I'm new here. I've been lurking about for a while before actually registering. And by "a while," I mean for about a year. I'm a reluctant adopter when it comes to websites/forums.
My name is Cindy XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. My maiden name was XXXXX, and I used to become very angry when someone misspelled it. Spelling is now the least of my worries, as it took me months to really figure out how to even pronounce my new name correctly.
I met my husband online. I write a lot, and I correspond with a great many people online because I'm the editor of a literary magazine, and because I'm always sending out my own work to be published by other small presses. Several years ago, one of my poems was published in a literary journal that is published (online) in Algeria, his home country. When my now-husband googled me after a brief interaction on a dating site, he found this poem and asked me about it. He was a little intrigued about what prompted my submission. It was a special issue about women, and I told him that I had been studying literature from the Middle East / North Africa. I told him about my interest in world children's literature, etc., and after a few sporadic conversations, we started chatting more regularly. Eventually we veered away from the dating site (I lost interest in keeping a paid membership), and we started talking via email and skype, eventually speaking on a daily basis. He became facebook friends with my mom, and then my friends. He became a fixture in my life that I depended on.
I'll speed up here, and gloss over all the regular, mundane details that we all share when starting a relationship. Eventually, he asked me to marry him. We started planning. My mother started thinking about what would be spectacular, and we decided that we were going to get married on a riverboat with about a hundred of my family members. We planned to get him a fiance visa, get married here, and then go back to Algeria for a celebration there.
Then my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly in October 2011. She felt sick a couple days before her birthday, I convinced her to go to the ER, and the prognosis wasn't good. She had stage 5 cervical cancer. WIthin weeks, it spread to her liver, and she came home for a brief few days before she died.
So the wedding was off. He tried to come on a tourist visa so that he could help me get things in order here, but that was denied. I'm a teacher, and I had summer classes, but I was off for a month and a half at the end of summer. We started planning a wedding in Algeria.
Then, in June, my doctor found a large ovarian tumor. After what had just happened with my mom, I was devastated. I went back six weeks later, and it had grown 6 centimeters. I was immediately sent to a surgeon at a hospital in Pittsburgh - the only surgeon who would attempt the risky surgery because of the tumor's position and shape. The wedding was off again.
My cousin, Sondra, who is a retired chief of nursing, went with me to his office for the pre-op. While they were looking at the MRI again, they noticed something. My right kidney was missing. Rather, my right kidney was what they call an "ectopic kidney." It was in the wrong place. It was right beside my right ovary. There was no tumor. The oddly-shaped tumor was a correctly-shaped kidney.
It was too late to get married in Algeria because there are residency requirements and it takes a while to get the Visa, and I thought I'd be recovering from surgery. But I'll take it. I wasn't dying.
So finally, my next break was Christmas break. I work at two schools with two calendars, and Oualid works in the desert 28 days on/28 days off. So the timing had to be perfect. We decided that we had to forego the big wedding we both wanted, and opted instead to elope. We could have two celebrations afterward, after we were together. We had no idea how long this was going to take.
We decided to marry in Tunisia. It's beautiful there, neither one of us had to have a visa to go there, and there were no residency requirements. I did a lot of research before we went, and I found and befriended a woman on facebook who leased us an apartment - utilities included, for 750 euros for the month, including high speed internet in a secure, gated building. (Our neighbors ended up being- according to the taxi drivers - were all ex-higher-up-members of the Qaddafi regime, but I never saw them).
I showed up in Tunisia on December 2, 2012. I don't speak Arabic yet. I had brought gifts for my husband, one of which was an electronic cigarette and a case of filter cartridges. WHICH the Tunisian customs officer thought were bullets. AN hour later, My husband, his brother-in-law Faissal (one of his 9 siblings' husbands), and several members of the Algerian embassy in Tunis were there to greet me. I was tired and I had way too much luggage. I understand the comedy of the American girl with all the luggage now. Then, I wasn't expecting so many people, and they all were laughing and smiling and shaking my hands.
We went to the apartment, and I was given some time alone to unpack & freshen up. The men went out for a bit with the embassy men. I wondered if that was normal - to have men from the embassy that interested. I hadn't known that they were friends with my brother-in-law, or how much he was going to help us. I didn't know then that he had bought a car (they thought it was a large car) especially for the trip, so that I would have lots of leg room (I'm 6 feet tall, and I'm a large woman).
