We have been here twice before. December 2021 for Brendan and Sofie’s wedding, see blog, and in 2020, see blog for then.
To see all our Pakistan video clips, 2019, 2020, 2023 click here
Lahore is the second most populous city in Pakistan after Karachi and 26th most populous city in the world, with a population of over 13 million. It is the capital of the province of Punjab where it is the largest city. Lahore is one of Pakistan’s major industrial and economic hubs, with an estimated GDP of $84 billion as of 2019. Wikipedia
Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan. It is the country’s ninth-most populous city, with a population of over 1.2 million people, and is federally administered by the Pakistani government as part of the Islamabad Capital Territory. Built as a planned city in the 1960s, it replaced Rawalpindi as Pakistan’s national capital. Wikipedia
When we were here last, November 2019, a thousand rupees equalled $6.44 USD ($9.44 Aussie bucks). March 2023 a thousand rupees = $3.75 USD or $5.56 Australian. In other words it is very difficult for the people here. Everything has risen in cost y close to 50% this year alone. For example, water is a dollar more this week than last week which is a lot.
As usual, italic notes are Narda – the other type is moi…
Also, I did not put some sideshows below on Auto-play – so click the little arrow on the sides to see the next photo…forgot the reason…perhaps I thought at the time someone would want to dwell on a particular photo in the series – have no idea why. Let me know in the comments at the end which you prefer. In fifteen years of blogs here only one person has ever left a comment, that was because I spelt an old girlfriend’s name wrong – damn! You could be the second to leave a comment.
leaving Kuala Lumpur
Woke up at 5.30, our host Steve met us at 7.30 and then off in our Grab taxi. All went very smoothly. The Batik Air flight left at 12.30 right on time. We had never tried these guys before, but I think it was great. Mainly because the departure and arrival times (4 pm) are so civilised. Most of the fancy airlines manage 3 am for arrival in Pakistan.
The leg room and recline was fine ..as good as any economy seat. The food was OK, we had to purchase it. We also purchased a pillow each…never seen that before…but it was only $1 …nice little souvenir. The toilets were pretty bad by the end of the 6-hour flight, but you can’t win em all.Sofie and her mum Niggi were waiting there with their driver, Brendan has an after-school commitment he could not get out of. Back in their nicehome now. Sofie has done some gorgeous decorating. It looks very homey.
This my little amateur sketch of part of the living room.
This stunning work by the real artist in the family, Sofie.
We have not flown on Batik Air Indonesia before, certified as a 3-Star Airline by Skytrax. It was budget all the way though comfortable. The plane was new with more leg room than other budget airlines we have been on. Meals were quite basic and cost little, I got some vegetable thing with rice and Narda had her usual something that once was alive meal. We even had to pay for a pillow, water, coffee. We didn’t buy a blanket. The pillows were cheap at about three bucks USD. There was no entertainment screen or plugs or charging. The stewardesses were friendly. Overall to save a few bucks it is OK for a six-hour flight.
Arriving in Lahore has been difficult in the past, two times, because there have been other flights, creating huge lines at customs and long waits for luggage. This time it was just our flight which was half full. We were the first at the passport window and our luggage came rather quickly as there were not many of us. No one checks us, or our luggage. Probably should have brought Brendan a carton of wine. Oh well, next time.
Sofie and her mother with their driver met us. We usually arrive at three am when so many others do also. This time at three pm there was no one else in the car park, the road into town was very sparse and we got to Swedish Flats, the wonderful home of Sofie and Brendan before Brendan got home from school.
Our first impression was of the difference a woman in a house can make. Not that Brendan’s house wasn’t homey, after all, Narda had bought stuff for it the last time we were here, but now there was so much more. Very homey.
Narda is showing the inside of the house below. A walled compound with guards. Inside we could be in any upscale neighbourhood in the world, except the air is a bit smoggy for us. Like Lahore was rated the most smoggy city in the world today.
Terrell and I happily went for our favourite walk to get coffee from the local chai wallah! Then off to Jalal’s at Main Market for groceries and snacks.
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On the first night Bren and Sof took us to our favourite restaurant…all western food, called Rina’s. I shared a great pepperoni (without pork?) pizza with Sof, Terrell had his remembered favourite dish, spinach lasagna and Bren had a chicken salad-pasta thing. Not sure exactly though I’m sure it was spicy.
Feb 17, 2023
Bren and Sof have half days on Friday. We took a longish nap at lunch then went to the international club. I spent the hour chatting with Dave, an English guy who has just returned to Lahore because his Pakistani wife wants to be close to family again. Bren and Terrell worked out in the gym.
Then at p.m. back there. We met up with Lulu again, she was pleased to see us. Nice long chats with her. She’s had an incredible life, travelling all through the middle east with her husband in the 60s, then settling with him (a Pakistani) in Lahore and raising 2 kids, both of whom returned to the USA. Her husband died 16 years ago and she now lives in Lahore, and would never go back to the west. Interesting person, with a long history of involvement at the International Club.
We went outside and were welcomed by the “boys”, Bren’s close Pakistani friends. Atif, who lent his nice car decorated with to Bren and Sof for their wedding celebrations. Faizan who got us lost driving to the reception. He also recently married and showed me lots of photos. Then there is Cash, a Pakistani with a plummy English accent, and with lots to say and strong opinions on everything. There was a long discussion led by Cash on the merits of psychedelics in finding truth. This man is a devout Muslim. Terrell had quite a bit of stuff to say on the topic 🤔 When asked what my experience was I told him “codeine is great, makes love everyone and everything”. One of the other guys (I had not met him before) insisted that reading and studying was the best way to finding truth. I tried to agree, but no one heard me.
It was a fun night. Imran came to pick us up, we went home with him, Sof and Terrell and me leaving Bren to party on. He assured us Cash would drive him home. I must say I was a little concerned about that. He’s home, Imran took him home.
Feb 19, 2023
Now here we are up early…..just had an instant coffee, I’m back on my 16/8 fasting regime. Life is good in Lahore.
Last night we had an interesting meal at Dan and Dan, a hotpot place. The beef was really something, very tender and tasty. So also the eggplant strips coated in stay sauce, which Saquib and I both thought was chicken. Bit of a cliche ‘tastes like chicken’. I had a good conversation with Saquib, Sofie’s dad, and the reason why Chris made it to his brother’s wedding. He was telling me about his family property in Gujarat.…..?.? here there is a 300 year tradition of helping people and teaching. I want to learn more. I also enjoyed meeting Niggi again, this warm-hearted, generous woman.
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We had spent some significant time in the hours before downing snacks with Bren and Sof and I thought I had left no room, but it was all good. Plenty of extra space there..
The walk to our local central is not without risk. Cars, trucks, motor bikes, rickshaws, donkeys pulling carts, pedestrians – so much more, going in whatever direction there is an opening. We wear N-95 masks while out as the pollution is heavy. Actually, Lahore was the most polluted city in the world for a couple of these days. “Lahore top list of most polluted cities, Karachi sixth in world. https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2023/02/26/lahore-atop-list-of-most-polluted-cities-karachi-sixth-in-world/ Here is an article as to why Lahore is so polluted, https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/11/29/pakistan-lahore-pollution-fossil-fuels-climate/ We took an auto rickshaw (tuk tuk to us) home. It is only five-minutes to get home but we are tired of avoiding traffic and have a bag of groceries, so we grab a ride home. Last time the fee was one hundred rupees. This time we don’t ask how much and just give 200 rupees, and there is always such a big smile on the driver’s face and thankyou that the extra money makes it worthwhile. Narda put the app for their Uber equivalent, InDrive, on her phone and we have started using that for further distances. We always give an extra 100 rupees to them too. A hundred rupees is around 37-cents to us.
We love Rina’s Kitchenette. I always get the same, pasta with great cheesy sauce. Narda and Sofie shared a pizza and Brendan got something or the other that meat lovers get. A few dollars each. And my favourite drink here, pina colada, a cocktail made with rum, cream of coconut or coconut milk, and pineapple juice, though of course this is Pakistan, there is no rum in it which is great for me as I have not had any alcohol since 2005. Rina’s https://rinas.pk/
I see this dude above quite often wheeling around his furniture. We bought flowers for about seven bucks USD – in Australia the would be $60-$75.
Walked to local shops – pens notebooks – groceries – nap – gym with Brendan – evening dinner @ The International Club. There are always people from lots of places here. A few from where Brendan works, mostly businesspeople from South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Denmark, USA and so many more places. Good to speak with others. The food is good too. There is a gym, though a bit too hard core for me as I like the machines more than the free-weights which they seem to favour here. Brendan even has a trainer.
Narda has found a favourite stationary shop, she found it two times ago and again last time and low and behold it is still there, with all kinds of stationary stuff so she can draw and we found some odds and ends to give people along the way.
