I understand you are visiting Pakistan after 16 years; therefore, I would be remiss if I didn’t brief you as to expectations and quell any unexpressed anxiety you may be experiencing as a result.
1. Temerity: Immediately upon arrival be prepared to be accosted by friends/relatives with extremely invasive and personal questions and comments. These include, but are not limited to: your hair or lack thereof; your skin; your weight (“healthy-shealthy” or “sickly-shickly”) (either way, they will disapprove of your appearance); relationship status. They don’t mean to be offensive, but somehow still manage to do so, and do it with aplomb. Tact is not a virtue inherent in Pakistanis.
2. Culture Shock: You may recall from prior visits that things are very different abroad. For example, two or more men walking down the street holding hands is completely normal in Pakistan. It is a platonic display of affection 95% of the time. Therefore, feel free to grab the sweaty palms (it is July, after all) of your nearest cousin/uncle/friend, and hold hands with reckless abandon! (When in Rome…)
3. Desi Trifecta: Understand that we are not like other mere mortals. Breathtakingly beautiful, intelligent and American are gifts we take for granted, but rest assured…others notice. Girls will be coming out of the woodwork as soon as you step foot on Paki soil. Mark my words. Your job is to reign in your attentions. I realize not everyone is blessed with my herculean stoicism and self-control, least of all girls from Pak. You spend an iota of a second longer giving a girl there more attention than the person sitting next to her, and she’ll be doodling your names together later that evening. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself engaged/nikah-ed within the week and will be none-the-wiser as to how exactly it all happened.
4. Hype: The mere mention of our coming incites all sorts of emotions and activity over there. It’s easy to get caught up in all that short-term hype, to confuse fleeting feelings for something more and to be extremely flattered by all that attention. However, you need to see it for what it is: temporary infatuation. Don’t get caught up in something you don’t intend to finish and please refer to our conversations about how I artfully keep it in the friend zone. (*Disclaimer: It doesn’t always work. We are charming and ridiculously good-looking with rapist wits to boot and people are drawn to us like moths to a flame; perfection personified, if you will. There will be some casualties, despite all our efforts to the contrary. As we know, our devastating good looks are a blessing and a curse. Involuntary heart-breaking comes with the territory. It’s our cross to bear.)
5. Hand Sanitizer: Use it.
6. Trust Nobody: Do not venture out alone, unaccompanied or with new acquaintances. Within our circle of friends/family alone and with armed security in tow, we’ve had kidnappings and kidnapping attempts, carjackings at gunpoint, our house burgled twice at gun/knifepoint and other acts of violence (Most recently? My cousin’s brand new car blown up and his wife’s brother murdered). It’s not a safe place, so do not let your guard down. Not even for a minute. I’m serious.
7. Food: Pizza Hut Chicken Tikka Pizza, everything at BBQ Tonight, and Kabab Rolls from Bundoo Khan. Don’t let me down.
8. Discontentment: Be prepared, for upon exiting the airport, all your senses will be ruthlessly assaulted. That smell? Get used to it. Hot? You’ll be sweating like a sinner in church. Noise? You can’t hear yourself think. Strangers with no boundaries or respect for personal space? Yep. Pollution, over-population, corruption and poverty are rampant. This blatant downward trajectory will, ipso facto, be very disheartening to witness.
9. Pakistani Standard Time (PST): Be cognizant of this now, as it will save you a lot of unnecessary frustration and mental anguish later. If someone tells you something will be ready at 2 o’clock on Tuesday, it will be. The following Tuesday.
10. Reverence: Spend as much time showering your elderly relatives with love and affection as you possibly can. They deserve our respect and long for us when we are not with them. Every time I leave, I know that the next time I return some of them may no longer be there. Don’t take a second of it for granted.
Mostly, have a good time. At times it will feel overwhelming, especially since we visit after fairly long intervals, for such short amounts of time, and with such an exorbitant amount of things we must take in during these brief trips. Rest assured knowing, even though things seem bad, no matter where in the world we go–we’re most likely the best looking person there. And Boo, that’s the most important thing…