Sunday, January 22, 2012

Living in French

I don’t typically write too much of my most personal stuff here, but if I am brutally honest I started my New Year off with déjà vu.  Actually, backtrack that.  Last year’s holiday season started off with déjà vu.

In November of 2010, I found myself pregnant.  It was kind of a surprise, but a welcome one.  I surprised my husband with the news on Christmas day - a nice present, and certainly a surprise.  A few days before New Year’s Eve there was a little bleeding and I tried not to worry as I know these things happen.  As the days progressed, it was then diagnosed as a tubal pregnancy.  It was not in the uterus where embryos should be.  That day, my doctor informed me I needed to go to the hospital immediately.  So much to my surprise and somewhat reluctantly, I did.  However, it is the right thing to do.  Tubal or ectopic pregnancies can be quite serious.  If not addressed, the tube typically ruptures and the mother can die.

They tried to move it with medication.  I waited for several uneventful days.  Not much happened.  Then ultrasound could not confirm what was happening.  I was a strange case because it seemed whatever was in my tube previously did not pass, but was lost.  Disappeared.  I love physicians, or people from different cultures who do not think before they speak.  The radiologist in the hospital told me "we are very worried dear because we cannot find it".  While I had confidence in my doctor, she was not helping the situation.

There were two hours or so of what do to – a laparoscopic procedure, or just go full out and cut me open.  In the end we went all out.  It was a good thing because as my doctor opened me she said it had ruptured and blood was coming out.  I felt no discomfort or anything, but I lost a tube as a result of the rupture.  I was told I could get pregnant again if I wanted.

While a little disappointed, I was really okay.  These things happen to many many women.  I did not feel completely devastated, as this is life.  C'est la vie.

Fast track to 2011.  November.  Much to my surprise I felt pregnant.  Could it be?  Yes, I was.  It was exciting and creepy all at the same time because it was the same timing as last year.  This time I did not wait until Christmas to tell my husband, as that is what I felt the most bad about in the previous year.  I have no crystal ball, but for sure I would have never wrapped up the pregnancy test had I known last year's outcome.

We were excited, but yet not excessively because we knew a lot could happen and did not want to get anyone excited until we knew for sure everything was ok.  So we agreed to wait to tell our family and friends until I was a little further along.

The good news was the ultrasound showed that things were in the right place this time.  I was relieved about this and the dismissal of a theory from another doctor last year that told me I would have a difficult time getting pregnant because my uterus is a strange shape.  A few weeks later, bleeding started.  I went to my doctor and she advised me to rest and wait.  And so I did, but one day later it was confirmed – a miscarriage.

While somewhat disappointed, again, this is life and we know these things can happen.  The rate of pregnancies that end in miscarriage is around 15% – possibly 20% or more.  So while I am going through this and frustrated that people at work may see me as a slacker for not being there physically (I know stupid, this is my health and I am also working from home the entire time I am on sick leave) I am really okay physically and emotionally.  Fortunately, this has been rather uneventful.  Just a strong case of déjà vu.

However, the irony of life seems to continue to pursue me.  It always does, but really this time was stranger than fiction.  A woman who works for us had not been looking well for a few days. When I asked her if she was okay, she informs me she has a malignant tumor in her abdomen somewhere.  That is shocking and horrible, but yet I am not quick to believe this diagnosis because I know the spectrum of quality healthcare here.  After listening to her story, I wanted to see her medical records.  A tumor, perhaps, malignant based on what she told me there was no way to be sure.  I was prepared to help her find at least proper diagnosis and treatment, and God forbid if it was the worst case scenario, make sure she got home so she could be with her family.

So just a few days ago she came to me with her medical records.  She was upset and started saying she is not sure how she could tell me, she was sorry she lied, etc, etc.  Tell me what?  I notice right away the medical record was awfully thin, just a few pages.  I am frantically searching for a sign, or some off the wall blood count.  As I scroll down the doctor’s report, there, at the bottom of the page I learn she is pregnant.

I did not ask any details, but I am assuming this is a pregnancy out of wedlock.  In the UAE, it is against the law to have a child out of wedlock.  It is illegal for unmarried couples to live together, thus it is illegal for unmarried couples to have sex. This is a Shariah law country.  Do not quote me on this, but I am pretty sure a single mom can live here.  For example if you are here divorced with your child, I believe you are still able to reside here.  I am married and have never faced this possibility before so I am not well read on this law.  I have read that if you are foreign and pregnant, you may marry the father of the unborn child or leave the country before being arrested for fornication.  I do not know what the sentence is.  This is the law. I am not here to say if this is right or wrong.  Some may agree, some may not agree.  These are the laws of the UAE and we must abide by them, and I do happily because I am privileged to live here.

