Come be the first in line To shake the hand of mine

Day One: Isloo

Having been swept up into the loving arms of our clan, we spent the morning washing up, eating, and either going to Friday prayers in the colossal Faisal Mosque or unpacking. We dedicated a chunk of time to sort out what finery we would don for the various functions, fetes, and fiestas for the week. With the shiny new DSL connection installed at the house, we emailed our crew back home that despite the horrible news of death and destruction in the wake of Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan, we were far away from the maelstrom in Karachi and were safe and sound.

In the evening, the hoards descended upon us for a family BBQ, eager to meet TP and KG and especially Prince ZP. The boys were disoriented but quickly recovered and became comfortable with the onslaught of family members introducing themselves, trying to summarize how they were related to them, and asking if they had enough to eat. Since it was KG's birthday, the BBQ included silver trays steaming with vegetarian dishes, a grill station with lamb, beef, and chicken, and an assortment of drinks, including the ever-popular, toxic-green, cream-soda-like "Pakola." To celebrate KG's birthday, the night ended with a decadent chocolate cake and a full-on chocolate fountain.

ZP had a blast running around with his newly formed crew of ruffians and minders. He barely looked back but once he did catch sight of us, he would come barreling over for a quick (and literal) pick-me-up and then squirm out of our arms to join his gang. I knew that, despite allowing him to run headlong on the driveway near treacherous pitfalls and thorny bushes, he was in good hands. I was certain that ZP's first scar would begin that evening, but he escaped unscathed throughout the trip. It was with a nostalgic smile that I watched the newest generation risking life and limb in the garden and driveway while my cousins and I, now the mommies and aunties, stood nearby and issued intermittent warnings and threats. It does not seem so long ago that my cousins and I practiced leaping from the seven-foot high closets onto thin mattresses laid out on skull-cracking marble floors or walking through the pitch-black night over cracked streets and unsteady bridges to the local bakery for some treats. Granted, we were not as daring as the generation above us who, apparently, not only tried to set off firecrackers inside the house, but actually tried to make their own homemade firecrackers from scratch. But we had our share of blood, bruises, and tears. Good times.

Lesson of the day: Do not be so naïve to think that your baby's physical exertion late at night will help him get over his jet lag. It won't.


Baji in the Sky With Diapers

I'm back! Shall we begin?

After a useless day at work, I rushed home to take a nap, pack, and take the last shower I would take for quite a while. Jamming extra diapers into everyone's luggage, throwing out the garbage, and turning on the lights to give the illusion of occupancy, we lugged our nine suitcases, six adults, five carry-on pieces, one baby, one baby stroller, one baby car seat (because StupidShuttle does not provide one even though it would be virtually useless in the non-seat-belt-believing country of Pakistan), and one stuffed monkey onto the shuttle. The driver took us through possibly the most congested route through rush hour DC to drop us off at Dulles Airport for our 10 p.m. flight.

Although my father has had to suffer the inconvenience of having a terroristic name and thus is an old hat at the SSSS (Super Special Security Silliness) procedure, this was the first time that I was subjected to the same. I really wish I had worn my "my name causes national security alerts, what does your's do?" t-shirt. Separated from the rest of my boring-named family, my father and I entered the puffing machine and had our bags hand-inspected when my personal attendant encountered a baby bottle full of milk but no baby attached. Due to the liquids restriction, I had to prove that I had a baby in the near vicinity to justify the milk. Luckily, I spotted my tall brother-in-law over the barrier strolling down the hall and motioned frantically for him to bring ZP to us. The scene was right out of a prison movie with me on one side of the glass wall waving and jabbering nonsense and ZP pressing his chubby palms against the glass to try to get closer to me; all that was missing was the corded phone so that we could talk to each other about that special cake he was going to bake me.

In retaliation for the indignity I had just suffered to get through security, I ordered a big plate of cheeseburgers and garlic fries for the enjoyment of my fellow passengers. We boarded the flight, settled ZP into his reclining baby seat that was perched up on a tray near our knees, and arrived in London the next day with eight hours to kill.

Not having slept much during the flight, I felt rather delirious. We found two armless benches (suitable for stretching out) near the window where we could watch the planes take off and land. I was so out of it that I was watching for the newspaper taxies to appear on the shore, waiting to take me away. I tried to sack out in the "quiet lounge," but between the snorers and the cell phone talkers, I didn't get much rest. TP and I left ZP in the care of my parents while we tried out Cafe Uno's soggy pizza and salad. LB and KG, in the meantime, had escaped the confines of the airport for a quick jaunt into the city.

