Ninety days to tie the knot
Oct 27, 2014 at 10:29 PM
Danielle Mullins noticed strange people staring at her as she made her way around a big glass wall in Doha, Qatar.
The Norwalk resident, who is "terrified of airplanes" and had never left the country, had just spent 22 hours traveling to Qatar after her initial flight got re-routed. She'd had to fly from Ohio to Chicago to Germany and finally to Doha.
Amid the crowd in this airport in this foreign country, she was trying to spot the "nice, caring man" she'd met on meetme.com -- a man who compassionately corresponded with her as she relayed to him her personal problems.
He even offered to buy her daughter a pair of shoes.
She'd never met the man and Mullins had been scammed by another person she'd met through a website. That individual opened a website under her name and ran fraudulent credit cards.
Mullins was concerned that the seeming gentleman from Qatar was another conman.
But after seeing his face on Facebook, somehow she felt more at ease.
Mohamed Jbali was sincere and not out to scam anyone.
Their first contact on meetme.com came in December 2012, and Mullins found herself at the Qatar airport in July 2013.
Where was he?
Mullins messaged him on her iPad -- and just as she was finishing composing the message, she heard the words: "Finally we get to meet."
Although the two had never met before, they hugged for about five minutes.
The relationship between Mullins and Jbali is being chronicled on the TLC program "90 Day Fiancé," which airs at 9 p.m. Sundays.
People from different backgrounds, interfaith, mixed race couples, and intergenerational couples face hurdles during the series.
Once a couple meets and the foreign individual arrives on U.S. soil, they have 90 days to marry. The person who lives outside the United States is allowed into the country through a K-1 visa. If the 90 days conclude before the couple tie the knot, the person who lives outside the U.S. must return to his or her country.
Skype, Facebook calming reassurances
Mullins, a single mother with four children, had been looking for someone to talk to on meetme.com and Jbali, who was also on the site, initiated a conversation. He seemed genuinely concerned about her life and issues she was facing.
One day, she was feeling down because one of her children needed shoes. She couldn't believe his offer to buy them. After all, they were just starting to become acquainted.
But was Jbali some kind of con? She couldn't be sure, since she'd been scammed by someone else on an Internet site.
The two eventually communicated via Skype and Mullins saw Jbali's Facebook pictures. She felt he was sincere.
The two clicked, and about seven months after their initial contact via meetme.com, Mullins heard the words "finally we get to meet" after initially not spotting Jbali at the Qatar airport.
An enjoyable visit
Mullins, a homehouse aide and caregiver, spent two weeks with Jbali in his country. He worked five hours each day as a warehouse logistics person.
Mullins didn't feel like touring the area, because she was concerned she might not have found her way back. Luckily, there were American television stations and people spoke English as a second language.
When Jbali returned each night, he'd fix Mullins dinner and they'd spend nights out going places. They went to the movies, to a mall, walked by a body of water and he showed her downtown Doha.
"He treated me very well," Mullins said.
So well, that when it was time to go home, Mullins held back tears until she was on board the plane bound for home.
Mullins could see emotion in Jbali's eyes as well.
Getting on the show
Mullins was back at her job, when a co-worker saw an advertisement for contestants for "90 Day Fiancé."
First, she had to talk to Jbali and her children. All agreed getting on the program would be a good idea, although it took some prompting from Mullins to convince Jbali.
"He's a very private person," she said.
Skype interviews with producers followed and Mullins applied for Jbali's visa in October 2013. By mid-November, immigration officials had processed the application, but that same month, Jbali decided to return to his native Tunisia.
Mullins had to re-apply by sending papers to the embassy in Tunisia. More administrative processing followed, but by April of this year, officials finally approved the visa.
She was at work when Jbali called her on her cell phone. He decided to play a joke on her, telling her the visa was denied. Mullins began crying, but he quickly re-assured her it had been approved.
Jbali arrived on U.S. soil in New York and then flew to Ohio.
During Sunday's episode, viewers will witness as Jbali becomes acquainted with this area and meets Mullins family face-to-face.
Will Mullins and Jbali meet the deadline? Or will Jbali have to return to his native country?
You'll have to watch to find out.