The Pakistan Episodes

These are the emails that I sent to friends and family when I was visiting Pakistan in the summer of 2010. The response to these emails, in part, inspired this blog.

Episode 1 – June 7, 2010
Hello friends, family & loved ones!

I am alive and well in Pakistan! I am sorry to have not been able to email sooner but it seems there are more technical difficulties than I had initially anticipated. In any event, I am planning on picking up a cell phone here soon so if you like I will be able to text and such soon. As it is, I am emailing from my cousin’s house and it looks like that is the only internet access I will have for a while. The internet cafe scene is a male dominated one and I am told I would be inviting disaster if I went there.

I’ve been here for 4 days and I am sorry to say that I am ready to head home. It is incredibly hot here and the power goes out for hours at a time (we just had a two hour power outage). To add to the woes of an American girl in Pakistan, since we got here, there has been the threat of a cyclone looming over Karachi. Yesterday, my Grandmother’s home was a waterfest. As some of you may be aware, the homes here are partially without roofs. This isn’t a problem most of the time since it rarely rains and when it does, the heat dries everything up. But with the storms we were experiencing, it was not pleasant. Anyway all that is hopefully over with and now I just have to deal with the powerouts and the ridiculous heat. Honestly, I never thought that I would dream about the “balmy” Chicago summers that we have back home.

I haven’t had the opportunity to venture out much since one of my dear Uncles advised my parentals that I stick out like a sore thumb and would be a target of some sort. Mom and Dad are somewhat protective. Dad did let me go hang out with some relatives last night and that was the most I’ve had to do since we got here. Most of the time, I had been napping since its so unnaturally hot and there is very little excitement at Grandma’s digs.

I have rediscovered the joys of the rickshaw, however. I had forgotten how much fun one of these little motorized vehicles can be. When I went to my relatives yesterday, we took rickshaws through flooded streets. That was somewhat exciting. I felt like at any point, I might topple headlong into the floodwaters but I made it okay. My relatives had air conditioning so I slept reaaaaaallllly well.

So today I am at my Aunt’s house and she is fabulous. We hope (my cousin Alina and I) to escape later this evening with a couple of ladies who are technically our Aunts I guess, but since they are close to me in age (I am 3 days older than one and 5 years older than the other), they are more friends than Aunts. We want to hit the Malls or something. I feel somewhat like a teenager with the whole “I want to go to the Mall” thing but that’s not such a bad thing, I guess. Anyway, we are here in Karachi for another couple of days and then we head to Lahore where its supposed to be hotter and then onto Islamabad. I hope I’ll be able to touch base with you guys soon, because I miss everyone and everything.

Well I am going now. I will check my email tomorrow before I head to my Nani’s house and will send shoutouts to anyone who emails me. I hope you all are well and enjoying your electricity, internet, and cellular capabilities!

Episode 2 – June 10, 2010
Hello friends, family & loved ones!

First and foremost, apologies to anyone who did not receive Episode 1! If you are interested, it is included below! I had a very limited amount of time to figure out who wanted to know what, when, and why… So yeah. Sorry, but you’re included now so quit your complaining.

Today, my parentals and I left Karachi for the lovely city of Lahore. And I do mean LOVELY! Compared to Lahore, Karachi is a pit of darkness, despair and disgustingness! And I am not just saying that because we are staying in a wonderful home, with fabulous people and air conditioning, internet and back up power… Its clean, beautiful and surprisingly lush. Maybe its because I truly am a Punjabi girl at heart and the farmland of any country (Pakistan or US) makes a part of my heart sing. Or maybe its just the heat causing me to suffer delusions…

We left Karachi at a very important point. I have not been able to eat anything substantial for two days without fear of being sick because of the heat. And the mosquitos found me, at last, in Karachi and I was beginning to fear nighttime because of them. I brought mosquito repellent with me because of my whole getting malaria in 1997, and I used it but I think these are mutant supermosquitos who singled me out for their loving attention. But for the next 12 days, I don’t have to worry about any of that. Hopefully.

