Category Archives: Culture

Grove Park Inn [Asheville, NC]

Before coming to the US I had a mental list of the places and things I really wanted to show my husband. Some were as simple as the local Walmart and others were a bit more ‘destination’. That really is one of the greatest things about America… every state has something truly awesome to offer and something amazing to see,

My mother was born and raised in Asheville, NC and much of her family is still there. My early childhood was spent there and I’ve always had such fond memories of our life there and many visits back for holidays and reuinions. So getting my husband to Asheville was definitely on the list. What to do and where to stay were no-brainers.

The Grove Park Inn is one of the finest hotels in the world. It’s been used as location for several movies and frequented by some of the world’s VIPs. Yet it manages to maintain such a sense of intimacy. As a guest of the Grove Park Inn you feel as if you’re the only person staying there. Their service is unmatched and everyone is made to feel like their need is the highest of priority.

Grove Park Inn

Grove Park Inn

 

Their Spa (with a variety of services for singles and couples) is voted one of the top 20 resort spas in the US by Condé Nast Traveler, while their golf course is said to be one of the finest in the world.

“Pamper yourself in our $50 million 43,000-square-foot subterranean spa featuring cavernous rock walls, arches, tunnels and 20 water features. The main pool area features two therapeutic waterfall pools, a warm mineral pool and lap pool with 6,500 fiber-optic stars embedded in the ceiling and constant underwater music. Enjoy exhilarating contrast pools, an inhalation room and eucalyptus-infused steam room. The 10 pools are mineral-based and chlorine-free, containing trace minerals of sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Three fireside lounges await you with overstuffed chairs, warm blankets, light snacks, hot organic teas and herbal infused waters. And step outside to enjoy fireplaces, whirlpool, and a tiered outdoor terrace with panoramic mountain views.”

“Our historic course was designed by Donald Ross and has played host to numerous PGA Tour events. Golf legends like Harry Vardon and PGA stars, including Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus, have played here. Even President Obama played a round in 2010. “

The interior and exterior of the hotel is breathtaking. Every detail is attended to. And nothing gets missed. Fresh flowers, roaring fires, and someone always willing to make sure your needs are met. To me this is the Emirates Palace of North Carolina but with a much more welcoming feel.

For the perfect romantic getaway the Grove Park Inn is still the place to go. It really is the epitome of classic elegance.

You can find all of their contact information on their website found here.

“Doubts Over Mixed Marriages” — Highly offensive article

While reading the Kuwait Times this morning I came across an article written by Muna Al-Fuzai which I find to be offensive, obtuse, and outright presumptuous.

When writing or sharing stories, we can only discuss what we have knowledge of. We can really only share personal experiences or something we’re intimately familiar with. Therefore, I have to question who her ‘source’ is. The story is written to be outright degrading to Western women to the point that it comes across bitter.

 

“This is the latest trend in marriages in Kuwait among expatriate women and Arab Muslim men! I’m not against mixed marriage, but I have my doubts over the success of these kinds of marriages, especially if each party has his or her own agenda to hook themselves to a stranger into a serious bond like marriage. (What agenda? Marrying someone they’ve fallen in love with?)

The Islamic marriage goes this way; the female is a Christian woman in her late forties, fifties or above, with no family back home or a spouse waiting. The male is a Kuwaiti or Arab man. The man, of course, has been married once if not several times. (I have never been a Christian, nor am I in my late 40′s, 50′s or above. My husband has never been married before and certainly not ‘several times’. He doesn’t have any other wife than me. This is the case with most Western women I know who are married to men from Kuwait. I would love to know her source for this statement.)

For them, it is an easygoing marriage in which they don’t have to spend much money and fulfils their fantasies of getting married to a Western woman with blue eyes and blonde hair. (I don’t have blonde hair or blue eyes. I was given exactly what is expected in the Kuwaiti culture, and probably even more since we had 2 cultural traditions to satisfy; gold, diamonds, dowry, marriage ceremonies on both sides of the world, houses, cars, etc. The difference is, I asked for NONE of it, nor did I expect it and even respectfully declined many things. I didn’t marry my husband for money, I married him for love. Should there come a day he can’t provide a comfortable life I certainly won’t be leaving him. Again, I believe every Western woman married to an Arab man [that I know] feels the same way.)

