Thursday, April 9, 2015

Rain drops and Fate. By Ninnevah

I once heard a lecture on an old cassette (yes a tape- I guess my age is now shinning through) about fate. About how everything is destined to end up where it was written for it to go. This is a bit of a sticky topic because some like to use it as an excuse to justify doing being lazy or doing not-so-good things, claiming that they do not have free will. I don’t think it’s quite that black and white. The further the years go by the more I realise that so many things in religion, just like in medicine are not black and white and that the further you study these topics, the more you realise you don not know. I try to explain to patients multiple times a day that there is no "yes or no" answer. But patients don’t like to hear about probabilities, susceptibilities, increased vulnerability, possibilities. The same with religion, a lot more than I initially believed in, I now can see is open to interpretation. 
So back to this concept that I was tying to break down, the example given was that even when it rains, every drop of water that falls on earth has a journey. It may end up in a person’s mineral water bottle, to quench their thirst mid-summer, or will be used to wash away sins of an old person doing wudhu as it drips from their beard. The suggestion that even water drops would follow their destiny was intriguing for me. Every time I realise that I’ve gone a whole day without drinking any fluids (yes that happens often when you are working 10 hour shifts), you reach a level of thirst where you can down a whole 600 mls of water in one go. Usually when there are a few sips left, I try to divide it so that I’ve had 3 sips in total, or a few huge gulps followed by two little sips. That quenching of the dryness of your throat, relieving that need without even realising it was nagging at the back of your mind until you brought it to your conscious self. That action in itself, believing that that was expected, or pre-destined is something that I cannot get over. Some concepts will always be difficult to grasp and this is one of them for me. The idea that all those water particles travelled through ?clouds ?streams ?ended in springs ?chlorinated water collection dams ?travelling through rusted pipes were destined to satisfy my thirst on a particular day. 
The other concept that I find difficult to digest is that all water is recycled. Now I’m not going to go into this too much or think up disgusting examples because I am already battling nausea and I need to keep my water intake at a reasonable level so I’m going to end this here=)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Scent of Patients. By Ninnevah

Sometimes I see patients who stink. As in have such a strong stench that I push my wheely desk chair as far back as I can and work hard to not squish up my nose in an obvious way. Sometimes I can’t help but put my hand on my face for a few seconds while listening to them talk. I generally look for any reason to minimize what I need to examine of these type of patients. Many times it’s a “what the hell is a shower” type of smell where their clothes look a second skin where they have crusted themselves onto the patient’s body. I really can’t stand these patients and if I could I would open up a window while they were in my room. It’s sort of a combination of urine, old sweat and cheap cigarette smoke and even a tinge of alcohol mixed in with it. Sometimes if you are especially unlucky, there’s a public toilet component to it as well.
The other type is the chronic smoker. Now this is not specific to adults. Sometimes a parent or parents would bring in a child or children and the whole family would have the stench of cigarettes attached to them. It’s especially sad when children fall into this category because the parents have placed them at a disadvantage already. Being exposed to second hand- or even third hand smoke (yes that exists- don’t think you are so smarty pants by lighting your cigarettes outside- unless you change your clothes and shower each time you still place your child at risk) increases the risk of respiratory problems in kids, ie makes them more prone to asthma/ bronchitis etc, brings down their immunity in general. I feel this is similar to parents who do not vaccinate their children. Because of your misconstrued ideas you place your child at an increased risk. Bravo on your selfish parenting ideals! Like making pet dogs vegans because it’s “healthier.” Go read a book!

