Saudi Arabia: American Bedu’s Quiet Secret

Dear readers and friends of Carol, here you find Carol’s last article, which she had scheduled a long time in the future. This article illustrates Carol’s great capacity for love and forgiveness.

We miss you Carol.

After careful thought and deliberation I have decided to come out with something I have danced around and never discussed outright.  Why?  Because of my own inner conflicts on the issue.  However, I realize that to be fair to the memory of the man with whom I shared the best times of my life and to his family and heritage, I should speak out.  This may not put me in the most favored of light but as the saying goes, it is what it is. It is part of who I am and my life I had shared with my late husband, Abdullah.

When I first met Abdullah back in the late 1990’s I was under the belief he was separated and in the process of divorce.  After all, we met in Pakistan, he was there alone and if asked, he did not acknowledge that he was married.  Truthfully I also made it very difficult for him to be candid as I was brash and vocal on my views on men who had more than wife.  Besides, at that time, I never imagined we’d have a life or future together.  Yet as time went on and I got to know this kind, caring and compassionate man, I gave him my heart with no holds barred.

Time passed and we discussed marriage.  He chose to be less than direct on the topic of marriage other than he had children with a good woman and whom he respected highly.  The implication was that a divorce had taken place but he would do whatever he could for his children and their mother.  I admired his integrity and loyalty.

It was not until we had been married for more than three years that I learned he had never divorced his first wife.  From a western and emotional perspective I felt abandoned and betrayed.  Yet at the same time, Abdullah was always true to his words and actions.  He never made me feel incomplete or less than loved or his only love for that matter.  He had a relationship similar to many around the world of couples who were divorced and had children in common.  He never spoke against the fine woman who was his first wife.  It was my own insecurities that would make this subject an issue.  Yes; like a whining banshee I would feel some periods of self pity and fear.  Oh how silly I was.

As more time passed I like to say that my eyes opened wider and wiser.  I became aware of intimate family details and especially so how a Saudi woman can lose so much of herself and her own opportunities if there is perceived abandonment or divorce.  Abdullah, showcasing his honor, would never place a woman in such a position.  He wanted her to always have the protection of his name, integrity and family.  She raised his children and raised them so well.

She and I never met, never talked.  There was no need.  Over time I came to realize there was no need for me to feel threatened or insecure.  If anything, one could say I was in the stronger position since I was the one recognized and known as Abdullah’s wife to whom he openly gave his heart and was willing to sacrifice his position in order to merge a life together.

I only have all the more admiration for Abdullah.  He was a man caught in tradition and heritage.  Like me, he never dreamed he’d also find that ‘once in a lifetime love.’  He did not want to lose me and chose to hold back from me until I asked him point blank directly about his marital status.  Even when I did confront him all those years ago, I still see the fear and concern which etched over his face.  He was ready for me to let him go because of my strong abhorrence against the concept of multiple wives in Islam.  But all it took was for me to see his face, his fear, his love and yes, his fear to hope.  I knew… I could not let this man go.  We would move forward and move forward even stronger.  We would learn to dissolve the time which had been lost by my own fears and insecurities.

Don’t say it can’t happen to you.  It can.  It does.  It happened to me.  Don’t be quick to judge or point fingers either.  Don’t blame him.  Don’t blame me.  Don’t blame her.  We all may find ourselves in circumstances beyond which imagined.

My late husband taught me an invaluable life lesson on compassion, honor, integrity and how to accept compromises for less hurt, great gain and immeasurable love.

Saudi Arabia: Mama Moudy and How My Cats Won Her Over

Although my late Saudi husband and I left Saudi Arabia in March 2009, I still have so many fond memories that I enjoy sharing with American Bedu readers.

Mama Moudy is my dear Saudi mother-in-law.  She is both a traditional and conservative Saudi woman but also open in many ways.  In August 2008 she allowed me to interview her for this blog so that people would have a better understanding of Saudi Arabia and both its cultures and traditions during the period of her childhood.

max     Today I wish to share about Mama Moudy’s indoctrination to my cats.  When Abdullah and I first arrived in Saudi we came with my three cats:  Max, Tripod and Saheba.  Max was an all-black Persian which I acquired while in the United States.  Tripod and Saheba, on the other hand, were my “Pakibillis.”  Both of them were feral cats which I had rescued from the streets of Pakistan.  Tripod had been hit by a car and left to die.  Thankfully I found him and with emergency surgery, he survived albeit minus one leg.  Saheba was a scrawny little cat who appeared at my home in Islamabad and once I saw her, I could not let her go.  Tripod and Saheba were both born in Pakistan and have the traditional features of Asian cats.

cats nov 09

My cats have been around the world twice and wherever I went, they came too, to include Saudi Arabia.  Abdullah knew that when he asked me to marry him me and my cats were a package deal – non negotiable.

Now, not everyone in Saudi Arabia is enamored of cats.  In fact, a lot of Saudis actively dislike cats.  Saudi Arabia is plagued by thousands of feral street cats which are commonly referred to as Saudi street rats.  As a result, when Abdullah’s family was first exposed to my cats, they were not thrilled to say the least.  However, my cats eventually won almost everyone over, including Mama Moudy who became their champion.

tripod nc 1

The first few times Mama Moudy saw my cats she was naturally afraid.  Cats were believed to carry both germs and disease and people did not have them inside of their homes.  Over time and with observation, she noted that my cats were clean, healthy and disease free.  She also noticed how friendly they were and that they had their own distinctive personalities.

