Monday, January 11, 2010

Cross-Culturalism Personally and Professionally: An Anthrogeek/Anthropologist in the Making





Anthrogeek10 is a frequent and insightful commentator on posts in the Saudi
blogosphere, and always a respectful one. She  also has her own blog Anthropologist in the Making which combines personal posts with ones based on her current studies in Anthropology as she completes her BA. Both types of posts are thought-provoking, and worth reading. She has had her own personal cross-cultural adventures that are somewhat unique, and has kindly agreed to share them, and the insights she has gained from her studies, with us. Here then, in her own words, is Anthrogeek10.

Early life



I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. My family is Caucasian. Apparently I am a daughter of the American Revolution as well. I grew up Catholic. My Father is still a practicing Catholic while my Mom has diverted to an Evangelical Christian ideology. My parents divorced when I was 19. I am the eldest of 5 girls.

I believe my interest in other cultures was something my Father instilled in me many years ago. He was friends with a variety of different people. One of his best friends was Chinese. I will never forget the time we had dinner in the home of this Chinese man’s family. What an experience! The food was certainly authentic and yum.

My interest professionally really started in Chicago upon taking a class in Cultural Anthropology. That course affected me deeply but I did not listen to the “voice” within to pursue a career in Anthropology.

Marriage to a Pakistani



We met in Istanbul, Turkey--one of my favorite cities. We really got to know one another online for a long time following the meeting. We had decided to marry when we met in Istanbul, and married about a year following that.

His family apparently did not know about me. My family allowed me to do whatever--seeing as I was an adult. I did not have contact with my Mom at the time so she did not know, but my Dad signed the nikkah and thought it was ludicrous that he had to give his permission. My Stepmom was not in agreement about me marrying a Pakistani. My sisters generally accepted the decision.

At the time I got married, I lived in a suburb of Chicago and had a lucrative career in Food Science; a career that I knowingly gave up by making the choice to move abroad to Bahrain. I was getting disenchanted with the field and needed to pursue my adventurous spirit.



What were the challenges in the marriage? Ahhh…where to begin? :) Cross-cultural marriages are challenging. Marriage, as I have found out throughout the years, can be challenging and even more so if there are different ideologies/world views. My ex-husband was fairly liberal so many of the things that make life difficult for Western women in marriages such as this did not occur with us. For example, he felt it was my right to work and have a fulfilling career, a belief that many Pakistani men may not accept. He also knew he could not tell an American woman what to do, so my day-to-day independence was kept intact. :) He was also not religious in the traditional sense. I never ever saw him pray, but he read the Qur’an and was a proponent of Sufism.



One of the major challenges was regarding housework. Pakistani men, as I quickly learned, do little to no housework. He cooked, but only when he wanted to teach me about Pakistani food. I love cooking so that was ok. My issue was in working more than full time and doing all the housework too. That did not sit well with me.

Another challenge was regarding sharing/expression of feelings. It seems that women are not encouraged in Pakistani culture to share sadness and such. I felt like he always wanted to cheer me up, and I felt misunderstood, like I could not be myself regarding how I felt.

Additional challenges in the marriage centered on how to act in public (for me of course). I was always a modest dresser so that was a non-issue but looking men in the eye, shaking hands with a man, and affection between us were all off limits. Those caused tension between us.



In retrospect, I never really felt loved in this marriage. It may have had something to do with his other wife (yes, he was married in Pakistan). Unfortunately, I knew about his first wife from day one. He has a daughter with her as well. She was in Pakistan and did not know about us until later. He told me that it was his “intention to get divorced” from her. Action is what I wanted! LOL! :) Live and learn. I did go through a phase during which I contemplated having her in Bahrain with us. I knew how much he missed his daughter.

He was laid off in Bahrain and had to be sent back to Pakistan if he could not find work. I was nearing the end of my teaching contract, and they were getting ready to pay me for the summer, so I suggested I leave. He agreed. He thought it would be “good to finish the degree”, which was a big deal for me (finishing my degree). Once home, I was able to assess the situation and realize that he could have been out for the opportunity to move away to a more seemingly lucrative country (USA), so it was good I left.



Our divorce was not official. I do not really know if I am Islamically married still or not (we did not have a legal/state recognized marriage). He refused in a roundabout way to give me a divorce so I stopped speaking to him. We have since talked via email. He has moved on, and lives in the Gulf again and has built a life up with another Westerner who works there.

