Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Baby S Enters the Christmas Battle

haha, I say that to add drama. There's never really been a Cbristmas battle, but there's always been this lingering fear that one might appear. To set the record straight, baby S is firmly in the "pro-Christmas" column. Oddly, M is pretty far in the pro-Christmas column too, but he is loathe to admit it.

There is a fair amount of debate about how much Christmas is okay between American Muslims, specifically the ones I talk to (lol), this time of year. I've heard the "It's not okay to celebrate any holidays that are not specifically Islamic" I've heard, "Is it okay to accept Christmas gifts from American friends?" My husband is totally okay with accepting gifts from his American family and baby S is right there with him. (He sometimes wonders if what he is doing is totally okay, but the receipt of his favorite colognes and clothing straight from me allays his fears. . . .)

S is very excited. This year she is two and a half years old and knows exactly what her job will be on Christmas morning. She walks around telling family members about how SHE bought them a Christmas present. She adores the lights and snowment and is enamored with the mall Santa Clauses. My parents took her to a work Christmas party and Santa arrived on a fire truck and distributed gifts. She now has a beloved "Pandy" named after a sub-character on "Kai-Lan". This only made her newfound love of Christmas stronger.

The battle I speak of, truly comes down to the Christmas tree. Baby S sees the one at my parents' house and wants to know, "Where's OUR Christmas tree Momma??" My husband, normally her fervent slave, continually manages to not bring it out of storage. Before baby S we alternated between having one and not having one, and this year it seems very important to him that we do not display one. I'm not sure if it is his attempt to make sure she realizes that our family is "different" or what exactly. I've actually asked, but he just shrugs it off and says he'll take it out soon.

This really is not a battle though, because I don't mind at all. I think it is great that the baby gets to celebrate her "American" "Christian" holidays and her Islamic ones as well. I'm happy that he does not mind letting her hang out with my family and celebrate the way that they love to celebrate. Frankly, I love seeing how excited she's getting for the holidays and how her eyes light up at the sight of the gifts and Christmas lights and everything that goes with the season. I'm especially proud each time she reminds me that we need to buy someone specific a gift or she clamors to help wrap one. Totally fun.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Language Barrier (or Jobs M will never do . . .)

It was a very surreal experience to wake up in someone else's house. . . .in PAKISTAN. I could hear S playing somewhere, but there was no one else in the house where I had been sleeping. I had pulled up these velvety cushions on the floor and M's Aunty had given me a blanket to sleep with. I found my way out of the house and out of the room and found M and S pretty easily and the baby was obviously happy surrounded by all of these cousins.

In the house where we stayed there were two young cousins, both boys. S was 11 months old when we went and the boys were 4 and 8. S was getting tons of attention and everyone was doting on her. I still had a headache, but M armed me with a 1.5 Liter bottle of water, and that helped quite a bit. I found myself trying my best to smile, widely, at everyone. I am, to this day, unable to string coherent sentences together in Urdu, but could understand most of what was said in Urdu. The problem was that the people in M's family tend to switch to Hindko when in the company of family. And then, M has friends who speak Punjabi and/or Pashto. . . so I was lost quite a bit.

M's best friend was married to a quite educated woman (I later discovered this was the cousin involved in arranging M's first marriage. . .the one who wanted to marry a woman whose family would not consent unless M married the particular woman he did. . . ) It became evident over the course of the trip that this friend felt like he "owed" M something. He became our voluntary chauffeur, refusing to allow us to take a taxi or rent a car for any trip we took. He took days off work and took us to meet family, invited us to dinner in his home, took us on shopping tours and even enlisted the help of his wife in negotiating bangle prices for me (haha.)

I felt guilty for a lot of the trip for not knowing the language. M's sister also tried to speak to me in the English that she knew, and we got quite good at using hand signals.

I learned, on this trip, that M is a HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE. . .I would say nearly worthless, translator.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Okay, back to the trip. . .

Trying to gather all of our luggage together was absolutely nuts. There was a porter (or five to ten of them) jockeying to try and "help" us with our luggage. M was really wary of these guys, apparently having had a bad experience with them in the past. Everything went really fast once we managed to find our luggage.

I turned around and suddenly family members were everywhere and M's youngest brother had grabbed baby S. The next thing I know M's mother had her hands on my face and was hugging me and saying a lot of things in Hindko. She was a few inches taller than me and had a long, thin face. I was still looking frantically around to find the baby, but M's brother had gotten way ahead of us. All of this was exacerbated by the fact that I really had no idea who was who.

M's mother grabbed my hand and started walking quickly towards the exit. I was a little delirious at this point, probably from dehydration, so I just tried to smile as much as possible and follow along. It was hot when we left the building, but it was a dry heat, something I'm not really used. Having grown up in the southern portion of the United States, I've always lived in places known for humidity. . .so this was a bit different experience. M was smiling widely, and I must admit, from his hesitation before the trip, I was a bit surprised. There were two men besides M's brother and he didn't bother to introduce them. I was later told they were cousins.

