Daily news and comments on the situation in post Saddam Iraq by an Iraqi dentist living in Texas
If you want me to post about my experiences in the US, ask me questions. I don't even know where to start. Best,
Do you feel like Americans are, on balance, hostile to Iraqi refugees like yourself, or to Arabs in general?
I should probably qualify that question. I meant hostile to resident Arabs, in general. I think it's beyond reasonable question but that there's sizable percentage of our population who're suspicious of pretty much all of the Arabian nations.
They seem more wary and scared of us than hostile. In general Americans have been cautiously friendly to me everywhere I go, especially down here in Texas. NYCers were a bit more suspicious, but not outright hostile.
"NYCers were a bit more suspicious…"Doesn't mean anything; they're like that with everybody, even each other.
I can't speak for other Arabs though. Saudis here in SATX (and there's plenty of them) seem to have a different experience than mine.
To what do you attribute the difference? (Assuming you even have a theory.)
Umm, something to do with the Sep 11 hijackers being mostly Saudi?
That might well be it. I suppose it might be best to ask a Saudi or two how often that actually comes up.As for me, my admittedly limited experience with Saudi males (I have no experience interacting with Saudi females) leads me to the conclusion that they just tend to come across as arrogant pricks; I have speculated that their national pastime might be practicing at arrogant prickery.
It's an interesting part of town I live in, btw. Iraqi Shia refugees (with some Sunnis and Mandaeans), established Iranian expats, Saudi military trainees and pilots, all living in one small confined area. Some Lebanese Christians and Shia, Egyptians, and Jordanians thrown in the mix. Hijab is not uncommon to see. The native population is largely military types from other parts of the US (there's like half a dozen military bases and Air Force bases here), Hispanics (Mexicans, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, but largely Mexicans, both residents and illegals), middle class Blacks, and a few White natives. A very interesting powder keg.
You are also right about the Saudi males. You should observe them here in the local hookah cafes. They also act very predatory towards American females, particularly White blonde American females. And that's where the problems begin.
What about your job situation Zeyad. I know you're a dentist. Could you practice dentistry in the US with the credentials you had from Iraq? Or did you need to in some way get certified in the US? Or perhaps you had a western degree to begin with?I ask because a lot of immigrants to Sweden work jobs that are far below their education level and the jobs they worked in their homeland. Lots of doctors driving taxis here, which seems to me a waste of talent (not to belittle cabbies, but you don't need a Phd to drive a taxi).How was it to enter the US job market for you? Were there many obstacles of did it go smoothly?
[Zeyad] If you want me to post about my experiences in the US, ask me questions.lol! How many?Was there a specific reason you chose that neighborhood? Or would another be just as good? Do you feel comfortable in others?How do you like the weather in Texas? I would think that it is similar to Iraq?Marcus already asked about the job situation, but I will second it. The economy has been tough on our newest residents.How are your family doing? Are they close to you, so you can see each other often? You know I never did like the idea of Nabil being in New Zealand. He said he really liked it here when he first arrived, but anyone coming from a war zone might say that. Has he been able to further his studies?What have you liked about the US the most, and what have you disliked? No fair saying it's quieter than Iraq. :)Okay, that's enough for now. (And I was very good about not asking too personal of questions, I might add. :) )
Cool video, btw.
What about your job situation Zeyad. I know you're a dentist. Could you practice dentistry in the US with the credentials you had from Iraq? Or did you need to in some way get certified in the US? Or perhaps you had a western degree to begin with?Very tough situation, both to find a job and to qualify my dental degree. I now freelance and also work as a security guard, which allows me to study for my qualification exams. Once I passed the exams I couldnt' get into a school because they seem to prefer Indian dental graduates in the few international qualifying programs at US dental schools. So I'm forced to live with my parents (quite a crappy and abusive situation for me) to make ends meet. My journalism degree was worthless as I couldn't get a job in that field, not even an internship, except non-paying ones which I rejected as a waste of my precious time. Lots of doctors driving taxis here, which seems to me a waste of talent (not to belittle cabbies, but you don't need a Phd to drive a taxi). Most of my relatives, even my father and brother at some point, work as cabbies. How was it to enter the US job market for you? Were there many obstacles of did it go smoothly?it was easier for me to get a job as a security guard so now I'm clinging to this job despite many obstacles (jealous family members who keep questioning what I'm doing and trying to trip me over. They now think I'm working for the CIA). LOLZ.
