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.

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.

Networking and small talk.

After what felt like a super long week filled with business meetings, studies, research papers and networking, I was finally able to relax a little late last night and catch up on some reading.

While browsing for interesting and relevant articles about networking I came across this piece in Entrepreneur. Small talk; probably my biggest weakness when it comes to business development. I like to think I’m easy to get along with, friendly, and approachable, but when it comes to knowing I have to chat someone up in hopes of creating a business relationship it’s a struggle. It always feels very forced and spurious. As a matter of fact, I’ve found my most successful business ventures have been with friends or former colleagues; people I have an existing connection with.

Much of my recent business expansion has been a matter of me investing the time required to generate pertinent training modules for individuals and corporations. Of course this depends upon extensive research into organizational weaknesses and types of certifications individuals in particular departments are interested in obtaining. Oddly enough, this is the easy part. My next step is to reach out to companies I have existing business relationships with and get them on board with corporate training. Seems simple enough until you realize while you’re suggesting ways to improve by utilizing targeted training, they’re hearing, “Your company is failing”. This is where that small talk becomes an important tool — and where I feel intimidated.

Obviously creating a more personal connection with a potential client makes business feel less formal. It almost feels like a positive interaction between two good friends. But getting there relies heavily on that small talk… that ice breaker.

So, if you find yourself in a position to make small talk, especially in a business setting, you might also find this article rather interesting. It’s simple, an easy read, and makes networking feel a bit less dreadful to me.

Full article

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.

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

Ramadan Mubarak [2014]

Wishing you all a wonderful Ramadan with family and loved ones.

Remember, Kuwait is an Islamic country and eating, drinking, chewing gum, or public displays of affection could result in a month in jail, a 100 KD fine, or both. Be respectful of the law and those who are fasting.

We’ll be celebrating the Holy month in America and I’m already looking forward to preparing fu6oor for my wonderful husband 5 days a week (we’ll be eating out the other 2 days). We just had a fabulous graish together while discussing some things we plan to focus on this month. I’m so blessed to be spending my life with one of the kindest, most compassionate, generous, empathetic people I know.

Ramadan-Mubarak-2014-B

Ramadan is coming! [2014]

Every year around this time I get super excited about Ramadan. I always love the preparations; having dara’a made (loving the Emirati ones this year), preparing the menu, reviewing fasting times, and shopping for necessities. Ramadan is also the time of year when families gather more often than just Fridays. I miss that! Though a handful of locals may vacation during Ramadan, the more devout, family oriented will opt to stay in the country and embrace Ramadan on every level.

My husband and I will be in America for Ramadan this year but we’re already starting to prepare and review our upcoming schedules to ensure we make the most of the month. It’s always a special time of year for us — regardless of where we are. Though there’s absolutely no sign of Ramadan here in America, we’ve decided we’re actually going to seek out some gatherings and events this year. Should be interesting.

I’ve always felt that we should be the best people we can be the entire year, not just 30 days of it. But Ramadan is a time when we’re more conscientious of our actions and have the opportunity to develop new, more positive habits. We all have room for growth. As Iv’e said many times before, it’s almost a month of meditation for me… and it’s nice.

Internal Revenue Service Webinar [US Embassy Kuwait]

The US Embassy Kuwait will be conducting a webinar to provide information to US Citizens regarding their IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and tax filing requirements. It seems the reporting of foreign income for dual citizens seems a bit intimidating and has many reaching out for professional services. The most important thing to remember is that Foreign Earned Income is tax free up to $92,000 (possibly more this year). A US CItizen earning their income abroad only pays taxes on the income earned after that amount. And depending upon the deductions and tax credits, many will end up owing nothing to the IRS. So before you pay someone claiming to be a ‘tax professional’ who’s really just plugging numbers into Turbo Tax, check out the webinar and get sound advice coupled with facts.

US Embassy message and webinar information below:

To assist all taxpayers in meeting their foreign bank account reporting requirements, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is hosting a webinar regarding the Reporting of Foreign Financial Accounts on the Electronic FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts).
Date: June 4, 2014
Time: 2:00 pm (ET); 1:00 pm (CT); 12:00 pm (MT); 11:00 a.m. (PT)
Location: Your Office or Home
Contact: SB/SE Webinars; Email: sbse.webinars@irs.gov
Event Information: This FREE one-hour broadcast is for:

  • All Tax Professionals
  • FBAR filers

Topics include:

  • FBAR legal authorities
  • FBAR mandatory e-filing overview
  • Using FinCEN Form 114; and Form 114a
  • FBAR filing requirements
  • FBAR filing exceptions
  • Special filing rules
  • Recordkeeping
  • Administrative guidance
  • Live Q&A session with Subject Matter Experts

 

Please click here for more information

 

The Internal Revenue Service reminds U.S. citizens and resident aliens, including those with dual citizenship who have lived or worked abroad during all or part of 2013, that they may have a U.S. tax liability and a filing requirement in 2014.

The filing deadline is Monday, June 16, 2014, for U.S. citizens and resident aliens living overseas, or serving in the military outside the U.S. on the regular due date of their tax return. Eligible taxpayers get one additional day because the normal June 15 extended due date falls on Sunday this year. To use this automatic two-month extension, taxpayers must attach a statement to their return explaining which of these two situations applies. See U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad for details.

CREATE #REUSEQ8 ART…LIVE!

en.v & Zain To Create Crowd-Sourced Recycled Art Installation at Kuwait Scientific Center

In celebration of Earth Day, en.v – an organization dedicated to promoting social responsibility and environmental sustainability in the Arab world – has developed an interactive art installation to be displayed at The Scientific Center as part of the organization’s REUSE program.

REUSE_EWeek_Instagram_ENG

The interactive art installation, which takes the shape of a seven meter life-size whale constructed with a steel frame and wire mesh material, encourages participants to weave used plastic bags into the frame, thus reusing them in a creative way to complete the outer-body of the installation. This ‘crowd-sourced’ activity targets students who will be visiting the Scientific Center from private and public schools in Kuwait and visitors from the general public to raise awareness on the effects of consumer waste on Kuwait’s marine environment in a collaborative fun way.

Show your support for the cause by visiting the REUSE whale at The Scientific Center from the 17th to the 19th of April, 2014, between10am and 9pm. The event will include an environmental fair with engaging activities from a number of local environmental and educational initiatives, as well as live music on Thursday and Friday evenings from 6.30pm to 7.30pm.

REUSE_EWeek_Instagram_AR

REUSE is a program initiated by en.v in partnership with Zain Telecommunications to promote environmental sustainability and community participation in Kuwait. The program includes activities such as educational roadshows and competitions, community events, online environmental campaigns and workshops taking place throughout the year.

Happy Liberation and National Day! [Kuwait – 2014]

Wishing you all a fabulous celebration, vacation, and safe travels!

For the past several years it seems all the locals travel out of Kuwait during the holiday, making room for those from surrounding countries. It’s always nice to see others join in the celebration but sad that many Kuwaitis leave and don’t participate.

Hopefully this year will be different. It appears as though there are a number of events scheduled throughout the week and perhaps it’s enough to keep the locals… local.

Enjoy your holiday!