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!