Mama Moudy lives in Makkah so when she came to Riyadh she’d usually come for an extended visit.  My husband and I both worked while we lived in Riyadh.  Mama Moudy started noticing that each afternoon my cats would suddenly become alert and scamper off to the front door of our house.  She realized that the cats were attuned to when I came in from work and were always at the door to meet me.

saheba nc 1

Her bedroom was located at the end of the hallway from the master bedroom.  Mama Moudy was the earliest riser in the house.  Next she discovered that each morning my cats would be sitting in front of my closed bedroom door waiting for me to get up each morning.  It was at that point she told my husband in Arabic, “Those cats know her and love her.”

After continually seeing how loving and non-threatening my cats were around people, Mama Moudy began to lose her own fear of cats.  She started hesitantly at first touching and then petting my cats.  Eventually it was okay for them to sit beside her and she would pet them.  Finally though and to my chagrin, Mama Moudy started feeding them food from the table while we were eating lunch or dinner.  When I dared to bring up the subject and request that they be left to their cat food, Mama Moudy candidly let me know that my cats were creatures too and deserved to enjoy the good food.  My husband told me to drop the subject and let his mom enjoy her pleasure of spoiling my cats.

DSC00108a

I’m proud of my cats for winning over Mama Moudy.  She also became their champion.  When anyone attempted to hint that it was not appropriate to have a bissa (cat in Arabic) inside of a Saudi home, Mama Moudy would say with pride, “but these bissas are American, they’re not Saudi street rats.”

Saudi Arabia: Interview with Romance Novelist, Kat Canfield

It is a pleasure for American Bedu to interview one of the followers of the American Bedu blog.  With this interview, readers learn more about Kat Canfield and why she has an interest in Saudi Arabia!

kat canfield

 

Firstly Kat, thank you, for the opportunity to interview you and share about yourself and your background with readers.

I am honored to have you interview me.

Let’s start with some details about you!  Where are you originally from?  Where do you live now?  How long have you been following the American Bedu blog?

I grew up in Ohio, in Amish country. I moved to Florida after we had a blizzard and the temperature on the thermometer was -32 degrees F! For me, even hurricanes were better than that and I lived through several of them.

I lived in Florida for 25 years before moving to Tennessee with my husband.

I found American Bedu while researching for my book. It has been helpful to learn and understand a very different culture.

Please share your background with readers.  How did you end up in law enforcement as your first career?  At what age or what point in your life did you know you wanted to be a police officer?

Law Enforcement found me I think. I had many people who thought I would be good in that field and encouraged me from high school on but I didn’t listen. I worked in Agriculture in Ohio and several businesses when I moved to Fl. Nothing fulfilled me or was I good at. Finally, I decided to prove everyone wrong that I didn’t have what it takes to be a police officer. Well, I proved to myself I really was!! I was thirty one years old and could beat the barely twenties in physical activities, the shooting range, martial arts, etc. I gained respect from my instructors when I could ‘fall down and give me 100’ (yes, pushups, the full military ones). Sorry, I have to brag on that, as several of the male instructors did not think women should be involved in police work, as it took a man. One of those instructors took me aside just before graduation and told me I had changed his mind about women in police work. It was then I realized I could be a role model for other women which is another reason I want to tell your readers about it. I think the American Bedu Blog helps empower the women in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world who are oppressed. I am all for helping women find their value in the world.

I must also relate this as it has to do with empowering women. I was married briefly in Ohio. I was a battered wife. I got the courage to leave in a time when it was socially unacceptable to do so. Thank God, the laws have change greatly in this area. As a police officer I could help abused women and children get help.

What were some of your most memorable moments when you were on the force?

I have so many memorable moments!! First I must say, read the book as several of them are in there, just the names, and some circumstances are changed to protect identities.

But my most favorite moment is this. I worked as a mounted police officer for eight of my years in police work. Horses are still my first love. One day I was working in the park when a woman and child approached me. The woman asked if her little boy, about seven, could pet the horse. This was a normal thing that happened in the course of the day. The boy was petting the horse and talking to it. I was trying to understand what he was saying to the horse so I asked his mother what he was saying. She was crying! Now I was worried. I asked her what was wrong. She told me her son was autistic and had never spoke a word to anyone before that moment. Now I was crying. The horse had opened up a door for that child. The police horse did that in a lot of instances and is a tool more police departments should utilize.

Did you ever encounter any Saudis while you were an active law enforcement officer?  If so, please share as you are able.

I met many people from everywhere when I lived in Florida. I met Arabs from everywhere in the Middle East. I found them pleasurable and respectful. I probably met more Pakistanis than Saudi. Because all that I knew where very nice people I found it hard to believe so many of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. I did not want to believe it. We have to remember that a few bad apples does not mean the whole bunch is bad.

You are also a multi-faceted individual.  At what age did you begin to have an interest in writing?

I started writing when I was a child. In high school and college I wrote for the school newspapers and was editor my senior year. I wrote feature articles for the local newspaper and authored many short stories. I just never thought it was that good so didn’t pursue it. However, as a police officer, I had to write, lots and lots or reports. Some of those were short but on more difficult cases they were very long and detailed. I think I improved my skills by writing all those reports! Plus, it gave me experience that found its way into my novels.

What gave you the idea to write a novel about Saudi Arabia?

Well, if you believe in the Ginn or spirits of the desert, it could be said one of them spoke to me. I tried several ideas but this one just felt right so I went with it.

When did you start to have an interest in Saudi Arabia and why?

The book, Arabian Nights. I love that book. I also love Arabian horses, I have owned and ridden them. And then there is Lawrence of Arabia. The country just has a natural romance to it. Every book I have ever read that had something about Saudi Arabia in it is fascinating. If you want to write a romance novel, why not have a character that is from Arabia?

