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.

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