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!

Death; what is normal?

The last time I posted it was about the normalcy of life and how we’re in a simple yet satisfying routine of sorts. And then, because the philosophical side of my mind is always hard at work, I started to wonder what really quantifies normal?

Several months ago I went into the hospital for a minor, planned procedure. The procedure went terribly wrong and I was not only in the hospital for several weeks, but at times, there was the question of whether or not I would actually make it. I recall being transported to the local trauma center where I was certain I was being taken because I was dying. I felt as though I were dying. I can’t think of better words to describe it other than I simply had no energy left to fight. I could feel anything that once resembled me slipping away. I remember telling the Nurse if I were there to die that was fine, I could handle that, but that I needed her to contact my family as I wanted to see them all one last time. It was my way of accepting what I felt was inevitable, but also being allowed to take everyone’s face with me when I left. Several months later, here I am. Home. Healthy. And feeling about 90% ‘normal’ again.

On the left column of my blog home page, I have a ‘blogroll’ or a list of blogs I followed often. I created that list when I first started the blog and haven’t updated it in a few years. Some of those blogs still exist, others don’t.

When a person starts a blog (something that has been replaced by vlogging) we generally do so because we love to write, find our minds are often filled with random thoughts; sometimes important, others not at all. But most importantly, I think many of us started blogs as a way to not just vent our frustrations, but to share our experiences with others. Perhaps it was our way of offering guidance or advice even if no one was asking for it. Either way, blogging allows random strangers worldwide a glimpse into our lives. And when people follow blogs regularly we begin to feel as though we know the writer on some level. We can identify with some of their ideas or thoughts, or even accidentally find solutions to our own problems through their mistakes. We often feel some kind of ‘like’ towards the writer even if we’ve never communicated with them at all.

memory

A couple of years ago one of the bloggers I followed religiously passed away from cancer (Americanbedu.com). She was married to a Saudi man, lived in Saudi for years, and moved back to America once her husband passed away. Neither of them was old or unhealthy. They simply both lost a very long, painful battle to cancer. Carol (American Bedu) had friends and family who attempted to keep the blog alive after her passing, but it just wasn’t the same. I believe the domain has since expired and the content is gone. Every one of her thoughts, memories, and life stories — gone.

Just last week another blogger passed away from cancer. Nicole Hunter-Mostafa (thesamerainbowsend.com) was young, also married to a Saudi, and was pregnant with their second little girl when complications started. Because I don’t know her or her family I can only speculate about details, and, well, that’s just disrespectful. So I’ll share what I do know based on her willingness to tell her story to us readers. Nicole appeared to be a very happy person. Her blog posts were always uplifting and upbeat. She wasn’t one to do much ranting, even if she had things to rant about. She was so in love with her husband and their gorgeous little girl Lavender. She was thrilled to be pregnant again but her blogging slowed down immensely. She had a number of complications which resulted in extensive pain for her. She cut her summer USA trip short to get back to Saudi for pain treatment in the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Her last blog post was an overview of all she had endured but no mention of cancer. Her daughter was born not long after and she shared that with everyone on Instagram. Then, suddenly, all of her social media accounts were gone and months went by with no updates on the blog. Obviously, considering we don’t know one another, this shouldn’t have made a difference to me one way or another. But as I said before, we develop a ‘like’ for the writer of the blogs we follow. We wonder about them and hope they’re doing well. Sadly, in Nicole’s case, she wasn’t doing well. And last week, she too lost her battle with cancer.

Perhaps this is incredibly selfish of me, but because Nicole was such a brilliant writer who created beautiful images in my mind with her words, I wish she had blogged. I wish she had shared her last months with us. I wish I had known whether or not she had known. Did she know she had cancer but chose to avoid treatment as a way to save her daughter? I wouldn’t be surprised — she was deeply in love with her babies. Or was the cancer diagnosis as unexpected for her as it was for her readers? Again, I didn’t know Nicole but I am deeply saddened by her death. I loved her style of writing. The way she could create a picture book of stories with just her words. Magnificent. My heart aches for her family.

