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Shalwar Kameez

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Pakistan2023

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.

February 15

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 nice home now. Sofie has done some gorgeous decorating. It looks very homey.

This my little amateur sketch of part of the living room.

Narda's drawing of Brendan/Sofie lounge

This stunning work by the real artist in the family, Sofie.

drawing by 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.

February 16

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.

I did not put the photos below on Auto-play – so click the little arrow on the sides to see the next photo…

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.

I did not put the photos below on Auto-play – so click the little arrow on the sides to see the next photo…

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.

February 17

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.

February 19

Out for breakfast with Brendan and Sofie at Bundu Khan Lahore – http://www.bundukhan.pk/  Desi Nashta –

February 20

slideshow of our days in Islamabad

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 🙃 🤔

museum of natural history
museum of natural history – the three guides were very knowledgeable – all scientists – our driver on the end-right

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.

See https://neuage.me/2019/11/29/lahore/ for 2019 blog

February 21

With Luke’s parents in AM to museums – nap – afternoon InDrive to The Centarus Mall F8 – Jinnah Avenue – dinner cheesy noodles

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Wikipedia

February 22

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,

shopping Narda

I did not put the photos below on Auto-play – so click the little arrow on the sides to see the next photo…

.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.

February 23

Bus back to Lahore – out with Sofie and Brendan’s for dinner to Rina’s

February 24

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.

“Monal Lahore 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. 

See our three clips:

  1. https://youtu.be/Boweh1yIeMc
  2. https://youtu.be/7MP01r4IYpo
  3. https://youtu.be/Zj_JwPyKwo8

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. 😴

  • Old Fort Lahore

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

  1. 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

Piña colada without the rum - Pakistan style
Piña colada without the rum – Pakistan style

February 26

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.

I did not put the images below on Auto-play – so click the little arrow on the sides to see the next photo…

  • Sofie’s mum took us out to Breakfast at the English Tea House

February 27

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

  • Lahore Writers week
  • Lahore Writers week

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.

I did not put the images below on Auto-play – so click the little arrow on the sides to see the next photo…

  • hair washing Pakistan style

February 28

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).

two cool people eating
two cool people eating

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 menu if 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/

Mar 2

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. 

I did not put the images below on Auto-play – so click the little arrow on the sides to see the next photo…

  • Strawberry Fields forever

My tuk tuk take.

Narda's drawing
Narda’s drawing

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. We headed 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.

Narda's drawing -that is me looking at you
Narda’s drawing -that is me looking at you

Part of our local walk.

Bren’s band

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.

See the clip at https://youtu.be/rh_o7XGW6mY

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.

March 02

to Sofie’s mother for dinner father there too – left 9.30

March 03

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.

March 04

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…

  • men with guns

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 –

men with guns

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.

March 06

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.

March 07

Dinner at home…

dinner at home
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.

Time Hortons
Time Hortons

March 08

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.

  • Old Fort Lahore
  • some random shots of our days in Lahore

March 09

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.

with LuLu
with Lulu

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

Narda decked out for evening at the Punjaba Club https://thepunjabclublahore.com.pk/
Narda decked out for evening at the Punjab Club https://thepunjabclublahore.com.pk/

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Punjab Club
  4. 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!
  5. Then on to the Punjab Club where I enjoyed the most yummy lamb dinner, locally called mutton.
  6. Counting down
  7. 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.
  8. Then met up with Niggi who treated us to a lovely lunch. 
  9. 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. 
  10. 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.

  • lost in the streets of  Lahore and meeting people along the way

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.

  • Neuage soap - I am so white they named a soap after me

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.

  • my travelling medical bag - half the stuff has to be kept refrigerated - a real hassle flying around with - filled with frozen liquid jell packs

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.

Lahore

Ahead of us was a flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Lahore, Pakistan; leaving at ten pm, arriving four hours later, which due to time change was midnight in Lahore. We knew we would be stuffed by the time we got there which would be two am in our world. But as luck would have it…We received an email from Sri Lankan Airlines saying we could upgrade to business. All we had to do was put in a bid and if it was accepted, we would be travelling like the elderly should, but usually cannot afford to. The bid range was $30 – $90 USD so we reckoned midway would be good. We put in $60 and got business class seats. It turned out that the business section was mostly empty so we could have gotten them for less, but we were happy to have the better seats. Considering the ticket to begin with was $260 each it was good a deal.