11 am QConnect bus to Islamabad – to hotel – dinner with Phil’s parents at our Hotel Roomy in F6 –
Today Brendan left for Turkey with his grade 5 class for a school camp learning about space. Turkey has been in the news lot with Syria, having recently suffered catastrophic earthquakes in the southern border region, with 40,000 people so far losing their lives. A shocking thing. Bren and his students are a long way from there, so the camp wasn’t called off.
We left on the QConnect luxury bus (rated ‘business class’ italics deliberate:) headed to Islamabad. It’s a clean planned city purpose built as the capital of Pakistan. We stayed in a really nice hotel called Roomy Signature. The room was indeed roomy.
We met up with a couple of American music teachers, Tim and Gwen, with a long, interesting background in international schools. They were visiting their son Luke, living opposite Brendan and teaching at Lahore International School. We have lots of stories to share over dinner at our hotel.
The next morning, they picked us up with their school driver and showed us all the necessary sites. The museum of natural history, with a couple of competent science graduates telling the stories. Really nice.
Then to the central mosque, impressive.
And then the famous monument, and a craft museum which was dark, electricity down, but the little craft shops were open with nice stuff. Maybe I happened to buy some stuff but I’m not saying for sure 🙃 🤔
The cost of living has increased significantly for the locals. In November 2019, a thousand rupees cost us $6.44 USD ($9.44 AUD). In March 2023 a thousand rupees = $3.75 USD or $5.56 Australian. The rupee is continuing to fall…10% in the last weeks. Terrible for Pakistan. They are unable to pay for imports leaving ships full of goods standing in the harbour causing terrible shortages and price rises.
With Luke’s parents in AM to museums – nap – afternoon InDrive to The Centarus Mall F8 – Jinnah Avenue – dinner cheesy noodles
The Pakistan Monument is a national monument and heritage museum located on the western Shakarparian Hills in Islamabad, Pakistan. The monument was constructed to symbolize the unity of the Pakistani people. It is dedicated to the people of Pakistan who sacrificed their “today” for a better “tomorrow” The four large petals represent each of the four main cultures of Pakistan, the Punjabi, the Baloch, the Sindhi and the Pakhtun. The three smaller petals represent: the minorities, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Its elevation makes the monument visible from across the Islamabad-Rawalpindi metropolitan area and is a popular tourist destination
Natural History Museums – The Pakistan Museum of Natural History has four divisions namely Botanical Sciences, Earth Sciences, Zoological Sciences and Public Services. The first three divisions are engaged in the collection, preservation, identification and research activities pertaining to plants, fossils & minerals and animals resources of Pakistan respectively, while the latter is responsible for mass education and popularization of the natural history through various displays, exhibits and dioramas.
The Faisal Mosque is the national mosque of Pakistan, located in capital Islamabad. It is the fifth-largest mosque in the world and the largest within South Asia, located on the foothills of Margalla Hills in Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad. It is named after the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
Our new friends headed back to their son and his family in Swedish Flats.
We headed off to the Metro, a new adventure. It’s a great idea, a concrete track, in the city for buses only costing very little. It was full of locals. We quickly learned the protocols from the locals pointing and smiling. Boys in the back, girls in the front. I got a seat, Terrell was sandwiched in the back with all the males, pretty much standing the whole time, about 8 stops.
We did not have a destination in mind, which puzzled the girls sitting next to me as I asked where we should get off.
“We want to see a market”.
“Commercial or local?” she replied in good English.
“I have no idea”, I thought.
“Both” I replied.
She smiled and assured me she would let me know. So, with this non information I texted Terrell urgently to be sure he would somehow catch sight of me as I got off.
It all went well, we both got off at the same stop and headed off in search of chai. It was definitely a local area. (Understatement!). The chai wallah had an “upmarket” area we were to sit in, deep underground with NO light. He was very hospitable. I think we may have been the first to sit down there in quite some time.
A few scarf purchases later, we had lunch, neon noodles. Nice. Toilets navigated. It’s all good.
The return trip took us back to Centaurus Mall. I bought a groovy shalwar kameez with lovely material, but too big, it was tent like. Seriously, it needed tent pegs. I later had this altered at our local Main Market to my satisfaction, with sweet Sofie as translator.
Dinner in the mall. Mine: chicken and noodles, Terrell: noodles, but the cheese made it yummy.
Of course, Narda got another dress,
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.The QConnect bus took us back to Lahore without incident, though I did spot a large bus with some significant roof damage, and men standing around looking at it. This was on the very steep decent coming back to Lahore. Not really sure what that was. Maybe they had just tipped it back upright. I did enjoy the fancy these decorated trucks heading west.
Bus back to Lahore – out with Sofie and Brendan’s for dinner to Rina’s
We decided to take Imran out with his family as a thank you. He’s a good guy. Unfortunately, he had to work and so we played host to his wife and 2 of his daughters. He was keen for us to meet Jennifer as she was home for a short time, working in Dubai. It was a nice experience, buffet in a speccie rooftop location. Food was good.
For some reason I cannot reconnect with Uber after our 3 months in India using them all the time. Nor can Terrell. We have finally managed to connect with InDrive, a similar local service by using our Aussie phone to verify us. Not sure what’s going to happen with our roaming charges. So, it’s working, sometimes with local folks helping us communicate with drivers in Urdu.
Evening dinner with Imran’s family – wife, Jennifer – her sister – buffet – I had fish A La Cart – Nestled in the city of Gardens, situated at the rooftop of one of the highest building around liberty and offers Indoor and Outdoor Dining with an extensive view of Lahore.
“MonalLahore is the definition of contemporary Restaurant, serving the finest Cuisines with a combination of traditional and exciting flavours from around the world.” So they say – on some website.
Night Market Tour
The school generously paid for tickets for us and others to join the school community and go on a tour of the Lahore Fort. It is a huge complex, right next to the mosque in the old city. Beautiful. We met at school and were transported there in the school’s 12-seater bus. While waiting for the tour guide, we browsed the many souvenir shops.
Then the start of the tour was announced with a trumpet blast, and we were admitted through a low door. The tour guide was full of beans and gave us lots of information on this world heritage site and the restoration projects currently being undertaken. Incredible, everything lit strategically.
Then there was quite a bazaar dance that went on for about twenty-minutes
This dance was more mild – Sufi extreme…
We got breaks from walking, watching different performances and also being transported in big tuktuk like vehicles. I enjoyed getting to know Brendan’s boss Nadine, a person I could easily be friends with. We both complained that it was way past our bedtime, a terribly late 9pm. 😴
After all the touring we ate a good meal on “food street”, generously paid for by Nadine and Chris in Pakistani fashion.
Bren home again after a week with his fifth graders in Turkey on the school camp in an area far from the devastation of the earthquakes. In southern Turkey and in Syria the damage and loss of life has been shocking. I think the total deaths are now close to 70,000.
Morning brekkie at my favourite place. It has the best sweet lassi. Lassi meethi
2 cups whole-milk yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, or to taste
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
Pinch of salt
1 cup ice cubes
Step 1Combine all the ingredients in a blender with 1 cup cold water. Blend until smooth and serve.
My favourite drink is their Piña colada – of course without the rum…yumm – in picture below with Narda’s mint thingy
Sofie’s mum took us out to Breakfast at the English Tea House http://ethpakistan.pk/. A great way to start a Sunday. I had the eggs Florentine – in Australia it would have been $25 – $30, here about $5 Australian. I had a blueberry smoothie which was good.
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While Brendan was catching up on sleep, we attended a couple of sessions at a writer’s week. The second involved a book launch by an ex-student of Lahore International School. In his book he wrote of his kidnapping in Lahore and torture by extremists. He was held in captivity for 5 years. Lucky to be alive. It was a riveting speech, and I’m not going to read the book.
Too confronting for me
Does anyone remember Statler and Waldorf? They were the two old guys who provided a running commentary of Sesame Street. Well, we met their Pakistani brothers over lunch. Two educated gentlemen with opinions. Interesting conversation. They spoke of their support of Imran Khan, their views on the relationship with India, which they said was driven totally by politicians. Their view that the countries of the world who had confiscated weapons in their populations were the ones getting ahead. They compared Pakistan with Bangladesh in this regard. Pakistan remains heavily armed, Bangladesh does not. I want to research this some more.
Bren had an offer one can’t refuse of the box seat in the local cricket match, including full access to unlimited food. So, we joined Sof at her hairdresser for head and foot massage and hair wash. 😍 lovely.
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InDrive to Mall Road – breakfast/lunch at Grazer Mall 94, Soups: mushroom and chicken $1.95 USD each, sweet lassie $1.18 and mango smoothie $3.15 +$1.25 on top of it all for their 16% GST tax for a grand total of $9.50 USD for lunch – shopping at Imtiaz – Narda bought dress – InDrive back home gave 350($1.35) even though it was about 300 ($1.17).