I have no idea what this situation means for me legally and Islamically. I need to ask an Imam. I know an Islamic scholar I trust who may be able to advise me on a future Islamic marriage (if that is what I will do). I consider myself Muslim, but I am not religious at all. However, I would like to make sure that that marriage is behind me, including Islamically. I know how to contact him, so I assume he will be more accepting now of granting me this divorce. Although, I read somewhere that after a certain period of time, if the man has been away for an extended period without giving support, then the divorce is automatic. I do need to find out.

Life in Bahrain

I was in Bahrain to be with “A”, my Pakistani husband. I taught English and Science.


A school in Bahrain

There were many good points about life there, actually. The slower pace of life compared to USA was desirable for me. I liked learning about the culture. Everyday was a new experience for me. I liked fishing for my dinner on occasion (in the Persian/Arabian Gulf). I liked the friendliness of the local people. I did spend lots of time with Pakistani’s (as opposed to Arabs) so maybe that statement is not accurate. I also enjoyed the street food once in a while. Meeting people from around the world was also fun. Taking time out to eat together 2-3 times a day was fabulous. I have never been a proponent of the fast food industry, and so having fresh cooked meals, not eaten on the run but face to face while talking, was a positive experience for me. To this day, I love eating with friends/family although I do not do it often. Finally--I loved the souk. Always makes for an interesting afternoon regardless if a purchase is made or not.



The “bad” points are all based upon my world view and where I grew up, etc. I will just mention some of the challenges I faced.  For one thing, there was no central air in our place. I had to cook in the extreme heat. No “laundry room”. I washed clothes in a bucket and hung them to dry outside on the line. He took work clothes (both of ours) and jeans to the laundry (or had the man pick up the bundle), but socks and undergarments were done by hand. Not something I was used to! Ha! Having to obsess about if a shirt is covering my rear or not got old after a while. I guess I should have bought an abaya. I never, however, disrespected the culture by wearing anything attention getting.

I did not like the extreme heat and humidity. I suppose that is very minor. I live in Florida now but nothing compares to the heat/humidity combo there. I did not like not knowing if single women were welcome at certain food establishments. I liked an Iranian place but felt I needed “A” to go for me because I felt like it would be strange to go in alone especially with no abaya. Finally, one major challenge was having no libraries. That was hard. Books became my escape and so much of my salary went for new books.

However, one bad point was within me. I felt a deep loneliness in the marriage and so that was reflected in my behavior. I had a mild case of depression during the whole time I was there. I did not constitute it to living in a different culture as I thought it had to do with my marriage.



Some incidents stand out in my mind. I was in shalwar kameeze (which I love still--I hope to have one made for my graduation) and was in Seef Mall on Eid. A Saudi young man pinched my rear end and my husband saw it and grabbed him and took him to security. That was interesting. They made him apologize, and asked me if I wanted to press charges. I said no, if I remember correctly.

Once, on the way to a Pakistani wedding, some young men threw cans at us shouting something about Pakistani something or another. Racist talk I am sure. I find the racism against Asians (no matter from where) really mirrors the racism we in America have for those of Hispanic origin. Although we have minimum wage laws here (unaware of any such laws in the Gulf to protect Asian workers), there are other controls that keep Spanish speakers from excelling to the best of their ability (such as English only laws, etc).



I remember visiting a proprietor of a fast food place with my husband. The proprietor was Pakistani too--very respectful and kind. We usually ate a few shawarmas there once or twice a week.

I remember not finding high quality clothing that was affordable that also fit--especially shoes. Shoes are tough for me and I should have brought better shoes from the States with me had I known. I remember buying bootleg movies in the souk. I also will never forget the smell of the spices in the souk. Intoxicating! The gold souk is also not one to be left out. I had some really pretty pieces from there for a while.




I remember the local bar and people watching there, something my husband liked to do a lot. I remember trying to make chapatti for “A” and they turned out like bricks. He thanked me sincerely for the effort and ran out to buy bread instead.

Those are just a few of the things that stick out off the top of my head.



I did not travel in the GCC. We actually thought about it. He tried getting me a visa to KSA but it did not materialize. When living in Bahrain, I thought I had so much time to make more memories and to take pictures. That year went by so fast, and I did not have time to make the most of the experience.

