Word and Image

Posts tagged “Saudi Arabia

Spinning

We have looms and we have spinning wheels. Too numerous to count. Ha! I’m guilty of being acquisitive. I doesn’t help that Colleen is too. But this post is about picking images. And today I spun Lightroom and recall this memory.

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The time is September 2014 in Saudi Arabia. What would you know about living in a totalitarian government in which freedom could be snatched at any moment? How about being reminded that freedom is a gift every day? How about if you have taken simple freedom for granted each and every day of your life? Unrestricted travel? Not here!

My old boss is in a dungeon placed there without stated charges by the prince. A man can be wealthy and then imprisoned the next day. Does it sound like a scene from medieval times? I had to leave my cat behind… another long story. I was blessed to escape. I got out without too much red tape and with too much drama for anyone’s liking. But I’m out! The parting gift was the worst cough/cold of my life given to me by a pair of random fellow travelers on the airplane. Thanks a lot. The relief (of my escape) was palpable then and even today. Living in Saudi was an experience not to be missed. I miss the scuba dives in the Red Sea. I miss some people I met. I do not miss being living in a totalitarian regime.(Happy New Year, Gen)

Are there parallels in American history today? The once and future king… The vast majority of the population live in freedom they take for granted. Never was this so true. I wish you could have walked in my shoes.


Lies

I was struck by the salacious headlines. I wonder how they got this information? And, who got it, and who leaked it? Detail? Huh!? So! I can tell you from all my years of carving a Thanksgiving turkey…. I can’t do this in seven minutes. Couldn’t! … not even with 14 assistants. I’ve been told that the first historical limb amputation was performed in 40 seconds by a French surgeon. The assistant lost several fingers. Geez! I think that if these facts can be proven, Guinness should issue a new record. Hey! I’m a surgeon. I should be able to take this heinous act in context from a certain technical point of view. Lies! Who’s Pinocchio today?


Pray Tell

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After I left Jeddah it is amazing how quickly you forget. I don’t pray. There are exceptions. Whenever I am operating and things have gone South, I pray, “Oh lord, get me out of this.” It works.

Ever confusing, the prayer times are five a day. I see seven here. Go figure. I don’t won’t needn’t and will not be….praying.  I left and never again noticed how disruptive it has been. Forgotten. I go and come as I please. It used to be Murphy’s law. You show up and it’s prayer time!

Here’s how it works. The listed times change every day. It’s done according to the sun for which sunrise sunset changes every day. Duh! So, you need a website to tell you. Then, the times are local, which means that Jeddah and Riyadh are off by minutes. Who cares? Someone! The religious police? At a restaurant during Ramadan I sat waiting for evening prayer call and break fast. I watched the Makkah (Mecca) channel; it’s official right. (They march counterclockwise around the Kaaba 24/7) No! Don’t ask.

The local times are often loosely followed by shopkeepers who estimate – plus or minus 10 to 15 minutes or so. So, you show up and wait. Never try to accomplish more than one task between prayers. Traffic and the vagaries of when the next pray time will start, will always burn you. Everyone comes out after the last prayer time of the evening. You have the longest time to get things done, it’s night and the cool part of the day, and it is the unhealthiest time to eat – as in you get fat. The line around the takeout at McD is cars around the block at 5AM. When does, anyone sleep? Well, no one actually works except the Filipinos. So, everyone sleeps the rest of the time. La la land. I’m not missing it.


Sweat

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Street photography – you don’t aim or compose, you just press the shutter. The idea is to catch spontaneity. It’s mostly because you are afraid or shy to ask to take a picture. Or you are afraid to have an angry objection. And if you are in a foreign place it is wise to be discrete. Auto focus! It works. Aim in the general direction of your subject. Hope for the best. At night I use auto ISO and shutter speed 1/125. Otherwise things will be blurred. They tend to be. So I try to lessen the error.