When they returned, they brought dinner - a rotisserie chicken that was delicious. After I got over the fact that everyone was eating off the same plate, I had a lovely dinner.
The next day, we went to the US consulate to get an affidavit swearing that I was unmarried. Then we went to the offices of this and that and ministries of so and so to have it stamped and verified and authenticated. We got a list of translators from the US consulate, and went to find one. Then we went down the checklist I'd prepared before coming: Faissal, our brother-in-law, who is a doctor in Algeria, went to see a doctor for us, and as a professional courtesy, got the prescriptions for the blood test (HIV and a couple other things they check for). He was able to get the Clinique de Hemotologie to rush the blood test that normally takes 3 days - we got our results back in a few hours. While we were getting our blood drawn, there was a protest outside, and when my eyes started watering, I didn't know what was going on. Apparently, they were using tear gas to subdue the young hooligans who were throwing rocks at all the buildings on the Rue de Anglais. The next morning, we had to have a sit-down interview with a doctor, who filled out the necessary paperwork authorizing us to get married, and stating that he thought we were a good match.
I spent about an hour with Faissal at a cafe near the Algerian embassy, where Oualid had to go to get his certificate of bachelorhood. Then I went back to the apartment to work on grading some student work online while they went to the Medina to find us a notaire to perform our marriage ceremony. They found a beautiful woman named XXXXX XXXX, who spoke some English, but not much. Because she was a woman, she had to have a second woman notaire with her to do the ceremony. If we would have had a man do it, he could have done it alone. So She scheduled us an appointment to get married, and Faissal found someone from Algeria to be a second witness. We turned in all of our papers - birth certificates, blood tests, all stamped and verified and authenticated - and we all sat in a circle while she read something in Arabic that took about 10 minutes. Then we all had to pray with her. We exchanged rings, everyone blessed us, and we were married officially. She recorded a bunch of things in a green ledger, and told us we could pick up our marriage extract from the city hall in the medina in a few days. She gave us our official "contract of marriage" - that had to be stamped and verified - and we were married! What usually takes a couple weeks, we got done in 5 days.
I returned to the US consulate to ask them some questions about what I needed to bring back here in order to start the immigration process, and we went back to the apartment. Faissal stayed with us that night, and then he returned to Algeria. We were on our own.
When Oualid went to city hall to get our extract, we found that the guy who entered it in to the city hall record misread (the notaire's) handwriting (The letter for M and H are similar), so it said OMIO instead of OHIO for my place of birth. Oualid became obsessed with getting this mistake corrected - and it took weeks. He had to stay there a week after I came home to get a judge to finally court-order the correction and then mail me the corrected copies.
From December 7-25, we had a wonderful honeymoon. We went to Carthage, wandered around in the Medina, and everything was as perfect as I could ever imagine. I hated getting on the plane to come home on Christmas Day, even though the Air France attendants were awesome, and they had a Christmas Carol singalong and wore Santa hats.
I never dreamed it would be more than a year before I would see him again. I still don't know when we're going to see each other in person.
Right now, we talk every day. I'm working two jobs, and he's working in the desert. I'm getting kind of close to one of his sisters, who I talk to on facebook all the time. She studied English in college, so we have a lot in common. His mother loves me, and we're both trying to learn each other's languages. I've thought about moving to Algeria, but I'm stuck here in Ohio for now. When my mother died, the probate was tricky, so if I move out, I could potentially lose my house. I know a house isn't as important as my husband, but if we decide to live there, it would be nice to be able to sell it to recoup the money I've got invested in the new roof and other improvements since my mother's death.
My mother was my best friend. I miss her every day. When Oualid and I were in the Medina, I saw a cat carved out of olive wood that I picked up and said, "I should get this for my mom..." and then I remembered she wasn't there to bring it home to. I cried, briefly, among the knock-off handbags and the maze of scarves and jewelry. People frowned at Oualid as if he were the reason I was crying. He held my hand tighter and told me everything was going to be OK.
Sometimes God takes away something you could never imagine losing to give you something you could never imagine having.
That's all for now.