Not that all things going on here are bad. I have been spending time with relatives I had never heard of and seeing things I have not seen for many years and may not see again in my life. I heard stories of my grandfather and grandmother in their youths and met my Aunt’s cat, Brownie. Who won’t let you pet him, but I can talk to him like I talk to my brother and sis-in-law’s kitties. I got my palm read twice and while you can never set any store by palm readings, both people (two different cities with no possible way of being affiliated) pretty much told me how fabulous I am and what wonderful things are in store for me. I don’t care if you don’t believe in these things, but you have to admit, it feels awesome when someone tells you that you are going to have fab things in your future…

I toured a fruit juice factory today and got to sample the wares and then spent time hanging out with some of the best kids in Pakistan. I had two three year olds, a nine year old and a one year old, all climbing over me and wanting to have my undivided attention all at once. Which of course is fun times. Truly. Its nice to have kid friends. I don’t feel so old.

Anyway, as before, I hope all of you are doing well. I am hanging in there. I am still counting the days until my return though! Because I miss you all and hope to hear from you about whats going on in your lives. Until then!

Episode 3 – June 12, 2010
Hello friends, family & loved ones,

I didn’t adventure out much yesterday but did today. It was a quiet sort of day yesterday because it was really, really, extraordinarily hot in Lahore. Not that I knew about it because of the lovely accommodations I have here. I was actually cold and slept with a blanket last night. Also last night, our hosts took us to the most extravegant place I have ever set foot in while in Pakistan. Or maybe even the US. This place was swank.

Its the Pearl Continental Hotel of Lahore. They had to inspect your car before you enter the parking lot and then had to go through several metal detectors to get in. We had dinner at a restaurant called Taipan which was what I like to term Pak-inese, which is what would result if Pakistani food married Chinese food and had a big bouncy baby. Anyway it was delicious and afterwards, I wandered the Hotel and checked out several of the other features of the place, like the pool and such. They had a Rolls Royce which once belonged to the Founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah parked in the lobby. It was an interesting experience.

Today we went to a couple of different places. We started out by visiting a friend of my Mom’s and then we were given a guide (an employee of my Dad’s friend) who took us to see some of the historic sites of Lahore and the Mughal Empire. I got to see the Minaret of Pakistan (pic 108), the Mosque (116) and the Lahore Museum (125). I didn’t get to go into the mosque or any of the Mughal sites because it was “too hot” and I didn’t get to see the tomb of Allama Iqbal (Pakistani poet). It kinda bummed me out but then I got to see pretty much everything I wanted in the Museum.

There was lots of artifacts and I took over 200 pictures in the place. I love history as many of you know so I was in heaven but my folks were chomping at the bit to get out. Despite that, I ditched them and the guide, a very nice guy named Furqan, and went to check out all sorts of exhibits. It was cool. But it stirred up my post-colonial hatred of the British empire and coupled with the loathing of capitalism I was feeling the day before, it wasn’t a pleasant thought process on the way home. Let me explain.

So ever since I was a young girl, I’ve not been able to cope very well with poverty. And here in Pakistan, that is something found in vast quantities. Now, as an adult, I know that there are poor people and there are rich people and varying degrees in between. And I understand that this is the way it will always be. As long as Capitalism lives and breathes, nothing will change.

Now I am not by any means a Marxist, Socialist, Communist or any thing of the sort. But I wish that there was some way to meet the basic needs of all people. Hunger is not character building. Living in a shack made of dried out palm fronds is not a way to live. In heat like this, power is a necessity not a luxury yet there are those who don’t own an fan let alone air conditioning. I, along with everyone who has access to these things, am a spoiled brat. I wasn’t here a week before I began to, for the lack of a better word, fade. It got me to thinking about the economy and the laisse faire way things are and it made me mad. Curse you, Adam Smith! I shouldn’t have air conditioning all the time! I shouldn’t sleep with a blanket in a country where the temp is reaching 110 degrees! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

This led me into my habit of generally hating the British Empire which was the father of Capitalism when it practised imperialism/colonialism… My ire was increased when I went to the Museum and saw a mammoth statue of Queen Victoria in the joint. There were pictures galore of the freedom fighters for Pakistani (and also Indian) Independence. It made an already discontent Farheen even more wrathful.

I guess the point of this Episode is this: I love my home. I love electricity and technology. Heck, I don’t always love money for its own sake, but I do for whatever fun things I can do with it. But not having these things currently at hand all the time, I can see why people who are in this situation all the time, hate people like me. And you all know I loathe the British Empire on principle so there is nothing new there.