In fact, the men feel that they are undertaking a noble mission because these women convert to Islam in order to marry these Muslims men. Men feel proud, and the women could not find a better source to cover their expenses, needs and a secure shelter in case she is lucky to get pregnant and have a baby. (Cover their expenses? I thought we were cheap? Which is it? Writing an article with a number of contradicting statements show lack of research and/or limited sources. Resulting in an article based on emotion. Very poor writing at best. Oh, and lucky to have a baby?! Girrrrllll, put down that pipe.)

According to some of the sources, these woman are most likely homeless back home and broke. So they use Islam to solve their personal troubles. And this is why I reject and deny these kinds of marriages. (Homeless and broke? I’m a graduate degree holder from one of the most respected universities in the world. I’m proud to say I’ve always held lucrative positions of importance and eventually started my own company. While I do agree, there are many US contractors working in Kuwait making a ‘fair’ salary who are marginally educated and have no hopes of making a similar salary back home. Yet that doesn’t mean they’re broke or homeless. Nor does it mean they’re seeking to gain financially by marrying a man from Kuwait.)

In fact, most of the men, especially the Kuwaitis, don’t reveal their marriages with these women to their families and first, second and possibly third wives. (My husband’s family knew about me before they met me and long before we were married. They welcomed me with open arms and embraced me as part of their family. This is the case with the majority of those I’m familiar with as well. Except for one who has promised to marry a woman for years yet continues to hide her from his family.)

The fact that these women accept to stand in line with other women shows how desperate they are and I can’t blame the man because legally he is permitted to have four wives, but ethically I have never witnessed any successful marriage of this kind, Arabs or otherwise. (Of all the Western women I know in Kuwait who are married to locals, none of them are a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th wife [me included]. And though they’re all Muslim [many long before marriage] they are very clear they prefer to be the only wife… period. However, I am quite familiar with many Kuwaiti and other Arab women who are perfectly happy being in a multiple wife marriage.)

I can find an excuse for a Muslim woman to be in such a marriage due to the conservative nature of society, customs and tradition, but I fail to understand why any Western woman would come all the way to Kuwait just to be in such a marriage. (If by ‘Western’ she’s referring to Christian women why doesn’t she also address the fact that Christianity doesn’t recognize or allow multiple wife marriages?)

Islam is present all over the world, and she can find any Muslim man back home. It is a kind of unethical manipulation under the name of Islam. In our life today, we are witnessing some who use Islam to achieve their personal goals. Terrorists kill innocents under the name of Islam & they think they are serving their religion and some use their bodies to fulfil the needs of a man whom she would not even consider if she was in her twenties and had money. (What about the men who study abroad in the West and use Islam as their tool to manipulate women in their 20s who have money? Why is the man the victim? Because the woman is Western?)

These women accept these arranged marriages and live under stress just because of their needs. This kind of stress leads to many mental illnesses and more stress on the man who may put then put pressure on his kids or his other wives. I think there is a regulation about Kuwaiti men who marry non- Kuwaitis.

I wonder if it is ever implemented. The increase of such marriages has more negative outputs than good, and yet we are still watching these cases with no one trying to seek the root of the problem; the men for accepting such marriages or the women for making themselves goods for sale? I can never be against any kind of mixed marriage if it was for love and mutual understanding between a young couple who want to start a life together. But, when it is otherwise, I surely have my speculations over why it is happening.” (To make such a statement she should be required to show her source and a link to reputable studies to support this nonsense. I know in the most recent study done regarding Kuwait divorce rates local marriages had a much higher divorce rate than those who married a foreign woman.)

[source]

When someone is in a position to reach a high number of the population, you would think they would do so in a more responsible manner. Sadly, this article does nothing other than shine a negative light on a highly opinionated writer. It causes her to come across as bitter, angry, and even a bit jealous. It takes away from her credibility when it comes to future articles and leaves doubt in the mind of the reader in relation to her credentials.

Yeah, I’m disgusted.

Intercultural marriage and the holiday season

It’s been 10 months since we’ve moved to America and sometimes I’m still in awe. Especially now with the holiday season upon us. Our small town has been transformed into a winter wonderland overnight. Lights and wreaths on every street corner, a snow slide (with real snow), and families popping into the locally owned shoppes looking for that perfect gift. It really is quite Norman Rockwell’esque.

