Archive for the 'Lamentos' Category


Yemen Impressions: Saudi Airlines- a fiasco if Yemen is your destination

The odyssey of travel via Saudi Arabian airlines has certain demands

Pack light,
Be ready to change flights like you change your underwear,
Fight for your flights- [rights];
Take a whoppie cushion- your butt cheeks will thank you;
Be aware that its pilots can’t always land in Yemen- rain or shine;
Don’t travel with them during Ramadhan- you’ll think strategic planning wasn’t part of universal business lore;
Give your office, patients, clients a two week window for your return- when I wrote this note (it was Friday the 13th- they’re not superstitious right?) our flight had been cancelled twice in four days; eating up our one-week window down to nothing- a formal letter of apology from them was requested since we wouldn’t get home in time.

For an airline that had been known for its shining stars, even Yemania Airlines could teach them a thing or two- because them stars are a tad beyond tarnished.

Its back to flying via Emirates or its sister company- or anything -but not Saudi.

Oh and if you happen to be flying INTO Yemen via Saudi Airlines- cover your eye, nose, and mouth- they fumigate you like a pack of roaches… Darndest thing ever!

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Weekend stuff…

I would call it the end of the Yemeni world before the desert starts

Our trip is getting closer, and the shopping of essentials has started. And I do mean essentials because the luggage business at the airports is not worth excess baggage. Unfortunately one can’t take gifts like we used to do for everyone…now we have to wait to get to our destination to buy things that are needed for each of the family members. We looked into sending a box via cargo but there was no guarantee it would arrive during our stay, much less with the holiday season a skip and a hop away.

We have clothes back home that we always leave behind for us to use, especially if the trip is short or unexpected. In this case, we are extremely glad we don’t have to take things other than the usual toiletries, and other personal items…Fast check in on this end, quick exit on the other end.

For a moment there we thought we would not be able to go; but we have been assured through various official means that it will be fine for us to travel. Especially since I am not seen as a foreigner; just another Yemeni. Until I open my big mouth that is, my accent gives me away- its Jordanian so it sticks out. But then I am not much of a talker when out in public in Yemen.

I did however get some nice sun-dresses, and Indian skirts with Kurtas. At home in the compound I can wear whatever I want, and outsiders won’t even know. Only when I venture out of the compound am I obligated to use the hijab and abaya if trekking about the mountain (I have a few abayas that were modified to give me more leg room to hike; and of course the niqab if I am going to public areas. Those being few, as women in the area where we are going do not go to the market, banks, or things of that nature- only see them in the hospital or clinic. And that, believe it or not, is fine by me. I do enough errands here in NY to want a break from them. I gladly relinquish the chores!!! Ok, so I am hankering for some TLC and pampering of the queenly type…for me that is a true vacation…mind you vacation is the objective!

At work things, as usual, are intense with the Care Management System implementation/operationalization- And as project manager for it- I am working to line all the duckies so everyone can “do” while I am away. And because in the mountains the internet is non-existent, I won’t be able to get in contact with the office via email- only phone…I’m sure at least one or two calls from the office will surface. But I’d gladly not have them call.

My daughters are staying behind- both have a lot on their plates- both have classes, volunteering work, and regular paid work. So their summer is jam-packed. My son, on his way to his new post as he informed us today. That will mean another few years without seeing him. But we are all used to it by now!

This weekend American Bedu posted a beautiful article on her experience with the American Cancer Society’s recent event in her area. It is truly wonderful to see children involved in activities that are positive to them and to the recipients. I know that all the Cancer Warriors were beaming with pride and joy! You go girl, my Pink Warrior! It does however sadden me that other places, as referred to in Bedu’s blog, like in Saudi Arabia children are stupefied- what else can you call it when they can’t think on their own, can’t enjoy any games or activities, can’t even volunteer their time for kid causes that are necessarily society’s causes!? Someone please tell me what is so wrong in showing kids how to get along, how not to point or ridicule others, how to behave in polite society, how to be productive human beings, how to be better Muslims…Yes, better Muslims- who care and do for their brethren regardless of where they are, what nationality or ethnic group!!! Better Muslims who are so comfortable in their own skins that they have no need to blame outside sources (the only source really is the infamous Wild, Wild West- big time Boogey Man) and confident in their deen. Why can’t Saudi children, teens , and young adults be part of environmental causes, science projects, social issues? Why must their lives revolve around sex?! I mean really! Every waking moment, every movement, every thought gravitates on sexual, sensual, libertine thoughts?! That is major brainwashing of humans. Most kids won’t associate anything with sex until you put it in their minds.

