Monday, May 30, 2011

When Pizza Is an Adventure!

Asalamu alaikum,

Last night around 1am I was in the kitchen about to make a late night snack for Saad before he went back to sleep. As I am heating his food, Tariq comes down and says he feels like pizza, get ready, lets go. At first I don't believe him, I mean come on it's 1am, and every time I suggest pizza he says- no, they probably don't taste good, and the pizzas are too small.

He goes to get his wallet and I realize he's not joking. I run upstairs to get my abaya and hijab. While I am in the room I have the strangest urge to throw on a pair of jeans instead of my shalwar ("American woman"+"American Food/PIZZA!"=the need to wear jeans), so I grab the only pair of jeans I currently own and change. I put on the abaya and wrap my hijab, pull up the bottom edge to make a niqab(I feel more comfortable when we go out at night this way-less stares), and rush back down stairs.

We take the big bike(Honda 125) and head out. Saad wants to go but it is too late to be taking him out, so he stays with Tariq's sister and watches cartoons until we get back.

We zoom through the streets, most of them are quiet. Along the main road there are some juice stands still serving, and a couple of restaurants. There is the hum of generators here and there, because of load shedding.

Finally we get to the restaurant, walk in and check out the menu. The guy says they have a special after midnight-buy one pizza get one free. So we pick out two pizzas and also get a side of chicken wings. We sit and wait for the pizzas, then they bring them over and we head out.

Have you ever tried to bring home two pizzas and a box of wings while sitting side saddle on a motorcycle? It was an interesting ride home, with a quick stop to get a 2 liter of Pepsi.

So there I am sitting side saddle on the bike behind Tariq, with these two pizzas and box of wings on my lap, my left hand gripping the boxes tightly(oh, I hope I don't squish the pizzas!), and my right arm wrapped around Tariq's waist to make sure I don't go flying off the bike. We zoom back towards the house, trying to get back before the pizzas get too cold, my abaya and hijab are flapping in the wind, and I've got one foot on the foot stand and other one dangling freely, the air rushing over it. As we turn the corner onto our street, the tip of the toe of my chapple touches the ground briefly as we lean to the left.

Safely home, with our pizzas(not squished at all!), we all sit down to enjoy our late night meal.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Feature-First Flight into Karachi

Asalamu Alaikum,

My first time coming to Karachi was a bit of an adventure. Not quite as exciting as when we left the US, and not nearly as tiring. There are some things that I will always remember.

Our family almost always flies into Karachi by night. Partly because of work timings and partly to catch the best ticket deals. Some tips-flying from Dubai(rather than Abu Dhabi) to Karachi is cheaper, and you have more options for nonstop flights.

So any way, on our first flight to Karachi, when we started to descend I was staring out the window at the city. There were large sections of light, and then big dark sections, which I at first thought were forests/lakes/ginormous parking lots/etc. As I was watching, suddenly some of the dark sections lit up, and nearby lighted sections went dark. It was my first memory of load shedding! Tariq had explained what it was while we had been living in Abu Dhabi but I had never experienced it myself.

It was a very interesting experience. If you are flying into Karachi I do suggest a night flight, as you can't see it happen in the daytime.

Because it was a small flight we deplaned onto the ground after we landed, then there was a shuttle bus from the plane to the terminal. At the terminal the doors of the bus wouldn't open. Every other passenger(all men) climbed out one of the windows, until it was just Tariq, Saad, and I on the bus. One of the other passengers kindly stayed behind everyone else to help driver wrench the doors open wide enough to let us out.

After getting through immigration, we went to pick up our bags. One had burst a zipper! Nothing got lost so I think it happened when they stuck it on the conveyer belt, and we are awesome at packing suitcases(lots and lots of practice, we can fit everything together like a puzzle).

So that's my first memories of Karachi, a bit of hassle, but totally memorable!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Some WIPs in the heat of almost summer

Asalamu Alaikum,

I have only been able to knit/crochet at night, when we turn on the AC in our room, or just for an hour while sitting on the roof in the breeze before maghrib time(sunset prayer). I hadn't done any knitting at all for weeks then decided to start three projects all at once.

This one was inspired by a blanket my grammy made for my brother. It came with us to Abu Dhabi, and I liked it so much that I wanted to make one for Saad.

I took all the yarn for the blanket and divided it up into little lengths, enough for one row each. It was trial and error to figure out how much, there was much ripping involved.

