Thanksgiving: A Day American-Muslims are not Invited to the Table

My very first dancing partner was a clammy, 10 lb turkey that I affectionately named Mr. Turkey. The turkey in question, thawed from the night before, was always my mom’s specialty dish, the guest of honor for the evening. My mother, bless her heart, would stand at the kitchen sink for what seemed like hours, elbow deep in her yellow Rubbermaid gloves, massaging pocket fulls of cardamom, ginger, garlic, and olive oil into the turkey’s cavity.

“You have to diiiiiiig in za flavour,” she’d say to me in her thick Middle Eastern accent. My mother, in her defense, was a woman who commuted over three hours a day to a job she loved, read an American novel a week since the day she landed in the States, and walked the duration of the Brooklyn Bridge every single day in order to work up a sweat. So for her, Thanksgiving was more than just a day off from her government job in New York City. It was a holiday that was free of religious affiliation; a holiday of inclusion, free of controversy. And most importantly, it was a day that we were free of judgment, free to reconcile, both our Arab selves, with our American selves.   

And so it was year after year, turkey after turkey, that my family and I participated in this quintessential American ritual. The kitchen was our temple; the menu our sacrificial offering. We supplied hefty portions of beef cubes with rice and yogurt sauce, mashed potatoes with roasted lamb gravy, penne pasta with bechamel cream, grape leaves stuffed with ground beef and rice, sauteed okra seeped in tomato sauce, and of course, one oven roasted turkey with garlic infused stuffing. Sarah Lee always made sure to present us with the plentiful amount of frozen pies necessary for dessert. And as we laid around the old style television set, comatose and happy, watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, we knew that we had made more than just a meal that night. We had made a home.

It was, however, the Thanksgiving of 2001 that marked a seemingly different tone for our family. Only two months had passed since the appalling terrorist attacks, and the country was hurt, rash, and frantic. Entering my third year at Rutgers University, with a major in Journalism, I had decided to wear the hijab just a mere two months before September 11th. For me, the decision to wear the hijab was just my way of freeing myself from the constant need to please others. My addiction of choice has always been people pleasing, and wearing the hijab was my way of harnessing this insecurity.

This deeply personal decision was ironically made one morning over a large Vanilla Coolata at a local Dunkin Donuts.  And even though the hijab was just my way of bettering myself, it was now viewed as a full fledged political statement; a statement that angered a plethora of people around the country; a statement that left my mother and I in fear of leaving the safety of our homes.

My seemingly innocent acts of everyday life were now examined for ulterior motives. When carrying a pecan pie to my friend’s Christmas party, I would get suspicious looks that said, “What precisely is she carrying inside that large cardboard box?” When trying to choose a paint color for our living room, I would get watchful glares that said, “What exactly is she buying at the hardware store?” And of course, when going on a flight to anywhere, the person sitting next to me would shift uncomfortably in his chair and ask the flight attendant, “Is there a way I can change my seat to some place else?”

At the ripe age of twenty, I had to grapple with how and why my very existence caused such panic and fear in my fellow Americans.  Did this all really just stem from my decision to wear the hijab? Did I not pledge allegiance to the same American flag as everyone else for the duration of my entire schooling? Did I not go to the same school functions and study the same academic curriculum as my classmates?

While tempted to take off my hijab in response to these judgments, I realized that my taking off of the hijab would signify my very loss of hope in the American people. Influenced by Nick Carraway in the opening chapters of The Great Gatsby, my young, impressionable mind believed that, “reserving judgment [was] a matter of infinite hope.” To take off the hijab would mean that I judged the American public as an aggressive, intolerant culture. I infinitely hoped that, in time, Americans would come around, and that they would eventually see that I too was just as much a part of them, as they were very much an elemental part of me.

This underlying belief continued to shape my perceptions of people for the many intrusive years to come. Like when when my kids and I ecstatically went to go watch the Macys’ Thanksgiving Day Parade, and an NYPD officer felt the need, from an obnoxiously close distance, to monitor and watch our every step and move for the rest of the morning. Or when I anxiously, and nervously, sat through my father’s surgery in a hospital’s waiting room, and a woman sat down next to me and said, “I don’t know why you people think you can still stay in this country.”