During our daily outings it’s inevitable that we’ll see something new which always causes me to squeal like a child. “Look, honey! Look! Santa and his sled!” My husband smiles, gently holds my hand, and lets out a few ooooh’s and ahhhh’s. Surely more for my benefit than his excitement. Don’t get me wrong, he’s loving the holiday season and watching everyone behave as if they’re starring in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, but he’s not one to verbally express a lot of over the top emotion. There’s really only room for one drama queen. I win.

Several of our acquaintances have asked what we do to celebrate the holidays since my husband is from Kuwait, and how we handle the ‘differences’.  We don’t discuss religion but I assume they think I’m Christian because I’m American. And, well, I’ve never been Christian. I wasn’t raised in a Christian household and I don’t recall Christmas ever having a religious meaning in our family. No offense to anyone who celebrates it for religious reasons. But in our home Christmas was a commercial holiday much like Halloween and Thanksgiving. It was more about giving, volunteering, discovering ways to help others, and of course Santa and gifts.

Since my husband and I have been together we’ve spent Christmas in Kuwait. Each year he went above and beyond to make me comfortable as he was well aware of how I struggled through the holiday months. With every Christmas came gifts, social functions, and holiday dinners. He even suggested I put up a tree to ease my holiday blues, but I already stood out like a sore thumb in our neighborhood, I didn’t necessarily want a target on my back. I opted to be patient. I knew I would be home soon enough.

Holiday

This is our first year celebrating the holidays together in America and so far we’ve not faced any cultural differences. Though I am certain Thanksgiving is going to bring some challenges. Those bags which come out of the turkey body contain things I would only ever feed to the pets. Unless my husband gets them first. Livers, hearts, etc. are a meal for him and he just doesn’t understand how I can view them as ‘non-edible’. I cringe at some of the things he can eat and have even reserved a small part of our freezer for his ‘special’ food.

I’m sure marrying a man with such an open mind has allowed our lives to be so ‘normal’. He doesn’t make a big deal out of anything and feels everything can be simple as long as we communicate. I had no doubt this holiday season would be magical because he’s educated, intelligent, Westernized, well traveled, and overall cultured. He doesn’t allow a difference in culture to determine who we are as a couple. Nor do I. When I’m a stressed out mess he’s the calm in the middle of my storm. And when something as important (to me) as holiday season comes along he’s going to do everything in his power to make it perfect.

I’m sure some couples struggle through the holiday season and not because they don’t love one another the same way my husband and I do. But probably because of religious differences. Intercultural marriages don’t face near the challenges interfaith marriages do. Christmas to some is the most religious holiday of the year and their form of celebrating involves lots of church activities (I’m clueless here). There’s always a risk such behaviors could be offensive to a spouse of another religion.

As for us, we’ll continue to indulge in performing arts, road trips, pets with Santa photos (uh-huh), baking cookies together, and local volunteer opportunities. After all, it is the season for giving.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones! And if you’re away from home, throw on a red scarf, grab a peppermint mocha, and bake cookies while listening to Christmas music. It’s what always got me through the rough times.

Saudi women staging grass roots movement to drive

I am incredibly late at getting this and several other things posted.  However, this is such an important topic and I definitely wanted to share this before the day ended.

Below you’ll find a beautiful statement by Rotana as well as her cover song ‘Team’.

Wishing the women of Saudi Arabia all the best!

“I have recently been so moved by the brave Saudi women of my generation, and the generation of women that laid the foundation before us. As an admitted ex-cynic when it came to issues of women’s rights in our country, you have showed me what it is to try, try again, try harder, try again, and never stop trying. No matter what. 

I recorded my version of the song “Team” by Lorde with tailored lyrics in solidarity with the cause of women’s right to drive. But to me, this song is bigger than that. It is a salute to any woman brave enough to stand up for her right and follow her dreams despite cultural barriers, and a nudge to all those who are on their way. 

To all the women living through their authentic self, and scratching the surface for others, thank you. You have inspired me to follow my dream. I sing for you. I salute you. 

On October 26, and every day. I hope we all drive, dream and stand up. We are on each other’s team!”