Have you ever traveled to Saudi Arabia and/or personally know some Saudis?  How did you obtain your material about Saudi Arabia for your book?

I have traveled there only in pictures and via the internet. I want to go there very much. I did a lot of research on the country and customs through the internet. I found yours and other blogs about the country that gave me ideas. You actually helped me find books about Saudis that I read like Princess, A True Story of Life Behind the Veil, by Jean Sasson and Ted Dekkers book, Blink of an Eye.

only love twice bookcover

Can you give American Bedu’s a brief synopsis about your first novel, ‘Only Love Twice?’

It is my fantasy. A story of fifty plus year olds. It is Cinderella and her Prince Charming. In this one Prince Charming is a Saudi and Cinderella is American. And if that isn’t enough to keep them apart, he is Muslim and she is a Messianic Jew. I like to use a line from Michael Crichton’s book Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way” to describe it. In this story, Love finds a way.

Did you find it easy or difficult to write a romance novel featuring an American and a Saudi?

I wrote from the heart. (That Ginn again) The man is Saudi but raised in the western world so is not as ‘Muslim’ as the Muslims would like. I took what I learned about Saudi culture to compare the two cultures. I wanted more than just a romance, I wanted to show everyone that two cultures could learn to get along together despite the differences and even learn to love.

What has been the reaction of Saudi’s to your book, ‘Only Love Twice,’ which features a romance between an American Jewish woman and a Saudi man?

I really would like feedback from Saudi readers about the book. I have not to date had any reviews from them. My friends and family that have read it really liked it and asked how I got the idea and how I got the knowledge of the different culture.

How can American Bedu readers obtain their own copy of ‘Only Love Twice?’

The book is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and my website, http://www.katcanfield.com.

American Bedu has had the honor of reading ‘Only Love Twice’ and was captivated.  However, I must ask you, is it simply a coincidence that the featured female character resembles you?  After all, she is also a retired police officer and fond of horses.

Great question! It is my fantasy after all. But really, I just found it easier to use some of my experiences to give Madison a personality. Also, many of my friends have asked me to write about my experiences as a police officer. So this was a way to include those stories and weave them as threads in the story. And who is the personality of Saleem? He is the best of every man I know.

Do you have another book in the works about Saudi Arabia?  If so, what can you share?

I am writing a sequel. In it they travel to England and Saudi Arabia. In it there will be more of the differences of cultures and discussions about child brides, arranged marriages, and letting Saudi women drive. I borrowed the visual of one of Susie’s abayas, (Blue Abaya Blog) the one with the hand painted peacock feather on it for several scenes where Madison wears an abaya. (I hope that was ok, Susie?)

I have another completely different characters book working but have not decided if the male character will be Muslim or from a Muslim country. For some reason I find them easier to write about (Must be that Ginn again).

When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I spent two months this winter in Florida training with my instructor and my horse in the pursuit of better dressage; what I called Dressage Boot Camp. I also walk every day, I am up to 6 miles a day which I can do in an hour and 20 minutes, so I move out. If I am not walking or riding I am on the computer reading or writing.

What personal message would you like to convey to the thousands of followers who read American Bedu daily?

Keep an open mind. Listen to the views of others, express your views in a respectful way. I have found other views to be insightful and actually changed my opinion on some things.

Kat, thank you again for the interview.  I wish you all the success with ‘Only Love Twice’ and all future books.

Thank you, Carol, and wish you well and pray for you every day. You are an inspiration!

Saudi Arabia/USA: What Should a Saudi Student Do if Arrested or Questioned by Authorities?

19 April

arrested saudi

 theglobalexperts.org

 

 

There are thousands of Saudi students studying across the United States.  After the tragic events at Monday’s marathon in Boston, it’s not a bad time to step back and review what a Saudi student should or should not do if questioned or arrested by US authorities.

Saudi students, like American citizens, are expected to obey the laws of the United States.  If a Saudi student is questioned or arrested by authorities, he or she must continue to obey the rules.  However, that does not mean a Saudi national does not have rights or choices.

The laws may vary from state to state so I would encourage university Saudi Clubs across the United States to find out the laws specific to the state in which one is located and make those laws available to all incoming students.

The web site, usa.gov, provides laws and regulations for each state.  It is a good reference point for anyone unfamiliar with US laws to start research.   The Ohio Bar also has an excellent article on its site pertaining to YOUR rights if stopped, questioned or arrested by the police. The US legal system is very different from Saudi’s sharia’a based legal system.

The American Civil Liberties Union has extensive information and advice as well if one is arrested, stopped or questioned by police, immigration or the FBI.  The following information is taken directly from the ACLU website and is useful information for a Saudi student:

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE STOPPED BY POLICE, IMMIGRATION AGENTS OR THE FBI(Download»)

YOUR RIGHTS
– You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
– You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
– If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.
– You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
– Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.

YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES
– Do stay calm and be polite.
– Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.
– Do not lie or give false documents.
– Do prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.
– Do remember the details of the encounter.
– Do file a written complaint or call your local ACLU if you feel your rights have been violated.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Your support helps the ACLU defend immigrants’ rights and other civil liberties.

GIVE NOW

 

If You Are

…Stopped For Questioning

…Stopped In Your Car

…Questioned About Your Immigration Status

…Approached By Police Or Immigration Agents at Home

…Contacted By The FBI

…Arrested

…Taken Into Immigration (Or “ICE”) Custody

If You Feel Your Rights Have Been Violated

IF YOU ARE STOPPED FOR QUESTIONING
Stay calm. Don’t run. Don’t argue, resist or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where police can see them.
Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.
You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In some states, you must give your name if asked to identify yourself.
You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may “pat down” your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect you later in court.