But it was one instance in particular that forced my husband and I to reconsider whether we could continue to raise our children in America. An incident, one that some Muslim American parents could relate to, occurred when picking up my son and daughter from a Gymnastics summer camp in New Jersey. My son, a rambunctious, hyperactive kindergartener, hit his sister in a moment of anger. Upon picking my children up from camp, the instructor met me in the parking lot and condescendingly said, “I don’t know what your son learns from you and your husband at home, but at our camp, this type of behavior is unacceptable.”

The instructor, in her sheer ignorance, assumed that my son hit his sister because he saw his father beat me at home. A gross stereotype of Muslim families. If only she knew that in our house, my husband made our beds, coffee, and breakfast each morning, while the kids and I got ready for work and school. Would she have still assumed this abuse had my son not come from a Muslim family? I doubt it.

It was right then and there that my husband and I realized that our children no longer had the luxury, opportunity, or privilege of having regular, everyday experiences. We knew how dangerous the stereotypes about us really were- that my son wouldn’t be seen as an overactive young boy for long, but instead, as a dangerous potential terrorist.    

It had become overwhelmingly apparent that our country, our home, was no longer a place that could foster the emotional and psychological well being of our children. Although I still had hope in the American people, we could not let our children suffer the consequences of waiting for change. We had to leave.

In order to make the heart breaking decision a little easier on me, I compared my migration to that of the Lost Generation, a small group of writers and artists who migrated from America to Europe during the 1920’s. They, too, were discouraged by the ways of Americans and left to find a better life for themselves.  I convinced myself that my move abroad was actually a very American practice, and that I would be following in the footsteps of literary greats like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Eliot. We opted to live in the Middle East for the next few years, hoping that a return to the land of our ancestors would provide us with some comfort.

But similar to a woman in an abusive relationship, I found myself missing my life in America. Not for its freedoms and opportunities, but rather, for my irrational need to make our relationship work. When hurt, I sought desperately to find the good times to hold on to. The times of togetherness and dancing turkeys. The times that America didn’t make me feel so badly about myself.

But it is this Thanksgiving that marks a seemingly different break in our relationship.  America’s recent election of a man who outwardly proposes a ban on Muslims has left me heartbroken.  A final, backhanded slap to the face that shakes me at my core.

America, in all the days and nights I dreamt about going back to you, reuniting myself with you, loving you and only you, I wake up now to find that you, all the long time, never yearned back for me. Never missed me or churned for me. And so my hopes, like my dream deferred, will continue to dry up like a raisin in the sun, forcing me to pose the painful question: Will America ever accept me?

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How Do I Get the Job I’ve Had My Eye On?

 

Ok, so I know that I’ve been really behind on writing my blogs lately. But I have some really good reasons, I swear! I will divide the reasons up into two posts. But today’s post is about one particular adventure that I wanted to tell you guys about….

Wait for it…

I GOT A JOB!!!!

YA BOYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!

That’s right. Someone actually thought it would be a smart idea to hire me to teach High School kids English.  YaY!  But today’s blog is not really about my new job.  That’s mostly because I’ve had many jobs in my lifetime (I’ve been working since I was fifteen, and now I’m… well…older lol).  I’ve applied to many jobs in my life, and just as I’ve been hired many times, I’ve also been rejected PLENTY of times.

But I’ve noticed that when it comes to applying for a job, there was always this intangible pattern that text books never taught me about.  I was able to crystallize my theories on the best approach to earning an interview when applying to my most recent job here in Kuwait. In other words, it’s not about the job, but about HOW I got the job.

And so today’s blog is about just that…

How Do I Get the Job I’ve Had My Eye On?

Be Hungry for One Job

For me, the most important part of the job process is the mindset. I must literally put myself into a “mode of survival” and zero in on one particular job position. Become the hunter; take that one position and place all of your energy/attention onto it.

Tell yourself that you MUST get this job, because if you don’t get it, something really bad will happen lol. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s really true! You have to make yourself HUNGRY for that job!

I’m always hungry for food. Does that count?? 

What I’m trying to say is that your job hunt shouldn’t be about sending out as many resumes as you can. You need to zero in on what you want, and don’t take no for an answer.

Get a Professional to Work on your Resume

There is an art and a science to Resume Composition and it’s one that should be taught in schools.  (I really don’t know why it’s not) This specific structure and format in your resume and cover letter, believe it or not, could be the difference between getting the job interview or not.

If you’ve never done so before, I highly recommend meeting with a Professional Resume Making Company at least one time. You sit down with a professional and tell him/her all about your qualifications and certifications.  This individual will then convert your experience into a marketable resume.  You may then use that Resume as a template for all of your future jobs and interviews.  No need to meet with a company more than once.

