Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

River Jordan Parts

Today’s reading, from Joshua, concerns a second river crossing when the river stops flowing to allow the Israelites to cross, carrying the Arc of the Covenant. According to this reading, there should be a stone memorial somewhere in that area – I wonder if any remnants have ever been found? I wonder if the river has changed course (rivers do) and whether the memorial (assuming it exists, recognized or unrecognized) is now in Israel, or in Jordan?

Joshua 3:14-4:7

14 When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. 15Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, 16the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing towards the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea,* were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.
4When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: 2‘Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, 3and command them, “Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.” ’ 4Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. 5Joshua said to them, ‘Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, 6so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, “What do those stones mean to you?” 7then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial for ever.’

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Random Musings, Spiritual, Technical Issue | | 2 Comments

Ministry Conducts Demographics Study

This is from today’s Kuwait Times. I LOVE demographics. I love tagging factors, loading them all into a data base and seeing where the stats fall. You learn so much.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is studying effective means to rectify the country’s demographic imbalance. The ministry has reportedly reached the conclusion that the blend of different nationalities in Kuwait has proved detrimental to its societal fabric. One Arab nation’s expatriate population in the country has exceeded 300,000, sources say, which puts the states economic and political stability at great risk. Sources said that the matter is complicated and needs all the ministries’ undivided support.

Expatriates, it is felt, bring with them their own modern culture and customs which are alien to the local citizens, most of whom follow archaic customs deeply rooted in tribal practices. Expatriates are also accused of taking the law into their own hands without approaching the concerned authorities whenever they are confronted with a problem. It has also been observed that expatriates belonging to a certain nationality inhabit certain areas in droves, leaving security officials at a loss to change the situation.

As a move towards controlling the situation, the ministry is to form a permanent committee comprising officials from different ministries to scrutinize all the expatriates who arrive at Kuwait.

It will issue a fitness certificate to eligible expatriates on the lines of medical fitness test. Employers will then be able to decide whether to appoint those workers or repatriate them. The ministry also plans to come down heavily on expats who obtain jobs using illegal residence permits.

Hmmm. Rectifying the population imbalance might require giving up expatriate labor. What laborers do you want to give up? The largest number are probably doing low-skill level work – cleaning houses, cleaning the streets . . .Or do you want to give up those who are managing your stores, taking your orders in all the restaurants, cooking, taking care of the office chores?

I can guess which expatriates are bringing in alien modern customs and practices, but unless you are going to give up television, cable, the internet and travel . . . that train has probably left the station.

So which nationality has over 300,000 expats in Kuwait? And which nationalities “inhabit certain areas in droves?”

Who takes the law into their own hands?

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Relationships, Social Issues | 6 Comments

First Dates

There are some advantages to being in Kuwait in the dead heat of summer. One is that even in peak driving time, the roads are far less crowded. Restaurants are less crowded. Shops are full of all the things that go missing when the entire population is in town.

And – if you are here in July, and if you have good Kuwaiti friends with date trees – you get a big bowl of fresh, sweet DATES!

These are unbelievably yummy. I always liked dates, but until we moved to Tunisia, I didn’t know the pure joy of fresh dates. Living in Kuwait when the first dates of the season start ripening – pure bliss.

No, my Kuwaiti friends are very generous, they gave me a great big plate of dates, it’s just I’ve already eaten most of them! I had to take a photo quickly, before I ate the few remaining!

I went to Wikipedia on Date Palms to discover there are countless varieties of dates. They give this lengthy list of dates, and then say that in Iraq there are more than 100 different dates cultivated:

