Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Handled bars...

I am off tomorrow morning to India. I'll be heading to Amritsar, home of the famed Golden Temple.

I am leaving a world of comfort and family and swapping it for a world of solitude amongst millions. *Just watch out for those pickpockets, people who offer you drinks because they are drugged and then they will rob you blind when you are knocked out, shave your face or else they throw you behind bars as soon as you cross* Just a few of myriad advices that I have received all from loving people. I assure you all that I will be fine. Everyone who has tabs on me will continue to do so - just not as often now ;)

Now I'm off to go make some beauty pageant winner's dream come true... world peace ;)

Monday, August 28, 2006


It was a dark and stormy night ;) My father always used to joke around with me that he was going to start writing a book that started that way. Well, it actually was a dark and stormy night - the trees had fallen on power lines bringing darkness upon the streets. I walked through the blackness only being guided by the relection of water on the roads that had settled after the storm. The silence which I traversed through was staggering. It was as if under every step I had a cushion of energy that bounced me to the next step effortlessly and effervescently ;)

It was still a dark and stormy night and I couldn't sleep. I have been taken over by something I cannot explain. I relentlessly click myself a creative cyclone. It was coming in from everywhere, concepts that flowed effertlessly from my thoughts.

Made in Pakistan with Love.


Fortnight. Do you know what a fornight is? I knew that it meant two weeks but why does it mean what it does? I had to find out and I'm sharing my findings with you.
A fortnight is a unit of time equal to two weeks: that is 14 days, or literally 14 nights. The term is common in the British Isles and many Commonwealth countries, but rarely used in the United States. It derives from the Old English feowertiene niht, meaning "fourteen nights".

And did you also know that love is just a word? It is the connection between it that matters. I found that out in the matrix (of all the places?!). I continue to be amazed at the Matrix trilogy. I've recently had the opportunity to watch half of the first part and as I'm typing this out watching Revolutions. I was at the Fortress Bazaar in Lahore and they have all these music and dvd shops. They have every movie available, even the ones in theaters ;) For approximately a dollar each you can go home and watch anything your heart ever desired to watch.

It has been some time since I have been able to write any of the events that have traspired. We last left off in Rawalpindi. Where I became ill. Also I was joined in my travels by Ingrid Maria Johansen, from the wedding party. A blonde haired, steel eyed Swede. There was no mixing in with the locals between her and I. We ventured off to a food park together and took in the sights as the sights took us in. We had the opportunity to meet the vice president of the National Bank of Pakistan - a breath of fresh air. He invited us out for dinner. Ingrid, myself and my cousin Inam went to his home where he and his amazing family entertained us. We managed to squeek out of the house by about 11pm to have dinner. The restaurant was named The Phoenix and we were ushered back into a private room. I enjoyed some wonderful company that evening. It is rare when you come across angels, but that night the most lovely people welcomed us and made us feel quite loved.

My cousin Ahzar in Peshawar had arranged for us to go to the Khyber Pass. This is something that cannot be easily done.
The Khyber Pass (also called the Khaiber Pass or Khaybar Pass) (Urdu: درہ خیبر) is the most important pass connecting Pakistan with Afghanistan. Throughout history it has been an important trade route between Central Asia and South Asia and a strategic military location. The actual pass summit is 5 kilometers inside Pakistan at Landi Kotal. The pass cuts through the Safed Koh mountains which are a far southeastern extension of the Hindu Kush range.

My illness became severe enough for me to be admitted into a hospital. I'll tell you one thing, you most definitely start self healing once you are inside those walls. I barely remember being taken to the hospital, although there was one part where I was being taken in on a wheelchair, hearing all the people in line ups in the hallway waiting to be treated. There was a bright light and I thought this what they were always talking about in those death experiences. Not so was the case. I was just being taken from inside one building and into another and it was the sunlight beating down on me ;) The pains and screams of violently ill people right to the quiet whease from the little boy beside me who was refused treatment and had no where to go was the symphony playing it's melancholy piece. All the while, poor Ingrid is enduring this revealing moment and the support through it is more than admirable. She read to me... how sweet is that? It was great comfort in the midst of all my discomfort. The next day we headed back to Islamabad after sucking back through an I.V. a few bags and needle full of goodness. We stayed in Islamabad until Tuesday and headed to Lahore.

I've been in Lahore resting and recuperating and busy learning about flickr.com ;) I'm preparing for my cross over into India. Lots of reading, planning and plotting to do. I have roughly mapped out the trip but I know I'll just go with the flow...

