Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Free Speech in Fiji

It was prime drive time in Kuwait, and I almost laughed so hard that I might have been a danger on the road. A brief news article on BBC News featured the national leader in Fiji saying “free speech is nothing but trouble.” The news reporter was saying that the only real news in Fiji right now is from the bloggers. Here is a fragment of an article on BBC April 15th:

Free speech ‘trouble’

In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Mr Bainimarama said he was determined to carry out what he described as reforms.

He defended the introduction of emergency regulations that include an edict that the local Fijian media publishes only positive news, saying Fiji does not need free and open public discussion about current issues.

“That was how we ended up with what we came up with in the last couple of days,” he told Radio New Zealand.

“The circumstances have changed. We [the government] now decide what needs to be done for our country, for the reforms that need to be put in place for us to have a better Fiji,” he said.

Fiji’s Court of Appeal ruled last Thursday that the Bainimarama regime, in power since staging a 2006 coup, was illegal under the country’s 1997 constitution.

In response, the country’s ailing President Josefa Iloilo sacked the judges, dissolved the constitution and reappointed Mr Bainimarama, who then said there would be no democratic elections until 2014.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Blogging, Bureaucracy, Community, Cultural, Experiment, Free Speech, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Social Issues | Leave a comment

“Let Her Get Fat” in Saudi Arabia

Sometimes, either you laugh, or you’re going to cry. This is from BBC News: Saudi Arabia

Saudis clamp down on women’s gyms

Saudi women are largely constrained to the home and single-sex environments

Many women-only sports clubs and gyms in Saudi Arabia face closure under a government clampdown on unlicensed premises, Saudi media have reported.

Women’s gyms have become popular in the ultra-conservative Muslim country where the sexes are heavily segregated.

But only clubs linked to medical groups can get licenses and others will be closed, the Arab News newspaper said.

Saudi women were reported to have launched an online campaign in protest called Let Her Get Fat.
Government departments are not allowed to issue licenses for commercial gyms and sports clubs for women, unlike facilities for men, the newspaper reported.

It quoted club manager Bader al-Shibani, who tried to open a women’s sports club along with the one he runs for men in Jeddah.

“I ran into a stone wall at every turn. Every department I visited denied that they had the authority to give permission to establish a women’s club,” he said.

Many clubs are registered as beauty salons, and offer fitness facilities and even exercise classes in addition, the newspaper said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs told the newspaper that commercial clubs do not have registration for the provision of sport and health services.

“It’s clear that one department is now taking the decision to put an end to the increasing number of unlicensed clubs,” lawyer and community activist Abdulaziz al-Qasim told Arab News.

A group of women launched an internet campaign in protest against the move, saying facilities linked to medical clinics were too expensive, and their health would suffer as a result of the closures.

Women in Saudi Arabia are banned from driving, must wear a head-to-toe cloak when out in public and must obtain permission from a male relative to work, travel, study or marry.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Exercise, Health Issues, Saudi Arabia, Women's Issues | 11 Comments

Jodi Picoult: Handle With Care

I just finished the latest Jodi Picoult novel, Handle with Care. I was uncomfortable with it at the beginning, as I often am with Jodi Picould novels. She’s like that guest who brings up topics no one else brings up, and sometimes you wish she would stop, but the conversation gets rolling and everyone has an opinion, and the party would be much duller if she weren’t there.

She’s also the friend you would go to if you had an embarrassing problem you couldn’t discuss with anyone else. We all need that kind of friend, an honest sounding board, not afraid to deal with the grit and grime of everyday life.

I know the reason her books make me uncomfortable is that sometimes I see things I don’t like about myself in her characters.


The subject of the book is a disease called osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), and Willow, the youngest daughter, has Type III, which means she was born with broken bones, her bones would break if you picked her up wrong, changed her diaper the wrong way, even if she rolled over. Her bones were brittle, and the slightest thing could cause a break. She is also very smart, and a delightful character.

Picoult takes us inside many heads – the mother, Charlotte, a former pastry chef (Picoult includes some of her very best recipes, YUMMMM), Sean, the fiercely loving father, Amelia, a troubled pre-teen who hides her bulemia and cutting, and Marin, the lawyer, searching for her own birth mother. When Charlotte files a wrongful birth suit against her best friend – and obstetrician – Piper, her life starts to fall apart. It’s hard to believe things could get worse than having a child whose bones break all the time, but things definitely get worse.

What I hated about Charlotte, who has learned to anticipate her damaged child’s needs, is seeing myself through her eyes. Frequently, she shows us our insensitivity to the disabled, how we patronize, how we are oblivious to the simplest needs. Charlotte is a little angry at the world, so protective that she bites back scathing words to outsiders – or doesn’t. People without disabilities – visible disabilities, we all have disabilities, don’t we, just some are visible and some are not? – can be so smug, so unaware of the hardships others face. I cringe when I read this book. I see myself, and I don’t like what I see.

I admire Jodi Picoult. I will read just about anything she has written, because of the courage she has to tackle the most sensitive subjects. This is not a comfortable book to read, but it is a worthwhile book to read.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Books, Character, Community, Family Issues, Fiction, Health Issues, Marriage, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 2 Comments

Income Tax Blessing

You didn’t think those words could all be used in the same sentence, did you? AdventureMan and I have to pay something called “quarterly estimated taxes” and this year, I guess because our investment income went seriously down, we overpaid our taxes. I know, I know, that doesn’t sound like good news to you, but it sure beats the pit-in-the-stomach of learning that you owe more to Uncle Sam. We overpaid, and we will go ahead and apply it to next year’s taxes and hope that everything works out well next year, too.

We used to talk to my father about ways he could pay less tax on his income and savings. He would look at us and say “But the government was always good to me!” (he worked for the government) “They paid my salary! They pay my retirement! They help pay my medical bills! Why would I not want to pay them taxes?”

It was an extraordinary attitude; I have never forgotten it.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Biography, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Relationships, Social Issues | 5 Comments

Forecast: Hot and Crabby

It isn’t my fault. I was born in the cold winter months in Alaska, and to this day, I thrive in cooler weather. When October comes to Kuwait and I can feel an occasional cool breeze on my face, I am in heaven for the next six months. When the rains come, I dance for joy.

So, alternatively, when I open the door to take a photo of the sunrise from my balcony, and it is as warm outside as it is inside, my heart sinks.

The sunrise this morning was awesome – lights and darks and sparkles all over the place:


What is not to love?


I’m trying not to be grumpy. I’m trying to think cool thoughts, and to be cool-headed. Keep me in your prayers, please, for sweetness of spirit, and for peace of spirit, and for super organizational skills.

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather | 3 Comments