Another strange experience with the InDrive person, who couldn’t find us at the flower market, The vendor helped by talking to the driver and we made a dare devil crossing of a busy road. Not quite comfortable with the tuk tuk, fast car, bus, and pedestrian mix on these roads. We need more practice and need to take a chill pill.
Nice dinner last night at Paola’s Mediterranean food restaurant. Just newly renovated, really lovely atmosphere. I ordered a pepperoni pizza again. Can’t seem to get past it. The pepperoni is made from chicken, and you would never know. This is because Muslims do not eat pork. Just because something is made from chicken does not mean it tastes like chicken. 😉
Here is their menuif you want some good food sent anywhere in the world – or at least in Lahore
Sidenote: just because it is made with tofu and tastes like chicken doesn’t mean some poor animal got snuffed just to taste like chicken. Hey, for those who don’t know – or care really, I was a tofu manufacturer in Adelaide for seven-years. Really. I even have a webpage – of course, https://tofu.neuage.us/
Today was going to be a down day because we just got new internet. So, catching up on blogging and bills etc. It was restful. Walked to the local street stall and on the way home bought more than a kilo of strawberries for the princely sum of less than $2 USD. Yum, so ripe. Just hope I washed them properly. Won’t know that till tomorrow morning.
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My tuk tuk take.
Driving to Sofie’s parents was a challenge. I covered my head with a scarf to blend in and Brendan kept driving confidently past the check points. This is the process, each time they drive to their home. Foreigners are not allowed into the “containment” area owned by the army. . Sometimes they check and send you back. Its a bit of hit and miss, but tonight it was busy and we slipped by unnoticed.
Saquib was there too. Dinner was lovely and we had interesting conversations about the current politics, Saquib assuring us that Imran Khan would win by a landslide. Niggi told us that he was being guarded by many women from the city, armed with sticks, who beat off any police who tried to arrest him on trumped up charges. It’s a funny image. She said she might join them.
Good morning, Pakistan. I survived the consuming of a great deal of non-sanitized strawberries. Today the sun is shining, little pollution. Weheaded out early to enjoy the blue sky and the quiet roads. I bought the requisite white vinegar using this Urdu phrase “sofed seriga”. It worked. We went home (stopped first at the other chai wallah) and sterilized the remaining strawberries. 4 parts clean water and one part sofed seriga.
Part of our local walk.
Then came the highlight of my trip. We went to the fancy home (Nadine and Chris) of the principal of the elementary school for a pleasant TGIF experience, lots of food and beer. She had actually offered me a job as middle school music teacher for the remaining 3 months of the year. I did think long and hard about it. If this offer had come at the end of our trip I would have done it. It would have an interesting experience, but we still have lots of travel paid for and I didn’t fancy cancelling it all.
But that was not the highlight. Brens new band was playing and the boys invited me to sing so I joined them for 2 songs singing harmony with the very capable lead singer who also played ukulele, Brendan playing a mean bass, and two other guys on guitar and single drum. This was something I had always wanted to do.
You know, the cricket player Imran Khan, became prime minister, was ousted, and is trying to get back in as prime minister. He was injured in an assassination attempt recently in a long march episode from Lahore to Islamabad. Two days before leaving Lahore there was a big protest, rally, whatever, in front of the compound. Rumours were that the current government was going to arrest Imran. His compound has lots of tents in front, probably equal five NYC blocks or more. Apparently, women are camped out and have sticks to beat back police if they try to arrest him. Well Wednesday Brendan and Sofie got released from school at noon due to ‘trouble’ brewing and Thursday Brendan and Sofie got the call that there would be no school as the roads were blocked. The compound is near their school. To us, having taught in New York, it was equal to getting a snow-day. Narda was quite happy. We saw various Twitter clips with the army and police using water cannons and breaking car windows. Narda and I wanted to go and see what was going on but we were kind of told no. in my defense, my first degree, BA, was in journalism. And I fancy myself as a reporter of stuff. Anyway, we stayed near home.
to Sofie’s mother for dinner father there too – left 9.30
On our walk to and home from our daily grocery shopping we sat in the local park and were looked at with great interest, even talked to a few fellows.
Being an American I have a slight fascination with guns – like why people have them. In Pakistan every business has a (male) guard with a machine gun outside. They are always friendly. Never seen anyone come close to using one which I suppose is good. Here are a few of my gun toting guards…
March 05 Hung around house morning – worked on train trips in UK and started looking at flights for NY – Valencia. Brendan and Sofie to a wedding, we took a nap. Packages Mall_ https://youtu.be/eFH2CGigBtw Narda bought shoes at Ndure for rainy weather in UK, dinner at The Pantry –
Bit of this and that. Head massage, dinner at the club, and driven home by someone’s driver, then Packages Mall for some waterproof shoes. Found a bargain at Ndure (1,500 rupees which is around $6 USD. Will be useful in the rainy UK. Another run at Imtiaz. We are carrying a dongle which gives us internet on the go. Sometimes. So, we can order a driver or use WhatsApp. No Sim cards for us. Next time we will contact the embassy.
Coffee and cake at Second Cup,– ten-minute nap – InDrive to Al – Fatah to get my hair oil and InDrive back – later walked from Main Market to Imtiaz Narda bought dress and shoes at Imtiaz to go to Lulu’s.
My hair guru, Sofie, put me onto some hair oils to help me. My hair seems to be shorter than a few years ago and is thinning too quickly. Just because I am 75 is not a good reason to have hair loss – really, get with the program. I once had hair most to my waist in the 1960s, and it was black, now it is going grey at an alarming rate. Sofie, having had a bout with TB and losing hair discovered the oil of an onion rubbed into the scalp overnight regenerates hair. Narda already is complaining, and I haven’t even started. Something about I will have to sleep in the other bedroom when we get back home if I dare do such a treatment which of course I will. Her hair grew back long and thick and black – just because she was a hundred years younger than me doesn’t mean it won’t work with me. I did purchase two oils, one with onion extract but not with the smell. I am to use one treatment twice a week for two weeks then the onion extract one for a week and do that until my hair is thick and to my feet. So excited. Thanks hair-guru-Sofie. I am so lucky.
Dinner at home…
Yesterday we had another chai at our local street seller. We waved on arriving. This meant and was understood as “the usual please”. He made us one with sugar and one without. Cool. We sat in the back and had a pleasant conversation with a local office worker taking a break. Lots about the bad economics of Pakistan, the falling rupee and of course Imran Khan and the (unsuccessful) attempts of the opposition to have him arrested.
Narda asked a child’s parent for permission to take this photo – I called it photo of the day.
One of Narda’s go-to conversations with locals is re. Imran. Seems everyone we speak to is in favour of Imran or they are just fearful of disagreeing with Narda. If you don’t believe me, say you are an anti-vaxxer. For example, at an anti vax rally parade we happened to come across in The Hague, Narda confronted one of them and she got pushed – luckily she got out of their way and survived to ‘discuss’ vaxing with others since. Yes, we have had five, three of them boosters. We may have a future ‘conversation’ about pressed onion oil in hair, but aside of that we agree on most everything. I make fun of her and have lots to say about her meat eating and she pays me out for being a vegetable…lover, otherwise we are on the same page, well, except I still play Dylan and Janis Joplin when I can. Pretty good as we come from such a different background in some ways. Mainly, I did the hippie lots of LSD and everything else and she didn’t. I am still glad I did. I loved my years of doing lots of drugs, no regrets, remember them well, great experiences, but also happy I haven’t done any drugs since early 1980 when my mate Randy sent me a lots of LSD. I was a single parent at the time. When I told Sacha a few years ago he said his whole childhood made sense to him after hearing that. No drugs since early 1980, no alcohol since 2005, feel high all the time, happy. What more could a person want?
A new Tim Norton’s shop opened in Lahore and of course Sofie wanted to go and stand in line to get one of their donuts which she claims were quite good. I didn’t, Narda did and liked it too. Brendan rolled his eyes.
Another one of those lovely days…foot massage, head massage, hair wash. Far out, wish we could afford this in Australia. All up it set us back $23 including tip for the two of us, and Narda getting her toenails coloured – kind of a pink instead of her usual red. Go figure, women – but then again today is the international day of the woman or of women – something like that. Huge marches here in Lahore today – and a large rally for Imran Khan. That got Sophie and Brendan home early, as Imran’s compound is near their school and the military is out and there seems to be a lot of nonsense going on Narda and I wanted to go and see it but we were told probably not a good idea. Water cannons – police breaking car windows – lots of mayhem. I wanted to be one of those twitter journalists – had my cameras including zoom lens ready to go too. One of the girls who did the massages is from the Philippines, said she was a Christian. We used to say we were atheists, but Brendan said that is not good to say, so I suppose we are culturally Christians so yes that we are, sort of.