Our leave-taking was mutual. No hard feelings or drama involved. I really do not have much negative to say about “A”. He was a good husband in that he provided for me, never criticized me for things like weight gain, always gave me space and seemed to like my cooking so much he gained 10 lbs during the year. He had his moments and I tended (and still tend) to defend him, and sometimes make excuses for him. But he was not mean. He did not have a temper at all, even if I pushed him to the limit.

I moved back to USA in Chicago to restart my life. I eventually made my way to Florida to finish my degree, where I am almost done with the BA leg of my journey.

An Anthropologist in the Making

Long before I went to Bahrain, I took a Cultural Anthropology class and felt the call to become an anthropologist then but I ignored the voice until I moved to Florida not knowing what to major in. I finally had a serious discussion with myself. Ha-ha!



Believe it or not, I have varied interests within the discipline. The one I am most drawn to is surrounding identity and conversions to Islam. I think this is personal in some respects but I believe that I can separate myself from any research that I would do. However, it would be an emic view. In Anthropology, the term ’emic’ is defined as a viewpoint that comes from someone who is within that culture (or faith, etc). For example, if I were to learn Arabic and study those in the Arab world, my viewpoint would be ‘etic’ (or an outsider view). So, to study American converts to Islam, I will be looking through the “glass” from an insider, or emic, perspective. :)  I am fascinated by the migration of Western women to the Middle East. Diasporas are always fascinating in many ways.

I also would love to do a comparative study of Saudi women and women from the UAE regarding suicide. Sounds morbid and it is. I am interested in more than just statistics, including speaking with real women who have thought about suicide and why. However, I am interested in if there is a higher rate in KSA opposed to in the UAE. Knowing Arabic would obviously be a necessity for that work. I would love to take the time to learn Arabic but I do not have time now, as I learned when I tried it once. In any case, I have other anthropological interests that do not require Arabic.





I do a fair amount of historical archaeology (a branch of Anthropology) here in Florida and have interests in that as well. The slave trade is a major one; the connection between Islam and African slaves of the 18th century and beyond seems fascinating. American history is a secret love of mine. Archaeology is neat but I will not make it a career, much to my mentors’ dismay. :)





I will be doing some applied anthropology in the Spring semester. I will be writing a major paper on Eco-tourism for a graduate class I am taking. I am currently doing work in Oakland, Fl and might use it as the basis of my research by possibly doing a “then and now” approach with regards to the high tourism traffic in the Lake Apopka area in the early 20th century; and how the tourism traffic has decreased sharply through the mid 20th century due to environmental changes. The lake health declined steadily while, at the same time, tourism declined. That’s one tentative study.




However, I need to finish the ole’ BA. That will be behind me in the Fall of 2010. I was supposed to graduate in the Spring but personal issues have changed in my life which has also changed my academic plans. Studying for the GRE in the summer is part of the plan and taking the exam to the best of my ability in the fall.

Hopefully, my results will be good enough for funding to the school I want to attend. I want to get a M.A first and reassess my needs from there. A PhD would give me lots of employment options but I am not sure if I have the longevity for that. I am approaching middle age. I need to get my second career up and running.



I would love to jump start an applied anthropology program for Anthro majors in a community college. There is a graduate applied anthropology program at George Mason University that looks wonderful. Regarding identity and Islam, there is a professor up North who specializes in that. My grades are excellent (particularly in my major) so I have high hopes of securing a spot with funding. I need to study for that GRE!! I am currently the Vice-President of the Central Florida Anthropological Society. That is a good place to make contacts and to get the public involved with what we do in the Central Florida area.

Initially, posting and commenting in the blogosphere has been a way for me to vent, talk about issues, share my successes and failures and make contacts in the Middle East who could be potential study subjects. :)  I do not write much on my own blog. I have not “felt it” lately. I may actually discuss the past semester soon. There may be some current world issues that I might delicately approach soon as well.

Impression of cross-cultural marriages

Since studying anthropology more, when I look back on my own cross-cultural marriage, I think I could have been more sensitive to the culture as opposed to critiquing it. I do not believe that I was as diplomatic as I could have been in the marriage. I am a strong woman and did not want to “take any lip”; I saw any act of diplomacy with him as giving in. All marriages are about negotiation. I wish I used more negotiation skills. Cross-cultural marriages need it even more.



