Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Syrian refugee Uber driver

His name was Akhram and he was my Uber driver.  I usually try to make conversation with my drivers so I asked him how long he had been in this country.  I don't know what the giveaway was.  It might have been his accent.  He said, "18 months."  I asked him where he was from and he responded, "Syria.  Do you know where that is?"  I said, "yes" trying to process his experience through the fog in my head of travel fatigue and through my continued sickness.  I asked him if he liked America and he talked about getting used to the new language and culture and customs.  No, he did not like it.  He told me that his son would cry everyday for 2 weeks before going to school.  His kids didn't know the language either.  He talked about bringing his 85 year old mother here.  He said that his move here was for his children.
He talked about the jets that flew over everyday, bombing Syria.  He said, "We were just waiting our turn to die.  Which bomb was going to kill us.  Was it the next?"  He talked about faith and how he didn't mind dying and that death was a reality.  He said that his children however did not understand that death was a reality.  They were constantly terrified with all the bombing and he had to get out of there.  The first step of his journey lead him to Jordan for 3 years.  He didn't have a work visa there.  They didn't issue those so his move to America was about survival and working.  He talked about working and making an honest living.  As an upper end electrical engineer/project manager from Syria, at the end of the day, he was just happy to have his family.  He said, "for people, America is cars, money, things.  For me, security.  I have my family and that's all I need"
He talked about how some people in Phoenix didn't know what was going on beyond their little circumference of the city.  He smiled wistfully, then he chuckled and said, "That's good too, you know."  He talked about passengers canceling rides when they see a Muslim name.  He talked about passengers asking him if he were ISIS.  He said he tries his best to educate his riders that ISIS is not Islam.
Part of me wished I would have just recorded the conversation.  Part of me was hoping he would someday make a Moth story.  Why not?
The ride did not take long, but I had to record as much as I could remember.  It might be my health but I was trying to wrap my head around a life of constant bombing and moving to Jordan and then to the US.  He talked about the region in general and how it's a mess because of the dictators.  He said that Assad only wanted power and oil and full control;  in the process only a million people were killed.  Yes, I'm being sarcastic here.
I'm typing this trying to focus despite my coughing and difficulty breathing.  I hope I have managed to capture some of the essence of my conversation with him.  Perhaps, my writing is not as effective, but today, once again, I'm reminded of the International humanitarian crisis that the world faces while we continue in our little cocoons sheltered from it all.
Best to you all,

Invisible, visible, love.

A long time ago, I read something motivational that looked like a short poem.  It was about love.  I can't recall how it went, but it was basically a "at this moment someone is" type of poem.  So, it would go like this:  At this moment someone is thinking about you.  At this moment, someone is praying for you.  At this moment someone wishes they could be you.  At this moment, someone is looking up to you. And so on and so forth.  You get the message.  At this moment, someone loves you.
When I read the poem, I thought, awwww.  And then the reality of my situation hit me.  Is it true?  Seriously?  At "this" moment someone is actually praying for me?  That can't be.  Who would be actually praying for me?  My mom?  Who else?  Ah.  It's just one of those posts.  It's not true, but the concept is really sweet.  That's where I left it, several years ago.  The post did not cross paths with me, like so many other Facebook reposts and memes.  I could see that post from a distance, mock me.  You don't believe me, the post would tell me.  Why should I show up in your life, oh ye of so little faith?  I would reply back to the invisible post, that almost appears like an imaginary person in my mind and say, I love the idea.  It would be awesome if it were true, but I just don't see it.  I only have one person in my life who truly loves me and cares about me and that person is sleeping right now as it's night time, so there you have it.  How can you be true?  The post would smile back and say something.  I can't hear it, but I would drift off to sleep wishing for the poem.
Recently, 3 months ago, a friend of mine that I had met only once in London, lost her mother.  I know about it because she posted it on Facebook.  She used to be avid on Facebook.  She even started a blog and a Facebook blog and that's how I got the idea to take my blog on Facebook.  Well, over night, when her whole life turned upside down, in my corner of the world, I started noticing her absence and starting feeling sad for her grief.  There were no more Facebook posts, and no more blogs.  It all ended over night.  There I was, thinking about her and praying for her.  It was instinct to pray for her and wish her the best.  Did she know it?  No.  Not at that time.  It was later that I messaged her to tell her that I missed her digital presence.  Then I realized the poem; at this moment...
As though that was not enough, I've been fighting a sickness and these past couple of days, I went to Arizona to attend a conference I had signed up to attend a few months prior.  I was getting more sick. In fact, the day before the conference, my husband asked me, "should you be going?"  I said, "I'll be fine."  I don't know what I was thinking.  Deep down, I asked myself the same question.  Should I be going?  Why am I doing this?  How important is this meeting to me?
Long story short, I went.  Yesterday was the first day.  I was not well.  I felt like I was sinking, rapidly.  My energy was down to 5%, if I had it and after fumbling through the information, I returned to my hotel room, early, shaking.  I was secretly chiding myself for my stupidity.  I was feverish and weak and I just wanted to talk to someone.  Usually, I could call my husband and whine about feeling badly and he would tell me to go to bed and he would tell me that he would meet me the next day and I would feel a bit better.  That didn't happen.  I called.  No answer.  I called again.  No answer.  I texted.  No response.  I texted again.  No response and finally after 10 minutes of trying to text him, I get a text back.  He was at The Last Jedi.  Oh well.  I would have to crash without anyone to talk to.  The truth is that I really didn't have the energy to talk.  I just wanted to whine.  I was miserable.  I felt more miserable knowing that the one person who understood my sickness and who loved me enough to put up with me was not available.  I was suddenly feeling like no one cared.  I wasn't about to just randomly call people and whine.  I didn't have a list like that.  The poem, was wrong after all.
And just like that, my phone rings.  It's my cousin.  She wanted to check on me and see how I was doing.  She knew I was sick a couple of days back.
Wow!  She was thinking about me.  That was so sweet.  It's not true that no one cared.  People did care.  I just didn't know about it.  It was then that the poem shows up while I'm trying to huddle under the blankets and she's trying to figure out why I'm so stupid to have gone to this conference.  At this moment...  I would have never guessed that she would have called to check on me, but she did.  I didn't even know that she remembered I was sick.  I figured, she would have just assumed I got better.  The poem smiles at me.  I was right, wasn't I?  Yes, you were, I say, as I slowly try to breath and drift to sleep.
Just because we don't "see" it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  Even invisible love, turns visible.
Oh and about that post saying something to me earlier, that I didn't hear.  Now I know what it was.  All it said was, "just you wait!"  Indeed.
Here's wishing you all lives filled with visible and invisible loves.
Best to you all,

