Inclusion or Narratives? A comment on Diversity

During my placement time, one of the debates that took place as part of the Delegates Program for The Spark Arts for Children was inclusion. Two discussions/sharing of experiences took place under the heading of “Conversations with Communities” and “A new kind of Artist Development”.

While my most common reaction to such topics and debates is that these are very first world problem and hardly have any relevance with my context, what stood out for me was the sensitivity towards the need for inclusion.

Continue reading

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Spark Festival Day 1- Lessons of a Placement

For the last two weeks, I have been in Leicester, my temporary home for a month. I have come to be in this strange land as part of my secondment/placement with the British Council and Khoj International Artists Association.

Sometime last year 15 the young and smartest of South Asia found themselves honored with the Arthink South Asia Fellowship, and this placement is just one step of that Fellowship.

But today was the first day of the Spark Festival for Children, organized by The Spark Arts for Children – my host organization.

Now coming from a third world country – Pakistan – it takes very little to impress us; people driving in lanes, not breaking signals, etc. But the first day of the Festival alone is enough to constantly ask yourself “Have I been living in a jungle?” Continue reading

USA Diaries – Day 29– Approaching the End!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary.

PS: I haven’t kept my promise.. I didn’t post each and every day and now I am trying my best to update all the remaining days from the sanctuary of my Home Sweet Home. 

Nothing could have symbolized the end of the tour more than Day 29… it just felt like things were coming to an end, and the first hint was the lack of activities planned for that day.. we finally get a break.

We had an early morning session with my new friend Katie Lindstrom, who talked about this software that she has developed for keeping a database for her research and the archaeological objects, but since it was not my field, therefore I hope people would forgive me for the lack of interest that I took in it!

Later on, we made a stop in the Experimental Lab of the Department and we had a chance to take a look at the pots that we had made the previous day. The pots were still not baked but were dry enough for us to put weird paint and art work on it, much to the embarrassment of any soul of Harappa that may have survived or was looking down upon us. But hey, this is how you learn right?

 

Dr Kenoyer then took us to show his outdoor experimental lab, which I have to say was one hell of a cool thing. They had made on that site the same sort of material that was being used at that time by the Harappans, for example, you have a kiln that is made in the same way and used the same technology. And all over the site, you can find material that has been made by the students – from seals to pottery and all of it is lying around the site. I mean for a person coming from Pakistan, this was truly an amazing thing to see. I mean I would love to be taught like this and be in that sort of classroom.

 

We got an early off so that we can prepare our presentations for the next day – our last day that is – and write the paper that we were suppose to regarding what we have learnt and how we plan to apply this back when we get home. So on the walk back, I see a CUPCAKE SHOP! I love cupcakes, I don’t think I can emphasize that enough! And OMG ! Were those things amazingly delicious or what! I mean, they were AMAZING!

The rest of the day was limited to being stuck in the room and working on our presentations. I don’t think we could have been more laid back than that!

DISCLAIMER: We really didn’t do anything that day! The lack of activities doesn’t mean that I am forgetting details, which will be proven by my last post regarding this trip!

 

USA Diaries – Day 23 – The word is “Nouvelle”!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 24, 09-8-2012 – In my hotel room, Madison, WI, Local Time: 1812, Pakistan Time:10 August 2012, 0411

So yesterday was our official start in the town of Madison. The morning started off early where I thought I should give breakfast a try, since a new place new breakfast and maybe something interesting. But it wasn’t as wonderful a layout as it was at the Capitol Suites, but there were many things that I really liked, for example there was pancakes.. and I really did like it!

Anyways so after that we headed to the Anthropology Department, where Dr Mark was waiting for us all. At 9, the lecture began on the various aspects of Storage and how collections can be used to train and educate students and how this is an important aspect of what we need to be doing back home. He also talked to us about we need to be working on, which is basically a paper and presentation that we need to be writing to present on the last day of our trip!

