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 Talal 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

 

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.

Long weekends, home improvements, and rainy weather

Though I’m fortunate enough to work from home and set my own schedule I still look forward to the long weekends. It’s a time my husband and I can actually plan to take care of a few things we’ve been putting off due to lack of time. Vacations? Not a chance. Our long weekends are often filled with family time and home improvement projects. Sure, it might be nice to get away for a few days from time to time but with the number of pets we have, we’ve decided our time with them is more valuable than travel and the boarding them.

This Memorial Day weekend was rather rainy so there was little opportunity for outdoor time which worked out rather well considering the work we’re doing indoors. My husband, who is starting to embrace being a hands on home improvement guy, spent the weekend replacing all the flooring in our family room and my office. I spent the weekend choosing new paint colors and making numerous trips to and from Lowe’s as he remembered items he had forgotten on trip number one.

My hope is that we build a new house on our land in a couple of years. Right now it’s just the 2 of us and I feel our current house is perhaps a little large for our needs. I long for something a bit smaller with a cozy feel. My husband, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of spending the money. His theory is ‘our current home meets all of our needs, why bother with another’? Could be why he’s embracing his home improvement side. He figures if he does everything to our current home I won’t be asking for yet another one. He’s the sweetest, kindest, most generous man in the world until I ask for something he deems unnecessary.

Mexico has their El Chapo, Kuwait has its El Cheapo — and apparently I married him.

 

US Contractors – Your legal rights and the Kuwait Labour Law

I’m posting this for a good friend of Desert Girl who is very well versed in the legal rights of US Contractors in regard to the Kuwait Labor law. There are a lot of contract changes taking place, a lot of new employees arriving in Kuwait, and a lot of old ones leaving. It’s best to know your rights upon accepting a new position as well as upon ending your contract whether it be through termination or resignation.

Please feel free to reach out to her should you have any questions.


 

I am hearing more and more each day about the break time gossiping and moaning that surrounds the work contracts here in Kuwait.  Most of the gossiping is done by Denny Crane’s thinking they are Legal Eagles and just cherry picking what they hear from one person and another then combining a mish mash of complete inaccurate information.  So, on that note I would like to just explain a few simple terms to you guys:

  • If you have a Visa 18 you fall under the Kuwait Labour Law of February 2010 – A copy is here for you to read.
  • The Kuwait Labour Law supersedes any work contracts that you have with your employer
  • If you decide to take Legal Action against your employer to recoup any overtime, indemnity or holiday pay outstanding you can sue your employer through the legal system in Kuwait without any retribution from them – once a case is filed you are protected . You must realise that your employer can not sack you because you are taking them to court – if they try, this works in your favour and substantiates your claim even more.
  • You can file a case up to 1 year from leaving your employment – but this takes more time to process.
  • As an American citizen even signing a contract outside of Kuwait in advance to your arrival here – you are still bound by Kuwait laws.
  • You might want to check out the following site – this is the big buzz word in the US at the moment – Human Trafficking – yes guys – you come under Human Trafficking by your own employer – quote: (5)(i) Using misleading or fraudulent practices during the recruitment of employees or offering of employment, such as failing to disclose, in a format and language accessible to the worker, basic information or making material misrepresentations during the recruitment of employees regarding the key terms and conditions of employment, including wages and fringe benefits, the location of work, the living conditions, housing and associated costs (if employer or agent provided or arranged), any significant costs to be charged to the employee, and, if applicable, the hazardous nature of the work;

(ii) Using recruiters that do not comply with local labor laws of the country in which the recruiting takes place;  https://www.acquisition.gov/sites/default/files/current/far/html/Subpart%2022_17.html

 

