Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

More Severe Weather Coming?

In todays Kuwait Times, Kuwaiti meteorologist, Dr. Saleh Al-Ojairi is quoted as saying that “the storm occurred because of the formation of a severe depression locally known as ‘Al Sarrayat.'” The Times goes on to say the “He also predicted severe weather conditions to reoccur in the near future.”

What does ‘Al Sarrayat’ mean?

April 13, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Weather | 4 Comments

Election Excitement

Coming home from church on Friday, we saw a Ministry of Interior Land Rover at a stoplight, with its lights revolving. That got our attention immediately, because if the lights are flashing, it usually means someone is in a hurry, but this guy was waiting patiently for the light to turn. As we noticed him waiting patiently, we also noticed he had his window open, and . . . he was wearing a balaclava, a face mask worn while skiing to keep your face warm but you can still see and breathe. The temperature was at least in the 80’s, and a ski mask to keep your face warm in Kuwait . . . well, that doesn’t make sense. Maybe if he was using his air conditioning, and it was too strong, and hurt his sinuses, well maybe . . .

Saturday we read this article from the Arab Times, which explained a little about what we were seeing:

Two Kuwaitis, officers hurt in Sabahiya clash; ‘Awazem’ battle securitymen
KUWAIT CITY : Two Kuwaitis and a number of securitymen were injured in a violent clash during which the Awazem tribesmen used sticks and stones against security forces, who were trying to stop them holding a primary in Sabahiya. The fighting took place Friday when about 5,000 securitymen from the Special Forces and Riot Police, supported by vehicles and helicopters, surrounded the Diwaniya of former MP and candidate in the upcoming elections from the fifth constituency, Ghanim Al Mei. The securitymen used tear-gas and rubber bullets to disperse the rioters. No arrests were reported. A similar incident some time back had prompted the then Minister of Interior to recall his forces from the Diwaniya of a former MP.

Sources said a large number of securitymen and CID officers were deployed as backup at a nearby cemetery. Security forces and election candidates are exchanging charges, each pinning the blame for the incident on the other. Former MP and candidate from the fifth constituency Abdullah Rai Al-Fahma in a press statement said, “Tribes are an integral part of the Kuwaiti society. They have the right to consult and choose their representatives to the National Assembly like the political blocs and other political organizations.” The government must stop this repressive measure before things take a serious turn, Al-Fahma added. Some observers and a number of candidates have opined the government is exacerbating the issue intentionally to prolong the election indefinitely by issuing ‘emergency decrees.’

My own country is also in an election year this year, and we have our own very strange ways of doing things. We have things like caucuses, and primary elections and delegates, and conventions to choose our candidates.

It is fascinating for me to watch what is going on in Kuwait and to try to figure out what is going on. Even reading reports in the newspapers, even gleaning from the blogs, it is hard for me to figure out why certain things are significant.

So I am guessing here that the tribes/families are acting as political parties and attempting to narrow the field by voting in secret diwaniyyas (diwaniyyas are spaces built in houses for either males or females to gather for visiting back and forth, but not mixed groups, or only very very rarely. They function like the benches on the town square, where people – mostly men – come and discuss issues, often reaching consensus on how an issue should be approached) for candidates that they can agree are electable. Once all the tribe/families have a chance to vote, they will select a slate of candidates to run in that district. This is my guess, based on what I read and see.

But in the districts, there are more than one family/tribe . . . so how do you agree to vote outside your tribal / familial boundaries? It is hard for me to understand how one tribe can gather enough influence to win. I am guessing that these diwaniyya “primaries” are being so actively discouraged because if one family wins too much, then they distribute favors among their own members, and others go without help? Is this a wasta issue? How do the tribes form alliances to win elections?

I would love to tell you that modern western countries don’t have these problems. It would be a lie. We have our own names for “wasta” and one is a term I can never imagine being used in Kuwait, Pork Barrel Legislation which means it doesn’t make sense from a big-picture point of view, it is legislation passed to benefit a few, and to insure that the elected guy can get elected again.

Will banning by-elections make a difference in the outcome of the election? What is the goal of the diwaniyya elections? How do the females get to vote if it is only men attending? What is the government’s goal in banning the by-elections?

April 13, 2008 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues | | 11 Comments

Sunrise April 13, 2008

At 0700 it is 73°F / 23°C, and it is very hazy (look how the haze magnifies the size of the sun) but the sea has some color, a light hazy green. The haze looks like it may burn off a little later and the high is expected to be around 95°F/35°C.

I really did take this photo.

And now I will tell you, I tried to take photos of the lightning the other night. Most of it was just cloud-to-cloud and all I got were black photos with slightly lighter spots in them. AdventureMan instructed me that if I wanted lightning shots, I needed to set up a tripod and a timed exposure, but I think there is too much ambient light where I live to make that effective. So I found a great dramatic shot online and used it to illustrate. I sure didn’t mean to deceive you. I sure wish I had taken that shot!

April 13, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Photos, Weather | | 2 Comments