Generally I see cross-cultural marriages as difficult. I see many women struggling and seemingly giving up themselves for the man, and that makes me sad. I have seen some healthy marriages, but I have seen more divorces than ones who have stayed the course. I do not think my studies per se have taught me anything about cross-cultural marriages but I have more knowledge about other cultures which in turn helps me to see things in a different light.

Concluding Comments

In closing, I want to share that even despite two failed marriages (the second one to an American man), I still want to eventually try again. I find that being married to someone from another culture can be adventurous and exciting, but it brings different challenges not all people are willing to deal with. I am--to some extent. Life is a journey and for me, that means successes and some failures. Hopefully I have and will learn from the failures. I may have not listened to the call of what my life’s work should be until later in life, but I am sure happy I pursued/am pursuing it.

Oh-and by the way, I would love, love, love to move back to the Gulf. Maybe Oman next time.




I would like to thank Anthrogeek for sharing her cross-cultural life experiences and the insights she has gained from her studies with us. I certainly wish her luck, and have confidence in her abilities to pursue her graduate study dreams. I also thank her for providing the 2 pictures of herself while overseas. Be sure to check out her blog, Anthropologist in the Making!

What strikes you most in what she has experienced to date?
Why?
Do you agree that cross-cultural marriages are more difficult? If so/not, in what ways?
Does the mild depression and attributing it to the marriage rather than other factors sound familiar from expat /non-expat experiences?
Any thoughts on whether she is still married Islamically to “A” (which would make her the 2nd of 3 current wives)?
What challenges have you experienced in crossing cultures for a temporary stay?
How have they altered your perception of your self and life goals?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

25 comments:

Abu Abdullah said...

Anthrogeek, it was a very nice post and thanks to Chiara too.

Its quiet amazing that you have been through a lot in life you still pieced yourself together and went back to education.

When i had my first divorce after being married for 9 months (6 months actually) i had thoughts of joining the French Foreign Legion, so much so that i had my tickets reserved for Marseilles (wanted to spend some time on the beach before going to the recruiting station, lol) . But at the nick of the time i got this Saudi job and i thought of making money (also the religious reasons) so i came here.

I was very much a freak myself until my wife came across.

But you on the other hand have a detailed career map and thats good. You know what you want in life and that would surely help you in the future.

And secondly the most thought provoking thing i learnt here was that "A Woman can be unhappily married to a loving and good husband". Of course yes it does make me concerned and also for a fact that i am lazy guy when it comes to house work.

Take care and All the best.

Anthrogeek10 said...

Thank you Chiara for this idea. :)


Abu Abdullah,

Thank you for your kind words. :) "A" was kind but I did not feel connected or close with him as I felt like 2 people should be when married. I suspect that that could be a funtion of two different cultures colliding. I will never know. I do not have much to say about him in the negative I will say.


I am so passionate about Anthropology and am excited to begin a new chapter in my life. One major thing I am missing some spiritual guidance in my life now and that is something I am working on improving.

I have the utmost respect for other cultures and hope that I convey that to others when communicating with them.

I have read quite a few of your posts Abu Abdullah and find your commects intelligent and insightful. I will have to check out your wife's cooking blog! I need more ideas. However, I am a vegetarian. :)

Allah Hafiz
anthrogeek10

ellen557 said...

This was such a wonderful interview Chiara & Antrogeek. I wish you didn't put the pics of Bahrain in, though, because now I miss it!
I have heard that of divorce too - I read on a marriage site that if they are apart for over 6 months without support, etc, then it's divorce? Not sure though.
You said: "I find that being married to someone from another culture can be adventurous and exciting, but it brings different challenges not all people are willing to deal with. I am--to some extent. Life is a journey and for me, that means successes and some failures."

Couldn't have said it better sis! Really, again, it was a great interview.

Susanne said...

I've seen AnthroGeek's comments on other blogs so it was really wonderful "meeting" her this way. I greatly enjoyed learning some of her background. Her experiences in Bahrain were especially enjoyable. It made me excited about living somewhere else and experiencing some of those things for myself.

AnthroGeek, I was curious because you said you considered yourself Muslim, but you were not religious at all. Did you convert when you married "A" or had you previously decided to be Muslim? How did you end up in Istanbul? Sorry if you dont' want to go into these topics. Just a couple things that came to mind. I greatly enjoyed reading about your life. Thanks much for being willing to share and best wishes to you as your continue your studies!