The third type are those that come in smelling like fresh linen or like fields of lilies. These patients I don’t mind rolling my wheely office chair all the way into their faces! They smell clean and like normal human beings! I love these patients! I take the time to ask how their day has been. I ask them if they need any further help or have any other concerns that they would like me to address at the end of the consult. I even address potential disease prevention issues other than their main presenting concerns. Conversation then moves onto other general health issues as well and it’s all done with a smile. There’s usually pleasant dialogue and they leave happy and satisfied. In conclusion- it’s better for your health to not be stinky when visiting your doctor.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Some days you will never get back. Ninnevah

My earliest spiritual memory, now that's an interesting topic. Every child from a fairly practicing family background would no doubt have the obligatory toddler in prayer clothes, holding prayer beads or lying face down, flat on a prayer rug. But that is far from the first "spiritual experience."
I remember going to eid prayers and the excitement involved with wearing new clothes, receiving lolly bags and getting to play with other kids my age. Again that does not add up to a spiritual experience. After that I remember going with mum and dad to taraweeh prayers in Dubai, i was probably in grade 5 at the time. I had my back pack full of crossword puzzle books and coloured pens, but I also wore brought my prayer scarf and tried to stand in line with mum for the first part. I use to day dream until my legs gave way and I needed to sit down. Or sometimes even lie down and fall asleep. But I remember day dreaming about the days of the Sahabah, and how they use to interact with the prophet s.a.w. I would imagine I was there as well. Watching Abu Huraira interact with his cats, watching the people in Medinah climb and pick dates off of the palm trees. Watch the prophet s.a.w having dinner while only helping himself to the food in front of him. This is what would be going through my mind while listening to the calm quranic recitation of the imam during taraweeh/qiyam prayers. It would make me feel relaxed and fulfilled. This was my childish version of spirituality. 

As I got older I would be able to control my mind a little more and would focus on the words being recited. I would be able to follow the stories of Khidr and Yusuf. While breathing in the heavy smell of bukhour, enjoying the feel of the plush carpet on my forehead, and heavy women with cold feet stepping on my toes every time a row reshuffles. 

The strongest spiritual experience would have to be during the last few years of highschool. I was proud of my attachment to the mosque but not proud enough to let my ego seep through. I would look forward to those late nights in Ramadhan, to being amongst others with the same aspirations of trying to stay up as late as possible, sharing dates and yogurt for a pre-qiyam snack, reciting from our own mini mushafs. Booking your place in the front lines of the women's section, making sure no one else sits right over your prayer mat. Also trying to strategically be within the right angle to receive the air conditioning flow but also where the ceiling lights won't be too bright. The best place was were they fixed up temporary partitions to extend the women's section by borrowing a few meters of the men's side. This only happened during Ramadhan. And even when it was too crowded and we couldn't make it on time, there would be carpets laid out outside and parts of the carpark sectioned off for the women. Sometimes within temporary heavy sheeted tent wall with no ceiling. That way, when you were making dua, if you happened to have the guts to look up, you could see the stars over you, as you hear the waves of voices saying Ameen. The thought that during the last third of the night is when the Almighty descends to the lower skies and to be right there with no barriers between yourself and the sky. That is a thought that makes you feel so insignificant. That you begin to think twice whether your duas are worthy of His attention. It's enough to reduce you to tears just to be there. Where you start to only think of thanking Him rather than going through that long list you prepared at home of things to ask for. And at the end, everyone else is just as emotionally drained that most people initially avoid eye contact, but then you realise we are all in the same boat.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A bit of Russian culture. By Ninnevah

So I've been trying to get through Tolstoy's Anna Karenina for almost a year now. It's a pretty dense novel. And keep in mind that I'm reading an English translation of it and I expect a lot of the original significance is lost in the language. The paper back is quite thick and isn't they type of book to carry around in your bag in case you get a free ten minutes somewhere. So I eventually moved into the audio book. I started from the very beginning again as I had been reading the book very intermittently. I've reached past the point where my bookmark has been sitting in the novel and I've got to say I'm impressed with how it's picked up. I was expecting to have a few long 3 hour drives and thought I'd get through it then, but I'm generally not alone during these drives and you can't really make someone else listen to random chapters of a book they aren't following. So I've been listening to it in the mornings while getting ready for work. And on the way to work. The whole 7 minutes drive. So back to the story of Anna Karenina, it was set in the second half of the 1800's, 1870 I think. And most of the scenarios take place in either Moscow or St. Petersburg and it focuses on the social lives of some high society type people.

