I hope this message finds you well. I haven't spoken to some of you in a long time and I hope you all know you're in my head and heart and that I fervently look forward to the day where we will meet up again. Before I continue, I want to apologize if this message is long and if it comes off as overly emotional, but please bear with me as the subject in question is of the utmost importance to a very special person. Also, if you so desire, please do yourself the favor of clicking on “see all in messenger” at the bottom of the message tab on a computer so that you're not reading it off the tiny, importance-diminishing messenger window in the bottom left of your screen.
As much as I would like to take this time to catch up, the actual intention of this message is something altogether different. This message regards a specific someone. Some of you have only heard stories of the guy and are yet to actually meet him. Some of you may have only met him a few times and likely already consider him a friend. Then, there are some of you that, like me, consider the guy family I would give a kidney to see him smile. Of course, I'm talking to you about our beloved friend Khaled Taher. I’m writing this letter is to see if we can all come together and lend a friendly helping hand to Khaled as he begins a new chapter of his life.
I haven't Khaled seen in four years now, which I find to be too long a time apart from the person you consider both your absolute best friend on this planet, as well as one of the most beautiful souls within it. As I’m sure you are all aware, these past four years have seen a lot of terrible things have happened to our magical Yemen, and accordingly I've witnessed Khaled’s outlook on life change from one of the most optimistic and positive I've ever encountered to one that I almost didn't recognize because of how cynical and downtrodden it was. I don't blame him. Being stuck in a place like Yemen over the last four years for a person with a radiant love for life like our friend Khaled must have been miserable, especially given the myriad of tribulations he encountered in that time. Up until recently I began to feel like I was losing the friend I once knew and the thought of that devastated me.
Then, something seemed to change. I was on the phone with Khaled for one of the our routine chats when I noticed that the sound of his voice was different. He sounded more alive, more jovial, as if overnight the weight of a thousand worlds was lifted off his shoulders. “Khaled you sound good man, what's going on?” I asked. “Tarim, habibi” he replied, “I haven't felt this good since the first bullet of the uprisings went off. Yesterday was the best day of my life!” Khaled’s always been emphatic, but I had never heard him make a sweeping statement of the sort. “ What's up?” I inquired. “Tarim, I'm getting married!” There was a moment of silence. I didn't know what to say. I was excited for him but something inside me felt weird about the news.
It was always evident that throughout our friendship I had not so secretly imparted some Western ideals regarding what a love life should be like on to my Yemeni non-consanguine brother. I hoped he would fall in love, maybe with a foreign girl, move out of Yemen with her, really get to know her, and then, when they really felt like they were ready, get married and live happily ever after. It seemed that Khaled very willingly adopted the idea and thought that it was the best option for his future love-life as well. Yet, as much as we worked to make it a reality, circumstances simply didn't permit. Up until we had this chat, somewhere deep down, l still wished it would become a reality. When he then told me that instead, he had chosen to opt for the traditional Yemeni method, I couldn’t help but be partly skeptical. I was afraid that with how Westernized Khaled had become, he would get bored of his traditional Yemeni marriage and it would sooner or later fall apart. So like true friends, we talked it out.
Almost every time we had spoken in the previous few years, Khaled had either blatantly stated, or indirectly alluded, to how much he missed feeling a genuine sense of companionship. All his best friends had left the country, his family was all split up and facing countless problems, and he had gone through what was undoubtedly a horrible experience at work. As if watching his country falling apart before his very eyes wasn't enough...After hearing the big news, I posed Khaled with the question of whether he was sure he wanted to get married given the state of his financial stability and the state of Yemen at the moment. He could tell I was skeptical. As I expected, the first thing Khaled brought up was the ravaging solitude he had felt in the last few years. “Do you know what it feels like to only feel friendship over Facebook and WhatsApp?” he asked. I didn’t, and hope to never. I can only imagine what it felt/feels like for a person as physically oriented as Khaled to not feel the stimulus of friends actually being around him. Already, I was beginning to understand what spurred him to make the seemingly radical decision of getting married.
But then he said something that really stuck with me. “Tarim, I feel like sometimes you assume that the Western way of getting married is the only right way. From what you’ve described it seems to me if over there, before getting married, you guys develop into such strong-willed individuals, so sure of their own convictions, that often there’s no space within your hearts and characters for another person. You meet, share experience to determine whether you are compatible or not, and based on that decide whether you will stay together or not. Here it’s different. For example, now I’m faced with the opportunity of starting anew with my future wife. We don’t even really know each other, and hence are faced with a blank slate on which we can grow together. By starting from nothing we build the foundation of what we want our lives to be like together. We don’t individually know what we want our love-lives to be like, we know of one love-life, built by both of us. As such, I can’t help but feel like this way allows us to construct a stronger foundation for love and one that’s less likely to crumble.”
Somehow, what he said smothered my skepticism. Who was I to think that we had it all sorted out in the West? I’m not denying that love lives all over the world, and especially in Yemen, can be complex, unbalanced and problematic. But what Khaled said brought light to how in Yemen, the problems that I always associated with the Yemeni marriage-method were also likely due to other factors such as lack of education and the subjective, unavoidable imperfections of the human condition. What’s to say that two emotionally and intellectually intelligent people like Khaled and his future wife couldn’t make it work, even in place as screwed up as Yemen is today? It surely has happened before... With his simple, infinite wisdom, Khaled had won my blessings. If any of you are skeptical, I hope this same wisdom will also win yours.
