Love Is Not Tourism

Love Is Not Tourism is a global movement dedicated to raise awareness about long distance relationship couples and families separated by travel bans/border closures during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some couples had to wait for a long time before they were allowed to travel and reunite with their loved ones. As of today, some of them are still waiting.

Ahmed and I had to wait because we married during strict measures. But 2021 came full of hope for us so we would like to share some of it…

You can visit their website Love Is Not Tourism If you would like to share your success story or feel inspired by others, then you should check out The Love Visa.

My Egyptian Adventure: How It All Started

I’ve wanted to share all about my relationship for the longest time. But for some reason, this part of my life feels so special that I wasn’t ready yet. A lot of people had asked me a thousand questions since I came back from my trip to Egypt so I guess it was time I shared a little of it.

I met Ahmed back in 2019 on a dating website. But before you say anything , no, I wasn’t looking for love in all the wrong places. Someone suggested I check the website out and since I was single, why not look at some profiles? I got a message from that cute egyptian and soon enough we exchanged Instagram accounts. I have to tell you that it was a recipe for disaster: he was looking for something serious and I just wanted to meet people and make new friends, he’s all fit and I’m all fat. A few days and insults later, we decided to delete our dating profiles and give it a try. You can like someone because of their looks you know, but you fall in love with their soul and that’s what was happening to us. You can say we met each other by chance, but stayed together by fate.

He was everything I didn’t know I always wanted. We tried our best to get to know each other using every social and messaging app available to us and of course, we met each other’s parents via video call. Did I mention he was very serious about this relationship? As a heart attack. So it wasn’t a surprise that I wanted to impress him on Valentine’s Day (here’s how) and guess what? It worked! He asked me to marry him that day and I said yes without thinking about it twice. I was more than happy. We made it official the next month and that means we told our families. His family was very happy and supportive about it. Mine thought I had lost my mind. Maybe I did lost my mind for him?

A few weeks after that, the Covid 19 pandemic was announced and it felt like the whole world came to a halt. We saw our hope dwindle as airports and borders closed and traveling was restricted. We never stopped looking for options. Then my friend Sean suggested we get married online. Ahmed and I discussed the option for some time. He still jokes about it and tells me it was worse than a job interview. I mean, he was applying for the husband position after all! We married online on August 10, 2020. Yes ONLINE! Yes, legally. It was kind of a secret. I didn’t want my family to call me crazy until after I was married. To my surprise, they were ready to support me in my decision (after saying we were crazy of course). It took us around 4 months to certify, translate and legalize papers to have our marriage registered in both countries (US and Egypt).

Fast forward to February 2021 after months of texting, talking, video calling and sleeping together “on calls”, my brother took my son Jay and me to the airport. Ahmed and I were finally ready to start writing the next chapter of our love story in Egypt! Our journey to Cairo was a mini adventure… but that’s a story for another day.

Long distance relationships are not easy. Closing the distance takes time. So until then, we will keep writing the most beautiful love story. Our happily ever after.

Giby’s Misadventures…Now streaming.

I started this year thinking that it felt kinda like a trial subscription to a streaming service that you can’t cancel. Three months into it and I still ask myself “What will happen in today’s episode of Giby’s Misadventures?” I mean, last season in the show that is my life was incredible. It was full of unexpected things like making it through a pandemic (we’re still doing it) and getting married. Even I didn’t expected that one but turns out that it was the best decision of my life. Will tell you about it later.

I’m starting this season with a different cast. People who I thought would always be there for me left and others who left in the previous season came back. People I never gave a chance are now recurring characters in my show. Of course I’m always grateful to the ones who stay no matter what goes on in the show. I’ve made a few mistakes, I know, but I keep learning as the show goes on.

Contrary to a show you see on TV, There’s no pre-written script. There’s a lot of improvising going on. I’m learning that things don’t always go the way I plan them or the way I think they should. There are things that go wrong and I can’t always fix them. Sadly, some things have to stay broken even if I wasn’t the one who broke them. Turns out I don’t have an unlimited supply of props in this show.

I visited my husband in Egypt last month (Episode 2?) and I learned that you can actually forget about bad times for a while and keep looking for better ones as long as the people who love you are by your side. But that whole Egypt thing is a collection of stories that need some time to tell so I will be writing about it soon.

So stay tune for the next episode of Giby’s Misadventures. Now streaming on My So-Called Life.

