The Door of No Return

The Black Expat

“I’m tired of America. I’m tired of its baggage. I’m happy where I am. I didn’t like it. I don’t like it. I’m done with it.” –Randall Robinson

There’s nothing easy about uprooting yourself from the only home you’ve known. A certain part of your being is permanently rooted in the soil you sprouted in. For myself, I am forever a New Yorker, whether I like it or loath it. But in my teenage years, the idea of traveling and living elsewhere began to pique my interest. Surprisingly, that curiosity has taken me much further than my parents’ homeland of Jamaica and even the African continent I thought I would repatriate to. Instead, I’ve found a patch of peace in an unlikely place–the Sultanate of Oman in the Arabian Peninsula. Continue reading

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Finding Home in the Muslim World

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The reality of raising a family abroad was like a distant dream that suddenly came true. My husband and I packed up our life in Pennsylvania in 2008 and headed to Yemen to study Arabic and Qur’an.  A year later, we relocated to Algeria to teach English and found ourselves on the cusp of parenthood. We scrambled to find an opportunity in the Arab world where one income would suffice. Between an offer in Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman, we chose the latter and so the recently unknown to us country became our daughter’s first home. Continue reading

Scheduling a Baby: Loss and Triumph

The little guy we've been waiting for.

Some women plan babies like hair appointments. Their fertility is mapped out on color-coded calendars and forecasted like the weather on mobile device applications. Even delivery dates are selected in advance with preference to national holidays and weekends. Managing my reproduction has always been mysterious and elusive to me, at best. So much so, that after more than four years of marriage, I began to question if we could have children at all. Undeterred, my husband and I continued on our childless travel adventures abroad. We always said that once we found a suitable place to settle, we’d explore fertility treatment and adoption if need be.  Continue reading

The Hand-Picked Helper

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“I’m dead!” said the Afghani elder shrouded under blankets on her tiny cot. “No, you’re not dead, Auntie.” I tried to assure her that the air conditioning would not take her life.   Her comfort was always at odds with the menopausal Pakistani aunties at the other end of our crowded tent. Between the young and old, healthy and ill, wealthy and middle class, there was always a conflict to be resolved in the group of nearly 100 women. Each tenant had only a thin mattress, about the size of a beach towel, to occupy. For sleeping, eating, and praying, this little rectangle was the only place to call your own and, by necessity, it was constantly invaded like an insecure territory. After several days, everyone started to lose their temper and get snappy. I felt my own patience evaporating in that valley of Makkah and wondered why no one briefed me about how difficult this part of Hajj would be. Continue reading

Walking Down the Aisle With Your Wallet

Some tilework at museum's entrance

The advent of credit means that all kinds of goods and services can be bought and sold without cash in hand.  There are home loans, car loans, and now wedding loans to ensure that your special day is nothing short of a picture-perfect production.  Celebrating the union of two souls, lives, and families is a felicitous occasion but is it worth years of debt?  What makes a wedding unique is not the designer of the dress, elaborate rented hall, or mile-long guest list.  A special wedding communicates the unique culture and values of the families involved with authenticity and integrity.  This kind of occasion doesn’t need to be heavy in cost, but it does need to be weighty in thought.  Here are a few tips for making your wedding day one to remember without a bill that you’ll never forget. Continue reading

Courting as a New Muslim

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“I’m not a scholar or anything…but I think that’s…like…haraam (prohibited)” said my friend, after telling her I was going out to eat with my fiancé.  Having accepted Islam more than a year prior, this was the first time I was hit with the H-word.  To hear that heinous word directed at me was dizzying at first.  She went on further to explain that my fiancé isn’t my husband yet and that I shouldn’t be alone with him.  Of this, we were both crystal clear.  Even though our wedding plans were scheduled only a few months later, we knew that privacy was not yet our right.  Our meeting spaces had always been public:  the campus library, street festivals, and restaurants.  My friend offered to join us that evening for dinner which was enjoyable, but the whole ordeal left me reflective, rethinking my approach to courting as a new Muslim. Continue reading

Growing a Child’s Love for the Quran

Art in Jakarta

“Sami, please”, my near-three-year old daughter requests from her car seat before my key can reach the ignition.  Who is Sami?  Is he a sibling, toy, or cartoon character?  No, he is none other than Sami Yusuf, the world-renowned Islamic recording artist.  Alongside Mesut Kurtis and Rachid Gholam, this trio comprises her best friends.  They sing anasheed, or songs of Islamic prayers, prose and poetry.  A car ride is incomplete without their accompaniment.  Continue reading