  • The Legal procedure here is simple and painless:
    • You find a good bi-lingual lawyer – please understand only Kuwaiti Lawyers can stand before the judge in Kuwait
    • You Sign Power of Attorney ‘Tawkeel’ – this enables your lawyer to act on your behalf – this can be done in about 30 minutes
    • You discus your issues – take all forms of paperwork including proof of any overtime sheets or payslips that you have
    • The lawyer will look over all the documentation and work out how much money is owed to you what you can claim back through the courts
    • You agree on a fee – this is usually around KWD 1,500 dependant also on complexity of the case and if you are leaving you must appreciate contact through international means (this might push the fee up to KWD 2,000) also, they will charge a recovery fee of around 7% – but, the monies collected on your behalf will be sent directly to you once received. Expensive ? Yes and No – once your case is filed you need do nothing – the Lawyers will take over everything – and monitor every aspect of the case for the duration – considering most Lawyers have a normal flat rate of KWD 50 to open a file – and charge anywhere between KWD 150 – 300 per hour consultation – looking at this you will realise it’s a justifiable cost. Some may charge you less than this – but you have to question is the firm experienced enough and do they have native speaking English staff? But, on the other hand if they try to charge you over KWD 2,000 you are paying waaaay too much.
    • Once in agreement to everything a contract is signed.
  • The legal process once you decide to peruse your case through the courts in Kuwait is quite simple:
    • Your file is presented to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour ( MOSAL – Sha’oon this is the local name given) where it is registered and a case number is given.
    • Your file will be given to a Sha’oon Manager – he will be the one looking at all the evidence and collating the information from both sides to give his recommendations to court.
    • Your employer will have 3 chances to attend an informal hearing with him in the Sha’oon offices.
    • If your employer does not attend 3 times then the case gets automatically sent to the Civil Court.  In all honesty,  it’s a case of sit back and wait – usually takes about 6 months for it to get a hearing date – Kuwait Judicial system is paper driven and as we all know every man has his stamp !
    • If your employer does decide to turn up at either of the 3 appointments given to them by the Sha’oon they have a right to present any documentation that they have – this can also give opportunity to settle out of court – they will be asked would they like to settle out of court – if this happens and they agree then terms and conditions will be set and an agreed amount will be negotiated and a payment date set out.  This will be legally binding !!!
    • Even if you decide you want to leave Kuwait during this process – your lawyer will fight on your behalf for your rights. Just make sure you have a good lawyer that holds your back !!!

Contact number is 1810011 / 9872 8900  if you want to discuss it further.  The initial consultation is free.
Just to let y’alls know:  You can’t go back to the US and fight it there.  There is no jurisdiction for the first round.  You have to file a case in Kuwait and based on that outcome, use the Kuwaiti case as evidence in your subsequent case filed in the US (if you choose to do that).  There was a recent class action case against an American contracting firm working in Kuwait where the plaintiffs filed in the US.  The US judge threw it out as the Kuwait Labor Law does not apply in the US.

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Birthday to me

It’s been so long since I’ve posted that 4 major holidays (yes, my birthday is a major holiday… just ask my husband) have passed. These past several months have been much busier for me than usual but in a super positive way. I’ve been spending a lot more time at the gym, focusing on my physical presence as much as my mental well-being, volunteering for a great cause, actively working at our nonprofit, and over the holidays… events!

One of my favorite things about being involved with a group of positive, like-minded people is the number of events we get to attend. Or are at least invited to attend. It’s not always we opt to leave our pets at home alone, especially if it’s going to be a late evening. However, over the holidays we did attend some well put together events that got us out of the house for a bit. While I do enjoy creating the perfect look for myself, I’m finding it’s also just as fun to put something together for my husband. He’s one of those geeky kinda guys who’s perfectly happy wearing beach casual attire to meetings with other CEOs. I admire his style (or lack thereof) but it’s also nice to see him well tailored.

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking a variety of ‘newbie’ questions about Kuwait and most of them are from Americans who mention their new job on Arifjan. It seems like a major contract change has taken place and I’m just totally out of the loop. For those of you who do have questions about Kuwait, I’ll gladly do what I can to answer. But I have to admit, my travel to Kuwait has been minimal recently and there are so many changes taking place there that my advice could be totally outdated. And, well, useless. I do suggest you check out DesertGirl’s blog as she always has a lot of advice and guidance for those who are new to the region.

For those of you who have emailed with questions about relationships, dating, etc. I am not ignoring you. I promise. I will get to those emails today.