Love of Mine

Few days ago I stumbled upon a video by motivational speaker Daniel Habif and what it said resonated with me. It reminded me of the importance of giving priority and attention to your partner in a relationship. A lot of relationships “go cold” because we make a simple mistake: we stop giving the same attention, priority and details once the courtship phase is over and  “we are sure” we have the other person. I watched the video a few times and spent quite an amount of time writing what it said in English, so I could send it to my S/O. I shared it with him not because I though he was failing at it, but because I want to build the best relationship possible with him. One in which both can feel that we are taking care of each other and giving the other the love we deserve.

Because of this, I wanted to share the part that captivated my attention the most and really touched my soul. I hope it talks to you in the same way it talked to me.

“For me it’s about winning her over 31 times a day, a month. This requires commitment, focus, art. This is about that if life goes round, you go around with her. It’s about her always being on your priority list, it’s about her being the responsible of your “what do I wear today?” It’s about praying together, it’s about being three: God, her and you. It’s about you getting lost, to find yourself in her, it’s about who you are, for her to be. It’s about making her laugh and that you’re the one who ends up melting with her laughter.

Stay with whoever makes space for you in her/his life, because in her/his bed … any stupid one does. It’s about not falling in love with the white dress, neither of the wedding, nor the ring, nor of the house. It’s not about looking for restaurants with stars and VIP lounges, it’s about your best neckline, being your brain. It’s about not wanting to change the other and the other for that very reason decides to change everything for you. It’s about that in a sick world, she is your medicine! It’s about you losing, so that the marriage wins. Many, many say that if you love something, you should let it go. Please! Only a coward would let go of something he loves and does not fight for it. If you do not get it, at least you will know that you gave your life for something higher than you: LOVE. If the gold gets oxidized, it was not gold. If love ends, it’s not love.

And please! Learn this darling: not because you have reached at the end or in the last place to someone’s heart, this does not mean that you are the least important. For me this means, that all the previous ones were not important enough to stay forever. There are those who look for their better half to complete his lost half, but there are some others, that we are looking for a complete person to make orangeade together… for our lifetime.”

– Daniel Habif

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Something To Be Thankful For…

Thankful for all the great people in my life and the part of the journey we shared… the ones that are still here with me and the ones who aren’t anymore, they left behind experiences that shaped my life in some way.

To the ones who decided to stay – friends and family by blood and bond – thank you for helping me write the story of my life, doesn’t matter if it was a page or a chapter. Last but not least… I’m thankful for the brave people who decided to love me: you know who you are.

 

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A & J : A Love Story In The Making

Everyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for a romantic story. So I’m sorry for the friend who complained about me writing about love… I promise I will tell you some other stories, just not this time.

This time, I will tell you about A and his friend J. I met A last summer, he was working a summer job through one of those youth government programs and was placed at my office (another government agency). Like any other teenager, A was involved with sports, friends, and social media. What really caught my attention was that the highlight of his summer was the visit of a longtime friend. For the time that he was working at my office, I heard a lot of things about J. His eyes would lit up every time he talked about her and I just wanted to know more as days passed because this was a real love story in the making.

A and J were best friends growing up together until J’s mother moved her to the U.S mainland. You would think that they would grow apart since they were not only physically apart, but both involved in normal teenager things. To my surprise when I asked A about it, he told me how they decided to keep their relationship long distance by calling each other, texting, video calling and of course, the help of social media, our ally in the battle against long distance.

I was clearly impressed by A and his commitment even when other teenagers didn’t seem to have his level of understanding and faith in a relationship like this. He is very mature in everything regarding his LDR and his future plans with his S/O. Now this here is something you don’t see every day – a guy with a plan! They have one more year of high school before they can start to close the distance and they are not taking any steps back. He is very sure j is not only her S/O but her soul mate… he was sure of this since they were younger.

I know a lot of people will think or say that they are too young. But let this be an example of dedication, effort, commitment…all key ingredients to build a lasting relationship. Let this be an example of what love can do if we learn to nurture it from a young age. Let this be an amazing love story (in the making).

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Drowning In The Sea Of Life…

Part 1 – Part 2

There’s a song by Ricardo Arjona that describes falling out of love and a relationship dying/ending as a slow progressing illness. Kind of like what happened to my relationship. Listening to it makes me think about how all the signs were there but either we chose to ignore it or we thought we could work harder to make things better. I even remember a friend mentioning that if we missed a window of opportunity, the relationship would surely die. The thing is that no matter how much you think about it and see the signs, you try to do the impossible to save it.