I shall end this email with my usual plea for more correspondence… I miss the Western thinking process. I’m already becoming subverted…

Episode 4 – June 16, 2010
Hello friends, family & loved ones,

So I posted on Facebook (after I found a way around the ban that is still on in Lahore but wasn’t in Karachi), that I had been feeling pretty blue and those of you who saw and commented, I love you oodles and oodles! I have been feeling like I’ve been here for years, cutoff from all of you wonderful kids!

Tomorrow, I will be leaving Lahore for Islamabad. Despite the tense political climate, my folks and I are thinking that we’ll be okay for the four or five days that we’ll be there. I am not sure what the internet scene will be like so you may not hear from me until we return to Karachi on June 22. But I did get the cellphone and my number is 011923124024737. I am 10 hours ahead of Chicago, so please figure that in if you are calling me, although if you end up calling me at like 3 AM, I’ll either A.) not answer or B.) answer sleepily but happily since I miss everyone.

Another reason I am including this info is because many of you out there are facing some sort of upheaval, crisis, situation etc. I leave the country for two weeks and everything goes to H*ll in a handbasket. So call me if you need to. I’m not doing too much and would love to hear about whatever it is that is going on.

So, on to the matter of the last update from Lahore…

Today, Mom, Dad and I headed to market with the purchasing agent for my uncle’s company. The mission was to buy a cellphone, which was accomplished.. I have a pretty awesome phone now. After that we went to the bookstore. Where I got loads of books that are mostly unavailable in the US, (Iqbal, Baba Farid, etc). I did buy a copy of the Faerie Queene by Spenser. I’ve always wanted to read it but despite many valiant efforts have been unable to do so because it takes some serious effort and I always get distracted at home. Its the same reason I brought The Brothers Karamazov but I left it in Karachi and so when I spotted FQ, I figured it was a sign. The best part of the bookstore was that Dad bought all the stuff for me. Yay! There is nothing in the world as fabulous as books your Daddy buys for you.

After the bookstore, Mom and Dad took me to the Mughal complex that we had seen from the outside a few days before. I chalked up not being able to go inside that time to fate. But Mom and Dad were convinced that once we left Lahore, I would nag them about it and despite my many assurances that I didn’t blame them, they insisted we go. Which we did and wow! I was left gasping for breath, being overwhelmed by the history of the place. It was also, unbelievably hot, so I think I was dehydrated too

I think the best part was Iqbal’s tomb. Iqbal was most likely the best poet of IndoPak origin in the 20th century (although some may argue that Tagore was the best. To each their own. I like both of them). He is buried on the grounds between the Badshahi Mosque and the Qila (Fort). I will send pictures later. Anyway, It was really neat to see his tomb, but you had to take your shoes of and the sun had the ground hot enough to cook things on so for like one second before you could get to the shade, your feet were burning. That part didn’t rock so much. But everything else was AWESOME! Farheen was a happy camper. We had to leave relatively quickly though because my Dad bailed and sat outside the fort, my Mom bailed just within the fort grounds and I got lightheaded from the heat after we found the Shish Mahal (Mirror Palace). I didn’t complain though, our guide and the driver kept worrying about Mom and Dad so I was able to hide my tiredness.

All in all, today was a good day. I had a really nice time and now we’ll be leaving for the north. I’m leaving on a Daewoo bus. Yay!

How are all of you? I hope you are doing well! If you want anything from here, email me. Email me even if you don’t want anything from here.

Episode 5 – June 26, 2010
Hello friends, family & loved ones,

Its been ten days since my last update and it feels like an eternity. Actually my whole trip is having that feel to it. But more on that later.

I had no internet access until today. But thanks to Cousin/Aunt Beenish (I think she is my second cousin from a western point of view but here in Pstan, she is considered my Aunt and is like 5 years younger than me, which is pretty fun) and her wireless device I am back in the loop.

Islamabad was nice. It wasn’t as hot as Lahore or Karachi. We travelled there by bus which was nice but it was also a little irritating because during the 5 hour trip, the bus stopped for 15 minutes, 4 hours into the trip. During the break, one was supposed to use the bathroom, get food and chill, stretch ones legs and such. I got to use the bathroom, in which none of the stalls was western style. Fun times.

