30 November 2010

The disadvantage of having a DSLR

As far as I can tell, there's only one. Well, other than dropping the lens cap out the window on the highway.
In 2006, I saw KT Tunstall in concert and didn't bring my camera, assuming that I wouldn't be able to keep it, and taking public transport, there would be nowhere to put it without having to trust the venue. It turned out we stood three feet from her, could have had a camera, and had none. Oh well.
So, the boyfriend took me to see her again last week and I brought the fancy-cam, determined to get at least one good photo. At the door they checked in my bag and told me I couldn't take it in.
them: "That's a professional camera, I can't let you take it in."
me: "But, I'm not a professional."
them: "Yeah, but since that's a professional camera, we can check it or you can put it in your car."
me: "WTH?!....fine" (after some irrited sights and feeble protesting)

I found myself again three feet from the stage and cameraless. Even in protest I didn't bother taking one with my phone. It just wasn't worth it. So...maybe in another four years I can try again.
A-Mazing concert anyway, I'm afraid poor C didn't enjoy it much, but I did. Fab versions of her old stuff and a great selection of "New shit" as she put it. 'Twas a rocking show.

16 November 2010

A 'Lively' Place

I've described many towns and cities in my journal as 'lively.' It wasn't until I saw Marrakesh that I realized how  when concerning any other place, just how pointless the word was. Marrakesh is hands down, the strangest, busiest, and most chaotic city I've ever been in.  Describing it as lively would be the understatement of the century. 
We arrived in the evening, settled into our riad and headed out into the Djemaa el-Fna, the central market. At night, the market becomes (even more) alive and a series of food stalls pop up as well as OJ stands, date sellers, fortune tellers, street performers, snake charmers, and all manner of people. Oh, and pickpockets too.
We ate dinner right in this night market which was very exciting for me, as it is very difficult not to feel like a tourist in Morocco, but this experience felt very real.  We sat along a long row of tables, 24 of us squeezed into a table built for far fewer. It was a good dinner with plenty to eat, almost all of it recognizable. Toward the outside end of the table, there was a bit of a kerfuffle and I looked up to see one of the food stall workers who had a kid by the scruff of his neck and was giving him a serious pounding. At first I was horrified, but quickly learned that the cheeky kid had reached right in front of my friend and grabbed his camera. Unfortunately for him, he ran right into this guy who wasn't going to let him forget it. It was a briefly entertaining exchange then, but then mostly unnerving. As news spread down the table, every valuable was cinched more tightly around necks or stuffed into bras.
We wandered through the market after dinner, now more prepared for the chaos of it.  We hit some of the market stalls, amazingly decorated with goods.  I've never seen anything like it, and, like most of Morocco, is beyond my description.  But, each of these stalls were absolutely packed with stuff, leather products, clothes, blankets, rugs, jewelry, antiques.  I mean literally packed from floor to ceiling.  This pic will help.  
We had the next day free to explore.  I tagged along with an American couple who had an interesting idea, as we found the nearest swank hotel, pretended we stayed there and hired a local guide from them to take us safely around the city.
This was a great idea that gave us some insight into the city and kept people from bothering us so much as we wandered through the souks.  Our guide took us into Ben Youssef Madrasa, and old Islamic college which is full of fantastic carvings and mosaics.  We also went into the Marrakech museum, a former palace, being converted into a museum.  It is a beautiful venue and is full of antique Moroccan crafts, pottery and interesting photos of the old city.  When we finished with history, we delved back into the market, wandering through the different areas.  The souks are semi organized into districts according to what they sell- leather, lamps, food, spices.  It was a bit tedious to ask every shopkeeper if I could take a picture of their shop, but it helped that the people I was with bought a lot of stuff. 
We had lunch overlooking the square, the best way to observe the snake charmers and monkey handlers without having to pay for the privilege.  We spent the rest of the afternoon ogling at the the market stalls and learning to be shrewd bargainers.  The bargaining thing was really fun after a while, especially when observing a master.  The evening was surprisingly relaxing, hanging out with the group in our riad.  Everyone was tired after a day of constantly saying "No" in various levels of politeness.  The next day we headed out of the city and to the calm and beautiful coastline.

15 November 2010

The weirdness of being home

It has been difficult to admit that after a year of planning and a year of execution that the wild-ass plan is sadly and officially over. Although I'm not there anymore, it will certainly remain a part of my everyday life and ongoing friendships.

