The Arab/American marriage six years later

It’s difficult for me to believe we’ve been married for six years. And it’s even more difficult for me to refer to us as the ‘Arab/American’ couple.

Life for T and me is pretty much exactly what it was last year at this time… and the year before and the year before. Our cultural differences are quite minimal at this point. We’re a typical married couple living a very American life. If anything has changed it’s how close we’ve become and how much we rely on one another to truly be there and I like to believe we’re not letting one another down in that department.

Last year was a whirlwind of medical issues for me ranging from a medical malpractice issue (anyone knows a good Attorney?) to almost a year of just not feeling like myself. Like literally, I remembered the old me but had no clue how to find her again. I’m still struggling a bit, but have recently been diagnosed with Post Sepsis Syndrome which at least offers answers. My short term memory isn’t what it was before the surgical fiasco and I struggle daily with anxiety, mild depression, and all over muscle aches, but I am slowly getting better. And best of all, I’m not doing this alone. If it weren’t for the patience of my husband and him reminding me I’m not alone, I would have probably had a complete breakdown by now.

A little over a month ago we had to make the painful decision to have our precious Sultana (dog) put to sleep. She was suffering from a severe case of pancreatitis, diabetes, and a suspected long-term endocrine disorder. Her prognosis was poor. From the day she came to us from Kuwait, we had promised her she would never ever feel pain or suffer again as long she lived. In the end, we knew it was right to keep our promise to her. The decision was heartbreaking for both of us and to this day we still cry. However, we’re both slowly healing, focusing on our other pets (3 dogs/3 cats), and giving them all the love we possibly can.

When I first met my husband years ago in Kuwait our ‘dating’ was very brief at best. There was something about us that clicked. Something inside of me knew he was the person I had always hoped to find and I suppose something about me felt the same for him. Within weeks we were married and neither of us has looked back. We’ve gone through major life changes together; international relocation, families intertwining, cultural differences, home buying, businesses, jobs, as well as the things I’ve mentioned above, but we seem to do it with each other’s best interest at heart. I suppose that’s what any relationship should be, and it’s definitely been one of the things that keep us together.

Our marriage today looks absolutely nothing like it did in the first weeks, months, or even years. It’s ever-changing and evolving like everything else in life. But, for now, it appears as though it’s changed for the better. Don’t get me wrong; we’re not perfect. We argue and disagree like everyone else but we don’t hold onto those arguments. Or at least I don’t. He’s not as expressive so while I assume he’s not holding a grudge he might be visiting with the divorce Lawyer and I’m blissfully unaware.

Referring to him as ‘Arab’ and me as ‘American’ feels a bit silly at this point. I can’t look at anything in his life or how he lives and say, “Yes! That’s the Arab in him” and the same goes for me being an American. Our lives have completely meshed, and what might have seemed like different cultures in the past just feels like ‘life’ now.

For now, we’re both looking forward to Fall weather. I’ve started to invest a lot more time in photography as a way to clear my head. Not sure I’m any better at it, but I certainly enjoy it. As the weather gets cooler we seek out outdoor dining options once a week and find new places to walk afterward so I can take photos. I think he understands it’s therapeutic for me and he enjoys the walk.

Our big holiday of the year is Thanksgiving and we’re already planning for that. We host at our home every year and both his family (brothers studying here in America) and mine come for dinner. He always helps me cook and we always make far too much food, but it’s great to have everyone together for the day. Exhausting but wonderful.

I’m not sure when, or if, I’ll blog again. Sometimes I wish I could get back to it regularly, other times I want to make the entire thing private and turn it into my personal journal. Writing has always been my outlet and has allowed me to vent things I might not otherwise discuss. It’s been a method of sharing, growing, and healing when things were painful. Now, while dealing with my personal psychological changes, I don’t feel I can find words the way I once did. It’s almost a chore to put a sentence together and make it appear coherent. I feel as though my writing has become fragmented and without emotion. Stepping away and giving myself more time to overcome this battle might allow me to find me again. Here’s hoping.

Book Review: The Bro Code of Saudi Culture

The Bro Code of Saudi Culture is a book written by Abdul Al Lily and is available on Amazon.