No teenager is going to experiment until you put up every barrier. And no young adult will go to extremes that are dangerous for their health and survival, until you castigate them for being normal humans- drifting and drag racing are products of frustration and anger. And if I take the numbers of accidents in Saudi Arabia occurring everyday, which statistics from Saudi show are the highest in the world- well then that is major pent up anger and frustration.

And what is the solution? To further restrict them, to further inhibit them, to further castigate them, to brush it under a plush rug of silence and stoic denial… Some Islam that is…Its not the Islam I have known for three decades. Its just Saudi Islam. I just shake my head in disappointment to see such a rich country, with such rich heritage bury it in the sand… What a waste of good human potential.


late 60s & 70’s- a world gone mad or an un announced WW III?

Reading The Nation’s article “Heroic Impatience” by Diego Gambetta about the Baader Meinhof Gang or RAF; I couldn’t help but recall those years. I was too young to voice my opinion, if I had any at the time they were colored by the life that surrounded me. But the images that came back from that time are most certainly clear and fresh. I had been recently ‘shipped’ to Dominican Republic to study. My mother’s idea of saving me from the urban warfare in NYC.  She plump plopped me in the middle of chaos! Now years later, sitting with my boss over coffee discussing the things that went on during those years, all over the world, I know the world had gone mad.

I remember vividly leaving in the middle of class because at the near by UASD -Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo another set of tear gas bombs had gone off. Of running not knowing why, but knowing those were gun shots behind me. Of hearing my uncles quietly discussing the latest radio or tv black out- at the time I think there were only three or four channels. “Calla, o manana amaneces con la boca llena de mime”! Was an often harshly whispered threat or advice to university students and professors alike. “Keep your mouth shut, or tomorrow flies will fill your mouth”. My youngest uncles where I lived, were newly minted university professors. One was in the department of chemistry at ‘la UASD’. The other at UNFU -Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Urena, in the department of engineering. Their gatherings never held anywhere near the ‘galeria’ that might face the street and therefore a suspicious target for the ‘calie’ of Balaguer… That would definitely be your “disappearing ticket”.

The day that sticks out in my mind was the day I learned about Sagrario Diaz, an economics major at UASD; brutally shot in the head as she ran from another raid by the militarized police sent into the Campus to stop a protest rally. The police shot at her as she dived for the floor in one of the hallways trying to flee… It was, and is still a very sore spot in Dominican Republic and a symbol of what was happening in other parts of the world to university students alike. To this day I still get chills when I hear shots fired, shouting, running and cars screeching in the middle of the night…especially the running.

Below are the images that I found of those times, from every corner of the earth: USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Dominican, Republic Peru, Argentina, Spain, Europe, China, Vietnam, Middle East, Africa…

The world gone mad or was it an unannounced third World War?


oh, can you send me…

Have you ever dreaded calling relatives? My husband does. Especially when its about solving the countless issues that pop up overseas. Those important issues that deal with health, death, and the never-ending rounds of weddings and births.

For him its ‘mind-blowing’ how in the midst of a crises; of making funeral arrangements; of figuring how much and who will take care of a family member’s health issue; someone will take this as minimally important to their needs.

‘Oh, by the way, there’s this new [fill in the blank] that I want. They say it only costs a few dollars’. What in NY only costs a few dollars??!! ‘You can FedEx it over so I can have it by Wednesday’.

You know this request has vibrated through every nerve ending from the wide-eyed stare at the phone my husband has. The silence a good two phone card minutes long. The long sigh. The silently mouthed Dua about being spared from a fool or being made one. The long intake of breath before the “La’!”

‘Their first words as a baby must have been “give me”!’ He mutters. He’s not stingy, but there seems to be no better moment to ask for the moon, than when your diving into an abyss!

Yes sah, money grows on trees in this here parts. Did you know we have the most abundant money trees this side of the Red Sea? The Franklins and Madisons are low laying fruit, just blow a little and watch them coat the golden paved streets. That’s why we all go around with polarized sunglasses even in the dark…


say what you need to say…

RIP Vero

Yesterday evening my colleagues and I attended the wake of the sister of another colleague to pay our respects. It was a packed house because Vero had only been 20 years old with many friends, active in her Church, beautiful, and full of life. But on late Thursday night she would accept an invitation that would change the lives of many and end hers forever.

