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.

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.

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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.

Self-proclaimed ‘fashionistas’ jailed in Kuwait

It seems I’m way out of the loop in terms of Kuwaiti fashionistas and exactly what the term refers to. A few days ago Mark of 248am posted an article of one of the self-proclaimed fashionistas being jailed for 10 days for using someone’s passport to travel from Kuwait to Dubai. While seeking out further details on the story I came across another article in the Kuwait Times regarding yet another (or the same?) ‘fashionista’ who was arrested on prostitution charges late last year.

All of this ‘fashionista’ chatter piqued my curiosity and I started seeking them out on Instagram. Within minutes I had located several — which became quite easy as they all, in some ways, linked back to one another. Not only the ‘fashionistas’ but their photographers, their ‘glam squad’ (I puked a little typing that), and even Kuwaiti male ‘stylists’.

It didn’t take long to discover their primary goal was to resemble something that popped out of a Kardashian vagina. I have never, in all my life, seen so much fake hair, fake eyelashes, fake lips, fake noses, and facial contouring. They make the Kardashian clan look au naturel.

Don’t get me wrong, these women were probably once absolutely gorgeous… naturally. But then, in their tiny society of judgement, something convinced them they just weren’t good enough. Some comment by a random stranger prompted a once gorgeous young woman to alter her appearance to the point of being unrecognizable — as herself or even human. Most of these women were in their early 20’s (guesstimate based on comments) yet appear to be easily in their mid-30’s. Any look of innocence disappeared while undergoing some unnecessary cosmetic procedure.

I recall a number of years ago in Kuwait, perhaps in 2006 or so, I mentioned to a friend that so many of the young women appeared to have stepped out of cookie cutters. They all wanted to resemble one another while managing to be the most admired. There was a rapid competition to be exactly like the next girl yet convincing themselves they were unique. It was interesting. Sadly this competition has evolved to extensive cosmetic procedures and developing a ‘fan base’ (thanks, social media!).

Sure, the Kardashians have managed to make an empire by capitalizing on young ‘fashionistas’ and their insecurities, but does one really want to follow in their footsteps? Have any of them genuinely contributed to society in a positive manner? Does that even matter anymore? Is there really a great satisfaction in going to sleep at night thinking, “At least I’m pretty”?

I once wrote an article for a local newspaper discussing abandonment issues and the role it plays on individuals. The article evolved into the affect abandonment issues potentially play on entire societies and Kuwait was my primary example. The result? A large number of people with detachment disorders who desperately want to be accepted but lack the depth of emotion to truly love anyone other than themselves. In other words ‘likes’ on a photo is their sense of validation.

On an even more depressing note, while looking at their photos (for hours… seriously, hours!) I found myself thinking, “hmmm, perhaps I should get my lips injected?” First let me say I am old enough to be these women’s older sister 🙂 and second I’m not a shallow person. I mean, I do like to dress well and take care of my physical appearance but it’s not all consuming. I have a life other than the shape of my eyebrows. So for someone like me to view their photos and question my own physical presence truly brought to the forefront how young, impressionable girls must feel — but on a much more realistic level. Instead of accepting themselves for who they are and loving their natural beauty they must be saving their lunch money for a nose job. It’s scary.

That being said, if you’re a self-proclaimed Kuwaiti fashionista and find young girls running up to you in malls to give you hugs with tears in their eyes as if they’ve just seen the Amir; make a difference. Don’t be just that pretty face. Be an inspiration. Be someone they want to grow up to be and not because of the brand of bag you’re carrying. Be kind, compassionate, caring, and hope those young girls don’t grow into the terribly insecure women you’ve all become.

Disclaimer: I’ve never met any of the women I’m referring to in this post. Therefore, my opinions are based strictly on visual perception and reputation. 

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.

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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.

The old and the new; self definition within cultural norms

Though we no longer reside full time in Kuwait we certainly make an effort to keep up with the daily happenings there considering we do still have family and other interests there. Let me rephrase that, I keep up with the daily happenings. My husband has almost zero interest in what’s taking place in Kuwait. He’s never really ‘meshed’ with the culture so to speak, he’s often had to pretend certain behaviors and put on the fake smile, and always knew he just didn’t belong in some odd way. In my humble opinion, and in no way trying to offend anyone; I think, over time, he just consciously educated himself beyond what was/is accepted in his culture. He not only thought outside of the box, but he left the box all together.