Living in the GCC for about 12 years and being married to a man from Kuwait for the past 6 years has allowed me a very intimate insight into the bedoin culture still embraced by many. It was my belief I had a firm grasp of the ‘ins and outs’ of the culture and was even well versed enough to answer the numerous questions I get about being married to a man from that region. Therefore, when I was asked to read and review ‘The Bro Code of Saudi Culture’ by the Author I was flattered but didn’t expect I would learn anything new. I was wrong.

The first thing I noticed about the book was the way it’s written. Abdul Al Lily has taken incredibly interesting information and put it out to the reader in ‘tweet like’ format. In today’s society, social media demands that we read, and read often. We’ve all learned to read for specific content, seeking out the most important keywords. We skim over material subconsciously avoiding every conjunction and adjective as if they’re inconsequential. And, for the most part, that’s true.

In ‘The Bro Code of Saudi Culture’, Abdul Al Lily has managed to turn an expansive topic into an ‘in your face’ type of book while maintaining organization. It answers questions everyone in the region (especially expats) might have, but without unnecessary backstories and explanations. It’s an easy read filled with great information and lots of laughs along the way.

As for me, the woman who thought she knew it all, I found myself educated and entertained. I would read a few sentences and suddenly have questions for my husband. His response was often a smile or laugh and sometimes even a look of, “Yes! I remember that”.

With all the division our country (and the world) is currently facing, ‘The Bro Code of Saudi Culture’ is a good start to bridging gaps. With all the misconceptions and misunderstandings, this book offers answers to questions everyone has, but very few would ask. And, due to cultural etiquette, couldn’t ask. So, if you’re living in the region or plan to visit there for work or vacation, definitely grab a copy of this book and spend some time reading it on your flight. You won’t regret it.

Finally, I would like to personally thank Abdul Al Lily for giving me the honor of reading and offering my honest opinions of his work. I have a great deal of respect for him as a professional in his field and admire him as someone who truly makes a difference.

 

Dr. Al Lily is a Saudi international consultant on Saudi culture, a bestseller, an Oxford graduate and an assistant professor of education, technology, and sociology at King Faisal University. He has worked with impact-factor journals and the largest academic publishers: Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & Francis, Wiley, Sage and Oxford University Press. He has written in different languages, for academic magazines (Australasian Science, Italian Journal of Geopolitics and openDemocracy) and non-academic magazines (Your Middle East, Green Prophet, and Vocativ). He has pioneered an innovative approach in academic research, called crowd-authoring. He is the initiator and first author of an article by 99 authors; the first article in the social sciences to be written by such a large number. He was a top-0.5% researcher on Academia.edu in 2016. Whatsapp: +447946674377. Twitter: @abdulallily. Email: allili55@hotmail.com. Website: https://abdulallily.wordpress.com

 

Updates from readers?

Over the years many of you have written to me or commented on the blog and so kindly shared your experiences. Some good, others not. Some of you have been so kind as to share your photos with me, details about your vacations, or just write to suggest a morning meeting over coffee. I’ve come to adore many of you and truly value the dear friends I’ve met through the blog.

That being said, I find myself thinking about some of you from time to time. Perhaps you commented on the blog years ago regarding a new relationship but never followed up. Or, maybe you were someone who emailed intimate details of an abusive marriage you were in. Or, you were one of my readers who was so kind to share their story with others here in hopes of helping them through a situation. I would absolutely love to hear from those of you who still follow the blog. I would love updates on your initial comments. And I would love to know where you are in life now. Did you marry that man? Dump the loser? Move to the other country?

If you’re not comfortable with a follow up on the blog, please feel free to email me and update me there. Looking forward to reading comments and/or emails from many of you!

Death; what is normal?

The last time I posted it was about the normalcy of life and how we’re in a simple yet satisfying routine of sorts. And then, because the philosophical side of my mind is always hard at work, I started to wonder what really quantifies normal?

Several months ago I went into the hospital for a minor, planned procedure. The procedure went terribly wrong and I was not only in the hospital for several weeks, but at times, there was the question of whether or not I would actually make it. I recall being transported to the local trauma center where I was certain I was being taken because I was dying. I felt as though I were dying. I can’t think of better words to describe it other than I simply had no energy left to fight. I could feel anything that once resembled me slipping away. I remember telling the Nurse if I were there to die that was fine, I could handle that, but that I needed her to contact my family as I wanted to see them all one last time. It was my way of accepting what I felt was inevitable, but also being allowed to take everyone’s face with me when I left. Several months later, here I am. Home. Healthy. And feeling about 90% ‘normal’ again.

