Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pakistan, Day Four

I had a comment on yesterday's entry that won't post, so I thought I'd answer it here, KMS.

Travel warnings have been issued by the U.S. for American citizens on and off for Pakistan over the last 20 years. We followed all of the guidelines explicitly, receiving visas to travel and to participate in church activities in a restricted area of the city.
I have purposely not discussed my presidential vote on my blog, and I still won't, but the reason I mentioned Pakistani reaction to Trump's election was out of interest, not to validate my voting choice. When I discussed Pakistan with my four History classes after I returned, not one student could name the leader of Pakistan, but every 7th standard and above student in Pakistan knew of the election between Clinton and Trump. Americans so often think little past our own borders.
And to answer to your question about scarves and makeup--makeup is a personal beauty choice, just like in America. Many women there wear makeup or don't; it isn't part of their cultural identity per se, but it definitely was part of the excitement for the wedding and with the women I spent time with.
Scarves are worn by women in Pakistan, but Christian women and Muslim women wear them differently. I was visiting a group of Christian women, and I asked them how I should wear mine. As you will see in these two photos, Christian women rarely cover their hair with their scarves. I did take my cues from my hosts and did exactly as they did. In fact, on the day I didn't wear a scarf, I asked them if I should wear one of my other scarves, and they said no, because I didn't have one that matched. 
Hope this answers your questions.

Saturday November 26
Saturday’s celebration centered around the bride’s family driving four hours all together in a bus to Rahat’s hometown for a final party and to bring the couple back to her home for a traditional visit of a few days before she permanently moves in with his family.
1.     First time waking up with a tattoo on my face. Not exactly what it sounds like, people. Part of the wedding celebration includes henna on the hands of the women in the party. I’ve never had henna (but Lily loves it). I was the kid that never wrote on her baby dolls and never wrote “Cootie Shot” on her hands. I hate it when I even get a pen mark or whiteboard marker on me. Choosing to get henna was, like the salon experience, making sure I fully immersed myself in the whole Pakistani experience. Nosheen’s niece spent an hour doing my henna after the wedding on Friday night, and I was careful to let it all dry before washing it off just before bed. When I woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror, I was horrified. I’m a side sleeper preferring to tuck one hand under my cheek as I sleep. You can see where this is going, right? Lucky for me, the shadow left on my cheek from my hands came off with quite a bit of scrubbing. How bad would that have been if I’d shown up for the bus ride that morning looking like Mazer Rackham from Ender’s Game? I dodged a bullet on that one!
2.     First time eating ketchup flavored potato chips. The four-hour ride to Sargodha was just a big party on wheels. The whole family was together, excited to see Nosheen for a few more days before her big move. The driver stopped at a gas station for a potty break and we bought a few snacks. This was just like America; very few other experiences were even close to what we do at home. Flavors of chips were strange, and I was hesitant to try many of them, but Shazina bought a variety for everyone to “share, share.” I was surprised that “French Cheese” is the Pakistani name for Sour Cream and Cheddar and “Yougurt and Herb” is Sour Cream and Onion. I relaxed at the familiar tastes, not thinking as we snacked and laughed. I reached my hand into a bag without reading the label, and the familiar texture combined with an unfamiliar taste registered in my brain. What was it? I read the label—ketchup flavored potato chips. I think there’s a reason these aren’t marketed in the U.S. Not my favorite, that’s for sure.
3.     First time seeing camels not in a zoo. The entire family (over 40 people) swarmed in on Nosheen’s cousin who lives in Sargodha to clean up and prepare for the celebration. Everyone changed clothes (except me and Brad, who were unfamiliar with the custom of traveling clothes and changing into party clothes) and did their makeup and hair (I did mine that morning, but I was also glamorized for the day with more makeup and another bun). As we were getting ready, an unusual bell ringing (similar to Santa’s jingle bells), came from the alley. The older kids ran to the gate, yelling a word I didn’t know. One of them grabbed my hand and said, “Sister Jenny, photo! Photo!” I was not prepared for what I saw on the other side of the gate. It was a three-camel train, all wearing colorful headpieces and bells.
They were the skinniest camels I’ve ever seen, carrying all kinds of unrecognizable stuff. I don’t know why I was so surprised to see this; I guess I thought camels were only in the Middle Eastern desert areas (which Pakistan borders, duh).