M's family had gotten a tiny van to carry us from the airport, but it only fit our luggage and three people all squeezed together. Truth be told, no one bothered to tell me what was happening, but we were walking for a block or two to a parking lot to grab a taxi. M's mother was holding on to me most of the way and trying desperately to dote on baby S. Beyond my headache, this was encouraging.

The headache, my most major mistake for the trip, will be something I try to fix next trip. I've read since then that airplanes are some of the dryest climates we face (lol)and I did not pre-hydrate at all. Also, the stewardesses on the plane, while very polite, were too busy to deliver refreshments for the largest part of our 16 hour flight. Since there are restrictions on how much water you can bring through security (as in none) I'll be forced to make a large investment in bottled water from the stores in the airport after we pass through security.

As it was, I was so nauseous and dizzy by the time that we reached M's home, I ended up sleeping in one of M's uncle's houses, next door. He had an airconditioner in his sitting room and offered it up for me to nap. M and baby S socialized and I slept in the uncle's floor, for how long, I will never know, but when I woke up, M's brother had arrived with a delivery man to install our very own airconditioner in the room M, S and I would be staying!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Good Tidings of Great Joy

Today, my father-in-law called. He does not call often, in fact, it only happens once every two, sometimes three years. It is never "good" news when he called. . .unless you can count today.

Today, he called to tell M that the youngest brother in the family is getting married. He is the last in the family to do so. M's youngest brother is "W." W met the lady on the train last month. He was on the way with my MIL to the nephew's wedding in Lahore. On the train he "fell in love." He and the family have decided he will get married next month.

We are not invited to the wedding. . . but we are. . . .
hmmmmmmmm, what is the right word? "Requested?" "Ordered?" Hmmmmm, not sure. . .

We don't need to come, but should send $2,000 to pay for the wedding.

Can anyone explain to me exactly how I'm supposed to react to that?


Thursday, March 10, 2011


My biggest fear on this trip was how the in-laws would behave. If you've read the beginning pages of the blog, you understand that my in-laws could never be considered "fans." I kept running scenarios through my head where I was separated from my husband for too long or where they were just plain mean.

I convinced myself that this was the absolute best trip we could have ever planned. The baby was eleven months old (and terribly, terribly cute.) I figured there was no way they wouldn't like her, and thus she would turn all of the negative energy they had for me, into positive energy for her. Since it was my first intercontinental trip, we were to visit for only ten days. This was another thing that worried me, since M's last trip (scheduled for two weeks) lasted nearly five months. M did not tell them how long we were staying, and this scared me. I had this nightmare that they would push M into staying longer or refuse to take us back to the airport causing me to miss work and/or lose my job.

What actually happened was amazing. When we arrived, Karachi International Airport was not nearly the huge, busy airport I had imagined. M had told me stories of the separate lines for returning citizens and for foreign citizens, and those lines were nothing like what he had described. The officers spoke a funny kind of English asking jumbled up questions that they expected me to understand. M finally tried to just talk to them in Urdu and they resisted, jumbling up more English phrases. One example, "What is your good name?" It literally took me four repetitions to understand what he was saying. I mean, when was the last time someone asked you for your good name? I had also been up for hours and must have looked like I had been run over by a train.

I had changed into salwar kameez on the layover in Dubai and felt very, very out of place in my sandals. It did not matter that everyone else was wearing salwar kameez, I felt like an elephant in my bright, new shiny outfit as compared to the normal everyday wear around me. This is always exacerbated by the fact that my husband insists on wearing western slacks and outfits, EVERYWHERE, our home, our wedding, PAKISTAN.

Each officer was dressed in green uniform that resembled the Pakistani army uniforms I had seen on television. The biggest surprise was that one of the customs agents was a hijab wearing woman. When we got to the desk, in my muddled Urdu understanding, I could tell that the male customs agent next to us, while interviewing someone re-entering Pakistan, was on his cell phone, trying to finagle a visitor's visa to the United States.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Trip

It's been almost a year now since I first traveled to Pakistan. By nature, I am a planner, but I am also a procrastinator. And I can tell you two things I've learned about my husband in the last eight years: He does not pack for trips, he does not plan ahead.

The night before our trip I was packing until 2:00 in the morning. I then got up at 6:30 am to go to work. I left work early that day because I had an open block in the afternoon and had to pack the car. We had decided that for a very cheap fare, we would fly from New York city, and so, we rented a van to carry the absolutely crazy-huge suitcases into which we had packed gifts and food for the baby. Keep in mind that baby S was eleven months old at this time and was kind of particular about the type of food she ate. There was this irrational fear I had that we would not be able to find anything in Karachi to buy that she would eat. Sooooo, we packed baby food jars and bottled water and extra bottles.

I told you I am a planner. It was my plan to take thos disposable bottles that Playtex makes with drop-in liners so that we would not be trying to boil bottles at all hours of the night. (Even my in-laws balk at the idea of washing a baby's bottle in regular tap water in Karachi.) In my frenzy to pack everything, I packed the bottles, and did not pack the liners. Out the window went my great plans. I ended up in Karachi with one, yes ONE, Avent bottle. It took four days to find a store to buy another bottle to save me some washings.

