Friday, March 19, 2010

What is the story with you and Yasser?

Finally - I will tell my story. I have to admit, it's going to be a surprise to many of you. My closest friends and family know our story, but many more do not.

Why? Because it is so out of character for me.

But I am so glad that it happened this way.

I am going to tell our story now and I hope for those of you in a bad marriage, or are single, or have experienced something similar can find a bit of inspiration from it.

No -our marriage is far from perfect. Yes - we struggle daily. But I can't think of anyone else I would like by my side. Without further delay.. here is the story of the Egyptian & I.

Back in 2005, my ex-husband (who at the time was my current husband) lost his 8th job in 7 years. He began applying to jobs in other cities, states. Finally he found a good job in Birmingham, Alabama and decided (without much discussion with me) to move to Birmingham. I was still in Georgia. He called me one night and gave me an ultimatum - I could stay in Georgia and that be the end. Or I can move to Birmingham. Some decision? Of course I panicked. I thought to myself, of course I will move. Even though I was miserable (as obviously he was also) I could not imagine going through a divorce. At least not yet.

He moved to Birmingham in July of 2005. I followed in September of 2005. As soon as I arrived I ended up in the hospital with viral meningitis. He paid a visit to the hospital a total of one time. I made it back home and began a long recovery process. Plus I unpacked our house. I had absolutely no friends, no family nearby and no job. I left one of my favorite jobs as a Communications/Program Specialist for a national non-profit.

By that following July of 2006 we took a long vacation. While on a beach gazebo on St. Augustine Beach, we discussed our future. We admitted we were not in love and would look at possibly leaving one another in one year. We would give it a little more time. By October of 2006 I finally go a job back in my field! But my relationship was getting even worse. I will not go into great detail of what he was doing. Because it is not my style to destroy his reputation. He does a great job on his own doing that. ;-)

About the same time I got my new job, I ended up making some random friends on Myspace. I know - Myspace. I discovered that you could ask for or accept friends from all over the world. If you know me, I have hosted 14 exchange students. I was thrilled to make friends from all over the world. As I was scrolling through the list of countries to view profiles - I saw Egypt. WOW. Egypt. Visions of the pyramids, the sphynx, camels, sand, and fabulous music filled my mind. Most of you know, I was living in a bedroom that had an "arabian nights" theme. I have always been obsessed with this style and music. I thought - EGYPT - perfect. As I scroll through the pictures/profiles, one of the first pictures I see is of a very attractive guy with of all things, a cowboy hat on. I thought to myself, okay this guy must be an american. Maybe he can tell me what it is like to live in Egypt, etc. So I open his profile and read that his top 10 books were MY favorite books. If anyone knows me, you know I am obsessed with reading. I also saw that he had a degree in English Literature, loved several of the same movies that I did and loved travel. He was eight years younger than me, so I thought - no harm here. Could make a great little friend. Then I noticed - WAIT - he IS Egyptian. Cooool.

Since there is a time difference, it took several hours for him to accept my friendship request. But not only did he accept it - he sent me a really sweet email telling me he was thrilled to have an American friend. He told me a little about himself, and asked me a few questions. And so the friendship began.

He and I would email each other everyday. He would write a long email, and I would respond. Maybe two a day. Just asking questions about each other's culture/religion/work. We discussed books, travel, cinema, television, religion... you name it. What I noticed at the end of his second email - there was a question - Are you really married?

LOL - yes I was. None of his emails were ever inappropriate, but clearly we were growing closer as friends. By late November I ended up chatting online with him. I still remember one Saturday that we chatted almost 5 hours. Where was my husband? You tell me. Always gone. Sooo - a friendship continues to develop.

On December 31st 2006, my husband asked me for a divorce. I walked in the door from work and he asked me if I wanted to be his wife. I asked him was he ever going to change or work on our relationship. He said he was sick of living the way we were. (Plus he had just lost ANOTHER job.) So he said he would rather be divorce. I said - FINE. I will be out in about 30 days. Give me that much time. And that was that.

Obviously my conversations in the next 30 days intensified with the egyptian. He counseled me on being kind, regardless of how I felt. He expressed his feelings for me, and lifted me up emotionally. He was truly my best friend.

I moved out of our home on February 3rd, 2007. He moved to Mobile five days later for another job. Finally, the egyptian and I began a phone conversation/chatting/emailing relationship. My first month, my phone bill was probably several hundred dollars.

By March I was officially divorced. My job was going well, my friendship with the egyptian was going strong - so we decided I should come to Egypt - meet his family and friends and just see how he lives. See if this is something we wanted to pursue. So by August I received my passport and booked my flight for November of 2007. (About one year of daily conversations later.) I ended up buying a webcam, and he and I would talk that way for hours. At least it felt like we were in the same room.

On November 12, 2007 I embarked on a world trip. I flew: Bham to Memphis, Memphis to Amsterdam (with a 11 hour layover) then Amsterdam to Cairo. I still remember my heart beating wildly, the fear - the anxiety. All types of crazy thoughts were going through my head: What if I am completely off and he is a terrorist. (hahahaha - see, this is what the American Culture had ingrained in my head.) What if he sells me into white slavery? (hahahaha I told him about this once, and he looked at me so odd, and said.. what are you talking about???) What if he rapes me, beats me, and leaves me for dead in some back middle east alley? Again - completely irrational.

But when I saw him standing there in the airport - my heart soared. He had the biggest, sweetest smile. Arms open and he came running to me - saying, "Habibi, habibi." (Means beloved.) And that was it. We were inseparable the entire trip.

