Lubna, Lubna, Lubna…

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I love photography. I often fantasize about opening a modeling agency and scouting for beautiful people. But not the clichéd version of beautiful people that you see photoshopped in magazines. I would find people that photograph well in all shapes and sizes. I love the challenge of it. Everyone has a story. Everyone is beautiful. It’s just up to me to find that angle and tell their story. That is fun to me.

It happens to me all the time. I’ll be out at a coffee shop and the woman next to me will have the most interesting eyes with wizened smile crinkles at the corners. She’ll be wearing a bright gold coat and her blouse underneath is vibrant purple. I can’t help but stare and think about what a cool photo she would make. I just want to stop her and say, Can I take your picture for my collection? But that’s tacky. Of course, I rarely ever do ask people because that’s just weird and they’ll want to know what I’m going to do with the pictures and they might not have time for such a conversation, etc etc…  Some people do like their pictures taken though. I love those people.

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One of those people is my drop-dead gorgeous neighbor, Lubna.  She always wants me to take her picture.  She wants to be a model so that helps of course. I don’t know how I feel about that though. It’s such a harsh industry to be in. But if I can help her put together a portfolio I’m happy to do that. She’s a lot of fun to shoot.

Her face could sell a million products. But what makes her interesting is that she’s Muslim and she can’t show off her body. She has to be covered from head to toe. (Though sometimes she sneaks in some shoulder and when her shirt accidentally falls when she’s doing a cartwheel she really doesn’t want me to throw out those pictures.) She wants to be American and wear tank tops and bathing suits but she’s only 16 and she has to respect her parents rules. So it’s an interesting push and pull between her desire for attention and her good heart that just wants to be a good kid

lubna-4We had fun splashing around in the waves. The water was surprisingly warm.  And dangerous! Well, not really. But the waves have a way of sneaking up on you and getting everything wet. Thankfully, the camera did not get wet.

Since they only have one car in Lubna’s family and they have strict rules about always going places chaperoned, Lubna never gets to go to the beach. She’s a California girl at heart and she loves the water but she doesn’t get to see it much. I always want to throw her in my car and take her places but it’s tricky getting around the entourage that has to go with her. (Believe me, they take forever and it totally cramps my style. I’ve tried.)

Her mom came with us and watched from the shore. I did manage to get one photo of them together but her mom is really camera shy. But I think this photo is my favorite one.

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You can see where Lubna gets her beauty. I’m sure Raffa will not like this photo and she’d rather be made up with a lot of make-up but I think it shows so much more of who she really is. That patient worried mother who comes along on her daughter’s crazy whims to be photographed. There’s a lot going on here…

That’s the story I want to tell.

Aquarium Adventure with the Alameens

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The other day I got a press release from the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific saying they were going to have a special Sponge Bob Appreciation Day at the Aquarium. Something about feeling real sponges and a movie about Sponge Bob and the jellies.  I don’t usually pay attention to press releases because I get a lot of them and I hardly have time to cover events anymore.  But when I saw that it was a Sponge Bob event,  I read a little further.

As you probably already know from past posts, I have neighbors who are refugees from Iraq. Everything is new to them because they’ve only been here a few years and they don’t have a lot of money to explore their new country.  Mohammed, the youngest, looooooooves Sponge Bob. Like really, really, really loves Sponge Bob. He’s five.

This last summer when I asked Mohammed what kind of backpack he wanted for school this year he went on and on and on for probably twenty minutes about how he really wanted a Sponge Bob backpack. It was hilarious.  I’m not even a huge fan of Sponge Bob but Mohammed is so cute when he talks, it makes me want to rush out and buy him every single Sponge Bob thing I can find. I shared this with Isabel from Alphamom and she pulled a few strings and got him one to thank him for all the times he’s modeled for me for my craft posts.

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So I emailed the Aquarium and got us some tickets. It was best thing ever. It completely blew their minds.

Taking the Alameens (that’s my neighbor’s last name) on a trip is always kind of challenge for me, personally. You can’t just take one of them. You have to take all of them and they don’t always completely understand my schedule the way I do. Let’s just say I think their sense of time is a little more relaxed than mine.  Sort of like in India where you can wait for a train and it will be four hours late and everybody accepts that as fate.  It’s been a learning experience for me.

Through trial and error I have learned to relax my rigid schedule. I have learned to stop trying to micromanage. I’ve learned to step back and watch them enjoy themselves which is actually really enjoyable to me. Because they really, really, really enjoy themselves. It’s so refreshing and humbling for me. I get myself all worked up about getting somewhere and being on time and then I rush, rush, rush through it all. They don’t rush. In fact you can’t force them to rush. It doesn’t work!  They enjoy every minute at their own pace. Mr. Alameen had to buy more memory for his iphone because he literally tried to film the entire aquarium. It was so funny and sweet.

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And then there’s these kids. My built-in modeling company. They are so dang photogenic.

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They loved the Sponge Bob movie, especially Mohammed. It was pretty fun with real flashing lights and water drips. They’d never been in a 4D interactive movie experience before and it surprised and thrilled them. Bug and I were a little more jaded. We’re so boring.

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It was just really fun to see the Aquarium through new eyes and experience the wonders all over again. There were quite a few new features too. I always love a trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific.

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Just don’t make me take a whale watching trip again. Nosiree. Bleack!

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Then we went home and lived happily ever after in our melting-pot apartment complex.

Sadly, I don’t know how long we will live here together. It’s a stop-gap living situation for many of us, myself included. The rent is relatively cheap but they raise it drastically every year so people are constantly moving in and out. In fact, right now I am living in a little bit of a ghost town because all of my connected neighbors have moved out.  But that won’t last for long.

Mr. Alameen has been out of work for a while and their lease is up in January. He says they will be moving soon. We hope that they’ll stay close but it’s hard to know.  They have some savings but it’s running out.  In his country he was a soldier and a furniture upholsterer, I think. If anyone knows of anyone looking for someone who is good at working with their hands, email me. His English is broken but he gets along.  He was working for a while scuba diving and cleaning the underside of boats but he kept having dizzy spells and had to quit because passing out under water is really scary.

Anyway, keep them in your prayers. They are a sweet, sweet family who has shown me nothing but kindness. They are amazingly optimistic and thankful. I really hope the best for them!