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.

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.

Nope, I haven’t disappeared

I really want to apologize to those of you who have emailed, commented, and reached out for guidance and/or advice. I realize I haven’t responded to any of you and that’s certainly not like me at all. Unfortunately, I faced an unexpected medical issue which resulted in me being in the hospital for almost a month. During that time (which I only remember bits and pieces of) I had no option but to focus on my medical care and not much else. Fortunately I’m slowly healing and getting back to something that feels semi-human and I hope to respond to emails within the next week or so. Please be patient and know that I haven’t disappeared.

Visa to America

I got an email from a woman who lives in Kuwait but is of Syrian nationality whose son is a US Citizen. She was asking if her son would be able to sponsor her on a visa to America.

Unfortunately, traveling to America for the purpose of living (or anything other than tourism) can be a lengthy process with very few exceptions (entrepreneur, business owners valued at 1 million+ dollars, etc). We don’t necessarily have a ‘sponsorship’ program like Kuwait. You can’t just go to the ministry, fill out a few papers, and get family members here under your ‘sponsorship’. It actually requires an application for ‘immigration’ to the US. And, for a child to make the application for a parent is not high on the priority list. If I’m not mistaken, children of a US citizen take priority, and second to that would be a spouse.

So the short answer is, ‘no’, your son can’t sponsor you to live in the US. The long answer would be, sure, he can apply for you to immigrate on the basis that he’s a relative of yours and is a US Citizen.

Additional and valuable information can be found at USCIS.gov as well as any documents you might need to complete. Furthermore, there are a variety of Immigration Attorney’s available to assist (for a fee) should you need guidance. Sorry I don’t have any recommendations or names.

The Arab/American Marriage (4 years later)

So, it’s been just over 4 years since my husband and I were married and a little over 3 years since I wrote my initial post about our Arab/American marriage; a post which still garners much attention and encourages conversations among readers. It’s nice to share a bit of insight into our lives in hopes of helping at least one person who might find themselves baffled by cultural differences.

Before writing this post I thought it best to discuss things that might have changed over the last several years instead of writing yet another post about overcoming cultural challenges. Not only have I covered that topic enough but over time it feels as though our cultures are meshing to the point of becoming one in a number of ways.

Lately I’ve noticed that as women are commenting on the blog with questions about their Arab boyfriends (who are often students here in the US) I catch myself thinking, “How small minded and controlling he is!” Perhaps because my husband and I have both changed significantly since moving to America and what was once acceptable and even normal now feels confining and discriminatory. Not sure I could effortlessly move back to Kuwait and fit into a lifestyle I once felt so comfortable in. I know I miss my in-laws immensely, but fortunately, with technology and their willingness to travel, we see one another often.

Though I like to think my husband and I have never been superficial shallow people, that’s even more evident now. Holidays that once consisted of expensive gifts or vacations are now consumed with participating in activities with emotional value. Perhaps it’s a day spent at the dog park with our furry friends, or building a new cat house, or even just a family lunch at our favorite cafe. As we continue to grow closer we also seem to embrace more depth in life. We value things with meaning instead of things with a price tag.

My husband, who has always been more comfortable with the Western culture, fits neatly into his not-so-new life here. He has an incredible career, wonderful colleagues and business associates, and holds dear his simple yet meaningful lifestyle. He knows we’re making a difference regardless of how small it is.

One of the biggest differences I think we both experience is that sense of freedom. Primarily not having to be consumed with perceptions; a huge part of life in Kuwait. I’ve always been very independent, worked, managed businesses, drove, traveled, etc. And, fortunately, my husband always admired and encouraged that. Yet in Kuwait we still had to be concerned with perceptions. Would the neighbors wonder why my head wasn’t covered? Would they question who that Western woman was driving all over town alone? Would extended family members see me out and about and wonder why I wasn’t escorted by a man? While living up to those ‘standards’ wasn’t difficult, it did become emotionally daunting over time. Having to question every single move we made out of respect for some unwritten cultural rules that neither of us believed in definitely exhausted us. Here, the only respect we really have to show is to one another. And we do. Yet we have freedom to do as we please without wondering is the neighbor watching. If I want to head out at 5am for coffee and shopping (alone)… I do just that. No one cares. No one is watching. And no one would dare even question it. We want to rescue dogs… that’s what we do. No one is questioning it. No one is shaming us for having dogs in our home. And we certainly don’t have to worry someone will toss poison over our fence to try and harm our pets. We’re free.