Our last days were a bit of a whirlwind seeing folks and winding up our stay in Lahore plus getting train tickets lined up for the rest of the trip – Newcastle to Liverpool, train to Wales. Tickets for our next trip; Adelaide to Albany NY, renting a car for a week or more, visiting my sister in Oneonta, friends in Albany, my father, mother’s and brother’s cemetery in Clifton Park, reminiscing about living in upstate 2002 – 2006, teaching in Albany, then driving from Oneonta to Battle Creek Michigan where I was born then I was carted off to NY and put out for adoption soon after those glorious few days of my youth in August 1947. Want to check out the place, see if it has changed much over the past 76-years. I suspect it has and I think I will be there on my birthday, August tenth, if you are thinking of wishing me well or sending flowers. From there we will train it to Chicago for our house exchange in downtown for a month. The Chicago folks have just left our home in Adelaide, they seemed to have enjoyed their month stay there. After Chicago we are taking Amtrak overnight – got a sleeper berth, to DC, staying with Chris and Jessica for a couple of weeks then to Valencia. We got one ticket on United with points and will get the second next month when we accrue enough points to grab that one. At the rate we are spending on this trip that should be easy. We have a house exchange in Valencia for a month, our ticket is direct on United from DC to Madrid where we will stay for a day or two then train it up to our house exchange in Valencia. Then back to Adelaide beginning of November. Of course, Narda has us planning for 2024. Coming back to Lahore for a couple then her hope is that we will do a land crossing over the Wagga Border into India instead of flying there, then hanging out in India for three months, or two months there and a month in Malaysia – still connecting the dots now. Of course, there will be world-stuff to deal with. Who knows what the issues will be then? Last couple of years we had to navigate our way around covid, now the ever-expanding wars with Russia.
In June of 2024 we are looking at how to celebrate Narda’s seventieth – something we did, a cruise, in 2017 for my 70th – shit I’m old.
Wow, what a coincidence. I am writing this flying over some snow-capped mountains between Abu Dhabi and London listening to The Pretenders doing the Dylan song, ‘Forever Young’, which is more than five-minutes long and just discovered it is looping after hearing it for too many times, the point being in my ramble I was thinking I was getting a bit long in the tooth for all this travel whilst ‘Forever Young’ was playing.
Back to the real story of now. Now. Wednesday night we went to Lulu’s house. Well apartment. She used to have a house, sold it and got this groovy apartment in a new building with a swimming pool, spa, and so much more. She is a very interesting person. We met her at the International Club last year. She is past 80, from Denmark, married a Pakistani Brit, they lived in Lahore for a long time he died 17-years ago. Lulu stays in Lahore because that is now her home, she loves it. Her two-children live in the States and are married to Yanks. They are Trumpers. We had good talks about how difficult it must be to have a Trumper in the family. Narda and I don’t know anyone who is of that ilk. She is so full of stories of her life. My favourite is about when she and her husband lived and travelled throughout the middle east – living in Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. The 1960s were so different in these places. She told us what it was like on the hippie trails through Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan – all these places we no longer travel to. We have met others who have described places being so open and full of westerners. My friend, Michael McCarthy tells of when they used to drive luxury cars from Europe to Afghanistan, sell them and hitch hike back to Europe and do it all over again.
from Lulu’s roof top – Because of her upper status in Lahore society, she took us to the Punjab club https://thepunjabclublahore.com.pk/, for dinner. It is very difficult to become a member here and one can only go here with a member. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any photos, as we were asked not to. We ate on the rooftop, quite the meal. Because Pakistan is such a meat-eating country there was no vegetarian options except for a few veggies cooked up, so I had sword fish. Never had that before. It was quite good. According to Brendan, Narda, Sofie, and Lulu their many meat dishes were superb. I snuck a piece of chicken to a feral looking cat beneath the table. Felt quite noble doing that.
Narda dressed up for our night out on the town – at the Punjab Club – members only – and their drag alongs
These birds, called Kites, (we have the large ones) are birds of prey feeding on rodents and trash. Black Winged Kites are common in Lahore, scavenging in this local area. They lay eggs in winter, January and February. Their diet consists of small birds, human waste, and meat.
It’s all gone pretty quickly. We discovered some new stuff.
UnDrive (like Uber). It works using my Aussie phone sim. When the puzzled driver calls with a question and speaks no English, I can pass the phone to a helpful local.
We walked in another direction our of Main Market we find ourselves on a road (Mall Rd) which is quite familiar, and which we thought was much further away. So we went walking, using the overpasses on this really busy road and finished up at the hotel where we had stayed for a couple of days while Bren (not personally) was finishing the flat repaint (for Madam…said Imran. I thought he meant me, but he meant Sofie :). This was on a previous visit. And there was the great big box store called Imtiaz where you can buy everything, except what you need. So I updated my collection of hair clips, and bought a groovy outfit, with sparkling shoes for our upcoming dinner with Lulu, the Danish monarch of Lahore, who knows everything and everyone, and with whom we will attend the exclusive Punjab Club, as her guests.
We started with drinks (they do drink) at Lulu’s beautiful apartment. This was also offered to the teachers at LAS, but Bren and Sof declined, as they like the space and the gardens at their current home. The new flats are pretty speccie!
Then on to the Punjab Club where I enjoyed the most yummy lamb dinner, locally called mutton.
The next day was a holiday (like a snow day without the snow) for Bren and Sof. It was all about the protestors trying to stop Imran Khan’s arrest. The school was completely hemmed in by it, no one could get through, it was also deemed a security risk.
Then met up with Niggi who treated us to a lovely lunch.
The Royal Swiss Hotel, Brendan taking the long route thanks to google, but was interesting drive for us. We had a spa bath and a short but good sleep before being woken up for our 4am flight with Etihad.
Goodbye Lahore, see you next time.
We were walking random streets in Lahore and came across a group of men who wanted to chat – we could not understand much of each other but we did selfies and were told one of the men was a principal of the local school. Really enjoy hanging out and meeting people and they like being with us – we all understand one another in the sense we are just regular people. Well I am anyway. I didn’t select auto play here so scroll through at your leisure.
Sofie and Brendan went to a mate’s wedding (a three day thingy) here they are dressed for one of the days…
Our last day, yesterday, Thursday, we went to lunch with Sofie’s mum. Another great feed. I had a creamy noodle spinach thingy and they had, according to them, tasty roadkill. Don’t recall the name of the place.
Also, I got Neuage soap.
Bit of a story. Since 1993 I have been making webpages. That is toward the beginning of it all as the internet was invented 1991, I know because I used to teach computing at the university of Albany in 2002-2003, with a history of such. I saw it originally as 1. Finding friends, I have lost along the way; that rarely happened in the past thirty-years, maybe two or three people from my past. It is either because people thought I was an idiot and never wanted to have anything to do with me again, or because I changed my name from Adsit to Neuage in 1981 – a long story, which I won’t tell now, or because my friends all died off. As a fact I know three from my past, Kathleen in Florida who said I was the first one she kissed back in 1962 or so, Marta Waterman, my brother’s girlfriend in the 1960s – she is in Woodstock, New York and we keep constant contact, even did a book together about my brother, and my once-were-girl friend, Tamazon, from 1974 New Orleans, she even joined a cult order I was in back then, so I probably had an influence on her life, – we have kept tabs on one another for the past decade or so through Facebook as I have with the other two. I did discontinue friendship with Beverly, my girlfriend in the late 1970s, Baltimore, because she got weird, I think she would be a Trumper. Wrote me that my dead-son, Leigh was trying to tell me, through her, to turn to God. That was too much for me. 2. The other reason I was so excited about the internet was that it would be an obvious place for me to sell my children’s stories – books, and my picture-poems. In the mid-1990s I thought I would become so famous and rich that my children and I would travel the world on our magic carpet. Needless to say, that never happened. I never sold anything. I presently have about twelve books on Amazon. I think Kathleen bought one once. Anyway, to make a long story short…for decades if you put in ‘neuage’ into Google I would be the first dozen pages to appear. I have thousands of pages about me. Really, look it up. Well, now, putting in ‘neuage’ the first several pages are about some stupid shit product called Neuage soap. What a foul disgrace to my good name. the Neuage soaps and products are as one would have it, centred in Lahore of all places. It is now available only on the internet. I have tried many stores. So of course, I ordered it so I can give Sacha a gift of love from Pakistan.
One final note from me…I was concerned at the start of this trip that I would have difficulty carrying medication that needed refrigeration. I have several liquid ice packs in a thermal bag with the medication, Trulicity, for diabetes. I contacted various airlines and read heaps on the internet with lots of different answers to whether I could carry these things. Adelaide airport said nothing – put the bag through the scanner – nothing, this was the result everywhere so far: Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Lahore, London, Ferry to Holland. All my worries as usual have come to naught. Even hotels are willing to put my medication into refrigeration overnight, and the icepacks into a freezer. Even the ferry between Newcastle and Holland did this – that story is for the next blog.