Narda’s notes (italics) Terrell notes

 

 

 

 

 

My first impressions of Pakistan, after three days, is that the people are very friendly. For example, we can rarely go a block without someone wanting a selfie with us, shaking hands, saying “thank you for coming to Pakistan”. My other impression is from the pollution. My app says 305, Hazardous; avoid all physical activity outdoors. Yesterday it hit 670.

Lahore air quality index (255 ug/m3) 35 ug is consdered unsafe)

Lahore air quality index (255 ug/m3) 35 ug is considered unsafe)

It hangs in the air. Brendan’s house is in a gated community with a lot of trees and I think that helps. We also have machines around the house that are supposed to suck in the bad air. I can taste it when I am outside. In comparison where we live in Adelaide is a breathable 8; . Apparently, it is the µg/m3 reading that is all the rage to know about; Micrograms per Cubic Meter of Air. Bottom line, the µg/m3 should be between 0 & 5. Anything above 35 stay inside and watch Oprah and eat chocolate.

Adelaide air quality index (2.1 ug/m3) 35.0 ug is considered unsafe)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent one of our first days at The Badshahi Mosque, built in 1674. The Badshahi MosqueThanks to our amazing guides and Brendan’s co-workers; Sofie and Maryam for this day out. Narda has more of this later.

What stood out besides what we saw, was how many people wanted selfies with us. It is usually Narda getting all the attention

but today, I would say I had a hundred selfies at least.  It took forever to get through the temple we got stopped so much, perhaps not forever, because now is now and we are not there, and forever is not over. Fortunately, Sofie and Maryam were patient.  The Pakistani people would shake my hand and say, ‘thank you for coming to Pakistan’.

It was amazing. A few weeks ago, at the first cricket game here since 2004 (that year the Sri Lanka team’s buses were fired upon, though no one was killed; but it did stop teams from coming here until now) the Pakistan fans held up signs thanking Sri Lanka for playing here (even though Sri Lanka won).

This story is at https://www.wisden.com/stories/international-cricket/timeline-of-cricket-in-pakistan-since-2009

Pakistan has been treated poorly by the western media; these people are so grateful to have western visitors. I even had women in full burkas doing selfies with me. I didn’t know the protocol in these situations, so I didn’t put my arm around them…maybe next time.

https://youtu.be/s0iyHOJ76WQ our video for our tromping about the mosque.

It has taken me 72 years (yes, I am the same age as Pakistan – 1947 we both came into being ) to realize my Leo potential as a celebrity. Hey, Hollywood I can be a star for a day too.

The Badshahi Mosque is a Mughal era masjid in Lahore, capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab, Pakistan. The mosque is located west of Lahore Fort along the outskirts of the Walled City of Lahore, and is widely considered to be one of Lahore’s most iconic landmarks.

Brendan’s driver, Imran, took us shopping to Al-Fatah Mall. (https://www.alfatah.pk/): The grocery store, in the basement, has more western products than our local supermarket in Lahore. For example, we got peanut butter, but they were out of tofu. On the third floor I bought a shalwar kameez suit, black  $26USD at Al-Fatah.

The dress of Narda’s was from material she bought and had made. We have a video and story of that later. Sales tax = 17% on clothes and most groceries. Milk doesn’t have any tax, yogurt has 10%, everything else at the supermarket had a 17% tax wacked on. We have been told by a few people here that everything costs more since Imran Khan became prime minister, including higher taxes. We thought locals would have a good impression of Imran Khan but so far those we have spoken with don’t think he is doing well. The most general comment is that he is trying to go to fast, ending corruption, changing stuff. For those who don’t know, before entering politics, Khan was an international cricketer and captain of the Pakistan national cricket team, which he led to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup. We have liked his speeches we have seen on YouTube and on the news. Especially in relationship to India. We had the same feedback in Sri Lanka in relationship to their head of state, no one seemed to like him. Of course, it is the same in the States, so where does one go to find a head of state that a majority like? I don’t know.

Tuesday 29th October.