During the trip, I was told to keep my mouth shut for fear of revealing where we were from. Dad told me to do this. Then proceeded to tell the guy he was sitting next to, and consequently the whole bus, that we were from the US and we have snow and never have to deal with this crazy mad heat. I hope you all appreciate the irony of this incident. I, myself, am still pretty irked about it. My Dad is pretty lovable but sometimes he makes me nuts.

We got off the bus and were greeted by my cousin on my Dad’s side Zulfikar who packed three suitcases and three travellers into his Suzuki Alto and drove us to his house. In true desi style, we had nowhere to move. Mom was sitting on my lap practically. Thankfully they didn’t live too far.

When we got there, we were greeted so familiarly. I hadn’t met any of these people before in my life, but within ten minutes, it was like we had known each other for years and years. We spent the next several days with them doing touristy things, shopping and such. I wasn’t feeling so great but I tried and I kept thinking that they would be mad at me. But they weren’t. They were the nicest people I’ve encountered in Pstan yet.

The main event of the Islamabad leg was the day trip to Murree (pronounced Ma ree). It was in the mountains, way up high. 9000 feet above sea level. One lane each way, scary scary high with very little barricadage to keep cars from toppling over the edge. Actually on our way down the mountain, there was a fallen car. If you think gaper’s delays are bad at home, you haven’t experienced a Pakistani gapers delay. Everyone became sick going up the mountain. One of my poor cousin’s was sick from start to finish. He was hanging out the window, being sick while the rest of us tried to keep it together and not join him. When we got to Murree, it was still too hot so we went further up the mountain to Ayubia and the Nathiya Galli. We stopped there to eat (which I couldn’t do because it was outside and there were bugs -Debbie, Diana- it was my worst nightmare). There were people there who were so poor they could hardly stand My cousins distributed food to them and I have to say that it was an important reminder for me about how many blessings I have.

An amusing incident that occurred here: Farheen had to go to the bathroom and there was a Church right next to the park where we were. So I went to the Church, run by the Diocese of Peshawar, hoping they could find in their hearts to let me use their bathroom. They informed me that they had no bathroom, but did I want a Bible in Urdu? I declined, since having attended Elmhurst College, I am awash in Bibles and I certainly don’t need one in a language I don’t read or write in. Now in hindsight, I wish I had gotten one just for the novelty of it. Anyway, I intend to write a letter to the Diocese of Peshawar, informing them of their lack of Christian charity, since my need was GREAT!

After 5 days, Mom and I set out for Karachi via plane, Dad to follow a week later. We almost missed our flight but made it by the smallest of margins. And so we are here in Karachi. The only thing i’ve done here is Beenish and I went to a restaurant that I think should open a location in Chicago and then Mom, our downstairs tenants and I hit the ocean. Which frightens me with its power. It was evening and Mom and I had walked to the water’s edge and the tide was coming in. The water was warm and the sand was black. The water rolled over us and washed the sand out from around our feet. It was a cool moment and maybe I’ll write something about it. Because it was THAT sort of moment.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking and missing home. I am ready to give up the constant stickness of this place. After this, I won’t lie, snow sounds amazing. I’ve been considering what i am going to do once I am back in the States and I can foresee some significant changes. That’s the problem with having too much time to think. I have things on my mind, serious things because for the first time in over a decade, Farheen doesn’t have plans etched in stone. Well we’ll see how I sort things out.

Thank you all for listening to me rant during these updates. And thank you for emailing me and telling me about what is happening for you. You have no idea how much I miss my friends, family and loved ones. Its nice to know you all are there and being away has made me appreciate each and every single one of you and your place in my life. so until the next update, I’ll give you some advice that one of you wonderful people sent to me مستی کرو

Episode 6- July 2, 2010
Hello friends, family & loved ones,

First, in case any of you were worried regarding my family’s safety after hearing about the bombs at Data Durbar in Lahore, we are all fine, thank God. We actually did visit that site two weeks ago but only from the outside. We were advised that it was somewhat dangerous so we didn’t go in.
It is really sad about what happened. Data Durbar is a tomb and a Sufi shrine, many people go there to pray so it doesn’t make much sense to go bomb the place but of course a good portion of the population is laying the blame on the usual suspects – The US, Israel, India, Ahmedis. Whatever. I blame the morons who decided to bomb a religious site with no victims other than people like themselves. Just my two cents.