I have been with family the month that I have been here and I cannot explain the bonds that form. This past week I met some relatives that I had yet to meet. I have family all over Pakistan and it's finally nice to be in there presence. Of course there are family dramas - I've been a fly on the wall for most of them, but it's interesting to observe family relationships from somewhat of an outside perspective. What was gained from that outside perspective is that I don't make the opportunity to tell my brothers how much I love them and appreciate all that they have ever done for me. I am very grateful to have such amazing brothers that I would like to have much closer to me.

Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh
(May Peace and Mercy of Allāh be on you)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

So I'm a little trigger happy...

I have now revamped my communication with the outside world...


I have uploaded the majority of the pictures I have taken since on this journey.

Create a beautiful day.

Friday, August 25, 2006


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


The weekend brought the split of all the travelling companions. Team Saskatoon was flying out of Rawalpindi Saturday and the remaining G8 made their way to Lahore. They were departing out of Lahore for their respective homes. I found myself amongst family in Rawalpindi. This blood that runs common through our veins bonds us in a way I have never experienced. The love pours from these individuals with unconditional love. And of course, the teasing begins. It's the way we all show our love for one another which resembles how our crew of gentlemen from Toon operate.

I was accompanying my two eldest of niece's to the to the Saddar bizar. We procured an outfit for me to match with the rest of the gents. Then it was off to pick out jewellery for the ladies, then some shoes and finally to the gold store to pick up the bride's jewellery. I have to tell you that the jeweller in this particular store was right out of a movie or novel. Older gentleman with salt and pepperish hair, glasses hanging off of his nose while chewing what I could only imagine to be tobacco. His fingers stained red from placing them in his stained mouth and while in mid sentence would spit out into his spittoon a glob of reddish brown garbage. His clothes were covered in stains from where he would wipe his hands as he carefully weighed out the gold to calculate the cost. This all took place in an area named Gulnoor.

Then back to house to enjoy the dolka drum being beaten with song and laughter. I am most comfortable around everyone and they are the same with me, still teasing me about being called a woman and suggesting I cover my head when the prayers were being called. Gotta love family ;)

T.G.I.F. in Islamabad...

Our travels down the mountain felt quite similar to that old wooden roller coaster they have at the PNE in Vancouver. It was thrilling and heart racing with that thought that it might just come off it's tracks and we'll all perish, except we'd go off the road and off the mountainside. We had a brief stop in Abbottabad to pick up the rest of my belongings and a quick visit with my khalla with the whole 'gang'. There is one thing that you can never say that a Pakistani isn't hospitable. They opened up their home to these foreigners as if they were of the same blood. The hearts of my family are enormous and it is nice to see where mine has come from.

Back on the road in our little 'coaster' and were making our way to Islamabad. The Lonely Planet book for Pakistan came out and we started calling up guest houses and hotels for research and comparisons. In our search we found an Iranian restaurant sporting the name of 'Omar Khayyam'. This was something that we couldn't miss out on. We phoned the number and to our absolute dissapointment the number no longer exists.

As we approached Islamabad we had two choices for accomodations. The Poet guesthouse and the Crown Plaza, the latter being the more expensive option. We stopped at The Poet to see if the rooms would accomodate our needs. Absolutely brilliant place to stay if you're on a vacation with another person but not with a group. I definitely recommend it if you're ever in Islamabad ;)

Finally we were off to search out the Crown Plaza. It was in the Blue Area of Islamabad where there are blocks and blocks of restaurants and shops. It was a luxurious place where we could hang our hats and recuperate after a long journey. We as a group had many plans for that evening. One of them which was to occur later on in the evening was to go bowling. What an event to go bowling with ten people in Islamabad. But alas, the universe was not supporting it because it closed at eleven o'clock and not the 5am that the Lonely Planet had stated.

Hunger pains started making their presence known and I have to commend Benjamin's persistence on finding Omar Khayyam. We decided to just jump in a taxi and go to the cross streets and try our luck. We hailed a taxi and ended up driving 24 blocks away only to find ourselves 4 blocks away from our hotel. One of the funniest taxi rides I've experienced to date. We inquired within a restaurant and to our good fortune the manager eats there all the time and prepares a map for us. Our instructions were to go to the first set of lights and look for a PSO fuel station. We walked from where our taxi driver dropped us off and then decided to hail another taxi. We travelled two blocks in the taxi when we spotted the PSO station and finally the red neon sign 'Omar Khayyam'. As I was approaching the restaurant, one by one the lights were being turned off. As I took my last step the red glow of the neon left me in darkness with the owner of the restaurant. I pleaded with him and explained our travels and that in fact I was named after Omar Khayyam and he accomodated the three of us. Then moments later he turned away a group of five. Our kismut was good.