He showed to us the Collections that they use in their class room and the various Ethnological objects that he has collected from all over the world to make use of in his Classroom. More importantly however was his discussion on how he has been using these objects and lectures to make students get a better understanding of these tools and objects. This is further achieved by making the students get hands on experience in which they are made to make these objects come back to life. For instance, they are taught how they made stone tools, The Smoke Room which the Indians used to make, the Kilns which the various Civilizations used, etc!

Replication of the first battery ever made!

After this we were given a special tour of the entire department, including the wonderful labs where you can do some of the most fascinating analysis… but let me admit something here, everything went right up my head… like WHOOSH! The lingo was truly archaeological for me to understand any part of it, but please don’t think that I didn’t enjoy it. I loved it, I loved seeing what the world is doing and ow far beyond they have taken research and how minutely now they are looking at the various things.

We also had a chance to make a stop at Union Stop, which is like a student Cafeteria. Now the story behind this building is that it was pretty ugly and therefore the students decided that an extra $5 can be charged on their admission fees and this is how the funds were collected to make this wonderful new building. I really like the solutions that these people come up with in this country to solve some of the issues that they are facing.

Anyways, so dinner was suppose to be a personal affair that day, but instead Mark called us in the evening, and it was decided that people who have no issues with experimentation can go out with him for food, and we headed out to this wonderful restaurant called Harvest. And OMG! The food was amazing! From the bread to the butter, from the fish to the pasta, everything was wonderful. And the steak… I can’t tell you about the steak and how good it was! But lets begin from the beginning! The Restaurant that we went to serves Nouvelle Cuisine – meaning new cuisine! This type of food is a mixture of French and Italian and American! The restaurant uses 100% local produce and all which are produced locally!

Tenderloin Steak

My Mako!

 

We started off some weird Salads, and since I am not much of a vege person so I more or less ignored that part. But I am all ready to jump to the main part. I had Cornbread marinated Mako… which is a fish, with a potato salad. I have to say it was like those typical Top  Chef dishes. I tried everything on the plate separately and that didn’t make much sense, but when you have it all together as a single bite, it brings out the most fascinating taste. Mark had a tenderloin steak which was rare, and I didn’t think I would like, but I pretty much loved it! The meat was so soft and wonderful that I would have never imagined that something that is not completely cooked would be so soft.

Anyways for dessert we had this amazing Cheesecake, in which the Crust was actually spread out on the side, and had a well of Blueberry in the middle! The dessert had a saltish, normal and a sweet component but together they made the most amazing bite.

It was truly a wonderful night!

USA Diaries – Day 21 – And thus the final goodbye to DC!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 21, 07-8-2012 – In my hotel room, Madison, WI, Local Time: 2302, Pakistan Time:08 August 2012, 0902

Yesterday we celebrated our last day in Washington DC and therefore it is completely safe to assume that the day was a bit emotional…. Or at least some parts of it were! The day started off with an effort to wrap up everything and to get all those lessons and lectures done that we wanted to learn about.

That meant an early start… well actually not so early from the American Standards…. It is astonishing for me to know that Americans het their day started at around 6:00 am.. and more surprizing than that is that not everyone goes to bed early. Since I have now been to a Pub Restaurant I can claim that most people are out for late hours and they enjoy their lives. They drink, they sit with friends, they joke around… more or less they try to get the most out of their lives.

 

So early morning start….. and as usual, we gather at the Eastern Island Statue. Now let me tell you a bit more about the Eastern Island. The Eastern Island has become this wonderful space for us where we always meet. And today was the last time that we met there!

From Eastern Island, we headed off to the Museum of American History, where we met the Curator of the Numismatics Collection, Karen. Now Karen is a wonderful person who has a strong opinion about things and she has a laugh that should melt mountains. She is very understandable of the various policies and problems that are there in our Work Community and how they are to be tackled. She was a researcher in Biology (I think) but then she switched her fields and since then she has been working with the Museum of American History.