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I had an errand to do in the old city. It’s September and still hot as blazes. The humidity is high. And still, it does not rain. You go out only at night. Daytime is instant meltdown. I live in A/C. My villa has never seen the A/C off in four years. Power outages are very rare. Once it lasted for more than an hour and my friend left to go to a hotel. He did not tolerate heat. Wuss! Well, me too. But for some reason we were on different circuits and my power was on. No, he did not want to stay in my messy villa. As soon as I exited the air conditioned car my camera lens fogged up. I did not realize it. So for a moment, until I checked, everything was fogged. It was an interesting effect. And the shot I could not get… the man in the chair had sweat dripping from the tip of his nose. Sorry. Couldn’t get that. It’s street photography! There are shots I saw that will ever be on my mind. I missed it. But I saw it. If you didn’t get it, you didn’t see it. But I did. Like the eggs. Some days you are in the right place at the right moment. And just a bit later on, you miss. Yes, a drop of sweat, right on the tip of his nose. “Plain as the tip of your nose.” Missed!


Jules Visits

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Of all the things we never imagined, Jules visiting Jeddah would be right up there on the list. But she really does love her dad. I posted a nice lead picture. Women hate humor in their photographs. (Just wait.)

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She came for a visit. You have to wear an abaya. I borrowed one. She wore it. It’s like your own personal steam bath. She even wore the scarf although that is pretty optional for non Muslims. Sort of… No Jules did not go over the top with heat stroke. She wanted to see camels. And we thought there were some on the other side. Dopey? Yup, I guess the heat did get to her. She let me take this awful pic. One looks very interesting out of context wearing a dive mask on dry land. It’s not awful. It’s just not flattering. Right? She teaches Little kids. Sharing? Nope.

This was a raspberry macaroon. She ate the whole thing and never offered me a taste. That’s revenge! She’s still my favorite daughter.


Jumping

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Fun, joy, innocence. There aren’t too many unguarded joyful moments. Kids have them all the time. And maturity and life sucks it out of you. (oh, look, Susan, Dave has a Tyler Place t-shirt)

As I write someone from the mobile phone company has called my cellphone to inform me that I just won 200,000SAR. Fantastic. Here’s how to collect….scam me once shame on me….They scammed Jules. She had an offer of winning $800 but had to respond instantly. Her mom got involved and helped. They both contacted the scam artist who sold them on a trip to Florida to see real estate. $800 was theirs. The cost was $200 deposit – refundable when they took the tour. Yeah, gullible, silly, all – and no one ever went to Florida to see real estate.

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My attorney sent me a plaintiff email that he was stuck in London. He’d lost his ID, passport and all money. He asked me to forward some funds. Indeed, it was so sad. I called him at home to let him know I’d send him money. Hacked!

David tried to scam me. He called me at work. “Dad, I got a low cost trip to Madrid. I have to act immediately.” “What did your mother say?” Right, no permission, this was right after they blew up the Madrid train station some years back. So, off to Jamaica. Three amigos, living on an extreme budget. I fund education not fun. I’m having office hours, and David calls me from Jamaica. “We were in a bar and Ben fell off a stool and cut his neck…” Um, yup, I’m a surgeon. But there’s not much I can do 2000 miles away. Bar fight! Everyone in the office laughed at my being so gullible as to think the kid fell off a stool. Actually, true, the poor kid passed out from dehydration. Budget! They were rationing fluids. Afraid to drink water they were on a Coke a day. While Ben was in the hospital, the other two gave up and posed as registered guest in the hotel next door. They ate the buffet dinners until Ben got out and that scam didn’t work anymore.

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My kids are all grown up now. And here was one of the last times I was together with them. They have husband and girlfriend now. This was the last of innocence together. It comes and goes with hardly a notice. Then, you realize that it happened and will never be repeated. It’s a bittersweet realization. All grown up…


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.


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!