Goodbye Lahore, see you next time. We love you.
Postscript 16 March
Things are heating up in Lahore with Imran Khan’s supporters not allowing the government agencies (police ans soldiers) to arrest him. Kahn’s supporters are out in droves, blocking access to the school where Bren and Sof teach, and also Kahn’s home. They have had a number of days off as a result, I don’t hear complaining from them.
Unfortunately there are tear gas and water cannons being used. The other day it all went quiet as police and soldiers went to the cricket.
This brings a smile to my face. Brens description of the Pushtuns from Peshawar standing in the back of their utes with their bushy beards and machine guns, high on hashish coming to rescue their beloved Imran. They take up both sides of the road and I’m sure speed limits do not apply. According to Sofies dad, if he gets to the election he will win in a landslide.
Kahn is opposing the arrest as he says they will kill him. This is not an unreasonable fear, as an attempt on his life has already happened when he was shot in the leg on the march to Islamabad with his followers a few months ago.
Briefly, Braving the new world order, we left Australia on December 03. Our first stay was in Lahore, Pakistan for the marriage of Brendan. We spent three weeks there. On December 24th we flew Lahore to Istanbul – missed our next flight and spent Christmas Day in Istanbul flying on in the afternoon. We arrived in Washington DC in the evening with not much traffic. Got to Chris’ and family’s house Christmas night. Three days later all five of us tested positive for coronavirus. Four adults, all with three shots including booster, had mild symptoms, and tested negative within a week except for me who was positive for two-weeks, missing a planned trip to New York, missing re-booked flights to Holland three times. The child, age six, tested positive but never felt any symptoms. We are finally off to The Netherlands for two-months before hopefully returning to Adelaide.
Narda writing in Italics Terrell whatever else there is. I will try and not tell the same story as Narda – but there could be some overlaps. Read the italics and you will be better informed. I tend to ramble as someone nearby has mentioned.
Our last trip to Lahore – way back in 2019 is written up here, https://neuage.me/2019/11/29/lahore/December 03, 2021DepartureA new threat to us getting to Brendan’s wedding in Pakistan! Omicron, the latest variant of the corona virus is knocking on Australia’s door. We had decided to isolate for a guaranteed negative test result the at the airport, but we went a step further and moved our flights back a week earlier, leaving Dec 3rd instead of the 9th.Just as well, as there are pockets of the new more infectious strain circulating now in Adelaide. Flights were without incident, despite the additional paperwork. In Melbourne the test was cheaper than we expected ($79 instead of $150 which it was just weeks before) and we had a result in 40 minutes.In Abu Dhabi, a decent enough airport, we had a nice Irish Brekkie (as you do) and only a few hours to wait for the next flight. I think I may have dosed off in the comfort seat. Watched a couple of movies. The next flight was half empty, so I slept for 2 hours like the dead along 5 empty middle seats. We had a very friendly and sympathetic Aussie hostie.Lahore arrival, Bren and Imran waiting for 2 hours while 3 large jets unloaded. But we got there. Great to be back and see Bren. It was a long wait for them, not because of the flight but because it took so bloody long to unload it. Blimey.We checked into the AveriXHotel for 3 nights as Bren’s place was still being painted. A greatarea, close to some nice eating places where we had tomato soup and salads; safe, easy and yum.The hotel also had an amazing breakfast buffet, a mixture of western and Pakistani fare.
We left Adelaide in the morning getting a ride with Narda’s sister, Caroline to the airport. The big box is Brendan’s wedding present, a coffee machine.
Flying to Melbourne we tested there for covid doing the fifteen-minute rapid test. As throughout this trip we worried whether we would test positive and must cancel our trip. When we got the text that our results were negative, we quickly went to the waiting area only to find only one restaurant was open.
Due to covid very few were flying. Narda ordered something meaty, and I ate a sandwich I brought along. By 10.45 pm we were in the air on Etihad 461. Somehow, I have forgotten that flight so must not have been very eventful. Probably slept some. In Abu Dhabi we got a ride through the airport in one of those motorized carts they take the old and lame around the airport in. We asked to go to the food court and found a good Irish type of pub place, O’Leary’s, for a big breakfast then got a ride back to our gate. On the flight to Lahore one of the stewardesses let Narda know she too was an Australian. Narda of course pointed out that Australian’s look after each other and sure enough not before long we got moved to a forward section of the plane that had few passengers. Where we were was full. Narda stretched out over several seats and slept most of the three hours to Lahore. I looked out the window and got there exhausted.
Lahore Airport is a journey of its own. A remarkable madness for westerns to navigate with eyes wide open. We arrived with another flight or two and probably a thousand people rushing to the customs counters. Trying to find which line to be in is a challenge but after a few pushing into lines that were not moving we were directed to one that probably was for the likes of us. Another hour later our bags arrived on the conveyor belt.
Brendan with his driver (and go to for everything), Imran were at the airport when we finally got outside sometime in the middle of the night.
Brendan was having his house at Swedish Flats painted before the wedding, so we booked the Avari Xpress Hotel. It is listed as a four-star hotel. Perhaps for Lahore but not in western countries – maybe two-stars. The smorgasbord breakfast was good though and our room was quite large. It is also next to a large supermarket and near restaurants and shopping malls. We were not able to work out the TV. We spent our first three nights in Lahore there
Every day we would walk to Brendan’s house which is in a gated community – surrounded by high fences, large entrance door and boom gate with two or three guards, usually one with some mean looking weapon on his back. In fact, every shop has a guard with a weapon. Some of the guards look as if they are half asleep or too old to fire their weapon if needed. Shopping centres have more serious looking dudes (always males) with machine guns, and they inspect the boot (trunk), bonnet (hood) as well as beneath cars and have a poke around inside. In the containment area (Lahore Cantonment, a large area under military control) just to drive through on their freeway and better roads we need to show passports and women need to have head coverings. I will come back to this later about when I was asked to delete my video of them stopping us, of course being a good citizen of the world, I did – only to discover when I got home it was saved in another area of my phone – I will show you later but don’t tell the Pakistani authorities as they get quite thingy about such stuff.
Next to our hotel was a large chaotic supermarket (“Imtiaz Super Market, is the pioneer in the retail industry of Pakistan, providing an ultimate shopping experience to its consumers” https://imtiaz.com.pk/) with everything from clothes kitchenware furniture mixed with groceries so finding anything was always an exploration to behold. And long long lines everywhere. Further along the street we found several good restaurants our favourite coffee place being Mocca Coffee.
We sat outside in the smog because it was a good day at only 257. We manage to survive in the six and seven hundreds later.
First night out with Brendan’s future wife, Sofie @ Bamboo Union, https://bamboounion.pk/ We sat outdoors, ignored the pollution, and had a good meal.
We moved into Brendan’s house after three-nights at Avari Xpress Hotel and began our almost daily shopping at Jalal Sons https://jalalsons.com.pk/ the local supermarket which is not too far removed from what we would be used to. Everything is in English (one of our languages). Mostly imported foods for what we like which makes them expensive. For example, a bag of chips would be six or seven dollars, peanut butter twice what we would pay in Australia.
Moving in with Brendan December 7Heading out for the day, Imran dropped us off at Al Fatah Shopping Mall https://www.alfatah.pk/ so that we could get some decent coffee. The Second Cup across the road insisted on vaccination for entry. Friendly folk and good coffee. So then to find our way to a market. We tried a tuk tuk. I told the driver where we wanted to go and he did not understand. When I tried again his eyes lit up and he said “Oh La Bertie”! So we thought, haven’t heard of that one so off we went. We paid our 100rp which is about double the going rate at a princely 57c USD. We had arrived at Liberty Market, where we had been before. La Bertie…..Liberty. Huh!!!
Lunch at Liberty AKA La Bertie was a challenge. We were seated in a basement after having ordered a vegetarian hamburger and something similar with meat for me. 45 minutes later it came….not a sign of vegetarian. We were nice about it, and said we would still pay for it, but they took it upstairs and picked out all the meat…….what are ya gonna do.
Nest day headed out with Bren to a western style restaurant with the best food I have EVVA had!!! Bren had pizza, Terrell ordered a cannelloni/spinach/cheese dish (which won first prize!!!!) and I had a dried tomato salad for the gods. We will return, especially as they offered us a free triple choc mousse which we shared (reluctantly)
Lahore authorities have a way of dealing with cars that double park or park where they probably should not. A forklift comes along and picks up the car and lifts it high into the air until the owner comes and pays a fine. See our fifteen second clip here
We took an Uber (taking a break from the scary tuk-tuks in almost impossible to maneuver traffic) to Packages Mall, a large western style mall. A slight difference is that there are armed men with machine guns at the gate and to get inside we had to show we were vaccinated – which is becoming the way of the world. Washington DC now has that requirement.
