Posted by: Julie Waters | November 28, 2010

Another day

For weeks now I’ve watched small children playfully grasp the hands of their mothers, following them around stores and shopping malls or parks and it puzzles me to no end.

How do they know them? Dressed in the black Burka – some of them completely covered from head to toe. Not all, but many are hidden from the world except their eyes.

I’m guessing it must be their eyes or their voice or something familiar. I guess they just know.

Recently, entering one of the largest mosques in the world – I was informed that there are 3 simple rules I must abide by. This surprises me, I’d thought there be many more.

First – I must wear the Burka. I must cover my hair at all times. I am presented with a freshly cleaned burka – one size fits all. I put it on and struggle to tie my hair underneath. Not to worry, there is plenty of security to make sure it is correct.

Next rule is ~ I mustn’t take a nap on the largest piece of carpet in the world – which would not have occurred to me until I saw this amazing rug. And then finally, my shoes must stay outside.

Easy enough.

My fascination with the burka is now covering me. I am wearing it and I suppose I may never fully understand it. Amazing.

“Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it”

Mahatma Gandhi quote

Posted by: Julie Waters | November 20, 2010

Land of Sand…

There is an endless fascination with this country. The climate, culture, customs, clothing – they are all a launch pad for continuous observation.

I give myself a gold star for each Arabic word I learn. My mentor is a Pakistani who arrived here in Dubai a few years ago and learned to read, write and speak the language. I am impressed, especially with the reading and writing.

“Yul-lee, he says – you learn 1 word, then 10, then 100 and soon – you speak the language.” I don’t discredit this theory but laugh off its optimistic content. I count my words – 10. Long ways to go.

We will spend a number of hours working together so I switch gears to see if I can learn more about this person. I discover he has two dogs and I wonder aloud about their names.

Onlydog is the short reply.

I repeat…Onlydog? The reply…”Yul-lee, No! No name, just d-o-g.” It’s a firm reply as if he imagines my dog is living a life of luxury somewhere, spoiled beyond belief.

Perhaps I looked disappointed or confused because he followed with an explanation. He says, “the dogs… they don’t live long – so much heat – it goes to their head, makes them crazy and they die after 7 or 8 years. So, no name. Only – dog”. It’s not a sad story the way he explains –  just factual.

I nod my understanding and he shows me pictures. He seems happy I comprehend.

And I do. One small piece of the puzzle is in place.

I am a part of all that I have met.  ~Alfred Lord Tennyson

Posted by: Julie Waters | August 16, 2010

Blood, guts and beer…

The start of a trail run sometimes seems to be a good spot to sit and take a short evaluation, to think about things and to take note. Except that, oh yeah, I’ll be running here shortly so maybe it’s a bad time. This, the Half-Wit Half-Marathon, is a good example of what to avoid in my future.

I haul my mind back to the present moment and listen to the running commentary from the guy about to do the three, two, one….go! exercise.  This, the 13.1 trail run which I have been aggressively avoiding is about to begin. Again, I am engaging in an activity which I question my sanity and for which I am under prepared.

My thoughts are landing in the same sequence as jumbo jets do – evenly spaced because that is necessary to avoid catastrophes, but still there is a lot of baggage on board. I am here to do this thing and here we go.

Just moments prior to the start, under cloudy skies and humid temps, the crowd of about 400 is questioned. Why are you here? The answer…because it’s the Half Wit – nobody here is smart enough to stay at home, because the smartest person around is the one who did not come, the one you left at home…sadly, I agree.

So as I began, knowing it would be (for me) hours before I finished this I concentrated on what I have learned from trail runs. I have only done a few of them but I can see a pattern…

The rules of the Half Wit are very simple. You go into the woods, you run the 13.1 miles and you come out. No one will come looking for you and if you get hurt – get yourself out and if you don’t come out – too bad. You’ll be buried in the spring.

Lesson # 1:     If you don’t keep moving, you won’t get anywhere. You must handle all of this yourself, no one will do it for you. Get going!

Lesson # 2:     You will fall. And it won’t be pretty. This means you must pick yourself up and continue on the trail if you want to finish. Lots of rocks will trip you up.

Lesson # 3:     Getting help is a good thing. After my first fall as I was digging dirt out of my mouth and surveying the blood on my knee – I was given a hand up by a very nice runner.  The fact he was wearing a yellow and red plaid skirt did not faze me. Did I hit my head really hard? Not sure. Nice outfit though.

Lesson # 4:     Most times you must fend for yourself. You’re in this by yourself. Period. You get no support until you reach the finish line.

Lesson # 5:      You might fall again. Yep, it’s just not going to be easy. And next time no one will be around to pick you up. More blood.

Lesson # 6:      It could rain on your parade. It did rain – torrential downpours for a good hour. No fun there.

Lesson #7:       You may need to navigate your own way out of this situation. You can’t always follow someone. They are too fast and you are too slow. That would be me. I have to take care of myself. Sad, but true. Looking out for myself is important. No one cares where I am right now….

Lesson # 8:    The terrain will trip you up. (See # 2, # 3, #4, #5, #6, #7…) Did I mention rocks, roots, steep inclines, steep declines, poison ivy, poison oak, the smell of skunk….deal with it.

