Saturday, August 23, 2014

Never Underestimate the Hashtag #

Back in Dubai. Summer is almost over.  - Almost sounds like a Haiku.

This month I made the very long trip to the US for a few days.  As it was just my son and I, with some encouragement from my husband, we decided to fly from Dallas to Houston.

My son had been asking me about what it was like to fly on a "US plane".  Without being blunt and informing him the service is not typically as good as Emirates, he got to experience a lot of challenges first hand.

There was a lot of confusion about gates and things prior to take off.  The "go to gate A2", only to be told "go back to A1" that told you to go to A2 is par for the course.  I know if this were to happen in other countries, the manner in which it is done would be more polite.

I flinch a bit when the employee working to check people in at the gate gets assertive because I am standing in line patiently.  I realized this is a norm.  Airline employees do not realize they are doing it, but the needed service tone of "may I help you" comes out more like "why are you standing there?"  I received a very stern "Can you PLEASE move over here so I can check you in?!"

We arrive to Houston fine.  Unfortunately, our luggage does not.  Sadly, it seems to happen to me almost every time I fly in the US.  My luggage never arrives with me.  But this one - a 45 minute direct flight?

I go to report the luggage.  They write it up, and I can check back after 24 hours.  That's a long time for only a 45 minute flight away.  I figured they would recover it, but I am impatient.  And while I am always prepared for luggage loss, the rest of my son's medical supplies were in those bags.  I had much more to loose than clean clothes if they were not recovered.

It bugged me.  So, before I went to sleep I decided to take it to Twitter.  I hashtagged lostluggage as well as the name of the air carrier.

As our metabolism is not completely adjusted, I wake up in the early hours of the morning to check my son's blood sugar when we travel. When I looked at my phone to set my alarm for the next check,  I saw I had a response on Twitter.  Wow - only about 2 hours after my tweet!  That was impressive.

After the exchange of a few public tweets, the airline suggested we take it offline and they sent me a few numbers and other websites to contact throughout the ordeal.  This was very helpful in locating the luggage, and much more pleasant than speaking to a computer.

My luggage arrived the next day.  Pleased to have it, I was disappointed it was damaged and incredibly dirty.  I have never seen that much dirt on a luggage.  Ever.  Nor has my luggage been damaged in other places I have travelled to.

I am still working out the damage bit, and the airline sent me some alternative sites via Twitter messaging that I would not be able to find easily myself.

The moral of the story is, if you have a customer service need that is not being met, or needs some facilitation, do not under estimate the power of the hashtag. Those companies that are smart will address your need quickly.  It doesn't take a harsh tweet. Just put something out there to get the issue moving.

Happy, safe travels to all.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thoughts on Immigrants, Guest Workers & Refugees

It has been a few weeks since I watched the World Cup final between Argentina and Germany at some ridiculous o'clock hour at a random smokey bar with some coworkers in Dubai.  While I was hoping for an Argentina win, Germany played a very good game.  I also had the privilege to watch them clean up Brazil on their journey while surrounded by Germans.

Better than the game they played was one of the stories that came out after the event was over.  Mesut Ozil, one of the players on the German team made a donation to pay for the surgery of some needy children in Brazil.  Before the event started, he payed for the surgery of 11 children.  After Germany won, ESPN reported that he increased the number to 23.  The previous 11 represented the number of players, but 23 was the number of the entire team.

Mesut Ozil is not a very German name.  It is obviously Turkish.  Previous articles I read said he is a second generation Turk who was born in Germany.  While he may be a rare case of extreme financial and athletic success in any class, his family at one time were migrant workers.  In a time where one of the consistent headlines in many countries is how to close the border to keep foreigners out, I wonder what would have happened if Germany kept out Ozil's grandparents.

Reading this story, I can't help but wonder who will be the next Mesut Ozil.  Will he or she play football, get a university degree under extreme circumstances, find a cure for cancer, foster world peace....