She walked us through the Numismatics Gallery and after that visit we were forced to agree with her that the space does no justice to the million or so collection that they have. She also showed us the new space where the Gallery will be shifted, she showed us the vaults, the coins from the various regions, including the Czar Collection, and the coins issued by Catherine the Great.

But please excuse me since I have little or no interest in Coins. What was interesting for me during this trip were the comments and POVs I got to hear. It realy makes my blood boil when after seeing all of this – that we are seeing – some people (Read Pakistani’s) – can continue to close their eyes and think that what they have is the best and nothing can be better than that, that nothing can be better than what they already know. , that nothing is worth learning. I hate these sorts of people! These people should be locked up in a room and gassed!

The argument in the room also moved to how coins are usually a subject that is considered to be more of a “Man” hobby than a woman hobby. And that led to a whole new argument about the status of women in our country. There is another thing that I protested about – however, I did have to keep my tone in check. When the argument took a turn where the men in our country started praising the condition of the women and the status that they hold, I had to say something. It is not that they are wrong – it is just that this is not the whole picture. I am not going to get in this debate right now – But let’s just say that in a country where 96% of the women don’t have rights, the conditions are not well then!

I had protested once before as well. Last week there were 5 bomb blasts in Pune and that meant that our friends from Pune were worried about their friends and family back home. It was also a moment when we all felt a bit closer to each other. It was when this lady who is with us from the Lahore Museum said that “Oh in Pakistan a bomb blast is a daily routine” that I could not stay quiet anymore and I said out quite rudely and abruptly, “No they are not and especially not in the Urban Centres”. So let me explain what I meant by that! When someone gives a statement like that, it interpreted in my mind as she is making a joke of this tragedy! That the lives of people who die are not worth anything, it meant that they are so common that they have no value or worth as a tragedy anymore. So yes I protested and I am not at all sorry for that!

The second session of the first half was about Lighting and how to have suitable lighting for the Museum which is not only environment considerate but also does not damage the artefacts and remains. The lecture was delivered by Virginia who has been doing Theatre lighting for the last 22 years before moving to Museum Lighting – which she has been doing for the last 4 years now.

So after this we came back and had our lunch the last time – Turkey and Mashed Potato with Gravy! I have to say for the last meal in the Smithsonian this was a pretty good treat! After lunch, we had to have a session with Carol Butler – the amazing lady who we have been in love with since the very first day. She has this wonderful personality which is always so full of energy, and she has a wonderful mantra to keep her going day after day – which she calls as the “Registrar Mantra – which goes like this “I am cool, I am serene, I am flexible”.

We had one last tour of the various Collections within the Natural History Museum and we saw some pretty amazing stuff, like Dinosaurs Skull, Dead Squirrels, Insects and Mosquitoes!

Squirrel Bones

That is the skeleton of a Monkey

 

 

So we had our last session on how to deal with issues that we may be facing at work places, and then we had a session on Re-entry. Now I will really like to take a moment her and thank her for doing this session with us because well every experience chances you in some way or the other! Already I have experienced so much in such a little time, and I am sure that maybe it has changed me in some way or the other! I have no doubt in believing that going back to Pakistan will be an experience in its own and dealing with all those tiny little problems that seem to take a toll on our lives – the lack of Electricity, Water, Options, freedom, The variety of Choices, and so much more.

But before this it was time to become part of a cult that is Carol’s own invention – a cult that is held together by a Marble. This cult or network is spread across so many countries and people and is a reminder to us that we are all part of a bigger world. That in some way we all face the same issues and problems every single day of our lives and together we can always come up with a solution. The concept was simple – each person gets a marble as a reminder – this marble idea comes from her eccentric aunt. The very personal story goes something like this that whenever someone used to say to her aunt “Oh you have lost all your marbles”, she quickly used to retrieve one from her bag and say “No I haven’t! I have still one left”… I don’t know how I saved myself from crying.

After the re-entry was time for the Certificate Ceremony!

And then the final good byes… but what is a good bye without a final group picture… and what can be a better location that the Eastern Island.