You can see it is pretty basic, a group of double crochet stitches, followed by a chain. When it is all finished you hook each chain up over the chain above it to the top. This was actually taken sometime last week so it is a bit further along than this.

Next up is the Seascape Shawl from Knitty. I have loved this for the longest time. I have four skeins, that equal to about 500 yards, and I am making it a bit wider than the original. I am wondering if I have enough yarn, I might have to try to get back and find more, we'll see.

Lastly is a special request, one of Tariq's cousins had seen my Tasha bag, and asked if I could make a small bag for her. so I showed her one that I had been looking at for some time, the Albem purse, she liked it so I started that and it is moving pretty quickly. When the knitting part is finished I am planning to add a lining and a couple pockets.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Feature-A very specific name game

Asalamu alaikum,

Urdu is a very specific language when it comes to words for family members. Uncles and aunties are never just that, they have different "titles" depending on if they are maternal or paternal relatives, and also if they are older or younger. To make it even more confusing nicknames are commonly thrown in to the mix!

For example, your paternal grandfather and grandmother are"dada"and "dadi", but your maternal grandfather and grandmother are "nana" and "nani" Your maternal uncles would all be "mama(or mamu)", and maternal aunts would be "khala", but your paternal uncles older than your father would be "tai abu" and the uncles younger than your father are "chacha(or chachu)", your paternal aunts would be "pupo".

Daughters in law are "Bahu", and are called "babhi" by all brothers and sisters, but other bahus may refer to each other differently. If the other bahu is married to your husband's older brother than she is your "jaytani"(and your husband's elder brother would be your "jayt"), if she is married to your younger brother then she is your devarani(and your husband's younger brother would be your "devar").

It can be a bit confusing having so many names for people, but it does save time when referring to someone you can just say for example- "she is my jaytani", instead of saying "she is the wife of my husband's elder brother" or "he is my chachu", instead of "he is my paternal uncle who is younger than my father". It did take a while to memorize all the different words, but it does help when the family is talking about extended family, I know who's who!

Nicknames are also common in our family. Actual names are only used by people older than you, and a lot of the time even then a nick name is used. Tariq has five sisters, each has a nickname, the oldest is "baji"(respectful title for your older sister), the second is "appi"(another respectful term for an older sister) then there is billi(cat), janu(like sweetheart, all the children call her this), and chanda(moon). The eldest son(my jayt-BIL older than Tariq), is called "Bhai" by everyone except my father in law who uses his name. Tariq is called "Tariq Bhai"(never just his name, for respect), by all except his father and older brother, and I. I call him something totally different. If we are alone I might call him by his name or an endearment like "honey", or "babe". If we're in front of his younger family I might still use his name, but no endearments! If we are out of the house or in the presence of older relatives I use what a lot of women call their husband "soon-yeh", which just means "listen". The Gori Wife had a great post on this whole topic(the names/titles and the not saying the husband's name thing) awhile ago-here it is.

I have my actual name as is listed on my IDs(only my own family and some friends use this, and Tariq when he is trying to be funny), and then the name I used after my reversion, Aishah which is used by all my in laws and some friends. But there is a distinction- all the people older than me in the family(Father in law, brother in law, his wife and two older sisters in law) call me Aishah, but the younger ones(three sisters in law and other younger cousins) never say just my name but always-"Aishah Babhi". One of Tariq's cousin's wives calls me the "dulhan"(bride), I think it is very sweet.

The nicknames and different titles are an interesting way of showing respect within the family.

For reference if any one is interested
Maternal grandparents-Nana, and Nani
Paternal grandparents-Dada and Dadi
Maternal uncles, and their wives-Mamu and Mami
Maternal aunts and their husbands-Khala and Khalu
Paternal uncles older than your father and their wives-tye abu and tya
Paternal uncles younger than your father and their wives-chachu and chachi
Father-Abu(there is another word, but it is not common-baap)
Mother-Ami(less commonly-maan)
Nephews and Nieces(brother's side)-Bateeja and bateeji
Nephews and Nieces(sister's side)Bahenja and bahenji
Brother's wife-Babhi
Husband's sister and her husband-Nund and Nundoy(although this one is really old fashioned and no one actually uses it)
Husband's brother and his wife(older than your husband)-Jayt and jaytani
Husband's brother and his wife(younger than your husband)-Devar and devarani
Father in law and Mother in Law-Sussar and Saas(most people just use the title their husband/wife uses-like ami and papa)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Saad's Kameez, plus three!