Imran took us to Liberty Market alongside Main Boulevard Gulberg. Liberty Market is made up of many individual shops with frontage to the streets. Mainly women’s clothing shops they are small and seem to be owner owned. We got there after eleven am only to find most of the shops closed. They open after noon and stay open until late at night which seems to be the way with markets in Lahore. We did buy a bedspread for about $32USD at Thar Maleer Handicraft shop. Heaven only knows why we would need another bedspread, but I just carry the parcels I don’t seem to understand why we need more. Narda bought another scarf ($4) at a street stall, and a dress for $19. Narda is finding getting a dress that fits her ten-foot frame difficult, even for extra-large.  I would joke with the salespeople; one refined shop keeper remarked that she had a healthy body. At the end of a few hours of looking, on our walk back to our meeting with Imran, a dress in a shop widow caught Narda’s eye. She tried it on, it was a bit too small in the shoulder but otherwise what she wanted. The shop owner adjusted the hem a bit to make it fit.

What was interesting was an in-depth conversation with the shop dude. He was quite concerned about westerner’s perception of Pakistan, something that comes up quite often. He said Pakistan in the safest country of all and that Lahore is the safest city in Pakistan. That tourists are given a lot of respect. That it is the United States policy to create tension between Pakistan and India and others. We didn’t say anything as we have heard India’s side often that it is Pakistan creating division. He had recently lived in Belgium for three years and him and Narda could chat in Dutch. This is such a recurring theme here that people are so happy we are visiting, that it is the media creating a bad rap on Pakistan. We just listen. We will say that the people here are extremely friendly. We got a slight reprimand when Narda did a Namaste (a slight bow with paws pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. In Hinduism, it means “I bow to the divine in you”, or to us it is “you are cool too, mate”), and a man said that he was a Muslim and they just did the thumbs up thingy. He was friendly about it but I guess there is some mixing of culture we are not up to speed on. In India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, everyone is bowing and gesturing all over the shop. So, remember when in Pakistan it is thumbs up.

When we got home, we went off to our local market for dinner fixings

yum bull's testicals

yummy bull’s testicles..why I have been a vegetarian for 55 years

and as is so often is the case we were surrounded by folks wanting selfies with us. Firstly, a woman in full black niqab wanted a photo with us and her daughters about 8 to 10 years old. Next, a few young blokes with matching tee shirts, then more of them, then about a dozen, all wanting group photos and individual photos. They were a university cricket team all excited because they had made it to the grand final game which I think is tomorrow. Then there were a few other stragglers along the street that wanted selfies with us.

Just to keep the difference in women’s wear understandable, not that it is even at the best of time, here is something I grabbed off the internet so that I could sort it out somewhat:

The word hijab describes the act of covering up generally but is often used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in many styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.

This is what Narda wears when we go into a mosque, temple, or some place that everyone is doing the same and we think we should be like them.

I even had to wear something on my head at the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar in India last year.

The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.

The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body, often leaving just a mesh screen to see through.

The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close-fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and a tube-like scarf.

For more about what is what with garb see https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/24118241

Narda writes about Brendan’s home below. I will just add that due to being a gated community, the chooks and cats wander through everyone’s yards. They had a routine they kept to everyday. At four pm the rooster followed by several hens and a try-hard rooster would enter our yard, peck around a bit, chase away a cat or two then wander on to the next yard.

It was the first time for the guy in Lahore who processed our visa. A bunch of earnest looking Pakistanis prompted him every step of the way, but despite that we got out and on our way with Brendan and his driver Imran. There was an important looking pollie…I think…who was met by fawning officials with papers to hand him and cameras…who shared business class with us. I think he had some anxiety, his legs moving from side to side for most of the trip.

Right now I’m watching a guy wearing a beige shalwar kameez sweeping our lawn.

He did it yesterday too. The flat where Brendan is living is enormous. Huge lounge with high ceilings, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms on 2 levels. All the flats in this enclosed area have leafy gardens; there is a pristine swimming pool and serious security here, manned all the time.

Not too shabby. 

We saw an accident, lots of blood on the road, Brendan told me not to look so I looked. Pretty disturbing; a motorbike rider. We continued our walk and finished up in a little enclave of western coffee and carrot cake. A couple of girls on the way out commented on my Punjabi dress…starting a nice conversation. Turned out that one of them also taught at the American school years back.