After hugs and kisses, we came out of the Mall Entrance to find a big Screen – or more precisely “Screen on Green” sponsored by HBO. I had seen this before but I really didn’t know what it was more. Well the idea is that every week in Summer HBO puts up a big screen on the Mall and plays a Classic movie for everyone – free of cost.

And I have to say this was a wonderful experience. Americans love to picnic and despite being a Monday by 6 pm (the movie was due to start after dark – which is typically around 9 pm) the Mall was full of people. They had come directly from work, some people were saving seats for their friends, some had even bought their pets along who sat with them and enjoyed the movie and food. When the movie finally started from the middle of nowhere (for us) people got up and started to dance. The dance hardly lasted for 2 minutes but apparently is a tradition! The movie up for the night was “Psycho” and it was a truly new experience. People laughed, drank and just had fun! When the movie ended, everyone picked up their trash, stuffed it in the bins and headed for the metro.

The rest of the night was spent in packing and then just crashing on our beds, to start a new day, which will be taking us to Madison, Wisconsin.

 

USA Diaries – Day 17 – A day dedicated to Collections Management!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day ………..Lets just say very very late updating

I apologize for the gaps that seem to have come up in my Diary.. but there is only so much that a person can do in 24 hours! And that too when you have little or no control on you own time.

So getting back to the account of this day… .. the entire day was dedicated to understanding the various aspects of Collections Management, what they are, how do you work with Collections, what are the best approaches and the Bus Test! The “Bus Test” is a wonderful concept – another typical Carol Butler thing – which basically means that if tomorrow you are hit by a bus how your Institute can carry on without you. This means that you should leave out clear instructions for all the concerned people and make sure that they are getting a very understanding of how you were handling things so that they can carry on!

Again this is one of those approaches that you hardly see in Pakistan. In Pakistan, the general trend is that you should hold on to things so tightly that no one.. and I mean no one can do anything without you. It is one of this sick tactics in which you try to make yourself more relevant when you are extremely insecure about your position… or at least this is how I see it.

Lunch was a simple affair, which revolved around Pizza and Chicken Tenders… we had a lot of these items on this trip!

The afternoon we took a walk.. all the way to the Smithsonian Institute Archives.. this Archives is dedicated to the Smithsonian Collection, which includes their Administrative, Financial, Director and other such things! So the guide for the day in the Archives was Tammy Peters, who was a completely wonderful soul. What caught my attention as soon as I got there was these slides that were stored in this cabinet.. and they were all the pictures of Panda’s…. Panda’s sleeping, eating, playing, looking, rolling, .. Just everything Panda’s.. It was a spectacular collection!

One of the most coolest stop on this tour of the Archives was this wonderful thing that Tammy shopped us… it was the Draft of the will which James Smithson had written in which he made it clear that all his wealth should be donated for making a Museum. It was really cool to see that!

Let me just say this one thing about Tammy Peters… she is a wonderful person. I asked her so many questions about Archiving and everything and she was always ready to help. I asked her about Cataloging, about their policy to destroy certain documents after 10 years or something, about how the original format of the file should be maintained, Accession and Cataloging Number and God knows what else!

The end of the day happened with a continued discussion on Collections Management and how the National Museum of Natural History had to create an understanding regarding the storage Unit they have and the digitization that hey have done. The survey was a self assessment done on a scale of 1 to 5 by each department, and it truly made them get a clear idea of where there is room for improvement.

After that we headed straight home, and I think it was another day of leftovers!

USA Diaries – Day 14 – A Butterfly sits on me!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 13, – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Late updating – Isn’t that good enough?

The day was quite unclear to us! But I think this has been more to do with some people feeling that the course that we are going through is irrelevant to our context! What is my own point of view about this? I think that this is an opportunity for us to broaden our horizon! This is a chance for us to go and see what the world is doing and how is it that they work. How far along the world has come and how far behind we are still. There is so much to be learned from them! But this is not a spoon feeding session! It is for us to understand how to apply all that we learn in our context. For the time being, I am just glad to be learning and seeing the world!