Asalamu Alaikum,

Usually I sew clothes just for my niece, as most of the extra cloth that I have in my fabric stash is from ladies suits. A couple months ago though, one of my sister in laws was cleaning out a closet and found a piece of cloth that was supposed to be for a man's shalwar kameez(about 7 meters, some sort of blend) and as no one was going to use it she gave it to me to experiment on.

I ended up making a little kameez for Saad, and then three more, one for each of my nephews!
Cute Little Man, all ready for Jummah(Friday prayers) with daddy!

I still need a bit more practice, as I had a couple small issues while working on it but they all turned out well for a first attempt.

Thumbs up, mama!

I have been doing more sewing than knitting or crochet lately, due to the heat I can only do the knitting at night before bed when we turn on the AC. I do have a couple of knit/crochet WIPs to post and lots more sewing too, inshAllah I'll be posting more in a day or two.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Random Graffiti observations

Asalamu alaikum,

A couple of months ago I had noticed a change in the graffiti along the main road in our little bit of Karachi.

Before there was amateurish looking spray painted graffiti, mostly in Urdu, but a bit in English. It was on almost ever bare wall, and the shutters of the stores. There were bits that supported the various political parties(MQM, PPP, PML{N or Q, take your pick}, ANP), and other bits that random nonsense.

More recently (I think it might have something to do with the tension/violence in Karachi the past couple months), the old graffiti was painted over and more professional graffiti was put up.

It is almost all supporting MQM. It seems to be positive graffiti, not trashing other political parties or anything like that.

There are some that seem slightly odd to me though. One piece in particular takes up a huge wall (probably at least 50 or more feet long), saying something about "empowerment for all" and "the symbol of revolution, Mr. Altaf Hussain". There are a couple others that call Altaf Hussain(leader of the MQM political party) "The Father of the Nation". That one kind of makes me confused as I thought the "father of the Nation" would be Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

I don't really think too much about it, as it'll probably wear off and/or be painted over in a while anyways, but it was kind of odd.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Feature-medium, middle of the road, average

Asalamu Alaikum,

I used to think that everyone had one special thing that they can do better than most people. Some people are really good knitters, some make the perfect cup of chai every time, some sing, some dance. I eventually realized that sometimes it just doesn't work that way. I learned that there are people that are really good at one thing, people that are not good at anything, and people that are medium good at lots of different stuff.

That's where I fall(or so I like to think), smack in the middle. I like to learn new things, new crafts, and I am always happiest in the first six months of a job(when learning the ropes). I enjoy the process of learning, but I have never found one thing that I do exceptionally well.

For a while I thought, maybe I just haven't found my one thing, and that's why I liked to learn new stuff. I was searching for my one exceptional talent. There were times that I felt a bit depressed not to have found it yet, but then always the excitement of learning a new thing distracted me.

Is there really anything wrong with being average? I don't think so. Sure we need the people that are exceptional, the ones with the big ideas, and big dreams, but everything runs because of the "average" people.

I am happy being medium good in lots of stuff, and eventually realized that that is my special talent-
"Jack of all trades, master of none,
though ofttimes better than master of one."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sewing Sarubobo!

Asalamu alaikum,

I saw this over on Umm Aaminah's blog, and I just had to make it. The tutorial is from a blog she follows, Mairuru. So, a big thank you to Umm Aaminah, for the link and finding such a cute blog!

So first I made the orange one. It was so cute and Saad liked it so much that I made another. Of course then I had to make clothes for them, so they got little shirts and hats.
Hanging out on the roof.

After I made the first two I decided to make a mini one as a mobile charm.
Little cutie! Those are a five rupee coin, and a one dirham coin, they are both the size of a quarter.

His measurement before sewing was 2cm by 3cm(3x4 including seam allowance), with a 2 cm head(3cm with allowance).

I really like this little project and will probably make more as my niece saw them the other day and loved them.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Achar...Pickles just aren't what I was expecting

Asalamu Alaikum,

I am used to pickle meaning a cucumber in brine, you know, the dill pickles served with deli sandwiches. The first time I saw achar, I had no idea what it was and had to ask. When Tariq said it was "pickle", I just kind of stared at him. It didn't look like a pickle to me.
Achar from our favorite place in the market.

I didn't like it at first, it smelled kind of odd, it was really oily, and just didn't look very appealing. I mean- mushy, oily, funny smelling vegetables or fruits? Ick!

A bit in a bowl to go with breakfast and the rest in a jar.