On the left column of my blog home page, I have a ‘blogroll’ or a list of blogs I followed often. I created that list when I first started the blog and haven’t updated it in a few years. Some of those blogs still exist, others don’t.

When a person starts a blog (something that has been replaced by vlogging) we generally do so because we love to write, find our minds are often filled with random thoughts; sometimes important, others not at all. But most importantly, I think many of us started blogs as a way to not just vent our frustrations, but to share our experiences with others. Perhaps it was our way of offering guidance or advice even if no one was asking for it. Either way, blogging allows random strangers worldwide a glimpse into our lives. And when people follow blogs regularly we begin to feel as though we know the writer on some level. We can identify with some of their ideas or thoughts, or even accidentally find solutions to our own problems through their mistakes. We often feel some kind of ‘like’ towards the writer even if we’ve never communicated with them at all.

memory

A couple of years ago one of the bloggers I followed religiously passed away from cancer (Americanbedu.com). She was married to a Saudi man, lived in Saudi for years, and moved back to America once her husband passed away. Neither of them was old or unhealthy. They simply both lost a very long, painful battle to cancer. Carol (American Bedu) had friends and family who attempted to keep the blog alive after her passing, but it just wasn’t the same. I believe the domain has since expired and the content is gone. Every one of her thoughts, memories, and life stories — gone.

Just last week another blogger passed away from cancer. Nicole Hunter-Mostafa (thesamerainbowsend.com) was young, also married to a Saudi, and was pregnant with their second little girl when complications started. Because I don’t know her or her family I can only speculate about details, and, well, that’s just disrespectful. So I’ll share what I do know based on her willingness to tell her story to us readers. Nicole appeared to be a very happy person. Her blog posts were always uplifting and upbeat. She wasn’t one to do much ranting, even if she had things to rant about. She was so in love with her husband and their gorgeous little girl Lavender. She was thrilled to be pregnant again but her blogging slowed down immensely. She had a number of complications which resulted in extensive pain for her. She cut her summer USA trip short to get back to Saudi for pain treatment in the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Her last blog post was an overview of all she had endured but no mention of cancer. Her daughter was born not long after and she shared that with everyone on Instagram. Then, suddenly, all of her social media accounts were gone and months went by with no updates on the blog. Obviously, considering we don’t know one another, this shouldn’t have made a difference to me one way or another. But as I said before, we develop a ‘like’ for the writer of the blogs we follow. We wonder about them and hope they’re doing well. Sadly, in Nicole’s case, she wasn’t doing well. And last week, she too lost her battle with cancer.

Perhaps this is incredibly selfish of me, but because Nicole was such a brilliant writer who created beautiful images in my mind with her words, I wish she had blogged. I wish she had shared her last months with us. I wish I had known whether or not she had known. Did she know she had cancer but chose to avoid treatment as a way to save her daughter? I wouldn’t be surprised — she was deeply in love with her babies. Or was the cancer diagnosis as unexpected for her as it was for her readers? Again, I didn’t know Nicole but I am deeply saddened by her death. I loved her style of writing. The way she could create a picture book of stories with just her words. Magnificent. My heart aches for her family.

I’m not going to end this post with a sappy cliché about hugging loved ones, last days, etc. But do that anyway. And do it often. We really never know when our normal may not be recognizable.

When life becomes normal

One of the more difficult things about keeping the blog alive is finding topics that are relevant as well as interesting to my readers. I’ll contemplate a few current events, the political climate, and life then quickly realize one is always negative, the other is outright scary, and well, life is kinda boring. Not necessarily boring to me, but how much can one actually write about cats, dogs, and chickens? That’s pretty much what our lives have become. Not that either of us are complaining. If anything I think we’ve found some sense of incredible comfort in this simple little life of ours.