Well, coming back to the original topic, the day started off in the library section where we were introduced to Nathan Erwin, who is the Insect Zoo/Butterfly Pavilion Manager and who is also know taking care of the Education Centre Project. He talked on a topic which seemed and appeared to be very much close to his heart – Citizen Science or a more appropriate word, Participatory Science. He showed us this project in which the citizens designed the Coral Reef – and that too using Croquet as a medium. Of course this meant a lot of research and training with regards to the details of the Coral Reef and how they work and the way they are shaped in the underwater. He also shed light about how Scientist and Researcher have taken this new approach to take their research out on the internet and then asking people to help them identify the various species or animals or varieties. This indeed is becoming a great way to get to know so much more about what they have and aid in their research. I thought this was such a different view and approach to take in regards to Pakistan where everything is “Top Secret”, or a “Matter of National Security”. And here are these people who are so much more advanced than us, have so much material and they put it out there for all to see and discuss and help.

Nathan Erwin

Nathan discussed the Coral Reef project done through Participatory Science

The second part of the first half was taken up by Amy Bolton and Rebecca Grey (I hope I got the name right – I don’t have Rebecca’s card with me). They talked about “The Education Centre” which will become a place where kids and teenagers can come and actually handle and have hands on experience with the collection and different specimens that are in the collection. The Centre is due to be opened next year and will have all those materials in the storage which has been de-accessioned and is now available for the children to expand their vision. The vision is that they should get to know in real what Science is all about and what is consists of. They want to make them know that Science is not only in books and labs but is beyond that as well.

And then it was lunch time, where I had Cheese Pizza but I did get a chance to try the food that my friends which my friends had ordered, including Three Cheese Calzone, and Roasted Chicken and a Chicken Soup. I have to say that the variety at the Smithsonian Café is not so bad, and the food is reasonable enough as well.

Since we still had time on our hand, we headed out to different galleries, and for me the stop was Butterfly Live Pavilion. Okay, so I am not so comfortable with animals, in fact I am actually scared of them. But when I saw this big huge thing with so many butterflies flying inside, I simply could not stop myself and just bought a ticket – which was around $5. But it was truly a wonderful experience. There were so many of them in there just flying around, and I have no shame in admitting, my legs are shaking like anything and I was amazingly scared – my mom’s comment when I told her this story were something like this “For heaven’s sake, they were just butterflies, not elephants”. Ya well still! The most ironic thing then was that the most beautiful butterfly, which belonged to the Amazon Jungles and had wonderfully blue wings, came and sat on my shawl. It was amazing, and scary and wonderful, since this one had been the favourite which everyone was trying to catch a picture was. Obviously, instructions were issued to me that I cannot move and have to remain still. But after a while, I decided to move around but that butterfly didn’t move. It was like she befriended me and stayed with me for the rest of my time in there. I moved around and took photographs all while she sat on my shawl. As per Amrita and Bengali tradition, if a butterfly sits on a girl, she is bound to get married within a year….. Hmm! Well let’s begin the countdown shall we!

I also got a chance to roam around in the Gem Gallery, and a few of the treasures from there I am sharing below. The most hilarious comment I heard in there was by this guy to his wife “Hey, when you have seen one diamond, you have seen them all”. I thought it was funny! But there was some really wonderful stuff in there! I mean wow!

The Hope Diamond

The last session of the day was with Donna, who is the Volunteer Manager and with Maria – we don’t have their last names since I didn’t get their card. These two ladies form the most amazing team which I have ever seen. They are amazing and wonderful and a force to be reckoned with. They provided us with not only a background of how to interact and get volunteers but also about how the Smithsonian processes the various applications that they get. The most wonderful perspective however was from Maria. Coming from Peru, she was able to provide us with a context which was very much relatable. Her’s is a country which faces the same problems – people don’t come to the museum, think of it as an elitist story, are poor, lack of awareness. So she shared her stories, some wonderfully inspiring and thought provoking, making me once again believe in the power of change and will power. She shared a lot of other stories, which I would love to share here and I plan to do that really soon.

