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

 

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!

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.

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.

Different cultures = new traditions

My grave lack of interest in Christmas this year recently prompted a very serious conversation between me and myself. Not out loud, though I have been known to talk to myself.

“Wanna go shopping?”

“Nah. It’s too hot.”

“Wanna decorate and start a fire in the fireplace?”

“Nah. It’s too hot.”

I think I was trying to convince myself the two days of unseasonably warm weather we were having was stripping away any sign of Christmas spirit I could have possibly felt — the way I did in previous years. But, the more I contemplated and talked myself out of doing anything holiday related, the more I realized it was because it lacked the same emotional relevance it did as I was growing up. Or even as I was living overseas for so very long.

AB

My husband, on the other hand, goes out of his way every holiday season to make it as special as he possibly can for me which was very appreciated before moving home to the U.S. However, it recently dawned on me that his idea of a ‘special Christmas’ is doing what he’s seen in movies and on television. He never grew up celebrating the holiday and really has no clue the significance of certain things… like the ‘build up’ of excitement as the holiday season approaches. Or why things such as ‘Black Friday’ make many of us insane with joy. Cookie exchanges, gift wrapping parties, or matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. Of course when I suggest these things he’s totally on board, but it made me realize he’s just going through the motions for my benefit. 

That being said, during my intimate conversation with myself about this overall detachment from the holidays I was experiencing, I had an epiphany — new traditions!

AB2

My husband and I genuinely love one another dearly and would go out of our way to make each other happy. He pretends his way through the holiday season while I detach from it as a way to prevent him from experiencing any inconvenience. So, as a way to bring us closer together and connect on a more significant level this year, we opted to create some new traditions of our own. Such as a romantic dinner at a very exclusive (and decked out for Christmas in terms of decor) restaurant the first week of December. Black Friday shopping on Saturday at local businesses only. Christmas Eve breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and Christmas Eve night at the local Jazz club with great friends and family. Just a few small modifications that allow us to enjoy the holiday season in a way that defines ‘us’ a bit better than any Christmas movie we’ve ever seen.

So yeah, after almost 4 years of marriage we still occasionally face cultural differences. But chances of us defining them as such is pretty rare. I suppose we often just overcome challenges like any other married couple; compromise, love, and respect.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season filled with happiness and perhaps even some new traditions of your own.

Emirati woman murders American teacher

While I’ve not blogged in quite some time and had even decided it was time to stop, some things just deserve a bit of attention. That coupled with the fact I absolutely love to write leaves me squeezing my way back into the blogosphere every now and then.

Below is a lengthy video released by the Emirati Security Team outlining the details of the recent murder of an American teacher by an Emirati woman.

It seems there was some kind of verbal altercation between the two women in a public restroom and the Emirati woman pulled out a large kitchen knife and stabbed the American teacher to death. The Emirati woman (seen by surveillance) then leaves the bathroom as others appear to run from the area screaming, gets onto an elevator, and leaves the scene in an SUV with the license plate hidden by an Emirati flag. The Emirati National Day was a few days ago so this large flag on her car wouldn’t have appeared out of place.

The video also shows additional footage of the same woman pulling a small suitcase (later found to have explosives) which is placed in front of an American teacher’s residence. Not the same teacher she stabbed. The video goes on to show her arrest, the search of her vehicle, discovering the explosive devices, and arrest of the suspect.

I’m a bit miffed that her face and head are blurred in the video — as if some ‘respect’ is being shown to her as a ‘Muslim’ woman. Her actions are not in any way Islamic, and therefore no respect should be shown to her as she’s certainly not exhibiting behaviors of practicing Muslim.

The news has reported a possible connection between the suspect and ISIL/DAESH.

Updated news can be found in the Emirates 24/7 News.

The End… for now

It’s been a long time coming I suppose. And even now I struggle with the idea of closing the blog forever, so I’ve made the decision to leave it here for the time being.

