Happy New Year and Farewell

First and foremost, I truly want to thank those of you who have stuck around throughout the years following the blog. I may have started blogging as an outlet for myself, but you’re the ones who kept me going. The questions, the reaching out for advice, the sharing of your own personal stories; that eventually became the most important part of the blog for me. So again, thank you.

Next, happy new year, peeps! I’m starting the year with a bit of a hectic schedule but only through the first couple of months. I suspect by March/April timeframe, things will really start to slow down and I can get back to being incredibly selfish and putting myself first. Fortunately, the things I’ll be involved with for the beginning of the year truly bring out the best in me, so it’s definitely worth it. I hope you all find something to be passionate about in 2018. I hope you focus on the best you. I hope you dream big and make those dreams come true. I hope you find happiness like you’ve never known before. And with that happiness may you be confident, secure, and totally in love with yourself. May 2018 be the year of you!

Now, let’s get to the juicy stuff, shall we? I started the blog in 2005 while living abroad in Kuwait. Since then I’ve had 2 other women writing with me at different times. Guest writers and ghostwriters. Sometimes, it’s been just me. It’s outlined the details of friendships and relationships; the good, the bad, and the smelly. The blog has allowed me to meet some fantastic people from all over the world, job offers, blind dates, and even a stalker or two. But hey, in the big scheme of things, it’s been fun.

Take care, kind readers. Wishing you all the best in the year of you.

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.

Ramadan is coming!

Every year around this time I get super excited. Kinda like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to arrive.

While living in the Middle East full time there was this overall ‘build up’ in anticipation of Ramadan every year. And everyone seemed to share in it. The super markets would be so busy there was no parking, grocery prices would skyrocket, work slowed down in offices as everyone prepared for a month long semi-shut down, and families started preparing long in advance. Here in America (especially in the area we live), one would never know Ramadan was coming… or that is was here once it arrives. Nothing changes. Nothing is decorated. And only occasionally do we see a random church wishing a happy Ramadan to Muslims on signs in front of their congregations. But, it still holds a very dear place in my heart. I’ll still allow myself to get excited and prepare just as if I were in Kuwait.

*Google Image

*Google Image

Not too far from our home is an Arabic market which sells halal meats, seasonings, spices, Vimto, lebneh, dates, and other Ramadan necessities. I’ve been popping in there lately in hopes of finding l’gaymat and sambousa jibbin. So far no luck but I’m tempted to put in a special request in hopes of being accommodated. I do miss my mother in law’s cooking!

My husband totally understands my desire to indulge in our favorite treats during Ramadan and I’m sure his compassion comes from a place of sharing the same desire. As of today he’s started seeking out bakeries between here and NYC that makes all of our favorites. It’s an hour flight… and would be totally worth it. Or, well, I could just learn to make them myself but how disappointing would it be if nothing turned out edible?

No, of course Ramadan isn’t just about food (it just happens to be on my mind a lot as I start preparations). It’s truly about ensuring we’re being the best person we can be and to make a conscious decision to make improvements where we see fit. Sure it’s something everyone should do throughout the year, and I like to believe I do, but Ramadan is a nice reminder. Years ago I attempted to do a Ramadan post for the entire month by sharing little ideas of things to make someone’s day a little better. However, I simply no longer have time to invest in daily posts.

While things are certainly different during Ramadan as compared to when we’re in Kuwait, it’s still a time that brings excitement and anticipation.

Wishing you all a wonderful Ramadan with loved ones.

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.

Fackin’ FATCA: Will Kuwaiti citizens keep their US passports? [re-post from ExpatandtheCity]

Such an interesting article that Expat posted today regarding dual citizens holding both Kuwaiti and US. Looks like the American government is wanting a little information on these people. However, fact is, ALL US citizens, regardless of where you live and work in the world, are responsible for paying US taxes. Even if you were taken there by your pregnant mommy who hadn’t popped you out yet.

Yes, being a US citizen is a wonderful thing and guarantees a lifetime of freedom and equality. But it also comes with a responsibility to pay your taxes. The IRS is one of the only government agencies with the right to freeze your bank accounts, seize your homes, cars, boats, and other assets… regardless of where they’re located in the world.

Some see this as desperation on the part of the US. I see it as enforcing a law which should have been enforced years ago. Pay your taxes, people!

Kuwait & USA Passports (Photo credit: Me)

Expat’s post below:

New rules to bring Kuwaitis with US passport in tax net
Violating US citizens worldwide face legal measures
Arab Times re-post, Kuwait, June 26, 2013: As per United States’ Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which takes effect early next year, all foreign financial institutes will be required to report directly to the concerned American authorities information about accounts held by US taxpayers or foreign entities in which US tax payers hold a substantial ownership interest, reports Al-Shahed daily.

As a result, US authorities will be given access to the accounts of Kuwaiti citizens who hold American passports to determine their level of income and tax payment.  This is an important development in its efforts to improve tax compliance involving foreign financial assets and offshore accounts.