A session costs between $50-$150.  While this may sound pricy, it is well worth the investment.  I did it one time right after graduating from College, and have had the same format and writing style ever since.

Insist on an Interview

This is the most crucial and sensitive part to the whole job seeking process. I think that sometimes the interview is harder to get than the job!  I remember one time after being admitted into Graduate School at Columbia University, my good friend asked me what it took to get into an Ivy League School.  I told her, honestly, that I didn’t think that it was due to my Academic track record or Extra Curriculars (even though it helped), but rather, it was more due to my guts. Do you have the guts to take a chance at something great and possibly get rejected?

 I don’t know if you guys have ever mustered up the guts to insist on an interview before, but it is an extremely humbling process that will make you cry in the stall of your local public bathroom.  And yes, I’ve cried in many public bathrooms, thank you very much.  It’s not easy. But it’s the only way to get what you really want.

Now this part connects to my earlier point about being hungry. There is no way anyone will go through this unless he/she is hungry for that job.

You have to harness that ever so delicate balance between swallowing your ego and cultivating your confidence

Here’s what I’ve had to do in the past to cry in the bathroom…

  1. Find out who is in charge of the position you’re trying to earn. This may take a few Google searches to really zero in on that one person. It’s rarely just “the boss” or owner of the company.
  2. Find out all of the requirements for the position and email your resume WITH A COVER LETTER to that individual. Make sure that you have all the qualifications listed on your Resume and state it in your cover letter.  Anticipate that they will never write back to you.

3. Send it again three-four days later. You may get a response after this, but don’t count on it. They are very busy people and you are an added item on their To Do List. Don’t take it personally and swallow your ego.

4. Now, this is really where you have to start mustering up some guts. Call the office to ask if the employer received your email and request an interview. Most likely your future employer will have a secretary- be nice to her and remember her name.

Make sure to use her name at least once during the conversation. You have a fifty-fifty chance that the secretary will patch you through to the employer. Be prepared for either scenario.

 

 5. If the secretary (whose name you should know by now), is unable to patch you through then leave your name, number, email, and ask when is a better time for you to call back. You should call back when you say you will. If she DOES patch you through then…

6. BE PREPARED. Make sure that you are all alone with no distractions around you.  Your employer’s answer is kind of like a mini interview and you’ve probably interrupted them in the middle of something really important. Know this going in, and don’t let that discourage you. Know what you will say beforehand, and if you stumble upon your words, don’t stress. Just take a deep breath and keep it movin’!

7. Remember, this brief phone call may lead to an in person interview.

 

If so, make sure to bring an extra copy of your resume with you. They probably will not have the time to print out your resume before the interview. Show them that you will make their life easier and be on time!

8. Now, I’ve been in situations where I’ve really wanted a specific job position and hadn’t heard back from the employer.

If you truly, truly, have the guts, I recommend that you go in person and request an interview.

 I know that sounds STALKERISH, but I’ve done this twice in the past, and in both cases the employers THANKED me for doing that. Now, of course, they may turn you away and then you’ll proceed to walk straight to the closest public bathroom and cry.   BUT, there is always that chance that they will welcome you into that office. Remember, no guts, no glory.

9. From a religious stand point, I must admit that I don’t make any professional steps without preceding it with a prayer. I pray to God that He help me with my speech and that the interviewer ask me questions that I know the answers to. For me, this is the crux of everything and I am put off balance without it

10. Accept that even if you don’t get the job, that you’ve given it all that you have. This is all a part of the process. Refocus your efforts onto another job and go into it with the same vigor and stamina as the first. And don’t forget to…

STAY HUNGRY!!!!

(Token picture of Dog dressed in Human Clothes)

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How Do We Know When We’ve Found Ourselves?

When I first told people that I was moving to Kuwait and traveling around the world, most people thought that I was going off on some elaborate journey to finding myself.  Here I was going off to an exotic land half way across the Earth, and surely self-discovery was on my to-do list.

But I think that people envisioned me staring into the eyes of elephants, and re-enacting my own version of “Eat, Pray, Love”.  And while I do bear a striking resemblance to Julia Roberts in a dark room, needless to say, most of my self-discovering moments looked a lot like this…

Hey, at least I learned something about myself!