Logically, next we got to talking about the person involved. Khadijah seems really cool. She put herself through an English language institute and is apparently quite the beacon of light in the midst of darkness which Yemen is at the moment. She’s got siblings doing stuff ranging from teaching Karate to working in insurance, and her dad is apparently a down to earth guy that has known Khaled’s dad for a while. I was even lucky enough to see a picture that Khaled managed to get his hands on by asking his sisters to screenshot a video-call (don’t worry, she knows this happened and was fine with it , and upon seeing her smile was immediately enamored by my future sister in law. Khaled and her chat secretly on WhatsApp every now and then and based upon what he tells me of her, and what I know of my best friend, the two are going to live happy, accomplished lives together. I can’t wait to meet her…
Next we got to talking about the logistical aspect and that is where the idea of this letter came to mind. Of course, planning a wedding is a mammoth task regardless of where it takes place. In addition, as per usual, Khaled is dealing with being the sole breadwinner for a rather large family, amongst other challenges. So I thought to myself how I could help with the task of organizing his wedding given that I can’t be in Yemen and that I’m essentially broke. The most logical answer I could think of was to appeal to the mountain-moving synergy of friendship that I once felt between myself, Khaled and every one of you.
*So I ask, as forthrightly and as lovingly as possible, how do you guys feel about contributing towards ensuring Khaled starts off what he and most others consider to be the most important step in life, with as much of his friend’s love and blessings as possible? What I am proposing is that we all chip-in whatever we feel comfortable with (obviously the more the better) to be used in planning and executing Khaled’s wedding and, if enough, his honeymoon as well. As you will note if you care to check, Khaled was purposefully not included in this message. I did mention to him that I planned to do this, so it’s not exactly a surprise, but thought that if I left him out of the message thread and then got the money to him lump-sum, it would make for a more impactful gift on behalf of all of us.
I hope the prior part of this letter served to give you guys an idea of why I find this deed so important. You guys know Khaled, and to say that he deserves our help and support is a grave understatement. I’m sure each one of us can think of at least one instance in which Khaled’s beautiful soul shone through and came to our aid. Though we might have done it before, I feel like now is an amazing opportunity to return the favor. My words are useless in describing how important this life-step is to Khaled and how much joy a beautiful, pain-free wedding would bring him in these trying times. So, I hope this doesn’t come off as request for charity. Instead, I hope we can come together as friends to give the most helpful gift possible to friend that deserves it. Since Khaled told me this news, everytime we’ve talked I’ve heard a new man on the other side of the line. The optimism this development has brought him is remarkable. Something within me just wants to do whatever necessary to keep that optimism alive.
On a logistical note, the way in which I have organized this to take place is that, if you care to pitch-in, I have made a GoFundMe (link below message) that is joined to my mother (Roberta Contin’s) bank account. The reason I am using her account is that I wanted to include an uninvolved third-party that has no reasons and no desire whatsoever to get involved in any sketchy business so as to ensure to you that not one cent of this money is going to me, or anyone else but Khaled. The reasons we’re not sending it directly to Khaled’s account are that: 1) it’s a major pain in the ass/practically impossible to get money into Yemeni accounts now, 2) that, once again, I felt it would be more impactful and pleasantly surprising to send it all at once and 3) that I wanted to put the burden of any annoying logistical duties (inserting Khaled’s bank details for every wire) on myself so as to increase the likelihood that you guys chip in. If you guys do have way of getting money directly to Khaled and prefer to do that, than by all means please coordinate with him and do that.
Once we’ve reached the end of the donating period, the money will be sent to Khaled via Al Kuraimi, Western Union and/or Moneygram, as well as in cash with people that might be travelling to Yemen. We will have to see what the best option for sending the money at the specific time. Likely/hopefully, I will have to send it in a variety of different ways since I’ve been told by various people that with transfers of over $1000 the Houthis start to ask a bunch of weird questions and get overly involved. Once we have finished collecting the money I will send a message to Khaled stating all the people who have contributed, and if the donor desires, the amount contributed. I’ve never created a GoFundMe fundraiser before but I infer that it’s as transparent as possible and that each donor can see where their money is being kept until it is paid-out to the beneficiary.
For the time being, the wedding is set to happen in mid-January. I’m going to try my hardest to make it to Yemen for the wedding and I hope everyone here will do the same. It would mean so much to Khaled and would undoubtedly be an amazing time. I talked over wedding costs with Khaled and he’s keeping it real modest. If we can raise enough money, other than the wedding costs, the rest of it will be spent on a humble honeymoon for the newly-weds, possibly to Malaysia. It would be the first time both he and his wife-to-be leave Yemen and I’m sure it would bring them immense joy, felt largely thanks to our help. The thought of their smiles alone upon finding out that they can go to Malaysia to celebrate their new love makes me want to give them every cent I have, which is essentially what I’m doing already If you guys wanna talk any of this stuff over with Khaled, please do. I’m sure it would make him ecstatic.
If you guys have any questions regarding any of this please feel free to ask either on here, via private message or via WhatsApp, if you want. My WhatsApp is: +1 802 458 7749.
Let’s remember who we’re doing this for and how much our help means to him. These deeds don’t go forgotten and what I’m sure will one day be a beautiful marriage will in part be due to our support and friendship.
I send you all my best regards and a big hug from my side.