Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pakistan: Day One

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. I hope to find time to edit all the wedding photos and post them next week, after I dig out of the mess that always accumulates when you’re out of town for a while.

Wednesday, November 23
We arrived at the Lahore airport at 3:30 am local time, twenty hours since we left JFK in New York. While we were both exhausted, the adventure was just beginning.

My top three firsts from the first day:
The Daniel Family

  1. First time being measured by a professional tailor. Our first stop after four hours’ much needed but insufficient sleep at the hotel was breakfast at the Daniels’ home. I immediately loved their youngest son—he reminded me so much of Hyrum with his chocolate eyes and winning smile.
    Their daughter, Liptka, surprised me with excellent English, and I felt a sweet connection with the mother, Sonia. After finishing our first true Pakistani meal (fried eggs, delicious crispy bread, and a sweet topping that looked and tasted like applesauce but I discovered was made from flour, sugar, and water), Daniel invited me to see his tailoring shop, a small room attached to their home, entered by walking through the small kitchen and climbing through a glassless window. Since I grew up the daughter of a seamstress, I felt immediately at home among the beautiful fabric scraps, random bobbins of thread, and half-finished tunics hanging around the room. Daniel insisted that he measure me so that he could make me my own Pakistani shirt and pants, and I left their small home with a full belly, new friends, and the promise of a Pakistani outfit made just for me. It was a great way to start the trip.
  2.  First time falling asleep on a stranger’s couch in the middle of a conversation. By 5:30 pm that evening, I could not stay awake. Brad left Nosheen’s house to go wash the car with her brother, and I was there in a room full of people I didn’t yet know speaking a language I still do not understand. It’s difficult to stay focused in a room where you understand not a single word being spoken around you (unlike French or Spanish which I don’t know either, but I can contextually understand some things). When jetlagged twelve hours ahead of Phoenix, it wasn’t possible to focus at all. I fell asleep in the middle of the conversation, and I don’t know how long I slept, but when I woke, all the women looked at me and laughed not unkindly. Nosheen’s mother insisted that I go take a nap, even though it was 6 pm. I resisted that idea, because I’d heard the best way to conquer jetlag is to stay up until bedtime in the new time zone. Brad returned about this time, and he also insisted I nap, escorting me to a bed where I fell asleep before I could take off my boots. I awoke about an hour later, completely disoriented, boots still on, and covered in a blanket. I walked into the main room to cheers and laughter from the entire group. They must not have been too insulted by my unintentional sleepy rudeness.
     First big celebration of the wedding was the equivalent of a bridal shower. 
  3. See all the beautiful dresses?First time being taken aback by cultural differences. Wednesday night was the first wedding celebration—an all-girls’ party—and I met much of Nosheen’s extended family. Wednesday was the only day I stayed in western dress all day, and people would look me up and down all day long (it didn’t change much when I was in Pakistani dress, to be honest). I loved being included as a member of the family in all of the wedding festivities because it broke down the cultural barriers pretty quickly. One thing I found is that anyone who knew even a tiny bit of English would want to talk to me, no matter how little they knew. As I was sitting on the couch while Nosheen changed into one of her many gorgeous dresses bought by her fiance’s family, someone pointed to my boots. You all know my love affair with boots. I guess boots are completely foreign in that area of Pakistan, because she pointed to my feet and said, “What kind of footwear is that?” I just said boots, and she looked back at me and said, “Those look very uncomfortable. And why did you not put on makeup or lipstick or mascara for the party?” That last comment surprised me. I mean, I’m not a makeup kind of girl on any level (in fact, I bought my first MAC lipstick in Grand Central Station as we left NYC, specifically for this wedding—and the clerk had asked me if they are allowed to wear makeup in Pakistan), but I had been traveling that day for like 952 hours (ok—it was closer to 26, but still), and I didn’t think makeup would be a big deal in the Third World. I could not have been more wrong.  What do you say to comments like that on your first day in an unfamiliar country with unfamiliar customs and a bit of a language barrier? I kind of nodded and tried to brush it off. I don’t think she meant to be rude, just making an observation, so that’s how I took it.
Sisters Romeza and Rochelle

What an incredible first day it was. And it just got better every day.

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