Donna

Maria

After the session again I decided to roam around the galleries, but had to stop in the middle since I knew that I was too tired to enjoy this experience anymore. However, I did enjoy the Human Origin Exhibition. They have traced from the very first humans who stepped on this earth to the last evolved form of the human race. The exhibition makes one real wonder, about questions like Evolution and Creation. They have covered the ground in every single way in defining the various stages and ways in which humans have evolved, from the size of the brain to the size of the human body, the change in social interactions. The exhibition is hauntingly thought provoking, and really makes one wonder, “How can anyone ever doubt Evolution?”

Anyways, so these are some more photos… I am starting to think maybe I should get a Flickr account finally, since I have too many pictures here.

So finally, the day ended, and on the way back, I decided to make a stop at the “Sweet Lobby”, but not before exploring the area a bit. I mean I have never been to that side of this neighbourhood and this was amazing.

And the cupcakes from “Sweet Lobby were simply divine! I had been craving dessert like anything. And this is what I got back! I love sweets….!

Dinner was a simple affair, with all-time favourite alo(potatos) and of course rice on the menu. I think the day was long enough!

USA Diaries – Day 10 – MSC, Here we come!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 10, 26-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Local Time: 2321, Pakistan Time:27 July 2012, 0819

Today was the day when we headed back to National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) after spending 3 days at the Freer and Sackler. It was good to be back and see the always smiling face of Carol Butler. We were suppose to meet her at 9 am in front of the Constitution Avenue Entrance, but considering our lack of orientation with DC still, we stood waiting in front of the National Mall entrance for well over ten minutes before realizing that we were on the wrong side of the museum.

The discussion today was a general orientation to Smithsonian and especially to the Folk life Festival that the Smithsonian holds each and every year. The discussion was kicked off by Robert Leopold who is the Consortium for World Cultures. He talked a lot about how it is important to make things relevant, considering that the Smithsonian is an organization that is being run by the taxpayers. And therefore, when organizations such as theirs go to the Congress, they need to know and have the answers to what purpose are they serving. He also talked a lot about the many different projects with which the Smithsonian is currently involved in, like the “Our voices on the air” which brings together the many different indigenous voices on Radio on a single platform. I have to admit, by the end of it all, I had a serious crush on the man.

Robert Leopold

The second part of the discussion was led off by Diane N’Daiye who looks after the Folk life Festival. Now this is the first time that I have ever heard of the Folk life Festival, and when I say “this is the first time”, I mean since the time I have been in the US. The Folk life festival brings together the various cultures and voices from all over the world onto a single platform where people from across the borders can engage with each other. This is no doubt something very close to her heart, since she narrated her own experience about how hard it was for her to understand as a child. She shared with us her childhood memory of how in a discussion with her friends who were telling about their Thanksgiving experience, which of course, rotated around Turkey, she felt like an outsider and cried about it, since she only had Curry and Roti.

She also talked about how it is important in her job and line of work to engage with the various practisers of culture. I like that word, although I don’t think I completely agree with it. See for me, culture is not something you practice. It is something that is embedded in you. But I can understand in which context she was talking about.

The last part of the discussion revolved around question and answer session, in which I asked a few questions which were really bothering me. What I really liked about this session was the fact that these people actually encourage question, and they don’t just say “good question” for the sake of saying it. They actually listen to it and will even come up to you later on to say the same. They will never claim that they know the answer but nonetheless, there is a general understanding that until a question is asked, it can’t be answered.

After this discussion, we headed off to the Staff Canteen for Lunch, and from there we went to get out shuttle to MSC, Museum Support Center. The MSC is a storage and a research facility for the Smithsonian NMNH and some of its other institutes as well, and this place is simply amazing. The place is simply huge and I bet you can spend the next 5 years of your life in there and still not be done seeing everything. We were shown around the place by Dave Rosenthal and Jake Homiak – both of those guys are incredible; Jake Homiak is simple hilarious. We were shown around the entire facility and I am simply in awe of the place. We first toured the more simpler facilities, the photography section, conservation lab etc, before we headed to the main treasure island – the Storage Unit. Apparently, there are 4 pods, each pod being on 4 levels, and with each containing almost ten shelves in a row. People, the Smithsonian Collection is no joke. And this is just the anthropological and ethnographic collection.