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Pick-pocketing strategy

Hello everyone.  Before you stress out, let me clarify a couple of things.  First off, no, I'm not quitting my day job to be a pick pocket.  Secondly, again no, I was not pick pocketed.  So, where does this post come from?  I was recently in Portugal, and our tour guides kept reminding us that while tourism was increasing, so were pick pockets.  I didn't believe it.  And then I heard a story of a woman having her purse pick pocketed or stolen.  Whatever you want to call it.  I feel badly about it.  She's on vacation and loses her phone/credit card and whatever else was in her purse.  On the boat, I kept hearing that someone got their purse stolen but I didn't know who, until I was standing in line for the bookstore and the mom was the one who was pick pocketed.  So, I got curious and asked HOW?  It just seemed unrealistic.  Most people are quite aware of their surroundings and would know if someone is taking something.  She started her story by telling me that she is a seasoned traveler and that she takes all the usual precautions, but the pick pocketers worked together.  It was a team effort.  3 men working out a plot to distract and take.
Here's how it worked.  First person randomly approaches with a cigarette that looked like a joint and asks for a light.  She turns him down.  While mom starts arguing with someone at her table that it was a joint, another person comes up and asks to borrow one of the chairs at her table (close to her purse).  A few minutes later, person number 3 approaches for a light but it looks more like a joint.  While mom is trying to figure out what is going on, person number 1 (we think) made off with the purse sitting on the floor with no chair blocking access.  And by the time mom figured out that her purse was gone, the pick pockets were long gone.
We were walking through the famed Alfama district in Lisbon, famous for Fado.  Extremely narrow and crooked streets.  It is like a maze and that it historically intentional, but the point of the story is that our tour guide told us to hold on to our purses because this place is known for pick pockets.  Well, as we walked through these narrow streets, we saw 3 women hanging around a small square.  The tour guide said to us almost as a pleasant surprise "Well, hello ladies!" and she continued to tell us "Those ladies are pick pockets!"  She is the tour guide.  I didn't ask how she knew but there were 3 ladies gawking at us.  Perhaps planning their move, but it didn't work on us that day.
How do you tell a pickpocket?  Well, for starters, they are not looking up at the nice building or tiles.  They are looking at the purses of the tourists.  Makes sense?  I could have sworn that on our walk through a famous railway station in Porto, I saw a man stare at our group.  He was by himself but he wasn't really going or coming anywhere.  Didn't seem like it.  His eyes seemed more focussed on our waistlines.  Who knows?  Maybe from now on, everyone is a pick pocket to me.
Last pick pocket story - my parents got pick pocketed in Madrid several years ago.  My dad refused to travel for a few years after that incident.  I guess the pick pocket bumped into them or "accidentally" poured stuff on them and tried to help them clean up and by the time they were done, my dad was out of a wallet.
So, while travels to Europe can seem glamorous, they come with the price tag of stress.  I am constantly dividing my cash - both Euros and Dollars and putting them in different locations.  I travel without a purse.  I put my cash/wallet on the inside pocket of my zipped up weather jacket - an inconvenient location even for me to get to.  If the weather was hotter, I would wear an inside carrying bag, tucked inside my t-shirt.  Worse case scenario, I would tuck it inside my underwear - I know, eww and tmi.  At the end of the day, who knows.  Maybe I've just been lucky all along.  Word to the wise - don't trust a stranger (duh!) and always keep vigilant of individuals or people in small groups of 2 - 4 people.
I'll stop here.  I'm just quite surprised that I'm starting this year off with 2 posts in the same week.  Whoa!  What causes these fingers to type?  Your guess would be as good as mine on that one.