Just maybe some of our much needed resolutions will come from the offspring of a refugee that has fled a war torn country, or from someone that has moved somewhere else for a better life.  There was a time when a list of the most famous refugees circulated the internet and there you saw Madeline Albright, Albert Einstein and others on the list.

Twenty-three.  It might be a small number, but for those children and their families, it's a huge deal.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Learning to Ride



My son rode a bike for the first time without the training wheels yesterday.  Knowing him well, I asked my mother-in-law to have her neighbor remove the extra wheels before we arrived to her summer home in the rural Marmara region of Turkey.

I am not one of those pushy parents that drives their kids to do things before they are ready - actually quite the opposite as I feel kids are under so much pressure to achieve at such a young age in the modern world.  However, I have realized that as a parent, sometimes we need to insist to encourage them to realize their potential as they grow.  Or this is just a big assumption on my part that will result in an epic fail.

Living in Dubai our children have access to many great things, but sometimes the simple things like riding a bicycle through the neighborhood is not so convenient.  There are a few cookie-cutter neighborhoods where it is possible, and there is an amazing bicycle track but you have to drive to get there.  It is not always easy to just go outside and hop on your bike.  This is the make up of the city and the weather is not always great in the summer months.

The first day without the wheels, he refused.  He wanted the bicycle the 4-year old across the street was using.  Unknown to him, she has the training wheels from his bike.  The second day he was still not pleased with the situation.  The third day, with a little help to start, he was riding almost immediately.

I am forever amazed at the stories I read about diabetic children.  They take many needles every day - pricks to check blood sugar, long needles to insert catheters if they use an insulin pump, or several injections every day if they don't pump.  Not to mention the blood draws from veins for regular check ups that are so hard to find on small children.  - All much more difficult than riding a bike for sure.

I have learned a lot as a parent, and maybe even a bit more as the parent of a diabetic child.  This week's lesson learned: You are always stronger than you think.  Most likely, your fear to try something new is a small drop in the bucket compared what you've already accomplished or endured.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sassi Bianchi, Italy

Sassi Bianchi's vineyard overlooking the lavender field

For the last few years, we've been talking about going to Tuscany with friends.  We decided enough talking, and this year we went.  We stayed at Sassi Bianchi, a 40-hectar farm hidden in the hills of Tuscany.  Owned and managed by Concetta and Palo, the 16th century farm houses are in great condition, and you can feel all their efforts to keep the place quaint and functional.  On most mornings you can see Palo working on the farm somewhere.

Sassi Bianchi is beautiful and full of life.  I loved the over dose of oxygen and exploring the property with the smell of lavender in the air.  Our large, communal family breakfasts were a great start to the day, and we enjoyed closing the day at the same large table after visiting the nearby towns and villages as the kids played outside catching fireflies.

Sassi Bianchi is one of those places that I definitely hope to return to - frequently!



Many meals, bottles of wine and laughter were shared here


One of the Sassi Bianchi farm houses


The lavender was beautiful and the number of butterflies and bees it attracted were amazing.
They even make their own lavender honey.


The duck pond at Sassi Bianchi


Nature and wildflowers everywhere! 


Organic gardening means lots of lady bugs!


A walk through the forest at Sassi Bianchi


And more lady bugs!


We look forward to going back to Sassi Bianchi soon!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Getting Published


A few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email request from a friend who works at Zayed University.  They were searching for stock photography with various themes for some iBooks, and were wondering if I had any they might use.

This is cool for many reasons.  One of those being that Zayed University was the first university in the world to cooperate with Apple to fully integrate iPads into their instruction.  And of course, for me personally it is exciting.

While I didn't always feel they were my technical best when I came across them over the years, I was still attached to these images because of the subject matter and how they made me feel.  I guess the moral of the story is don't discard something if you don't think its within the constraints of what is considered "good".

After all, art is all about feelings.  Don't be quick to disregard your work as you never know when it might be applicable.  Like my previous post, when I went back and looked at what I thought were just okay images, I saw something else that appealed to me later.

Thank you again to my friend who reached out to me, and thank you to Zayed University for including my images.