Anthrogeek10 said...

Thanks Ellen!

Chiara is a pleasure to work with.

anthrogeek10

Imperfect Stepford Wife said...

Anthrogeek great interview...kudos Chiara. My mind was flooding with emotions on this post for so many reasons (too many to share).

What I do know from reading much of this interview is that we wives of men from different cultures do have double the work to do in many ways.

I am still learning about my husband, and to be honest I have really just started to really being in love with him, as opposed to just loving him.

Anthro, when you speak about making chapatti for your hubby and not getting it right, I thought, hmm, would my hubby ever recount a moment when he just didn't get something right? Something that was important to me. Strange.

I think it's wonderful that you are in a place where you are comfortable with everything.

To answer Chiara's question, I would assume the marriage stands, I think.

Anthrogeek you are so right about negotiation skills. I don't know about your ex, but I know that there was a period where I was bitter at the thought of losing my voice, of not being able to make my own decisions...takes a lot of work for sure.

Thanks for sharing this. & good luck.
Chiara sorry for the long comment as usual.

Chiara said...

Thanks to all for your comments and compliments. Abu Abdullah deserves the credit for suggesting that I should interview Anthrogeek after reading her comments on various blogs. She has been a pleasure to work with on this (and very quick!) as well as a great commentator abd blog friend overall.

I guess I was most struck by voluntarily entering a polygamous marriage--voluntariness in matters of the heart always being relative, of course. I was pleased to learn that she at least was aware of the other wife from the beginning, and unsurprised that the other wife was unaware of her. In some ways it seems as if this is the classic role of the misyar marriage, which in part derived from the needs of soldiers and traders far from home for extended periods of time. From a Western context it seems, except for the religious marriage, much like the classic long term affair with no intention or no real action on any professed intention to leave the first wife.

If you are comfortable answering, Anthrogeek, I would be interested in how you view now your willingness to have his first wife and their child join you, and how you imagine it would have changed things if you had. I know you have written in comments before that you are not necessarily against polygamy but don't think that Western women are particularly good at it, or that it is good for them. Could you elaborate on that?

I find Susanne's questions intriguing as well...hint, hint, but only if you are comfortable!

Chiara said...

Susanne--please send me an email to chiaraazlinquestion AT yahoo.com as I have an offline question. Thanks!

Chiara said...

ISW--thank you for your thoughtful comment. As most who have read mine know, I have no objections to long! You raise some excellent points. I think that in some ways cross-cultural marriages have double the challenges but in other ways they are advantaged. The types of questions that rapidly become pressing in a cross-cultural marriage are part of every marriage, yet others have less experience identifying them and learning to deal with them. Also 2 cultures can offer more modes of resolution, or more options to choose from.

As both you and Anthrogeek have suggested North American women may have more of a knee jerk "feminist" reaction to some things where it isn't warranted, or at least isn't helpful. I recall that my FIL once said to me "ma fille" ie "my daughter", but also in French a girl, not a woman. Fortunately he said it so obviously affectionately and I have a long fuse, so that my initial reflex of "girl?!" didn't escape my mind.

I also think that all marriages take work, and sometimes in a cross cultural one, the culture is blamed for problems that are standard, or more related to the individuals or particular circumstance. Culture will colour that, but isn't always the culprit.

Thanks again for your thought-provoking comment and feel free to share more if you wish. You also have an excellent blog where you explore these feelings, if others are interested in reading there.

Imperfect Stepford Wife said...

Chiara~ I think I am questioning and inquiring more about cross-cultural marriage because I see my oldest daughter growing up and in a sense I am panicked a bit.

I have conversations with hubby about the fact that our difference is definetly cultural rather than racial (if you remember what I mentioned about being a Black girl in Egypt).

I see Arab and Black couples all the time, but I am yet to meet a Jamaican/Yemeni couple. Initially I was just looking for any sister married to a Yemeni (cross-culturally) and I have not found this.

Does anyone here know of any couples in a similar situation? I hope I didn't just hijack this post Chiara.

Anthrogeek10 said...

Suzanne,

Thanks for your comments! It is an amazing experience living abroad and I believe every American should do it SOMEWHERE. :)

"AnthroGeek, I was curious because you said you considered yourself Muslim, but you were not religious at all. Did you convert when you married "A" or had you previously decided to be Muslim? "

I researched Islam post 9/11. I did not convert/revert until 4 years following my divorce. :) Thanks for the question.


