the two-week vacation
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 23, 2009
Here in the United States, a lot of media talk recently has focused on how inexpensive air travel has become, thanks to the tanking economy. Summer flights around the country have dropped to mid-2000s levels, and flights to Europe, the Caribbean, and even Asia are much cheaper than even 2007 prices.
Flights to Lebanon and the rest of the region, on the other hand, seem to have stayed stubbornly high. I’d like to book a ticket to visit my aunt in Kuwait and assorted friends in the Levant, but in my head I keep expecting those delightful 2002 prices to crop up whenever I hit “go” on my favorite search engine.
Instead, what crops up are 2002 prices, doubled.
These are the times when I wish that I were Lebanese.
For once, Robert Worth has written a story about Lebanon worth reading: a piece in today’s New York Times about vote-buying and other “typically Lebanese” (or maybe “typically Saudi”, given what his Saudi source says) electoral activities. Here’s a sample of what is a horrifying yet highly readable article:
The parliamentary elections here in June are shaping up to be among the most expensive ever held anywhere, with hundreds of millions of dollars streaming into this small country from around the globe.
Lebanon has long been seen as a battleground for regional influence, and now, with no more foreign armies on the ground, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region are arming their allies here with campaign money in place of weapons. The result is a race that is widely seen as the freest and most competitive to be held here in decades, with a record number of candidates taking part. But it may also be the most corrupt.
Votes are being bought with cash or in-kind services. Candidates pay their competitors huge sums to withdraw. The price of favorable TV news coverage is rising, and thousands of expatriate Lebanese are being flown home, free, to vote in contested districts.
They sure are. My friend S, who knows of both my desire for a “big summer” vacation and my penny-pinching habits, sms’ed me last week with the news that:
8 March will send you back for ten days. 14 March will send you for three. Get your voting card!
S didn’t mean me, of course: I’m not Lebanese. But if you are, and you seem neutral enough to be courted by both parties (and why is March 14 being so cheap, anyway? Where are all the hundreds of millions of Saudi dollars that Worth’s source mentions going?), you could start your summer with a nice two-week vacation.
Bring on the suntan oil and the sequins (and a listing of your favorite candidates, if you have them). Lebanon awaits 😀 .