But in truth, while there’s been a lot of eatin’, prayin’, and lovin’ on this journey, there hasn’t really been a whole lot of “findin’”.  The reason for this is purely because I don’t really know what to look for.

Was I searching for my likes and dislikes? My fears and insecurities? My hopes and dreams?

To be quite honest, I already knew the answer to all of those things.  So was I done? Was my self “found?” What happens next?  Do you like how I ask so many questions?

But seriously, I didn’t understand what finding myself entailed. I learned from movies, and the sayings of people, that the moment of “finding myself” would mean the moment of enlightenment. But I didn’t feel very enlightened. So I still gotta ask the big question:

How Do I Know When I’ve Found Myself?

Many Psychologists claim that the way to finding yourself is by leaving behind all that is familiar to you and trying new things. According to them, only then will a person truly be able to discover what he/she really wants out of life.   The reason for this is because one is able to figure out what he/she likes without the pressures of society. Makes sense.

And, evidently, when all else fails, therapy will always work…

Good for you, Waldo!!

But what if you’re not able to discover what you really want out of life? I know that I’m not alone when I say that I’ve spent many a nights trying to figure out what I’ve wanted to do with my life. My entire 20’s were dedicated to that very question.

Well, get this. I found out that there was this genius Psychiatrist named Thomas Szasz who once said, 

 “People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself.  But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.”

Oooooooooh, OK! So I’m supposed to be creating my “self” and not just looking for one?! According to Dr. Szasz, the self is not just something that one should be sitting around discovering; instead, it is something that one should be running off creating.

Discovering your Self is Passive, while Creating your Self is Active.

“Finding yourself”, then, is not a singular moment, but rather a culmination of creative moments.   Creating yourself gives you the synthetic power to pick and choose who you want to be. You become an active member of the world.  “Discovering yourself”, on the other hand, will almost always lead to feelings of helplessness because you’ve taken yourself out of the creative process.  You haven’t cultivated anything, and therefore will most likely be disappointed with your findings.

Ok, but here’s the thing. I get that I should be “creating” myself now, but …How the heck does one go about CREATING the self?

 I swear this is seriously turning into one giant Question of Russian Dolls…

How about we ask the creative inventor of the iPhone, Mr. Steve Jobs about creativity?

Me: Mr. Jobs, how would you define creativity?

Steve Jobs: Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. (He really said this…just not to me!)

Me: That’s very interesting Mr. Jobs!  You say that creativity is just a matter of connecting the obvious things together to make one unique thing. So would you say that the way to go about creating a “self” is through connecting the positive traits and attributes that you’ve seen in other people over the years, and then ultimately fusing them together to create one unique self?

Steve Jobs: You finally said something right, Sherine! You may now inherit all of my fortunes.

 Me: Yes! I can finally go out and buy that iPhone I’ve always wanted!

Warning: This play is a work of fiction. Please do not sue me.

Although the manner in which I’ve presented this message is in jest, the point is still very real. In life, we must continuously, and actively, work on ourselves. So how do I know when I’ve found myself? Well, the answer is that I will never really be able to “find” myself.  If I truly want a strong sense of self, then I must create it.

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Why Do We Hold On to Things?

I used to be a Pack Rat. That’s basically someone who doesn’t like to throw anything away.  That was up until I married my husband, the OCD guy, and consequently had to throw away many things in order to “compromise” for the sake of our marriage.

So what was my compromise?  Well, I finally threw away all of my old receipts from the five years prior, while he was forced to ignore the 53.5 pairs of old shoes stored away in my closet.  Total compromise. No woman should ever have to part with her shoes.

But up until I had to move and squeeze my most valuable possessions into six suitcases, I really didn’t realize how much I actually had!

You know that question people ask: “If you could only save three things in a fire what would they be”?  Well, I actually had to do that!

Not the fire part…but the part about figuring out what few things meant the most to me in life.

I had a difficult time letting go of the simplest of things, and found myself emotional about many of my possessions. I kid you not, I was even tearful over a rolling pin…and I don’t even bake!

Was this my true self coming to the fore front? Was I really so materialistic that I had a difficult time parting with regular household items?

And so these moments of sentimentality and tears lead me to the following question:

Why Do We Hold On to Things?

Some religious schools of thought teach that the more distance between a person and materialism, the better off he will be. So basically, the more dependent we are on material things, the less we will be happy in life. I think the reasoning behind this argument is that when one constantly “wants” material items, then he will never be satisfied. There will always be something bigger and better to desire, and therefore he will always feel indebted to material things for happiness. Makes sense.

