holidays

eid

Eid Mubarak Means Merry Christmas!

No, it totally does not. But that’s the best I can do at an American equivalent. In fact, Eid is actually more like Christmas and Easter rolled up into one. Most significantly (for a hungry expat such as myself), Eid signals the end of Ramadan, a month of religious observation that includes fasting during daylight hours. Ramadan is a little rough–Muslims don’t eat or drink during the day, but then stay up late into the night breaking the fast with an iftar dinner. You can imagine the effect this has on worker productivity. My team was in fact a little groggy all month, but were still so cheerful I could not believe it. Anyone who has seen me delay breakfast by even 30 minutes knows what a grumpy, rotten mess I would be if I had to fast for a whole month. As it was, what Ramadan meant for me was feeling guilty mowing down Chinese noodles in the hallway every day at lunch so my staff couldn’t see or smell them. So that’s all over now, and all the restaurants are open again for lunch. (yay!) Since there are only about 7 restaurants in Islamabad that I go to on a regular basis, having most of those cut out of the mix during Ramadan really hurt. Maybe it is the month of fasting beforehand that makes Eid seem especially joyous and welcome. It lasts for two days, has something to do with a new moon sighting, and is a general time of religious celebration and eating and gifts and spending time with family. (See? Sounds like Christmas.) Women decorate their hands with henna like […] Read More

fresh-fruit-flag2

Independence Day

So, it’s the Fourth of July! Well, almost. Though if all the buzz on Facebook is to be believed, everyone in the U.S. got a healthy head start celebrating the holiday weekend. Here in Pakistan, things are a little less festive, seeing how they’re not celebrating anything here. It’s not that Pakistanis don’t recognize the significance of a group of people shaking off the chains of colonial oppression from Great Britan and becoming their own country. It’s just that they did it themselves 60 years ago, and they’re understandably a little more excited about that. Let’s see what that super reliable source Wikipedia has to say about it: Pakistan’s independence day (also known as Yom-e-Istiqlal or یوم استقلال ) is observed on August 14, the day on which Pakistan became independent from British rule within what was then known as the British Raj in 1947. The day is a national holiday in Pakistan, celebrated all over the country with flag raising ceremonies, tributes to the national heroes and fireworks taking place in the capital, Islamabad. (oooh, goody!) The main celebrations take place in Islamabad, where the President and Prime Minister raise the national flag at the Presidential and Parliament buildings and deliver speeches that are televised live. In the speech, the leaders highlight the achievements of the government, goals set for the future and in the words of the father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam, bring “Unity, Faith and Discipline” to its people. So I have that to look forward to.

peeps

Peep It Up

Nothing is weirder than a Peep. I’m ready to eat a lot of new, strange food, starting in less than two weeks when I move to Pakistan. Twelve different kinds of mangoes and three different kinds of pomegranates, I’m told. Goat curries, bitter gourd, mutton in tomato sauce, and chicken. (Well, chicken’s not weird, but the fact that you can buy it live off the street in front of your house is.) I love curry and flatbread and samosas, but I’m sure my visits to my favorite Indian restaurant down the street in Boston will not have prepared me for full immersion into the daily food culture of the subcontinent. But back to Peeps, the weird food of my own country. You know ’em: fluorescent little marshmallowy chicks and bunnies that appear suddenly in every drugstore and supermarket this time of year in an array of colors found nowhere in nature. They’re weird, they’re highly beloved, and they’re very American: add them to the list of things I won’t be seeing in Islamabad. I’ve had some time to think about Peeps a lot today as I scraped smashed Peep out of the carpet and pried dried Peep off the sides of empty martini glasses. (Peeps figured prominently in my spring-themed going-away party last night.) What are Peeps? Marshmallow, obviously, and a crapload of toxic food coloring, but oh so much more. Peep is an industry onto itself. You would think that, much like a Cadbury egg, they would be cursed with the problem of seasonality. They are chicks and bunnies in lurid approximations of pastel colors after all, trotted out at Easter for candy baskets and the […] Read More