CB&WPC: Cinco

Cee’s topic for her Black & White Photo Challenge this week is five – five things that are the same or different in any combination.

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5 open tulips
5 knickknacks
5 family members
4 Canada geese + 1 Egyptian goose
3 snakes + 2 lizards
5 butterflies

SYW: On Broken Hearts, Cellphones, Typing Books, Snakes and Virtual Choirs

It’s Monday! Time for Melanie’s Share Your World!

QUESTIONS:
What can you break even if you don’t touch it? (yes there is a real answer to this. I’ll reveal it in the next week sometime. Still, answer how you would like – no right or wrong answer)
A heart. All it takes is a “Dear John” letter! Or nowadays, just a text saying it’s over. 

What’s the most useful thing you own?

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My husband, Dale, is very useful.

The first thing that comes into my head is “my husband.” He’s very useful and I don’t know what I would do without him. But I don’t “own” him.

So I guess I will say my cellphone. Cellphones have become indispensable, because they do so many things that we’ve come to depend on. If something happens to me, I can call someone for help. If I remember something I wanted to tell someone, I can just send them a text, so that they can read the message and answer at their leisure. That way I don’t have to write myself a note to remind me of what I need to tell them. If I want to listen to music, I can go onto YouTube on my phone. When I exercise in the fitness center, I have a dance workout playlist on my phone to keep me going. When I am out for a walk, and I see something photograph-worthy, I can use the camera in my phone – not necessarily the best photo, but I can at least have a photo of that thing.  And sometimes the photos are high quality! If it’s a flower or plant I want to identify, I just go on my Plant Snap app on my phone. I also can go on Facebook to find out what people are talking about. There are a lot of legitimate criticisms of Facebook, but personally, I love it! It really helps me stay connected to people, especially now.

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I’ve never felt the need to update my Samsung Galaxy S7.

When I ask Dale something like, “What’s the weather supposed to be tomorrow?” he answers, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a little device we can use to find things out?” He’s telling me, in other words, look it up on your phone!  Sometimes I have a burning desire to find out something, such as how many coronavirus cases there are in Brazil, whether all swan eggs hatch on the same day, or who were the pharaohs in ancient Egypt’s 18th dynasty. You know, important stuff like that even if totally irrelevant to what is happening at the moment! If I’m bored, I have my cellphone I can play games on. I like word games like Wordscapes, Word Stacks, and Words with Friends. I also have jigsaw puzzles, Spider Solitaire and Sudoko. (I could even read my Kindle books on my phone if I wanted to, but I prefer reading on my tablet.) So there’s plenty to keep me occupied – IF my cellphone has enough charge and I can access a charger if necessary!

Finally, my phone has become extra important in this pandemic era. I can attend book groups at the library, church services and coffee hour afterwards, celebrate family members’ birthdays and other get togethers by using Zoom! I don’t feel so isolated when I can at least “see” my family and friends in a long-distance meeting.

(Even so, if all else fails, I always carry a couple of pens and a small pad of paper, just in case I forgot my cellphone or it needs charging. That way I can at least doodle or draw something I see nearby.)

Come to think of it, WHERE did I leave my phone? It probably needs a charge…

What’s The Silliest Reason You’ve Ever Gotten Into A Fight With Someone Over?
I borrowed a typing book (yes, this was in the time when we used typewriters!) from a co-worker. I noticed a lot of scribbling in it, but I thought, who cares. So when I wanted to give the book back, she wasn’t at work, so I left it on her desk. The next time I saw her was in the elevator. She seemed really crabby. I said, “Did you get the typing book back?”
She answered very angrily, “It’s written in.” Written in? Is she talking about the scribbles that were already there?  I said, “That scribbling was already in there.” She said nothing, so I tried to make a joke. “Maybe your little sister or brother got hold of it and scribbled in it.”  She wasn’t amused, but said, “I don’t have a little sister or brother.” Then she exited the elevator very abruptly and walked quickly back to her cubicle. She never talked to me again. Fortunately, she wasn’t more than a friendly acquaintance in the first place, so no loss! Still, it irked me for a long time that she accused me of scribbling in her typing book, when she must have known it was there already.

I’m sure I could come up with a better story than this if I didn’t have such a bad memory. The strange thing is that I even remember this particular incident. It was so unimportant, but somehow it got stamped in my memory!

If You Were A Snake, How Long Would You Want To Be? No, size does not matter.
I’ve always wanted to know what it would be like to slither. So I’d like to be long enough to really experience slithering…through grass, across sand, maybe even in water, or onto a big rock to sun myself.snake
By the way, I would be a harmless grass snake, like the one pictured here. I would want people to like me!

Gratitude and/or uplifting? Please share. We can all use some of those.