IF YOU ARE STOPPED IN YOUR CAR
Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel.
Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance.
If an officer or immigration agent asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent.
Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.

IF YOU ARE QUESTIONED ABOUT YOUR IMMIGRATION STATUS
You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents or any other officials. You do not have to answer questions about where you were born, whether you are a U.S. citizen, or how you entered the country. (Separate rules apply at international borders and airports, and for individuals on certain nonimmigrant visas, including tourists and business travelers.)
If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you. If you are over 18, carry your immigration documents with you at all times. If you do not have immigration papers, say you want to remain silent.
Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents.

IF THE POLICE OR IMMIGRATION AGENTS COME TO YOUR HOME
If the police or immigration agents come to your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have certain kinds of warrants.
Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can inspect it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed. An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside. A warrant of removal/deportation (ICE warrant) does not allow officers to enter a home without consent.
Even if officers have a warrant, you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door.

IF YOU ARE CONTACTED BY THE FBI
If an FBI agent comes to your home or workplace, you do not have to answer any questions. Tell the agent you want to speak to a lawyer first.
If you are asked to meet with FBI agents for an interview, you have the right to say you do not want to be interviewed. If you agree to an interview,have a lawyer present. You do not have to answer any questions you feel uncomfortable answering, and can say that you will only answer questions on a specific topic.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED
Do not resist arrest, even if you believe the arrest is unfair.
Say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t give any explanations or excuses. If you can’t pay for a lawyer, you have the right to a free one. Don’t say anything, sign anything or make any decisions without a lawyer.
You have the right to make a local phone call. The police cannot listen if you call a lawyer.
Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested. Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer. Make emergency plans if you have children or take medication.
Special considerations for non-citizens:
– Ask your lawyer about the effect of a criminal conviction or plea on your immigration status.
– Don’t discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.
– While you are in jail, an immigration agent may visit you. Do not answer questions or sign anything before talking to a lawyer.
– Read all papers fully. If you do not understand or cannot read the papers, tell the officer you need an interpreter.

IF YOU ARE TAKEN INTO IMMIGRATION (OR “ICE”) CUSTODY
You have the right to a lawyer, but the government does not have to provide one for you. If you do not have a lawyer, ask for a list of free or low-cost legal services.
You have the right to contact your consulate or have an officer inform the consulate of your arrest.
Tell the ICE agent you wish to remain silent. Do not discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer.
Do not sign anything, such as a voluntary departure or stipulated removal, without talking to a lawyer. If you sign, you may be giving up your opportunity to try to stay in the U.S.
Remember your immigration number (“A” number) and give it to your family. It will help family members locate you.
Keep a copy of your immigration documents with someone you trust.

IF YOU FEEL YOUR RIGHTS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED
Remember: police misconduct cannot be challenged on the street.Don’t physically resist officers or threaten to file a complaint.
Write down everything you remember, including officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers were from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses. If you are injured, take photographs of your injuries (but seek medical attention first).
File a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. In most cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish.

USA/KSA: Who is Behind the Boston Marathon Attacks

 

First of all, deep condolences for the lives lost in yesterday’s Boston Marathon due to a cowardly act of terror.  Prayers to all the victims who were injured as well as to the families who lost loved ones.

terror strikes boston

nypost.com

 

Yesterday was a day of tragedy in Boston and for the United States.  Yesterday the annual Boston Marathon race was held in the city of Boston .  It is held each year in the city of Boston on Patriot’s Day and considered one of the most prestigious running events in the United States, if not the world.  However, yesterday’s marathon was marred by both tragedy and terrorism when explosives were detonated just as runners were crossing the finish line.  This blatant act of terrorism has thus far resulted in two deaths, one of whom was an eight year old boy, more than 130 individuals injured and no confirmed suspects.

Initial reports cited that a Saudi national (male) on a student visa was considered a suspect.  The Saudi was also injured during the explosions and taken to one of Boston’s many hospital’s where he was under watch and being questioned by law enforcement.  Law enforcement was also continuing its search for another individual, described as either a ‘dark skinned or black male’ seen at the area of the scene who was reported to have been acting suspiciously.

Because law officials suspected the explosive devices as having been set off remotely via cellular phone, Boston’s cellular networks were shut down.  Law officials wanted to ensure that all the explosives had been found and that there was no chance of any remote detonation.

Right now, we can only speculate who is behind these raucous acts of terror.  According to this TMZ report, which lists the series of events in a timeline, it seems the Saudi national is no longer considered a subject.

The investigation is ongoing and American Bedu is confident that law enforcement and security officials will soon have the complete details who is behind the bombings and arrests forthcoming.  Given that the bombs were exploding from low to the ground and most injuries occurred to individuals below the waist, American Bedu ponders on whether the individual behind the bombings was perhaps someone who was disgruntled with the Marathon and/or holding a grudge because perhaps he or she did not qualify for the Marathon?

If it were discovered that a Saudi was involved in either the planning and/or execution of the attack, this would certainly impact the relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia.  It would likely have an immediate impact on the thousands of Saudi students who study or would like to study in the United States.

 

Saudi Arabia/USA/WORLD – The War Against Cancer

I’m usually not a person who will have multiple posts on the exact same topic, however, I have made an exception.  I have personally experienced so many benefits from American Cancer Society that I am one of their strongest advocates in their annual Relay for Life fund drive.  Since my own battle with cancer began in 2008, there have been new drugs and treatments made available from which I have personally benefited and which are extending my projected life span.  My late Saudi husband, Abdullah, also benefited from American Cancer Society services when he was receiving treatment in the United States.

