Beached

Red metal hulls rest
On soft white sandy beaches
Disowned by blue seas

Life with IBS

I’ve written in painful detail about some of my IBS episodes but I’ve never gone into  much detail about the debilitating impact IBS has on my daily life, even if I’m lucky enough not to have had an ‘incident’ in a while. I’m sitting at work, as I write this, in some considerable amount of pain and it’s only 8.30am. My day hasn’t even started and already I’m doubling up in pain, have had to make a toilet run 3 times and have had to ask the office help to get my bag to the toilet so I could have my medication because I lack the confidence to make it to back my desk without collapsing in a dead faint. Such are the mornings [insert bathroom break] that I face on an unfortunately unfailingly regular basis. IBS means I often have to leave work in the middle of the day, usually thanks to my post lunch trio tachycardia, nausea and pain and have to work extra hard to make up for lost time the next day. It also means sudden absences from work when I’ve spent more time in the toilet in the morning than it takes to get from UAE to Karachi.  I also avoid office outings like the plague because the last thing I need is to create a scene out of office and I have no energy to scout for toilet locations and quick exit routes each time. It’s a desperate attempt to salvage what little dignity you have left to be honest, because let’s face it, having to make a mad dash to the toilet every now and again and coming out with tear streaked glasses because you’re mentally not present enough to wipe them is not particularly dignified behaviour. With all that interference in your work life, IBS often ensures people get passed over for promotions because they tend not to be seen as reliable assets. The only thing unreliable as far as I’m concerned is my gut, so I have a real appreciation for jobs that come with flexible working hours and the option to work from home. My current job comes with neither perk sadly. The other, and perhaps more keenly felt, problem is the lack of awareness and understanding of the illness. Unlike other diseases, IBS comes with no warnings and no symptoms like the flu that others can see coming and anticipate that you will need to take some time off for recovery. IBS attacks are sudden, unannounced and can rear their ugly head on a seemingly good day, which makes it difficult for others to understand – how can someone who was fine all morning suddenly be sick enough to need to go home. It seems to most people to be a convenient excuse to slack off, which couldn’t be farther from the truth since flaring IBS often leaves you feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut and left for dead.

I came to a realization though, and it was this- that despite how embarrassing it may be to discuss your colon chronicles at work, somebody needs to know. The simple fact that someone knows means I can be assured that should I have an incident, there will be someone who knows what to do, will be able to look after me till the blood returns to my fingers and toes [insert bathroom break] and will overlook the fact that I’m supposed to hand in a sick leave certificate every time my colon acts up.

[start rant]On a related note, sick leave certificates should not be necessary for people suffering from chronic ailments. When I’m having an IBS episode I consider myself lucky if I can make it to the toilet on time. By the time I’m physically able to get to the ER, it’s only because I’ve already taken my medication, the attack has subsided and the ER has nothing left to do except make me wait for hours before being seen only to say I’ve already completed necessary treatment and could you please wait for another hour before I can hand you your sick leave certificate so you can go back home to recuperate with your hot water bottle. [end rant]

I’m lucky that my someone at work also cares enough to know the location of my medication and is willing to skip work to take me home should I need to go. Maybe more than just somebody needs to know to be honest – your friends, your colleagues, your manager, your HR department – they all need to know, for your sake as much as theirs.

The impact of IBS extends far beyond work life. It has overarching effects on every aspect of your daily life, from your relationships, your diet, your travel plans and your life choices. [insert bathroom break]. 

In my case it has meant that my life choices rely for the most part on my gastric convenience.My diet has devolved over the years to the most bland things imaginable, especially when I’m travelling, just in case there’s anything there to irritate the gut. My taste buds I fear are dying a slow and painful death because they’re losing the food wars with the colon. I’m mentally siding with my taste buds but physically have no option but to do as the colon says so it’s a Catch 22.

My travel plans revolve around the proximity of toilets, hospitals, public transport and how close restaurants are to the hotel just in case my colon has other plans. Even if it’s just local travel, something as innocent as dinner and a movie becomes a nightmare when I’m having a bad week so I, more often than not, just don’t show up. I have become, against my will, the antisocial no-show because I’m tired of bringing up my gastric problems over and over again with my friends. I love my friends, I’d go to the moon and back for them… but only if there’s a rest area on the way. Just in case. Rather than be a source of annoyance to my friends, I’d rather just not go and let them have a great time without me.

