I desperately need to back blog! Spending an entire summer traveling made me feel like I had a thousand stories to share, waiting at the tip of my pen and tongue, but now that work has started and is well underway…well my life feels more uneventful and my motivation nonexistent. That being said, I have some recent pictures to share from in and around Lahore and Islamabad. They remind me that even during the dredges of working and writing report cards, I live in a fascinating place. The other evening I walked to the local market, bought some freshly fried sugar swirls and hot nan bread, yelled at a motorcyclist that almost ran over my feet (and at another one that called me ‘sexy lady’…”You call yourself a good Muslim with that mouth?” is a particularly good insult in these parts), bought some vegetables from a stand and had a lovely conversation with a local man who, upon hearing I was from Canada, instantly asked me, “Are you from Surrey?”. Of course the city this man’s brother lives in is also the one I’m from. Our world is pretty small for being so big.
Today Neil and I bought bikes. They’re ‘made in Pakistan’ beastly cruisers with no gears, big bells, springy seats and wire baskets attached in the front. They are amazing! We had a friend drop us off close to the old city part of Lahore, next to King Edward Medical collage and home to a bike market. We generated a lot of attention here selecting our purchases and having them custom made to our height, size and preferences but in the end rode away with three beautiful bicycles at 6,000 rupees (or approximately 60 dollars) a piece. Bargaining for that 60 dollar price was an event in itself! In Pakistan, bartering is an elegant exchange of smiles and pleasantries, of trapping and tricking. It’s manipulation in the form of chai! Sometimes I miss the abrupt and rude curtness of Chinese bartering, it can be easier to walk away then to smile through gritted teeth. But this is Pakistan so getting anything accomplished needs to be done the Pakistani way – this meant that my bargaining tactics sounded more like “Oh but my dear friend we are guests in your country and guests should be treated with respect and welcomed!” than “Your crazy and ridiculous! Do you take me for a fool? Give me a fair price or I go somewhere else.” In the end we were awarded a somewhat decent price (only a small ‘white person increase’) and topped off with free seat covers and bells.
On to the 45 minute cruise home…this was, to say the least, attention generating! I’m talking traffic stopping, accident causing, over the top staring, laughing, pointing, thumbs-uping, waving and smiling. Two ladies in full burka blew me kisses as they sped by on the back of a motorcycle. Another motorcycle drove beside Neil at 10k an hour for 10 minutes to have a conversation on ‘the merits of Pakistan’. I think the sight of three blonde Westerners (for those of you who don’t think I’m blonde, myself included, here apparently I am), on three matching Pakistani bicycles, riding threw Lahore traffic, by themselves (no armed escorts for us!), was just uncannily uncommon and had to be commented on.
And now for some pictures! Please enjoy.