When most Americans think about the countries in the Middle East, they think about long stretches of endless sand and camels that are portrayed through the media and Hollywood. That is what Becky Alkhaili thought before she moved to the United Arab Emirates.
Alkhaili was a Putnam County resident attending Vincennes University to become a paralegal when she met her husband Ahmend, who was attending Indiana State University, through a mutual friend.
The two were married in September of 1995.
Alkhaili told the BannerGraphic that she was scared when she first traveled to her new home. She did not know what it was going to be like. "But once I got there, it was a city," she said. "Its like a normal big city here with skyscrapers and five-star hotels."
The UAE is located east of Saudi Arabia and south of the Persian Gulf. There are a total of seven emirates in the country. Alkhaili and her family live in Abu Dhabi, which is also the capital city of UAE.
City life was something different for Alkhaili after moving to UAE. She also said that meeting other people from different countries was different. "You've got your Indians, Palestinians, Jordanians, Syrians, Americans, British, Canadians," she said about the large country.
Alkhaili also learned from these people, especially about their different lives.
Alkhaili and her family make regular visits back to Putnam County and the U.S. But there is no shock for them because life in Abu Dhabi is quite similar to life here. Alkhaili gets together with a group of 40 to 50 Americans and British women who are married to UAE locals. She said, "One week we'll go for breakfast, one week we'll go for dinner.
"And then we just get the children all together."
Alkhaili said that school was tough for her children there. Starting in September the children have a lot of studying to do. On top of school time, the children also study for four hours outside the classroom. "The level of schooling is very hard compared to what I went through here," she said.
Two of Alkhaili's children attend an American school, while another attends an Arabic school. All three take the exact same courses, which are quite similar to the subjects taught in the U.S. Geography, science, math and English. But they also study Arabic and have Islamic studies.
It is also required of them to learn these subjects in both English and Arabic, which makes it harder on the children.
When asked about her children's lives both in UAE and U.S., Alkhaili commented that their lives are quite similar, but there are more liberal things here than there. Especially the dating amongst the locals, even though there is dating amongst the nationals. "But other than that, they go to the movies, they go to the mall," she said.
"Basically, everything is the same."
With the UAE's close proximity to Iraq and having friends from Palestine and Lebanon, the wars occurring over in these countries have affected Alkhaili. She said she thinks it is said that many innocent lives are being taken for no reason.
Since living with a large portion of the Arab community, Alkhaili has had the opportunity to pick up on their feelings about the wars. "I have Lebanese friends, I have Palestinian friends," she said. "It is said for me to hear family members have been killed."
The country has not had any immediate effect from the wars. When the war in Iraq was beginning to brew, the Emirates were split. Some were for the war, while the others were skeptical about it.
Alkhaili and her family came to Greencastle the first week of July and will be staying in the U.S. until the last week of August. The family has all ready spent a weekend in the Smokey Mountains, and are planning to take trips to Las Vegas, Michigan, San Francisco, and possibly New York before they have to return for the start of school on Sept. 4.