She had been invited to a friend’s get-together and but by mid evening had wanted to leave in time to get home to finish off reading her notes for her tests at college the next day. No one had a car. She called another friend she knew was out about town. That friend said sure, but do you mind if on the way we pick up someone else that’s also stranded without a car?

Sure, no problem.

A half hour later her friend was in handcuffs, the other stranded fellow on the way to the hospital with a broken back- he would never walk again, and Vero- dead at the scene.

She never got to say goodbye to her parents, her siblings. She would never now take those tests she studied so hard for. Never again would she call her sisters for a Saturday round of hair and nail salons. She would never again sing in her Church choir nor read scriptures during service.

The reverend for her parish, spoke about saying those oh so many things you need to say to your loved ones. Say them now, every moment you get say ‘I Love You’, give praise, counsel, hugs, kisses. Laugh with them, cry along with them, and dry each others tears. He spoke of the words that now Vero would never utter, and asked the family to step into that void and speak those words to each other and to those who might never hear them from the ones they love because of life’s circumstance. He asked the family to believe in the power of love and its healing effect.

‘Say what you need to say’, John Mayers sings.

Will you say before its too late?


when you don’t prepare for the unexpected

Lately, with hearing from American Bedu’s recurring illness and the loss of her beloved Prince, our recent encounter with death of a patient and his refusal to notify his family prior to his demise; I can only see certain parallels of my boss’ and my battle with diseases that are anything but gracious. All unexpected and filled with tribulation; some to end with disastrous consequences beyond the death or survival of the loved one.

My boss was not prepared for the news that his non-smoking, well exercised, well cared for body would betray him with two different cancers- one around his carotid artery in his throat and the other in his thigh. At his absolute best in his career, with a loving wife of more than thirty years- my boss was not prepared for what turned out to be the most aggressive chemo and radiation therapy, a cracked skull, a pacemaker, three surgeries, and a year where he so changed my heart broke the day his wife called me and said “come”- so thin was he I couldn’t find him in my arms. When I stepped outside to recover some balance, all I could say in his beloved Diana’s arms was “Please, where is my jefe? Please bring him back”.

Those were hard months, but in the shadows loomed something that would rock my family to its very foundations and all but ruin my boss’ recovery. One day I fell into a coma.

That time for me was a void- a nothing within nothing- no realization of being. For my husband and my daughters it would be the worst eight days of their lives. Because upon them descended my maternal AND paternal clan. A mixture of Spaniards, Dominicans, Lebanese, Jordanian, and God knows what else stormed the hospital. My youngest used that term- she felt like it was an invasion! And it was; everything was second guessed, quarreled over, broken, parceled; this one blaming the other. My husband thought for a moment, a long one at that, he and the girls were no longer my family- they felt as outsiders and all plans- what few we had ever made were swept away under a barrage of demands from both sides.

My husband was not prepared to feel and see the until then hidden feelings of my non muslim familiars- their disparaging remarks of even my hijab that my spouse knew even in death I would never relinquish willingly, and astonished at the depth of festering anger on the muslim familiars-who believed they had more right over me than any one- I was an object. He was blown away by the callousness at one point when someone- never did want to tell who- suggested “we go to plan B”- my inevitable death! In front of my girls (my son was being shipped back from his post) and my husband they would divide my belongings, my legacy like buyers at the market square.

Then I was told would come the recriminations the “why did/didn’t you two plan this that or the other”- those would end on the day my son arrived to find his father had aged eons and he summarily threw everyone out- I think it had been the uniform and his “assess and take command” stance- my husband willingly let him take charge, because all he really wanted was to be by my side no matter what came.

This would teach us all a great lesson- we had not envisioned such a storm in the middle of a life or death disaster- we would pay high prices for not truly planning for the worst. That sense that in the end things will work out- never did we in our wildest dreams believe our faith in our family could be shattered so utterly in an instant.

After all was said and done; after the relapse and the up hill battle to recovery, I was left with a dark and potent understanding that we truly must have those conversations Bedu spoke of*, we must look at death and point to it and say- this is what we will do when the time approaches or has come to an end. But most of all we must prepare our most precious for strength and determination to carry out our will.

Unfortunately, something broke in my clan- the deep seeded wrongs blossomed to the surface opened by the chasm that was my coma. And all I can say is that, while few ever return to hear of the horrors a family can commit when in preparation for a family member’s death, I was able to return from that void and learn to protect MY family- my adoring husband, my son and my daughters- from this ever happening again.