Gotta run, Best to all,

Monday, January 1, 2018

Anti-social non sickness

I've been on a river cruise for the past week.  Let me talk about seating for breakfast/lunch/dinner.  It's not assigned seating and so my husband and I just sit in a corner with a window view.  My husband thinks I'm going to throw up from motion sickness, but I just want the seat with the view.  Interesting enough, in our little corner, we could potentially appear anti-social.  Lot of other couples were sitting with other couples, getting to know each other and we were quite content where we were.  Once in a while, when the dining area gets crowded, a couple will request to join us at our table and we had no issues with that, but for the most part we kept to ourselves and everything was just fine.  Most couples just figured we were anti-social and kept away from us.
On our second to last day, on a tour of Porto city, we waited in line to see the library that was the inspiration for JK Rowling's Harry Potter.  You guys have heard of that book, right?  The line to get tickets was 10 minutes long.  The line to enter (after you have purchased tickets) was about 40 minutes long and we only had 50 minutes to hang out in the city.  Being the Harry Potter fan, I was not leaving without seeing this staircase.  The plan was this.  My husband waited in the main line.  I waited in the ticket line.  So, by the time I got tickets, the main line had moved a bit, maybe.
Well, we were about 20 minutes out into entering this fabulous bookstore when we saw this mother and her daughter.  They were both from our cruise and the little girl was a Harry Potter fan.  Her mom  asked me about the process to get to the store.  I explained.  By now the back of the line was a 50 minute wait.  The mom told her daughter that they couldn't make it.  The poor girl was dejected.  I felt bad.  I couldn't let that happen.  Gosh!  They were all the way in Portugal, at the bookstore that was the inspiration for Hogwarts staircases.  I said to the mom that I would allow her to cut the line and join us.  She let her daughter wait with us and got tickets and well we all got to see the fabulous bookstore.  Yes, that's me standing in front of the staircase.  The bookstore was so amazing.  I can see how she got inspired by it.
Well, the mom was coughing on and off and on our last lunch, she and her daughter joined us.  So much for us being anti-social.  Before we left the cruise, she gave me a hug and told me she had a great time and thanked me again for letting them cut in line and all that good stuff.  I got on the airplane and I knew something was wrong.  I wasn't feeling well.
I don't know if it was the first connection or the second one but I was coughing and almost throwing up while coughing so fiercely.  My husband was worried.  I needed to start my antibiotic immediately but we had a long journey in front of us.  Well, 14 hours later we drove straight to Walgreen and I got my antibiotic.  There's another story in there about always carrying your ID for being a doctor, but I'll spare you.  I came home and wondered.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to be anti-social.  Maybe I should have not been so kind as to let them cut the line.  All that time on the boat, I was fine.  I was perfect.  We sat in our little corner and I was healthy.  Then you get to meet more people and hang out more and come home sick.  More anti-social behavior from me coming right up!

Best wishes to you all.  Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The process of travel

One would think that in today's connected world of the internet, all information should be readily available.  What if one is planning a specific vacation?  For eg, let's take my vacation to Alaska this past year.  I had been to Alaska before but I wanted to do Alaska on a small boat.  Well, I searched small boat Alaska and came up with a few companies online.  On continuing the search, I ended up on a post that had the best small boat cruises to Alaska.  It had a list of several companies.  I don't think there was any other information other than the names of the companies.  There was a comment on that post that included more companies and I added those companies to my list and after all that I was able to begin my search.  I called/looked up online each company and asked for maximum passengers and cost and itinerary and finally I was able to narrow it all down.  I was actually going to write a full blog about it, the companies and the reason for my final choice.  I felt the amount of time I spent could benefit someone else but as time went on, I got busy (story of my life) and somehow I felt that my blog would not be relevant any longer and I threw away my Alaska notes.  Then we get to today.  I search another travel journey and I wish there was a broken down blog about all elements of the journey.  What websites are travel agents?  What websites are official city websites?  Oh yes.  When I searched my Alaska cruise, there was a company that was a travel agent selling for one of the other boats on my list.  So, they didn't have their own boat or cruise company and it's frustrating.

