Saturday, March 09, 2013

Pakistan Purchases...With 15 Months to Go

For those of us who are serving in the Foreign Service, life away from family, friends and the comforts of life in the U.S. can be a big adjustment.  When we pack out to head off to places unknown, many of us struggle to figure out what to bring with us.  We are all limited to a certain weight of what we bring, called our HHE (household effects), so we have to be careful just what we choose to bring.  You learn quickly that you WILL accumulate lots of 'stuff' in each country you serve and if you don't take that into consideration, you could end up with a hefty bill for whatever is above and beyond your allotted weight.

I can't remember exactly what my HHE weight limit is, but I am certain I'm not close to it, even with all the carpets I bought in Oman.  Here in Lahore, there are many opportunities to spend my hard earned money!  I've added a couple of carpets to my collection.  I just purchased a gorgeous hand carved wooden screen.  It's going to look great when I settle back in the States in June 2014.

We went to a shop where this man had lots of very old items, some reproductions of old items and some items we see every day here.  On motorcycles, men deliver milk in these large brass containers.  We all love them and I had to have some myself. They come in small, medium, large and dipping cup.  I have 3 of the 4.

There's also a never ending supply of pashminas to buy here and I've helped out the economy here by buying more than my share!  They also make wonderful gifts.

Another of my favorite things is the copper spice box, below.  This is probably a reproduction but I love it. Inside it is a round tray and 6 copper containers in 3 different styles that hold spices or teas.  This is how spices were transported years ago in this region.  I love it!

But I have just received my favorite purchase while serving overseas.  I am now the proud owner of a completely restored 1962 Vespa!  For now, it sits in the corner of my living room but I will fire it up enough to keep things in good working order inside it.  And hopefully, find a way to ride it occasionally on some enclosed safe place.  It won't be on the streets of Lahore, that's for sure!  So....what do you think?

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Checking In...

It's been a while since I last posted anything here...not sure how long but I feel like it's time to check in.  Life in Lahore, Pakistan isn't too bad.  Sure, I don't enjoy all the comforts of home in the U.S., but it's been so long since I've been 'home,' things are starting to seem normal.  I do miss having my car and the ability to just back out of the driveway (as my guards hold the gate open as they hold their weapon ready to use it if necessary) and drive around.  Going through the military checkpoints is becoming routine. I don't even panic when one of the guards makes us 'break the seal' or open the door and ask to see IDs.  And I'm thrilled when I see lettuce is at the grocery store and there isn't slime on it. in Pakistan!

Serving abroad has a way of putting you in a situation to get something you might not have otherwise.  There's shopping for things you see at Pier 1 or World Market...but paying a fraction of the price.  And when I served in Muscat, Oman, I discovered carpets. Oh, did I ever discover carpets!  I  now have 13 hand woven carpets in storage. And I love every one of them. You're also sometimes lucky enough to score big, like I did.  Here in Lahore, there is a body shop.  The owner, Imran, has a side business, or hobby, not sure which, of restoring vintage Vespas.  Once this was discovered, it was like a chain by one, we ordered our Vespas.  First was a red one, then a baby blue version and then a maroon scooter.  Then came my turn.  I decided on black...but not just any black.  It's black with silver metal flakes.  And to be really original, I was put in touch with 2 young Pakistani artists and together, we came up with artwork that reflected a Pakistani tradition called Truck Art or Jinga. This makes for very colorful trucks on the road.

You might have seen documentaries on TV about Pakistani truck art.  They are usually very ornately decorated with little to no background visible...totally covered in artwork.  When you see them close up, you can see that it is truly an art form.  I'm told it can cost anywhere from $5000 up to paint a truck. Lots of color, small flowers, calligraphy, name it and it is painted on trucks.

For my Vespa, I decided to bring home a bit of this art form with me.  It took several meetings with the 2 artists, but I think the result is well worth the time spent with them.  I didn't want my scooter to look like the examples above...I just wanted a little bit of artwork on it.  I'm thrilled with the result! Below is what the Vespa looked like when he bought it...

This is what it looked like once he stripped off the old paint and started the body work.  Everything was done by hand, and I don't mean electric sanders or anything.  On one visit, the worker was using a metal file to smooth over an area.

And the final product...

My biggest problem or rather issue is that I can't ride it here and I have another 15 months left here in Pakistan.  Imran has told me that whenever I want to ride it he will come and get it and take it back to his business and let me ride it around the property.  Right now it's in my house, under the staircase looking like it belongs there.  When I retire, this baby will go with me back to Fort Worth and I'll have a blast riding it around town.  With gas prices what they are, I'll love getting 85 miles to the gallon!