Now there's this other book that I also started reading a few months ago. I may have only reached till chapter two when my kindle battery died and I just haven't really been bothered to charge it. Okay it may have been more than two months and I may have misplaced my kindle. And may have only found it last night while clearing out some shelves. Also found the husbands ext hard drive that had been missing for a few back to what I was trying to say...the novel that I had started on my kindle was also set in the same timeframe.

Except it's about a Chechen boy, the son of imam Shamil. Who was kidnapped by the Russians. Brought up as part of the royal family and is now as an adult being returned to the Chechens. So I think this novel will focus on the identity crisis this person will have, being brought up immersed in Russian culture, enjoying their music, art, formal dances; the interests of Russian society and then suddenly being thrown back into the basic almost peasant-like lifestyle, and where war is such an everyday occurrence, the catch here is that while living the la-de-dah lifestyle he'd fallen in love with some high society princess. It's also translated from Russian, titled between love and honour, written by Alexander Lapierre. So both novels being set in the same era, same country from different aspects. I'm looking forward to getting through both:)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Half Awake. Ninnevah

I had an unpleasant interaction with someone yesterday and from the documentation of others I could see that that person had made a big deal about it behind my back. I got a bit emotional when I was on my own and let it put me in a bad mood for about an hour. I was on my own for that hour and used it to double check with someone whether I was being unreasonable or not. Overall it’s not a big deal, but I was thinking how it should be normal to feel upset or sad due to circumstances related to work. It shouldn't be a sign of weakness. The weakness would be how long you hold onto that grudge, or what actions you take based on it. I guess. This is what I tell myself to justify feeling horrible yesterday but back to normal today.

Sometimes I am so exhausted that my joints hurt and my head feels heavy. I know when I've reached the 36 hour mark when I develop chest pain on breathing. I don't reach that stage much but when I did do night shifts and then needed to stay awake the following day to attend an event/ catch up with friends/ return back to a more normal sleep routine. The worst aspect was driving home at this stage. I remember once I was out with friends on a post night shift day and trying to get from point a to b, I didn't realize it was evening traffic time. So apart from the headache and pain on breathing, I was falling asleep at the wheel. Not a new thing and in the past I have parked on the side of the road to sleep for a few minutes. A power nap. which sometimes works, but for me it ends up being about an hour or so long. But at least you can drive home in a more stable condition. The problem with this though is have you ever fallen asleep in a car with the sun shining on your face? The other thing is that you subconsciously have your foot pressing onto the break pad. Or maybe that's just me. I've fallen asleep at a red light too. Woke up to find other cars driving around me. I could have been dead and no one stopped to check up on me!! But yeah I had a sore ankle that day. I know I can't be the only one in this situation. It's gotta be fairly common.

Back when I was at uni, I've use to drive a land cruise so other drivers were generally scared of me. this tiny little young girl driving a huge car, I think others were worried that I was a very new driver and would accidentally hit / damage their cars. Yes I've had my fair share of falling asleep in morning traffic, really bad stand-still traffic.. I remember twice hitting the car in front of me due to this. But hey now I have developed the skill of sleeping with my foot properly on the breaks. Properly.

Anyways this was just a bunch of random thoughts. Just wanted to get back into writing again as I've had a few days being swamped with work. It's good to be back=)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hatha maqal hag kalam nafar hindi

I discovered this video a few weeks ago by Telfaz11, a brilliant Saudi based video network that churns out an amazing array of TV genres on youtube for local and regional consumption.