We drove to New York and arrived at our hotel at 1:30 in the morning. We had to be up the next morning at 6:00 am to make our flight. Our flight was to go through Dubai, UAE and the first leg was to be a 13 hour flight. We would have a layover in Dubai for three hours and then take a 2 hour flight to Karachi.

By the time our flight began, having slept less than seven hours in two days, I was exhausted. S slept quite a bit on the plane, when she was in the bassinett provided on the plane, but someone was supposed to monitor her at all times and when she was on my lap, in an airplane seat, there was no sleep. I had this nutty stewardess too who kept making me take her out of the bassinett and buckle her into my seat with me. By the time we stopped in Dubai, my headache had begun, and we weren't even there yet!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Teacher's Rant

People choose to become teachers for a lot of different reasons. From the time that I was a small child, I wanted to be a teacher. It started in the first grade when my teacher read us "Charlotte's Web." It was the first "chapter book" I had ever heard and it was magic to me when it became the first book of that length I ever read on my own. The sense of pride I felt at being able to open that world for myself, the gratitude at being taught to read, I wanted to give that to other people. I tutored all throughout my elementary and middle school years.

By the time I got to high school I had changed my mind about being a teacher a few times. My family became involved in emergency medical services, everyone was a Paramedic and I wandered into that world and dedicating my time to medical careers. I never stopped teaching, but spent my time teaching CPR classes and precepting (training) other EMT's.

I spent a lot of my time during school, evaluating and re-planning lessons that I saw. I thought a lot about how I would have done something differently or how much "fun" teaching a certain lesson might be.

I have never met anyone who became a teacher for the money, and anyone who says they did it because teachers have "summers off" was joking.

Politicians and more prevelantly, "journalists" have been balking at the "high salary" and "outrageous" benefits given to public school teachers for such an "easy" job. They further complain about teachers having the summer off and leaving work "at 2:30."

I would like to go on record as saying that I'm not sure which teachers these guys are talking to, but I, for one, do not leave work at 2:30 and have a lot more responsibilities than this gentleman seems to think. They quote the average salary as $51,000 and benefits packages at $27,000. Those numbers must be inflated, because I am nowhere in the ballpark of those figures after five years of teaching. That is all I will say.

I do have a few challenges for these "journalists." I would really like them to go and teach journalism classes (six per term) in a normal public school. I would like for them to forego their journalist salary, and take on the teacher salary they would earn for their respective degrees (Glen Beck you don't qualify, because I hear you didn't attend. . . .) I want them to have "normal" class sizes, be responsible for all parent contacts that a normal teacher would have, the grading practices of a normal teacher, the meeting ratio and continuing education requirements of a normal teacher.

I would like for them to have the same reporting requirements, and the same peer observation requirements. The only difference is that I would like for there to be a REAL journalism teacher present in an observational capacity, so that someone will be there when the journalist runs screaming out of a room of thirty-three 15-18 year olds.

I really try my best not to talk about topics that I am not knowledgeable about. I really feel personally attacked each time one of these journalists balks at teachers wanting class size limits or when they say how lazy teachers are. I take very personally the attacks on teachers.

*I apologize for this post and promise to get back to the Pakistan trip soon.*

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Eye Roll--or--Still not Quite Accepted

If you've read past the first page of archived posts, you know that I have a very personal and deep interest in intercultural marriages and the effects on both sides of the family. For some reason, this last few days I've been reading up on other blogs talking about the difficulties people have faced in intercultural, interreligious marriages and it reminded me of my first trip to Pakistan.

Yes folks, I went to Pakistan. M was pretty against it for a long time. He actually tried to talk me out of it. I just kept looking for tickets. It was really important to me to see his city, to know where he was born and where he grew up. All this time of not having experienced Karachi made me feel like there was a part of M that I did not know. . . like there was a bit of a puzzle missing and I am a real type-A personality. I must complete the puzzle.

M still laughs now, months later about my determination to visit Karachi. He and I were watching the notorious "Not Without my Daughter" opening scenes where the husband begs his wife to go to Iran with him. She fights back insisting that it is not safe and he tries to convince her over and over of his ability to protect her. M just looked at me with feigned astonishment at this scene, "What in the world did I marry?" he said. "He's standing there begging her to go, and I was begging you not to. . ."

Anyway, this leads me to what M considers an American cultural phenomenon, eye rolling. He is certain that he has never seen a Pakistani woman roll her eyes at anyone. It would be too disrespectful, he asserts. . . .it would never happen.

I let him argue this way for several weeks before I finally said, "I've met your mother, and she is a really good eye roller." At his insistence, I gave him an example.

We went to Pakistan in April. Our trip ended on our wedding anniversary. His family, thinking I could not understand their Urdu, told his mother, "Ammi, this week they've been married for four years! This is their anniversary." Her response, a large eye roll, tilted head and pulling tighter her duppatta. At the time, I overlooked it, but now it is one of my strongest memories of the trip.

Karachi really is a beautiful place, by the way :-) I will have to write more about it soon!