It’s my last night in Pakistan. I’m kind of geeked about leaving, so I’m having problems sleeping. It’s been a hell of a week.
Flying from Karachi to Dubai on Emirates is a harrowing journey. Not because it’s long or something — it’s only a 2 hour flight. Emirates calls this kind of short flight an Aerobus. I call it a BeardoBus. That’s all you’ll find on these flights.* Bearded Islamic scholars who don’t wear deodorant and recite the Quran in loud whispers through the entire journey. The really fun part about traveling with these guys is catching them ogling the flight attendants’ legs as they sashay up and down the aisles.
It’s been an interesting thing coming back to Pakistan after several years. The last time I was here, I would have freaked out a little at even the idea of getting groped in a market or something. It’s happened before. A lot. And my reaction was always to ignore it and walk away as fast as possible, my blood boiling. My dark brown face would be beet red if I was capable of blushing. Duck down and try not to be noticed. That was always my policy.
This time, though, I’m older. Bolder. There was no ducking down, no trying to blend in. I walked around in properly fitted t-shirt, ass-flattering jeans and flip flops. No baggy clothing. No scarf covering up my chest. And I carry around a bigass, sturdy handbag that I could easily beat the shit out of someone with. I walked about with a swagger, my head held high. Fuck anyone who thinks that’s not the way a woman should behave in public. I’ve been here a week and I haven’t been groped or messed with even once. Success.
I soaked in some culture I haven’t ever really experienced before. I went to a Shi’ite temple with my friend’s parents. They know I grew up Sunni (and assume that I still am), so they asked me if it was OK. Meh. Curiosity wins every time. Besides, the building was kind of pretty and I wanted to see the glasswork.
It was the only time during my trip that I had to put a scarf over my head, and it was a pretty lame attempt at doing so. All I had with me was a very sheer scarf. I half covered my hair and my shoulders, which were bare thanks to my sleeveless ensemble. It wasn’t doing much to hide anything. They let me in anyway. Formalities, I guess.
I went in and touched the flag pole like everyone else (no idea why they do that). I took my shoes off. I followed Friends Mom into the mosque-like building (through the separate ladies’ entrance, of course) and we walked up to a gated area. She touched the gate with both hands and peered inside, praying in whispers. I didn’t touch the gate but I peeked in. It was an above-ground tomb. Friend explained later that the guy was a very prominent figure in the Karachi Shi-ite community.
Then we went to a corner that houses what appears to be a miniature baby crib made out of metal. Friend’s Mom asked if I would reach over and rock the thing. I did. And when i saw her big toothy grin, I realized this was something that’s supposed to “help” me get pregnant. Good fucking luck with that one. My ovaries are non-functioning but I went ahead and got an IUD just to put my mind at ease. My odds of getting knocked up are about the same as those of God’s existence.
Anyway, spending time with Shi’tes was interesting. I don’t know a whole lot about Shi’ite culture and I learned quite a bit from Friend’s family. We also went to an Ahmedi lady’s house. She was one of the sweetest, most genuine women I’ve ever met. I didn’t even mind that she kept saying “God bless you,” because she kind of made me realize that not everyone is a total asshole. Color me jaded, but it’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt like that. It was refreshing.
I didn’t do much aside from spend time with my family and Friend. It was nice, but I’m ready to get back to my other family.
I’m bringing back a suitcase full of pashmina scarves for my friends…and for myself. KafirBoy’s getting a carved wooden statue of a fat Buddha looking all happy. The fun part is the underside of the statue. When you pick it up and flip it over, there are two figures hidden underneath. A man and a woman. They’re all wrapped up in one another’s arms, smiling. When you look closely, you realize that the man is actually sucking on the woman’s boob while giving her a handjob. No joke. I just had to get it for the only other person I know who would find that hilarious.
He’s also getting a handful of pirated DVDs and a ginormous bottle of spiced rum from ye olde duty free shoppes. The real present, though, is little old me showing up at 7 am on Saturday to wake him up with some serious snuggling followed by a week’s worth of dorky shenanigans. Whoo! Lucky man, that one!
My advice to anyone going to Karachi: bring your own coffee. Seriously. Bring a small coffee maker and some grounds. You’ll find nothing but instant here, unless you’re willing to seek out a decent coffee shop. And even that’s hit and miss. Order a coffee with cream and you’ll get a teeny drop of espresso underneath a mountain of whipped cream on top. Dunkin Donuts coffee here tastes like it was ground in someone’s butt. And fancy coffee places are a high pretentiousness zone. Meh.
* That and the occasional brown twenty-somethings traveling back to the states after spending a week with their families. You will know us by our giant backpacks and giant headphones. And our lack of beards. We sort of nod at one another and hope we get seats together on the next leg of the journey.