Monday, July 31, 2006

arzoo's shaldi

after days of ceremonies and preparation, the time had come for arzoo's nika and shaldi. the nika is when the marriage contract is actually signed. this occurs without the bride and groom even seeing each other. after the contract is signed, the bride is brought to the groom, sits beside him, looking down the entire night (acting bashful is key... i had to tease arzoo into looking up at me for this picture), and receiving guests until the time comes to leave with the groom, and only then do the two get to know each other. okay, asef and arzoo had been talking on the phone for 8 months, but still!

because this was such a special night, all farhan's female friends wore saris. putting on a sari is no easy task... nor is walking around in one. baby steps are crucial. i loved it, though. i would definitely wear a sari to any formal event. they look so regal. if only i had a torch and a crown, i could have been a pakistani statue of liberty. note the henna and the bangles. the bangles are glass bracelets, and it's common to break one (or 4) when putting them on or taking them off. you can also slice your hand if you're not careful. i had to use lots of soap and farhan's mom and sisters would fold my hands in ways i didn't think possible.

sad day

the day of the shaldi (the actual wedding ceremony) the family has a very special tradition. the parents dress up in their old wedding clothes, celebrating their own marriage. then their child to be wed sits on the mother's lap to be given away. this can be a very sad and happy moment all at once, but i was mostly sad when farhan carried arzoo in and placed her on his mother's lap. arzoo's shaldi meant she was leaving the house to live with her husband's family, and i felt like she was leaving me too. i was also just so scared because i knew so little about her husband asef who i had yet to meet. we did a lot of crying. farhan's dad was all smiles and laughing the whole time, but farhan's mom grieved the loss of her child. my heart was breaking for her and for the family.

after the ceremony we snapped a group shot of farhan's foreign friends and family. joost (a dutch man living in london), naqi (farhan's dad), me, rahana (farhan's mom), zoe (a swiss and swedish chick who came from belgium), helena (a spanish chick living in london), urooj (farhan's younger sister) and farhan. farhan's dad told everyone we foreigners were his kids from his previous marriage :-)

Friday, July 28, 2006

fun with henna

after 2 days of non-stop wedding ceremony fun, we had a 2 day hiatus from the festivities. kinda. we still had parties to attend, but of a purely social nature. farhan's high school buds helena, zoe and joost trickled in from their respective countries to join the wedding throng. we were fast friends. after their arrivals, we had a slight scare. a suicide bomber killed a shia priest about 10 minutes from our house. but really, no trip to pakistan would be complete with a little bomb scare, right? it barely made the news back home, but we let our loved ones know we were okay just in case. i was having clothes fitted that day and could barely get this top to fit over my head. or you could consider it a scare tactic.

meanwhile, as we endured what we gingerly termed "house arrest," we took turns getting henna on our hands. before the wedding, the bride has a mehendi ceremony where the bridal party gets painted with henna. 3 ladies came to our house and spent hours painting different designs on us all. arzoo's henna was of course the most elaborate work, trailing all the way up her arms and covering her feet and legs as well. the henna is like a brown paste that dries and cracks and rubs off the skin after 2-3 hours, leaving behind red tattoos that last for days/weeks. i still have faded evidence on the palms of my hands. note the peacock on the back of arzoo's hands. cool, eh?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

mayun video clip

here is a video clip from farhan's mayun (if it works!) i was supposed to put mehendi on a leaf in farhan's hand, but chose to put it on his face instead :-) his aunt then returned the favor. apparently this signifies something will happen to me, but i couldn't understand what exactly. i hope it's something good!

arzoo & farhan's mayun

my second day in karachi was extremely busy as urooj (farhan's youngest sister) gave instructions on how to prepare for the mayun ceremony to be celebrated at the house that night. this was a double party for arzoo (farhan's older sister) and farhan as both were getting married.

during the day urooj and i made mehendi (henna) and put in in different small pots and containers. we hung thousands of marigolds (orange and yellow) as the backdrop to the platform where arzoo and farhan would sit. i've never seen so many brightly colored flowers in my whole life. it was super cool. flowers were part of every ceremony, usually worn by the bride and groom, but the guests as well. the women would all receive bracelets made of orange blossoms as they arrived. they smelled soooo good!