I feel that maybe I should keep my notes and maybe I should take the time/effort to type up a blog about decisions on traveling to certain locations.  Why did I pick the company I picked?  What was the cost?  What was the cost differential between the different companies.  Who offers what?  It might make life easier.  Then again, I feel it's the seasoned traveller who has this information but has not had the time to write it down and it's all a part of the journey of being that seasoned traveller.  Or maybe not.

For now, as I fumble through my research, I think I should keep a notebook.  That way, it's not notes that get thrown out.  It's always available for a blog for a future date.  Hmmm.  I like the idea.

For those of you who are thinking the word "trip advisor", well, sure.  I'm on it.  I look through it and I do get great reviews about sites to see and hotels.  I do feel trip advisor has become more commercial in the past few years.  It's become more a site to book hotels than the journey of planning travel and the options for such travel.  Or maybe I'm old, and am not able to navigate what I'm looking for fluidly on that site?

Anyway, I have to run now.  Just thought I would throw my travel conundrum out there.  Best to you all,


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Paying for a digital book

Most of you know that I want to be author someday.  This post is not about what it takes to be an author and all that, but let's fast forward.  Let's say there's a book that is published.  Of course, a person who wants to read this book has to pay money to buy the book or buy the digital copy.  Why not?  Should not the artist/author get paid for his/her talents and efforts.  I have no problem with that. When the book sales go high because the book is amazing, the pay should be equally amazing.

Here's my contention:  What if someone pays for the physical book.  Do they still need to pay for a digital copy of that same book?  I feel no.  After all, it's the SAME book and the person has already paid for it.  Asking them to pay twice and a second time (a digital copy) is double dipping.  Besides, what's the cost for a digital copy?  It's not like printing costs.  I can see adding a cost to purchase the book when one has already purchased the digital copy, but the other way around doesn't make sense to me.

My husband buys BluRays.  That's a whole another story, but when he buys a BluRay, it comes with a FREE digital copy, so he can go online and download the same movie on to his computer and watch it whenever and he doesn't have to carry all the BluRays with him.  He has already paid!  So, while we are in the digital age and advanced, why can't books catch up?

Best to you all,

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Getting past my demons, yet again!

I know what the last post was about.  This post is about the same thing.  A way to control the demons that control me - specifically one demon.  My writing.  I cannot describe myself right now but I'm between patients and working on this post.  My hands were literally shaking and I feel like I'm having a mini seizure.  My searches for today - writing retreats, writing sites.  An hour later, I'm staring into space, feeling very lost and confused.  Yet, I feel found.  I take that back.  I feel like Hope is knocking on Pandora's box and I do not want to open the box again.  I want to.  I don't want to.  I desperately want to.  Yet, I'm holding on to dear life, because I feel like I'm standing on a precipice.  Free fall, with shards of sharp rocks on the way, leading to definitive death.  Yes, why wouldn't I be afraid?

Maybe it's the tea.  The caffeine is known to make one ansy.  I wish it was as simple as that.  For someone like me who drinks several cups a day, one cup is not going to do it.  No, it's the damn writing thing that is calling again and again and again.  I can scream it to go away, but it won't.

When I'm at work and I need to behave, perhaps one way to keep demons in check is to write.  So, here I am.  Writing.  Writing like I'm running out of time (Yes, Hamilton).  Writing like my life depends on it.  Sometimes, I think it does.  I wish it didn't.  The curse is real.  I look around my office in mad suspicion.  Did someone spray something to make me jittery? Most people can't handle my energy level.  Why would they seek to increase it in an uncontrollable fashion?  I cannot tell you.  What do you name this paranoia?  The writer's curse?  I would think and hope this post would cure it.  I know the truth.  It may alleviate some symptoms, but this one is going to hurt.

I remember starting my novel, The Color of Rain, in 1999 shortly after I finished dental school.  What do I have now?  23 chapters and they are not that great.  I stand and look at 80,000 words that all need to be re-read and re-written.  Maybe I'm just overwhelmed.  But I remember 1999.  I couldn't function normally.  I was possessed.  This feeling is deja vu all over again.  If I would have quit, maybe this won't be so bad.  I had taken a long reprieve.  My demon had disappeared.  I called out to him and I almost didn't even realize he existed until now.  He shows up and my life will be filled with a thirst I cannot quench standing at a stream.  Who knows?  The stream may just be an illusion.

This post is not working.  I'll just breathe.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.  Still not working.  A screw is loose in my head.  C'est la vie.

Until next time,