To build a house or do a house renovation in any country is challenging enough. Try and do that over the phone and then the first thing as soon as we land in Islamabad! Actually, dealing with various demands on the phone was easy compared to what was waiting for my husband and me when we landed in Islamabad!
How did it all start?
I married a Pakistani man. His family is an amazing bunch of people. I come from Lithuania a background one would think incompatible. What seemed different at first the clothes, the food, and how nice people are make total sense now.
From where I am from, the food is bland, the clothes are a lot less comfortable and the people, I am yet to meet a Lithuanian abroad I could say that was a nice person! Maybe that’s just my luck? Before I met my husband, I’ve never eaten Pakistani food, Pakistani mangoes and I’ve never worn shawar kameez.
Now, you cannot get me out of the shawar kameez! I am learning to make Pakistani food. I fell in love with Pakistan because of the family and all the people I’ve met. I could say Pakistani culture has become part of my life before I even got to Pakistan. I’ve become accustomed to Pakistani ‘ways’, however, I was not prepared for what was waiting for us in Islamabad.
We planned our trip to Pakistan for a while but for a few reasons it got delayed. When we finally landed in Islamabad we were thrown into a deep end. We had to view the house we were thinking of buying. If we decided to buy it we then need to get the lawyer and the papers ready.
My husband is great because he already found a lawyer before we got there. We made sure the paperwork for the house is done before we landed. That’s important to do otherwise you might be waiting for a while for one piece of paper.
This house wasn’t finished when we got to Islamabad. Bathrooms had to be completed, the water system had to be done and many things to be finished before it’s liveable. Not only did we want the house finished but also we wanted to move in as soon as we could.
Not only did we have to deal with a whole bunch of builders but also needed to understand the culture. My husband and I got a real culture shock! Neither of us knew how to treat or talk to people so the work gets done the way we wanted. It’s different here how people talk to people.
It’s never about I am in power hence you listen to me. It’s more like what words I use so you understand what I mean. The tone of the voice and the body language. For instance, they all say “hanji” which means yes even if they don’t know how to do what you’ve asked them. They figure out how to do it while doing it.
We end up with “what on earth is that?” or “how on earth do you think this is ok?” It’s definitely different how people show their respect. For example, two guys turned up to fit in the air conditioner. One boy asked for water when my husband gave him a glass of water he kneeled and drank the glass of water. Once finished he bowed and gave the empty glass back.
I didn’t get to see it but my husband said “That was weird!” If you ever dealt with builders they try it on, you know, get away with murder. Add a different culture, language, and customs you’ve got a recipe for a crazy ride. We’ve done some projects and have high finish standards. Hence, just ordinary or mediocre won’t do for us. It definitely challenged my husband and I at times we had to stop ourselves to keep our cool.
Moved into the house
Once we moved in, the house had many issues. The water. The electricity. The ants. Mosquitoes. Windows without blinds. No beds to sleep on. No mattresses. No towels. No shower gels. Although I had to thank for shower gel from our hotel we stayed at before we moved in.
Air conditioning should we fit it or not? What fridge to buy? We need a kettle! Oh wait we need a shampoo and conditioner. Pots and pans, and plates, and cutlery, crockery. Bedsheets! Pillows. Duvets! All the house stuff. Washing machine. Where do we dry the clothes? We are getting a palm tree. How many nurseries do we go to? Four or five before we found the one.
Yes, all that stuff! Furniture, what type? Where shall we put it? What’s the purpose? Do we really need it? What colour? Which market to go to? Where do people buy furniture from? What are the prices? Register? We live in an area where you’ve got to register. The list is endless. We’ve got almost three bedrooms done.
What I mean by done, all bedrooms have beds, pillows, sheets duvets it’s questionable. We only got one pot and a pan. Two plates. It’s a challenge to make a meal but it’s manageable. I saw markets where they sell bed frames it’s a real art! Furniture shops are fascinating! I’ve never seen so much design in just one chair.
When people design chairs and sofas it’s astonishing what they come up with. Interior design programmes in Europe would become so much more interesting if they’ve seen the stuff from here! People here know design.
No Time for Tourism in Islamabad
It’s been three weeks in Pakistan. We haven’t been to Lahore or a village where there’s a lot of family to see. I haven’t seen Islamabad properly let alone the country. We haven’t got to see the museums in Islamabad. I haven’t even seen at one point the biggest mosque in Islamabad yet. We haven’t even been to fancy restaurants. The food is a necessity. We have it to keep us going while doing the work.
We’ve managed to escape for a few days to the Northern part of Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Hunza valley. The mountains, the old silk road in other words Karakoram highway and the views took my breath away. I am yet to get it back blog post to come soon.
To deal with a new culture, ways of behaving, language and building a house is definitely a challenge and not for a faint of hearted. What we see is what no tourists gets to see. Everything looks more fun and exciting in hindsight! Looking back everything seems comical but at the time it wasn’t at all.
Setting up the house and getting the builders out of your house is the hardest thing to do. There’s an outstanding work that they do in Pakistan! True craftsman. True art. Real creativity in an ordinary stuff like bed frames and chairs.
Next time, I hope we get to be a little bit more of a tourist. We come back in a few months time, I hope. I cannot wait to enjoy the house rather than keep on fixing the problems in it. One thing for sure, Pakistan has real magic and is real magic only if you know how to see it!
Love and Light.