So there I am listening to her, pregnant, as I am having a miscarriage.  The irony of the whole situation is mind-blowing for lack of a better word.  For her to stay here and continue to work would not do her or a future child any good.  No good could come of it.  She would end up in jail, at best.  I am not sure what would happen to the baby.  In the end I paid her full salary and then some.  I made her promise that she would stop working immediately and get on the first plane and go home.   I cannot judge her or be upset.  It is not my place to do so. C'est la vie.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Best of 2011

Throughout the year I take a lot of pictures... as we all do.  Some good, some not so good.  Many of them are for assignments for school related series or assignments.  So below, I am sharing some of my favorites from last year. (Apologies if the spacing or centering is off - I find the preview is showing different things than what I have selected or what I see!)

This is the Armani Hotel in Dubai.  It is right next to the Burj Khalifa.  I have never been inside, but it has a unique shape from the outside.  Almost boat-like.

Below are some lovely bird's nest baklava.  This is with my portrait lens.  While I am sure it's typical preferred use is for people, I like what it does for food.

The below coffee shot was for an assignment in my photography concept class.  I really enjoyed working with coffee because there are a lot of fun concepts with a lot of potential.  I was under a time crunch and needed to develop something with some available items at home, so here it is.

The below is one of my dearest friends and one of her daughters.  I shot it during a visit in her home one weekend.  In addition to the subject matter, the lighting in this image makes it for me.  She gets so much natural light in her apartment it is difficult to take a bad picture there.

Below is the "Fashion Court" in the Dubai Mall.  This is where all the high end stores are located in the mega mall of Dubai.  It is also where a lot of locals hang out.  I love walking around here on a weekend night.  Enter through the valet side for a car show like you have never seen.  While national dress is typically very similar for all locals, they all have that sense that they are wearing their best for a night out on the town.

This next picture I took while visiting a kind of touristy area in an older part of town.  I really enjoy shooting the old architecture of Dubai.  I presented this for a class assignment last year.  The instructor who is quite a successful photographer was always quite critical of our work.  We are better photographers for it, but there were no "virtual hugs" as he put it.  He was also always pushing to find the deeper meaning.  I love when he inquired about this picture and asked what the purpose of the woman was.  It was fairly early in the semester, so I could not write about her functional purpose.  I timed it so she was just in the right place to cover the big ugly red cone that was standing at the end of the ally!

I call this River of Leaves.  It was taken in Central Park in mid-November during a brief visit.  I felt I had not experienced the colors of autumn for so long.

I was in love with the lighting and where the sun was hitting this vase.  Plus the shadows from the flower and other plants nearby, but I was most drawn to it because of the natural light.  

This is the lobby of the Su Hotel in Antalya, Turkey.  They hosted several runners last spring for a charity run.  It was a nice relaxed time and quite a shift from their typical clientele.  Not that it is not nice on a regular day, but having been awarded in the past for their design it attracts a beautiful population.

This was quite a find.  I love street photography.  Is saw this while sitting on the metro in Hong Kong after a great day at Disneyland there.  Makes me smile.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Photo a Day...well almost

While I have no resolutions, I do admire people who take on tasks like shooting a picture a day.  Sure you can shoot many images in one setting, but to get a great one that pops every day if photography is not your profession is not always easy in my opinion.  So, on Pinterest, I've started one board called A photo a day...well almost.  I know I won't shoot a photo a day, or maybe I'll post some from the past, but who cares.   It will be a fun experiment and revealing for me in many ways.

My potted tomatoes.  This year I am doing 
cherry tomatoes.  Last year, I did big ones and 
they were quite successful much to my surprise

I love travel and documentary, but if I am not traveling, I enjoy pictures of almost anything.  My new year has started off quietly, so I am in everyday mode.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I appreciate the everyday because life can be so crazy sometimes that we don't have time to stop and appreciate the everyday and mundane.  It is good to pinch yourself from time to time.  With the exception of my son, I also find it very challenging to create images of things I see everyday, or everyday objects.  It is hard to make a bar of soap look sexy or arty - but this may be a good project to try out.

A friend of mine recently observed my draw to photography may be because I want to stop time.  While somewhat true, I think the drive is more just to pause for a quick second, or a fraction of a second in this case.  It is good to pause to remember where you are and why you are here.  It can be a big event or something small and minute, but I believe it is most important to not loose site of the bigger picture.  Funny the irony in that - taking smaller pictures in order to not miss the big picture :)

Here are a few to start with.  These are from the best room in my apartment - the balcony. It doesn't get more everyday than the balcony.  One of the places I love the most, but use the least.  Even on the days I am home it seems like either too much of a luxury to sit there or there are 1,000 other things that must get done.  Maybe I need a resolution to use the balcony more!

One of the residents who uses the balcony often

Sprouts!  You can grow bulb plants in Dubai.  Just move them inside before it gets too warm.
I put them back outside for the winter months.

A string of elephants that was a gift from my
mother-in-law.  In many Eastern cultures they
represent luck, power, love or fortune.  I am
not sure of their effect, but I most enjoy them for
their funky factor.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Eat More Ekmek Kadayıfı!

Happy New Year again…Did you make any new years resolutions?  I didn’t.  I have an ongoing list of things I need and want to accomplish, but that seed was planted long before fireworks shot of the Burj Khalifa.