How many?LOL. I'm open to questions as long as we keep it here in the comments. Was there a specific reason you chose that neighborhood? Or would another be just as good? Do you feel comfortable in others?It's considered more upscale in comparison to other parts of town and the rents are acceptable and also because when I moved here and stated wth a relative it was the first area I looked in, though now I'm wishing I could move downtown or somewhere away from the immigrant community as I want no part in their petty problems and lifestyle. They keep dragging me into it, including my own family, who have so far failed to assimilate and are isolating themselves (they're too embarrassed because their English isn't very good. They're even embarrassed to ask questions at the supermarket). How do you like the weather in Texas? I would think that it is similar to Iraq?I like it more than NYC weather. It gets quite muggy in the summer but with 24 hour electricity, I can handle it. How are your family doing? Are they close to you, so you can see each other often? You know I never did like the idea of Nabil being in New Zealand. He said he really liked it here when he first arrived, but anyone coming from a war zone might say that. Has he been able to further his studies?I haven't been on good terms with my family, especially Nabil. He has changed a lot. They have been abusive, nosy, curious, and sometimes outright hostile. THey called the cops on me twice in the last couple of years. And I had to go into protective whatever you call it at a hospital and I have to pay the bill for the next 3 years, which made me angrier, bitter at them, and hating them more. I actually regret that I helped bring them to this country, and I wish they would move back and spare me their societal and superstitious crap (My dad told me I was possessed by the devil as soon as I got out of the hospital last time). What have you liked about the US the most, and what have you disliked? No fair saying it's quieter than Iraq. :)Being a big fan of American movies and cartoons, I have liked a lot about the country, but sometimes less the people, though that could be because of lack of friends and support group in this area I'm living in now, which forces me to spend more time with my family and relatives, and friends from back home, which has not been very helpful at all, and only served to alienate me from the culture I chose to be part of.
"My journalism degree was worthless as I couldn't get a job in that field, not even an internship…"Try writing up some pieces anyway, and submit them to publishers you think might be at all interested in the subject matter. If you have the spare time to do it, that is. Might get a door opened.
That 3:23 PM posting didn't come out quite right. Reads like an order, Do This!Didn't mean it that way, just a passing thought I had, and I thought I'd make a suggestion.
My writing hasn't been very good lately. I haven't wrote in ages. Anyway, I've been thinking of posting on the Guardian's Comment if Free website again. We'll see.
Maybe do a piece on the immigrant community in SATX and drop a copy on the local editor for the SA Express-News? Give ya a chance to practice on your writing skills without a deadline, even if it had no other beneficial effect. And ya don't have to tell anybody you're doing it.
One caveat there: Remember the phrase nom-de-plume
One problem I've always had finding sources to quote on my stories was that nobody ever felt comfortable talking to me. My first reporting beat in NYC was Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, and all the Arabs there thought I was a FED. The local Imam pretended he was asleep when I stopped by the mosque to interview him.
I can see how that could be a problem.Maybe do a piece on dealin’ with the white folks for the immigrants then. Why it's okay to ask questions in the grocery stores, or somethin’ like that. Point was to un-rust your writing skills as much as anything else anyway. Doesn't matter so much what ya write.
I'm sure Marcus will be pleased to learn that Sweden is experiencing an almost unprecidented economic boom, brought to them courtesy of supply side economics. Or so the fella says.
The fella's talkin' horseshit. A big chunk of Sweden's unprecedented "boom" is based on massive increases in private debt, helped along by a property bubble, just like Ireland's "boom" up to five years ago. Ain't gonna end nice.
Apparently the fella talks horseshit quite a lot. And has an overinflated opinion of hisself. And keeps changin' his mind when it turns out he was wrong.http://marknesop.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/anders-aslund-undergoes-emergency-petulance-bypass-expected-to-recover-fully-says-doctor/So how did y'all run across him? :)
Supply-siders mostly ‘talk horseshit’; duplicity is their stock-in-trade. I tend to keep an eye on ‘em for new developments. Two years ago they were all pumped up by all the lies they could tell about the Irish economic boom, and the number of times in a day that they could attribute it to the (then) 11.something corporate tax rate. 11.5% I think it was, went up a point in the last couple of years, didn't it?Anyway, they don't none of them remember being enthralled by their Irish story just a little while ago; it's like that story never was told, so I been watching for their next set of lies to surface.
No, it has been 12.5% for the last ten years. And since our economic miracle vanished in a puff of smoke (like the cheap magician's trick that it was) five years ago, anyone who was still referencing us positively two years ago was seriously behind the times. Maybe y'all are getting confused about how we are often touted as the most successful of the European economic basket cases, through the successful application of fiscal austerity. However, just because we are not settin' light to buildin's and burnin' effigies of Angela Merkel in the streets (yet), the fact of the matter is that we're a dead man walking, without hope of reprieve.