Jake Homiak

Dave Rosenthal

A letter which we saw in the Paper Conservation Room written by Alexander Graham Bell.

The most interesting highlight or fact of the day: Jake shows us the Archives Room and tells us that the paper in this room will be, if stacked, will make five time the height of the National Monument. Yet… this is hardly the biggest collection in DC. In fact, this is one of the smallest Archives; he reckons that the Congress library has just their record book room as big as this. Can you even imagine? I know I the hell can’t!

After this, we were taken by the lovely lady Rae Beaubien to the Museum Conservation Institute and shown the various facilities and laboratories that they have. I have to say, they have the most dedicated people that I have every seen in my life. I loved her, and the tour that she gave us, although I do have to say, that it was a bit exhausting.

The day ended at around 4:30 pm when we again took the shuttle and headed back to our hotel. The rest of the day was pretty non-exciting, with us simply loitering around. Although I did get my laundry done today, and I must say, my clothes smell nice 🙂 Not to forget, this was my first experience with these sort of machines and the dryer and all. I liked it!

Dinner was a weird deal, with our hunger getting the best of us, and us relying simply on Mashed Potato, Noodles, Leftover Rice and Mac and Cheese.. it is as weird a combination as it can get!

Day 2 of 30

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 2, 18-7-2012 – Atlanta International Airport, in plane, Local Time: 0800, Pakistan Time:1703

There is no denying that there is a huge difference. The world is much bigger than can ever be conceived while you sit in your room in Pakistan or whether you watch many a documentaries with your father on National Geographic. The experience of it is completely different. The technological differences started on Dubai Airport itself.

The technology has changed so much that me and an Indian lady didn’t dare step into the toilet for a good two minutes of deliberation, in which we had to decide whether the water is supposed to stand like that in the WC or not.  It was only after I experimented with flushing once that I discover that this is a new thing. Oh, and when you get up the smart toilet automatically flushes for you. You don’t even need to push a button.

The second difference was ofcourse the scale of the places itself. If I thought that Dubai Airport was big, then I was truly right in saying that I am only now starting to see the world. The Atlanta Airport has Gates from A to E, with a separate T terminal for domestic flights and a separate terminal completely for arrival flights. There are trains that led you from one terminal to the other, because walking here is a task that would require you to come to the airport at least 7 hours before.

The third difference is the value for time. People here value time of others and their own. There are no long waiting lines that I saw which are typical of a Pakistani Airport. Instead I felt (and therefore there is a severe probability that I will be wrong) that most of the people came only a hour or so before their flights.

The fourth difference, people really don’t care what you are doing and wearing. They just don’t have the time. They keep to their own work and do what they have to, and let you do what you have to.

However, there are certain points on which I meant to write down my comments and this has nothing to do with the rambling that I have already produced. A paindu quite literally on the flight to Dubai sat next to me. Thankfully he had the seat wrong and I was saved from his company. The reason why I say this, and again, this should not be taken in the wrong way, is because as soon as drinks and food was served on the Airline, he asked for beer. I can’t even imagine him asking or letting anyone have a beer in his own house, for surely Astagfurullah, it is a grace sin to even have a sip of it. Not only was it consumed however, it was even discussed in great length with another local who seemed to have spent considerable time in Dubai.