We whiled away our time by entertaining ZP and snacking. An Afghani woman with twins spotted our group and over the course of a few hours, eventually sidled up to us until she was on the adjoining bench and was able to chat us up. I couldn't fathom how she managed to travel alone with two two-year old twins in tow, but figured out that one way was to befriend fellow parent travelers such as ourselves who were more than happy to watch her kids while she used the facilities/attended to one kid and then the next/etc. I bought her kids and mine some milk from the café and eventually we all headed over to our gate for the next leg of the journey.

The flight from the UK to Pakistan was not surprisingly miserable. There were two babies in our section that were sick and when one would drop off to sleep, the other would take up screaming, crying, and kicking. Then, they would trade off. ZP was well-behaved but every time he would nod off, another round of shrieks would fill the cabin and he would wake up. By the time we arrived in Islamabad, we were all bedraggled and bleary-eyed. Thankfully, my grandfather arranged for a shuttle to collect us from the airplane and whisk us away to the VIP lounge to rest while our luggage was attended to. After a brief mix-up with two of the nine suitcases, we sorted things out and took several vehicles back home for our welcome breakfast of parathas, omelets, and chai. I could go on, but that would dip into the tale of "Day One" which is coming up next. So. Stay tuned!

Lesson of the day: Do not travel whilst five-months pregnant with a feisty toddler unless you have an entourage to go with you.



Pack up. I'm straight. Enough. Oh, say say say . . .

We're off to Pakistan tonight: Cybermom, Cyberdad, Li'l Baji, Gunnar, TP, ZP, and me. We'll hit up Heathrow where half the group will attempt to venture out into the city during out eight hour layover while the other half test out the lounges and/or Holidecks. I wonder if Data will be there! Cuz that would rule.

After a full day of flying, we'll arrive in Islamabad just in time for Jummah. Despite some dread that Benazir Bhutto may have been on our flight from the U.K. and thus subjecting us to untold security delays, it appears that she is flying into Karachi so in that small regard, I think we are safe.

Our itinerary is jam-packed with welcome parties in Isloo, a trip to Lahore, a trip to Murree, a trip to Taxila, and a wedding thrown in just for fun. Much to Gunnar's chagrin, we will not be attending the cricket match between Pakistan and South Africa because the location of the game has been moved from Islamabad's rickety stadium to Faisalabad's presumably sturdier one. Also nixed? The suggestion to check out Peshawar.

So, lads and lassies, wish us bon voyage and stay tuned for the travelogue. So long, sukkahs!


Za Eid

Eid Mubarak, bloggers and blurkers! Hope everyone is enjoying a brisk, sunny day packed with family, feasts, and fun. We're off to Pakistan next week so if anyone has any tips on how to sedate and/or occupy a toddler on a trans-Atlantic/trans-European-Middle Eastern-Asian flight, let me know!


Lefty Loosey

With pregnancy brain looming large and in-charge, I'm relying more and more on mnemonic aids to get me through the day or just to stop my brain from rusting over and sealing shut when I try to remember which side the sun rises (thanks to an old American Airline's commercial, I can put that issue to bed: "From the sun rise in the east, to the sun set in the west, We're American Airlines, doing what we do best!"). Of course, that got me thinking about other tricks and rhymes I've learned over the years. Some of my favorites include:

  • My very edcuated mother, just served us nine pizza-pies = Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Pluto (back in the good old days when Pluto was still considered a planet)
  • Roy G. Biv = Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet (initials of colors of the rainbow)
  • No place like yours to study history well = Norman, Plantagenets, Lancaster, York, Tudor, Stuart, Hanover, Windsor (Royal Houses of Britain)
  • "Thirty days hath September/April, June and November." (Followed sometimes by "All the rest have thirty-one except February" which is a pretty lame rhyme)
  • Non-verbal aid is to use your knuckles on your hands with the hills (knuckles) being 31 days and the valleys (dips) being 30 days so that the 1st knuckle is January at 31 days ending with July at 31 days then repeating from the beginning with August at 31 days, etc.
  • "I" before "E" except after "C" and when sounding like "a" as in neighbor and weigh, (and on weekends and holidays and all throughout May, and you'll always be wrong no matter what you say! That's a hard rule. That's a . . . that's a rough rule.)
  • Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky in morning, sailor take warning.
  • A pint's a pound the world around (Thanks, Alton Brown!)
  • M i crooked letter, crooked letter, i, crooked letter, crooked letter, i, hump back, hump back, i. = Mississippi
  • Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey = To tighten/loosen screws, nuts, bolts, etc.
  • Make the letter "L" with each hand by extending your first finger and your thumb and tucking the rest away - the one that actually looks like an "L" is your left.

Do you have any you'd like to share?