It’s a big busy city, reminded us of Delhi; without the cows. Though you do see the occasional cart pulled by a sad scruffy donkey. The road home was completely taken up by the devout at prayers…took up the whole road and we were diverted. I love all this stuff, new and exciting. 

Brendan showed us his skills as a crazy driver in Lahore, narrowly avoiding hitting a tuk tuk, a beggar or another flash vehicle. Nicely done! We actually found a place to park, despite my doubts; he paid a guy some 30c to take care of the car, and we went inside a supermarket. Terrell found what he needed to make a nice, unusual veg meal, as we watched the Breaking Bad movie on Netflix. And I have been initiated into drinking Murree beer. First glass, ‘not sure’, but second glass ‘pretty OK.

This morning (Bren still asleep) two of his friends visited; we had a nice chat. It was 8am. They were wearing their bathers, and we were still in pajamas. The only way to make new friends.

Oct 24 Lahore

The top-end furniture guy cleared a couple of VIP chairs and made a space on his desk so that we could enjoy our cups of chai purchased from the local chai wallah. We had an audience of men, watching us closely, asking, with a head waggle, if it was all OK. ‘Sugar? OK?’ For me ‘Yes’. When we came back the next day, we tried sitting on the rough wooden bench, but the whole thing was repeated, as we enjoyed our sweet tea, like Lord and Lady Muck.

It’s about 20 minutes’ walk including dodging and weaving (potholes, tuk tuks, donkey carts and piles of unknown things) to our closest shopping area. We’re quite familiar with all that. We go to Jamals ‘(all air conditioned) for some groceries, some soda water for Bren, try to support the street stall buying fruit, buy some rich coloured chicken downstairs and then head home. Imran, Bren’s man and driver usually does his shopping cooking, irons everything (including underwear I think) and is generally the one to make things happen on a local level…a fixer. He’s a sweet, kind man. Yesterday he drove us to another market area where we bought a bedspread for home. 

I’ve forgotten the name of the restaurant but we had another experience of Brendan’s driving skills (and courage 😊) as we ate a beautiful Paki meal in a really nice BBQ place, owned by the parents of one of Bren’s students. And lots of leftovers! 

Terrell and I are all Paki-ed up.!! He has a real cool shalwar kameez, ($22) in black with embroidery, and I have an amazing red dress with large ‘diamonds’ on the collar, looks really dressy; they had to let it out for reasons I’d rather not discuss, all for the total of $19. (All dollars quoted in USD; gives us the illusion of spending less 🙂

Sophie, Brendan’s friend, invited us to a big day out, going with a few colleagues from LAS for a tour of the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort built in 1566. Sean; maths teacher, musician, ballroom dancer and crazy driver, drove us there. Mariyam, the HR person and I discussed the possibility of me doing a short replacement gig at LAS, to Brendan’s horror. Hmmm. 

Now we know what it feels like to be famous. We were literally inundated by folks taking selfies with us. Most asking politely; once you pose for one, the next groups are awaiting their turn. It was fun actually. Terrell was accosted on the way home from our local supermarket by a bunch of cricketers, posing outside the shop that sponsored them. They asked me to join too, but that was being polite; he was the one they were after. 

The girls (Sophie and Mariyam) did a wonderful tour guide job. The whole place is really worth visiting; at the end of the day we chose having a meal over another museum; that was unanimous. The view from the restaurant was specie; 4 (rickety?) stories up. We ate local food, yummy daal and naan….just like pizza, with some deep fried things….like giant pappadums, which were delicious. Sophie and Mariyam, generous and hospitable girls, paid for us, despite our protests.

‘There’s no way we want to reunite with India’, said the man selling me my red dress. He went on to say that it is the USA meddling that has caused most of the conflict between the two nations. ‘And it is 110% safe here’ he went on to say. ‘Very safe, you are welcome here’. He lived in Belgium for 4 years and was very happy there, even speaks some Dutch (this I could test!). Another interesting thing was that he said that things were getting more expensive in Pakistan since the new Prime Minister started.  That the cost of living for his family is 30,000 rupees a month, (about $150 USD) but he can only earn 15,000 rupees. So it is very difficult. Taxes, we heard from others, have gone up a lot, and generally the cost of living. Others have told us the same, including Imran, Brendan’s man.