My career choices become limited, both geographically and otherwise, because I cannot commit to work with travel, I’m no longer able to drive because of the frequency of incidents and have to opt for less challenging jobs to ensure that my stress levels don’t add to the IBS burden. It’s not that I’m not ambitious, it’s just that my colon can’t keep up with my dreams so I’ve had to become a realist and  settle for what I can cope with. Don’t get me wrong. Even within my limited choices, I like to challenge the boundaries and see how far I can go without compromising my health, but there are limits which seem to narrow ever year. [insert bathroom break]

And then, of course, is one of the most overlooked areas of IBS research – the impact it has on a patient’s mental health and well-being. IBS makes you a pessimist, whether you like it or not and whether you choose to admit it or not (calling yourself a realist is an attempt to put a positive spin on your pessimism, commendable effort but it doesn’t fool anyone). It makes you second guess all your plans, question all your choices and shreds your self-confidence. It makes you feel that somehow you’ve done something wrong and this is karma coming back to bite you. Unexplained illnesses do that to you- make you paranoid at times. IBS makes you feel less than yourself, like some part of you is forever lost to yourself. It stresses you out, which flares up your IBS, which in turn stresses you out and traps you in a vicious cycle which is not easy to break out of by any means.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. For all the craziness IBS has brought to my life, it has also taught me two valuable things about life – It’s all about patience and slowing down to smell the roses.

Want to know more about IBS? Enjoy and notice how even Cleveland Clinic offers up this pathetic line under “Treatment”…

“IBS is a chronic disorder with no specific cause, and there is no cure. The patient’s confidence in the physician’s diagnosis, explanation, and reassurance are vital therapeutic tools.”

Autumn

Autumn leaves curl up,
Shrink, shy away, flutter down
To a red carpet,
Scrape past on a dying breeze-
Golden tribute to green days

Qdeemk Ndeemk

The resolution for this long weekend was not to stray too far from home and instead stay and explore the back alleys of Ajman. You might think that there’s not much happening in Ajman, and you would have been right a few years ago, but it’s come a long way since then, especially in terms of the foodie start-up scene. With a number of food trucks set up at the promenade in Ajman and a whole new set that we came across at the Mosaic Market, I was interested in trying something new.

For breakfast, we headed straight to Qdeemk Ndeemk whose modest exterior betrays an absolutely stunning interior.

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Welcome!

The cafe is large, yet cozy and oh so vibrant, with dated decor. Colourful canvases dot the walls and colourful cushions are scattered around, featuring legendary Arab icons such as Adel Emam, the Egyptian comedian, Abdul Halim Hafiz the Egyptian Singer (which got my mum reminiscing), and the famous Kuwaiti comedian, who incidentally was our neighbour in Kuwait.

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Everything about the cafe has a distinctly vintage feel to it, like a refreshing blast into the past. From typewriters (I have always wanted one of these), to radios, phones which would now be considered antique, however much of an affront that is to my not so distant childhood, and old television sets which go back to my parents’ generation. The not so flat screen generation.

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There were two other distinctly awesome things about this place, not counting the food. The car themed decor, which includes an entire bright red Mercedes as the highlight, which got my dad thinking back to his Mercedes days and the teapot chandeliers which I absolutely fell in love with <3

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Half-cut cars… only my brother will get this joke *sigh*

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Well hello there beautiful ^^

When we were finally done ooh-ing and aah-ing at the interior design, we finally settled on three different kinds of breakfasts (Indian, American and Arabic) and of course no meal is truly complete without a cup of freshly brewed…karak ^^ The food was absolutely wonderful and the karak was spot on! Take note, every other restaurant who serves tea as a pot of hot water and tea bag on the side, that is such a no-no. When I’m ordering tea, I’m expecting a cuppa made with love, like karak <3 I would highly recommend anyone coming down to Ajman not to miss breakfast here.

We polished off our meals, headed to the restroom, which also turned out to be a work of art with its mosaic tiles to match the rest of the cafe interior.

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Tiled toilets

As we headed back to the table, we were met with a tray filled with bakhoor and oud to get rid of any annoying lingering smell of food (really, I can’t believe no one has done this sooner, and no scented wipes don’t count) and the bill came with the characteristically Emarati Sharaawi Bros Mastic gum. If you live in the UAE, you know this gum is currency… used as change when supermarkets run out of 25 fils.

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The 4 stages of meal at Qdeemk Ndeemk

Final Verdict: must go again! The menu has so many yummy goodies to sample, it’s going to be hard to stay away.

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Don’t stay away too long!

Miracle Garden 2016

So this has become somewhat of a tradition… visiting Miracle Garden every year as soon the harsh summer shows signs of letting up. You may wonder why we choose to go the same place every year but the truth is, the flower arrangements change every year, which makes it a brand new experience every time you visit. This year, the highlight was the Guinness World Record holding largest flower arrangement in the form of an Airbus A380 (okay, that’s quite a mouthful).

