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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jeddah: A Drowning Bride

"Three things it is best to avoid: a strange dog, a flood and a man who thinks he is wise." - Welsh Proverb

Surely, not in anyone's wildest dreams that this day will come. People wade in chest-deep water for hours scampering for anything to grip not to get swept away. SUVs, small and big vehicles, and even huge dumpsters race like sailboats through the direction of the torrents. Abandoned vehicles literally clutter  many parts of the city due to conked out engines hit by floodwaters. Even alley cats can be seen putting up a fight for a piece of plank to hold on for their lives. "The bride of the Red Sea is drowning!", screams an English daily. And  those who have experienced firsthand of getting drifted by the flood and survived, will live to tell that climate change could possibly be a fact and not a product of any moronic mind.

Today, I received a text in Arabic from the Civil Defense. I immediately concluded that it is a warning for every resident in the city, but I had no idea what was happening outside because I did not go to work knowing it had rained.  I would later find out that the city is again inundated by floodwaters, and many roads and highways were rendered impassable due to rising water.  News outfits even carry headlines of people getting electrocuted due to exposed electric wires,and students continuously held up inside school premises because there was no transportation available. Even ambulances mobilized by the Civil Defense to carry the injured to hospitals were marooned in flooded streets. It was also reported that five historical buildings in the historic district of Balad succumbed to the massive rain and collapsed. Even in our area of Faisaliyah District, the famed Bicycle Roundabout (Darrajah Circle) hosted cars in its sloped pedestal. Drivers opted not to take risks braving the rising water or else car mufflers get submerged in water. At the moment, some of my friends here in Jeddah have not reached home yet. Some have opted not to brave waist-deep waters and decided to take shelter to a safer place till the water subsides. And the real bad news is, weather forecasts warn of another three or four days of continuous downpour that is a real cause of concern for all.

It sounds absurd that Jeddah, a typical desert city that prides itself of its reputation of being the hottest city in the kingdom the whole year round, is drowning. And residents are still reeling from that similar tragedy in November 2009 that had claimed 123 lives that either drowned in their homes or trapped inside their cars. Nobody had thought that an hour of downpour would cause apocalyptic destruction never before seen in this part of the world where rain is sometimes obsoleted for its eternal absence. Yet, with all the chaos and panic this calamity brings, it is heartwarming to know that most people rise up to the occasion to help those who are in trouble. If there are still skeptics out there of this global phenomenon, I think this is one hell of a story to convince people that climate change is unarguably a fact and that it is no piece of hearsay concocted by those who refuse to heed the signs of the times.

Being a Jeddah resident for almost a decade, I always get thrilled everytime I hear about rain. In the summer months, you don't see as much green vegetation in the surroundings because of intense heat, plants just wither prematurely, and trees shedding leaves to conserve little water left of them to be able to survive. Others gave way to burning heat and die. Stray cats in their hundreds fall dead in their thirst. I don't even imagine going to work waiting for taxi in the street when mercury is at its peak. So winter time supposedly is a worthy respite from the cruel summer months that are longest in Jeddah. Though most people here are accustomed to the desert heat in the summer, I guess this unwelcome phenomenon in the colder months has already sent chills to Jeddah residents not wanting to experience again the brunt of nature's fury. In Brazil, floodings and landslides had already claimed over 600 lives. In Queensland, Australia, people are grappling to come to terms with  floods that inundate towns and cities. It is happening everywhere, this time nothing is exempt from this global phenomenon.

Granting there is still hope, if people forget themselves and put an end to greediness, a miracle could be just around the corner waiting to happen. From our unwillingness to cut down on our personal carbon footprints, to the corruption in every government, all of these contribute to the worsening climate change that could effectively exterminate every living being in many years to come. It was proven that corruption was the real culprit behind the deaths of 123 people who drowned in the November 2009 Jeddah flooding,  because city funds that supposedly were allocated to build a modern sewage system in that depressed part of the city were pocketed by some city officials. And the king was quick to order to put behind bars those who were found  culpable. Today's headline hopefully will not be duplicated  by tomorrow's  or in the coming days. But based on weather forecasts, similar weather pattern ominously threatens to prevail over the next few days, and that is not a pleasant thing to anticipate. This is all I can do,  pray for all my friends that they may be safe and learning from this experience. Let's pray and hope for a safe and flood-less 2011!