It was the scene out of Syriana where George Clooney walks down the stairs into the Iranian restaurant and brokers an arms deal. The restaurant was full of poeple and only one table had food on it. The rest had questionable patrons wielding cigars. The tension was in the air and appeared we arrived at a very untimely moment. I noticed in the corner an elderly lady all by herself. She must have run the operation for she looked like the one who would allow people in the 'back room'. Reid, Benjamin and I constructed our own Syrian plot and thoroughly enjoyed our meal and stay at Omar Khayyam.

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted - "Open then the Door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more."

Nathia Gali - Act II

Thursday began with sore bodies. Not very many people can move from their sleeping positions so again, it was a limited group for breakfast. I do have to tell you that sharing in this experience with worldly people was a blessing and an honor. The doors have been presented to me and now it is up to me to show some initiative and open the doors to possibilities.

We ventured down to the bizar of Nathia Gali and upon arrival came across Al Khayyam restaurant. The assortment of northernly wear was in abundance. The ladies were all shopping for shawls and I was amazed by their abilities to call the shopowners on their bullshit. So I attempted to try the same except the shopkeeper wasn't full of it, instead he graced me with the most beautiful sandals that I've been in search for. Ingrid and I purchased some apples, mangos and assorted snacks for our travels and stay at the Green Resort. That made the trip feel very much like going to the lake with friends and just enjoying life. I am thankful once again to have experienced these events and opened my eyes of what is to come in India.

The evening was spent on a hike through the mountains by our guide Waheed. This man had the voice of Andre the Giant and looked like one ;) I told him that we thought he could kill a crocodile with his bare hands, he agreed.

We gathered in our front room that evening and rigged up a MacGuver-esque lighting set up so that we could play some cards. I've never really been one to play cards since my addiction to gambling and losing that $120,000 in one hand in Vegas - I swore never to pick up another deck again ;) We confirmed all of our travel arrangements for the following day. We were all heading to Islamabad via Abbottabad.

Nathia Gali - Act I

Wednesday morning the groom's and bride's mates all piled together to head up to Nathia Gali. This is north into the green mountains of Pakistan. Upon arrival at the Green Resort we hired a horseback guided tour of the mountain side. What a phenomenal experience. For four hours we were on horseback through some of the most beautiful and magnificent mountains. Just before reaching the peak we came across some cows appearing out of the fog and once we reached the peak, nothing but clear skies and sunshine. Our kismut was good that day for this is a rare occurence. We could see the Neelam river and into Kashmir from the top. The experience left me sore and in wonderment. The phrase "top of the world, ma" kept playing over and over in my head. To have shared it with such an amazing group of people made the experience all the more memorable.

After working up an appetite we ventured to the hotel restaurant only to find that we could only order off of the snacks menu. To say the least, the snacks weren't the most wonderful - i'll be honest, it was shit. After not having one meal that day all I wanted was to have some nourishment to fuel my depleted body. Later that evening Paul, Ben and I wandered back to the restaurant to enjoy what was the best meal we've had in Pakistan.

The fullness of the moon graced the mountainside with it's brilliance as we heard the bizar down below going off with song and dance. Every full and new moon I experience, I send to the stars a message to deliver to those I love. I hope they all arrived safe and sound.

The Valima...

On Monday the bride's side went to the groom's town, this is called the Valima and took place in Abbottobad. It was a segregated event where the ladies had their tent and the gentlemen had theirs. We were treated to a magnificent singer accompanied by tabla and harmonium. The venue was a place called Shimla Resort which is on the top of Abbottobad. The view was tremendous and you could see all the homes scattered on the hillsides. The moon was almost full and lit up the sky. The night would not have been complete if there wasn't an amazing lightning show to fill the mountainous sky.

Tuesday was a day of relaxing. It involved me being in bed all day and watching Amelie and Modigliani. I relished in not doing a thing. I was also very lucky to have been able to hang out with family in Abbottobad including my khalla-jan (aunt on my mother's side) and her family.

The Nika...

It's been a while since I have been able to access the information superhighway so these posts will have lots of pictures attached to it to illustrate the past few days.