As with lots of stuff in my life now, it just took a while to get used to. I eventually gave in and tried a bit. First a bit of garlic, ok, not so bad. Then a small nibble of the carrot, hmm, that's kind of tasty. Then a taste of mango and a bit of lemon, wow that's pretty good actually. It did take a while longer to get used to eating the lemon and mango skins though.

We eat achar with dals(lentils) and rice, and other types of food that are a little on the plain side. Usually there is a little bowl of achar served with breakfast, as it is tasty to eat just plain achar with parathas.

We always buy the mixed achar that has green mangoes, lemons, carrots and garlic. Sometimes they put other stuff in it like olives. There are many different types of achar, but we always stick to our favorite, and we always buy from the same little store in the market.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Feature-Compulsive laundry folding...or my Shalwar kameez storage solution

Asalamu Alaikum,

I am very particular about how I fold my laundry. I never used to be, but then I never really cared about clothes too much, and usually just threw on whichever tee shirt and jeans were on top of the clean laundry pile.

I have tried many techniques for hanging/folding shalwar kameez, and have finally found one that I like. I have gotten to the point that it really bothers me if my suits are not folded the right way, to the point where I will get up from bed to fold them properly before I can sleep. I am not too worried though, ;-) at least the clothes get folded and aren't in a heap on a chair somewhere.

My closet.

On the top shelf is where I keep my Qur'ans and other Islamic books, then the next shelf down is the "really fancy function suits" section. The third shelf is the "medium fancy, guests over/going visiting suits" section, and also the extra hijabs. The fourth shelf is the "house work/lazing around the house suits" section. Finally the bottom shelf is where I keep the "really fancy things that go in a box", the saris, and shararas.

Close up!

First I fold the dupatta in half the long way, and then in either thirds or quarters, whichever makes it about 10 inches wide, as some dupattas are 32" wide and some 45".

Then I fold the shalwar in half and put it on top of the dupatta, with the foot opening at the "top" side of the dupatta.

The kameez goes on the top of the shalwar with the neck opening on top of the feet. First I fold in the sleeves, then roll the kameez from the neck down to the damman(the bottom of the shirt).

Next I roll the kameez and shalwar together, from the top of the shalwar down to the foot opening.

Lastly I roll the whole thing together from the top of the dupatta to the bottom, and get this neat little roll that is just slightly less wide than the depth of my closet shelf. Perfect.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Long motorcycle rides and strange sunburns.

Asalamu Alaikum,

Today Tariq and I(it was too hot to take Saad so we left him home with my SIL) went to the passport office in the Saddar area of Karachi, and we took the Honda 125 this time instead of a taxi.

Since we live pretty close to the airport, it was a somewhat long ride. I think it was probably more than 20 minutes each way. I was sitting side saddle on the back of the bike, and I had put on a niqab(Pakistani style, wrapped and pinned at the back of my head, covering from the middle of my nose down) as I sometimes do when we go shopping.

After we got home and had rested a bit, Tariq kept asking me why my nose was red, did a mosquito bite me? I thought that was probably it, and thought nothing more about it. Until about half an hour ago I looked in the mirror and noticed half my forehead was red also.

Can you see the line of red on my temple or across the middle of my nose?

I do tend to sunburn easily and have had many, many sunburns in the past. One of the benefits of wearing hijab and abaya though, is that I haven't had a sunburn in years. It took me about five minutes of staring at myself in the mirror to realize exactly why I had a red mask around my eyes and nose. When it dawned on me I felt very silly, how could I not know it was a sunburn?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thoughts on Osama

Asalamu Alaikum,

I first heard what had happened around 10 in the morning. When we got up Tariq turned on one of the Urdu news channels and after a minute I asked him to switch over to BBC so that I could understand what was going on better.

I was a bit stunned, slightly skeptical, I guess I just wasn't expecting something like this. When ever I thought about Osama bin Laden in the past, I kind of expected it to be different, maybe a bomb would get him, or something like that. Something distant.

I don't really take joy in his death, because I think that it would be wrong for me to do so, but I am not really unhappy either, he did some really terrible things. I didn't lose family on 9/11, so I will never be able to truly understand how those who did feel. Maybe some feel like celebrating, maybe some just get a bit of relief, closure.

I am kind of upset that people feel the need to gather in the streets waving flags and singing the national anthem. How they react is none of my business really, but it cannot help the situation over here. In a place where some people already hate Americans this will only make us look bad, and may incite some people to retaliate.

I think, regarding the man himself, at the most I can feel a sort of grim satisfaction that he is gone and can't do any more harm.