during the ceremonies, i would sit with the women as they sang prayers. when praying, the women keep their heads covered. the girl singing prayers for arzoo's mayun had a beautiful voice and genuinely felt the words she sang. even though i couldn't understand what she was singing, her sincerity was moving.

i don't really understand the point of farhan's mayun, but for arzoo it signaled the beginning of several days where she would stay home always wearing yellow. she even put yellow tumeric mixed with rose water on her skin. all of this was in preparation for her wedding, when she would go from yellow to red, as a bright flame. here are farhan's dad (who i call baba), arzoo, farhan, his mom (who i call ami) and urooj in the back.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

roohi's mayun

as soon as i arrived in karachi i barely had time for a shower and a nap before i was fitted for clothes and whisked away to the first (of many) wedding ceremonies. initially, farhan was not supposed to attend roohi's "mayun" because the bride and groom should not see one another. but roohi's family invited him anyway with the understanding that he'd stay far away from his bride to be. little did they know the devious nature of farhan's friend... me. toward the end of the night roohi was telling me she wanted to see farhan and one of her friends basically dared me to bring him to the stage where roohi was receiving guests. i was, of course, obliged to unite the couple. i ran off to find farhan, took him by the arm and said, "come with me." he said, "are you kidding?" but i wasn't. farhan looked pretty nervous sitting next to roohi as everyone giggled and took pictures... not because of his bride, but because of her very upset grandmother. so i got him in a little trouble. but he had just flown all the way in from america to meet his bride! the romantic in me had to intervene.

during the mayun, the bride's head is covered so you can barely see her face. throughout the first several ceremonies the bride is supposed to be bashful. this took a lot of effort on roohi's part as she is anything but bashful. here you can barely see her laughing from behind her veil. mayun colors are yellow, green and red... all of which roohi was wearing.

as women offer prayers and sing songs, different family members and friends come up to bless the bride. roohi held a leaf in her hand as people came up to smear things on it (like henna). women would also take money, circle it around roohi's head three times, and then put it before her. this money is then collected and given to the poor. then they give her sweet things to eat, similar to donut holes. i was mesmerized by this whole process.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

the big departure

i'm back in one piece, so it's time to put together a chronicle of karachi events... starting with the journey to mc paki's homeland (um, that would be farhan).
here's mike getting ready to drop me off and say goodbye. hmmm... he doesn't look too upset...our long layover in london was made even longer when our plane needed a few parts... but the lovely flight crew bought us krispy kreme donuts to hold us over. hurray!after 40 hours of travel, we land in karachi. farhan's family was thrilled to see us.the first thing you see upon exiting the airport? mc donald's, of course.

Friday, July 07, 2006

long distance laughing

i won't be posting for a few weeks. internet access in karachi will be sporadic at best. but i can promise to laugh up a storm and take lots of pics and share it all with you later. here is roohi, farhan's bride-to-be. i am SO excited. peace out... lau.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

snafu fixed

travel plans are a-okay. whew!

bits and pieces

i'm all over the place today, so here's a little update...

i got to see my brother pierce this weekend. he's at camp for the summer as a counselor. i used to love being a camp counselor (though the washington post clearly thought this was a strike against me). it was great to be in the mountains, put my feet in the creek, and sit on an old southern porch while catching up with my little bro. he's one of my favorite people. this pic is a year old, but you can tell there's a lot of love.

travel update: there's a slight snafu in my flight to pakistan. cross your fingers and say your prayers that the situation is resolved SOON!

birthday shout out: mollie has blessed the world with her presence for a quarter of a century. yay mollie!

new digs: i moved into a new office. it's bigger, has more windows, and the lady in the office next to me yells things like "numb nuts!" for no apparent reason. good times.

Monday, July 03, 2006

northern aggression

i may have lived in the capital of the confederacy for a while, walked past stonewall jackson's grave every day on my way home from middle school, sung countless concerts in front of general lee's marble likeness... but i never owned a "south will rise again" t-shirt. not my style. this weekend mike and i were driving to lex and spotted signs indicating you could tune in to some am radio station to get battlefield updates. sadly, we didn't catch the call letters and thus had to speculate on what exactly these updates could entail. "the time is 3:40 pm. the temperature is 88. field conditions are the same as yesterday, and the day before that, and pretty much every day for nearly 150 years. but stay tuned for the latest..." edge of your seat excitement.