We made a two-minute video showing the ride to the mall, gun totting guards, the mall, [see Packages Mall below].
I got some really groovy shoes to wear with my Pakistani outfit.
Narda tried on some cosmic looking dresses @ N Junaid Jamshed clothing store https://www.junaidjamshed.com/
Lunch was at Ganache Café at Mall 1, one of Lahore’s most crowded areas. Or as they proclaim “The café has a cosy and a simple ambiance with an indoor and an outdoor sitting area. It serves a range of decadent desserts and other savory items. Mall 94, Main Boulevard Gulberg, Block D1”
Our favourite out-in-the-world breakfast place was at Bundu Khan where we would have puri (a deep-fried bread made from unleavened whole-wheat flour)
and lassies (those wonderful yogurt drinks). http://www.bundukhan.pk/.
11 December SaturdayOff to the International Club initiation. They have done some nice renovation there; it’s very gezellig. We also met Bren’s mate from work, Dustin and his wife. Dustin is quite the personality. He promised to put us in contact with his parents who live in Thunder Bay, Canada for a must-do- because-it-has-lots-of-snow house swap. Nice pizza and beer at the club for me.
We had lunch a couple of times at the International Club – I had mashed potatoes with garlic prawns, so yummy. One evening we had a bar-b-que there and met a lot of the expats from around the world; learning about how bad things were in Brazil and several other countries that people came from. All in all, everyone seemed happy to be in Lahore. I brought up the pollution issue, but it was not big in anyone’s mind, they just seemed to love living here. We met people from South Africa, Brazil, UK, Sweden, and places I don’t remember but at the time I thought ‘how cool’ to be from there. Luckily there was enough salads to keep me happy and a very large fish that was caught somewhere nearby. As I started eating fish a year ago due to my doctor’s ‘or else’ recommendations because of my strict veggie diet I reluctantly have fish twice a week – though not farm-raised. Oh! They serve alcohol which is one of the few places in Lahore where it is OK. Christians and non-Muslims can drink there. I haven’t had any alcohol (except in hand wipes which we all have dry skin from) since 2005 (had liver issues but all seems to be OK now) and don’t miss it.
Then off we went to Packages Mall. I bought me a fancy schmancy wedding dress for the final night and Terrell found some groovy sandals.
Next day we dashed over to a blanket place and bought one for Chris’s bed. Imran at the lead in negotiations. We also managed to get our own sim card, through Imran’s wife Agnes, buying it in her name. It was the only way we could do it.14 December SundayOur first family visit. We were invited to dinner with Sofie’s parents. Nighi, Sofie’s mum is a warm, friendly woman and Saquib, her father, an interesting man to talk to, with his views on the world. His resourcefulness and determination helped us get Chris into the country!
Dinner was great. There was other family there from the USA, Islamabad, and Dubai. We enjoyed the conversations, the warm welcome and the food. It’s a beautiful house in an affluent area in the containment (army owned) district.
The main events of our trip to Pakistan, was seeing Brendan going for the next step in his life. He has known Sofie for a few years, they work together at the same school. She is a kindy teacher, and he is a fifth-grade teacher this year. Sofie was born in the USA and grew up in Lahore. We met her parents and family at their house.
Her brother came over from Dallas and sister from Chicago – so we were quite the international arrivals. We got ourselves looking local for the occasion – here we are standing in Brendan’s lounge before being driven to the family’s home.
We stopped at the flower market along the way [see our one-minute clip Flower Market]
This bouquet of flowers cost about $8 Australian, of course, that was tourist price – in Australia we would pay $50 – $70 for this arrangement.
13 December MondayA new development. Chris still has not got his visa despite the allotted time having been reached and passed. Poor Chris had been phoning and even visiting the Pakistani consulate to no avail. They told him they were waiting for word from Islamabad. I made a few useless phone calls to the embassy in Islamabad but did mange to find out that they are definitely not part of the approval of Pakistani visas in the USA. They only did the permits of extended stays. So! I passed the information on Saquib. He was on to it. His cousin (in charge of National Security) made a phone call to the US consulate, and to cut a long story short, many more moments of anxiety, especially for Chris, the bloody visa was approved.
We think there is a bigger picture here, with these visa applications held up deliberately because Pakistan is upset with the USA….over dumping Afghanistan and causing a major refugee crisis. Who knows?
I will add, there were several sleepless nights with lots of time on the phone (Skype, Whats App, Messenger) sorting out Chris’ arrival. It really started to look as if he would not get here or if he did, he would miss everything. As it turned out he missed the first of the three-day celebration, the Nikkah, but he did get here on the 20th in time for much-to-do still. Keep on reading…
18th December Nikkah – In Islam, marriage is a legal contract between two people. Both the groom and the bride are to consent to the marriage of their own free wills. A formal, binding contract – verbal or on paper is considered integral to a religiously valid Islamic marriage and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom and bride. Once all the requirements are met anyone can officiate the Nikah ceremony (no they didn’t ask me if I wanted to officiate). The bride and groom repeat the word “qubool” or “I accept” three times. Then the couple and the two male witnesses sign the contract, making the marriage legal according to civil and religious law.
We had a lot of food –even vegetarian plates, seeing how ‘special’ I was/am. The main activity of the evening seemed to be taking photos: here is just a sample of probably a hundred photos:
Chris made it in time for the main wedding with only 1 hour to spare. Pretty tough on him!!! He was such a trooper and so was Saquib!
I went to the hairdresser Toni and Guy. Lovely experience. Had a head massage, on a massage chair and then my hair curled down my back with flowers.Finally, into the cars and off we go. It was a huge outdoor place filled with flowers and mirrored floors. The “stage” as amazing, Bren and Sofie mainly based there as folks came to congratulate them, though the dancing soon also revved up.
This is the main event, a few hundred people, but outdoors. Everyone dressed extravagantly.
Several hundred guests I think, many from Sofie’s family but also from Bren and Sofie’s school. I briefly got to meet Nadine again, Bren’s boss, who stayed back so that she could attend. The food was great. Buffet style.
The kids were escorted into their going away cars. They will spend 2 nights at the Pearl Continental Hotel, a pretty flash place by all accounts!
Two days after the first event, Chris arrived an hour before the wedding celebration (above was the Nikkah, the actual ‘I am doing ‘of it all or ‘I did it’ – we dressed up for the actual celebration – see below). He got OK’d by one pm in DC got to the airport a few hours later and was on a flight that evening arriving four pm Lahore time with Brendan’s right-hand man, Imram, waiting for him at the airport, having him to Brendan’s home by six pm.
The day of Chris’ arrival we went shopping at a very local market. For lots of blocks in all directions sellers had their gear in the middle of the streets and covering the sidewalks. The first few blocks of our wander were sellers of Oppo phones. Oppo seems to be the main phone of Lahore or at least the most advertised and with the most stalls selling them. It is the phone we have, based on Brendan’s recommendation a year ago. Now I see why, he lives in the Oppo town of Lahore. It has worked fine for us and takes good photos/videos, though I just read at least it is in the top 1000.
I was told by Brendan that this market was recently bombed a week ago or so. I think 3 people killed and more injured. No one has yet claimed responsibility.
Narda was looking for some earrings or a necklace or some such thing and she found something she like. Brendan found an outfit for Chris to wear to the wedding and I took photos and some video see…[Gone Shopping] I was looking for a fancy handbag and found one.
Brendan bought Chris his outfit
and his friends came over to congratulate him before we all went off for the celebration and dancing.
Then there was the wedding celebration (day two of the three-day event).
Narda had a fitting for dress
and after a few days it arrived at our door in time for the wedding, expensive for us and for a once-off, though she may wear it with jeans back home someday. Not quite sure how often Chris and Brendan will wear their new-found gear. I think Pastor Chris should wear his outfit in his church when he preaches – I suggested that.
I will wear mine at some random time/place. Probably to the gym or when I visit you.
A side-note, amongst many side-notes. Narda and Chris shared a car with Brendan I went in a different car with two others. A large SUV, the driver worked for an oil company. I mentioned how shops have men with machine guns in front. They both showed me their handguns – hidden in the car doors and mentioned that there was a machine gun M-14 on the shelf in back of me – I looked, sure enough there was.
Brendan and Sofie held court, so to speak, and everyone at one time or another got in the picture behind them or with them.
My favourite photo of the evening was Narda and her children…
And she had important bits of wisdom for her first married son, Chris, who got married in Tennessee long ago (I think about 2005).
Brendan’s hat and shoes – invite him over for tea – he will surely wear these items to you home…
And there was much dancing. I capture some on this marriage dancing [https://youtu.be/YXoRDebU6Vc] clip.