Anyway, on to my adventures, which really pale in the light of the tragedy in Lahore. But if there is one lesson learned in the wake of these tragedies it is that life goes on.

I haven’t been doing too much lately. I went shopping a couple of times this week. It was unbelievably hot. The first day, Saddaf and I went to this place called Gul Plaza, which has an serpentine market on the ground level and an air conditioned mall below. Weird yes, but I really loved the air conditioned part. I was about to pass out in the market.

The second day I went shopping with Cousin Alina and Saddaf. We went to Tariq Road, which is the main fashion area of Karachi. Ramadan and Eid are coming up so new outfits are wanted. We looked around for a long time but didn’t find anything suitable. We ended up in Dolman Mall, which is a nice mall that I went to the last time I visited Pakistan, four years ago. I remembered where everything was, the food court, the bathroom, the bookstore… All the important things.

The first stop was the food court because i was parched, as were the girls. The largest size fountain drink you can get in Pakistan is a 20 ounce. Those of you who know me well, know I can down that much drink in like 15 seconds. So before you could blink, I had finished it and wanted more. It took poor Alina and Saddaf like 10 minutes to get it and I waited at a table with our stuff. While I was waiting, there was an English lady sitting at the next table over with two children and she was reading a book on how to speak Urdu. I glanced at the bag she had on the floor and there peeking just over the top of the bag was the word “Gaiman” which set off all kinds of sirens and whistles and bells. I love NEIL! So I meekly begged her pardon and asked about the book. By Neil and Dave McKean called Crazy Hair. She told me that she got it at Liberty books, a favorite haunt of mine during the last trip.

So we sat down and had something to eat and then I wanted another drink. I chose to go get it myself this time. Bad news for Pakistani McDonald’s. The wrath of Farheen was unleashed on the guy behind the counter. What happened is this. Farheen goes to the counter and gets in line. People are crowding the counter trying to get icecream cones. Idiot boy behind the counter (who really wasn’t a boy but rather a guy roughly my age) is busy showing off his (in his head) mad crazy ice cream cone skills. Farheen waits patiently for approximately ten minutes while this guy selectively picks who he is going to help. Farheen tolerates this because he is mostly helping the kids. Then he picks this guy who is older and came to the counter five minutes after I did. Farheen explodes! I asked in Urdu if he knows how the concept of a line works and why he is helping some jerk who showed up after I did. Everyone holds their breath as idiot boy/man stammers that this guy was first and I got even angrier. I state I am going somewhere else to get my drink (a bluff because they were the only people in the mall who had diet pop). Everyone starts insist I get to go first. The clerk starts begging me forgiveness, “Madam! Please don’t go! I am soooooo sorry! Please forgive me! Madam!” I pay, get my drink, and march off to my table where I am lauded by my cousins for telling the idiot off. i have to admit, it was thrilling. You had to be there I guess.

After quaffing my well deserved Diet Coke (Coke Lite here), we went to the Bookstore. They had sold out of Crazy Hair (alas!) but they were eager to show me other selections of Neil Gaiman’s novels. One clerk led me back past a display of Stephanie Meyers’ “novels” where a lady was asking whether they were worth purchasing. I told her they were trash and to buy Stardust by Neil Gaiman instead. Lol. I got to talk trash about Twilight in Pakistan. How many people can claim that? Anyway, I was recognized as a true book lover by the staff who began to clamor around me with things they thought I would like. I felt like a celebrity. I left there with 40 rupees (not even 50 cents US) in my pocket, but lots of wonderful books!

It was a good trip. But then the next day I ate a samosa my Mom bought and was sicker than sick for the next two days. I am now on day three of food poisoning so I am not so happy right now. But hopefully I will get better soon!

How are all of you doing? I hope you are all well and in about two weeks I will be home! Love you kids! Write to me!