Nov 4 Lahore

We have 2 Shalwar Kameez (plural?) for Terrell, a red dress, a bed spread and a whole lot of stuff for Bren’s apartment (that part thankfully funded by him). It’s actually looking gezellig, with plants and pictures on the wall, little table clothes and cushions; all ready for family to visit!!! Even a strange lamp. We bought it at an antique place, thinking this was very unusual, only to find it online in an Ikea store. Oh well. Still looks good.

I picked up a nice writing pen in the stationery store, and asked the price….15 rupees, (9 cents) so I bought a bundle and shared them around. If you’re quick and let me know I’ll buy you some too. 😊

It wasn’t only shopping. Yesterday we had a great breakfast /brunch, at a pretty nice restaurant together with a couple of women from the LAS community, Venla (Finnish) and Saeema (American); both long termers here. We’ve also been dashing about with Sean the calculus teacher (reminds us of Robert from DAIS), who took us to a very fancy western mall, Emporium Market. That’s where Terrell bought his second Shalwar Kameez. 

So here we were, on either side of the bride and groom holding the lacey cover over their heads. Wow; this is so trippy.  

I felt hopelessly inadequately dressed. I actually wore my black thongs (flip-flops for you shocked Americans!) and my new red diamond studded dress, but boy, do theses guys go all out. Gorgeous stuff, all trimmed and beaded and glittery. It was the niece of Brendan’s man who invited us, and we were indeed fussed over.

This was the 1st day of a 2 day-long reception, first day for the bride’s family, second day for the groom’s. I sat for short while I (didn’t want to push it) at a table with the men drinking whisky…or gin…not actually sure, but it was sweet and good. Brendan was also dressed in traditional clothes with an added vest, very smart…..and some strange shoes which he might show you.

Halloween was big. We attended a ticketed event at LAS, lots of security getting in. Bren had his class stall, where they made and sold ? sticky goo. All the kids were elaborately dressed up, and the music was excruciatingly loud; I was assured (by Brendan, my chief critic and advisor) that this was the way things are in Asia. All very interesting, we got a good look at the school and Bren’s classroom. 

‘I’ve lived here for 57 years’, said Lulu at the International Club, where we went after the school event. Lulu (from somewhere else) and Franz (from Holland) were the coordinators of the club, trying to keep it viable. I enjoyed the chat with these folks, as the young ones, with Terrell, went to the bar.  Aron and Sophie joined us at a table for a really good buffet, Turkish themed. Yum.

Lahore is surprising. You see folks from Biblical times, and then Gloria Jeans coffee places. Folks sleeping in the back of tuk tuks or in the park with their children, to shining, pristine shopping malls. I usually get annoyed at these malls in parts of Asia with their bullshit designer shops that nobody can shop at. This however is much nicer. More (still somewhat high end) shops with local style clothing, very stylish and for us anyway, affordable. And more people.

But the air is a worry. Last week the pollution index topped 500; today it is about 200 and most of last week it was in the 300’s and 400’s. 

Nov 7, 2019 Lahore

Today, our last day, Brendan got what is for us a ‘snow day’. The head of school texted the whole community; a high of 650 was predicted (hazardous) and the school was closed. BONUS! So we get to relax, pack, have a lunch kindly donated by one of Bren’s TAs from last year. 

Last night we could only just see the top of the Pakistani flag and the sun was orange/red. Imran took us to the Wahga border (sp Wagah, Wagha, Wahga????). Google assures us it’s the first one, but we see local signs with one of the others. It was a feast. We saw the Border Closing Ceremony once again (last year from the Indian side). We got VIP seats 4 rows from the front. I stuck wet tissue balls in my ears (we were dangerously close to the speakers 😊) and we had a ball. The guy dancing on one leg was still there; I even got the chance to thank him personally.

Imran knows a guy who knows a guy who got us onto a list. Called a “protocol”.  Not quite sure of the precise meaning of this word used here frequently. So we got to drive right up to the stadium.

With Imran.

With Imran.

Cantt stands for containment. This means that there are army bases all over the place that do not want foreigners in them. We found “Food Street” but we were far too early, so no food.