Narda, the social one, spent the evening meeting and dancing whilst I was busy looking for vegetarian food, which I found.
At the end of the evening everyone had something to say to the new couple.
The kids were escorted into their going away cars.
They will spend 2 nights at the Pearl Continental Hotel, a pretty flash place by all accounts!
The morning after we went to Breakfast with Sofie and Brendan at Pearl Continental Hotel.
And as with any well-respected hotel they have their resident astrologer/card reader.
That is me filling in until someone that is for-real comes along, which I predict will be at any moment. Our minute long clip of the hotel is here [https://youtu.be/NV8sSFHoBzs]
On Sunday morning we took Chris to our favourite brekkie place and had the traditional Pakistani breakfast with puri and a selection of dipping dishes all for the princely total of $3, this included some chai as well. Here is an eleven second clip of Chris eating breakfast https://youtu.be/Fb-I7f2_bGWe watched the parking management system where offenders’ cars are hoisted into the air!!! [car removal 12 seconds https://youtu.be/oxlb2489qkY ]December 19th Wedding part 3, the boy’s side
Today we went to the Emporium Mall with Chris and had an American lunch at Big Mo’s.
This 3rd event was the parents of the groom hosting and welcoming the bride into their family.
Bren asked us to take the part of host, so we were there an hour before. This third and final one was on a rooftop restaurant, more black clothes formal, with about 40 guests.
Narda and her probably once-ever-used very expensive dress – I could have flown to the moon and back for the same price. All hand made with each little bead/etc stitched one by one. Then again I am sure we will wear our outfits when bike riding back in Adelaide. PS, not that expensive!
it was a full moon night.
It was a very pleasant evening with spectacular views of the famous old mosque, Badshahi Mosque at the Andaaz Restaurant 2189 A Fort Rd, Shahi Mohallah Walled City of Lahore, https://andaazrestaurant.com/. As the guests arrived, I greeted them, trying some short phrases in Urdu, with mixed success and quit a few laughs. Then they opened the upper mezzanine and soon we had the crowd spread out. Chris and me had some interesting conversation with Saquib about religion and politics; what the religions in the world have in common. Nice.
And of course, we have a clip of the night over at Wedding dinner [https://youtu.be/aYV0vhot20c ]
BTW remember at the beginning of our trip we had that big box we dragged around from Adelaide to Melbourne to Lahore? sorry didn’t get a clip of them opening it – oh wait, oh no not another clip! That’s right just this blurred photo of them opening the box at a very rapid rate and the finished product.
Men’s clothing in Lahore is a bit different than what I am used to in Australia.
Driving to places around Lahore at almost every traffic light there are beggars. A lot of cross-dressing men who tell people in the car that if they don’t give them money, they will end up like them. Not sure whether that is good or bad because being many decades younger than me, maybe being like them, at least age wise would be better than being old, then again, I would not wish to do youngness over again. Here is a bit of a clip of such an incident – [Beggars https://youtu.be/90Prkp0tDN8]
And a clip of driving @ night – [Lahore night https://youtu.be/c1YCpjZyfrk] Lahore driving is crazy.
I am amazed when we arrive at any place that we survived. It is not wise to read an English speaking newspaper –
Our last day with Chris in Lahore we went to the Wagha Border – between India and Pakistan. We have done this visit before, both on the Indian side and the Pakistan side. Due to covid stuff there were a lot less people at it than before. To refresh those few folks who have not read our last blogs about the border, Lahore side (https://neuage.me/2019/11/29/lahore/), India side (https://neuage.me/2018/04/12/amritsar/) every night year round there is a flag lowering in the evening at the border. On the Indian side there can be as many 50,000 people at the stadium dancing and cheering with less on the Pakistan side. As usual I made a video but not of just the ceremony this video has many photos of the ride to the border with closeups of folks in tuk tuks and walking along – some of my favourite photos of the trip (aside of family photos) are in this collect (an award collection of photos – awarded by my higher self – good on ya Terrell’s higher self for your recognition of my talent when few others …never mind) Slideshow of Wagha border https://youtu.be/vZCJiRKdyZE
[Chris Preaching https://youtu.be/OWicREb9x2E ] yes there is a final Lahore clip.
Pastor Chris, Grace Capital City church in Washington DC https://www.gracecapitalcity.com/ was asked to give a sermon at a Christian Church in Lahore his last night there by Brendan’s servant/driver/do lots of stuff and church leader, Imran. There are 1.27% or a bit over two-million proclaimed Christians in Pakistan. Read about it on the internet. I believe it is against the law to try and covert a Muslim to Christianity – death or something like that to those who give it a shot. The Christians there are from birth – or expats. For example, Imran’s parents and their parents were Christians – so no converting going on.
December 20, moved to the Main Market
On Monday evening we went with Chris as he was to preach at Imran’s church. An interesting experience. I suspect that this could be where Chris got infected with Omicron!
Had some nice quality time with the boys, went to a nice evening coffee shop, Karak Khel Gulberg, good ambience. It turned out to be just around the corner from Main Market.
December 21st Tuesday
Chris got tested for his flight back to DC (it came up negative). Sofie took us shopping so that Chris could buy some outfits for the folks at home, I also found a nice Pak dress, bright red. Later Sof and Bren joined us in a hunt for scarves for presents to take back home. Sofie bought us some traditional roasted chic peas (I think they were), roasted in a wok of hot sand. Very nice.We left Brendan’s at 11 pm. Chris went to the airport, for his flight leaving at 3 am. The next day Sof and Bren went off to Tanzania and we made our way to the airport with Imran, after a visit to the Covid testing site.
I have to say I am loving travelling again. Our time in Pakistan was a buzz. It is VERY polluted this time of the year with 450 particle readings compared to Adelaide around 15. We used N95 masks all the time, and after only 2 days they would turn brown/grey. But it’s a wild and exciting place. Lots of restaurants and interesting places to see. We had our local chai wallah, who made us delicious chai in tiny cups on the side of the road.
Then there are fancy western restaurants where the 3 of us (Brendan and us could eat a full meal for $17 USD total. Or the brekkie place where we got a nice local but fancy feed for $3 each.
December 23 Wednesday
Our final test was negative and the next day we headed to the airport hotel, the Royal Swiss Hotel. Imran dropped us off there. We were looking forward to a nice quiet evening ready for the next morning’s departure.
The dinner restaurant was amazing, we were almost the only people there with a beautiful buffet where we ate like kings, a bit of everything. The room was also great. Later that evening we discovered that our flight was going to be delayed. There was no notification from Turkish Airlines. I spend lots of time on the phone to see about the connecting flight, which I discovered was postponed to the following day, also without any notification from Turkish Airlines. So we quickly booked a transit hotel in Istanbul (Yotel). When we finally arrived (having travelled business class, which was fantasitc!!!!) we were told that Turkish Air would have taken us to the city were they had a hotel, and put us up gratis. Thanks for letting us know guys!!
The transit hotel was fine, we spent the next day enjoying the business lounge, sampling everything. The airport is nice. No complaints, except that Turkish Air need to pay for the hotel.
The flight was again business class, we arrived at around 8pm and took a taxi to Chris’. They had been celebrating Christmas Day with 2 other friends, expecting us to be a part of it, but that was not to be. Chris himself had had a shocking return trip from Lahore with delays, and an overnight in an airport in Doha with NO hotels available. Pretty tough. Luckily, he managed 6 hours in a sleeping pod in that time. All in all a pretty difficult trip for him, but we are all so glad he could come and celebrate such an important event with his brother.
Bren and Sofie by now reaching Tanzania/ Zanzibar for their honeymoon.
Having got a good deal for a business class flight from Lahore to Istanbul then to DC we made the best of a groovy situation. Our flight from Lahore was delayed by several hours due to smog, getting us to Istanbul too late to grab our flight to DC. We stayed overnight at the airport hotel – a basic windowless small room costing close to $200 USD. We booked it back in Lahore, after Chris’ delay for many hours on his flight to Lahore back mid-December (Narda says it was the trip from Lahore to DC, but, it was the flight to Lahore – he arrived totally exhausted the night of the wedding celebration, little sleep for two days and then he was dancing the night away. One must envy these young folks and their ability to keep on going. We did not want to keep on going and paid the big bucks. However, once in Istanbul airport we were told we would be taken to a city hotel at the airlines’ expense – but it was too late. Now we are stuck with hustling our insurance company with paying for the hotel. We were able to hang out in the Turkish Business Lounge for the day – until 4 pm for our flight to DC. The lounge was great – we ate our selves silly. There were islands of food being cooked – we could order what we wanted at the past area, dessert area, soup, omelette, etc.