Most of the pictures here courtesy of Enrico Gonzales Celdron via  "Thoughtskoto" .

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Back To My Cocoon

"Be well, do good work, and keep in touch." ~Garrison Keillor

The first month of 2011 is poised to bid adieu, astronomers even had laid-out another set of zodiac order that triggered commotion among its worshippers. A lot of things to blog about, but just couldn't get time to straddle between maintaining a weekly post and preparing for school activities. Obviously, this post signals the end of a rather busy time  that I almost forgot I have a home here and few frequent visitors excited to read my new post. And I'm not even in my element to write. I have for the time being forgotten that I also blog. I felt like I am a full-time student obsessed with homeworks and school activities. Now I'm back to old routine. No more school to anticipate every Friday. Somehow I'm feeling nostalgic.

At some point in our lives, we are told that to make it in life, you must go to college. In high school, my Chemistry teacher used to remind me that I should take up Chem. Eng in college. My Math teacher would advise me that Acccountancy suited me.  But what the heck? I ended up rather completing a Caregiving 6-month course. And of all places on earth - in Saudi Arabia. This is what I said in my speech on Thursday's graduation that barring title and prestige, this is the closest thing to a baccalaureate degree. No, I'm not in any way undermining my course in caregiving, I am in fact very proud of what I have achieved. I have, at some point in my life,  planned to get a course or training in computer, foreign languages and even welding, but this is the  one of which I was able to finish.

Six months ago, it didn't occur to me that I will be in for a fun ride that is caregiving. I thought what propelled me to enroll in this course was to break the monotonous routine that could gradually wear out this sedentary little thing called brain. This has been my frustration all my life - to get to school again and get good education.  And whether it is in Jeddah or somewhere else in Antarctica as long as there is an opportunity to learn, I won't surely let it pass. Secondary to my motivation, though figuring top in the list for many, was to use this course as springboard to get to Canada. But midway through the course, I found out that the units I earned in college were not enough as requisites for Canada. Initially I was saddened, but putting it in a proper perspective, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about. Putting aside conventional intentions, there are intangibles that weighed heavier to me after my completion of this course.

What first started as my sole reason why I enrolled in this course now plays second fiddle to what I primarily gained after graduation. To be honest, I certainly won't miss that much the long lectures in class  that start early morning compounded by a night without sleep. Instead of romancing my bed the entire time on my offdays, there I was, sleep-deprived and getting up so early to catch an early class like my life depended on it. Blame it on the kind of environment associated with petty restrictions  and devoid of recreation for which we've been used to, this one is as good as getting entertained while learning. One can't just resist bursting in laughter or better yet roll over at the bloopers. Thanks to the talent of our instructor/founder who is pretty aware that most of his students had not slept. Not that I am sending out a wrong message that fun is what I'm after for - it's only an icing on top of the precious knowledge that I gained. And that icing is one that I certainly miss the most.

Who could not miss the noise of the three bombs that sat next to each other at the back row? And the habit-forming giggling when Marvin gets to gargle his Visayan tirade? And Jane's sinister-looking lump of inquisitive eyes at first impression? No, she's a rather nice fellow and sincere and would remind you to lotion your arms when she finds them scaly. And Rischel's genuine laugh and effortless humor that tops her unrelenting Friday supply of hypertension-friendly Cinnabon to dump into our dilated intestines?  Benjie's Bengali-mode photo-habit that becomes a hallmark of bad dramatization of a screwed-up script  certainly is identifiable to Batch 4 wackiness and will also be missed. Hospital exposure too deserves volume of stories to write including  Jasmin's waistline-unfriendly mouth-watering menu of pancit in a basin. I hope I also get to write about that episode of the big toe souvenir from our diabetic patient. And Marvin's perineal care addiction that gave him downright nod for clinical excellence. :-)
Yes, it's quite a journey. What started off as mere routine-breaker has left indelible marks in my heart for a variety of reasons. From school activities,  Corniche escapades, bonding moments, and even sharing our answers during examinations, to our Christmas party until our graduation day and the succeeding Durrat episode. Though, I'm back to my familiar routine, I only have these memories to stay with me.  But I would say what happens in Durrat stays in Durrat :-) I will all miss you guys especially Ma'am Silna. If you noticed, I am not in the picture above, because I don't miss myself haha! Good luck and hope to see you soon!
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Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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