A German view of the Irish dilemma (Spiegel)An Irish view of the German view (some random punter)
"…anyone who was still referencing us positively two years ago was seriously behind the times."Yes, quite. It is, of course, almost an article of faith (we may call this ‘FoxFaith’ I reckon, for want of a better term) that their followers should not be polluting themselves by exposure to what they derisively call the ‘mainstream media. This faith is often helpful in keeping a faerie tale goin’ ‘til a replacement tale can be concocted.
And since we're almost already on the subject of American politics…Today's news re: American politics:(Yesterday's news actually, but maybe still news to most):Romney outraised Obama for campaign funds last month, approximately $76 million to $60 million. That's for the month. What with the economy stallin’ out and the cash advantage takin’ off, been a really good couple of weeks for the Republicans.
I'm open to questions as long as we keep it here in the comments.No nosy emails asking intimate questions about subjects that you don't want to talk about. Gotcha. :) I'm wishing I could move downtown or somewhere away from the immigrant community as I want no part in their petty problems and lifestyle.Look in the newspapers or online for postings for roommates. I know someone who moved out to California and has had pretty decent luck with that.(they're too embarrassed because their English isn't very good. They're even embarrassed to ask questions at the supermarket).Have they tried taking an English as a second language course? It's one of the first things immigrants here in Minnesota do. I like it more than NYC weather.Don't tell me, let me guess, it's that snow thing isn't it? We even had people after the Hurricane down south not want to come to Minnesota because of it. It gets quite muggy in the summer but with 24 hour electricity, I can handle it.Lately it's been getting quite muggy up here in the summer as well. I'm not wild about high humidity. But either the air or sitting in the basement where it's cool works. I haven't been on good terms with my family, especially Nabil.I'm so sorry to hear that. One of the reasons I didn't want him in New Zealand was that you two seemed so close, and I thought you would miss him, and he you.He has changed a lot. They have been abusive, nosy, curious, and sometimes outright hostile.Perhaps some of that is aftereffects of what they went through in Adhamiya?THey called the cops on me twice in the last couple of years. And I had to go into protective whatever you call it at a hospital and I have to pay the bill for the next 3 years, which made me angrier, bitter at them, and hating them more.That sucks. Medical bills without insurance are horrible. Been a long time since I had to break a comment...
I actually regret that I helped bring them to this country, and I wish they would move back and spare me their societal and superstitious crap (My dad told me I was possessed by the devil as soon as I got out of the hospital last time).That implies that you may be suffering from PTSD. They talk so much about that within our military, but civilians within Iraq suffered as well and could use support and assistance with this. But I'm reaching a point here where I may get into asking those too intimate questions that you won't feel comfortable answering. Being a big fan of American movies and cartoons, I have liked a lot about the country, but sometimes less the people, though that could be because of lack of friends and support group in this area I'm living in now, which forces me to spend more time with my family and relatives, and friends from back home, which has not been very helpful at all, and only served to alienate me from the culture I chose to be part of.It's always tough to make new friends in a new place. It helps if you are in school or work at a large business. Some place where there is a large number of people to interact with.Do you have hobbies you would like to pursue? Are there any classes or clubs at your local community college that you might find interesting, that aren't too expensive?Finding an interest that takes your mind off your problems with your family may help that relationship mellow out a little. Or put another way, they may not bug you so much. :) Lee is right about the writing. If you enjoyed it, take it up again. Yes, you can get kind of rusty if you don't do it continually, but practice will make it come easier. You can start here if you like and let us give you some feedback. :)Btw, what is your favorite seafood? I'm just a little curious because of the shrimp post you did a while back.Now I'm afraid I've got to run. Gotta go find a birthday present for someone and I forgot to get stuff at Target. *sigh* Sometimes I think I'd forget my head if it weren't attached.
Pete is correct in that the Swedish economy has been larely sustained by the increase in private debt. And he is correct in saying that we do have a housig bubble that has not yet popped.BUT... and there's always a but. We DO have a way more competitive industrial base than doens Ireland. And I mean WAY more. We might have lost SAAB automobile but we still make Volvo cars, Volvo tucks, Volvo construction equipment, Scania Trucks, and all manner of tools and machinery that Ireland does not. And we have way more natural resourse exports also.Our economy is fundamentally sound and competitive. But we DO have a problem with the high level of private debt.It differs from Ireland's prior situation though. First the private debt in Sweden is due to a housing bubble - same as Ireland. But in Ireland there was also a construction bubble, and people had second and third homes, they bought homes as investments. Here we still have a housing shortage. There hasn't been a constructon boom here, like in Ireland and Spain. So the bubble is less likely to pop here, since the available housing stock is filled up with tenants, and there's no speculation element in our housing market.Best case scenario: we manage to slowly deflate the housing bubble through inflation and stagant prices over a decade or two.Worst case: our bubble pops like Ireland's bubble popped. It'll hurt. But we'll still have a way more competitive ecomomy than does Ireland. And we have our own currency that we can deflate to boost exports. I' worried, but not that worried. We'll do alright.