I started the blog almost a decade ago yet it certainly doesn’t feel that way. What was initially a way to keep family and friends updated on my life abroad turned into a personal journal which evolved into a ‘life guide’ for those in similar situations. As we recently moved our company websites to another server, my husband also moved my blog. My husband, who is pretty much responsible for most of our IT stuff, also does periodic site reviews (stats, views, hits, etc) and discovered that since the blog’s inception I’ve had well over 4 million hits. I could have never imagined what started off as a simple desire to chat about personal silliness resulted in such an overwhelming response. I’m humbled and honored. But more importantly, I hope along this journey I’ve provided some insight which helped at least one person through whatever struggle they were dealing with at the time.

When my husband and I first moved to America over a year and a half ago I faced a lot of challenges. I had to adapt to being home… in my own country. I missed Kuwait on almost every level and thought of every excuse in the book to travel back as often as possible. However, that feeling has long since left me. Now the only ‘missing’ I feel in regard to Kuwait are my in-laws. The idea of moving back to Kuwait permanently almost scares me as a feeling of dread comes over me every time I think about the possibility. The first 6 months home consisted of me reminding my husband of our life in Kuwait, our home there, and encouraging him to move back. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way and now, if the topic ever comes up, it’s generally us discussing how our lifestyle no longer meshes with what living in Kuwait had to offer. Even blogging about Kuwait, local events there, or ‘hot topics’ doesn’t appeal to me… at all. And while I’m still inundated with invites and requests to post information, I just don’t. Not out of disrespect towards any organization, but because my personal interest has just gone in a completely different direction.

Goodbye

When I think of blogging now (yes, I still think about the blog often) I find myself wanting to discuss topics such as animal welfare, planting organic veggies and herbs, healthy living, raw food diets for dogs, outdoor cattery expansions, landscaping, home building, business development, or education. And honestly, who would be interested in any of that? Those topics often interest people who are participating in those activities… not searching for blogs that write about them. And us… well, we actively participate in them as well. Leaving very little time to write about them.

I’m not a big fan of loose ends and I absolutely despise movies that end in that ‘open ended’ sort of way. Who does that crap?! I need closure. Heck, I long for closure! I need closure so badly that I sometimes ponder incidents from years ago trying to pinpoint a feasible ending that perhaps I missed at the time… just so I can stop pondering them. Tis’ the reason for this post. Closure. As I’ve left the blog sitting stagnant for so long it’s been eating away at me. There have been a number of times I’ve almost blogged about a vacation, a restaurant, or, well, even fall weather wardrobe shopping just to fill pages. But that’s never been my purpose for blogging and I’m certainly not going to resort to that now. Not that those topics don’t have a level of interest to them, but my time constraints just wouldn’t allow me to invest what is required to present them the way I would want them presented.

Stability, schedules, and absolute serenity. That’s my life today. Over the years of blogging I’ve grown, changed, and become a woman I had only dreamed of becoming one day. I’m that person I would see in a mall or at a restaurant and say, “I bet her life is perfect. How amazing it must be to walk in her shoes.” Obviously I had no clue what the random stranger’s life was like but I knew I wanted my inside to look like their outside. And today, it does. Sure, I have a long way to go and I’m loving the journey, but at least now I know the recipe for having this life; stop comparing my inside to someone’s outside. Ironic, huh? When I was forced, due to incredible time restrictions and a nightmare schedule, to stop asking the ‘what if’s’, ‘what was’, and ‘what could possibly be’s’, I accidentally embraced ‘what is’. So here I am; better than I was yesterday and hoping to be even better tomorrow than I am today.

Will I ever blog again? I certainly hope so. But when I do it will more than likely not resemble anything this blog has offered. I’ll focus more on things that bring me absolute joy today. During this phase of my life.