Episode 7 – July 8, 2010
Hello friends, family & loved ones,

As of today, I have 8 days left in Pakistan. I am feeling pretty bittersweet about it. While I am not going to miss the heat, the stickiness, the sweatiness, the need for security etc., I find myself not wanting to leave my relatives. Ah, such is the way of life. You always are missing someone. Anyway onto my adventures. I have lots to cover so if you are short on time, stop reading right now.
This past Saturday, I was still feeling pretty ill – Only yesterday did I get over it completely – and I was chilling at Grandma’s. And cousin Beenish came by to pick me up and take me to their house for the weekend. On the way there, we stopped at a place called the Arena – a sports club with an arcade type area and restaurant attached. We had “High Tea” (grrrrr post-colonial Pakistan you make me mad!) and afterwards we went cosmic bowling. No kidding. If someone asked me “Farheen, do you think you’ll go cosmic bowling in Pakistan?” I would have fallen over laughing. But sure enough, here I was, cosmic bowling after having “High Tea” in a Sports complex (did I mention the ice rink?) in the middle of Karachi. And there are pictures to prove it in my new cell phone, but those will have to wait until I figure out how to get them off of my phone and on to my computer. I will say this, it is hard to bowl with a dupatta. But I can’t wait to go back. We might go this Saturday. Keep the fingers crossed for me. After that we went to a Mall where I looked for more things to purchase and drag home. I found some cool things but didn’t buy too much as I had very little cash on me at the time.

Sunday, I was very sad. The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays and it really weighed on me that I wasn’t home for it. My cousin Beenish was adamant that we were going to go have fun. and we tried to. Cousins Beenish, Saddaf, and Danish and I piled into Beenish’s car and went and picked up Cousin Alina. We went to Pak Towers – a Mall in Clifton right by the Sea. It was a really nice Mall and from what I was told, one of the most expensive places to shop in Pakistan. I bought a book (surprise surprise!) about British Imperialism /colonialism from the Oxford bookstore. And we bought pop and snacks at the McDonalds. But other than that no purchases. Although I was tempted to buy a fragrance I quite enjoy for about $20 bucks less than I would at home. But no! No buying.

We then went forth to the Ocean. Which frightens me with its power, as I’ve mentioned before. Cousin Danish drove off road all the way up to the wall and we could see the ocean right there. Its spray splashing on my face. Little crabs wandering all over the rocks. Scary yet gorgeous. More pictures on my phone.

After everyone had their fill of the view, we piled back into the car and went to a supermarket called Imtiaz. okay. Take Jewel on Superbowl Sunday Morning, shrink it in size by 75 percent, triple the people, make the temperature 100 degrees and add a dude with a MACHINE GUN, and then you’ll have Imtiaz Supermarket. I needed to pick up some things for our kitchen (mine and Seema’s).

I’ve gotten used to seeing armed guards outside respectable and affluent businesses, but I hadn’t seen anyone with a machine gun at this point. Its a good thing I didn’t have the gun. I would have shot someone. Anyway, the insanity inside cannot be described… Bedlam, chaos, anarchy all cannot do the scene inside justice. We picked up all the items I needed and Alina needed and booked it out of there. By now it was almost 10 pm and we hadn’t eaten anything. So we spent several minutes trying to figure out what to eat since I was still feelng sick, Alina didn’t like pizza, Danish didn’t want chinese etc. We decided on a place that served both chinese (Pakinese) and traditional IndoPak food. Usmania Restaurant.

So we go there and they send us all the way to the 3rd floor because they are that busy. We are seated and then ignored for 10 minutes. Finally some guy comes and takes our order. And then we wait. And wait. And wait some more. We ask for a manager and our food. I had ordered soup so it finally came. It was family style so we ate the soup. And waited and waited some more. Finally a manager comes over and our food comes out. And it was cold. My normally silent Cousin Danish explodes! The Wrath of Farheen is a tiny firecracker compared to the Rage of Danish. We left hungry and ended up at KFC. Yes, KFC. THe Colonel is huge in Pakistan. What I liked best about this adventure was the KFC. Because it is fully run and staffed by hearing and speech impaired people. In Pakistan, people who are disabled or challenged in any way tend to be swept to the side. But this KFC was awesome. They really impressed me with their caring.

So it wasn’t the best Fourth of July I’ve experienced but it was certainly one of the more memorable ones. And while my mood wasn’t the best, we tried and I think succeeded in distracting me. The next few days were uneventful. Except that the monsoon season is starting. Yesterday Saddaf and I went to tailor to pick up my clothes and it was raining buckets. Karachi when it rains is hard to navigate and we found that out yesterday. Also, it is no fun to be sopping wet in thin cotton lawn clothing. I appreciated the heat abatting a bit when it rained, but didn’t like feeling as exposed as I did when I was completely drenched. But the rains are here to stay for a while. Fun times.