I am starting to wonder if one reason people feel that the New Year is over-rated has anything to do with all the promotion of resolutions and what you must and must not do.  Loose weight, be happy, do this, do that…it’s a lot of pressure to fit into someone else’s box.  Maybe psychologically for some, resolutions give people a little help as a starting point.  However, I still think there is a lot of pressure and incorrect messages in the media about what should or should not happen in someone’s New Year.

Just this morning I received my university’s alumni magazine and the whole thing was a focus on how to be happy in 2012.  Was I not happy before?  Sure everyone has his or her day, but in general I think I am happy.  Despite all the craziness, good and bad, I am content.  I can’t help but wonder if people see these publications and read them and conclude that they are unhappy when maybe they actually weren’t in the first place?  It’s like the study done years ago that concluded that as soon as young women started looking at fashion magazines, their self-esteem immediately dropped.  They suddenly think they are overweight or ugly.  This is not true.

And it is because of such pressures that I loathe the most common resolution I hear from people – to loose weight.  And it is not just from women.  It often starts with an unrealistic expectation - a benchmark famous person.  Famous people spend a lot of time exercising and managing their physical appearance because a great deal of their job is based on how they look.   If they are not working on something, that is what they do.  It is their job and that is fine, but not always realistic for us who do not have time to exercise 5 hours a day.  It is possible, but not easy for sure.

Even though most famous people are already beautiful to start with, they still push limits or still try to fit into someone else’s box.  I can see why they would loose site when most people around them are constantly critical of how they look.  That coupled with the horrible media that picks apart celebrities, it is painful to observe sometimes.

I don’t think this is exclusive to any one culture, unfortunately.  I am not sure if there is a place where you are worse off.  For me all of these contribute to the constant increase in plastic surgery.  Even though the economy might be bad, we may be hard pressed to find any plastic surgeons who are hurting.  There is a lot of plastic surgery in the US obviously, Lebanese woman are known to seek a lot of plastic surgery, but yet South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgery according to a reputable international plastic surgery organization.  As I know from working there, Turkey has its share too.  

Don’t get me wrong.  If you have something about yourself – a feature, a trait, a behavior that you do not like, by all means change it or improve yourself as you see fit.  Just be careful.  Too much of a good thing can be bad sometimes.  And do it because you want to, not because society wants you to, or that is the new norm or trend.  

Who am I to judge?  I hate to be judged and hate to judge people.  This isn’t about that.  If one of my friends came to me to tell me they were thinking to go through a drastic change with plastic surgery,  I would give them a big hug, tell them they are beautiful and then take them to eat the biggest ekmek kadayıfı in Istanbul. 

For those of you not Turkish, ekmek kadayıfı is one of the most amazing, and perhaps one of the most calorific desserts in Turkey.  It is bread drenched full of sugary syrup served with heavy cream on top.  It is sooo good.  It is so crazy sinful, I am not even sure I can find an American equivalent for analogy!  Best eaten while drinking çay.  You will not need to sweeten your tea.  The kadayıfı is so full of sugar it will stick to your teeth and go down with your tea.  I love it so much that I cannot believe I do not have a picture of it!  So here, I share one I found from the internet.

Picture from

My point?  Well, there are many.  Most importantly, love yourself and accept yourself for whomever you are in whatever place in life you might be right now.  For 2012, before you make any rash decisions about your happiness, physical appearance, relationships or anything else for that matter, grab a trusted friend and go indulge in an ekmek kadayıfı or equivalent.  Enjoy it and be sure that you are much more beautiful and happy than you may care to admit.  No sharing of desserts allowed!

...ok, I am hungry now!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

I felt like this year many people were fed up with the outrageousness in the over-priced, over-ratedness of New Years Eve.  I have been there for a while now.  Paying three or more times per person for something standard or sub-standard is just not fun or necessary.  Most people I talked to this year had a party at home or stayed home.  Many, like us, went to dinner the night before. (I hope the restaurants do not figure that out!).  For the big event we stayed at home balcony bound to watch the Burj Khalifa fireworks with another couple who live in our building.

We are fortunate we do not need to venture out into the traffic and craziness to watch this.  That morning I went for a walk-pseduo run with my son through the area as he rode his bike and saw this year they were much more organized than last year.  Among the many kiosks there were two stages set up for live music, so I imagine the park opposite Dubai Mall was a great place to be last night.  However, I enjoyed the blaring music from the nearby hotel and just relaxing in my jeans and sweater, plus blanket (it is cold in the desert at night in winter).  Despite a mild tri-pod challenge, I was able to get a few good shots like the one below using slow shutter speed and similar settings you would use for light painting.

In Dubai you can choose the beach side near the Burj Al Arab hotel or the Burj Khalifa for fireworks.  In my opinion if you are ever in Dubai for New Year's Eve, hand's down Burj Khalifa is the best.  They were more colorful and spectacular than last year and they combined more traditional fireworks with the special technology that shoots them off the building.  It was awesome and I cannot wait to do the same thing next year.

Happy New Year everyone!