"Pete is correct in that…"You didn't bother to read Anders Aslund's piece in Bloomberg's did ya?
Lynnette, I'm not suffering from PTSD. Just had enough of my family and their PTSD. I don't care much for them anymore. And they don't get that.
Hi Zeyad - if it would help, I would be happy to sub-edit (to correct any English awkwardness) stuff you write for the Guardian Comment Is Free.I am following you on Twitter, as you may have noticed, and I think anyone would be interested in reading about the experiences of Iraqis in exile.If it is not too personal a question, how much is left to pay of your hospital bill?Rachel
Lee: "You didn't bother to read Anders Aslund's piece in Bloomberg's did ya?"I did, and found it to be very onesided. The fact that taxes have come down is true, and the most important result of that is that the difference between any job, even a low paid one, and not working but living off some formm of wellfare has increased. It pays better to work now. But this in itself hasn't impacted on unemployment like the government said it would.I also noted this part: "Sweden is still offering good social welfare, but more efficiently and sensibly and increasingly through the private sector."The privatisations in the wellfare sector are increasngly unpopular here. And that it works well is up for serious debate. The venture capital firms do work very well in one area - making money and avoiding taxes by establishing an ownership coorporation in Lichtenstein and lending money from there to the actual business in Sweden at 15% interest. This drains any profits away so they avoid taxes and the profit ending up in Lichtenstein are taxed at a very low rate. They are good at that. Running hospitals? Not so much.
"I did, and found it to be very onesided."I found it amazing that he could hold Sweden up as an example of the Republican's favored ‘free market solutions’.Our Republican partisans (and probably most of our Democrats) would have apoplectic fits if anyone suggested that we follow the Swedish example and raise government tax takes to anything near the Swedish percentage, or institute a social welfare program anywhere near as sweeping.
"I don't care much for them anymore."This is more than just a little bit, kinda personal, I know, and I'm loath to touch this, but, I think I will anyway.I've had some difficulties with my family in the past. Your statement put me in mind of that. Lot of it was based in differing opinions about social and political matters (politics is easy enough to just not talk about, but the social elements, which tend to implicate how one lives ones life, those are harder to just ‘not talk about’) Close proximity, like having to live with ones parents, makes it hard to not have those difference just keep coming up.What I'm trying to say is that I think you can hope for the ‘I don't care much for them anymore’ to improve significantly as your economic situation improves and you're not living with the conflict on a daily basis. A little distance will make it much easier to deal with.I managed to patch things up with my father before we lost him. (Didn't ever come close to seein’ things eye-to-eye again, just patched up our relationship.) I'm very glad I did. I'm hoping you'll eventually have as much success on that front. And I'm posting this so that you can maybe take a little bit of optimism from it and have some hope for yourself too, hope will help get ya through to the day that it actually does start gettin’ better.
And, now, getting back to topics I may be more comfortable with… "First the private debt in Sweden is due to a housing bubble - same as Ireland. *** Here we still have a housing shortage."I'm havin’ something of a conceptual problem here. It's not, by definition, impossible for both of those things, a housing bubble and a housing shortage, to be simultaneously true. (Depending on who's doing the defining.) But it's fairly unlikely. By most reasonable definitions, this would have to mean that the prices for housing are increasing much more rapidly than are rents obtainable on that housing.
Zeyad,I'm sorry if I misunderstood. It was your mentioning being in the hospital and your father's odd description of your being possessed that led me to consider that. The police wouldn't take someone to the hospital unless he/she was injured or in danger of hurting himself/herself or others. Anyway, I don't want to pry into this matter any further if you don't wish me to.I do have one other suggestion, and since I haven't read Lee's comments yet I hope I am not duplicating him. You mentioned your family not speaking English very well. I would assume there may be other people in the same boat? Have you ever considered teaching? I know you cannot get a position at a school, as you don't have a degree in that field, however you may be able to supplement your income by working as a tutor. I would, of course, be remiss if I didn't mention that any income should be reported to the IRS. :)As to your not caring for your family any more, the only thing I can suggest there is to move out as soon as possible. Look for a roommate(s) to split the costs of a place. Just be sure you interview them carefully to try to get a feel for if they are compatable.
