December 14th, 2013 - It's time to retire this VJ account and close the book after our last chapter. Our immigration journey is finally done with the completion of his Naturalization in November of 2013.
Our path began nearly 10 years ago. We were both a lot younger, thinner and in shape back then. Some who know us from here have called us the lucky ones, one of the rare success stories in VJ MENA, but that's not without our ups and downs.
Here is a little about us. We're both the same age. This is both our first marriage and neither of us have children. We want kids but we're waiting until we can afford to raise a family together. After seven years of marriage and a decade together we're not in any hurry, but we know our time is limited. At the same time not having kids won't be the end of our world either as we enjoy our time together with it being just us.
We're both college educated. I have my degree in broadcasting and digital media production. His degree is in internal medicine and general surgery and he was in the theater group during college. We share a passion for movies and television and that's how we met. We also enjoy music and the outdoors together. Our common language is English and I'm also learning Arabic.
He's a moderate Muslim man from Egypt. I was raised Christian but now I'm non-practicing and more agnostic. I'll still celebrate the holidays, but also include celebrating his holidays, and at times attend the local Islamic center with him. We respect each others beliefs. He's embraced Christmas by celebrating with me and I fast during Ramadan and celebrate EID with him.
Most of what you want to know about us you can read in my posts on VJ over the past 6.75 years. The first 3 years waiting on the visa was a complete nightmare. Many people here experienced parts of that nightmare with me. However, the last four years of us getting to be together has been like night and day for us. Life with the one you love is so much better than being apart. Since most of it's already online I'll share the highlights in the chronological cliff notes version as follows.
March 17th, 2004: We met online in a Yahoo Movie Chat Room. I was getting ready to go out with my friends for St. Patrick's Day and had on green lipstick and green clothing. While waiting to go out I got online to read what people were saying about movies. He started talking to me in a private message and then I saw him on webcam. It was my first time meeting an Egyptian in Egypt and seeing the country in real time. Then we talked everyday for several hours at a time. We were friends at first for a long time. Until I realized he was my best friend. I was the first to say I love you.
March 27th, 2006: Formally engaged with announcement sent to friends and family.
December 28th, 2006: After a nine month engagement we married at the only official place a foreigner can marry an Egyptian which is at the Ministry of Justice in Cairo, Egypt. We had two witnesses who were his old friends from medical school.
June 6th, 2007: Six months after marriage I finally got around to figuring out the immigration paperwork and filed the I-130.
July 17th, 2007: Then I filed the I-129F for the K3 visa. I didn't know what I was doing and thought I had to send one after the other instead of filing the paperwork together.
December 14th, 2007: I received the NOA-2 six months after filing the paperwork. At the time the delay was because of an influx of applications filed before the fee increases which I wasn't really aware of.
December 28th, 2007: We celebrated our 1st anniversary apart. I was in the States at a University in Idaho. He was deep in his medical residency in Cairo, Egypt. I was very frustrated at this point with the decrease in communication. I thought it was because of the long distance relationship. It turns out it's really in part due to the medical life style, which never ends.
January 14th, 2008: The NVC received our K3 petition.
January 15th 2008: His formal compulsory duty as a soldier doctor in the Egyptian Army starts regardless of his status being married to a foreigner who is American. They take all doctors. As it turned out I was not the only one going through this predicament. There were many other women who found me online from my posting about it on VJ. They were from all over the world. We formed a closed online support group for foreign wives and fiances of Egyptian men who were serving in the Egyptian military. We have since disbanded the original group but we still stay in touch with each other.
February 4th, 2008: Our K3 petition left the NVC.
March 2008: He completed his medical residency during his military service as a doctor of a medical point servicing 2,500 soldiers. Now he's a full Egyptian doctor in the Army. It's explained to me that they won't change his status from soldier because it would mean they'd have to increase his pay grade and position to an officer. That meant as an officer they'd have to extend the time of his mandatory service to a full three years. I was relieved they left him at soldier status so he could get out sooner.
April 2008: Our K3 petition arrived at the US Embassy in Cairo and packet 3 was sent via email to us. I requested the petition be put on hold due to the mandatory military service. Then I stayed in touch with the Embassy for the next 16 months during his service.
December 28th, 2008: We celebrated our 2nd anniversary apart. I'm still in the States in school and he's still serving his mandatory military duty in the Egyptian Army. At this point the Israeli/Gaza conflict erupts and my husband is being volunteered as a soldier/doctor to serve in a temporary medical point on the Egyptian side of the border to take in wounded from Gaza. I'm freaked out because he's being sent near where the bombs are dropping. Thankfully Israel calls off the assault after 3 weeks and he doesn't have to go.
May 1st, 2009: His formal release date from the Egyptian Military! However, he can still be recalled for up to 9 years at anytime and serve up to a maximum of 21 days at a time. This is the standard.