Any contribution you are able to make will support the horrid War Against Cancer…and it is a war.  A cancer patient must prepare themselves as if they were going into to battle when fighting this hateful disease.

This post is purely personal and from the heart.  I’m a strong advocate of theAmerican Cancer Society and its annual Relay for Life program.

Relay for Life is an annual fundraiser which allows individuals like me, for example, to receive various useful services during my War Against Cancer.

This month, Relay for Life, is having a contest to see who can raise the most funds through online donations.  I’m not only one of Relay for Life biggest advocates, but competitive too.  Therefore, I am reaching out to YOU and asking if you can make a contribution.

my desert boy

Abdullah before cancer entered his life

 

There are multiple options.  You can make a direct online donation in any amount or you can also purchase a luminary for US$10 which also counts as an online donation.

DSCN2337

Luminary in memory of Abdullah 2010 from a friend (please disregard that she misspelled his name.  The love and thought was there)

 

Let me explain about the luminary.  A luminary is a white bag with the logo of the American Cancer Society and a square which contains a personal message.  First one will select whether the luminary is either “in memory of” (one who has passed on from a battle with cancer) or “in honor of” (one who continues a War Against Cancer.  Next you type in the name of the individual as you want it to appear on the luminary (such as American Bedu, Carol Fleming, Abdullah Al-Ajroush or some other name).  Last but not least you then can add an optional personalized message in the square.

DSCN2339

Luminary in honor of me from a friend, 2010

 

 

Luminary’s are arranged on either side of the Relay for Life track which all local participants walk around.  The luminary is filled partway with sand and a candle is placed within the bag and lit.  It is very moving and emotional to walk around the Relay track after dusk has fallen while guided by the large circle of luminary, each representing someone loved whose life was impacted by cancer.

circle of luminaries

circle of luminaries

 

I know many of you have already provided a donation.  I’m asking from the heart that if it is possible to place another donation during this time or to purchase a luminary.  I can’t stress enough how worthy is the cause and the many benefits and services cancer patients may receive thanks to events like the annual Relay for Life.

You can also read more about why Relay for Life is so important to me here.

Saudi Arabia/USA: On Hugs and Kisses

universal greetings

waggeneredstrom.com

I never noticed until being immune-suppressed how “touchy” a culture we have in America!  While we do respect personal space, think about what happens when a typical American meets someone new or is just greeting someone they know.  They shake hands, they hug, they kiss …. And they pat each other’s back!  Because I am immune-suppressed due to my cancer (I have a very low immune system which makes me extra susceptible to catching a cold or a virus) I am prohibited from the traditional contact.  When I go out to a public place I have to wear a face mask and sometimes gloves.  Ironically this still does not keep Americans away from wanting to hug and pat the back!

Whereas in Saudi Arabia, even when one is not battling an illness, there can remain a reserve and a no-man’s land or red line that is not crossed.  Men will shake hands with other men but probably not with other women.  Women will air kiss and then sometimes shake hands with other women.  There is not as much hugging as a greeting among either friends or strangers.

Why exactly do Americans like to hug and pat the backs of strangers?  If you don’t want that to happen to you, you don’t have to resort to wearing a mask or gloves, simply cross your arms over your chest when greeting someone.  This is a universal sign of greeting but without touch!

Saudi Arabia/USA: The Story of the Orange Couch

I have not written recently about some of the memories made with my late husband, Abdullah.  I think this one may bring a smile or perhaps even a chuckle to some American Bedu readers.

What color is this couch?  Please, before scrolling on and reading more, go ahead and type your guess in comments.

orange couch

In case you have not typed your guess yet in comments, I’m giving you another chance to guess before I tell the complete story behind this couch.

orange couch

Okay….did you type your guess?  I hope so for now here is … the rest of the story!

my desert boy

I was still in India when Abdullah Al-Ajroush called to tell me he bought us a couch. I was excited and asked him what style and color. He responded that it was a casual couch from Ikea. Okay, I thought. That sounds good but what color is it? “Orange.” He told me. I kind of squealed back “orange” and then there was a pregnant pause in the conversation. He comes back with the response, “well it is kind of orange but not really orange. It just has a little bit of an orange tint to it.” Well, I came back from India and we agreed to disagree on the true color of the ‘not really orange’ couch. That was also when we took this picture so that we would always remember this conversation. Ahhhh, that’s part of what made me so love Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia/USA: Abeer Shares her Experience as a Female Saudi Student in the USA

  • American Bedu is pleased to present this interview with Abeer, a female Saudi student who is studying in the United States.

saudi students usa

menafn.com 

 

 

  • First of all Abeer, thank you for following American Bedu blog and for agreeing to this interview!

 

Thank you so much for the opportunity. It’s an honor to be on your blog!

I want to add that I use your blog as one of my resources to keep myself updated with news about home!

 

  • Let’s begin with a little bit about yourself.  What part of the Kingdom are you from?  Prior to arriving in the United States for studies, what was your educational and professional background?   makkah

I am from Makkah but I have been living in Jeddah for the last 14 years, I usually joke around and tell people I’m from the Highway (Khat Alsaree3!!)

I received my BA and MA in Linguistics from King AbdulAziz University. I started off teaching English in a center during my sophomore year summer break and continued doing that until my graduation. After graduation I worked with Effat University and have been with them ever since until I received the King Abdullah Scholarship through the university. My last post before I left for my PhD was the Enhancement Centers manager in Student Affairs.