The other day, I wrote a post for Fandango’s Who Won the Week challenge about virtual choirs and how I find them uplifting. Their singing makes me grateful for the basic goodness of people.

 

Note: Photos of Samsung Galaxy S7 and snake are courtesy of Google Images.

APAW: People at Work in the Middle East

Nancy Merrill’s weekly A Photo a Week challenge has the topic of Work.

On our trip last year to Egypt and Israel, we had the opportunity to photograph and meet many people at work.

In Egypt, we witnessed several craftsmen working at their craft:

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Crate maker on the island of Fares – he is the only person left in Lower Egypt who makes these mango crates by hand, which are greatly in demand. Here he works with one of the women in our group in making a crate.

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A weaver in Aswan – many of our group members bought one of his beautiful scarves!

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A snake charmer in Fares! I captured this scene with my zoom lens from a bus window – I didn’t get anywhere near those cobras!

We also encountered agricultural workers and fishermen on the Nile.

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A young farmworker on his donkey on Besaw Island.

In Israel, we encountered more cosmopolitan workers.

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Our guide, Hani, explains the architectural features of ancient arches in Jerusalem.

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A bartender and restaurant worker in Tel Aviv

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A jewelry maker at the Israel Diamond Center in Tel Aviv

 

 

 

Journey to Egypt, Part 18: The Crate Maker of Fares Island

December 31, 2018

Our dahabeya Aida docked this morning at the island of Fares. We were going to see a local craftsman, the last crate maker in Upper (southern) Egypt. Transportation to the crate maker’s home was via “tuk-tuk,” two passengers per vehicle!
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We bumped and jostled along the dusty roads of Fares village, observing our surroundings through fringed open sides.
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We could peek at our driver through a heart-shaped cut in the material in front of us.
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Our little caravan of tuk-tuks finally arrived at the crate maker’s home and were taken around to the back of the house.DSC_0416
We saw piles of date palm reeds, the raw material of the hand-made crates, which were stacked up behind the craftsman’s work space.
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The crate maker’s work space

Mohammed (the crate maker – not to be confused with our guide of the same name!) has his reeds shipped to him from elsewhere, from mature date palms (at least a year old). The reeds have to be dried but no longer than 20 days. The dried reeds are strong, yet pliable for splitting and cutting holes in them.

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One of the crate maker’s assistants

Mohammed could not stop his work as he talked to us – he was working on an order for 20,000 crates to hold mangoes, which are grown in this area. These will be shipped to Cairo, and some of them exported. The crates can be different sizes and last 7-10 years.

Mohammed himself is 58 and has been doing this work for over 40 years.  We asked if his children are learning this craft. He told us his children are in school – he doesn’t want them to learn the craft, which taxes the body and presumably doesn’t pay very well.

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First, he cuts the reeds into the lengths needed.

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Mohammed uses pieces that have already been cut at the correct length to measure other pieces.

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He then cuts the section of reed lengthwise with a scythe, which requires great precision.

Mohammed uses both his hands and his feet to make the crates. Machines cannot do this job with the same precision. People who practice this craft don’t stay in it long, due to the position of their body, sitting on the ground for long periods, which is why it is a dying craft.

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Mohammed steadies the section of reed while he uses a large nail and makeshift hammer to cut holes along its length.

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As  he works, he answers our questions which are translated by our guide Mohamed.

However, he does have assistants, so between them they can produce 5 million crates a year. He himself makes 150 crates a week.

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An assistant awaits instructions against a backdrop of date palms.

Mohammed could not stop his work as he talked to us – he was working on an order for 20,000 crates to hold mangoes, which are grown in this area. These will be shipped to Cairo, and some of them exported. The crates can be different sizes and last 7-10 years.

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Sample of one of Mohammed’s more elaborate creations, which was passed around among us.

Mohammed uses both his hands and his feet to make the crates. Machines cannot do this job with the same precision. People who practice this craft don’t stay in it long, due to the position of their body, sitting on the ground for long periods, which is why it is a dying craft.
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As  he works, he answers our questions which are translated by our guide Mohamed.

Mohammed himself is 58 and has been doing this work for over 40 years. We asked if his children are learning this craft. He told us his children are in school – he doesn’t want them to learn the craft, which taxes the body and presumably doesn’t pay very well.

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These piles of reed sections are ready for assembling the crate – the pieces with holes drilled in them will anchor the side pieces (the narrower pieces in the other pile) that fit through the holes.

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An assistant awaits instructions against a backdrop of date palms.

SONY DSCHowever, he does have assistants, so between them they can produce 5 million crates a year. He himself makes 150 crates a week. Because he was kind enough to invite us to see him at work, three women from our group became his temporary assistants!

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Mohammed hands Lizz some materials…

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…and shows her what to do.

Through demonstration and imitation,…
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Assembling the base of the crate

…Lizz, Kathy and Michelle were able to be efficient crate producers, and with their help, Mohammed was able to finish twice as many crates in the time we were there!

