Seattle International Film Festival: Yomeddine

“Yomeddine” is Arabic for “judgment day”, and is the title of the Egyptian film I saw on Friday as part of the Seattle International Film Festival. This is a roadie film, as badly disfigured leprosy sufferer Beshay leaves the colony in the desert where he has lived since boyhood and sets out in a donkey cart to find his family. His mentally ill wife has died. A young dark skinned orphan, who goes by Obama after “the guy on TV”, hides in the cart and is determined to accompany Beshay on his quest.

Everything that can go wrong does. The boy is injured trying to help Beshay fix the cart when the wheel fails. Carrying the unconscious boy into a town, Beshay is thrown in to jail when villagers grow agitated at his appearance and the chance that his leprosy is still contagious. While the cart is unattended, Beshay’s small stash of money is stolen. Both the boy and Beshay escape, but the cart eventually fails for good. The donkey dies. The boy falls ill.

They find comfort and help among other outcasts, sharing a fire and food under an overpass. The town is where the original orphanage of Obama’s early years is located. The building is closed and abandoned, but they find what might be Obama’s records. His name might be Mohammed. His parents might be dead. One of the outcasts asks a friend, a truck driver, to take Beshay and the boy to Beshay’s home town. They find his family, a brother who thought Beshay had died when they were both children..

The most moving part of the film for me is Beshay himself. We are introduced to him first by his badly deformed hands, seeking small treasures in a mountain of garbage near the leper colony. Gradually, we come to know his badly disfigured face, his foreshortened body, his smile, his kindness to the boy, his perseverance, his resilience in the face of daunting odds. We hear his cry, “I am a human being.”

People still get leprosy, or Hansen’s disease. Now, if caught early, it can be cured. But not then, not in a developing country, not for Beshay. Yet he builds a life, painful step by painful step.

The title Yomeddine, judgment day, comes into play twice. The first is early in the film when the donkey Harby dies. A weeping Obama asks Beshay if Harby will have to stand before God to be judged, like people. Comforting the boy, Beshay says Harby has gone straight to heaven. The second time we hear of judgment day comes near the end of the film, when Beshay kneels before his elderly, infirm father, the one who promised to come back for Beshay when he was cured and never did.

Getting to Know Seattle: Small Gems

Seattle is a great food city, and a lot of our real gems are small neighborhood places that have been here a long time but continue to innovate and offer great food.

Black Bottle is in my old neighborhood of Belltown. On offer are small plates, which means that two people can order three or four things to share and be very satisfied. I love the small plate idea, rather than ordering “dinner”. Add a great wine list and a few fancy cocktails, and you’re all set.

Some of the small plates at Black Bottle are always on the menu, like grilled flank steak and charred broccoli. I like the taste of the broccoli but the serving is HUGE, way more broccoli than even two people might want to eat. Then the place innovates with occasional items, something like grilled halloumi cheese — a Middle Eastern specialty — with dates and sauteed veggies. Honestly, the dish was the best thing I’ve ever had there.

We rounded out with the flank steak and a light salad plus a glass of good Malbec for me, and it was the perfect after-movie late evening meal.

If you come to Seattle, don’t go only to the “name” places. Suss out these little neighborhood eateries, and enjoy. Worth the effort. 🙂

Conscious Aging: Pushing Out My Daily Steps

In the winter when it’s rainy and chilly and windy in Seattle, I get in my 10,000 steps a day but it’s a challenge. Many days I do that indoors on a treadmill, combining my gym time with resistance training. But once spring arrives, the outdoor weather is gorgeous, and I’m tempted to push my daily steps to 12,000 or beyond.

You can only do this if you’re retired or not working, I think. Yesterday I got in 13,400 steps, which was just under six miles and took 170 minutes. I had a destination: walking to South Lake Union for a cut and color. Then I continued downtown for lunch. Then I walked part way home, although I took the bus up the steep part of Queen Anne hill. I was a bit of a wuss there.

FitBit steps measurements are relative. I’ve walked with people, both of us wearing FitBits, and our step count can be as much as 1000 steps divergent. You’re supposed to be able to customize your stride, but I haven’t figured out how to do that. I just figure I’m keeping tabs on relative number of steps per day, and the active time at least is accurate and consistent.

So far this week in four days I have 58, 341 steps. My total steps for the week will be a strong number, over 90,000 I hope. Not likely to reach 100,000 steps. That’s really blowing it out of the park, although I reach 100,000 occasionally.

People have different goals in retirement, and pushing mobility is clearly one of mine.

Getting to Know Seattle: Thinking about Rain

Before I discovered my inner gardener, I was perfectly happy with Seattle’s bifurcated climate. We get a lot of rain in the winter, and almost none in the summer — less than many states that have desert areas. One year we didn’t get a drop of rain for 91 days, which was fine with me. Everything green and growing here was parched and bone dry, grass gone dormant and lots of plants wilting badly or dead.

Seattle is an environmentally conscious place, which means you get frowned upon if you water your lawn. Keeping bushes and plants alive is marginally OK.

But I have this lovely green sod that was planted last fall, and a host of spring flowers, and some ornamental flowering bushes. All were bone dry due to our very dry spring, and I was already watering.

On Tuesday we had a gentle, all day sort of rain.  I have to say I was happy to see it, even though it meant walking downtown with a raincoat and umbrella for my mid-day meeting. 🙂

Getting to Know Seattle: Cruise Season

Cruise season is in full swing here, which means three ships in port each Saturday and Sunday — six departures total — plus the odd ones during the week that are 11 or 17 day cruises.

That’s big business for the local economy, and not just from tourists spending dollars here for overnight hotel stays, restaurants, visits to Pike Place Market and the waterfront. Cruise passengers disembark by about 9:30am, after breakfast. Their luggage is offloaded beginning much earlier. Between 9:30am and around 11:30am when the new group begins to board, the entire ship has to be cleaned, restocked, all the linens turned over, repairs made, new passenger luggage brought on — a huge endeavor and a massive logistics challenge.

The pic below shows two ships at the Magnolia docks, the Holland American one just visible behind the larger white ship, which could be Celebrity. In front of the cruise ship you can see three large commercial fishing vessels, and of course one of Seattle’s ever present tall cranes working on construction of a new commercial building just this side of the ship channel. Olympic Mountain range in the background.

Getting to Know Seattle: Lilacs are Hardy Things

I have a gorgeous purple lilac bush in the back yard, on the border between my yard and the neighbor’s. On the side yards, the fence installers had to whack the dickens out of two beautiful white lilac bushes in order to complete the installation. The white lilac bushes are now oddly shaped, but what blossoms emerged are gorgeous. Hardy blooms, these.

Getting to Know Seattle: Walking Along Puget Sound

When I lived in Belltown I walked through Myrtle Edwards Park and along Puget Sound all the time. Now I still walk, but see the Sound from a higher vantage point. I’d forgotten how much I love to be down along the water. My recent houseguest Jane, wanted to do that walk, and I’m grateful to her for reminding me. There’s no reason for me not to do it on my own.

Early on Friday morning, after breakfast, I saw these lovely views:

Huge logs washed up on shore.

Rocky beach.

Cargo ship loading grain bound for China.

Calder and the Olympic mountains.



Getting to Know Seattle: Million Dollar View

My houseguest was on her way early Tuesday morning via Puget Sound’s very efficient commuter ferry system to visit a cousin and family on Bremerton. Jane sent me the million dollar view as the ferry departed from its berth here in the city.

The smaller boat you see there is the water taxi, that makes quick runs to Bainbridge Island and back.