Lesson # 9:    Getting dirty can be fun. It’s just not an option – so it might as well be fun. You will be dirty. It must be fun.

Lesson # 10:   You must finish. Don’t ruin your day with a d.n.f. (did not finish) because that would not be f.u.n. It’s what its all about. (Never fast, never last…)

Final Thoughts – I saw the blood, the guts and the beer – But only enjoyed 2 out the 3….No Beer…..lots of blood and guts…

You can run with the big dogs or you can sit on the porch and bark... Wallace Arnold

Posted by: Julie Waters | August 4, 2010

It’s just life after all…

Just ask me to do something. Anything. The answer will likely not be no. Doesn’t matter what time, what date, what place, what anything. Sometimes even from a total stranger.

So when a complete stranger suggested I hang on to this guy for a bit – well, I wasn’t crazy about the idea, but I conquered my fear of certain things – if only for a moment.

What he said exactly was ” Can you hold him for a minute – just let him wrap himself  around your neck….”

I look at this photo as if I don’t even know this person. Who is she? She would never touch a snake. But I am willing to say and I love to say… anything is possible.

“Even if a snake is not poisonous, it should pretend to be venomous.”

Posted by: Julie Waters | July 29, 2010

Foggy City…

The same gentle fog which settled comfortably over San Francisco gradually made its way to my brain. Just a day or so before the SF Marathon I wagered the war of:  just do it or not? It’s akin to the final exam without any preparation. Do not admit to anyone you are not ready but YOU ARE NOT READY.

Did I mention I wasn’t exactly ready? Any other denomination would be ok. But 26.2 miles required an abundance of mental energy.

As I entered the expo to pick up my chip and bib number the question foremost on my list was — may I please switch to the half marathon? The answer was apparent — No, absolutely not — it is already full with runners much smarter than you. There’s no room so do not even try.

I did not purchase the marathon shirt — it seemed like bad karma. Would I even make it?

The biggest draw for the SF marathon is running across the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s so scenic…but so is breakfast in bed for that matter. Take away the bridge and the biggest selling point of this marathon is a series of four letter words. Hill, hill, hill, S#@!, D#@!, etc….

After the expo and two nights before the marathon relaxing in a rooftop restaurant over a drink, there was a series of semi-serious, quiet conversations about what I call “the situation”. Ongoing talk about whether it could be done, should be done or would be done. That trio again.

I agonized more about the mental effort than the actual physical effort ~ because I knew. But it was decided to press on. Just start and the rest will take care of itself. Please.

It was early. At 6:00 am I gently patted myself down.  All was there. Four packets of lemon-lime goo, two packs of goo chomps (ick), ipod music, camera in the back pocket, small amount of orange tablets for mental reinforcement, one twenty dollar bill (just in case) bottle of water to be ditched early, all this seemed to be too much.

I don’t recommend this strategy to anyone. Not even to myself. I had not laced up a pair of running shoes for over 8 weeks. And I call this complete stupidity. I wasn’t even sure what time zone I landed in. But the fun is ~ it can be done. (It’s only great fun when it’s over.)

And I can attest to the fact that the body will actually do what the mind says — but there will be pain involved.

“Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?'”

– Peter Maher, Irish-Canadian Olympian and Sub-2:12 marathoner

Posted by: Julie Waters | July 22, 2010

Introducing Maggie…

Three legs and a big heart…it was love at first sight.

Posted by: Julie Waters | July 18, 2010

Naptime….snippet #2

Read More…

Posted by: Julie Waters | July 15, 2010

Naptime…snippet #1

Can they be any more adorable? I don’t think so.

Perhaps if they wake up hungry and cranky it might not be good ~ but the animals around here seem very sleepy. It must be the warm afternoon sun.

I confess the amount of self control it took not grabbing a hold of those paws was monumental.

A lion’s work hours are only when he’s hungry; once he’s satisfied, the predator and prey live peacefully together.

Posted by: Julie Waters | July 10, 2010

Can you see me now…

They’re quizzical. And comical. Everything about them is magical.

Besides how tall they are — their eyelashes are the first thing to notice. I want them.

They’re so friendly even though at first this guy seemed to be hiding behind this tree, he quickly came around to visit.

We had a very nice chat…

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

George Orwell

Posted by: Julie Waters | July 4, 2010

So many fans…

Their hearts were broken twice in South Africa.

The first heartbreak occurred when Bafana Bafana lost their chance early in the competition and in their wake left a sea of inconsolable fans. Then with Ghana’s loss to Uruguay all their dreams were smothered and extinguished. No hope for any of the African teams to move to the semi or quarter finals of the World Cup.

That is soccer here. Surprises delivered daily in one way or another.

Thankfully the mayhem in Pretoria is slowing to a degree slightly above chaos. Although there are still spikes of pandemonium that arise without warning on a regular basis.  Nothing is how it seems, I just expect the unexpected. Always.

Our inventory of teams is dwindling here as the losses accumulate in the march to the quarter finals. Just this weekend besides Slovakia and Ghana — gone are Paraguay and Argentina. Even though teams have two days to make their way to the airport after the game they usually go quickly – sometimes at the crack of dawn.

Meanwhile, the Germans are still here and fighting to the finish. The drama continues…

The rules of soccer are very simple, basically it is this: if it moves, kick it. If it doesn’t move, kick it until it does.

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