Saudi Jump

_DSC3561 copyOk. Why not? The kids visited in a whirlwind in 2013 December. It was a visit filled with tension. Too little time and all at the seemingly last minute. The visa to visit was not confirmed until almost the day they traveled. The Saudi government does not grant visitor visas. And the kids were over 18 years old. So it was not so easy to apply and required a visit to the Saudi  government office. Then the process started again in the US where additional paperwork required more difficulty.

Old city, al Balud, the area is now designated a heritage area. They are actually preserving history…just in time. (To digress: they still toss glass bottles out their car windows on the highway.) The kids are here just before renovation has begun. We goofed around. I inserted myself in the pic. You can see that I was learning about bending your knees. Remember it. It’s a good tip.

 


Thanksgiving Party

IMG_7443It’s a holiday party. They named it thanksgiving as a matter of thanks. Not Christmas, it would have been religious and not PC. And it was masked – Mardi Gras? Not Halloween. Actually Filipinos do celebrate Thanksgiving. It was all confusing and misleading. There was another great cultural mystery to ponder. George and I were the mainstays of the surgeons who attended last year and this. Another one or two came. The remainder of the staff is mainly Filipino and they like to party. I guess I do too. My OR nurses Jen and C2 (sorry I can’t spell her name) are pictured. The rabbit ears, hmmm, maybe a little Easter? Yes, my day job includes brain surgery…

IMG_7519A final group shot – everyone had a splendid time. Prizes and games and food and drink and dessert – and this year I kept my pants. No new year’s party was officially planned.


Rained – Two Feet of Snow

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It’s November. It’s Jeddah. It’s raining! First rain for me here this year. Yes! First! It’s panic time. Parents were told to keep their kids home from school. Really? Why? Well, it’s like this.

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There is no provision to deal with rain water run off. Why build a sewer system for rain once a year. It works…until it rains. A leaky roof never leaks in bright sun. Then there is no where for the water to go. Before I got here I was told about water rising and cars floating. Rain equals panic around here.

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It’s like a couple feet of snow in New York. It’s a mess. Cars immediately stop and traffic jams appear everywhere. Water overflowed the curbs. And it came as high as the bumper. I actually considered that getting home might be a challenge.

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France is in the news but the US Embassy sent the weather advisory to my email instead. It was bright blue sky in the morning. An hour later it was raining and by afternoon it was over.

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One day a few hours, no more rain till next year. I don’t think there will be a sewer system either. Rain is for fable and legend. It’s not a lot of water unless it has no where to go.


Blue Moon

_DSC4409There is a such a thing and it is “rare as a blue moon.” I won’t go into more detail than to say that is it a full moon that occurs twice within the same month. I was online chatting this evening, well actually my 5AM, and I noticed. And it occurred to me that it was the second such so soon after the recent. How do they do this? Anyway sure enough the whole world but me knows.

IMG_0001Now to tech. The moon is very small in an iPhone 6 plus. And it is large in a Nikon D610 with 80-400mm lens. And it can be enlarged even more. But the trick is that the moon is very bright. Bet you knew that?! So it means that the exposure is manual and the setting is 1/200 shutter and about 500 ISO and f stop about 7.

Now to the romantic. It is indeed a rare event. And in the time I took the pic and we traded photos across 6000 miles, the moon has set. It’s cloudy and stormy on the other side. And here the grey sky of dawn has obscured the moon. So it is indeed ephemeral as it is rare. That is enough to make you believe in magic. Yes, this is a real time post. Photo were taken minutes apart miles apart only moments before I made this post.

_DSC4413And now for the piece de resistance! The moon came back for me! So I got a dawn shot with a blue grey sky. Same exposure, use 1/200 and F7 and ISO 500. It got me there. It is counter intuitive. But the moon is bright. Manual exposure is the only way to go. For once you have to actually control everything. Imagine that.

And now! It was also a supermoon too! That is when the moon is closest to the earth and appears larger. Not much but it is so. You can’t tell and neither can I. But it is . So the blue moon is rare, the next will be Jan in 2018. So this was an event you missed if you did not see it a few days ago. The last coincidence was in 2012. The great and mighty Oz does not say when the next coincidence will be. No matter, this was a lot of fun. Alas there are only 12 blue moons over the next 28 years.