Aabel – common in Libya
Ajwah – from the town of ‘Ajwah in Saudi Arabia, it is the subject of a famous hadith of the prophet Muhammad.
Al-Barakah – from Saudi Arabia
Amir Hajj or ‘Amer Hajj’ – from Iraq, these are soft with a thin skin and thick flesh, sometimes called “the visitor’s date” because it is a delicacy served to guests.
‘Abid Rahim (Arabic: عبد رحيم‎), from Sudan
Barakawi (Arabic: بركاوي‎), from Sudan
Barhee or (barhi) (from Arabic barh, a hot wind) – these are nearly cylindrical, light amber to dark brown when ripe; soft, with thick flesh and rich flavour. One of the few varieties which are good in the khalal stage when they are yellow (like a fresh grape as opposed to dry, like a raisin).
Bireir (Arabic: برير‎) – from Sudan
Deglet Noor (Arabic: ‘translucent’ or ‘date of light’) – so named because the centre appears light or golden when held up to the sun. This is a leading date in Algeria, the USA, and Tunisia, and in the latter country it is grown in inland oases and is the chief export cultivar. It is semi-dry and not very sweet.
Derrie or ‘Dayri’ (the ‘Monastery’ date) – from southern Iraq – these are long, slender, nearly black, and soft.
Empress – developed by the Deval Family in Indio California USA from a seedling of ‘Deglet Noor’. It is larger than ‘Deglet Noor’, somewhat softer and sweeter. It generally has a light tan top half and brown bottom half.
Ftimi or ‘Alligue’ – these are grown in inland oases of Tunisia.
Holwah (Halawi) (Arabic: ‘sweet’) – these are soft, and extremely sweet, small to medium in size.
Haleema – in Hoon, Libya (Haleema is a woman’s name)
Hayany – from Egypt (Hayani) (Hayany is a man’s name) – these dates are dark-red to nearly black and soft.
Iteema – common in Algeria
Kajur – common in Pakistan / India
Kenta – common in Tunisia
Khadrawi date / Khadrawy (Arabic: ‘green’) – a cultivar favoured by many Arabs, it is a soft, very dark date.
Khalasah (Arabic: ‘quintessence’) – one of the most famous palm cultivars in Saudi Arabia, famous for its sweetness level that is not high nor low, thus, suits most people. Its fruit is called ‘Khlas’. Its famous place is ‘Huffuf’ (Al-Ahsa) in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia (Al-Sharqheyah).
Khastawi (Khusatawi, Kustawy) – this is the leading soft date in Iraq; it is syrupy and small in size, prized for dessert.
Maktoom (Arabic: ‘hidden’) – this is a large, red-brown, thick-skinned, soft, medium-sweet date.
Manakbir – a large fruit which ripens early.
Medjool date
Medjool or (Mujhoolah) (Arabic: ‘unknown’) – from Morocco, also grown in the USA, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel; a large, sweet and succulent date. It is named unknown because who owned it at first didn’t know its specie and thus called it unknown.
Migraf (Mejraf) – very popular in Southern Yemen, these are large, golden-amber dates.
Mgmaget Ayuob – from Hoon, Libya
Mishriq (Arabic: ‘East’ – مشرق)‎ – from Sudan and Saudi Arabia
Nabtat-seyf – in Saudi Arabia.
Rodab – from Iran, they are dark and soft.
Sag‘ai – from Saudi Arabia.
Saidy (Saidi) – soft, very sweet, these are popular in Libya.
Sayer (Sayir) (Arabic: ‘common’) – these dates are dark orange-brown, of medium size, soft and syrupy.
Sekkeri – (lit. sugary) Dark brown skin; distinctly sweet and soft flesh, from Saudi Arabia.
Sellaj – in Saudi Arabia.
Tagyat – common in Libya.
Tamej – in Libya.
Thoory (Thuri) – popular in Algeria, this dry date is brown-red when cured with a bluish bloom and very wrinkled skin. Its flesh is sometimes hard and brittle but the flavour described as sweet and nutty.
Umeljwary – in Libya.
Umelkhashab – Brilliant red skin; bittersweet, hard white flesh (Saudi Arabia).
Zahidi (Arabic: ‘[Of the] ascetic’) – these medium size, cylindrical, light golden-brown semi-dry dates are very sugary, and sold as soft, medium-hard and hard.

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Food, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions | 16 Comments

Morning Reflections

I am sure you have noticed that I have not been taking any sunrise photos lately; one problem with summer is that the sunrises tend to go flat. There may be no horizon, there may be dust and haze, or one sunrise just looks exactly like the day before.

Not this morning! This morning, the Gulf had alternate patches of glass and wave activity, making for an unusually reflective and glorious sunrise:

July 17, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Photos, sunrise series | 8 Comments

Why Women Should Vote

“Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”

When I got this in the mail this morning, I had to smile. The woman who sent it to me is now in her 90’s. She was a mentor to me as a young woman, and she was a pistol. She taught me, over and over again, that women can do anything they put their mind to doing – that nothing can hold us back except ourselves. She’s a pistol. I want to be like her when I grow up. 🙂

It is always a shock to me to know that women in the United States have only had the right to vote for less than a hundred years. We take it for granted. We shouldn’t. We should make our vote a mighty force.

This is the story of our Grandmothers, and Great-grandmothers, as they
lived only 90 years ago. It was not until 1920 that women were granted
the right to go to the polls and vote.

Thus unfolded the ‘Night of Terror’ on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at
the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson
to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow
Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. The women were innocent and
defenseless. And by the end of the night they were barely alive. Forty
prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a
rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of ‘obstructing sidewalk

They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head
and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They
hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed
and knocked her out cold. Her cell mate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was
dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the
guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching,
twisting and kicking the women.

For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their
food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms. When one of the
leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a
chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until
she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was
smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won’t vote this year because–why,
exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote
doesn’t matter? It’s raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO’s new movie
‘Iron Jawed Angels.’ It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women
waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my
say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the
actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote.
Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege.
Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women’s history, saw the HBO
movie , too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked
angry. She was–with herself. ‘One thought kept coming back to me as I
watched that movie,’ she said. ‘What would those women think of the way
I use–or don’t use–my right to vote? All of us take it for granted
now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.’ The
right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her ‘all over again.’

HBO released the movie on video and DVD. I wish all history, social
studies and government teachers would include the movie in their
curriculum. I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women
gather. I realize this isn’t our usual idea of socializing, but we are
not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock
therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a
psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be
permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor
refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her
crazy. The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often
mistaken for insanity.’

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know.
We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard
for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic,
republican or independent party – remember to vote.

History is being made.

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 12 Comments