I’m not going to end this post with a sappy cliché about hugging loved ones, last days, etc. But do that anyway. And do it often. We really never know when our normal may not be recognizable.

The Arab/American Marriage; many years later

My initial ‘Arab/American Marriage‘ post was in August 2012 and I’ve tried to provide an update each year since.

While reading over my original post I realize not a lot has changed other than our geographical location. We move to America in 2013 and haven’t looked back. For the first several months I’m sure I experienced far more culture shock and missed Kuwait much more than my husband did. I looked forward to the visits back and had even continued to remind him we should probably consider moving back one day. Well, that’s no longer the case.

After overcoming my missing of Kuwait (which didn’t take too very long) I genuinely started to embrace life here in America. Probably as much as my husband embraced it from the beginning. We’re both fully committed to being here for the rest of our lives and enjoying our Kuwait visits with family when possible.

At this point I don’t think we have any cultural differences to overcome — we’ve already done that on so many levels. I do still get a giggle when he occasionally mistakes the B for a P and ‘barks the car’. Otherwise, I sometimes forget he wasn’t born and raised here.

Some people have asked if my husband has changed since moving to America. I suppose we both have to some degree. I can say his love for animals, while it always existed, has really intensified. We started a nonprofit together to assist rescue animals abroad and he’s just as dedicated as I am to making a difference. He loves our pets (4 dogs and 2 cats) as if they’re our children and treats them as such. Anytime we’re out shopping together he’ll grab little toys or treats he thinks the pets might enjoy. On the other hand shopping, while one of my favorite things, is not on his list of pleasures.

In many ways I guess we’re simply the boring couple now. We spend weekends doing home improvement projects and weekdays working on business projects. We travel only if it’s convenient for our pets. He hates grocery shopping yet gladly carries all the bags into the house. We have mutual ‘couple’ friends as well as a handful of friends we hang out with independent of one another. I enjoy waking early and going out for coffee, he likes to sleep in and grab a quality brunch later in the day. We watch the same television programs, like the same movies, and have similar taste in music. Yeah, we’re just the typical married couple at this point. Best friends, one another’s biggest fan, and always displaying a mutual respect.

For those who continue to ask for advice regarding their Arab boyfriend/fiance, I would have to say the most important thing is to like one another. Forget about culture, background, religion, etc. Look at that person and ask yourself if you really like them enough to spend the rest of your life with them. If the answer is yes, then everything else is simple stuff. But if you’re with someone and think, “Oh I can change him/her down the road” get out of that relationship. Don’t disrespect yourself or someone else with such immature thoughts. Find someone you share a true common bond with and embrace them for who they are.

My husband and I were very fortunate that we both had a deep understanding of one another’s culture from the beginning. I respected his and he respected mine. There were no games or nonsense which resulted in hurt feelings. We were both honest, up front, dependable, loyal, and real. That’s what makes any marriage a strong one.

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.

Long weekends, home improvements, and rainy weather

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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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!

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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.

Respect; the glue which holds a marriage together

I get a number of emails every day asking questions about what makes the Arab/American marriage really work. Some share their own experiences, both good and bad. And others are hoping for just a little insight into a very confusing situation. And though I’m certain I’ve blogged about this before I figured I would cover it again since my own marriage has grown and changed.

Of course there’s no magic answer to any of their questions though I wish there were. I like to think that every now and then I do spout something that provides a little comfort to at least one person needing some peace.

In most cases I find myself looking at my own marriage and trying to identify what really makes it work. Is it perfect? Nah. Are we always running around chipper and happy? Of course not. But are we deeply in love and share a genuine concern for one another’s well being? Absolutely. And then it hit me — respect.

*Google images

*Google images

I know I’ve said this before, but in the few years we’ve been married my husband has never once raised his voice at me in anger or called me a derogatory name. He’s still very protective of my feelings and gets bothered if something upsets me. Not as much as he was when we were first together — he’s learned I’m a bit melodramatic. He knows when I’m really upset as opposed to just being a spoiled drama queen and he reacts accordingly. Yet I always know when I really need him he’s there without hesitation. He doesn’t allow me to worry about anything and he’s always making sure I’m well taken care of.