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The vertical pieces are fit through the holes on the horizontal pieces.

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12 horizontal pieces and 4 vertical pieces form the frame.
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They’re almost finished as Mohammed fits in the bottom cross pieces.
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Michelle takes over to help make the next crate.

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Michelle slides a horizontal piece through two verticals to construct the frame.

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Photo op! Mohammed will not actually have Michelle make the lengthwise cut!

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Michelle helps finish a frame.

A small crate with a handle was given to Lizz as a gift for being a great assistant! Everyone was given an ankh made of date palm reeds.
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Kathy was the last volunteer.

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Kathy hammers a length of vertical piece into a hole.

Two of the finished crates!
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We thanked the craftsman and his assistants and family and said good-bye, then we headed back to our tuk-tuks for the ride back to where Aida was moored.  As we approached the pier on the river, I saw a snake handler with several cobras! (Fortunately, we were some distance away; I took this photo with my telephoto lens!)
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Lens-Artists Challenge #36: Around the Neighborhood in Des Plaines, Illinois

Lens-Artists’ weekly photo challenge this week is Around the Neighborhood. I selected some photos from my photo archive of the last few years that are “typical” of Des Plaines, Illinois, the Chicago suburb where I live.

More and more of these signs have popped up in people’s yards since the beginning of the Trump administration. This is becoming an increasingly diverse and open-minded city.  Des Plaines had been a predominantly Republican town, but as younger and more diverse people have moved in, this is changing. Republican or not, people want to show that we are welcoming.
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Des Plaines is known for traffic delays due to trains passing through. We have 37 street-level railroad crossings within the city limits! Both freight and commuter trains rumble through several times a day. This railroad track is a block from our house. Nearby, it meets up with two other sets of railroad tracks. It must be a nightmare to coordinate all this train traffic!
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Our neighborhood has a variety of wildlife, mostly birds, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, insects and an occasional deer. A fox has been spotted in the neighborhood from time to time. Lately, people have become aware of the decline in the monarch butterfly population due to urban development which has drastically reduced the plants they feed on. Now we are seeing a return of the monarchs as people make their gardens monarch-friendly!
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My husband and I often take walks around our neighborhood at any time of year when the weather cooperates. There are many forest preserves and walking/biking trails in our area. Here I am on the Des Plaines River Walk. The Des Plaines River gave the name to the city and we have historically had annual flooding problems. Heavy rains and snow melt cause the river to rise enough to overflow its banks in low lying areas.
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Besides wildlife, we have many pet lovers and usually we see people walking their dogs when we are out. There are also many outdoor cats. This one belongs to a friend and his name is Pal.
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People around here take great pride in their gardens and decorating their lawns. Some have kitschy lawn statues. This is a tasteful and pretty fall display.
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Autumn is the most beautiful season here. A few years ago, we had the most glorious fall colors. This is a typical neighborhood fall scene.20151021_151033.jpg
Because there is a Metra station in downtown Des Plaines, many people have moved in and rented or bought condos in the downtown area. But now there are condos going up everywhere – soon Des Plaines will be known more for its plethora of condo complexes  than its trains! (Planes, Trains and Automobiles really applies here – we are also near O’Hare airport.) Here is a typical condo/townhouse complex. And they keep building and building on whatever land is available. In downtown Des Plaines they are demolishing a whole block of stores and restaurants (including our local camera store) in order to put up a big apartment building!
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One more fall scene in the ‘hood!
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I forgot to list above one of our most often forgotten wildlife species – snakes! We don’t see them often and they are harmless. Three years ago, it was warm enough in February for a pair of garden snakes to make their appearance and lie sunning on a rock next to our house.
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It’s not common to see deer right in our neighborhood, but in nearby forest preserves it’s normal to see a buck, or a doe or two. I took this photo while on a walk in the Des Plaines River Forest Preserve (part of the complex of trails that includes the River Walk).
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Canada geese migrate and make their home here during the warmer months. It’s only March and we are already seeing signs of them. Hearing their honking as they fly above in V formation is a sure sign of spring! They come in flocks of vast numbers and occupy our lakes, ponds and fields.  At Prairie Lakes Park, they share space on the ponds with ducks.
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One of the best things about Des Plaines is our public library. It offers many services and programs, including concerts, solo performers, lectures, book groups, computer and photography classes, activities for kids of all ages and more.

This is a mural that was recently painted in a hallway.
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On the first floor, you check out books by scanning your library card and the bar code on the book or DVD.
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There are flyers of the current activities that you can help yourself to.
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When you can’t get to the library, or when you are out with your kids, you can borrow a book and leave a book in these “little libraries” that are scattered around town.
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I hope you enjoyed this tour of my neighborhood!