  • What made you decide to study specifically in the United States?  Where are you studying?  Was Indiana University your first preference?  Why or why not?

I chose the US and specifically the Midwest because I grew up within the area; my father was doing his PhD in the University of Madison Wisconsin when I was young. I had a wonderful childhood experiencing all the seasons and the Midwest friendliness.

IU   I applied to all the universities in the Midwest that were top in the field I was interested in and I was accepted in one of the four I applied; Indiana University.

 

  • What are you majoring in?  How do you intend to use your higher education on your return to Saudi Arabia?

I am majoring in Higher Education Student Affairs which is part of the School of Education. Currently higher education is a rapidly developing field that governments and economists have taken interest in. The literature points out that there is a need for professionalism in this area and I couldn’t agree more. The economy is in the need for a holistic graduate that can work immediately upon entering the society. It is very important to note the sensitive role that higher ed faculty and staff play in an individual’s life,

Through my work in student affairs I have worked on projects that focus on students extracurricular skills, this helped develop my main research interest which is student adjustment and development. The main goal behind the PhD was to enhance my experience by learning more about theories and practiced methods that I could benefit from and use when I return to work in Saudi Arabia.

  • What have you noticed as the biggest contrasts between educational styles in the United States as compared to Saudi Arabia?

I have noticed that higher education in the US is more of a lifestyle where you live and breathe books, papers, conferences, study groups..etc.  Back home I felt that university to me was a responsibility like a job or basic school where attendance is required but then after 2 or 4 pm, the day is done and other aspects of life take over.

This is more or less enhanced by the fact that higher education is socially considered a turning point for most people in the United States where moving out of the family house into dorms is the norm whereas in Saudi Arabia, unless married, very few leave the state of dependency.

  • How do you find the US education system?  What’s life like for you at a large University?  Was it a big transition adapting to the diversity and having not only other international students but male and female students in your classes?  phd-symbols

I think there is an educational system set for every need and ability. When I was looking for universities I was told by many to choose one in the UK because of the closer distance to Saudi, the fact that the time period to get a PhD is less and that they require no graduate standardized tests. The main reason that I stuck to my decision was that most (if not all) university programs I looked at required a minimum of courses. I felt that especially since I was venturing into a new field that I would need some classes that allowed me to read and research different fields. This was the gap I was looking to fill. I worked in Student affairs for a long time, but I believe that to achieve productive quality work a person must now about all the dynamics of the institute he or she is working in. Knowing what others did in your field will help you see the overall picture and make clearer decisions for the benefit of the whole institution.

Indiana University Bloomington has a fairly large campus with more than 5,941international students.  However I am the only international student in my cohort. I was also the only married female with kids. They were all nice and friendly but it was not easy to relate to anyone. I am on a scholarship and they all have graduate assistantships. I have to go back home immediate after class for my kids and they went out together after work. But it was very comforting to know that we were all there with more or less the same background experience. And we were all from different parts of higher education learning about the other parts together. In regards to dealing with male faculty and students I admit I was a bit timid. I did try something to help me – I gave them a neutral status – hahaha – I de-gendered them all! It was actually a method that worked really well with me. I was already intimidated by being outside my comfort zone I really did not need that extra stress!!

  • What kind of adjustments, if any, have you made while studying in the United States?

single parenting     Plenty! During my first year in the US I was on my own with my two children. My husband stayed behind because of his job. I had many turning points in my life and this certainly was one of the major ones. I had to learn to be available as I could not depend on anyone but myself when it comes to my children and their needs. I learned to budget (!) and compare prices. I wasn’t driving when I first arrived and taking the bus was frightening. I had a bike which I used for the first few months until a rainy day where I was forced to use the number 9 bus – I even called my friends in Saudi to let them know about my 10 minute adventure! It was a journey for me, I have never felt so vulnerable, I learned to ask for help which was very difficult for me. I always had help available: my driver, maid, my mother, sister, grandmother… I was never in need to go out and ask for assistance.

I believe that I have changed and am progressing to a more independent nature. I feel more confident about making my own decisions.  If anything I realized how much I took for granted. I think like anyone I wanted to experience a different life and was keen on leaving my comfort zone and starting my adventure. I am enjoying my adventure but with an added feeling of looking forward towards the ending and returning home.

One of the most important changes that happened to me is on the personal side. My husband and I decided at the beginning that it would be best if he stayed in Saudi while I left with the kids and did my best to finish as soon as possible. It was a difficult decision but we decided to go for it for a year and if it didn’t work out we would have to give up something. That whole academic year was the toughest challenge of my life. I realized the importance of a family being together. I realized that while independence was a gift it did not mean detaching yourself. My children needed their father; I needed my husband’s support. I realized that needing him was not a weakness. I grew up with a lot of feminist books and always wanted to prove that I can exist on my own. I still think it is important to be strong however a partnership cans the best place to derive strength from. My husband has generously left his job and joined us now. He is discovering new interests and working on a non-degree program. I am very blessed

  • What do you see as some of the biggest differences between your life in Saudi Arabia and now as a student in the United States?  Please explain.

My life in Saudi was hectic! I worked long hours, volunteered at my children’s school, participated in social events, always on lookout for new extracurricular activities for the kids, I was always pushing for time for my husband, parents, grandmother, siblings all that while trying to maintain the best acceptable social life I could! It was crazy, I had so many things to do and was home very little.

Now? well Bloomington is a very calm and peaceful place and it kind of rubbed off on me. My children still have their after school activities which is great for them. We have more family time than we ever had before. We have movie nights at home around a fire. We have small Arab gathering almost every other week. My husband and I have peaceful mornings where we go out and walk.