There is much to be said about the video itself and the social and political reality of the very large Indian/other labour force in Saudi Arabia and the gulf (and now increasingly the Levant). I’d actually like to focus on the new dialect of hindu/Arab that has evolved over the last 30 years.
The import of large numbers of labourers from third world countries such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and other similar countries has been going since the early 1970s when the Oil boom made the Gulf region very rich. Since the majority of those brought in to the Gulf countries spoke only their local hindi or urdu dialects and spoke little Arabic, a new dialect developed that mixed those languages (and some English) and created something which I guess could be called pidgin Arabic (?).
The interesting thing is that it doesn’t actually use the formal Arabic as the basis for the language, but rather the local Arabic dialect such as Saudi, Emirati, Qatari etc…
For example, if you wanted to say “I want to go to School to study”
In Arabic: Uwaddu an adh-haba ila almadrasa l’adrus
In the local dialect: Abee Arooh Almadrassa 7ag Al diraasa
In pidgin Arabic: Hatha nafar yabee yrooh madrasa 7ag dirasa

So it kind of takes out the grammar and the sentence structure and leaves in just the important keyword to convey the meaning.
Sometimes you will find some hindi or other words used such as
You are a trouble maker
Pidgin Arabic: Hatha  nafar wayed jinjaal
Where jinjaal is (I’m guessing) urdu for problem.
The interesting this is that even though throughout the last three decades there have been other nationalities brought in for work that don’t speak urdu/hindi such as Bengalis (mostly from Chitagong) and even Chinese, they all spoke the same Pidgin Arabic dialect, that how mainstream it became.
Arabs from the Levant, Morocco, Iraq and Egypt who move to a gulf country for work, also have to acclimate themselves to this new language, which creates very interesting variations of Pidgin Arabic in different dialects; such as the musical Egyptian accented Pidgin, or the Iraqi half arsed attempt at the dialect that confuses the Indian speaker to no end “Baba hatha kalam hag inta ma fee mafhoom”   
This evolution of language and dialect is fascinating to me because of my prior interest in the evolution of dialects in Arabic. I make it a habit to study old Arabic poetry to mark out the change in dialects from the old Arabic of say the 7th Century to the 13th Century C.E. It’s a bit difficult because of the lack of resources. So this quickly evolving form of language that’s happening right in front of my eyes is a real treat.

I wonder if there is research being done about this anywhere.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lettuce Trees. By Ninnevah

Let me tell you about the muffin man, I mean the lettuce trees. They were introduced to this region in the early 18 hundreds when there was a shortage of fresh vegetables. Diseases like scurvy and other vitamin deficiencies were widespread as the population relied on cattle and sheep for their main dietary intake. When lettuce seeds were introduced people were expecting the typical round iceberg type from Iceland, with the crisp white leaves. But instead what started to grow was the long lanky oval looking lettuce with green flaky leaves. A widely accepted theory is that this was due to the seeds being squashed while at the bottom of someone's bag while enduring the three month ship ride from England. 
A farmer decided to market these weirdly shaped lettuce heads as part of a genetically modified crop, claiming that since it had a larger percentage of the leaves being green, so it contained a larger percentage of vitamin g. People were ready to believe that something so simple was an easy cure to their diseases, farming of these oval shaped lettuces picked up and overtook the market of the traditional iceberg lettuce. 
With the introduction of modern science, it was shown that vitamin g was actually a hoax or just a marketing scheme which had caused the widespread acceptance and even preference of the oval lettuce heads. 
At this stage a research paper was published stating the harmful effects of the incorrectly named vitamin g, which actually was a toxin that affected a specific liver protein causing early liver failure. Eventually people switched back to the old fashioned Icelandic lettuce heads and the oval ones were only bought and eaten occasionally for its nostalgic taste.
Nowadays it is difficult to find this type of lettuce as people have become more health conscious and aware. Recently though there have been some sightings of "lettuce trees" which look very similar to this almost extinct species. The only difference is that instead of being up to 30 cm tall, these trees are known to grow up to 30 m high. Could almost compete with pine trees as windbreakers when planted in a row.