A few days ago I posted several photos of our pets on Facebook just hanging out in the backyard; running, playing, and doing doggie stuff. It made me realize their every moment of happiness is totally reliant upon my husband and I. They eat well, sleep well, and play with a smile on their face because we’ve provided that. It took me back to a time not so long ago where my days consisted of planning world travel while getting Botox. Not that dogs playing and Botox are even remotely related. But one has so little meaning in the big scheme of things while the other is suddenly my entire world. My husband and I have postponed and cancelled more vacations than I care to count because we just didn’t want to be away from the pets. Yeah, sounds crazy to some. But as happy as I like to think we make them, I know, without a doubt, they’re a huge part of our happiness as well.

See? This is one of those posts with absolutely no point and no real topic.

Ayam Cemanis. Yes. I raise exotic chickens from Indonesia.

Visual changes

Every now and then, sometimes more often than not, I make changes to the theme of the blog. Obviously, since I’m not one of those super cool code people like my husband, I simply use a template. While he’s offered to create my web space for me, I find a sense of comfort in knowing I can manage and update my blog on my own. Perhaps it makes me feel a little more tech savvy than I really am.

So, as my regular readers (if you peeps are still around) might notice, I’ve changed the theme yet again. I am, however, going to have my husband go into the editing portion of the page and tweek a few things. I’m not at all happy with the font sizes.

There are times when I really want to revive the blog and give it the life it once had. According to the stats I still have a solid number of readers but I find maintaining that just may not be possible. I no longer find the same things interesting that I once did and therefore, would want to go in a different direction. As I’ve mentioned a number of times before. But, instead, I’ll simply change themes from time to time and see if that brings me back to blogging. I miss it. I really do. I love to write and I love to interact with my readers. I like the idea that perhaps just one person found comfort by reading something here. The thought that perhaps I’ve offered insight or assistance to someone in need brings me more joy than I can even express in words.

So, that being said… I’m hoping to give the blog life again. Perhaps in the near future.

The Arab/American Marriage; many years later

My initial ‘Arab/American Marriage‘ post was in August 2012 and I’ve tried to provide an update each year since.

While reading over my original post I realize not a lot has changed other than our geographical location. We move to America in 2013 and haven’t looked back. For the first several months I’m sure I experienced far more culture shock and missed Kuwait much more than my husband did. I looked forward to the visits back and had even continued to remind him we should probably consider moving back one day. Well, that’s no longer the case.

After overcoming my missing of Kuwait (which didn’t take too very long) I genuinely started to embrace life here in America. Probably as much as my husband embraced it from the beginning. We’re both fully committed to being here for the rest of our lives and enjoying our Kuwait visits with family when possible.

At this point I don’t think we have any cultural differences to overcome — we’ve already done that on so many levels. I do still get a giggle when he occasionally mistakes the B for a P and ‘barks the car’. Otherwise, I sometimes forget he wasn’t born and raised here.

Some people have asked if my husband has changed since moving to America. I suppose we both have to some degree. I can say his love for animals, while it always existed, has really intensified. We started a nonprofit together to assist rescue animals abroad and he’s just as dedicated as I am to making a difference. He loves our pets (4 dogs and 2 cats) as if they’re our children and treats them as such. Anytime we’re out shopping together he’ll grab little toys or treats he thinks the pets might enjoy. On the other hand shopping, while one of my favorite things, is not on his list of pleasures.

In many ways I guess we’re simply the boring couple now. We spend weekends doing home improvement projects and weekdays working on business projects. We travel only if it’s convenient for our pets. He hates grocery shopping yet gladly carries all the bags into the house. We have mutual ‘couple’ friends as well as a handful of friends we hang out with independent of one another. I enjoy waking early and going out for coffee, he likes to sleep in and grab a quality brunch later in the day. We watch the same television programs, like the same movies, and have similar taste in music. Yeah, we’re just the typical married couple at this point. Best friends, one another’s biggest fan, and always displaying a mutual respect.

For those who continue to ask for advice regarding their Arab boyfriend/fiance, I would have to say the most important thing is to like one another. Forget about culture, background, religion, etc. Look at that person and ask yourself if you really like them enough to spend the rest of your life with them. If the answer is yes, then everything else is simple stuff. But if you’re with someone and think, “Oh I can change him/her down the road” get out of that relationship. Don’t disrespect yourself or someone else with such immature thoughts. Find someone you share a true common bond with and embrace them for who they are.