‘Muslim boyfriend’ is an oxymoron [re-post]

It’s fairly common for me to write about living overseas and marrying an Arab man since that’s my experience. But what I haven’t discussed is the far more common scenario of the couple meeting while in her home country. He’s generally overseas studying at some fabulous Western university and the lifestyle is new and exciting. Chances are this is his first time away from home.

I came across this really interesting post on Maritime Muslimah‘s blog this morning and thought I would share. She points out a few ways for a woman to know he’s just never going to marry her. I’ve only added her list of 5 things a woman should look out for, but her entire post is definitely worth reading.

1. The Parents

First things first – if he is hiding you from mommy and daddy then get out while you can. He will make excuses and tell you again and again that it’s not the right time. He will keep delaying it until he leaves. You will never meet them on skype or hear him mention you to them.

 

2. Justifies all the Haram

If you convert to Islam and he keeps convincing you to party, drink and have sex then he’s a dud. Often times he’ll be aggressive about it and call you ‘extreme’ . When you come to Islam he should support you and you both should grow and become better together.

 

3. My ‘friend’

If he calls you just a friend in front of his friends and other people and later makes excuses for it then call him out on it and if he doesn’t change – you’ll end in heart break.

 

4. False Nikah

Beware of him convincing to marry him ‘Islamically’ with the local Mosque without informing his parents or having any of his friends as witnesses. He is trying to make your relationship ‘halal’ while still committing haram (If you’re still partying and having sex).

 

5. Convinces you Not to become Muslim

He’s scared that if you become Muslim that you will ruin his experience and fun in the West. He came to escape  the laws of his country not have another mother telling him what to do.

Making a Difference

Quite often I look around and ask what I’ve done to deserve my life — in a good way. For a very long time it seems as though everything ‘has gone my way’ and honestly, I’ve felt very guilty about it. I openly discuss my personal life on the blog and sometimes wonder, ‘Do I come across as someone bragging?!?” and I spend more time editing my post than I did initially writing it.

No, I don’t write about our cars, the size of our home, or the brand names on my shoes and handbags. Those things, though important to some, play such a limited role in my life and who I am so it would be silly to do a blog post about them. But I do often write about being happy and at peace in life. I write about the serenity and love I feel from within. And this is where the guilt kicks in.

Unfortunately I know a lot of fabulous people who are still trying to find their way in life. And when I say ‘fabulous’ it’s truly an understatement. I know some really great people who deserve nothing but happiness. Generous people, kind, a heart of gold; still struggling to find that sense of inner peace. So for me to discuss my happiness almost makes me feel like I’m slapping them in the face with their own personal challenges. That is not my intention.

My morning view

My morning view

My only hope when starting this blog many years ago was that it would act as a place for me to vent frustrations and share new experiences. I had also hoped some of my faux pas might help a few others along the way while providing a forum to laugh at myself. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was incredibly ‘funny’ with all my mishaps (and not necessarily in a good way), but I still continued to share.

Now that life seems to have calmed down and I’m not riding that emotional roller coaster to hell every other day, I feel horrible that others still are. I’m not better than anyone and certainly not more deserving of happiness. Yes, my husband and I have worked hard and set goals, but this doesn’t mean others haven’t. I only wish I had the ability to share my serenity with others, through the blog, using words, without coming across as some pompous vainglorious windbag.

That being said, I’m looking for other directions for the blog to go. Obviously my time to actually post has been limited lately and I want my content to be closer to my heart. I want to actually make an effort to make a difference in the lives of others. See? Even that sounds arrogant. Like who am I to try to help others? But I guess in some ways we all help one another, even when we’re unaware.

Every day I get numerous emails of people asking for advice, guidance, or just some insight into something they’re dealing with. This was totally unexpected but by far my favorite part of blogging. These emails have also been an inspiration for the possibility of adding a ‘Dear American Girl’ page, or something similar. I’m genuinely flattered by the emails and always do my best to answer in a timely manner. Thank you for allowing me to feel I really can make a difference.

Life; living… not documenting

Lately blogging has taken a backseat to actually living life.