May 23rd, 2009: We hold the white wedding, religious ceremony, with friends and family at Al-Nour Mosque in Cairo, Egypt. Then we stay at the Pearl Hotel in Maadi before going off to where we'll live in Hurghada for the summer.
June 2009: He starts working as a physician in a private clinic on the Red Sea called the Hurghada Clinic. It serviced foreign tourists in the resort town and was started in 2006 by his best friend from medical school who shared the same name as him, Waleed.
August 5th, 2009: We completed and sent packet 3 to the Embassy.
August 23rd, 2009: He interviewed at the American Embassy in Cairo for the K3 visa and was approved! There were several people on VJ with interviews that day at the same Embassy that described having the same experience that we did. The quick interviews and approvals seemed unprecedented. He was told we'll get the visa in a week but we land in the routine Administrative Processing/Administrative Review (AP/AR) instead. Everyone else from that day from VJ who interviewed there reported that they got their visas in under 2 weeks which also seemed unprecedented.
December 24th, 2009: While out Christmas shopping with my Mom I received a text message from a number I didn't recognize. It said Waleed was in a bad car accident and was being taken to the hospital. My Mom rushed us home and I called the clinic where I reached the owner's wife. She is half Egyptian half Polish and she spoke broken English. She told me Waleed is dead. She repeated "He's dead. He's dead. I'm sorry." I was in shock. I sought out anyone online from my friends list who spoke fluent Arabic or Polish to translate for me on a phone call so I could understand what happened. They called the clinic and found out my from someone who spoke Arabic my husband was in a rollover car accident and died at the scene. Twice I'm told he died. I went to the store and bought a bunch of calling cards. Then I waited 24 hours for before calling again to give them time to have the funeral because I knew they bury they're dead in 24 hours according to Islamic customs. Then I have a translator call his parents home for me where we discovered to my relief that my husband is alive but was too grief stricken to call me and didn't know what I was going through. It turns out it was the owner of the clinic who has passed away. There was some confusion because there were two Dr. Waleed's that share the same name. I was still sad to hear the news that we lost a dear friend and my husband was so devastated he could barely talk to me for months.
December 28, 2009: We celebrated our 3rd anniversary apart. This was a very depressing anniversary since my husband's best friend and former co-worker's death. I learn the Polish Ambassador to Egypt visited the clinic to offer their condolences. At this point I've graduated college and am in Idaho looking for work. My husband is carrying on working as the only doctor in the clinic supporting his late best friend's wife and their baby while he waits on the visa to come to the US, and she figures out what they're going to do with the remaining business.
February 4th, 2010: Our AP/AR finally ends. We were in AP for 5 months, 1 week, 4 days.
February 8th, 2010: Our K3 visa is in hand! It should have been an IR-1 at this point after three years of marriage.
March 2010: He resigns from the clinic and I hear it will close after he leaves there. He goes home to Cairo to say his goodbyes and to get ready for the big move across the ocean and his new life.
April 7th, 2010: He enters the US through JFK then travels on to Boise, Idaho.
June 2010: I start work as a nanny for my newborn niece because I can't find work in our area after the recession hit. It's long hours and very low pay but it's something to do and brings in money.
June 17th, 2010: We file for AOS in Idaho.
September 17th, 2010: We had our AOS interview in Boise and we're Approved!
September 27th, 2010: I started working as an editor at KBOI in Boise, Idaho and am no longer my nieces nanny as I found another job.
September 29th, 2010: We receive his 10 year Green Card!
October - December 2010: He went to his Sister's in Baltimore for 7 weeks to stay with her and her husband, and their 2 daughters, while he did a 7 week observership at a hospital there.
December 28th, 2010: We finally celebrated an anniversary together! It's our 4th anniversary and we're in Idaho. Best anniversary ever!!! We had Italian food as take-out and stayed in a hotel in town with a king size bed.
January 25th, 2011: Egypt Revolution 1.0 breaks out. In our upstairs office it's a 24/7 online revolution for him. It's also his birthday. Happy Birthday to him!
February 11th, 2011: We go to breakfast at the local IHOP to celebrate Mubarak stepping down and the achievement of the aspirations of the Egyptian revolution. It's out with the dictator of 30 years and in with democracy. They want "bread, freedom, and social justice."
July 15th, 2011: I end work at KBOI in Boise, Idaho to transfer with my broadcasting company to KVAL in Eugene, Oregon.
July 18th, 2011: We moved to Eugene, Oregon and I start work as a multi-media journalist at KVAL. I edit morning and noon shows. Cover morning news stories. Shoot, write, edit for broadcast plus publish to the web and fill-in produce. He decides to start full-time work and we're making a dull income which was nice.