This was a strange messy day (bit like this strange messy blog entry). Our driver took us part of the way, then got stuck with road closures, so we transferred ourselves to to a tuk tuk, which went a little further (this all in pursuit of ‘Food Street’) The tuk tuk driver also got stuck when a large demonstration (I think it was…people everywhere, many sitting down) appeared at the end of our road, also completely blocking it off to traffic. He turned around to us to explain this in Urdu or Punjabi. Luckily a young lady walking by put her head into the tuk tuk and translated for us. He was happy to continue, perhaps wait awhile, but we had to pay him $1 more.

Finally got there, no food, so we wandered around the old town, discovered the music street …pretty cool, lots of drums and guitars being made, and the shoe sole street, which speaks for itself. I have never seen so many shoe soles in one area in my life. OK, by then (the reader is getting exhausted) we had accepted that there was no food. So we got an Uber to take us to a mall. Always a safety refuge for us. The traffic was almost at a standstill. So the trip to the far away mall was long. 

Now I am getting back to ‘containment’. We entered a military zone in the bloody Uber. They pulled us over and demanded our passports, which of course we ‘no have’. ‘Who goes shopping with passports’, demanded Terrell angrily from the gun-slinging soldier. Hmmm. They took him away, leaving me in the Uber. After what seemed a long time, maybe 15 minutes (seemed longer) he was duly returned, and we resumed our journey into the banned mall. A day to remember. I was a bit cranky; I must confess. All this protocol.

I had pizza with 4 cheeses and a nice thin base last night at a nice restaurant. Bren had Moroccan chicken, and Terrell had a creamy pasta dish. All good. 

Lahore is a trip!!! Where else do people (complete strangers) come up to you and say ‘welcome to our country, it is an honour for us that you are here’.

Wagha Border video https://youtu.be/0AD8cmi1Ujo

General Lahore videohttps://tinyurl.com/rqayfep

 

Just to add to Narda’s wonderful narrative above; first some photos (we have over a thousand if you want to invite us to your home and we will sit and show them all – let us know)

This is Narda with the bride (the bride is on the left) – I call it ‘Narda giving Australian/Dutch wisdom to the newly wed’.

Brendan’s servant (we didn’t like to call him that) who got us into this wedding; this is his daughter (on the left – the one leaning away from me as I lean toward her) and his wife (leaning toward me as I lean away – all the body language one needs).

Brendan’s servant (we didn’t like to call him that) who got us into this wedding; this is his daughter (on the left – the one leaning away from me as I lean toward her) and his wife (leaning toward me as I lean away – all the body language one needs).

This is an average family photo. We have seen more on a motorbike but this sums it up; of course, no helmets, and they weave through traffic – all a bit terrifying for the likes of us.

I like this photo – I captured it as we drove with Brendan’s servant/driver one day. Friendship, best mates.

I am always impressed by how much people carry on their bicycles.

The police are everywhere. I like this shot and think of how this would go in the nanny state of South Australia; no seat-belts, gun hanging out of the window…

We did try to keep some of the pollution out of our lungs, though I don’t think we succeeded. We would have been better suited as outlaws in a cowboy flick.

It takes a lot of money to live in Lahore. A thousand rupees equals $6.44USD ($9.44Aussie bucks). Of course, $6USD goes a long way; for example a couple of meals.

No one likes to pose for tourist shots; especially us…well maybe once.

The poverty hits one hard. We all live in such rich countries and we visit these places. We did give beggars money but there is no end to it all. Near us is a park with several tuk tuks parked; families live in them, 3, 4, even five children sleeping during the day in them.

Narda is always so ready to get on the next transportation and head out. When she was four her family was getting on a ship in Rotterdam to migrate to Australia. They drove from their home in Utrecht to Rotterdam, about a three-hour drive. When they got there Narda said ‘it is really a long way to Australia’. Those three hours to the next place have become many decades long.

At the airport. The sum equation of all that is Lahore, or at least our experience of it. Enormous clouds of crowds everywhere. All so foreign. So as usual a person shows up, he has a badge, I didn’t trust him, he escorts us quickly past the crowds, we show our passport and ticket, get past a few islands of security, put bags through big scanners, and get to the Thai ticket counter and our helpful dude wants money.

So today we had a snow day. Bren’s school was cancelled for high pollution levels. 635 was expected (Adelaide has about 20) So Bren had the day off, which was a last-minute gift from the gods. As it turned out the pollution was ‘only’ about 130. Another gift. Packing, talking, Bren driving us to the local market, and then Imran made 2 airport runs, first run for Bren heading to Bahrain for a conference, the second 3 hours later for our midnight departure.