The Health Care Proxies are now firmly written and legalized, the last will and testaments written, the documentation of our lives secured and known to us five. Our every last wish discussed and put to legal size parchment.

Better safe than sorry is one adage I will never forget.

Today unfortunately the news is not good. After a year and a half we were told my boss’ cancer is back- we step upon the roller-coaster once more. He will have an operation on Thursday and will start again the chemo and radiation he so dreads. I could only give him hugs as I left for my own appointment- devastated and sick to the core. My results are in- I have two clots that need to be dealt with now, the Coumadin cycle begins anew, the scans, the x-rays, and again I become reacquainted with those hurtful arterial blood draws! God those hurt- Alhamdulillah the clots were found before they could do more damage or create the havoc of last summer.

Please pray for my boss- these roller-coasters are always scarier the second time around…



DVT – the test for them is scaring me

On May 29, 2009, my life spun almost into oblivion. Well I was actually in oblivion as only a coma can put you there. In the first, few days after rounds of tests seemingly marked this as an episode of unknown origin. Moreover, we smiled and laughed for a few days thinking, wow this thing has ended. I was transferred to the Rehabilitation facility in the same hospital to recoup and start re-building my life. And for a while, I was gaining strength: Able to sit up, talk, write, read. My husband and kids bringing games to entertain me, keep me aware of my surroundings.

But scarcely five days after I was exhibiting symptoms doctors were attributing to VAP pneumonia associated with my being on a ventilator for eight days. But my body was telling me otherwise. Quickly the talking was replaced by breathlessness and hoarseness. I started not being able to sit up for any length of time. My chest hurt, my legs felt like lead. My headaches were back with a vengeance.

I stopped smiling, feeling weaker by the hour.

In the middle of the night, I was wheeled into Radiology for a Nuclear Stress test. Right pulmonary effusion was stated, but ruling said it was inconclusive. My doctor, a very focused young man I had seen grow from Resident to Attending status with an incredible bedside manner, was not convinced by the other doctors who insisted it was pneumonia. He kept at it; first ordering Doppler sonogram of my veins in my legs. Nothing there said the tech. But then it must be pneumonia, sah? He shook his head, no one more test. The air was harder to breathe by the moment…so my ever-present companion; the oxygen tank became my lifeline. Intubation was not far off again. I was starting to look a bit bluish…

So I was put on steroids for 24 hours, to premedicate me for CT scan with contrast. Meanwhile, while we waited, I was started on Heparin and Levonox to be injected into my belly twice a day. Now I know how a diabetic feels with daily insulin injections! I hate the sight of needles now, almost childish fear of them…The next day early morning in a wheelchair, because I could not stand a minute lying down; I was brought again to Radiology for the scan. The doctor administered the contrast push style. My body went from cold to hot in seconds, my head swimming in an unpleasant rush.

The test was started, I was told to hold my breath. You kidding, I thought! What breath, I am already bluish with a lack of it!

A few more “hold your breaths,” and the test was over. Quickly I was taken off my prone position and onto the wheelchair. I have never felt more tired than at that moment. My view seemed almost tunnel vision like. Every sound started to sound so, oh so far away. I do not even recall the trip back to my bed.

A few hours later, it seemed my doctor was sitting by my bed. “How you holding up kiddo?” All I could do was lift my hand slightly. “Well you’ve done it again,” he said smiling weakly. Yes, that was a weak smile, an effort to give me some measure of comfort. “You have bilateral PEs.” It took me a moment to understand, sorry my brain was adamant on locking down. Just writing about it now, seems almost surreal. Bilateral Pulmonary Embolism… Killer words… “You have in both sides in your lungs massive blood clots. We are going to increase your medication. It’s what will save your life.”

Until today, I am not sure I understood the depth of meaning those three words. Many, including my husband almost gasped despairingly upon hearing the diagnosis. This was one of those things that killed you, even before you have had a chance to name it. This was not good…

I must have blanked out for a while, because when I realized again, where I was, only my husband and kids were sitting around me. I was having problems with depth perception. To me the doors looked nothing like portals into another area. In fact, they seemed painted on the wall. I did not see the world in three dimensions. Weird. I would bump into walls and doors for quiet a while afterwards. Realizing where I was in relations to the walls and floor was hard.

