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.

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.

Kuwait; racists who can’t hide

More often than not, when mentioning to people from the Middle East that my husband is from Kuwait, I’m told that GCC Arabs are seen as arrogant, prejudice, and pretty much viewed as the armpit of the region. I’m aware of this reputation and I can even understand it to a degree. However, regardless of how they’re viewed, it’s a form of racism. And, well, that’s just nasty.

Even worse than ‘local racism’ are the Westerners who move to places such as Kuwait and take on that mentality. For the most part I like to believe Westerners are raised in a world where racism is only practiced by the less intelligent, not formally educated, culture lacking cretins. Anyone with a sense of self respect is above and beyond disrespecting someone based upon the color of their skin or their nationality.

So what changes? Why do some of the white faced expats move to Kuwait and adopt their entitlement attitude? Well, for the most part they become obsessed with a lifestyle some locals pretend to be living; large villas, expensive cars, and meals at the finest restaurants every day. For the Westerners who grew up thinking Toyotas were luxury cars and Dairy Queen was a quality meal, you can see how the less fortunate could get starry eyed.

But does this also include becoming a shallow racist? It doesn’t have to.

Insecure people have a tendency to treat others in a disrespectful manner as a way of making themselves feel better. It doesn’t make them better people and it really highlights their own flaws. So, when the less fortunate Americans move to places such as Kuwait and realize they too can be racist assholes, it makes them feel better about their real existence.

Recently, in a facebook group I was asked a question about my husband. The other member was incorrect in their assumption but their question was incredibly racist and reminded me of why my husband and I have distanced ourselves from that lifestyle for so many years. We focus on offering support to the less fortunate, rescuing animals in need, and respecting people just because they’re people. We don’t judge people on the color of their skin, where they’re from, or how much money they make. We live a life that we find to be emotionally fulfilling. We don’t compare ourselves to others or attempt to compete. We want to see others be the best they can be and if we can play a role in that then we’re all for it. (sidenote: the woman in the facebook group is divorced, has a number of children, stuck in Kuwait, and is bitter towards others — not just us).

So while Kuwait is viewed as a country full of arrogant jerks, it’s really a misconception. While living there I surrounded myself with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met in my life. Many of who are still my best friends. My husband is from Kuwait and he’s generous, kind, compassionate, and hard working. He’s not dishonest or disloyal, nor would he divorce me with a half dozen kids and offer no financial support. So while it’s always easy to point fingers and make assumptions, rarely are they accurate, and often they only reveal who you really are.

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. 

US Contractors – Your legal rights and the Kuwait Labour Law

I’m posting this for a good friend of Desert Girl who is very well versed in the legal rights of US Contractors in regard to the Kuwait Labor law. There are a lot of contract changes taking place, a lot of new employees arriving in Kuwait, and a lot of old ones leaving. It’s best to know your rights upon accepting a new position as well as upon ending your contract whether it be through termination or resignation.

Please feel free to reach out to her should you have any questions.


 

I am hearing more and more each day about the break time gossiping and moaning that surrounds the work contracts here in Kuwait.  Most of the gossiping is done by Denny Crane’s thinking they are Legal Eagles and just cherry picking what they hear from one person and another then combining a mish mash of complete inaccurate information.  So, on that note I would like to just explain a few simple terms to you guys:

  • If you have a Visa 18 you fall under the Kuwait Labour Law of February 2010 – A copy is here for you to read.
  • The Kuwait Labour Law supersedes any work contracts that you have with your employer
  • If you decide to take Legal Action against your employer to recoup any overtime, indemnity or holiday pay outstanding you can sue your employer through the legal system in Kuwait without any retribution from them – once a case is filed you are protected . You must realise that your employer can not sack you because you are taking them to court – if they try, this works in your favour and substantiates your claim even more.
  • You can file a case up to 1 year from leaving your employment – but this takes more time to process.
  • As an American citizen even signing a contract outside of Kuwait in advance to your arrival here – you are still bound by Kuwait laws.
  • You might want to check out the following site – this is the big buzz word in the US at the moment – Human Trafficking – yes guys – you come under Human Trafficking by your own employer – quote: (5)(i) Using misleading or fraudulent practices during the recruitment of employees or offering of employment, such as failing to disclose, in a format and language accessible to the worker, basic information or making material misrepresentations during the recruitment of employees regarding the key terms and conditions of employment, including wages and fringe benefits, the location of work, the living conditions, housing and associated costs (if employer or agent provided or arranged), any significant costs to be charged to the employee, and, if applicable, the hazardous nature of the work;