One of the many discussions we had prior to my arrival to states was how much we felt we were falling love with one another. Once I arrived, that very first night, we sat up for hours talking about life, and love and how happy we felt to be together. I was completely relaxed and felt safe. I felt like I had found my home - FINALLY. After the hell of 8 years with a man who had waaaaay too many bad qualities. One of my favorite memories of that trip was noticing he light coming through the window (past the black curtains) and then we opened the curtain and I could see the pyramids from the window. Seriously folks. I was mesmerized. WOWza.

We toured Cairo, then made our way to his hometown of Alexandria, Egypt on the Mediterranean. I met all of his friends and family. I felt such a peace I had never experienced in my life. THIS is where God wanted me to be. It was crazy, and strange, and wonderful all at the same time. I questioned a few things - 8 years difference, he is muslim, he lives a world away - how does this work??? We discussed this. Then Friday came. A BIG day of prayer. He went to the mosque, came back and looked at me and said, "I would like to marry you. Do you want to marry me?" I took a deep breath and thought.. don't let life pass you by. I said yes.

Now at the time, egyptians were not allowed to marry americans. There was a disagreement between the US Embassy and the Ministry of Justice. That left few options. We had a few choices and we discussed them all. I could move there. He could move here. Obviously - America was the better choice. (Though not the final one.) So we performed a ceremony that could be considered controversial in his world - but was not done in private. We did what might be seen as Orfey. But we did it surrounded by his family and friends.

Traditionally an Orfey was considered taboo. It is what young couples did in secret so that they could sleep together, or to be secretly married because they had opposing parents. But we did not have a choice. We knew we needed to secure our relationship and in his culture, we were not allowed to be alone because we were not married. He is a devout muslim. So - we performed this Islamic Ceremony on November 17th, 2007. The kicker - it is not recognized by any governments, so in my world I am still engaged. In his world, he is seen as married. And thus the saga begins.

I return to American after several weeks, with my heart still in Egypt. It is not easy for middle easterners to obtain an american visa, so the possibility of his chances of coming to visit were slim. So by February I had enough money to get the immigration attorney and file the K-1 fiance visa. Meanwhile, poor Yasser is stuck in Egypt, waiting patiently to be with his wife/fiance. ;-)

The paperwork is finished by late April. The government accepts the paperwork by May of 2008 and begins the process. We received confirmation by Sept 0f 08 that our K-1 application was approved for processing. It passes the national initial security checks. Makes it to Egypt by October 08. He has his embassy interview on November 6th 08. Was approved. Was told he would receive his VISA in about two months. (Note - we have not seen each other in one year.) December passes. January passes. February passes. We are both constantly calling the embassy. We found out he was in Administrative Processing in DC undergoing nine difference security clearances. By March, a friend of mine who used to work in immigration had a friend in politics in Miami. We had this person called the Consulate Director. By April she got word and said that the passport was back in Egypt. By the first week in May of 09 we got word he was approved (the embassy was sitting on his passport.) His visa arrived at his home on May 12th. With an expiration of May 16th. Oh yes. They pulled a fast one. Luckily he booked the flight that day and was here by May 14 2009.

GLORIOUS fight to get here.
But we have 90 days to get married or he will be deported. Sooo... we head out on his second week here and got married at the mosque (private ceremony.)

On August 8th, 2009 we had a beautiful "Arabian Night's" themed reception at my mom's Art Gallery. Here is the video from that night!

Soon after that we had to file for his permanent residency card and that took from August of 09 to January 2010. We have had a few bumps along the way (mainly financial in a struggling economy and for the longest time one salary) - cultural (food, customs, etc.) and good old fashioned home sickness on his part. Now he finally has a job, is learning to drive, growing accustomed the married life (heck the first year is always hell!!) and trying to be the man he had hoped to be.

It's all new - it's all exciting. It's crazy most of the time, and beautiful some of the time. Once the "newness" and culture shock of it all wears off - the egyptian will be okay. I am seeing more and more of his old self everyday. He is coming back. Slowly but surely. But seriously - what a loooong fight it has been. May 14 2010 will be one year in the states. May 30th will be one year legally married. Nov 17th will be 3 years "islamically" married. What a looong strange trip it has been! ;-)

Questions? Comments? feel free to ask in the comment section!


Anonymous said...

Well said. The love the two of you share will obviously get you through anything... even the parts where you drive each other crazy!

Anonymous said...

BTW- I'm so happy you still like the little vid I made for your "Arabian Nights"!

Anonymous said...

Amazing! Ah love...

Kelly said...

What a great story! How cool that you went with your heart and trusted your instincts.

***Stopping by for the LBS tea party***

Anonymous said...

This love story is breath taking.

I'm such a hopeless romantic, it was like reading a short love story taken from a novel ;)

I just couldn't pull myself away from the post.Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Awe....what an awesome story of your heartwarming!!!

Dawn said...

Nicole, I must admit that I am sitting here crying. Reading this story has touched my heart in so many ways! I knew it was a journey for you both to be together but ~WOW~ I didn't realize how long of a journey and what was involved. I honestly can relate to so much of your story! Girl, as much as it took for yall to be together - yall can get through any obstacle that you have to face.

PurpleMist. said...

WOW, you could write a novel on that!
So beautiful :)

Leslie said...

All I can say is WOW!!! What a beautiful story and what an amazing journey you two have already been on. It is my hope that you two continue on this journey together. :)


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