Anyway, I am sorry if this episode didn’t deliver all the punch of the others. As I’ve mentioned, my mood hasn’t been the best and thusly, my adventures have been somewhat more lackluster than usual. Hopefully the mood will pick up.

How is everyone at home? Write to me! But if you don’t, don’t worry! I’m 8 days away from home!

Episode 8 – July 18, 2010
Hello friends, family & loved ones,

So the time has come. This is most likely my last update from Pakistan, as we leave in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Tonight will most likely be devoted to saying goodbye to all the relatives. So here goes.
I have been packing. I wasn’t able to procure all the things I wanted to, or do the things I wanted to but I must console myself with what I was able to accomplish. Which has been pretty interesting.

I finished shopping and packing yesterday. I have a handful of things that I need to stow which will be done tomorrow. I went to two family parties on Sunday, one at lunchtime at Cousin Beenish and Saddaf’s house and then one at my Gudoo Mamoo’s house. Mamoo is the term for maternal uncle and although he isn’t my Mom’s brother but rather cousin, I have always referred to him as “Mamoo”. Both parties were fabulous. We felt loved.

Monday and Tuesday were kinda lazy days. I went out Monday with Beenish and we went to a restaurant called Tooso which reminds me of the Urdu word for stuff, as in “I’d like to stuff my face with candy”. We didn’t stuff ourselves as we had outspent our budget for the day. But it was nice.

Tuesday, Mom was sick. Whatever bug had gotten me the previous week got her this week. So she was miserable. Tuesday, I took Cousins Alina, Beenish and Saddaf to the Marriott Hotel Karachi for “High Tea”. Quite a posh place. We “toosed” as much as we could. See the picture below of the best haleem I have EVER eaten. And I’ve had lots of haleem, a sort of porridge with beef and lemon – oh so goood! We rolled out of there feeling happy.

Wednesday, I came over to Cousin Alina and Aunt Nasreen’s digs. It was nice to spend time with them one on one.

Thursday. We were going to go to Saddaf and Beenish’s house but plans fell through…

It’s 1:30 AM on Friday now.

I am very sad. I don’t know if I will ever return to Pakistan. I don’t even really know if I am inclined to do so. I love my relatives here. My Grandmother is getting on in years and I worry about her. My cousins are amazing and I wish I could bring them with me. This place is haunting, ugly, beautiful and hypnotic all at once. I detest it and adore it. I can’t explain it any other way.

The things I’ve seen and experienced here are unique. Most people in my sphere will never know the way I feel. It makes me feel wary writing about it. You all know me and can always ask, “Farheen what did you mean when you wrote that?” and I can try and explain. But it is difficult for me to share these insights with others that I don’t know.

One thing that I learned is that despite my fluency in Urdu, I have an accent. And that accent gives me away to anyone I talk to. I don’t feel that I have this accent. I think I speak Urdu like all the people around me. Yet it is clear to everyone here that I am not “from here”. There are 2 reasons I bring this up. First, it amuses me. As I am a sucker for an accent, I find it immensely entertaining that I have one, evidently. But the second reason is a bit more on the serious side. When I am in the US, people ask me where I am from. If I answer “Chicago” I am asked a second time, “No, where are you from” to which I always reply, “My parents are from Pakistan”. By my very appearance (except when I am mistaken for being Mexican) I am an outsider. I thought that problem would disappear here, after all, I look Pakistani (maybe I still look Mexican but there aren’t many Mexicans or Mexican Americans here so no one assumes). But when I open my mouth, heck when I walk down the street, I am an outsider. Am I from nowhere? What is my identity?

There is a Punjabi saying my Dad uses which says “A person who tries to sail in two boats at the same time drowns.” I beg to differ. If there is one thing I have learned on this trip, it is who I am. I am Farheen H__ D___ – Pakistani American, proud of my heritage and the land of my ancestors, proud of my country where I hope to serve as a bridge between two cultures. I will not drown. I hope to thrive. And I hope that you all are along for the ride.

So yeah that’s what I have to say. I’ll shoot out an email once I am home in the States! Signing off for the last time from Pstan!


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