But if we know that, then why do we still hold on to things? Let’s explore, shall we?

Well, there’s this English -Australian comedian and author named Ben Elton who once said, “People who get through life dependent on other people’s possessions are always the first to lecture you on how little possessions count.”

Hmmmmmm

In other words, Elton is saying that people who insist that possessions don’t “count” are usually the biggest moochers.  I mean, when I think about it…I guess it makes sense.  We need possessions to sustain ourselves. There is no way around it. Regardless of whether we want to be dependent on money/food/clothes, we will always need them.

So, basically, I think Mr. Elton is saying that we hold on to these things because they make us feel free…regardless of spirituality.  Acquiring possessions = independence.

The Face Most People Give Me When I Speak

I know. It’s like the total opposite of what I just said earlier. How could dependency give us independence? Well, anyone who has been in a state of “need” will understand.

I think the dramatic scene in “Gone with the Wind” where Scarlett finally returns to her devastated land after months of starvation explains it:

 

I ain’t gettin’ in this chick’s way!

Sclarlett O’Hara hated relying on others for food and money. She saw the value in her possessions and vowed to never lose them again (even if it meant stealing, killing, or cheating)!

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I understand why we are supposed to be thankful for what God gives us. It’s not just about giving us full bellies and warm clothes. It’s about independence.

But what about people who are not in desperate need? People like me who just have a hard time letting go of things. Am I afraid that giving up my everyday things will mean the loss of my independence?

Well…ya. That’s exactly what it means actually.  When I think about all the time, energy, and money put into building a home, I get a headache. Seriously.

When I first got married, an older woman once told me that it took an average of five years to build the inside of your home.  At first I thought she was wack. But it turns out that she was actually right. It took years of holiday celebrations, years of household breakdowns, and years of last minute shopping to become independent.

To give all those things away now would mean that I would have to rely on people all over again…me no likey!

 

So my emotional breakdowns had less to do with my materialism, and more to do with my fear of dependency on others. I do not want to be a moocher. That is why I hold on to things.

Possessions do mean something. They mean history. They mean character. And yes, they can even mean independence.  And oddly, this realization has made me even MORE thankful to, and dependent on, God. For He is the one who has brought me such bounties.  How could I not acknowledge all that He’s given me?

While, it is true that possessions do not define a person, and one should never let possessions get in the way of his/her pursuits.  But, in the end, to say that everyday material items mean nothing is just… ludicrous.

Pack Rat Fo’ Life!

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Artificial Food Colorings Show Their True Colors

Artificial Food Colorings Show Their True Colors

When you think of artificial food coloring, your mind tends to go to things like multi colored lollipops and pink icing. But what most people, including myself, don’t realize is that artificial food coloring is in EVERYTHING… like Eggo Waffles, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and Pillsbury Biscuits!

Yep, colors like Red # 40, Yellow # 5, Yellow # 6, and Blue# 1 were allllll over the place. It’s an unavoidable truth that I just couldn’t avoid (nor did I really care to). I mean, what was the big deal anyway? It made food look so much more inviting and appealing!

MMMMMM….SPRINKLESSSS

I wasn’t ready to give up all that! And so I grabbed my bag of Doritos, Egg beaters, and Duncan Hines cake mix (all with artificial food coloring) and jumped right onto that psychedelic food train! Life was more colorful that way. Such was our easy going lifestyle in the States.

But upon settling into Kuwait, I observed that my kids were a lot calmer than usual. We established a routine, and I noticed fewer outbursts from my son, in particular. And then the unthinkable happened…

They were playing together…quietly?

Doing their homework… on time?!

Sharing?!!!

Who the hell were these kids?!!!!

Like any good mother, I became suspicious of this respectable behavior. What on earth could be the cause of all this…decency?

Third Realization in Kuwait

A few years ago, I’d read in a newspaper article that the British government had requested that all food manufacturers slowly take out artificial coloring from their food products. The European Union even mandated that any foods with artificial coloring needed to have clear warning labels on their packaging. Most European countries, by now, have already phased out artificially colored foods entirely from their stock.Why, you ask?

Well, this swift action occurred when the British Food Standards Agency, back in 2007,linked a variety of artificial food coloring to hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, and lower IQ scores in children.

