One of the workshop organizers, Tehseen Baweja, happened to be on my flight from Doha to Lahore, so we got to start the event a little early, chatting in the lounge while waiting to board, and in the (relatively short) lines as we went through immigration.
(Much discussion of literary culture, the creation thereof. Starting magazines and festivals and reading series. Wrangling volunteers and maintaining energy levels. Using crowdfunding to amplify your reach, and don’t forget to apply for those matching funds from employers…)
The travel pieces all went pretty smoothly, and while Urdu is the primary language spoken in Lahore (and I have no Urdu), the officials have enough English that I could have gotten by without a local guide. (I have never had to show so many people my passport in my life — I think I had to show it at least a dozen times between Chicago and Lahore.)
They did keep trying to start conversations with me in Urdu, I assume because despite my bleached blonde hair and bare calves (I was the only woman I saw in a knee-length skirt, and only a few men were wearing shorts, so if it’ll bother you to stand out in that way, take note), my brown skin marked me as possibly Pakistani, but they quickly switched over to English when I looked bewildered and said “sorry?”
That said, when it turned out that my suitcase hadn’t made it onto the plane in Doha, it was nice that Tehseen was there to smoothly explain in Urdu exactly where we’d be staying, and to give them the administrative contact name and number at the university, so they can facilitate getting my bag to me. I could have managed on my own! But nice not to have to.
(It may take a day or two to get my bag, but it’s fine — I have all my devices and wallet and meds and a change of clothes with me, so I could survive just fine for the whole trip without my suitcase, just switching out outfits and washing them. Or, more likely, take the excuse to shop! But I do think I’ll have my big suitcase by tomorrow.)
They had a driver waiting for us, so it didn’t take long to transition to campus, where they’ve put us up in a pleasant modern facility, very business-traveller in feel. I was glad it had a lovely big window I could open, so I could get a little of the beautiful Pakistan night air, and hear the unfamiliar birds.
It’s just 3:30, and I can now fairly hear what I think is the call to prayer outside? Is this one of the times for it? There’s a low voice, chanting. I am feeling very ignorant about Islam, but this is part of why we travel, yes? To learn. I’m looking forward to teaching my students, and also to learning from them.