I have had a definite reluctance to change my location on Facebook or the lappys clock back to EST. And, this past weekend I felt a near desperate desire to be back in England for the Harry Potter premier and all of the Coventry blitz anniversary happenings. Alas. At least I could catch the cathedral service on BBC radio.

I have a few residual quirks from being there. It's amazing the affect being on the other side of the road has on the psyche. I still inadvertently look the wrong way before crossing and have occasional flashes of panic as I pull out onto the 'correct' side of the road. I had happily forgotten all of the rage that driving sometimes fills me with, and failed to truly appreciate the tranquility of a complete reliance on human powered or public transportation this last year. Driving makes life expensive, but also makes it so much more accessible. It may be sad, but something I really missed was singing in the car, it is my therapy.
My vocabulary is still evolving and I have caught myself saying 'rubbish' or 'pavement.' I am just about sorted on my spelling, removing the extra 'u' from several words and embracing the 'z' again. Yeah, that's 'zee.'

I've just about caught up on all my favorite American eats, although I haven't been to Cracker Barrel yet, which is a real crime. Soon.

Being back at work sometimes has felt like I never left the friendly faces and familiar places. Time is a strange sensation as I have been slowly catching up with people there.
them: "Well, hey! I haven't seen you in a long time!"
me: "Yeah, um, it's been a little more than a year, I guess."
them: "Has it really been that long?!"

So, I'm hoping that life will begin to feel less surreal and I'll stop feeling like I either came from or have arrived in some kind of parallel universe. I take great comfort in that once I'm settled into my apartment and get the sads over not being in England, I can curl up with a Cadbury double-decker and a nice cuppa and begin to plan my next visit.

See? I'm even avoiding finishing this post as if it is the last time I can mention Coventry or England. Silly me. Even the blog knows my love affair with England is not over.

12 November 2010

Sometimes, I believe them

I finished up my 're-orientation' at work this week.  It was altogether great to get back into it and catch up with work people.  We ran a couple of 'good' calls and I feel pretty confident about heading back out on my own next week, I just won't know where I'm going, but that's nothing new.  It's difficult to work where I don't live- street names and directions are never reinforced. 
Anyway, we met up with a far away crew for a guy with chest pains.  We got there, ready to believe that the call had been talked up by overexcited providers, but this patient really looked, if I can use the term, poorly.  He was, pale, drenched in sweat, had truly crushing chest pain and was struggling with the EMT to keep the oxygen on his face while declaring that he was going to die.  When certain patients say this, I believe them, as it is usually beyond theatrics, and I have heard too many stories of a patient saying they were going to die and then, well, they do. 
So, we started IVs, did 12 leads, transmitted, gave nitro, aspirin, called command, started nitro paste, administered morphine, alerted the cath lab, and hoped that he wasn't right.
God, it was fun. 

11 November 2010

By George, a Gorge

When we arrived at Todra Gorge, the sun had already set, but even so, a quick look around helped us realize we were in a unique place. When we looked up, the sky was again filled with stars, although the stars appeared to be blocked out except for a narrow strip above us. It was strange to realize that we were not staying at Todra Gorge, we were staying in it.
Our hotel was situated against one wall of the gorge and we slept on the roof which was wacky but fun. Laying on my back in my sleeping bag I looked up and followed the dark canyon wall as it rose a hundred feet in front of me. It was truly strange, but waking up to see where we were in the daylight was magic. The canyon's narrow passage passed in front of the hotel and stretched out on either side of us. Most simply, we were in a gorge and as the sun rose, it threw light on the dry, red walls of the canyon and was one of the most amazing places I've seen.
I was the only one of our group to take a trek through the gorge with a local Nomad guide. I thought for sure it would be canceled, but to my surprise, I went alone and hiked to the top of the gorge. It was a moderate hike and I felt truly out of shape when we reached the top and my guide, rather than taking even a sip of water, lit a cigarette and waited for me to take in the view.
"I am Nomad." he explained simply to my disbelief. He had walked these mountains his entire life, taking one more tourist up was as mundane as crossing the street to him. Luckily, I could use picture taking as an excuse to stop on the way up. It was truly beautiful. Unluckily, the pictures from that day now lay in picture purgatory on a hopelessly broken SD card. Oh well. (Please google 'todra gorge' so my meek explanations can make some sense)
We continued our hike to a visit with a Nomadic family. They made me thyme tea and talked for a while in their native Berber language. Their young son posed for me and smiled widely every time the camera pointed his way. He had seen tourists before. They let me snoop around their encampment and they showed me the caves they slept and cooked in. It was fascinating and exciting to see a people who still live in the traditional way. Well, mostly. When I asked where they got their food and meat, my guide simply said "They walk to the market in town." as if the answer were as plain as day. Simply walking into town seemed too obvious to me.
When we finished our tea, we headed back down into the gorge and eventually (after almost slipping down the loose rocks a few times) caught up with some of our group who had prepared all of us a lovely homemade lunch. Tagene again, but it was the best by far.
After lunch, in a lapse of rational thought I bought a small carpet from our host which, now that I didn't accidentally leave it on a train, I am very excited to have. But seriously, if anyone steps on it, I may kill them.
In the afternoon, we walked back to our hotel, led through the communal gardens in the middle of the gorge. The landscape makes a brilliant change from dry and hot to a literal oasis along the shores of the river in the canyon. This area is masterfully irrigated and full of greenery as well as pomegranate, almond, date, and olive trees. It was a pretty cool walk.
It became a lazy afternoon as we mostly rested and then watched a few of our group go rock climbing in the evening. This was fun, but made me nervous as the guy in charge set the anchor points, high up the wall without a rope. It was amazing to watch but made me want to call the local ambulance just in case. "Somebody bring the donkey!" Just kidding. Or, not.