Yes, you read that correctly. According to the FDA of Great Britain, artificial food coloring was turning our kids into whack jobs. They were so concerned about this, that they decided to substitute all artificial dyes with natural food dyes.

But what did the USFDA have to say about all this? Well, to cut to the chase, the FDA acknowledged that there was a correlation between artificial food dyes and hyperactivity in children, but they did not feel that it warranted enough of a reason to ban artificial food coloring all together. Therefore, nothing was done about it.

Not Even a Warning Label.

So how did the EU deal with all those artificially dye filled products? Easy.  The EU just required that all artificial food coloring be substituted with that of its natural counterparts. Beetroot red, annatto, turmeric  and paprika extract all became the “go to” food dyes.

food coloring in EU

Courtesy of www.cspinet.org

 Same products, different ingredients.

 

But get this… here’s what I love about the American Spirit <3.

Markets, products, and specialty food stores around the nation started popping up ON THEIR OWN to make dye free products. Places like Whole Foods and Wegmans began offering a TON of dye free options! Virtually all supermarkets included some sort of alternative food section (options that I don’t have here in Kuwait..WAHHH = (.

Here’s an example of one of the many substitutes…

Hero

 Woo Hoo! I love me some cereal bars!

But, for me, here in Kuwait, how do I get my dye free fix?  Well, it’s quite simple actually.

Here’s a map of Kuwait to Europe…

Kuwait is geographically closer to Europe than the United States.

Most American products have European manufacturing posts. The reason for this is because it makes shipping a lot easier.Why should a tub of icing ship 20 hours from America to Asia, and risk spoilage, when it could be produced and shipped from a closer location i.e. Europe? Therefore, I get my products shipped from Europe.

There are still some products with food coloring in Kuwait, but not as many as in the States. This is a blessing for me because I don’t have all the wonderful specialty food markets and variety available in America.

Now, please don’t take this whole post as a judgmental rant. I have been an avid artificial food dye eater all my life, and willingly gave it to my children for the past eight years.It wasn’t until I was forced out of it that I noticed a difference in my children’s hyperactivity. Could this help you? I’m not sure. But it’s definitely worth looking into.

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Can We Have Stereotypes about Ourselves?

I must make a confession. Before moving to Kuwait, I knew nothing about it other than its involvement in the Gulf War. Pretty pathetic, I know.

I mean, I obviously knew that it was in the Middle East, and I knew that it was a fairly rich Muslim country, but I didn’t know what its lifestyle  would be like.  Is it strict in its religious code like Saudi Arabia? Will our home be in a desert like compound? And, most importantly, would I be successful in my search for Nutella? (Note my earlier posts about the importance of Nutella in one’s life.)

I had fears. Not necessarily about my safety, but about my inability to find happiness in a country that was so different from where I came from. 

I am an Egyptian- American coming from the great lands of Jersey. Not the island of Jersey off the coast of Great Britain and France, but rather, a much more imaginative land of petroleum refineries, fist pumping, and combustible hair. Yep, I’m talking about the continental state of New Jersey in the good ol’ U-S- of A.  America was a place that I never thought I would ever leave. And so, before I moved, I just needed to know one thing…

Will I land in Kuwait and be welcomed by this?

 

WELCOME!

That’s a pretty messed up picture, isn’t it?  But that’s the thing… I’M MUSLIM and this image still came to my head!  Actually, not only am I Muslim, but I am an AMERICAN Muslim fighting off stereotypes all the time! I should know better. So how could I think of such a false thing?  What does this all mean?

My Second Realization in Kuwait 

Needless to say, Kuwait is nothing like the aforementioned picture.  And quite frankly, it’s completely the opposite! You wanna see Kuwait? Here it is…

Image

This is the view from my apartment!

Beautiful, right? Nothing like the images I conjured up in my head. So I began thinking about whether it was possible for me to have stereotypes about myself?

Are all of our understandings about ourselves authentic, or are they just a construction of someone else’s imagination?

A really smart writer named Oscar Wilde once said, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”  

 According to Mister Wilde, people are not as self-identifying as they think they are. He says that our thoughts, opinions, and passions are just a matter of imitation.

If I were in a room with Oscar Wilde I would reply to him and say these two things:

1)     Hi

2)     I think that the reason we imitate others is due to our lack of experiences. We sometimes have no other choice but to build off of what others have said and done for us. So it was only natural for me to think up such images before moving.