Perhaps it’s because I’m away from Kuwait more than I’m there I see it through different eyes. But over the past few years it feels as though Kuwait has become divided within itself. There’s the older generation who want to lean more in the direction of big brother Saudi Arabia, and the younger generation who want to follow the lead of the UAE. And if you’re familiar with Saudi and the UAE you’ll understand the stark differences between the two though their foundation of beliefs are the same. Just like the population of Kuwait.

The elders in Kuwait are also divided on some level — the open minded and those with a beard. OK, not nice, but you get the idea.

The open minded older generation are all for change in Kuwait. The type of change that resembles their childhood when Kuwait was ‘pre-invasion’ and there was a sense of freedom and equality in the country. Women didn’t always cover their heads, married couples attended mixed gender events, and people even danced without finger pointing or the fear of being arrested.

The other half of the older generation, those sporting a beard, well, they want change too. However, while their idea of change is also a glimpse into the past, it’s so far in the past few would even recognize it. In their minds Kuwait should revert to a primitive lifestyle where every action is dictated by religious beliefs.

You can see how this could lead to conflict both personally and politically. Now throw into the mix the Kuwaiti youth. Those who truly want to see a change which resembles something from the future. They’re proactive, progressive, intelligent, and educated. But sadly, all of this forward movement makes them appear to be running from the past. Obviously upsetting the elders who cling to the past like a lifebuoy preventing them from taking their last breath.

All of this internal conflict isn’t good for the country. It leaves them discombobulated, confused, and lacking any real direction. And from the outside, they appear to just be a mess. Imagine what other local governments must think of them. Saudi has managed to hold onto their ancient past… and even enforce it for the most part. And the UAE has managed to seamlessly bring modern day freedoms into their Islamic country while maintaining their values and culture. Bravo!

Kuwait? Well, Kuwait is just struggling from within to find its identity. Quite similar to many of those Kuwaiti (and non-Kuwaiti/expat) youth who are dying to be trend setters yet are only following things the modern world accomplished decades ago. And while I watch them face a number of interior challenges, I’m always rooting for their win. Kuwait holds a piece of my heart and will always be a part of my life. I love Kuwait and beam with pride while sharing stories with friends here at home. I long for the day the country finds itself and unites — because I do believe that can happen. Until that day comes change will never happen, whether it be forward or backwards.

Below are a couple of videos entitled ‘Kuwait Then & Now” (parts 1 & 2). I’ve only watched the first few minutes but found it to be quite interesting.

 

British Airways Kuwait Documentary

This is the first of a four part documentary about Kuwait that British Airways will show on board their flights. Etihad does the same thing for the country to which you’re traveling. It’s a nice way to give a brief introduction to the country you’re preparing to visit as the plane lands, and it certainly highlights some of the more interesting aspects of the country. The video below is absolutely gorgeous and presents Kuwait in such a positive light.

I found this video on 2:48AM blog. You can check it out for other posts about the British Airways short films on Kuwait.

 

Updated video emailed to bloggers. Enjoy!

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’.

Ramadan TV schedule [Jacqui — CouchAvenue re-post]

Every year one of the things I really look forward to during Ramadan are the fabulous (that’s debatable) television shows. I prefer the ones that are filmed locally in Kuwait so I can say, “Hey! Look! I lived there.” or “Look, honey! There’s our favorite restaurant”. They feel more personal to me. And though I don’t fully understand everything they’re saying, I understand enough to get a solid grip on what’s taking place. The acting is often mediocre, the story lines are sometimes silly, and the production isn’t Hollywood standards by any means… but they’re awesome!

A few weeks ago I asked my husband if he could start Googling what programming we could expect this year (especially since the titles are sometimes written in Arabic), and I had planned on asking my sisters in law if they could give me some insight as well. Then it dawned on me… Jacqui!!

Each year Jacqui invests a great deal of time and effort into creating these incredible programming guides for the Ramadan shows. She even separates them into Khaleeji and Arabic categories. She makes similar lists for American programming, new shows, cancellations, etc. It must be quite time consuming but she clearly does it because she enjoys sharing this information and she’s great at it.

Below is 1 page of the Khaleeji Ramadan program guide she’s prepared, however, there are many more listed on her blog which can be found here. Definitely worth checking out!

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this list and how I’ve obviously come to depend on it. Thanks, Jacqui, for your time, effort, and making my Ramadan in America feel a little more like home.

*Click image for source

*Click image for source