When Sam first started going over to Pakistan, I was very jealous to say the least. To him, it was all part of the job. But to me, it seemed as if he was traveling the world while I was (not stuck, totally not stuck) but... kind of... stuck at home with the kids.
After his first trip, he brought me pictures like this...
Seriously, that was it. Just those three pictures.
I have to admit, I found the pictures lacking in woohoo and overflowing with blech, but I was still determined to go.
Based on the pics, I imagined a giant desert, with adobe huts everywhere. At the same time, I also knew Lahore had a population of around 7 to 10 million people, so I figured it must just be a sprawling city/village.
Um, so yeah, I was totally wrong.
Pakistan has three major cities: Islamabad is the political capital, Karachi the commercial capital, and Lahore the cultural capital. Lahore is a city of extremes: extreme driving, extreme noise, extreme economic diversity, extreme spice, extreme heat.
So, today, I thought it would be fun to review my preconceived notions, and those of other Americans like me, and figure out what is the truth, and what is fiction.
1. All Pakistanis hate Americans.
FALSE. Of course. Now that doesn't mean those with ill will towards the US don't exist. And there were definitely neighborhoods in which I would never be allowed to enter, some streets I would never be allowed to walk.
But everyone I met was kind and good. Sure there were curious stares. And maybe there were people who kept their distance because of how I looked, and who knows what goes on inside the head of someone else? But I only felt good vibes.
The people I talked to are very concerned with the terror problem in their country. But they also want outsiders to know that their country is not solely about what is shown on CNN.
2. I'm American. I live near Mexico. I can handle spicy food.
Um, abso-freakin-lutely FALSE. Spice has its own political party over there. Seriously, it should be its own nation. Our naive stomachs simply cannot handle the truth of their spices. What's that you say? You eat at the Bombay House every night? That's like saying you eat white bread every night, so you should be okay eating a piece of granite.
Also, we can't handle the dairy either. Or raw vegetables. Thankfully, I had friends who would leap through the air and tackle me every time I was about to eat something I shouldn't.
3. Blond hair and blue eyes couldn't possibly be scary.
FALSE. We've already discussed how many little children I made cry just by smiling at them.
4. All women in Pakistan cover their heads and faces.
FALSE. There exists more conservative Muslims, who only show their eyes. Especially on the outskirts of the city. But you will also find those who just cover their heads and those who don't cover anything from the neck up. Some wear the traditional shawal kameez, some wear jeans and tees.
Many women won't shake the hand of a man. Many will. Some believe a woman's place is only in the home, as a housewife. Some work very hard at their jobs to provide for their families. Some choose to focus on a career instead of marriage.
I met at least one of each kind of woman. And they were all muslim.
5. American music is nowhere to be found.
FALSE. Much of the music playing in our cars was of the India Bollywood type. But on the way to tour the Badshahi Mosque and the Fort, we were all singing to the tunes of ABBA. On the way to the airport, I even heard Muse playing. At another point "She's got Bette Davis Eyes." So, yes, they even listen to cheesy American music.
6. Cars cost the same in Pakistan as they do in America.
NOPE. Cars cost about twice as much in Pakistan. So the kind of car can often be an indicator of how well off a person is. Also, many of the "middle class" people have maids, cooks, and/or drivers.
Considering the cost of cars, you can understand why an entire family would be riding on one little motorcycle.Or even just a donkey pulling a cart.
As a side note, most of the women on motorcycles ride "side-saddle". They can do this while holding a baby with one arm and a bag of groceries with the other. Talk about balance.
7. Pakistanis probably have never heard of Facebook.
Okay, this one's probably obvious. They Facebook as much as we do, and even the shyest of women suggested we "friend" each other.
8. Prostitution could never exist in an Islamic republic.
Nope. It does. Lahore even has a red light district. But prostitution is only legal between the hours of 11 pm and 1 am. (or maybe 10 to 12). We ate dinner in the old city, near the red light district once, and I got to see some women of the night. I noticed that most were sorta chubby. When I asked about it, I was told that's how the men want their prostitutes. Chubby is sexy.
9. I've driven a car in New York City. I could drive one on the streets of Lahore.
Uh-uh. Not in a million years. Every time I got in the car, I would close my eyes and just hope we would get to our destination in one piece. We always did. In fact, accidents seemed to be pretty rare. I still don't understand it.
10. Sam doesn't do dairies. He really works for the CIA.
MYTH. Nope, it's nothing as exciting as that. He really is all about the cows.
So, what are your questions about Pakistan? What are some of your perceptions? If I can't answer them (I'm still pretty clueless) I know my Pakistani friends who are reading this can. I would love it if y'all would leave a question in the comments today. Then maybe I can get them answered for Wednesday's or Friday's blog posts.
Of course, regular comments are fine too. You don't have to ask a question.