions, curry and cinnamon. Wow!! This was really healthy with lots of fiber and cholesterol lowering action. The problem was the bread, which came with it (yes, I bought it,… but they were twisting my arm). Balsamic vinegar, olive oil and multiple kinds of bread to soak and dip in the soup….
I fear the doughnuts won’t last long either. Mmmmm…. Chocolate sauce or cinnamon?
This first fish is tiny, maybe about three inches. It’s hard to see and hard to photograph. Like most fish it swims away from anything big that has its eyes (and camera) pointed in its direction. So first you have to see it and then you need to get close enough to get a shot. I actually saw two together but they were inside a coral cave and it was too dark. You just have to feel lucky to get an opportunity for a shot at all. So I do… feel lucky.
And this second guy, he’s shy and I can guess why. With all this gaudy coloration, it looks like a tricked out fancy sports car that everyone wants to touch (eat). And it’s small and it’s shy and it swims away. Get the picture?
I was diving with another instructor. I have by necessity overcome shyness in order to dive. I have been without a regular dive buddy. You can’t dive alone. So I have made friends with anyone who is headed into the water and can dive competently. On this particular dive the instructor swam along and then lifted up a rock. Beneath it was what I call one ugly fish. I think there is some schoolyard insult that involves mothers (yours) that might apply here. I was so surprised to see this fish come ‘out from under the rock.’ I took the opportunity to shoot some images and then proceeded to lift rocks for the next 30 minutes and never saw another fish underneath. How’d he know to do this particular rock, the instructor couldn’t say because his English was not good enough to tell me.
Anytime you see an octopus it’s special. They are able to camouflage and blend with the surroundings very well and they are reticent to show themselves. To my utter surprise Nasser (dive instructor) led us to this octopus on a night dive and started taking pictures. I followed suit until it tucked itself deep under the coral. He said that this octopus has been here for about three months. I hope he stays. But so far I can’t find this rock again. The reason we could see this guy so well is that the lights shining on him probably confused his camouflage choices. It really is uncanny how they can blend.
It has finally turned cold around here. It was downright chilly the other day. The temperature only got to 80 degrees (awwww!). I actually put on a fleece to keep the wind off between dives. A few dives ago the master photographer had pointed out a hole in the sand where a crab lived. We stood by but it never showed itself. You poke the sand open and drop some shells down the hole. This will provoke the crab to push the shell out and to rebuild the cover for his hole. The next time down I had more of a chance to explore this hole. First you have to find it. With my vision underwater (it’s a joke!?) I had to look hard but the hole was still there and I poked it and dropped a shell down. Nothing! Nada! Bupkus!
But when I swam back a few minutes later I was rewarded. After editing it’s pretty obviously a crab. But it wasn’t nearly so obvious underwater. In fact this hole is right in front of the dive platform, which is swarming with divers (I mean lots, really lots) all day. And not a single one seems to notice. The crab certainly has stayed here for a long time.Yes, people do strange things underwater.
It’s a fact that as you age, you become far-sighted. I found this out in Puerto Rico when I drove at night and could no longer read the map. I went to my buddy Wilson, the ophthalmologist, expecting to be given an elaborate prescription for glasses. He said to me, “Go to K-Mart. (Huh!!!) Buy yourself some over the counter 1.50 glasses.” Darn! It worked for many years until last year when I spent money for my first prescription lenses. My family and patients are jumping for joy! (Kidding.)
We were on a dive with a master photographer who graciously pointed out this shrimp hiding inside this coral. He knew it was there and I knew he was pointing to something. But it was tiny and translucent. It was really tiny, no more than 1/4 inch! Underwater with the distortion and backscatter (dust) it was impossible to actually see what it was that my camera was focusing upon. Until I threw this on the computer I didn’t know for sure if I had anything. The darned camera managed to get me an image. Though I was disappointed the shrimp is really translucent and I was very lucky to come away with this image. And yes I took several in the hopes that this one image would be serviceable.