My husband and I were very fortunate that we both had a deep understanding of one another’s culture from the beginning. I respected his and he respected mine. There were no games or nonsense which resulted in hurt feelings. We were both honest, up front, dependable, loyal, and real. That’s what makes any marriage a strong one.

U.S. Citizen being held in Kuwait prison; Jermaine Rogers

A dear friend contacted me yesterday and asked if I would be willing to post a petition for a friend of hers who was arrested and jailed in Kuwait. Like other cases previously, my friend is certain Jermaine is innocent and being held unjustly. Furthermore, his court dates are set well in advance but no action seems to be taken on these dates and they often reschedule for a month or more away. Leaving Jermaine sitting in a jail cell with zero answers.

AIK

Yes, there are people who have opinions about such things and for the most part I agree; follow the law of the land you’re in. But, until there’s evidence that a real law was broken it’s terribly unfair to endlessly violate one’s human rights. Not to mention, it’s just nasty to point fingers and judge without knowing the entire story.

In the past there have been a number of Americans arrested in Kuwait and given harsh sentences for manufacturing and distributing drugs. I was intimately familiar with a few of those cases and saw the evidence firsthand. I believe their sentences were fair and just. But there is that random case from time to time that just doesn’t quite offer the type of evidence one would like to see before holding a person in a foreign prison without the right to a timely hearing. Especially when their own Attorney is telling them the Police in Kuwait planted the evidence and falsified drug test lab reports.

That being said, my friend asks that you take a moment and sign the petition in hopes of getting justice for her friend. In a time when America is feeling terribly divided, let’s do something nice to bring forth a little unity.

Petition can be found here.

Kuwait; racists who can’t hide

More often than not, when mentioning to people from the Middle East that my husband is from Kuwait, I’m told that GCC Arabs are seen as arrogant, prejudice, and pretty much viewed as the armpit of the region. I’m aware of this reputation and I can even understand it to a degree. However, regardless of how they’re viewed, it’s a form of racism. And, well, that’s just nasty.

Even worse than ‘local racism’ are the Westerners who move to places such as Kuwait and take on that mentality. For the most part I like to believe Westerners are raised in a world where racism is only practiced by the less intelligent, not formally educated, culture lacking cretins. Anyone with a sense of self respect is above and beyond disrespecting someone based upon the color of their skin or their nationality.

So what changes? Why do some of the white faced expats move to Kuwait and adopt their entitlement attitude? Well, for the most part they become obsessed with a lifestyle some locals pretend to be living; large villas, expensive cars, and meals at the finest restaurants every day. For the Westerners who grew up thinking Toyotas were luxury cars and Dairy Queen was a quality meal, you can see how the less fortunate could get starry eyed.

But does this also include becoming a shallow racist? It doesn’t have to.

Insecure people have a tendency to treat others in a disrespectful manner as a way of making themselves feel better. It doesn’t make them better people and it really highlights their own flaws. So, when the less fortunate Americans move to places such as Kuwait and realize they too can be racist assholes, it makes them feel better about their real existence.

Recently, in a facebook group I was asked a question about my husband. The other member was incorrect in their assumption but their question was incredibly racist and reminded me of why my husband and I have distanced ourselves from that lifestyle for so many years. We focus on offering support to the less fortunate, rescuing animals in need, and respecting people just because they’re people. We don’t judge people on the color of their skin, where they’re from, or how much money they make. We live a life that we find to be emotionally fulfilling. We don’t compare ourselves to others or attempt to compete. We want to see others be the best they can be and if we can play a role in that then we’re all for it. (sidenote: the woman in the facebook group is divorced, has a number of children, stuck in Kuwait, and is bitter towards others — not just us).

So while Kuwait is viewed as a country full of arrogant jerks, it’s really a misconception. While living there I surrounded myself with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met in my life. Many of who are still my best friends. My husband is from Kuwait and he’s generous, kind, compassionate, and hard working. He’s not dishonest or disloyal, nor would he divorce me with a half dozen kids and offer no financial support. So while it’s always easy to point fingers and make assumptions, rarely are they accurate, and often they only reveal who you really are.