After talking to myself for a few minutes, I felt like there was more to it than that.  I know that the solution is not just about exposure and traveling. Some of the most insecure and self -doubting people are world travelers with the experiences of the world under their belt. So let me modify my earlier statement:

I think that the key to defining yourself, without imitation, is realizing that you are no different than anybody else.

In other words, the reason we follow other people’s notions is because we don’t think that others could possibly have the same desires, thoughts, and aspirations as us. Bottom line is that Kuwait was still considered to be the unknown to me. I’d never been there before, nor did I really know anyone who lived there. I didn’t know what to expect, and so naturally my brain conjured up images that I’d seen in the media. I viewed myself as different from them, and that is when I began thinking thoughts that were not of my own.

Maybe this Oscar Wilde guy is  right. Maybe I should start looking into how many of my thoughts are actually my own.  = /

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Oil and Water Don’t Mix

After my second day in Kuwait, I decided to explore the country a little bit. With Kuwaiti currency in my pocket and my husband’s rental car, I felt invincible. Only one problem stood in my way…I needed gas!!

 But that wasn’t really a problem. When thinking of the Arabian Gulf countries, the first thing most people think of is OIL. Kuwait is no exception. The country struck oil in about 1938 and has been slowly living off of it ever since. Growing up in America, I always heard about how cheap gas was in the Middle East. And, boy were they were right!

At only about .84 cents per gallon, I was shocked to find out that it only cost me 3.5 KD to fill up my SUV tank ($12.25)!

 

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Me after finding out that gas is only .84 cents a Gallon

 Yep, I was one happy camper. I felt like I could drive forever and never think about gas money again. I was in heaven. If gas was this cheap, I could only imagine how much everything else cost. 

 After about another hour of aimlessly driving around in the desert, I got thirsty. I pulled over at the first grocery store that I found. I went straight to that cool refrigerated ice box next to the cashier station and pulled out a cold gallon of water and placed it on the counter. 

“$1.15, Madame,” the cashier said.

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 $1.15 per gallon of water?! How could water be more expensive than gas?!

I’ve never heard of such a thing! Why that contradicts everything that I thought to be true in this world!

Oil is one of the most expensive and sought after natural resources. All wars are only fought over three resources: Gold, Diamonds, and Oil.

 Water is not something that people could fight over, is it?

 And so it began…

 My First Realization in Kuwait:

 Ok, so I was surprised at the price of water, but I didn’t fall over and have a heart attack about it. I mean, just like in the states, I’d just make sure to buy a filter so that I didn’t have to spend anymore money on bottled water. 

 But here’s the thing. When I got home, I found out that my husband stocked up on four large cases of bottled water! That’s a whole lot of money spent on water that we could have just filtered ourselves from the sink! Didn’t he remember anything we used to do in the states? But then my husband looked at me and said something I’d never forget:

 “We aren’t in the Great Lakes of America anymore, Sherine”, he said to me. “We live in the desert now.”

 “But we live right off of the Persian Gulf!” “This was no desert,” I exclaimed.

 But apparently it was still different. While Kuwait lied on a major body of water, it was still not a fresh water source.  There are no great lakes and/or falls here. Kuwait has very little, if any, access to fresh water. 

 While there is technically filtered water that runs through the faucets, it is apparently not good to drink in large consumption. This is due to the fact that even though all the salt and impurities are taken out of the water, there are still certain minerals which remain that are not good to drink in large quantities over time. So EVERYBODY drinks bottled water at all times.

 Therefore, the Arab Gulf countries are dependent on imported fresh Water, just like the West is dependent on Oil. 

 While I know that my correlation is not necessarily scientific (I won’t hold my breath for the Nobel Prize Committee to contact me), but the notion is still there…that no one country has everything. Water and Oil don’t mix.

 For the next few days, I couldn’t get that idea out of my head. I kept looking for what was considered to be expensive and inexpensive in Kuwait.

 Check this out for example,

 

This small bottle of International Delight Creamer costs 2.500 KD. Let me break down what that means for you in dollars. 1.000 KD equals $3.55 dollars. 2.500 x 3.55 = $8.75 for a bottle of creamer!!           

 That better be one mean cup of coffee! So what does this all mean?  I know that the price of oil, water, and creamer might not sound like a big deal, but the point is that the values we place on things are relative. And if that’s relative….then what else is? I began to wonder if things that I found valuable in the States would still remain valuable here in Kuwait? Do I have the same value here as I did in the States?

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