  • What are you missing most about Saudi Arabia?  What are you enjoying most while studying in the United States?  grandmother love

I miss my family, my grandmother lived close by to me and I visited her as frequently as possible. Her windows bring in a beautiful breeze even on the hottest days. She would tell me stories or talk about a soap she was watching. I miss her tremendously.

I miss my sisters!!!

In general I miss the social life and the easiness of becoming part of a social circle. I feel that I am experiencing this alienation because I am a foreigner here and every time I meet someone I take time to introduce myself and my background not that I don’t enjoy that but I do miss the familiarity. On the other hand I have more time to myself and my small family. I have been able to explore my own individuality; I make my decisions without too many outside factors influencing my opinion. In the end there are two things that are very important to me now; my family and my studies.

  • What do you think will be the biggest adjustments for you when you complete your US studies and return to Saudi Arabia?

I have been through this adjustment process when I was young, this was when my father received his PhD and we returned to Makkah. It was not easy and it was a tough road, but with support and understanding from my parents I was able to face the differences. But when I think about it now and how it will be after I return, I don’t feel any fear.  I am actually thinking on how I can keep some of the independent lifestyle I have here. In your blog you mentioned the washing machines and the dependency on maids. I laughed thinking if I could depend on myself and have my home all to myself; that would be amazing.

I don’t fear people reaction much. I think this is attributed to the fact that Saudi’s (in Jeddah specifically) have a more understand view of cultural and social differences. I have been criticized of being an optimist when it comes to my view of Saudi. But I truly believe that we have developed and moved forward and will work to make a better life for each other. Lots of disasters and difficulties in the society have led to self-initiated changes. That’s the spark that we needed and through education ourselves we must work on bettering ourselves for the sake of bettering our society.

  • Naturally I must ask, since you are a female student, (a) are you accompanied by a mahrem while in the US and (b) do you drive while you are in the United States?

car keys   I was accompanied by my husband when I first arrived; he did go back but visited every couple of months. After convincing my family my younger brother joined me for a short while, he was accepted in a university in the US and the UK but believe it or not he returned to Saudi because he could never feel at home anywhere else.

In regards to driving I was very scared of the whole experience and as soon as I got to Bloomington I was sent the booklet and some helpful hints for the writing test! I guess the ladies were excited on introducing me to driving. I took my time though and after I passed the test I needed to wait six months before I took my driving test because I had no previous license which was fine for me I was not looking forward to driving during rain or on icy roads. Once my husband was here he found me a driving instructor (saying that he couldn’t do it and that I needed someone with more professional teaching skills, I think he was just afraid I would use his car to learn!!) anyway I passed the test and received my license within three weeks. I do have to say that I still ask my husband to drive me everywhere (Saudi habit) and I only drive when I absolutely have to. I walk most of the time – I don’t get to do that back home so I try to enjoy myself as much as I can.

 

  • Do you feel like you have been accepted and warmly welcomed as a Saudi student in the United States?  Why or why not?  hoosiers

Bloomington is a funny place in Indiana. It is the most culturally diverse town in Indiana. I think that everyone here is more or less accepted and free to be themselves.

Before I came to the B-town I emailed a lot of people! I reached out to a moms group which helped me in locating the best schools. The department’s assistant was great in introducing me to the right people.  Everyone that I talked to was really helpful. When I got here my advisor did a great job in welcoming me and gaining my trust, he works with many international students and I think my fears were things that he worked with before. He was my rock.

I have lovely Kuwait neighbors who have been wonderful and supportive.

As a Saudi student I must admit that I did not find much support from the Saudi society. After all I was without my husband so they really didn’t know I was there. Once I became familiar with my surrounding, I would go up to Saudi students that looked new and would ask them if I could help them in anyway. I met and made friends with a lot of Saudi’s that way. I think that was how one day I woke up to find myself nominated as the Saudi Club president! I declined though because I didn’t want anything to take me away from my kids and studies – I was hardly able to juggle those two things.

  • Has it been easy to make friends with non-Saudis and non-Arabs?

I can’t say it was easy and I can’t say it was hard. I am a very social person and tend to say Salam to people I meet and introduce myself. At the beginning I kept to myself and my Kuwaiti neighbor was probably the only person I knew. I then started to meet moms of my children’s friends which was a great thing. They were there for me and I am very grateful to them. I have made many friends after that as I gained confidence and became more adjusted. My husband and I joined many social groups which increased our social circle. 

  • How has your lifestyle or customs changed, if any, while being a student in the United States?

Like I mentioned before I am very much relaxed now, I have my studies and my small family to take care of. I take every day as it comes. I don’t plan much. I feel as though I am on vacation sometimes!! This does not apply to the end of semesters by the way!

  • Please share a few of your favorite experiences as a Saudi student in the United States.

us-saudi-flags   I am very happy to be representing my country. I love clarifying misunderstandings and sharing experiences. Listening to others and realizing how we are all more or less the same. I once heard someone say that we are all foreigners. That is such a true statement.

One event I can remember was when I was asked to give a presentation about Saudi Arabia during the Saudi national day. I was never so proud of being a Saudi more than that day. I started of the presentation with the national anthem, everyone joined. The proud faces and enthusiastic voices were very moving.

 

  • What have been some of the challenges you have faced since being in the United States?  How have you overcome these challenges?

