Wednesday, November 30, 2011

And Las Vegas by Night

Just as colorful, and even more crowded on the Strip, if that is possible!

We stopped at the Bellagio to see the famous fountains.

Then we took a walk inside to see the famous Bellagio Conservatory. All done up for Fall! It was pretty, for sure, but I'm not sure if it was worth battling the crowds for.

We were so glad that we had rented a car. The hotel we stayed at was off the strip and very peaceful (no casino), but it would have been quite a walk to the places we wanted to visit, and we weren't too eager about carrying Bilal's booster seat from taxi cab to taxi cab. Parking was not a problem; all of the hotels/casinos had large parking garages, where you could either self-park or ask a valet to do it for you. And no parking fees! I guess when you're in Vegas they want you to spend your money somewhere other than the parking decks!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Las Vegas by Day

We decided to stay in the city on Thanksgiving Day. We spent some time walking around on the Strip, just taking in the the sights and sounds of the city.

A colorful, fun place to be!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Guess who's happy to be home?

Atlas was so thrilled to be headed home from the vet's today that he could barely contain himself. He jumped into the trunk of the minivan where he usually rides, then jumped back out, then in again, until he finally settled down for the ride home. He didn't seem to mind that the back yard was a cold, wet lake when he got home. Just happy to be back. I wish we didn't have to board him when we travel, but we don't have much of a choice.

In other pet news, I had to take Tiny in to see the vet today. She got her shots (rabies and feline leukemia virus) a couple of weeks ago. About ten days ago I noticed a knot on her thigh, but didn't think much of it. When we came back from Las Vegas we noticed that the knot had become much larger, you could even see it without brushing her fur to the side. Because it is growing so rapidly we though she needed to be checked out. The vet today thought it was probably a reaction to the vaccine, since it is pretty much in the same location where she got her FLV shot. So she recommended an antibiotic and Benadryl for a week. If it has not shrunk down in a week she will have to get it excised. Rarely animals can develop sarcomas (cancerous tumors) because of vaccines, and we are hoping that this isn't the case for Tiny. So we will watch and wait for now. The stress of dealing with health problems in pets is almost like other family members. Zakir had to prompt me that the joy they bring makes it worthwhile. And that's true of our cats, they really are our special companions. (Never mind that I have been sneezing a lot every night since Tiny has been back sleeping next to me.) But sometimes I wish they wouldn't cause all these worries too!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 2 in Las Vegas

Tuesday night we ran to the supermarket to stock up with breakfast foods, and settled in for the night. So Wednesday was our first full day in the area. First trip was to the Hoover Dam, only a 40 minute drive from the city. The drive itself was quite pleasant.

First we stopped at the visitor's center and viewed a short movie about the construction of the dam. What an engineering marvel! It's amazing that such a huge structure was built in 1935, with equipment much less modern than we have nowadays. After the movie we took an elevator down, and went on a tour of the power plant. Some of the next few photos were taken by Safa; my little 'point and shoot' Canon just couldn't handle the dim light.

The turbines

And outside was just as spectacular.

The Colorado River beyond the dam:
Lake Mead:

And Hamza standing with one finger in each state, Nevada and Arizona:

We drove back to the city and stopped for a late lunch at Rainforest Cafe, inside the MGM Grand. there might not be anything too special about the menu, but the ambiance was great.

And then we went back to the hotel for a little break, before we headed back out for a show at the Venetian. Gondolas, inside the mall!

Can you tell, Safa is the only one who seems genuinely excited?

Actually we all loved the show. The seats were great, but we probably could have spent less, sat further back, and still have enjoyed the show just as much. The theater wasn't huge, and with all the jumping around going on, everyone got to take it in. Bilal, of course, was very uncertain in the beginning, but soon started enjoying himself once he got over the 'blueness'.

And on Thanksgiving Day we mostly walked around on the strip, taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling city.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A few days away from home

This year for Thanksgiving we decided to take the kids out of town, instead of staying home and making our usual dinner and inviting friends over. It doesn't mean we skipped making turkey and all the sides this year, we're just going to have our dinner a week late. So this Saturday we plan to have about 70 people over for dinner at our place. And I still have to finalize my menu. Hmm.

So Thanksgiving break for us was definitely less than traditional this year. We decided to take the children to Las Vegas for a few days and experience a part of the United States we never had before. So we took a flight and got in on Tuesday evening; too late to do anything except have dinner and crash in the hotel. But before we even made it to the hotel we had an opportunity to see one of the reasons the city is famous. In fact, before we even managed to pick up our luggage from the baggage claim area!

Yes, slot machines, on the concourse at the airport! Wow, I didn't realize that gambling wasn't just restricted to the casinos. So if you want to try your luck before even picking up your luggage, just have a seat in the gaming area, immediately as you leave your plane.

We took the monorail at the airport to the baggage claim area, picked up our rental, and were on our way.

More in the next post!

Monday, November 21, 2011

With the Health Fair behind us...

... what's in store?

We spent half of Saturday at the Hoover Crescent Mosque, with several generous Muslim physicians who were willing to volunteer their time, running a free health fair that was open to anyone who was interested. Services provided included blood pressure checks, body fat analysis, blood work including cholesterol (lipid panel) and blood sugar. After having their labs drawn every participant had the opportunity to discuss their results with a physician one on one. Over thirty people also took the opportunity to have flu shots done; many of these had never had a flu shot before, so we had a chance to provide medical services that had not been utilized before.

 A volunteer checking vital signs

A physician providing a one on one consultation

There was also an ENT physician available to anyone who needed advice on an Ear, Nose, Throat issues, and we had two ophthalmologists offering free vision screenings including testing for glaucoma. Some psychiatrists from the community also offered brief mental health consults to those who were interested. There was also printed educational material available for the participants to take home with them. So a very broad range of services was provided. Overall we had over fifty people come through in approximately four hours, so it was quite successful. The success, of course, was all in thanks to the physicians and students who volunteered their time to provide such a valuable service to the community.

The volunteers

The physicians involved

Br. Ashfaq Taufique providing an interview to CBS-42, one of our local TV stations

After the health fair we were joined by the President-Elect of APPNA (the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America), who few in especially for the event. The purpose of her visit was to attend the ground breaking ceremony of the Red Crescent Clinic of Alabama. This is a collaborative effort between APPNA's Alabama chapter and the Birmingham Islamic Society. At the Red Crescent Clinic, physicians will rotate to provide free medical care to anyone uninsured patient who wishes to take advantage of it, regardless of race or religious affiliation. Realistically we will be opening for only 4 hours every Sunday afternoon, but as opportunities arise there hopefully will be an expansion of services. The clinic concept is modeled after a similar one in Tampa, Florida. Plan is for the inauguration to be in January, 2012.

Left to Right: Br. Ashfaq Taufique (president, Birmingham Islamic Society), Dr. Khalid Matin (President APPNA-AL), Dr. Saima Zafar (president-elect APPNA's national organization) and Dr. Zakir Khan (principal coordinator of the 2nd annual APPNA AL health fair)

In the evening we attended the APPNA AL fall CME meeting and dinner at the Wynfrey, where we had an opportunity to meet some good friends we had not seen in quite a while.

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