The Nika ceremony was a wonderful experience. This is the day where everyone brings out their best evening wear complete with excessive jewellery. It is the official union of the two parties into holy matrimony. The ceremony took place at the Pearl Continental in Lahore. There is a tradition perfomed by the bride and the groom that involves removing the gana from each other's wrist. The quicker you can untie the knot shows the other that you love them more. In addition to this there was another tradition that requires the bride and groom to search at the bottom of a bowl of milk for each other's rings, again, the quicker you can find it the more you love the other. And to top it all off there is another tradition called 'joota chupaye' where the bride's side steals the shoes of the groom. A tremendous time was had by all ;)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mehndi ceremony...

I woke up at two this afternoon to my surprise. I must have needed the rest. I called up Safwan to see what the programme would be. He was at Fortress Bazar with Reid and his fiance Darci. So I quickly had some breakfast and rushed over. It was a nice experience to have Saskatoon rolling through Lahore and representing well.

This evening was the Mehndi ceremony. This was somewhat new to me (since I've been referred to as a coconut ;) and arrived early. I waited for the groom's side to arrive and meanwhile was adorned a yellow scarve representing the bride's side. It is quite the honor to know both sides of the marriage. I saw Safwan's mom outside so I joined her. Shortly after that the groom and his mates arrived and I joined them. I traded in my yellow scarf for the green and yellow of the groom. It was quite the scene. All the groom's side gathers outside while dola players (traditional percussion wedding group) introduced us. Flowers were thrown at us as our procession entered the venue. Shortly after that the bride's side rolls on through with the exception of carrying the bride in a carriage of sorts. She is hauled to the front where they unveil her and she joins her groom. Then the competition begins. I was completely unaware of it, but the groom's side competes with the bride's side in dance and song. Quite the scenario.

I saw Safwan's mother and father in middle of all the chaos dancing away. Then it hit me. My father will never be able to see my wedding and it brought tears to me. I know he'll witness it, but it was still the fact that he could not join in the song, the dance and the love. I ran into my khalla Nahid from Saskatoon at this moment and she just hugged me with such motherly love that I was really missing. I wish my mother was here with me to enjoy in this but she will at least get to welcome Erum and Safwan in Saskatoon.

It was then that youth came to the rescue - kids always bring out the best in us, and tonight was no different. It was Safwan's nephew who wanted to dance/challenge me, so I did. I finally let go and enjoyed myself. It was an odd combination of desi styles and mine. Afterwards, Nayyar aunty's side all came up to me with praise and love. I was adorned a wreath of flowers from Nayyar's cousin which was a great honor.

The night came to a close with a ride back with Safwan and his two nephews that woke me up out of my shyness. Upon arriving at the house, my mom called and I got to share the two evenings with her. With the exception of my feelings and sadness in regards to my father. I wouldn't be there to hold her, hug her or let her know how much I loved her after sharing it, so I kept those feelings to myself.

I don't miss home, I miss my mom. As I wrote that I started laughing... quite the momma's boy I am ;)

The marriage...

My first few days in Lahore have been hectic to say the least. I went to the music party for Safwan and Erum's wedding. The groom's side was still in Muzzaffarabad and on their way to Lahore. I got to meet Erum's friends who are from all over the world - fantastic group of individuals. They say that you can tell a lot from the company you keep, so I have discovered such tenderness, loving and devotion from her mates. The singer at the music party was so moving that she brought me to tears during a Faiz Ahmed Faiz poem. It brought about memories of my father and Faiz Ahmed Faiz's visit to our home when I was just a young lad. A tear or two had been shed that evening because I never got to share in this beauty which my father lived for - poetry. I've only got to experience this love after his passing. I can't tell you how sad that makes me not to have shared a common interest with my father as beautiful as this.

The day of arrival...

I am in Pakistan. I arrived after a grueling thirteen hours of flight at an altitude of 35,000 feet and land speed of approximately 960 km/h. I only slept for an hour so currently have been awake for more than a couple of days.

Upon arriving at my baji (sister) Naheed's house I ventured over to Fortress Bazar where I had the most interesting interations with people. The security guard was baffled as to how my hair stayed in a pony tail, shopkeepers complemented my on my unique style and the rest just laughed at the funniest thing they've ever seen.

I came back to the house to have a little rest only to go to Ichra Bazar. This is where I was fully entertained and where I fully entertained. Shopkeepers couldn't help but smile or laugh hysterically at my appearance. It was received with a big smile from me. The most memorable comment was given by a young boy riding by on a bike, the translation goes "It looks like a bomb went off in your hair". That made my night. ;)

Till next time. Same blog channel, same blog time.

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