09 November 2010

The Desert

Alright, I'm going to try again to finish writing about Morocco.  From Fez we traveled all day to the edge of the Sahara desert.  After a long drive that literally drove off of the roadway into seemingly nothing, we  clamored onto camels and headed into the soft, red sand dunes.  In about an hour, as we watched the sun set, we arrived at the Berber camp where we had dinner and spent the night.  We had, predictably, a tagene that was great, had an adventure not finding the toilet, and were entertained by some of the Berbers who played traditional drums around the camp fire.
The sand there has the most inviting texture and temperature.  Instead of cold and wet, the deeper I dug into it, the warmer and dryer it felt.  Burying my feet in it was like having a heater around them, and the sand felt soft and smooth and I was completely content sitting it it, doing nothing else.  I leaned back against it, spreading my arms out like a snow angel; my entire view was filled with stars-180 degrees of the universe was laid out before me.  It was fascinating and infinite and one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.
My lack of astrological knowledge is lamentable, especially in that situation.  Although, we did figure out which were planets, that 'that thing' was the milky way, and for the first time, I saw all of Orion, and not just his belt.
Three of us dragged the little mattresses we were given up a dune and slept there under the stars.  I woke up a few times in the night and it was impossible not to catch a glimpse of our surroundings and not feel amazed.  I could have laid there for days. In the morning, I got up for the sunrise, which was lovely although with every dune I climbed, there was another one between me and the sun.  It was still a beautiful morning and absolutely the most fantastic place I've woken up to.  Seeing it in daylight was barely more than my camera could handle, it is too easy to get overexcited there and click yourself into a frenzy.

We didn't stay long in the morning as the sun brought heat and flies.  We took our camels back out to 'civilization' and had a lovely breakfast on the edge of the desert.  We then headed to a beautiful kasbah converted into a hotel where we hung out, swam in their pool, enjoyed their full service bathrooms, showered, tanned, smoked hookahs, and had a relaxing lunch.
It was unusual for me to enjoy such an afternoon on vacation, but after three weeks of 'go, go go' it was really nice simply to relax and do nothing.  So, maybe there is a new travel lesson for me- it is okay to do nothing....just not for too long.

08 November 2010

Back in the Saddle

I hopped into the drivers seat of our new truck and as I pulled away I had several questions.
"Where are the lights on this thing?"
"Oh, okay...Where is the siren"   "Thanks.  Ooh! I like this!"
"Um...Did we call responding?"   "Awesome."
"Oh, One more thing.  Where are we going? Because all I care about right now is finding the button for the rumbler."

It is with joy I have returned to work and I was given two weeks before the next schedule to hang out and acclimate.  My first day was like Christmas, other than the new truck, we opened a satellite station, and got some new toys (including two very new lifepak 15s! I know, squirrell!).  We've run some good calls in the last week, and it's really felt like I never left.  The new schedule comes out next week and I'll be back officially. 

But I have simply been thrilled by driving fast, clearing intersections, and blaring the siren to the point of absurdity.