It’s as if there’s so much to do here and no time to sit down and write about it. Especially now with the Fall weather creeping in. My absolute favorite time of year by the way. Cardigans, scarves, pumpkins, gourds, falling leaves, and my personal switch from iced mochas to hot lattes. I spend far more time outdoors this time of year. Our Saturday mornings often consist of grabbing a latte and spending the morning at the dog park. T and I get to enjoy some social time with other dog owners while laughing at our crazy dog making friends. By Saturday afternoon we’ve discovered some Fall Festival or a new Antique store where we can spend hours seeking out the next very cool purchase.

In addition to the simple diversions throughout our days, we also attend local events. The list of ‘things to do’ in America is endless. Every Friday evening our town hosts Jazz musicians to play live music at an outdoor venue where a variety of local vendors set up shop; selling food and wines. Indoor/Outdoor music festivals that last for days — and some people even stay the entire time! Community non-profit days where everyone brings something to sell and all proceeds go to charity. Extensive volunteer opportunities within the community; animal shelter (my fave), town garden (fruits/veggies donated to local food banks), elderly facilities, etc. We also have a number of performing arts centers nearby where a variety of Broadway plays and musicals book dates. Museums for absolutely any interest and age group. Oh, and a zoo! A real, well kept, cared for, respected zoo. And, when it gets boring around here, we hop in the car and drive a few short hours to DC or NYC for something a bit more exciting.

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Yet somehow, with everything America has to offer, our real happiness takes place right here at home. Our true sense of peace comes in the most simplest form. Waking up just as the sun is rising and sitting outside overlooking our pond with a hot cup of coffee in hand. The animals come outside with us — the circus starts early. The only sounds are crickets and a gentle breeze blowing through the now falling leaves. It’s a great place to start the day.

I guess with so much to do and so much to keep us busy documenting it all hasn’t been such a priority. Blogging about it just doesn’t seem to do life justice anymore. And though I don’t have plans to stop blogging, I can certainly see where it’s slowed down a lot. What once felt blog worthy (a meal out or a trip to a museum) now just feels like a silly topic to write about.

Life has become much deeper on so many levels. A Broadway show or weekend getaway aren’t defining moments in my life anymore. Not sure if something in me has changed, or if I’ve gone back to being the same woman I was so many years ago. But now it’s more about personal growth and making a positive difference in the lives of others while having a great time in the process!

My love/hate relationship with Kuwait

For many years I’ve struggled with my love/hate relationship. This isn’t something new since making America our primary home while leaving our Kuwait home as ‘secondary’. This has been going on for well over a decade.

Let me explain;

Kuwait is a place you either love or hate, rarely is there an in-between. In my case it’s a love but a love of what exactly? Surely not the traffic or the painful processes and procedures attached to everything. Nor could it be the weather, which I often compare to standing in an oven with a hot blow dryer aimed at your face. I’m also not a fan of the numerous malls where shopping is secondary to stalking. Or even the overcrowded coffee shops on every single corner of the country. Maybe the abundance of designer items sans taxes? Nope. I’ve always found it easier and far less expensive to purchase certain items while vacationing in Italy, France, or the US. And, as much as I love great food, the wide extensive vast number of restaurants isn’t even desirable to me. Parking and crowds make a meal out a daunting task.

So where’s all that love I have for Kuwait?

When I think back on the years in Kuwait and the life I lived, my greatest memories always go back to people and experiences. Not places and things.

CamelFarm

I noticed over the years many American contractors would go to Kuwait for a tax free job making what they considered ‘a lot’ of money. They were instantly hypnotized by the glitz and glamour of the local lifestyle because ‘things’ impressed them.  It’s easy to become impressed by material items and brand names when you’ve only ever seen them on television. I suspect they eventually leave Kuwait with a bunch of ‘stuff’, a minimal bank account, and a lot of resentments.

For me ‘stuff’ came my entire childhood. Only child, spoiled… you get the idea. I was never impressed with the readily available material items of Kuwait. I sought something deeper, something more ‘real’. I didn’t want a group of friends who felt an evening at the mall was an ‘outing’ in Kuwait. I wanted to know the history, the true culture, the core of Kuwait’s being. I was in love and wanted to explore all there was about the object of my desire… Kuwait.

