Day 6 – Cultural Differences
Late last night, when I was just about ready to check into my bed, Muna arrived! The culture here that the day starts late and ends even later. While that fits in with my current jet lag, it’s hard to get my head around. I still feel terribly guilty getting up at 10.30 when I hardly ever sleep in beyond 8am at home. Can you believe Azaan, Sofia’s estranged husband has just left to go to the dentist and it 9pm?!
So, back to Muna’s late arrival, because I just have to mention that once again she arrived with food! This time it was desert. Typical/local delicious sweets made from carrots, honey and nuts – a strange combination but no more so I suppose than our carrot cake. Sofia was in a restless mood and I did allow myself to hope it was the sign of something to come, but it was her 2-year-old Ebo who put paid to that by being unwell and keeping her up all night. Suppress that oxytocin and call in adrenaline!
I managed to finish the first series of Game Of Thrones by 2am and then had a bumpy night of sleep awake cycles of 2 hours until 10.30. The culture of servants continues to amaze me. I have learnt in some households it very formal, and the lady of the house would be addressed as Ma’am, however in Sofia and Muna’s house they appear to be more like family and have been employed for many years. Many of them live in and have their own quarters at the back of the house in the basement, although I have yet to see it. Sunia is going home tomorrow as it’s her day off. At seventeen years old, she must go to take her salary home to her family. On Fridays the servants cook food enough for 80 people and take it to the local homeless shelter. I only learnt that last night and, if I am still here next week, that’s something I would like to see!
Today Muna took us to the sea front (not the beach) where locals fish for crabs. We walked along the sea wall watching the fishermen, all the time being aware of the strange looks we were getting. With no woman other than us around, the sight of 4 in one go consisting of one Pakistani (maid Sunia), one white woman dressed as a Pakistani (Muna), one westerner (me) and one very pregnant woman, made for quite a picture… Literally, as we did see a group of young men taking a picture of us as we headed back to the car. As usual the area was littered with rubbish, but certainly not as bad as the piles of it in other areas of down town Karachi.
Then it was on to lunch at the golf club and as we entered the grounds you could be forgiven if you thought we had stepped through a time warp back into colonial India in the days of the British rule. Pristine road and beautiful gardens. Only the signs “ladies parking”, “ladies swimming pool” and “ladies gym” gave it away that we were still in segregated Pakistan.
On the way home they stopped to show me the local supermarket where you could pretty much buy everything you wanted including imported goods with names I recognised. The isles were narrow and the shelves stacked high but the thing that fascinated me the most was the armed guards at the entrance and exit…..yup armed guards at the supermarket!
Soon it was time for the highlight of my day; I had planned to go to the cinema! Although I was going alone I was driven there and back and Muna came in to show me the ropes. She need not have bothered, it could have been a cinema anywhere with its multi screens, nachos, popcorn and coke, I was well at home. The theatre was large and the seats big and comfy. I settled down to watch my movie but nearly jumped out of my seat when the soundtrack began, why was it so deafeningly loud? I soon realised why…forget the niceties of people being quiet, throughout the film they were arriving late, leaving early, chatting away and using mobile phones…. lucky it was very dark and very loud and I could easily absorb myself in the action.
And so another day ends here in Pakistan. I am committed to Sofia and to helping her to achieve her dream birth and they are treating me like royalty, but the homesickness is creeping in around the edges and I am longing for familiar sights and smells of home and the faces and love of my family.