(ii) Using recruiters that do not comply with local labor laws of the country in which the recruiting takes place;  https://www.acquisition.gov/sites/default/files/current/far/html/Subpart%2022_17.html

 

  • The Legal procedure here is simple and painless:
    • You find a good bi-lingual lawyer – please understand only Kuwaiti Lawyers can stand before the judge in Kuwait
    • You Sign Power of Attorney ‘Tawkeel’ – this enables your lawyer to act on your behalf – this can be done in about 30 minutes
    • You discus your issues – take all forms of paperwork including proof of any overtime sheets or payslips that you have
    • The lawyer will look over all the documentation and work out how much money is owed to you what you can claim back through the courts
    • You agree on a fee – this is usually around KWD 1,500 dependant also on complexity of the case and if you are leaving you must appreciate contact through international means (this might push the fee up to KWD 2,000) also, they will charge a recovery fee of around 7% – but, the monies collected on your behalf will be sent directly to you once received. Expensive ? Yes and No – once your case is filed you need do nothing – the Lawyers will take over everything – and monitor every aspect of the case for the duration – considering most Lawyers have a normal flat rate of KWD 50 to open a file – and charge anywhere between KWD 150 – 300 per hour consultation – looking at this you will realise it’s a justifiable cost. Some may charge you less than this – but you have to question is the firm experienced enough and do they have native speaking English staff? But, on the other hand if they try to charge you over KWD 2,000 you are paying waaaay too much.
    • Once in agreement to everything a contract is signed.
  • The legal process once you decide to peruse your case through the courts in Kuwait is quite simple:
    • Your file is presented to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour ( MOSAL – Sha’oon this is the local name given) where it is registered and a case number is given.
    • Your file will be given to a Sha’oon Manager – he will be the one looking at all the evidence and collating the information from both sides to give his recommendations to court.
    • Your employer will have 3 chances to attend an informal hearing with him in the Sha’oon offices.
    • If your employer does not attend 3 times then the case gets automatically sent to the Civil Court.  In all honesty,  it’s a case of sit back and wait – usually takes about 6 months for it to get a hearing date – Kuwait Judicial system is paper driven and as we all know every man has his stamp !
    • If your employer does decide to turn up at either of the 3 appointments given to them by the Sha’oon they have a right to present any documentation that they have – this can also give opportunity to settle out of court – they will be asked would they like to settle out of court – if this happens and they agree then terms and conditions will be set and an agreed amount will be negotiated and a payment date set out.  This will be legally binding !!!
    • Even if you decide you want to leave Kuwait during this process – your lawyer will fight on your behalf for your rights. Just make sure you have a good lawyer that holds your back !!!

Contact number is 1810011 / 9872 8900  if you want to discuss it further.  The initial consultation is free.
Just to let y’alls know:  You can’t go back to the US and fight it there.  There is no jurisdiction for the first round.  You have to file a case in Kuwait and based on that outcome, use the Kuwaiti case as evidence in your subsequent case filed in the US (if you choose to do that).  There was a recent class action case against an American contracting firm working in Kuwait where the plaintiffs filed in the US.  The US judge threw it out as the Kuwait Labor Law does not apply in the US.

Visa to America

I got an email from a woman who lives in Kuwait but is of Syrian nationality whose son is a US Citizen. She was asking if her son would be able to sponsor her on a visa to America.

Unfortunately, traveling to America for the purpose of living (or anything other than tourism) can be a lengthy process with very few exceptions (entrepreneur, business owners valued at 1 million+ dollars, etc). We don’t necessarily have a ‘sponsorship’ program like Kuwait. You can’t just go to the ministry, fill out a few papers, and get family members here under your ‘sponsorship’. It actually requires an application for ‘immigration’ to the US. And, for a child to make the application for a parent is not high on the priority list. If I’m not mistaken, children of a US citizen take priority, and second to that would be a spouse.