Saturday was a long day spent driving and dancing, more fabulous clothes for the married couple, and gift exchanges. When we finally got to the hotel just before midnight, we were spent. And we knew this was our last night sleeping in a bed before getting home.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Pakistan, Day Three

Day 3
We’re back from the wedding in Pakistan, an adventure aptly called a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was exciting and uncomfortable and joyful and scary and absolutely incredible every minute. Every day was filled with new things—food, clothing, people, culture. Instead of a precise, day-by-day travelogue which I’m afraid might be boring to anyone but me, I thought I would share with you my top three “firsts” from each day of the trip.

Friday November 25—Wedding Day
Friday was the actual marriage—and the first time Nosheen saw Rahat, her new husband, sine their engagement months before.

1.     First time being asked what I think of Donald Trump. We returned to the Daniels’ home on Friday, and I loved what I saw. Daniel had two Muslim customers in his shop, asking him questions on their sewing projects when we walked in. They were surprised to see Americans (as was everyone we saw everywhere), and we exchanged small talk, translated by Liptka, Daniel’s seventeen-year-old daughter. Suddenly, the customer used English, and she asked, “What do you think of Donald Trump?” That question surprised me, thinking that the U.S. presidential election would not matter in an isolated region of the Third World. I didn’t know what to say, and when I hesitated, she resorted back to heated Urdu, the expression on her face revealing how she felt. I honestly told her how I felt, saying that most Americans who voted for him wanted a change and I hope he doesn’t follow through with all of his campaign promises. Liptka translated for me, but before she could finish, the customer’s English returned and she spat, “I do not like America.” And with that, she turned from me back to her business. The happy atmosphere of the shop suddenly gone, I wanted to vanish. It’s one thing to be in the U.S. and hear different political opinions and concerns, but for regular people in Pakistan to be concerned about our president brought the whole international reality into perspective for me. This wasn’t the last time a Pakistani asked me about our president-elect, and my responses didn’t get any easier each time the question was raised.
2.     First time feeling uncomfortable without a scarf. I had the most beautiful clothes to wear to all the festivities—each was unique and made me feel quite Pakistani. When I got dressed for the wedding ceremony on Friday, I realized this dress was missing its scarf. I felt a little weird about it, but I thought maybe that’s how this dress was supposed to be. When I got to the salon that morning, Shazina asked where my scarf was, so I knew it was meant to have one. While I didn’t miss wrestling with it all day long (it takes practice to wear a scarf well, and I never mastered it while there), I did feel a little conspicuous on occasion when I didn’t have it around my neck. It surprised me how quickly I acclimated to wearing traditional dress, even if I was unaware of all the subtle nuances surrounding it—like not picking up the hem of a shirt because it’s suggestive or how each woman has her own style and it is obvious in her choices, even if they’re all basically the same shape. I loved the clothes so much and wish we wore them here. They’re so easy to wear, never having to worry about fit or discomfort. And they’re stunning. Walking through a Pakistani dress shop is mesmerizing.
3.     First time officially photographing a wedding. There was an official videographer and at least two other photographers, but Nosheen specifically asked me to bring my good camera so she could have as many memories as possible. I took this to be photographer permission, and I got as close to the action as I could as often as possible.
I photographed Rahat arrive in the horse-drawn carriage and the men throwing money to the kids. I shot the ceremony and the gut-wrenching goodbyes as Nosheen left her family. I didn’t know all of the rules, but cell phone cameras were pulled out by almost everyone, so I knew I could shoot anything I wanted.
Pakistani culture has different rules for women, and on occasion I noticed that I was treated differently from Brad. This was especially evident with the male photographers. I was the only woman, and they didn’t hesitate in pushing me out of the way to get the shot they wanted. They also never spoke to me. I tried not to get too mad about it, but at the wedding ceremony I was about ready to elbow one guy in the ribs as he repeatedly stepped in front of my shot.

Even with all this, I got some spectacular shots (for me), and being an amateur American photographer invited to shoot a Pakistani wedding made me feel a little like I was on assignment for National Geographic.

Friday was the busiest day of the entire trip. Watching Brad walk Nosheen down the aisle, knowing how much she wished her dad could be there, brought tears to my eyes. It was a good day.