On the same note I hold him in the highest regard. I have the greatest respect for him as a man and my husband. And though we trust one another implicitly, I could never imagine doing something (especially publicly) that would be shameful to him or put him in a negative light. Not that we care what other people think, but it simply comes down to respect. Especially in his culture. Not that culture should really matter when it comes to respecting another another in a marriage.

Since meeting we’ve faced a number of challenges that neither of us had any control over, yet we somehow seemed to not only overcome, but to come out on the positive end. Our biggest challenge has probably been adapting to life here in America. Something we were both really excited about but hadn’t completely thought through. Yes, we knew it was going to be different but I’m not sure either of us knew exactly how different. Fortunately, and after several months, we created habits and a comfort zone all while growing closer together. We were open and honest about any feelings we had and we were compassionate towards what the other was going through.

And while loyalty, compassion, honesty, and humor are all very important traits, I don’t believe they can exist without respect.

Arab/American cultural challenges; what to expect.

I get a number of emails from American women asking advice about their Arab men. Each situation is unique and all very interesting. Some of the men are Arab but born and raised in America. Some of the women who write are working in Kuwait and dating a Kuwaiti. Some are living in their home country but having an online relationship with an Arab man living in his. I wish I had all the answers and could guide everyone off into a land of never ending bliss. But since that’s not reality I’ve decided to compile a list in hopes of answering some questions.

So what are some of the biggest cultural differences you should expect to encounter?

Casual relationships: This is the one where you, the American woman, think you’re dating this really nice Arab guy and it feels like it’s getting serious.

1. He says all the right things but his actions aren’t matching. This comes from not wanting to ‘bother’ a woman with things that might upset her… like the truth.

2. He still lives with his mom and dad and he’s almost 30. Perfectly normal, don’t stress. He’s not a loser.

3. Spends every night away from his home, doesn’t answer his phone, and finally calls at 6am claiming he was at dewaniya all night. Chances are he was. Get used to it, you’re always going to be less important than dewaniya.

4. Having intimate relations with you then either disappearing for a few days… or forever. This happens often and for a lot of reasons. Women in the Arab culture are highly respected and taught to respect themselves. Being intimate with a man before marriage is almost unheard of. So a woman who doesn’t abide by this rule is often seen a a woman who has no respect for herself by an Arab man’s standards. She’s certainly not marriage material. Keep your panties on, women!

5. Expressing dislike for certain outfits or style of clothing you’re wearing. He believes you should only look good for him, at home, behind closed doors.

6. Silent treatment. Not for a few hours or overnight but for days… weeks even. And during this time you’re expected to call him (though he’s not going to answer) and send endless text messages. If you don’t then he’s going to accuse you of talking to other men during this time.

7. Everything is always your fault. Don’t ask me how, but Arab men are masters at turning things around. Regardless of what he does and how bad it really is, you’re eventually going to find yourself doing the apologizing.

8. Your phone, computer, Ipad, etc. are his business. His are not your business. He will ask (or do it without asking) to look through your phone at any given moment. You’ll never have a sufficient warning. He, on the other hand, will more than likely have more mobile phones than you’re even aware of. And don’t ask to look through the one you DO know about… it’s ‘disrespectful’ and you’ll be accused of behaving like a man.

9. Checking in. My husband is guilty of this one, but also returns the favor. If you’re leaving the house without him you’ll be expected to notify him verbally, by text, or a phone call. You’ll need to tell him where you’re going, with whom, and approximately how long you expect to be gone. If he’s not comfortable with your answers he’ll simply drive you himself.

10. Bros before ho’s. Know it, accept it, and live with it. Regardless of how much fun you think the two of you are having together, he’ll choose spending time with his friends at the drop of a hat.

 

Serious relationship. This is the one where he’s mentioned marriage, or at least hinted at it. 1-9 above still apply and perhaps seem even more frequent.

1. Family member introduction. Don’t get excited, chances are you’re not off to meet mom anytime soon. You’re more than likely going to meet male cousins and maybe a brother or two.