While there’s a part of me that misses blogging, I take great comfort in knowing it was me who made the decision to take a break. You see, when you allow people into your private life by sharing it in a public forum you inevitably acquire a certain number of ‘haters’ for lack of a better word. And it almost seems the happier I became, the more my haters would go out of their way to leave negative comments, create fake accounts to follow me on social media, and even make up silly lies about me in hopes of getting some form of recognition? And though that behavior never negatively impacted my personal life, it did leave me realizing my mistake was expecting others to be as happy for me as I was for myself. When I accepted that was never going to happen it caused me to become more protective of the details of our daily lives. I’m certainly not going to put the most important people/things in my life out there to be ridiculed, scrutinized, or criticized. This resulted in the blog taking a new direction… a direction I wasn’t a fan of, didn’t feel connected to, and had no interest in following. Coupled with the outright lack of time, it just feels like the right moment to hit the pause button, focus on what makes me smile, and dedicate myself to personal goals I’ve set for myself.

My Twitter and Instagram accounts are still open though rarely active. Though I have found popping onto Instagram, uploading a picture, and banging out a few words about that moment are much easier than dedicating the time required for a full blog post.

On a positive note, I will continue to write. Writing has been my passion since I was in 3rd grade, drew a little cartoon illustrating a man being rude, providing captions on how he could improve his behavior, and my father hung it on the refrigerator. He’s always been my biggest fan and was the one who taught me to read at the age of 2. For a number of years I’ve written contributing articles for local newspapers and those located in the GCC, case studies relating to human rights issues published in annual reports, research papers, company policies, training modules, and cultural diversity handbooks for employers abroad. I simply love to write, especially when I’m invested in the topic. So yeah, I’ll write. And one day, in the future, I’ll probably start another blog (or modify this one) for a completely different reason than the one I had at the inception of this blog.

For now I’ll do my best to post comments, reply, and answer emails in a timely manner.

Thank you all for taking this journey with me, teaching me by sharing your experiences, and allowing me to peek into your lives just as I allowed you into mine.

Happy Birthday, America! [2014]

July 4th is one of my favorite holidays and I look forward to creating some kind of little celebration every year; whether it be with friends, family, or just partaking in some public event. This year has required a bit of creativity since it’s Ramadan — a futoor cook-out.

*All rights reserved

*All rights reserved

Last night we experienced the first hurricane of the season (another one of my favorite things during the year) but today the weather is absolute perfection. Even a bit chilly with no humidity. Perfect for the evening’s fireworks events.

Remember, if you have pets, keep them safe tonight! Fireworks are very scary for animals and more pets get lost on July 4th than any other day of the year. Best to keep them indoors.

Wishing you all a fabulous holiday with loved ones. Enjoy! Stay safe, be smart, and don’t drink and drive.

My expat interview.

As people are contemplating a move abroad they often seek out a number of available resources in hopes of getting a little insight into their new ‘home’. I get a number of emails from those preparing to take that plunge and jet off to the fabulous land of sand I call home; Kuwait. Over the years I’ve hoped my blog has helped out some of those expats in finding a sense of comfort in Kuwait. The readers are the reason I’ve continued to blog as long as I have… and as boring as I’ve become. I don’t check stats, I’m not in a numbers competition, I just enjoy knowing I might be helping someone out there in the cyber world. Whether it’s someone who is taking a new job in Kuwait, or someone who’s considering marriage to a Kuwaiti — I hope I’ve helped.

Recently I was contacted by the lovely Erin at Blog Expat and asked if I would be willing to participate in an interview about my life and experience as an expat in Kuwait. Though I’ve never been into self promotion, blog promotion, or any type of ‘look at me’ behavior, I was honored by her request because I have such a great deal of respect for their site. It really is the go to website for expats planning a move to any country! I truly admire the effort they’ve invested in putting together such a fabulous wealth of information.

So yeah, if you’re interested in reading more about me, my life, my experiences, and what life in Kuwait as an expat (from my perspective) is like, you can find my interview here. Or on the badge to the right, near the bottom of the page titled ‘expat interview’.