What I’ve decided is that some degree of illusion might be necessary when you find yourself in an utterly different environment, one with its fair share of challenges and stress. A friend who once spent a year in Japan recently mentioned to me the Months 4-8 rule. In his opinion, these are the hardest months to live in a new place. After four months, the novelty has worn off (donkeys! samosas! Urdu!), but you haven’t settled in sufficiently to feel truly at home yet. Your friends back in the States no longer miss you at weekly happy hours, but your new friends won’t be broken up if you don’t show up at theirs. After 8 months, you’ve developed a groove, familiar traditions, and a real place to call home. At 4 months, you’re not quite there yet.

I agree with the Months 4-8 rule. And hearing it allowed me to relax. It helped me understand why I was feeling every so often like I was going just a little crazy, or why a few things that were so cute just a few months ago now sometimes make me want to hit something. It made me realize that during the 4-8 month window, retaining a few key illusions will help you survive so you can get to the next phase of loving Pakistan again. And it reminded me that it’s okay that so many things in life can be helped by buying an entire, illegal set of your favorite show on DVD, for the bargain price of a few sweet melon juices.

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