The similarities – people everywhere in the world as soon as the plane comes to a stop,

And of course a commentary from my side will not be complete without a detail account of the food I had.  The trip started off with Emirates airline, and the food on it was a chicken Salad resting on some greens, then the main course of rice and Chicken, then dessert which was some custard with a fresh strawberry in the middle, bottled water. The Muslim Meal that we got for diner in Delta Airlines from Dubai consisted off, Rice mixed with Ladyfinger, chicken and almonds – in other words, the weirdest combo ever. IT was presented with a fruit salad and a bun with butter and some weird fruit dessert again. Needless to say, I only had the rice. In the non-Muslim category, there was a choice of either Chicken or pasta. It looked really good and oh for dessert they had small chocolate pies.

In pre-breakfast we were served a cold sandwich of egg and cucumber (Thank god there is only halal Eggs to deal with) and banana and a kit Kat. Guess what I had. And then for breakfast, the Muslim meal composed of Fruit salad, weird omelettes with half bread and juice and a bun again. The non-Muslim category had potato and spinach with cheese omelette. I am seriously thinking of reconsidering the food choices I have been made to deal with.

At the moment, I am on my flight over to Washington, and the first sight of Atlanta, had left me breathless enough to conclude that yes, the world has progressed too much and my choice for living in Stone Age needs to be reconsidered.

I plan to start traveling and sightseeing as soon as I reach; the idea of whether to take a shower first or not is still a tossup.

 

Day 1 of 30

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 1, 17-7-2012 – Dubai International Airport, Local Time: 17:22

Today is the day when I first stepped out of my small world into the big world which, I think I should admit finally, has been a bit of scary for me. Despite being adventurous, and everything else, I have never wanted to get out of this country. I really truly have been quite content with the idea that I want to stay in my country. This however is a decision that I didn’t take because of any fear that I may have. Instead, it is a difficult choice that I have made quite knowingly. Therefore it is not a question of whether I like living in Pakistan or not; it is simply something that I have decided for myself, and am much ready to face the wrath of my future kids.

I got my first glimpse of the outside world and of the bigger world when I looked out of the plane window and saw what could only have been the Sahara Desert. A few minutes later, I was staring at modern day highways with wide roads, disciplined traffic, or in other words, my biggest fear.

When I was embarking on this trip, one of my biggest fears continued to be what I might get to see and how it might change me. From the most basic differences which may include wider roads, disciplined traffic, nobody going wrong way, to the more bigger changes of society where everybody has so much more to deal with that they have little time to notice others, where you can get the best education, opportunity, libraries, combined with the freedom of having so many choices at your disposal.  But the biggest change that I was afraid might occur in me is simply about how much simple can life be outside of Pakistan. It’s not just the daily cries that I or one would be rid of, varying from lack of Electricity, water, traffic, hypocrisy. It is something beyond this. It is that once when you are removed from worrying about all this, the potential that I may realize exists to do more in life. More research, more travelling, more work, an easier life which can be truly enjoyed by going to a library, or a park, or movie, party, etc. How different can life be when you are left without all these silly worries.

Today is the first day of that. Today is the first day when although I have not stepped out on foreign soil, literally, and am only in between transit from Karachi to Atlanta before reaching my final destination of Washington DC, I find myself at a world, which is not only cosmopolitan in the true sense of the word, but is also a city so different from what I perceived it to be.

It is strange no doubt to be proven so wrong on only my very first interaction with the outside world and only goes on to show that there is so much more for me to learn and see. Already I am starting to think that Dubai is not what I always thought it to be. It is not an artificial city trying to make itself blend with the Western World. Instead it is a place that embraces technology, mixed cultures and people, like any growing state does and has done in history. It is a state that seems to be not at all ashamed about the fact that it has embraced the culture of technology.

 

 

The hybridity that is so talked about in books and novels, which I had until now only read and heard about, is out on display in front of me and I am actually enjoying it. Are my worst fears about to come true? Is this the inevitable sign of the fact that I may actually like the outside world? Is this the beginning of the change which I have always dreaded so much? I don’t know anything at this moment.

Suddenly, for no reason the lines of my father are echoing in my mind that the high culture of any place always has the quality to absorb cultures of lower worth. Then does that mean that the change I dread so much is inevitable? And if it is, is it really any wiser of me to deny it and fight it?