The beginning of the end. In August 2017,  with the help of my Sis , I planned (and paid) my dream vacation with my S/O in Egypt. For reasons I will not detail here, we ended up canceling the trip 2 days before I was supposed to travel (December 2017). I was devastated but I tried to keep a positive attitude when we talked about it and made all the promises that I knew we wouldn’t keep. It was really hard to come to terms with what happened. In part because we had months to prepare for it and some of the reasons why we canceled could’ve been avoided or worked with if addressed on time (not 2 days before traveling) and the other part is because in a LDR a meeting can take months or even years to schedule due to different life events. In our case we waited for college and then army. Needless to say, it took us some time to get our relationship back on track after that blow.

The second time around. Fast forward to 2018 and me making plans again. I talked to both the airline and travel agency back when the trip was canceled and they both told me the same thing: the ticket was still on hold but in order to re schedule it, I would have to pay a fine. In August 2018, exactly one year later,  I called the travel agency to re schedule my trip to Egypt. I was surprised to discover that I didn’t have to pay a fine exactly, instead I had to pay the difference between what I paid back in 2017 (around $1376) and the value of the same trip at that moment (around $3200). I wasn’t prepared for that. I had saved more money to pay the fine and make extra arrangements but nowhere near the almost $2000 I had to come up with in like 3 days. That’s the amount of days I had to make it work 3 days.  I had enough money to cover a place to stay and all other expenses while traveling but not enough to include that amount and there was no way I could come up with all of it in 3 days. I talked to my S/O about all of it but I knew he was unable to help at the moment. 

Drowning in the sea of life. At that point in our relationship I have to admit that I was evaluating if trying again was the right choice. My S/O was convinced we could make it and didn’t want us to give up.  We thought we’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel when he got a new job. That job put him away from home, in a shared bedroom without free days until after 30 days approximately and further away from each other as a couple. Our jobs, time difference, our lives… our relationship was slowly drowning. I remember his first days off we barely talked because his siblings were home for vacation. At this point, I knew there wasn’t enough interest in our relationship.  Text messages became repetitive, almost like copy paste. Conversations became superfluous. I guess I was just waiting for an imaginary lifeguard to throw me/us a lifebuoy. 

The end (December 3, 2018). Like i said at the beginning, it was all about seeing the signs, but doing the impossible to save it. In the end, I found the courage to ask an impossible question: When did our relationship ended? He never answered when but he agreed that our relationship ended and that we killed it. After that I had to ask the next impossible question: What do you want? his answer was clear. 

drowning

After everything is said and done you are left with more questions than answers. You are forced to think about how it all went down and ask yourself if there was something you could’ve done or should’ve done to change the outcome. Your answer will always be yes and you will torture yourself replaying all of the possible scenarios in your head because after all, you know what they say… pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Maybe I will talk more about that later. 

gibypea3

 

 

A Little Crush…

For the longest time had a crush on someone who didn’t know what he wanted or couldn’t decide how and if to go after it. I guess it happens. One of those people who keeps you at arm’s length for their convenience but when they feel you are slowly slipping away, says the right words to bring you closer again.

In the end, you can’t help but think about how much that hurts. Maybe because when we were “together” I always gave everything and after a while, he always ended up leaving.

Having any kind of relationship with him is like eating candy when you know you have a toothache: bad for you, but you can’t help it. When we do try, our efforts turn into a time bomb. The only thing is we can’t really see the timer, we are just waiting for it to explode damaging everything we built at ground zero… Like a never ending loop where it all starts and end at the same place over and over again.

How many times can you survive a nuclear blast? How many times does it has to end before you can move on and “crush” someplace else.

Dreams Do Come True…

Most fairy tales start with a damsel in distress and the knight in shining armor that comes to her rescue. This isn’t one of those stories. This story starts with my Sis, a warrior princess and her valiant prince who were not afraid to fight the war for love.

Their story is one filled with sacrifices, lost internet connections, sleepless nights because of time difference and of course, the most difficult trial of all, distance. Armed with patience, courage and determination and using love as their most valuable weapon and shield, I am proud to say that my Sis and her prince conquered the first battle: Marriage.

You see, my sister, the warrior princess is from the US and her boyfriend, the valiant prince is from Pakistan. They met online and had a long distance relationship for several years. All their sacrifices finally paid off when they were able to get all the paperwork done to marry in a third country on April 9th. I won’t lie here. It took time, planning and lots of money. This isn’t a battle for the faint of heart or the faithless, but what I want to do is to give others a little idea – using their experiences as reference – so they can know what to expect and how to prepare.