They looked at me with the look I have seen countless of times, probably have had that look myself when visiting extremely sick, death bound patients: When you try not to say the words forming in your mind. My husband, holding my hand gave me a reassuring squeeze. “You’ll pull through sweetie, you’re a strong woman.” With tightness in my chest, I tried to squeeze back. “You have to fight sweetie, or we will have to take extraordinary measures to make sure your brain gets oxygen.” Then, with almost a crack in his voice, he croaked “Live.”

A few more days passed and I was able to breathe a bit easier. The injections, continuing to do their part, along with other medication pushed me towards recovery. Weak but stable, I started to sit up more, read, answer emails. Then getting up to slowly walk around the floor of the Rehab unit, my trusty oxygen tank wheeling noisily by me, normal was no longer such a foreign word.

It was a few more weeks before I was able to leave the unit and return to my home. The arrival was strange. I did not remember leaving it, I still do not. The house was strange to me. My daughters had done thorough cleaning with my son, who had been recalled for a few weeks the day I was found in a coma. He was going to stay a few more days, before setting back to Virginia. He would be leaving once again to war-torn Iraq, and he wanted to spend as much time as possible with us. The preparations were mingled with dread- he would be too far away if I had a relapse….

But there was one conversation I had with him, that helped the unending feeling of loss I had when I tried to piece together the days. I had lost 8 days of my life to oblivion, and my mind struggled to regain them. I could not. He said that in a way going to war and coming back was similar. You blanked out parts; if not as much as possible of the events, you had lived through. He understood what I was feeling, of not being able to synchronize my mind with the date that was off by those eight days. “Don’t try to remember, mom. For you there is nothing there to remember. Let those days fade into the dark. Do not try to find out who, what, when, how of those days. They mean nothing now. You are here. Start from here.”

Start from here. Yes, I guess I would have to. The road to my past was blocked by those eight days. I could only look forward. Forward to whatever it was that awaited in the fog of time. I started writing in a journal. It was all too confusing and raw to put on the blog. So my days were spent away from the internet; I needed rest and the virtual world could not offer that for me at the time.

I kept constant communication with my boss who was in Mexico recuperating from the intense rounds of chemotherapy and radiation fighting his throat cancer. He too had a bad upset in his recovery when one night he got up from bed to get a glass of water and his world spun around and he cracked his head on the marble countertop in his kitchen. His wife found him in a pool of blood. His heart had done a number on him, his head was cracked, and he looked like he had done a few rounds with Tyson in the ring. For months, his brain refused to cooperate and like he would say later; “I felt I had poured my brains out on the kitchen floor.” So now, far away from any stressful situation, he was recuperating in the mountains of his vacation home. He too would tell me “one day at a time”; so would my email friend Chiara. Both were right; one day at a time was the only thing I could do.

The months passed; I was able to return to work a few hours a day, which was an exhausting endeavor for sure. I felt lost walking the hospital. Everything seemed empty. But everyone at work tried their best to keep it together for me…I had returned but not the same. There were battle scars that pulsated underneath it all. The kind that you remember when you bathe and your soapy hand brushes against a scar, and the memory of how you got it immediately comes to mind- but is lost again in everyday life. My life now revolved around my Coumadin, the unending blood tests. I had, even months afterwards, that breathless sensation. I hated the needles, the injections. It seemed not a day passed before I was facing another of those slim monsters. Childish, maybe-, but you dread them just the same. It would fade…

In January, I was able to return full-time to work. I was nearing the end of my course with Coumadin and it was great news- a pulmonary function test showed I was again at optimum breathing. However, I did not like the feeling of being a chemically induced hemophiliac. I could not fly off to a vacation destination. Airplanes for the moment were off-limits; so were the hikes to the nearby mountains. Mine was a world confined to sea level activities, sedate and extremely careful. Walks on the beach were a welcome solace. Hearing sea gulls, the rhythmic sounds of the oceans against the sands, cannot say how many days those walks on the beach were the only thing I looked forward to…

In early February, I started feeling breathless again, especially after going up any flights of stairs. On my i-Touch, I started noting all those odd times when I felt pain in my legs. In the past, I never really paid much attention to it. But now I had to. A few days ago, I sent an email to my doctor, listing all the notations I had made and immediately he recommended I have the Doppler test done again to rule out DVT -Deep Vein Thrombosis. We get on the carousel again…

So I am scheduled for the test on Monday, and I am scared. I do not like what it means and honestly, I am a tad frozen in place until that day…

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