The garden opens at 9am, but we were being lazy this time so we decided to go at 10am, anticipating that the good weather would hold. We weren’t quite so lucky. It would appear every time we’re blessed with a long weekend, the weather turns back to it’s evil summer spirit just to spite us. In any case, we were still early enough not to have any long queues at the ticket counter, so yayy!

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The perks of coming early… no line!

If there’s one thing I noticed the minute I stepped inside, it’s that this year, there are more flowers than ever before. The garden was completely carpeted in flowerbeds, besides the fancy decorative floral arrangements. The familiar arrangements from previous years had been revamped, and there were so many more things to discover.

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Remember me?

The “graveyard of cars” may have disappeared, but no season of Miracle Garden is complete without at least one epic car installation. In this case it was the Beetle Waterfall ^^

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One of the things I absolutely loved this year, was the fact that there were a lot more places to sit down to enjoy the view instead of rushing through. From the pavilions set up around the fountain, to the benches and swings set up around the perimeter of the park, there were so many vantage points from which you can appreciate the beauty around you.

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Pavilions around the fountain

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Garden swings <3

For people who may find it difficult to wander around the whole park, don’t worry! There are special “taxis” to take you around the park for only AED 20 per taxi ^___^

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Floral Dhow

There were also a lot more places to eat this time around, Hardee’s and Krispy Kreme being new additions, but overall having a meal here is going to pack a bigger punch in your wallet than the entrance tickets. A simple shawarma which usually costs AED 5, costs about AED 30 in the park, so I wouldn’t really recommend eating at the garden unless you’re reallllllllllly hungry. Drinks too are super expensive so a bottle of water is probably the best way to go if you’re on a budget.

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Butterfly Windmills

La pièce de résistance though was most definitely the Airbus installation, and not just the plane, but also the landscaping around the plane.

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First glimpse of Emirates Airlines <3

The coolest part had to be the  UAE flag on the tail and the rotating airplane turbines. Way cool! <3

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Emirates Airbus A380

The park is open from 9am to 9pm on weekdays 9am to 11pm on weekends with tickets for adults costing only AED 40 (as of Dec 2016) , so if you haven’t gone already, it’s time to add this to your to-do list ^^

Mosaic Market

As a pre- National Day celebration, we decided to stay closer to home and visit the Mosaic Market which is held every Thursday and Friday at Safia Park in Ajman. We weren’t really sure what to expect, having only seen posters of the market on Facebook and Instagram, but they were convincing enough to get us out of the house on a Thursday evening, which is highly uncharacteristic of us. By the time we got to the park, we had come to one pre-event conclusion…we were clueless about a lot of the development that was taking place in Ajman. Jurf in particular, is like an area transformed.

Anyway, back to the market… the weather was lovely, ideal for a night out, and despite the rush we managed to find a parking spot not too far away from the park entrance.

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Getting in line for tickets

Tickets were AED 5 per head and once we were in, it was time to take the compulsory snap with the event hashtag ^^

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Hashtags are so in

My brother decided it was absolutely necessary to sample as much food as possible from as many stalls as possible, so we ended up having or at least watching him have dynamite shrimps from Foodbox, some concoction of berries and Red Bull, hot sweet corn on the cob, swirly potato chips, karak chai, Monkey Cookies and of course… and I mean of course…. we had to have Oman Chips paratha.

For those of you who’ve never been to UAE before, you must know this. Oman Chips sandwiches are tradition. If you come here and leave without having this sandwich and a karak, then you’ve really not visited UAE. More sacrilege than visiting UAE and not visiting Burj Khalifa if you ask me.

There were so many things to eat that you’d best come with an empty tummy if you’re looking to sample a bit of everything, including sweets from Sophie’s Kitchen and some good old food food, as I like to call it, from Qdeemk Ndeemk.

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So many places to check out!

Apart from the food, there were lots of activities, especially for kids, from an outdoor cinema, complete with comfy cushy bean bags, screening Freej to outdoor slides, paint walls and pull up bars. There was also a stall where you could try your luck and see if you could pick out an oyster with a pearl in it! I’ve only done this once as a child, but trust me… the feeling of opening up the shell and finding a beautiful pearl nestled inside the soft meat is like nothing else in the world, except perhaps winning the lottery ^^

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Celebrating National Day

Since it was the National Day weekend, we were also treated to traditional local plays and local dances, complete with swords.

If you haven’t been before, it’s well worth a visit and if you’re done with the market, there’s an entire park just waiting for a picnic and a running track to help you shed those pounds you put on at the market ^^

Volunteering with Dubai Cares

If you’ve never volunteered with Dubai Cares before, it’s time to give it some serious thought. I never had an opportunity to take part in any of their events before, mainly due to the fact that there are more volunteers than slots available, which is probably the nicest problem to have, but managed to get a slot in the 3rd edition of Volunteer Emirates at Al Rashidiya Private School this year.