Within a few short months I had numerous local business associates who eventually became great friends. A few years later, with much encouragement, I started the blog which resulted in meeting even more fabulous locals, expats, other bloggers, and newbies to Kuwait. Before I knew it my schedule was full and I was creating what would become priceless memories. Weekends visiting places such as Mutla’a Ridge, Winters in the desert with great people, a sunset by the sea, an afternoon at the camel farm, a day trip to the ‘old’ Mubarakiya, or just chai al-daha with some quality friends. Many years later I would meet and marry my husband; together we would manage to make even more memories while allowing me to explore Kuwait on another level.

SharqSunset

So, when I’m asked why I love Kuwait so much by those who find it to be mundane or boring, my words are never enough to express my passion. Even now, while comfortably nestled in our country home in the good ol’ USA, surrounded by greenery on all sides, I find myself reminiscing every now and then. Yet my fondest memories always take me back to the people who make Kuwait the amazing country it really is. I guess you could compare Kuwait to the fairly unattractive person with the greatest personality ever. If you don’t take a moment to get to know it, you’ll never see all the beauty it possesses.

Will we ever move back there? It’s always an option, just not one we’re discussing today.

 

How Americans Feel About the States

The lovely @stinni brought this to my attention today and I found it fascinating. It’s a poll which asked Americans a variety of questions about our States and the results.

I’m proud to say us North Carolinians are sober, sane, nice, and intelligent with gorgeous scenery and a great place to vacation.

The entire poll can be found here.

On a similar topic, Joshua Katz an NC State PhD student did a poll regarding accents and pronunciation. It breaks down the entire United States and how we pronounce our words. Based on this poll I definitely have the true Southern accent. You can check it out here, it’s quite interesting.

Glow in the dark Lamborghini Aventador impounded.

While reading the Daily Mail this morning I came across a story that rings all too familiar during the Summer months in London. Back in January Mark of 248am posted a really great documentary about the young men of the GCC taking their cars on vacation with them to London. And how this clearly upsets residents of Knightsbridge and surrounding areas.

In some ways I can sympathize with their dilemma. Loud racing cars up and own the streets at all hours of the day and night, reckless driving, and excessive speeding. Surely this makes for a miserable Summer for some local residents. But, as bad as all of this might sound, it certainly comes with some benefits as well.

The GCC is comprised of several very wealthy countries; we’ve all heard the saying, ‘Arab Money’. The Summer temperatures can reach well into the triple digits (Fahrenheit) in these desert locations, making places like London a very desirable alternative. And let’s face it, when a person can afford to not only own a Lamborghini Aventador but also takes it on vacation with them (via flight in most cases), then they’re certainly going to be doing some excessive spending while on vacation as well. Harrods, located in Knightsbridge, is a very high end (overpriced) department store which surely does far more business once the GCC crowd arrives. Not to say the locals can’t afford to shop there, but who’s really going to spend $7 for a can of Coke on a regular basis when they can walk across the street and get it for $1.50? Furthermore, many of those visiting London from the GCC own a townhome or flat in the area. Often paid for with cash. So legally, they have just as much right to be there as those who spend the entire year there.

Click photos for source

Now, because of the complaints filed by the year-round locals, Summer residents from the GCC are being targeted. Especially their cars. Many are being pulled over for silly reasons, or no reason at all. They’re being told they’re required to have front license plates even though the car is registered in a foreign country which doesn’t issue front plates. They’re impounding cars for no insurance or the wrong kind of insurance, yet they’re not updating foreign insurance companies on new requirements. And, they’re tossing around hefty fines for those driving without a license. Well, of course these guys have a license, some even have an International DL, just not a UK issued one. Does one really believe for a moment that a guy who can afford to fly his Lamborghini half way around the world for a few weeks can’t afford insurance? Seriously?

So instead of London making this so very difficult and costly for these guys, why not implement new laws? How about no more temporary imports? Or no temporary imports of certain types of cars? Or a requirement to have a UK Drivers License? And then, imagine this, make these laws public. Place articles regarding these laws in newspapers throughout the GCC in the months of March and April. Wouldn’t this solve much of the problem? Or is there really an underlying fear that these new laws would discourage these money tossing tourists? Perhaps they would find a new location to spend their Summer… and their money.

Below is the ‘Millionaire Boy Racers’ documentary for a little more insight into what’s really taking place and the dilemma both sides are facing.