"How did you end up in Istanbul? "

I just wanted to go. It was the home of the *great* Ottoman Empire and I wanted to see it.


"I greatly enjoyed reading about your life. Thanks much for being willing to share and best wishes to you as your continue your studies!"

Thank you so very much. I enjoyed it and working with Chiara. I have a while to go but visualization and applying the law of attraction seems to bring all that I desire in my life. However, I am not always on target there. I have been practicing it more and more just recently.
anthrogeek10

Anthrogeek10 said...

"Anthrogeek you are so right about negotiation skills. I don't know about your ex, but I know that there was a period where I was bitter at the thought of losing my voice, of not being able to make my own decisions...takes a lot of work for sure."

Seems as if the art of diplomacy saves countries and marriages. :) Well, I do not know about that but the skills do help in many areas of life.
I assume you are in a multi-cultural marriage.
Do you think you have retained your independent personality?

Anthrogeek10 said...

"I was pleased to learn that she at least was aware of the other wife from the beginning, and unsurprised that the other wife was unaware of her. "

I do not know what I was thinking in this regard. lol :) I lost temporary sanity. Islamically she should have known. I suspect it is better to keep the elephant in the living room but do not talk about it.

"In some ways it seems as if this is the classic role of the misyar marriage, which in part derived from the needs of soldiers and traders far from home for extended periods of time."


Yes, and that is what bothered me about the whole arrangement. I did not feel like I was *fully* his partner. I felt distanced. Abu Abdullah--this, despite him being a decent husband, is why I was unhappy.



"From a Western context it seems, except for the religious marriage, much like the classic long term affair with no intention or no real action on any professed intention to leave the first wife."


Could not have said it better.

"I would be interested in how you view now your willingness to have his first wife and their child join you, and how you imagine it would have changed things if you had. "


I think I would have had to pick up quite a bit of the financial burden, which Western women tend to do --even in Islamic marriages.I think my feelings of isolation would have increased....I did not want that. I* felt horrible enough.


I know you have written in comments before that you are not necessarily against polygamy but don't think that Western women are particularly good at it, or that it is good for them. Could you elaborate on that?

The concept or institution of marriage is viewed differently by people in the Western world as opposed to the non-West. Particularly countries that practice arranged marriages. While arranged marriages can be wonderful matches, many marriages are to join alliances/families and not consider compatibility as the first measure of criteria. In the Middle East, it is the best of my knowledge that marriage is seen not as a friendship like in the West but as a union to make a family/join families, etc. That said, the closeness two people is wedged by a third party (or second wife). When wedged, the division between the two people does not foster closeness and emotional intimacy.

anthrogeek10

Anthrogeek10 said...

"Also 2 cultures can offer more modes of resolution, or more options to choose from."


I see where your getting but more options would have confused me. I think expectations are different for the Western woman and the Muslim (if non-Western) man.



"I also think that all marriages take work, and sometimes in a cross cultural one, the culture is blamed for problems that are standard, or more related to the individuals or particular circumstance. Culture will colour that, but isn't always the culprit."


Your right. Housework can or cannot be one example. It depends. Men in the West are encouraged to help out doing laundry and such. That is clearly not the way in Pakistan or the MENA region. So, yes, I think even though women in the West have uncooperative husbands with dishes, it is clearly acceptable for the man to do the dishes without losing face!

Regarding some other issues, yes, culture can be blamed when it is not warranted and it is up to the two people to make that determination.

anthrogeek10

Imperfect Stepford Wife said...

Anthrogeek you said:

I assume you are in a multi-cultural marriage.
Do you think you have retained your independent personality?
---

We are in a multi-cultural marriage. I believe I have retainded certain aspects of my independence, in fact I am often referred to as a Feminist/Social Activist/hyper mouth-piece.

don't know what to say to that, I think hubby just knows that he's got a wife who is committed to the home and children but I was an activist and very independent before marriage, he said he loved that in me.

I fought long and hard to retain that, but I no longer do much community work etc, and I rarely go to meetings and rallies, because I am not really allowed to be as present (visible)as I was before. So, I have been silenced a bit.

And yes, I agree that 2 cultures can offer more modes of resolution. I think sometimes we tap into that, especially in parenting.

Shafiq said...