The charity school, with over 700 students, was in need of helping hands for a nice makeover. From arranging the library, painting murals, assembling shelving and setting up the theatre and even landscaping, people were ready to help with it all.

We started at around 8am, got assigned to our groups and I was in with the mural painting team. I’ll be frank, I’m not much of a painter, but there is something amazing about seeing the walls transform from a boring cream, to a rainbow of colours and images that would bring out the inner painter in us all.

While the other teams headed off to do the heavy lifting with the shelves and landscaping, we headed off to collect our paint, plastic rolls, brushes, thinner, gloves and all our energy so we could finish up before lunch. As we were working, I was reminded yet again of how volunteering brings out the best in people- everyone doing their best, working together and helping each other out whether that meant lending each other brushes and paints to avoid the long walk to the paint station, or giving their artistic opinion on whether the sand looked real enough or if we needed to figure out a new paint mixing formula instead.

Also, the team that had gathered was a true testament to the diversity in the UAE- so many different nationalities with their own unique backgrounds and experiences, brought together by a common cause, sharing and learning through great conversations over a palette and a fatayer. Many of us came in as strangers and left as friends with phone numbers exchanged and promises to meet again soon.

Even as we wrapped up, there was still lots of work being done to ready the school for the first day after the weekend. What a surprise it will be for the kids- to walk in on Sunday morning and see their school transformed… like magic… :)

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Tadaa… done, with moments to spare

I think we could all do with bringing some magic into other people’s lives <3

Morning

A pink orb rises-
Rose-streaked grey clouds, flecks of gold
Stain the morning blue

Ani:ME Abu Dhabi

Now this is what I call a weekend well-spent. We headed off to Ani:ME which was the biggest Anime and Japanese festival being held in UAE this year and we weren’t disappointed.  We bought our tickets online so we could get a nice discount and so we wouldn’t have to wait in line at the event and set off for Yas Island bright and early. If you haven’t been to Yas Island before, the signage to the du Forum might be a bit difficult to follow but there was no shortage of taxis who were willing to help point us in the right direction.

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Entrance through the torii

We entered, of course, through the torii, past Japanese eateries just opening up and straight into the tent, where we were met by a giant Robo Grendizer.

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It’s Robo Grendizer!

There were loads of places to be and tons of things to do, so we started by getting some of our favourite manga from Kinokuniya, drooling over a million and one gundam kits on sale and trying very very hard to exercise self-control… which, let me tell you, was not easy. Especially when you see the entire perfect edition of the Monster manga on sale…. and Noragami right below it.

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Prints from artists

Apart from getting your hands on mangas at events like these, it’s also a perfect opportunity to buy prints from your favourite animes from local artists. There were lots and lots of artists with ready prints for sale, while others were sketching on the spot. Is it too much to ask to find someone who loves Allelujah Haptism from Gundam 00 as much as me so I can plaster my wall with his photos? :P

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Autograph Time!

I resisted the tempatation to buy any FMA prints and we headed towards the area where all the signing events would be taking place. It turned out that Todd Haberkorn, who was the voice actor for Raki in Claymore and Ling Yao in FMA: Brotherhood, was going to be there so my brother lined up patiently for a photo, an autograph and a chance to talk about some of our favourite animes.

Yashuri Nightow was also there – the guy behind Gungrave

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Calligraphy by Ryujin Kobayashi

Apart from the anime and manga madness which included a screening of Naruto and cosplay competitions with a chance to compete in the World Cosplay Summit, there were also lots of cultural activities taking place, from calligraphy from the famous Ryujin Kobayashi, mochi pounding and kimono dressing.

My favourite, and I would definitely classify this as being a “cultural” activity, was taking pictures at the photo booth. We didn’t get a chance to go wild and do this in Akihabara so we decided not to miss the opportunity here. The photobooth was set up by Puripix and we ended up going… not once, but twice! The photos were printed at the booth in the form of stickers and you could choose to have 2 photos sent for free to your phone through the app, but we were hoping that all photos could be digitized because we had so much fun taking the photos and decorating them. When we downloaded the app, it turned out they were all digitized! We had to pay to get the other pics but it was well worth it- the picture quality was amazing, in fact I think the photobooth produced better quality pictures than a photo studio these days and for a much much better price!

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Time for some Japanese yummies

We finally headed out for lunch, deciding to skip the long lines for Soba and went to Yas Mall instead but not before saying bye to the bunny! There was a whole line-up of events for the evening, concerts and Gundam building contests. We weren’t able to stay longer, but there’s always next time :)

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Bye Bunny!