This are some of the documents needed:

  • Passport – valid passport issued by your country’s government certifying identity and nationality primarily for international travel.
  • Birth Certificate – documents certain circumstances of a person’s birth such as date, full name, place of birth, etc. Has to be recent.
  • Single Status Affidavit – this is to certify that you are not married to another person.
  • Divorce Decree – only if you were previously married and divorced. Recent certified copy of the original decree.

Keep in mind that these are only some of the documents required. The documents needed will depend mostly on the country you are getting married. Some countries will required your paperwork to be translated to some other language (English for example) and for them to be apostilled if the country is a member of the Hague Convention (Apostille Convention). That specific procedure allows your document to be certified for legal purposes internationally.  Remember that there are other steps and fees that you may need to take/pay in the country. Always do your research by yourself or with the help of a professional, for example, a lawyer.

Those are key pieces of information that will help you in your journey for love, in your way to marriage and in the battle against distance. When we are in love we think we are an army of two. Sometimes it might even feel like it. Know you are not alone. There are others like my Sis who won the battle. Her story doesn’t end here. The warrior princess and her prince valiant are getting ready for their next battle together. Now they have to plan their next adventure and build their kingdom together. I can’t say “And they lived happily ever after”… at least not yet. But what I can say to you is this: The future may have many names… but for that person, the name is yours.

Drowning In The Sea Of Life…

Part 1 – Part 2

There’s a song by Ricardo Arjona that describes falling out of love and a relationship dying/ending as a slow progressing illness. Kind of like what happened to my relationship. Listening to it makes me think about how all the signs were there but either we chose to ignore it or we thought we could work harder to make things better. I even remember a friend mentioning that if we missed a window of opportunity, the relationship would surely die. The thing is that no matter how much you think about it and see the signs, you try to do the impossible to save it.

The beginning of the end. In August 2017,  with the help of my Sis , I planned (and paid) my dream vacation with my S/O in Egypt. For reasons I will not detail here, we ended up canceling the trip 2 days before I was supposed to travel (December 2017). I was devastated but I tried to keep a positive attitude when we talked about it and made all the promises that I knew we wouldn’t keep. It was really hard to come to terms with what happened. In part because we had months to prepare for it and some of the reasons why we canceled could’ve been avoided or worked with if addressed on time (not 2 days before traveling) and the other part is because in a LDR a meeting can take months or even years to schedule due to different life events. In our case we waited for college and then army. Needless to say, it took us some time to get our relationship back on track after that blow.

The second time around. Fast forward to 2018 and me making plans again. I talked to both the airline and travel agency back when the trip was canceled and they both told me the same thing: the ticket was still on hold but in order to re schedule it, I would have to pay a fine. In August 2018, exactly one year later,  I called the travel agency to re schedule my trip to Egypt. I was surprised to discover that I didn’t have to pay a fine exactly, instead I had to pay the difference between what I paid back in 2017 (around $1376) and the value of the same trip at that moment (around $3200). I wasn’t prepared for that. I had saved more money to pay the fine and make extra arrangements but nowhere near the almost $2000 I had to come up with in like 3 days. That’s the amount of days I had to make it work 3 days.  I had enough money to cover a place to stay and all other expenses while traveling but not enough to include that amount and there was no way I could come up with all of it in 3 days. I talked to my S/O about all of it but I knew he was unable to help at the moment. 

Drowning in the sea of life. At that point in our relationship I have to admit that I was evaluating if trying again was the right choice. My S/O was convinced we could make it and didn’t want us to give up.  We thought we’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel when he got a new job. That job put him away from home, in a shared bedroom without free days until after 30 days approximately and further away from each other as a couple. Our jobs, time difference, our lives… our relationship was slowly drowning. I remember his first days off we barely talked because his siblings were home for vacation. At this point, I knew there wasn’t enough interest in our relationship.  Text messages became repetitive, almost like copy paste. Conversations became superfluous. I guess I was just waiting for an imaginary lifeguard to throw me/us a lifebuoy. 

The end (December 3, 2018). Like i said at the beginning, it was all about seeing the signs, but doing the impossible to save it. In the end, I found the courage to ask an impossible question: When did our relationship ended? He never answered when but he agreed that our relationship ended and that we killed it. After that I had to ask the next impossible question: What do you want? his answer was clear. 

drowning

After everything is said and done you are left with more questions than answers. You are forced to think about how it all went down and ask yourself if there was something you could’ve done or should’ve done to change the outcome. Your answer will always be yes and you will torture yourself replaying all of the possible scenarios in your head because after all, you know what they say… pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Maybe I will talk more about that later. 

gibypea3