Thanks Anthrogeek for sharing your life with us.

I can relate with you over the issue of housework. In Indian culture, men doing any housework whatsoever is virtually unknown unless the wife is the main breadwinner. My father, grandfathers and almost all my uncles - none of them do (did) any housework - for some reason, it just didn't happen, despite many of them spending most of their lives in Britain. They were born in Africa where this wasn't an issue as domestic servants did most of the housework, but when they moved to the UK, the Indian attitude stayed.

Amongst 2nd generation British Indians (and Pakistanis), there's a split with those who married a fellow Briton, helping around the house and those who married someone from 'back home' retaining the laziness. This leads me to think that the wife matters too - British Pakistani/Indian girls are known to be more demanding of their husbands having been brought up in the West, whereas wives from 'back home' would see nothing wrong with such a dynamic (and may also be ashamed of having a husband who helps out).

As for racism against Asians in the Middle East, it's a sad fact that's just been accepted.

P.S. Good Luck in your degree

Chiara said...

ISW--thanks for your further comments. It is certainly true that as one's children go through stages on revisits one's own decisions and thinks about the topic more generally. Certainly a woman who is a Jamaican-Yemeni-Canadian mix is more likely to have a "cross-cultural" marriage than not, although there are Jamaican Canadians and Arab Canadians, so Canadian multicultural policies and philosophy may serve as a model in such a marriage as well.
You did not in the least hijack this post. I hope that someone will know of such a combination, or a Caribbean-North American-GCC combination.

Umm Abdullah, whose blog the Nomadic Gourmet is in the side bar, is a Grenadian-American Muslimah married to an IndianMuslim and living in Saudi but that is as close as I get to knowing anyone with the combination you are describing, except perhaps Inal who is a Dominican American (part hispanic part African part Arab) married to a Yemeni. She lived in Yemen for some years, and then the couple moved to the states to save their marriage. She has been open about dragging her surgeon husband to marital therapy at least once in their successful marriage. She has university aged children, a boy and a girl. She has been out of the blogosphere since August due to medical difficulties but has her own blog. Her blog is Shadjar al Noor...Really? at http://shadjar.wordpress.com/ where her about page lists her contact as
shadjar.alnoor@gmail.com
You might enjoy reading her blog for a start.

I do hope readers and commentators will see this blog as a place to connect, and share ideas and support so I welcome your question about others in a similar situation.

Anthrogeek--ah yes moments of temporary insanity, haven't we all had them, and haven't some moments lasted longer that others! Thank you for all your detailed answers and sharing in the discussion.

While having more options can be confusing, it can also "unstick" a problem which usually is stuck on 2 unacceptable alternatives, or binary thinking. These options would have to include ones acceptable enough to both cultures.

ISW used the example of parenting which is challenging enough that all reasonable suggestions are usually welcome.

I understand what you mean about not feeling that your marriage was a full one and that polygyny is a different form of marriage but one that invites the difficulty of triangulation. I can see the practicality of it, in certain circumstances, and even that it works for some, but I would imagine that most raised in a soly monogamous where bigamy is against the law would have difficulty with it. However, that might be because I see a lot of women (and some men) in the configuration I mentioned: long term affair, with hope of and promises of leaving first wife and no action. By definition, in these cases in my office hope is fading and anxiety and depression are taking its place. "But he finally got a divorce, and finally got the Catholic annulment...except he is still living in the matrimonial home, and spending all his time with his kids" or "...moved out and is dating someone else."

Chiara said...

Shafiq--brb auntilary duties call. LOL :)

Chiara said...

Shafiq--back; thanks for your very thoughtful comment. It is true that the acculturation of being raised in the West leads South Asian daughters of immigrants to have different expectations than those raised in South Asia. This is part of the acculturation process that is somewhat inevitable despite the vows of immigrant parents to keep their children to their "home" culture. In fact their children are home in the West and hopefully sufficiently bilingual and bicultural to feel at home enough in their culture of origin.

It is true that women with a traditional value system will likely feel ashamed of a man who helps too much in the home (and she is not confined to bed due to illness). A Moroccan psychiatrist has published a case where a woman became psychotically depressed and her husband took care of her, home, and meals until she was well, or at least not psychotic, whereupon they needed marital counselling because she felt he had demeaned himself as a man. Fortunately they were counselled to help get them past that.

Thanks again for a great comment.

Usman said...