September 2011: We moved from a temporary one room basement apartment that was infested with spiders, had a bathroom down the hall, and smelled like a mixture of mildew and urine into a spacious but older 2 bedroom apartment on a month to month contract. He stops working and decides to focus on studying for his US medical exams to practice medicine here in the States.
October 2011: We buy our first used car together. It's nearly 20 years old but came from the acting Imam at our local Islamic Center.
December 28th, 2011: We celebrated our 5th anniversary together in Eugene, OR. At this point we're getting on our feet so we don't do anything but stay inside. He's studying for his USMLEs and I'm working in the news business which is a 24/7 busy cycle.
May 2012: He flew to LA to take the USMLE Step 2 CS and passes with high performance.
December 2012: He takes the USMLE Step 1 in Eugene and passes with above average performance.
December 28th, 2012: We celebrated our 6th anniversary by doing nothing again, I think. We have no money. I've been supporting us on a single income for awhile so he can stay home and focus on studying for his medical exams. He just had his second big medical exam and barely started part-time translation/interpretation work. I'm super stressed out at my job as they lay off more people and increase demand on the remaining work force.
March 1st, 2013: The news business and our broadcasting company is in a great state of transition. His translation work is picking up. With his consent I choose to leave KVAL to work for a local independent production company to have the opportunity to work on a documentary film. It was about organic farming and permaculture in Oregon. The funding then falls through shortly after we started production and I'm unemployed with my husband supporting us. Also there were some unforeseen elderly family member health issues that created problems for the film-maker which coincided with the funding falling through and took precedence. I guess it was just meant to be.
June 30th, 2013: Egypt Revolution 2.0 happens. The Tamarod movement says the Egyptian revolution has been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood via President Morsi and they petition for Morsi to step down or have the military step in and take over. With everything going on with my husband such as applying for US citizenship and studying for US medical exams he's not that interested in paying much attention to the political developments in Egypt at the time.
July 3rd, 2013: The Egyptian military took over after giving former President Morsi an ultimatum to step down and he didn't. We filed for Naturalization in Oregon.
July 2013: He takes the USMLE Step 2 CK in Medford and passes with an average performance. He could have done better if our 20 year old car hadn't broken down twice in the middle of our four hour drive. We had to have it towed and rent a Uhaul to complete the drive. He got five hours of sleep before the exam. We couldn't reschedule it because it would cost $400 and it was the last day to take the exam to get the results in time for the ERAS in September and the only location left in our area to take it.
August 28th, 2013: He becomes ECFMG certified! He's now recognized as a doctor by the American Board Standards. He took and passed the same medical exams that American Medical Graduates have to take during medical school. It means he is recognized as having a MBBCh degree from Egypt and a MD from the United States. Less than half of the international medical graduate doctors who attempt it will achieve this.
September 13th, 2013: We sell our first old car and put that money into an upgrade for a newer used car that is more economical. It comes from a friend at the local Islamic Center who owns a used car lot and helps us find the perfect replacement that fits us. We are so excited for this modest improvement and love our second new used car! It feels like our first real car together. We named it "Zooba" based on a 1970's song in Egypt where a family rides along and sings together about loving their old reliable car.
September 15th, 2013: After becoming ECFMG certified we applied though the electronic residency application system (ERAS) for the medical residency Match 2014!
September 28th, 2013: We held the International Medical Graduate (IMG) equivalent of a MD's "White Coat Party" for his ECFMG certification on my birthday. It's a co-party because he doesn't want all the attention on himself. I'm just happy we actually get to have a party for once! I've only been waiting for this day for several long years. Mostly it's his friends from the Islamic center that come and a handful of my former co-workers and neighbors that I invited. It was a potluck but the Egyptian women cooked most of it special for him, and I had a special white coat cake made for him for the event.
October 2013: He flew to his first interview for a resident position.
November 2013: He flew to his second interview for a resident position. His younger brother also had an engagement party in Egypt. We weren't able to attend as it's the middle of the interview season for the match but we plan to attend his younger brother's wedding in Egypt which will be held in 2014.
November 25th, 2013: We had his interview for Naturalization in Portland and he was APPROVED!!!
November 26th, 2013: We had his Oath Ceremony in Portland, Oregon where he becomes a naturalized US CITIZEN!!!
December 2013: (At this point in time as the interview season for the match is not over until Feb) He interviews in three other places for a resident position during the month of December.
December 28th, 2013: We celebrate our 7th anniversary and have tentative plans.
The Year 2014 - We fly back to Egypt early in the year after his interview season is over. It will be his first visit back in 4 years. We don't know what the future will bring but hopefully we match in March at one of the places he interviewed at. Then we'll fly back to the United States and move to the State where he will start a residency with everyone else on July 1st. We'll live in this place for the next three years and go from there.