“If Someone Speaks Unfairly Of Pakistan, It Is Painful To Me…” – Says Emily An American

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How does it feel when a foreigner, especially an American falls in love with Pakistan?

Surprisingly this is not a fairy tale but a true story of Emily Hauze who fell in love with Pakistan and the culture of Sindh. The story does not end here. She initiated on a personal level to improve the image of Pakistan. Isn’t it surprising?

Jovago Pakistan got the opportunity to interview Emily to know more about her views, experiences and thoughts about Pakistan. 

Our first question is who is Emily Hauze? Tell us a little detail about yourself.

I am an American blogger, photographer, and generally curious person. I grew up in a very small town in the southern state of Tennessee, but moved to Pennsylvania, where I did my bachelor’s and master’s degrees (in Music and German literature).

Emily Hauze - Pakistan

I am a lifelong student of all facets of arts and culture — not only photography but all forms of visual art, and theatre, dance, and of course literature and music.

How do you finance your trips?

In general, the only major expense for me on my trips is the plane ticket. That and also the cost of obtaining a Visa, for which I have to reapply each time I come. But once I arrive in Pakistan, I find that I am not allowed to pay for anything.

Since I always stay with friends, lodgings are not an issue, and food is always abundant and shared freely in Pakistani homes.

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I am not much interested in shopping, so I don’t have to save up much for that purpose. Beyond this, many of the cultural and historic sites I visit with my friends and family are free or very inexpensive.

What was the primary reason to visit Pakistan?

The primary reason is always to visit my loved ones in Pakistan, many of whom have become genuine family to me, and many others are dear friends.

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Beyond this, there are many other reasons of attraction to the culture and curiosity about the Pakistani way of life. But for me, the question of a “reason to visit Pakistan” is almost irrelevant, because the truth is that Pakistan has given me a reason to do almost everything that I do. Discovering and sharing Pakistan has become my true calling.

What was your perception about Pakistan before your trip?

Perhaps it would be better to go back a bit further to what my impression of Pakistan was before five years ago, in other words, before I specifically started to learn about the country. And the answer to that is, that I had practically no perception of it.

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It is often said that Americans have a negative view of Pakistan, but that is not usually the case. Much more common is for Americans to know nothing about it at all, but perhaps have some vague notion that it is a struggling country suffering from terrorism. However, by the time I was preparing to travel to Pakistan, I had already begun to learn much more about the country and its history and its people, so I had a very good idea of what I might expect.

How will you describe your trip to Pakistan in three words?

Three words?? Impossible 🙂

What makes Pakistan different from countries you have visited so far?

Pakistan is the only Eastern country in which I have been able to spend a great deal of time, and apart from a very quick stay in Dubai, it is the only Muslim country I know well.

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So there are many ways in which it differs from the other countries (almost all European ones) that I have visited in the past. But for me, the crucial difference is a very personal feeling, a sense of my own belonging in Pakistan.

It has opened itself to me as my own home, and I have a family there (that of Dr. Saeed Sangi in Larkana) who consider me their own daughter, and whose home is as much my home as any other in the world. A welcome of that kind is unique in the world.

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You have visited Pakistan thrice. What motivates you to keep coming again and again?

Actually, I have visited it four times! And I hope that I will be lucky enough to keep coming back twice a year.

Much of what motivates me has already been suggested in my answers above. Even though much is always new to me, going to Pakistan is always a homecoming to me.

I have the urge to keep returning in the same way as anyone who lives abroad would always long to come home. There are a million other reasons — more to discover, learn, photograph, write about, share — but at heart it is a simple longing to return to my second home.

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What reasons encourage you to improve the perception of Pakistan, a country you are not directly connected to?

At this point, I feel that I am very directly connected to Pakistan.

Although there was a time before I knew anyone there, a time when I was unconnected, that seems to be ancient history to me now. Almost all of my closest friends are Pakistani. Their worries are my worries, their dangers mine, and their joys and celebrations are mine as well. If someone speaks unfairly of Pakistan, it is painful to me, just as much as when America is insulted.

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And although it is always important to maintain some objectivity when pondering any country, I am not a disinterested journalist coming to Pakistan with neutral emotions. I care about Pakistan because it has become my own.

Can you share some details about your activities in respect to improving Pakistan’s image?

The place where I have concentrated most of my efforts so far is my blog ( www.emilyhauze.com/blog ), which is entirely devoted to my experiences and reflections on Pakistan.

My presence on social media, particularly on Facebook, is also important for this effort, because it allows me to communicate with a wide public on diverse topics.

The majority of my Facebook friends and followers are Pakistani, but my American friends and family are also aware of all my activities and they follow my posts closely, even though they don’t always participate in the conversations.

Many of my American friends have become fascinated with my travels, and many of them have also become friends with some of my Pakistani friends.

Pakistani Dresses - Pakistan

Away from social media, I also frequently wear Pakistani clothes here in the USA. I now have an entire wardrobe entirely filled with Pakistani outfits given to me during my travels — mostly by my Sangi family, but also by many other friends and well-wishers

When I go to any social gathering, I always wear one of these beautiful outfits, and my American friends always admire the style, which seems exotic to their eyes. But the best thing about wearing Pakistani clothes in America is not the admiration and praise — rather it is the opportunity that the clothes always afford to begin a conversation about Pakistan.

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At parties and gatherings, I am often able to tell people at length about my love for Pakistan. Other times, when out at the grocery store or post office, for example, I often get compliments from strangers on the clothes. I always thank them and quickly add that the clothes are from Pakistan, and if I am able I add a few more words in favor of the country. I figure that anytime I have the opportunity to make a positive impression, I should do it.

Where do you see yourself so far in respect to the mission of improving Pakistan’s Image?

There is still a lot for me to do.