One of the things that I still struggle with is my hijab. People are curious and I find it difficult to handle all the staring and turning of heads. I don’t know if I have overcome it completely but I can say that I am more confident as time goes by. The most difficult part of the challenge knows that I am being judged according to my appearance. I wear my hijabs different every time just so that I leave people guessing which can actually be fun. People now come up and ask my husband and I where we are from. We get very interesting guesses!

  • What advice do you have for other Saudi students and especially female students who are studying abroad?  How can they make their educational experience the most positive?

Get to know the people around you. Learn from them. Do not isolate yourselves and allow different people to come in contact with you. I have seen students that spend more than a year in the US and still struggle with communicating and adjusting. Join clubs, volunteer, go to study groups, learn about others talk about yourself. Most important be simple. Do not worry about your typos, or how you might be understood or what one would think of you if you did something. And as I always tell my brothers have fun but be careful!

Being abroad is an opportunity to gain new experiences and learn more about you. Don’t waste it!

  • Have you been to the United States before?  What is your view of Americans as compared to Saudis?  Is it true Americans are more open but Saudis are more hospitable?

I grew up in the midwest and spent a few vacations there after we returned to live in Saudi.

 Americans and Saudis are different like any other culture is different to another. I even feel the Gulf States are very different to an extent too. However I do feel there is a more simplicity to the American Culture in comparison to the perfection that I see many Saudis seek. I would relate that theory to the openness and hospitality issue. I found both cultures display the same generosity and warmth but with varying degrees. Americans are more honest about their priorities and value their time and schedule. Surprising them with a visit would not be suggested. Saudi people on the other hand would cancel their appointments and call for catering even if it was a difficult time.

  • How supportive has your family been about you studying abroad?  family first

First of all I am very blessed to have the support of my father and husband when it came to my career. From the time my father told me that I was a good writer and I shouldn’t waste my time in a science major I knew that he always took my happiness seriously. When I received my scholarship he encouraged me to apply to universities and go ahead with the process, “You never know what will happen just go ahead and do it!”Alhamdulliah I did. My husband has been my support from day one. He never let me miss an opportunity. I am thankful for having him in my life. My family has always been a supporter of education in fact my mother will be finished with her qualification exams soon! Go Mama!! I am very blessed Mashala.

My husband and I are working hard on helping each other study after all we are the working kind where after the kids sleep it means its grownup time and we go out, socialize or just watch a movie. Now we have to help each other find quiet time and take turns putting the kids to sleep when the other has a deadline. Its great education for us!!

  • How do you feel studying abroad and specifically in America has changed you?

I have matured and I like to think that I am more careful and perceptive about my decisions. I give myself more time to think and rationalize and I allow myself to make mistakes and learn from them. I know I am being very theoretical, I am after all studying for a degree in Philosophy!!

  • Is there anything additional you’d like to share?

I care very much about student development and understand the importance of adjustment. I believe that a happy student is a successful student. I would be very happy to help as much as I can student that are facing difficulties with their surroundings and in need of assistance.

  • Thanks again for this interview and I wish you all the best in your studies and future endeavors.

 

Thank you so much for this opportunity. I have to say that I loved answering your questions more than writing my papers!

 

 positive

 

 

For the number of international students at IUB:

(2012) Another record year for international student enrollment reported at Indiana University. Retrieved from: http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/23098.html

 

IU Image:  projectformica.blogspot.com

PHD image: distance-learning-college-guide.com

single parenting image:  buzzle.com

grandmother image:  papercuts.blogs.splitcoaststamps.com

car keys image: plazaautomotive.com

IU Hoosiers image: coolspotters.com

Family First image: familiesfirstcolorado.org

Be positive image: lifereflexology.blogspot.com

 

 

 

USA/KSA/WORLD: YOU Can Make an Immediate Difference

carol getting chemo

getting chemo, February 2013

 

 

This post is purely personal and from the heart.  I’m a strong advocate of the American Cancer Society and its annual Relay for Life program.

Relay for Life is an annual fundraiser which allows individuals like me, for example, to receive various useful services during my War Against Cancer.

This month, Relay for Life, is having a contest to see who can raise the most funds through online donations.  I’m not only one of Relay for Life biggest advocates, but competitive too.  Therefore, I am reaching out to YOU and asking if you can make a contribution.

my desert boy

Abdullah before cancer entered his life

 

There are multiple options.  You can make a direct online donation in any amount or you can also purchase a luminary for US$10 which also counts as an online donation.

DSCN2337

Luminary in memory of Abdullah 2010 from a friend (please disregard that she misspelled his name.  The love and thought was there)

 

Let me explain about the luminary.  A luminary is a white bag with the logo of the American Cancer Society and a square which contains a personal message.  First one will select whether the luminary is either “in memory of” (one who has passed on from a battle with cancer) or “in honor of” (one who continues a War Against Cancer.  Next you type in the name of the individual as you want it to appear on the luminary (such as American Bedu, Carol Fleming, Abdullah Al-Ajroush or some other name).  Last but not least you then can add an optional personalized message in the square.

DSCN2339

Luminary in honor of me from a friend, 2010

 

 

Luminary’s are arranged on either side of the Relay for Life track which all local participants walk around.  The luminary is filled partway with sand and a candle is placed within the bag and lit.  It is very moving and emotional to walk around the Relay track after dusk has fallen while guided by the large circle of luminary, each representing someone loved whose life was impacted by cancer.

circle of luminaries

circle of luminaries

 

I know many of you have already provided a donation.  I’m asking from the heart that if it is possible to place another donation during this time or to purchase a luminary.  I can’t stress enough how worthy is the cause and the many benefits and services cancer patients may receive thanks to events like the annual Relay for Life.

You can also read more about why Relay for Life is so important to me here.

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