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.

In the meantime though, I’m trying not to forget my roots. In the America that I remember from the distant past of three months ago, we don’t go in much for fancy presidential speeches, but we certainly do have traditions of our own. I’m talking about The Fourth of July Barbecue, a tradition I really, really love, which is why I’m throwing one tomorrow. Call me the patriotic ex-patriate.
Here is a simple list of things you need to throw your typical 4th of July barbecue, like the ones millions of people will be enjoying all over America tomorrow. It isn’t a complicated list, and yet somehow I have this sneaking feeling that, like many things in Pakistan, unexpected difficulties will beset me from every angle as I try to accomplish something that seems easy. Here it is:

Hot dogs.
Coleslaw, potato salad, or pasta salad.
Paper plates and cups, preferably in red, white, and blue.
Swimming pool. (optional)
Fireworks. (necessary)

Let’s take them one by one:

GRILL. Quite surprisingly for a country in which “barbecue” is basically the national dish, this is maybe the hardest thing to get on the whole list. The thing is, I think they do barbecue too well here. And by “barbecue,” I mean a huge, cast iron behemoth that looks like a prop off the set of a torture movie and is the absolute norm in Pakistan. This is a piece of equipment that you wouldn’t dream of moving three inches, let alone from the garage onto the patio, into which coals are poured by the bucket and a dedicated crack team of laborers sweat over its angry-looking embers for hours. Barbecue in Pakistan isn’t recreational cooking, it’s dead serious work. (Dead serious work, by the way, is also what’s required to eat the huge hunks of meat on sword-sized skewers that come off this monster.) Looking for your nice, civilized gas or charcoal Weber? Keep walking. My only hope is to find one at the “China Market,” which is the secondhand furniture warehouse where all ex-pat furniture goes to die. It will probably be shelved with the toasters.

HOT DOGS. Pork is illegal here, and Israel isn’t exactly a friend to this country, making both your classic Ballpark Franks and Hebrew Nationals very, very scarce. I heard a rumor that Kohsar Market carries hot dogs. We’ll see.

HAMBURGERS. It’s the quest that drives this blog, and yet I haven’t had a fantastic cheeseburger yet in the whole three months I’ve been here. This is my chance to make it myself. Ground beef should be aplenty, and my super secret ingredient of minced onion also shouldn’t be a problem.

CONDIMENTS. I have yet to see mustard, but ketchup is ubiquitous. The only problem is it’s super sweet and never gets refrigerated. This doesn’t seem to gross anybody out but me.

BUNS. I could always serve my hamburgers folded up in naan bread if necessary.

APPROPRIATE SIDE DISH. All the options I mentioned are available here, and all the options I mentioned have mayonnaise in them. This is not so great when the power (and thus the fridge) go out 3 times a day and it’s 95 degrees outside. I just got my generator yesterday but is a house full of guests a good time to test this out?

PAPER PLATES. These exist, and will be used, as tomorrow is also the day I’m (finally) moving into my new house and I don’t have any plates yet. All of my environmentalist ideals out the window (Sorry, Earth).

BEER. Beer is illegal here. There are bootleggers, but you saw what happened last time we tried to mess with this. (Jail.) However, it is tough to honor the classic Fourth of July traditional barbecue tradition without beer. We are going to see what we can do. (This is a hint, oh ye friends with Embassy commissary privileges).

ICE. Yeah, they don’t do ice here. Remember that thing about the fridges going out all the time, and about how only Americans really like their drinks super cold, and about the tap water here being completely undrinkable. The last party I went too, we all stood around drinking lukewarm vodka in leaking Dixie cups with a tiny 7Up floater. The lesson: accept room temperature.

SWIMMING POOL. This is optional even in the States, but it is fantastic when you can get it. There is a little soiree over at the Embassy tomorrow afternoon in honor of the holiday (where there’s a pool), but I’ll most likely be in the middle of a sweaty hunt for hot dog buns all day and will miss it.

FIREWORKS. In this part of the world, fire in the sky and loud bangs are seldom welcome. Let’s say we’re better off without this little tradition, and I’ll just wait for August 14.

What my barbecue tomorrow will have that I can only get in Pakistan:

A shisha pipe. A beautiful view of the Margalla Hills and the spires of Faisal Mosque. The call to prayer in the background at sunset. All my new friends in Islamabad.

Happy 4th everyone!