If your husband/ex husband has positively and actively tried to approach you and agreed to pay your day to day expenses then you are still his wife, regardless of time being passed. You would have to go through khula (divorce taken by woman) before this marriage could be declared terminate. Though I am not sure how this procedure can be taken since you live in a country where Nikkah is not recognized.

If your husband has not approached you and have refused or not paying your expenses then the divorce has been validated since several years has been passed.

Has he paid your Haq Mehr? since it also stands an issue when divorcing.

On a side note, I have very poor opinion about your ex husband. Are you sure he didn't marry you for US citizenship? Also, did you you marry before or after 9/11?

Never mind if you don't find it comfortable answering my questions.

Chiara said...

Usman--thanks for contributing your knowledge here. I let Anthrogeek know and she intends to reply to this comment when she recovers from writing her grad paper. Thanks again! :)

Anthrogeek10 said...

If your husband/ex husband has positively and actively tried to approach you and agreed to pay your day to day expenses then you are still his wife,

Sorry.Playing catch up after my class finished. Catch up relaxing. :) LOL

I am well aware of this. However, he has not sent me any money. He does not contact me, let alone send me money. When I was in Pakistan in 2005, it was not to see him but I requested he get the divorce ready for me in Lehore. he gave me lots of trouble so I said heck with it.




If your husband has not approached you and have refused or not paying your expenses then the divorce has been validated since several years has been passed.

So I understand. Thank you for letting me know.

Has he paid your Haq Mehr?
What is this?

On a side note, I have very poor opinion about your ex husband. Are you sure he didn't marry you for US citizenship? Also, did you you marry before or after 9/11?

I do too actually. LOL I am pretty certain his end goal was to come here. One side of me cannot blame him as I think about the lack of opportunity in areas along the periphery, namely Pakistan. But yeah...that is one of the reaons why I broke it off. I did not share EVERYTHING in this interview. :) I am not that open.

Never mind if you don't find it comfortable answering my questions.

I hope I answered to your satisfaction.
anthrogeek10

Anthrogeek10 said...

retaining the laziness. This leads me to think that the wife matters too - British Pakistani/Indian girls are known to be more demanding of their husbands having been brought up in the West, whereas wives from 'back home' would see nothing wrong with such a dynamic (and may also be ashamed of having a husband who helps out).


Maybe the British-Pakistani/Indian citizen negotiates much of this dynamic before marriage. Could that be possible?

As for racism against Asians in the Middle East, it's a sad fact that's just been accepted.

See, I do not find it acceptable......and neither should you.

P.S. Good Luck in your degree
Thank you. I have 2 courses left and I am trying to "court" one of the professors at the university I attend to be my advisor. This courting process is like sucking up. :-) It is also about me too. I need to find the right fit to be able to study something that is interesting and compelling to ME. Although, I understand compromises need to be made while in grad school, grad school is a step closer to studying what one wants to study. For example, the professor I am "courting" now is an economic anthropologist focusing on food. Ok, I can relate that to Muslims/Islam in Orlando quite easily. So....anyhow, economics is my my first and formost interest in anthropology, it can work.

Thy ramble on.....lol
anthrogeek10

Usman said...

"And give women their dowries as a free gift, but if they of themselves be pleased to give up to you a portion of it, then eat it with enjoyment and with wholesome result." (Quran : Surah AN-NISA)

Mahr (or dowry) is amount of money paid to the bride by her groom. The amount of money depends on you and your husband's social status. It is mandatory. If your husband has paid you very marginal Mahr as compare to his wealth, then it alone shows his deceiving intentions in this marriage. Islamically speaking, your husband would have made very serious violation. And if you would be living in an Islamic country with a reasonable justice system (which is quite a rarity these days), you would have a legal case against him.

Judging by your comment, I think your ex husband did not pay the Mahr at all. So the best I can say that congratulation that you got rid of one of the cheapest man on earth. As for your ex husband, He will be held accountable for his sin.

Anthrogeek10 said...

Usman:

Insh'Allah he will be held accountable in this or the next life. He is now on the hunt to capture another Western woman. I cannot remember what country. Not USA. European one. I am not resentful. I almost have a degree--one I worked very hard for.

Thank you for your input. He did not give me a dowry after divorce. It was put into the Nikkha (sp?) but it was so small, I wonder if it is worth it!!

anthrogeek10

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