So the short answer is, ‘no’, your son can’t sponsor you to live in the US. The long answer would be, sure, he can apply for you to immigrate on the basis that he’s a relative of yours and is a US Citizen.

Additional and valuable information can be found at USCIS.gov as well as any documents you might need to complete. Furthermore, there are a variety of Immigration Attorney’s available to assist (for a fee) should you need guidance. Sorry I don’t have any recommendations or names.

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.

United_Airlines_1181356

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.

When bridges were really roadblocks.

Do you ever think back to your past (recent or distant) and wonder why you didn’t take different action? Or why you tolerated certain behaviors? Stayed at particular jobs? Or attempted to salvage friendships/relationships that weren’t even worth your time? Do you ever just want to scream, “Past, you were a serious asshole!”?

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘don’t burn your bridges’. But what if what we once assumed were bridges were really just roadblocks preventing us from getting to where we needed to go, or being who we needed to be?

While deleting my LinkedIn account today I came across a few ‘connections’ that took me into a reminiscent place. A kinda dark one even. I remember the General Manager who was outright incompetent and wondered why I wasn’t more aggressive in conveying that message to him. And the Engineering Manager who got promoted based upon the length of her skirt, behaved like a cheap prostitute, and treated some hard working highly educated people like cattle. She was the epitome of unprofessional and having to deal with her from an HR standpoint was genuinely painful. Oh, then there was the ‘Legal dude’ who I often wondered if he graduated high school yet always claimed to have graduated with honors from some prestigious law school in the UK.

memories

The memories of the professional relationships took me to thoughts of the more personal ones. The blogger from Kuwait I befriended who smelled like a 14 year old boy going through puberty who just got out of gym class and hadn’t discovered the miracles or deodorant. Why did I pretend I couldn’t smell him while I was quietly throwing up in my mouth? Or the guy who contacted me through the blog, asked to meet regarding a possible job (for him), had zero prior experience, no high school diploma (though he was 30+ and married with kids), and then conveniently ‘forgot his wallet’ after we ordered (I think we met at a coffee shop if I remember correctly). Why didn’t I say, “Oh, you have no money? Let’s cancel your order before we get started discussing your substandard CV/resume that you’re wasting my time with.”? The most amusing part of that meeting? At the end of my hour long waste of time guiding him on what he might want to do to secure employment he asked if I might be willing to give him some ‘pocket change’ because I must have a high salary. Why did I politely explain that I never carry cash? Why didn’t I scream, “Duuuuuuuudeeeee! Could you be any more of a loser if you tried?” Then of course there was the lovely guy who came to our office to present contracts for his rather large organization in Kuwait. Very professional and we had discussed me doing some consulting, writing ethics manuals, corporate policies, etc. Seemed incredibly professional and respectful. I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong when I woke up the next morning to 12 photos of his penis in my text messages. Yes, folks… Mr. Professional felt I may enjoy seeing his (less than) manly parts before we conducted business! Why did I just block him and avoid all future contact? Why didn’t I reply with ‘hahahahahahahaha’ and call the police?

So why all the venting now? Resentful? Angry? No. I don’t think so. I think it’s just that I’ve come to a place in my life where I’ve gained a great deal of strength and self esteem. Perhaps those things happened to me because, well, I allowed them to. Maybe somewhere deep inside I felt it was the best I deserved from others so I accepted nonsensical crap. I claimed I was letting things roll off my back but maybe that wasn’t it at all though it felt like it at the time. Maybe I wasn’t being strong, but instead I was being weaker than I had ever been in my life. And certainly weaker than I am today.

Now, as I sit here in yoga pants, a sweat shirt, and hair pulled up on my head looking like a meme of the typical housewife, I find myself wanting to reach out to my past and clear the air so to speak. But, since I don’t keep in touch with any of those people and have zero desire to speak with them, I can only clear the air with myself. I can simply remind myself that I am better, I deserve better, and I will never accept that level of bullshit from anyone else. Ever!

And at the same time I can secretly hope at least one of those assholes still reads my blog.