I found lots of prepared salads, and of course at the coffee centre there was an endless supply of Turkish Coffee which I drank an endless amount of (I would be awake all the way to DC – more than 30-hours since Christmas Day began in Turkey and ended in DC, whilst Narda slept about seven hours on the way in her comfortable business class flatbed – I spent the whole time on the internet – who would guess?).
We wandered around the airport – it was very quiet in our area.
It is a huge airport and I think at one end downstairs there were a few western restaurant chains that had some Christmas lights happening, but we didn’t go in that area. Narda found Turkish candy
and as there was no music – but there was a piano in the lounge – Narda gave me a bit of a Christmas concert – here is a sample https://youtu.be/c4noCPnr6-g
I spent Christmas Day looking like a local –
Here is on our flight Lahore > Istanbul > DC https://youtu.be/vaIp2fGLhdk
Of course, as with any fancy dinner we had “candlelight dinners”.
great views of the Bosporus as we left Istanbul –
I tried sleeping but after a day of Turkish Coffee I was too wired.
Washington DC Christmas Evening
Our flight was the only one when we landed in DC, and that was far from full, seven pm, so we went through customs quickly. No mention of vaccinations, covid tests, I guess that was all taken care of before getting on to our flight in Istanbul. We grabbed a taxi to Chris and Jessica’s house. The driver was from Afghanistan – pro-former guy in Whitehouse – we could not figure out why. He had not heard from his family for weeks – since the US pulled out of Afghanistan. With few people on the road, we got there in about 35-minutes. We had planned to get to DC the night before but a day later was better than never at all. It was Narda’s first meeting of her new grandson, Josiah, who I called Messiah as it is pronounced much the same.
Narda hugged Chris as a mother would do. I kept my mask on. Two days later Chris and Jessica tested positive to covid – three days later Narda did and five days later I did. We all had few symptoms with Narda in bed one whole day not feeling very flash. I had a bit of a runny nose but nothing else. We did our best to quarantine staying in the basement which Chris and Jessica rent out as Airbnb for five-days. We stood for about two hours in a line to get tested with my results being negative and Narda’s positive. The rest of the time we tested at home.
Jan 5th 2022 Washington DCWe are currently in Chris’ AirBnB apartment downstairs. We’ve been here since Christmas, and the very first thing we did was hug the kids and contract covid! All of us. The little ones too. Luckily it’s Omicron (we assume, just a crappy cold, headaches, snot, cough, and achy bits.) Chris and Jess have to work now (virtually). Usually they have a nanny, but since we’re all testing positive we have taken up the nanny duties.
It does look like the whole world will get this one. Let’s hope we are all immune after that…would be nice.
We had a great time reconnecting with Liam, who has grown into such a lovely boy, a gentle type who adores his little brother. It was a challenging week for all of us, pretty full-on, but a great opportunity to really connect with our grandies.Josiah is a joy. A cuddly happy little guy, who does not miss anything, very alert and smiley.
Christmas Night at the Moerman’s – https://youtu.be/tT0UrbzE7zw
We had not been in the USA since 2019 (our blog for then https://neuage.me/2019/07/14/usa-2019/) and the atmosphere has changed so much. Not just covid – but politically too. We had been in DC July 2019 for Chris’ 40th birthday. His father, and brothers had come over from Lahore (Brendan) and Australia (Stu and their father). We had done a similar flight to what we did this time going from DC to Amsterdam in mid-January back in 2017 https://neuage.me/2017/01/24/washington-dc-to-amsterdam-and-life-in-between/ more on this later.
We were excited to hear that it would snow tomorrow and when it did, we were up and out the door.
I went with Chris and Liam to a local hill to watch them play in the snow. Here is a minute and a half of their enjoyment https://youtu.be/cF4lpUVozGEJanuary 6, 2021, being a tough day for Americans we decided to go a year later to the capitol – not many people around in the morning when we were there, mainly TV stations getting lined up for a day’s broadcast.
We did eavesdrop on an interview by a foreign team of a policeman video https://youtu.be/fvVw-0OMo_Q
Chris and Narda sing to the children – https://youtu.be/Jut5fg3nXTk
We had bought tickets on Amtrak to NYC for New Years Eve and for a train to Albany, New York on New Year’s Day then rented a car to drive to Oneonta to visit with my sister for a couple of days then a train back to DC a week later then onto Holland. Never happened – well the Amtrak bit, Narda testing positive on December 28th put the end to that. Then of course, I tested on positive on New Year’s Day, so it was just as well that we did not go.
After five days of no symptoms, we thought we could go out safely, wearing masks of course. We did a few trips around DC but for the most part stayed around home and babysat. We did go to where Lincoln was shot, at Ford’s Theatre and did the free tour. Photo below is the chair Lincoln was in when he was shot.
I tested positive for fourteen days from January first (how I started 2022) until testing negative at six am on Saturday the 15th. We booked in our official test ($90 each of us) for five pm and that came back negative. One interesting side-note if there is an interesting side-note was that the very first time, I had a positive test on the first of January the line on the tester was so light I barely could see it. Each day after the line became darker then the last three days the line for positive showed lighter each day. I looked all over the internet – from top to bottom – and there was no one saying that the darkness of the line showed how much viral load there was, but we were convinced that the lightening of each day meant soon I would be negative. It was annoying, and mentally I was getting negative without being really negative – go figure. Every morning I would take a test – it would be positive, we would re-book our pcr test and change our flights to the next day (United Airlines were very helpful with this and we never had to wait in a queue and they changed it to the next day without fees each time). My insurance ran out on the eleventh as that was the day we were to be going to Holland. Australia has reciprocal Medicare with 11 EU countries and Britain. This helps us a lot with insurance, our insurance company is the one who told us we did not have to buy health insurance for these countries. As I have so many pre-existing things from heart disease (pacemaker, five stents, other surgery) to diabetes and beyond our insurance always is more than the flights (including going business class this last time from Lahore to Istanbul to DC). Insurance for the USA is very high. We spent from 6 am until 8 pm on the phone on January tenth waiting in queues – getting disconnected – starting over – waiting in a queue– to be able to extend our insurance for a week. We once again booked our flight for the next day which was Sunday the 16th. Besides all the other annoying things to worry about; insurance and covid tests being top – and being a week or more late for our house sit coming up in Holland, there was a major winter storm that was to “slam” our area starting Sunday afternoon. Sunday morning, we took a Lyft to Dulles airport @ 8.45. First the flight was delayed from 12.45 to 1.30 pm due to an approaching storm then it was delayed another hour then finally at five pm we were on the runway getting de-iced on plane. We got to Newark and had one hour to spare and spent it in the United business lobby as we get a free lobby thingy each year for having a United Credit Card. BTW it is a great card to have – we had enough points for both of us to fly to Amsterdam. We added a hundred bucks to upgrade to economy plus which was well worth it. So we ate as much as we could stuff into our face and got into line to get onto our flight. They wanted so much paperwork at the counter; pcr test result, vaccination result, some other stuff – can’t remember it all. Thankfully Narda is amazing at keeping track of all this shit. I just live in la la land and smile at all the foreign stewardesses.
De-icing flight to Amsterdam https://youtu.be/49Sl-ApmKAk
Here we are in Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel, the Netherlands. Arrived on the 17th January about six hours later than scheduled and a week later than planned. We have a house-sit for two months looking after six chooks and two rabbits. We were at this exact house exactly two years ago but had to return to Australia March 2020 due to covid. Thanks to Fred and Chantal for asking us six months ago if wanted to look after their animals as they were off to Capo Verde off the west coast of Africa. We had done a house/car exchange two years ago so already had a connection to these really wonderful people. Narda hopes to catch up with relatives – but we will see how that works out with the current covid restrictions in Holland.
Our blog from exactly two years ago https://neuage.me/2020/04/10/rotterdam2020/
We will probably just chill for two months, looks like we may go back to Australia mid-April 2022 instead of mid-March. This would be our longest ever house-exchange and almost five months away from home. I may be speaking Dutch after-all.
I want to work on some video projects. But after Lahore and DC we need this time to do nothing except bike ride as much as possible. And we joined the local gym, finding a 9 euro special for a month online. And a few days ago, the 26th January, restaurants opened up in Holland after a year so we had our first meal in a restaurant since Lahore mid-December which seems like so long ago but was really only six or seven weeks ago.
We even get to drive their car – what disturbs me in the photo below is that my hair has not grown in two years.
We didn’t take wearing masks very seriously either, I think. Actually, we were unable to purchase any anywhere at the start of covid. Because we do not follow the news (I don’t understand Dutch – and Narda speaking/reading Dutch didn’t pay much attention to the news – we did not know how fast covid was spreading until all the masks were sold out everywhere we went.
That’s all for today. Off to explore the Netherlands today and this week/month – check back mid-March/April for an update on our life. Cheers!
Lahore 2021 covid world tour on YouTube https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLzv1YGfx_SMw-e35J_du1wBRjpdY5D08c