The daily quoting reliable sources revealed that over 20,000 Kuwaiti citizens hold the American passport and they are subjected to observe the new law and pay taxes based on their income, property and salaries they receive here in Kuwait.

Even though the Kuwaiti citizenship law bans citizens from holding the citizenship of other countries, nearly 2 percent of Kuwaitis hold the American passport besides the nationalities of other European countries, sources noted.

Embarrass 
They explained that this issue will embarrass the Kuwaiti government and the citizens in question in front of the major countries that require all their citizens to pay taxes, even if they live in Kuwait.

The United States is ready to take legal measures against its citizens who fail to comply with the law and settle payable taxes all over the world, sources added, indicating the banks and exchange companies in Kuwait are uneasy with the declaration of FATCA, as it violates the code of banking and confidentiality- given that the banking institutes are obliged to give the concerned American authorities access to their American clients’ accounts.

They also fear the banks and exchange companies could be hacked when the concerned American authorities get access to the accounts of their citizens, as the system is not covered legally, stressing implementation of the law necessitates the application of series of high quality protective systems, which unfortunately, are unavailable in the majority of Kuwaiti financial establishments.

They noted that the US will impose penalties against establishments that do not comply with the requirement, and 30 percent of their deposits will be deducted.

Sources reiterated the Central Bank of Kuwait and the concerned authorities have been asked to make things easier for the banks that are currently in a vulnerable position of losing their clients or a percentage of their deposits.

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My advice is to not listen to newspapers, blogs, friends or acquaintances regarding the changes that will take effect with FATCA.  Contact a professional CPA that has the experience and knowledge to give you the correct information you need to make your decision.

The End — 2012

It’s hard to believe 2012 is coming to a close. So much has happened this year… yet I find myself saying those exact words at the end of every year. I’m truly grateful for every experience and look forward to embracing all 2013 has to offer.

This past year has been filled with challenges I never expected to face in a lifetime, but it’s also provided opportunities equally as rare. I’ve learned to accept and appreciate both while growing as a person.

With the love and support of family and friends I’ve made major decisions and followed through. I’m learning to believe in myself more than I ever did before. I’ve become more confident which has led to me being more capable. Though every hour of every day has the potential to change our lives, it feels as though 2012 has had more impact than previous years. Not necessarily more significant, just more eventful. Perhaps why it feels as though this year flew by.

In a few short weeks it will be time to relocate back to America. Quite exciting but at the same time a little scary. I haven’t lived in my own country in so long, so going ‘home’ leaves me scanning my mind for memories of what life was like before. I have to remind myself what I remember no longer exists. Everyone has grown and aged. Traditions I started have been put on hold, waiting for my return. Do I even remember them? New habits have formed, buildings have been built, old neighborhoods destroyed and replaced by malls. Many of my memories can no longer be revisited in the physical sense and only live in my mind.

The next few weeks will be ‘life in limbo’ as we pack up most of our belongings and store the rest. Keeping available ‘only what we used today’ as our method of organization. Even the cats are sensing things are changing. But this is good, right? The end result will be what I’ve been longing for… my ‘stuff’ in one place.

My sister-in-laws and I have been struggling emotionally with tear filled conversations of ‘when will we see each other again’ and similar questions. It does feel so final. However, I’ve gone back and forth from the US to Kuwait more times than I can count. Why do I suddenly have that feeling of loss as if we’ll never return? I’ll attribute that to all the other major changes taking place and that overall feeling of discombobulation.

The end of 2012 brings me great comfort because I know we’re moving in a positive direction at the beginning of 2013. My mantra!

Wishing you all a happy end of 2012. Hope your year has been as eventful as ours has.

Classy & Elegant… All The Way!

As my readers have probably figured out by now — I’m ‘boring’ (and I wake rather early). Well, perhaps not necessarily boring, but I definitely prefer quiet, elegance, and quality people as opposed to quantity. Generally speaking I prefer the serene side of life. Snow, fireplaces, great coffee, and incredible company to share it all with.

This honeymoon has been the epitome of just that… classy & elegant. Quiet yet meaningful. It’s being titled ‘My 3 Days of Tiffany’s’. (more on that tomorrow)

Obviously while we’re in America I don’t do ‘touristy’ things — as, well — I’m not a tourist. This is my home, my comforts, and it’s becoming more evident… my true happiness.

My husband made all the plans for this honeymoon… the 1st of 3. I’ve planned the next, and the 3rd is something we decided on together.

While in NYC we’ve taken great pleasure in our stay at the Trump International Hotel. It definitely deserves its 5 star/5 diamond rating. The location… perfect, the view… breath-taking, and the comfortable luxury I can easily get lost in. No detail is missed — from the fresh flowers daily to the Godiva left on the pillow with the nightly turn-down. It really is the little things which bring me such happiness.

Unfortunately, the pending weather conditions have forced us to cut NYC a day short and head back down closer to home before we get stuck here. Not that being stuck here would be so terrible by any means.

I doubt I’ll be blogging very much over the next few weeks as we’ll be submerged in total and complete relaxation.