Thursday, July 11, 2013

My International Life

As of right now, I am a citizen of Pakistan and the United States and a resident of the U.A.E. While this means that I have spent an absurd amount of time on airports and up in the air, it also means that I've been lucky enough to have friends and family - to have a home - in all three countries.

I am a hardcore Karachiite, there's no denying that. It's in the way I talk ("Abay yaar!"), the way I dress, the way I dance (or so I've been told). The fresh, clean air of Kansas doesn't suit me; my body is used to the special variety of Karachi pollution that is a combination of smoking motorcycle and rickshaw engines, musical mini-bus horns, and a peculiar fish smell from the Arabian Sea. I have an unhealthy obsession with the ocean and with greasy food from Burns Road and Boat Basin. I thrive on tense, stressful situations. Sadly, that is the truth.

America, my adopted home, has welcomed me with open arms. How does a Karachi girl end up in Kansas is a question I'm still grappling with. When I first arrived in this country on a snowy winter afternoon in 2008, I wasn't quite sure about why I was here (could've just been the jet lag) - I just knew I was really far away from home. I didn't know how to dress for the winters; I was working as a cashier but didn't understand the currency ("Do you have a nickel?" "Do I have a WHAT?"). And God forbid if I had to explain anything geography related to an American. For Americans, America is the whole world; after all, it's called the World Series but is played between American teams.

My globetrotting ways confuse the hell out of people and give rise to questions/remarks like:
"So you didn't go to high school here but you're NOT an international student? How does that work?"
"You're not from here? But your English is very good!"
"If you're not A-rab, then WHAT ARE YOU?"
"You're you speak Arabic?"
"WOW! You're from Pack-is-tan? THAT IS SO COOL! I wish I was from somewhere!"
Any attempt at answering these questions just confuses people more. Although sometimes, I confuse them on purpose. It's just more fun that way.

But five years and a blue passport later, in these three countries are people that I love and places with memories I cherish. At this point of time, I have gone to school and/or worked in all three. That means that all these countries have a role in what I am today, in what I am going to be. They have, in some major or minor way, shaped the person that I am. It also means that my English is neither entirely Pakistani nor American, it is somewhere in the middle (together with almost four different accents I can pull depending on who I'm talking to). I've also quit using words like loo and queue because no one would understand them. Jet lag recovery, working out a time to Skype with people in three different time zones: no big deal.

While Karachi is the resilience in me, Kansas life has taught me things like doing my own laundry and cooking my own food along with other essential life-skills like mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. I will stay up all night when Pakistan plays India in a cricket match but also bite all my nails off during an intense KU basketball game. And then Abu Dhabi is the happy medium between the two where I just soak it all in and realize how incredibly blessed I am to find love and support scattered all over the globe. Here's to my international life!

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