Though I haven’t been keeping up with my own blog, I have found a number of unofficial newsworthy blogs here in the US. Most flow in the direction I would like to move towards. But of course there’s the desire to appeal to current readers. And, as I’ve mentioned before, starting a new blog is just such a daunting task and I’m not that invested.

On a more positive, less whiny note, I’m happy. Our life has become what some might consider ‘mundane’ — same thing day in and day out. And perhaps, every now and then, I wonder if we’re just incredibly boring people. But as my husband reminds me, we’ve found our happy place. And not only have we truly found it, but we live in it. We embrace it. And we don’t question it. So yeah, I’m happy. Yeah, I’ve been happy for several years now, but I believe I’ve failed to recognize it as ‘happiness’. It was more like, “new relationship butterflies’ or ‘relocation excitement’ or ‘home remodeling thrills’ or ‘yay, new furry family member’. I didn’t recognize the steady stream of happy events as genuine happiness. I suppose, as I’ve said before, I was just waiting for that tragic moment when it all came to a screeching halt. Now I’m just enjoying the ride.

Kuwait <--> Washington, DC on United Airlines = Nope

Less than a week ago the determination was made that United Airlines would no longer operate their direct flight from Washington, DC to Kuwait (or Bahrain). At this time, and since 2006, they’re the only American carrier offering a direct flight out of Kuwait into the US and for many of us it was quite convenient even if not as luxurious as the Middle Eastern carriers.

United_Airlines_1181356

Rumors are swirling as to the reason for the ending of this relationship; Kuwait being found guilty of discrimination on their flight from JFK to London by refusing Israeli travelers service is the most talked about possibility. The other is that United is stating the flight just isn’t meeting the financial expectations. Of course this too is a possibility considering the decreased number of US Contractors in Kuwait and the fact this was once a daily flight which has been scaled back to just a couple of times a week over the past years.

Either way the service is ending January 2016.

On a personal note, and the only reason we even remotely care about this… we have a number of tickets booked on this flight between March and September of 2016. Us going there, family coming here, summer vacations, holidays, etc. Tens of thousands of dollars and just as many MileagePlus miles. I’ve spent my morning cancelling flights and seeking out alternatives. However, United has a very strict cancellation/refund policy which obviously we’re requesting an exception to. They’ve explained it will take at least 7 days to process. Let’s just hope they don’t make this difficult.

Intercultural marriages; where to live?

When my husband and I were first married 4 years ago the question of where to live came up… a lot. No, not which city, or which neighborhood. We had to decide which side of the world we were going to call home, settle, and plan our future in. This meant one of us was going to spend much of the year away from the country and culture where we spent our childhood and made a number of memories.

By the time we were married I had already lived in the Middle East for a decade, so in a lot of ways it too was my home. However, all of my family was still in America. All of my memories and childhood friends as well. But, my family is quite small, consisting of only 4 immediate family members. While my husband, on the other hand, has about 25 immediate family members. Then of course there’s the cousins, the aunts, uncles, etc. I don’t have any of those in my family. So staying in Kuwait seemed like the logical choice. But, it wasn’t the the choice we made.

After a couple of years of marriage I started longing for life in America. We visited several times a year, but it just wasn’t the same. And with each visit I was reminded of so many things I truly missed a lot more than I had previously thought. My husband, being one who never meshed with his culture, also started missing things from America. So, we packed up most of our belongings and our beloved cats and made the move.

Should all women married to Arab men expect he’ll be willing to do the same? Probably not. That culture is deeply rooted in family. And for a man to make the decision to move to the other side of the world with his Western wife is a pretty big decision. But, over the past several years I have met a number of American/Kuwaiti couples of have relocated to America together. I’ll admit, I was surprised.

So, how is life now that we’ve been here a couple of years? Well, we’re completely acclimated, have a large group of awesome friends, invest a great deal of time into the happiness of our furry family members, have our favorite coffee shops, restaurants, and a solid schedule. We live what most people would consider the ‘typical American life’ and we couldn’t be happier. I’ll occasionally ask my husband how he feels about the possibility of moving back to Kuwait one day and he doesn’t seem to be to keen on the idea. Right now he’s perfectly happy with a few visits a year to spend quality time with the family. And I suppose I’m OK with that too.