I guess I just had a very special night. I shared it then. And I share with you now.


Happy Birthday

_DSC4310 copyBy 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. _DSC4239 copyAnd 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._DSC4444 copy


Layers

_DSC3666I’ve done this shot whenever there is the opportunity. Usually it’s an early morning shot. In this instance David and I were on a mission to Al Waba. We left early in the morning and began to take a series of shots of the passing countryside. The clouds/mist/fog/smog hung over the mountains (hills) and, voila! You have to do a bit of cropping and you need to pull out the hills layered upon layer. But it works.


For David

_DSC3498It’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.

 


Dhahban

IMG_2303David found this listed on his internet search of places to visit. So off we went and drove north to visit an ancient fishing village. It turns out to be a modern marina and there’s nothing quaint. In fact this is the same marina where I get the dive boat (see way below) and we leave for our ‘boat trips.’ I never associated the name David found with the marina location.IMG_2299

There is a habit, Farid told me, in which it is customary to build the wall before you build the house. And there is some effort underway to be energy conscious, hence the light posts with solar panels. Just when I think I see something I can agree with, I realize that these lights are in the middle of nowhere with nothing significant to light up.

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We did look and look for that fishing village. It could have been a  good photo op. It was my first realization that everything you see on the internet is not true. Maps are not well marked and what you find may not match expectation. We had that happen a lot in the next few days we wandered in the car. Dhahban was an adventure in non adventure hunting.IMG_2318

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Come On

IMG_2310Is 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?

 


The Crater

_DSC5163Online 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._DSC5241

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If your timing is right it looks like you’re jumping in the crater itself. Well, that’s what David says.

More camels. We passed many places where the camel crossing sign made a lot of sense. They (camels) were just grazing free and could easily be crossing the roads we drove.IMG_1608

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._DSC5267

We missed not having J with us but we somehow managed to still jump for her._DSC5034

It was still magical when the storm clouds parted long enough to give us a spectacular sunset._DSC5304


Sand Dunes

_DSC4428They 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?_DSC4449

_DSC4444Somewhere 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._DSC4251

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The Trip To Nowhere

IMG_3095David read about a place called Al Wahbah. There’s a crater of uncertain origin that is said to be a great place to visit. It is in the geographical middle of nowhere._DSC4903

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)_DSC4484

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._DSC4989

 


Camel Ride

_DSC2290 copyYou don’t get many opportunities to shoot the local people. At this tourist stop it’s part of the deal. So I took the shot. It gets tricky as the light gets low. But on a gut level, you know when you like a shot. I could post process and crop and … but I just like it as is.


Toboggin Ride

_DSC2257 copyThey had a toboggan ride. About eighteen of the nurses signed up and bought tickets. I tried to ride last car for the photo ops. Everyone rushed to the last cars so I ended up in the very first car. It’s a good thing. The individual cars have hand brakes. I reasoned that the cars were stable enough that they couldn’t fly off the track even if the brakes were never applied. So I didn’t use them. The nurses who followed were much more timid and thereby created a traffic jam.


Dangerous (Fun) House

_DSC2269 copyI love the fractured English. Hey, it’s not their native language. And I appreciate that many signs are written in English. Spelling and translation often leave something to the imagination. It’s nothing to spell incorrectly or to interpret the word in a less than traditional manner. But you get the idea.


Camels

_DSC2036 copyThey aren’t too photogenic. So the color helps. I apologize for the tree sticking out of his head. We had stopped momentarily. You know. …when everyone is running in four directions and the driver will say, “Get back on the bus,” at any moment. So I was standing and just doing a 360 degree click around with my camera. Later we parked again and I had a longer moment to get another shot of another camel. Anyway the color is for the tourists._DSC2056 copy