Zeyad,Forgot. I believe the CIA is legally not allowed to operate domestically. The FBI is another story.
"I know you cannot get a position at a school…"Tutoring's a decent, practical thought, and private educational classes aren't prohibited. He'd not be ‘certified’ by anybody but who gives a shit? If he can actually teach a little English it's the product that counts. Might get something going with a church or mosque or the local ‘Y’ to use one of their rooms.
Lee & Zeyad,Families can be tough. I had a huge fight with my brother a year ago January and it took until just now for us to kinda, sorta patch things up. He still irritates me, but at least we are on speaking terms. But live with him? God no!
PeteS,I didn't get a chance the other day to say that I noticed that Ireland had voted yes to the austerity measures. I believe you had predicted that. They are now in the process of bailing out Spain, up to $125 billion worth."Oh, what a tangled web we weave..."I have to wonder if we are only deceiving ourselves that all of this will work? Or are we on the brink of another global depression?Meanwhile, there was a small blurb in my paper about the Rio+20 Earth Summit. They are warning that the planet is in dire straits. They fear we are at a tipping point that will cause a "planetary-scale critical transition" to a different environment. That's almost a word for word quote. So, what's going to get us first, the economy or climate change?Btw, hope you did well on your exams.
For those interested there is a Fareed Zakaria special on immigration tonight on CNN.
Lee: "I'm havin’ something of a conceptual problem here. It's not, by definition, impossible for both of those things, a housing bubble and a housing shortage, to be simultaneously true. (Depending on who's doing the defining.) But it's fairly unlikely. By most reasonable definitions, this would have to mean that the prices for housing are increasing much more rapidly than are rents obtainable on that housing."It's a price bubble caused by low interest rates and very lax lending policies with no/low downpayments, floating interest rates used instead of fixed ones and oftentimes little or no money paid back - people just pay the interest, well many did at least. Now banks have introduced 15% downpayment demands that basically wiped away most first-time buyers, and prices have stopped rising.So there is a bubble, and it could pop, or (perhaps less likely) my best case scenario of stagnant prices over a long period might come true. But if it does pop the model for how it will unfold will not be Ireland.Unlike Ireland we also have a housing shortage, which I believe will help to keep prices up. There's not the same risk of a stampede away from the housing market as there is in countries/communities where lots of second homes, or homes bought solely as investments, are just dumped on the market all at the same time in a panic. People who live in their home will tend to hang onto it, and there will always be some demand from folks with solid finances. Right now few first-time buyers enter the market and what is traded is very slow moving, especially because no one dares to sign on to buy something new until they've sold the house they own. Prices are down perhaps 5-10% from the peak that was probably around springtime 2011, but they're just moving slowly up and down a few percentage points since then.But back to answer your questions.Lee: "this would have to mean that the prices for housing are increasing much more rapidly than are rents obtainable on that housing."You're not factoring in that in a more socialist society there can be stuff like rent-regulatuions, which there are here, that severely disrupts the rental prices. This also messes with supply and demand because while there's a huge demand for rental apartments few companies want to build them, because they can't set the price themselves. Companies make more money by building stuff and unloading it at a steep margin to individuals who borrow more than they should.
"rent-regulatuions" [sic]I had not allowed for widespread rent control. That could certainly lead to purchase prices rising much more rapidly than rental returns on similar accomodations. Okay, conceptual problem solved there.Although, it still does't sound like a full-on ‘bubble’ to me. I guess it depends on who's doing the defining for the term ‘bubble’.
Rachel, email me for details.
It's a price bubble caused by low interest rates and very lax lending policies with no/low downpayments, floating interest rates used instead of fixed ones and oftentimes little or no money paid back - people just pay the interest, well many did at least.That's partly what got us in trouble. Many people bought more than what they could afford and when the bubble burst, they got hooked. Classic living beyond one's means.
Hi Zeyad, my browser (Firefox) doesn't understand your e-mail hypertext link (at Yahoo, is it?). Please could you follow me on Twitter - www.twitter.com/longitude0 - and then I can send you a Direct Message. Thanks.Rachel
Z, there's nothing that Americans adore more than hearing what others think about us. The good, the bad, and the ugly, doesn't matter. Has your traffic picked up in the past couple of days?
Hey Bridget, not yet but i have a bunch of posts that i hope would get the blog back on track again. I need to polish my writing again.
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