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Posts tagged “Saudi Arabia

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.

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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.