Passport was a hassle, we stood stationary for about 45 minutes as folks pushed in ahead of us, all dressed in white. Later we realised these folks were headed to Mecca, where all people wear white so that there is no distinction between rich and poor. 

Thailand

Nov 13 Udon Thani

Arriving in Bangkok at 6 am we actually felt pretty exhausted. Bought some Thai sim cards and then took a shuttle the nearby Novotel for a great buffet breakfast. Worth the money!

Ahead of me I see temple spires, a phone tower, a restaurant with plastic lawn (they have good food!) and some quiet streets. I am sitting in the kitchen of our tiny modern, clean and secure little flat in the building in Udan Thani called The Base. 14 stories, with a rooftop garden, a swimming pool, gym and comfy bed. 

I bought 5 sets of glitzy earrings at the Friday night market which covered several kilometres (no exaggeration).

Also some bits and pieces for the grandies. We observed small children gleefully eating a plate full of deep fried and spiced bugs. They looked like hornets and crickets. (see one-minute video of market and bugs https://youtu.be/t74hNiB9VCs )

Sizzler still serve that cheesy toast. Do you remember? This was in Central Plaza, a 10 minute walk away. No movies that suits us. Bummer. But we had a nice Sizzler buffet and got caught up on salads and veggies. 

Now I’m sitting a home with a large lump on my head and left knee. I walked into the glass door of the Crocs Shop. You may well laugh. They were offering 15% off. No more squat toilets for me for a while. The knee has lost some function. Oh well. Not serious.

One of the most colourful festivals of the year in Thailand is Loy Krathong; full moon festival. This is when people go to their local waterway to float small bowl shaped containers called Krathongs in Thai. Inside are three incense sticks, a candle and usually a few coins. They float the Krathong to ask Mother Nature for forgiveness for polluting the rivers but also to thank her for water that brings life. Most people also take this opportunity to make a wish for good luck in the future. As they watch the krathong float away, they hope it will also take any of their bad luck.

Watching our little reed boat sail off into the lake was the highlight of Monday night’s Loy Krathong Festival. Everyone was there, all 150,000 Udonis. Incredible. Our reed boat had 3 sticks of incense, one for Leigh, one for dad and one for mum. See video at

An Irish guy named Martin gave us the low down on why Undonis don’t talk to us. Well actually he didn’t know why, but in the 12 years he has been living around here, they don’t talk to him either. 

This is a strange thing and a complete contrast to the friendly Pakis. We are completely ignored. It takes a little getting used to, until we remember that’s why we are here. No hustle, no offers of tuk tuk rides. When you walk into a store you actually have to grab the sales person by the scruff of the neck to get some action…….almost.

And these folks are SO tidy! Not a scrap of rubbish on the ground, anywhere. Even when 150,000 of them are tromping, clockwise of course, around the market. Never seen this before. The dirt is all in the air, with an average reading of about 150 at the moment (remember, Adelaide is about 20). Furthermore, there is NO English. Well, maybe a tiny, tiny bit. Local restaurants have menus that are completely undecipherable. It is really hard to act out a dish you want. Try acting our Chicken with cashews, or worse still Pad Thai with no meat.

cheers from Narda and Terrell

AND THAT IS ALL FOR THIS LITTLE ASIAN TRIP… from Thailand https://neuage.me/2019/10/08/thailand2019/ to Sri Lanka – https://neuage.me/2019/11/15/sri-lanka/ to Pakistan

our next blog will be from The Netherlands where we will be mid-January 2020 until mid April 2020

in the meantime

homepage @ https://neuage.org

Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/

e-books https://neuage.org/e-books/  

Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U

Thoughts in Travel 2019: Thoughts in Patterns 8 [Print Replica] Kindle Edition https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082DLTGTW

2018 – 2019 Thoughts in Patterns

2018 – 2019 Thoughts in Patterns

Leaving Book 1

Leaving Book 1

 

 

 

2018 - 2019 Thoughts in Patterns

 

 

 

(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.

Thoughts in Patterns 7  (https://tinyurl.com/y3p5lggf) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (170 pages). As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.

Thoughts in Patterns 7

Thoughts in Patterns 7

 

 

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