2. Intimacy pressure. He’s going to do anything in his power to convince you that sharing a bed is perfectly natural since you’re going to be sharing your life together in the near future. Be patient. Wait for the ‘near future’. Refer to #4 above.

3. Living together. Since you’re ‘officially engaged’ according to him (you’re not, rest assured) then living together is OK. It’s not. Remember, you’re not in the typical American relationship where people meet, date, live together, share a bed, then decide if they want to get married. No no no.

4. He studied in America, he acts like an American. Yeah, he may have thrown those dishdashas in the closet and traded them in for a pair of jeans, but in no way has his mind changed. Certain Western behaviors trigger certain Eastern thoughts. Don’t agree? Throw on a bikini and tell him you want to spend the day at the beach.

5. You’re engaged! Eh, probably not. You might have a beautiful ring on your finger and a date marked on the calendar, but if you haven’t met mom and the sisters, chances are you’re being strung along. Arab engagements differ from country to country so I won’t go into great detail about the exact procedures. But rest assured, there ARE procedures. Not legal or required by law. But cultural. And if they’re not followed then in HIS mind he’s not engaged. Not to you at least.

Of course the bullet points above are from either personal experience or simply witnessing those around me for many years. I’m sure there are some out there with far more experience than me who could add numerous items to my lists.

The things above may make the Arab male seem unreasonable and make some wonder why a woman would even consider marrying one. But that’s not the case. There are reasons behind much of what they do. Not sure we’ll ever really understand their reasons, but with a lot of trust and mutual respect, the reasons don’t seem to matter.

On a positive note, when an Arab man does get married it’s almost as if he matures overnight. Yeah, he’s still protective but he’s also truly dedicated and loyal. His wife then becomes one of the women in his family. A very high honor since the women in his family are most important in his life. If a wife calls his husband and he’s in dewaniya he WILL take her call (probably step outside to do so). Unlike if a girlfriend calls. If the wife explains she really needs him to come home, or needs something from the store, he WILL leave dewaniya right then to keep her comfortable. This behavior is what keeps most of us wives from asking for very much. We know we’ll get it. And knowing a person will do pretty much anything in the world to make you happy prevents us from wanting to bother them with silly things.

Finally, all men from all cultures are completely different. So, please don’t read this and get offended. Don’t write to me telling me that I’m bashing Arab men or the culture. That’s not the case. And please, if you have more to add, feel free to email or comment. I would love to hear different perspectives.

Intercultural: Arab men, American women.

Intercultural marriages always come with challenges. Some as small as watching my husband eat things with his hands that I wouldn’t feed to our cats (eyeballs, brains, etc) while I’m slicing up my boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a knife and fork. But like I said… that’s a small one.

What about the more significant differences? How do we overcome those? I believe learning and understanding is the key.

I get numerous emails from American women wanting to know where and how to meet an Arab man. Some specifically want to meet a Saudi man, or an Emirati man, yet few have even been to the region for a vacation.  As Americans we’re often arrogant enough to believe the rest of the world is either just like us, or they certainly want to be. Neither of which are true.

My husband is a bedouin Arab (some assume this means uneducated, narrow minded, abusive, and arrogant. My husband is none of those things. He’s worldly and educated. Intelligent and tolerant. Kind and compassionate). And me… well, I’m a fairly typical American woman who was raised in the South. I’m an only child, quite spoiled, and have always lived within ‘average’ Western standards.

Though my husband and I have quite a bit in common (travel, television, food sans eyeballs, hobbies, etc), we are different on many levels. Yet we compromise, sometimes without even knowing it. But this compromise only comes from understanding our differences and where they come from.

So my suggestion to women wanting to meet/marry an Arab man? Have a real understanding for the culture. Know which Arab culture they even come from… they differ from area to area, country to country. Live among locals for a while and ask questions. Find out if the man you eventually meet has any understanding of America beyond television and movies. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, then it’s not right for you.

In my next post I’ll cover some of the cultural differences/challenges you should expect to face as an American woman involved with an Arab man.