Over the years, since writing my first post about the Arab/American marriage, the primary question has been, “How to overcome cultural differences?”. And as I’m sure my answer has changed over time, I can comfortably say the best advice I have is just to live the life you want to live. Be yourself. Love what you do and where you are. And if that person (whether it’s the Arab or the American) is supposed to be in your life then they’ll be comfortable with all of that. If they are constantly trying to change you then it’s definitely not the relationship for you. Yeah, this is pretty standard advice for any relationship regardless of background and culture but things can get quite blurred when the cultures are so very different.

Thanks to those of you who still hang around and read the blog during the very rare occasion I write something new. I always have thoughts and ideas running through my head and often think I should blog about them, but I doubt they would be of much interest to those who don’t know me personally. Perhaps someday.

 

Kuwait Mosque Bombing

Our deepest condolences to those directly affected by this horrific tragedy.

I am shocked and saddened something of this nature could, and has happened in Kuwait. I’ve never felt more safe than I did while living in Kuwait. I always believed Kuwait was immune to these types of incidents and to know otherwise is very painful.

U.S. Embassy Kuwait message:

Subject:      Security Notice for U.S. Citizens 2015-2

Explosion at Mosque in Al-Sawaber neighborhood of Kuwait City

There has been an explosion at a mosque in the Al Sawaber neighborhood of Kuwait.  There have been reports of deaths and injuries.  U.S. citizens should avoid the area.  Please stay current with media coverage of local and regional events. U.S. Mission personnel have been advised to continue to practice personal security awareness and we advise the U.S. citizen community to do the same.

Ambulances park in front of the Imam Sadiq Mosque after a bomb explosion following Friday prayers, in the Al Sawaber area of Kuwait City June 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jassim Mohammed

Ambulances park in front of the Imam Sadiq Mosque after a bomb explosion following Friday prayers, in the Al Sawaber area of Kuwait City June 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jassim Mohammed

Ramadan is coming!

Every year around this time I get super excited. Kinda like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to arrive.

While living in the Middle East full time there was this overall ‘build up’ in anticipation of Ramadan every year. And everyone seemed to share in it. The super markets would be so busy there was no parking, grocery prices would skyrocket, work slowed down in offices as everyone prepared for a month long semi-shut down, and families started preparing long in advance. Here in America (especially in the area we live), one would never know Ramadan was coming… or that is was here once it arrives. Nothing changes. Nothing is decorated. And only occasionally do we see a random church wishing a happy Ramadan to Muslims on signs in front of their congregations. But, it still holds a very dear place in my heart. I’ll still allow myself to get excited and prepare just as if I were in Kuwait.

*Google Image

*Google Image

Not too far from our home is an Arabic market which sells halal meats, seasonings, spices, Vimto, lebneh, dates, and other Ramadan necessities. I’ve been popping in there lately in hopes of finding l’gaymat and sambousa jibbin. So far no luck but I’m tempted to put in a special request in hopes of being accommodated. I do miss my mother in law’s cooking!

My husband totally understands my desire to indulge in our favorite treats during Ramadan and I’m sure his compassion comes from a place of sharing the same desire. As of today he’s started seeking out bakeries between here and NYC that makes all of our favorites. It’s an hour flight… and would be totally worth it. Or, well, I could just learn to make them myself but how disappointing would it be if nothing turned out edible?

No, of course Ramadan isn’t just about food (it just happens to be on my mind a lot as I start preparations). It’s truly about ensuring we’re being the best person we can be and to make a conscious decision to make improvements where we see fit. Sure it’s something everyone should do throughout the year, and I like to believe I do, but Ramadan is a nice reminder. Years ago I attempted to do a Ramadan post for the entire month by sharing little ideas of things to make someone’s day a little better. However, I simply no longer have time to invest in daily posts.

While things are certainly different during Ramadan as compared to when we’re in Kuwait, it’s still a time that brings excitement and anticipation.

Wishing you all a wonderful Ramadan with loved ones.

Happy New Year

Though it’s been a slow year for blogging and I’ve been slowly disappearing from the blogosphere all together, it doesn’t mean I don’t always appreciate my (still loyal) readers. Surprised some of you continue to check in for new posts, but it’s definitely flattering and genuinely appreciated.

We’re spending our New Year’s Eve quietly. An early dinner with dear friends and a night at home listening to fabulous jazz music by the fire. And though we don’t do resolutions, we do always hope to be just a bit better than we were the day before… or even the year before.

Wishing you all a wonderful, happy, and safe new year.