I will keep traveling, keep writing, keep communicating. I hope to have more opportunities to give presentations here as well.

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A few months ago I was asked to speak to a reading group of children who were otherwise homeschooled, meaning they are especially sheltered from many aspects of the outside world. But they responded with warm curiosity to my talk, and they asked wonderful questions, and I hope they came away with some positive ideas about Pakistan.

That was just one small effort on my part, but I hope to do more of that. Perhaps also my blog can be published in book form in the future. A more ambitious project I have in mind is to begin translating some literary works from Sindhi, once my language skills are strong enough. That will take some years, but with luck I will be able to share a bit of the richness of Sindhi literature (especially poetry) with the Western world, which has had almost no contact with it so far.

How many Pakistani cities you have visited so far?

Many! But almost entirely in Sindh. There is hardly a city in Sindh that I haven’t yet. But as for other parts of the country, I have seen very little. I spent two very fine days in Lahore, which I found to be beautiful, and obviously worthy of far more exploration.

Sindh - Pakistan

I have also visited Islamabad, but for a visit that was even shorter than my trip to Lahore.

You have visited Karachi. How do you found the people of Karachi?

I have spent less time in Karachi than I have spent in other cities in Sindh — my visits have concentrated mostly on Larkana and Hyderabad, and the surrounding towns and villages. So I do not feel like I know Karachi very intimately.

Karachi - Pakistan

But I have spent a few days there, and I have enjoyed myself there. The people I have met in Karachi have been friendly and lively, generally more urban and progressive in philosophy than people in other parts of Sindh.

How is Karachi different for you than any other metro city of the world?

Again, I don’t feel able to produce any unique insights about Karachi, since I have spent very little time there. But it certainly is fascinating, even just for the sake of its enormous population.

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For me, Karachi has a warm place in my heart simply because it is my entryway to Pakistan. Every time I arrive at the Karachi airport at the beginning of my stay, I find myself smiling uncontrollably.

How was your experience of Lahore?

My trip to Lahore was too brief to feel like I could really get to know the city.

I was there only for two days, having been given the opportunity to accompany my Sindhi papa, Dr. Saeed Sangi, to a cardiology convention that was happening at the Pearl Continental Hotel. So that was a stroke of good luck, that I got to stay in such a fine hotel on the occasion! I found the hospitality of Lahori people to be just as warm and genuine as I had always found in Pakistan.

Lahore Pakistan - Jovago

What was different about Lahore, as compared to the Sindhi cities I have visited at greater length, was that Lahore is strikingly cleaner and much more modernized. From the perspective of organization and infrastructure, Lahore seemed to belong to a different country from Karachi and other Sindhi cities.

What 3 places you loved the most in Lahore?
I have hardly seen more than three places in Lahore in total, because my trip was so short! But I can be fairly confident that my favorite places in Lahore will always be the beautiful Mughal structures.

I have been in love with the beauty of Mughal architecture and design ever since my early childhood. The Badshahi Mosque, which I had the good fortune of visiting at the time of maghrib prayers, was the most memorable.

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The gentle chanting of the muezzin echoing through the arched spaces in that dim, twilight time, was simply magical. The beautiful marble tomb of Jahangir was another site that I especially loved, as well as many parts of the Lahore Qila.

What 3 places you will recommend to every American to visit in Pakistan?

My favorite place out of all the ones I have visited is the tomb of Shah Abdul Latif at Bhit Shah. I would recommend that place first of all, to feel that particular serene spirit that seems to exist only there.

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Secondly I’d recommend Moen jo Daro, because it offers such a rare opportunity to gaze back into the distant past of humanity. It is hard to decide upon a third place, out of all those that I have visited, but if pressed I would choose the Badshahi Mosque.

If you get a chance to visit Pakistan again, which 3 destinations you would like to explore?

I would love to return to the Thar desert, which I only got to explore briefly. And I would love to visit the famed northern regions of the country, which I have heard are some of the most beautiful natural sites in the world. And some day I would also like to see the desert expanses of Balochistan, which must be magnificent.

Balochistan - Pakistan

What were some of the problems you faced in Pakistan as a foreigner?

I have had very few problems in Pakistan, because my hosts have always been so attentive to my comfort and welfare. But of course there are some things that will be difficult to a foreigner in any country.

In Pakistan, issues of language will be challenging to any Westerner, even to one like me who is making an effort to learn local languages. I have been slowly but steadily practicing both my Sindhi and my Urdu, and both of those languages are beautiful and richly rewarding — but also very difficult for someone who grew up only with European languages.

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Of course, many people in Pakistan can speak excellent English — but I have usually found that most of them do not want to speak English at home or in social settings. Of course that is natural, since speaking one’s own language is always the most comfortable. But this has also meant difficult stretches of hours for me straining to understand conversation, and grasping very little of it.

What will be your answer if anyone asks you, “Why Should I visit Pakistan?”

It would be impossible to point to only one reason, but perhaps I would respond that it is a great treasure to be able to experience a culture different from one’s own, and especially great when the people in that culture will welcome you with open arms and delight in teaching you about what matters most to them.

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You must have researched on Pakistan before visiting. What is different in the real Pakistan?

This question is too broad for me to answer here… but I hope that anyone who is interested in the topic will look at my blog, which I mentioned above. In a certain sense, the entire purpose of that blog is to discuss the lived reality of the places as it differs from Western expectations.

Out of the different types of cuisines you had in Pakistan, which one was your favorite?

Although I have enjoyed lots of delicious Pakistani food, I always like to answer this question by saying that my favorite thing of all is Pakistani tea. Not only is it especially delicious as compared to any tea typically drunk in the West, but it is also a symbol of hospitality, of welcome, and of relaxation and restoration.

Pakistani Cuisine - Pakistan

Share one of your most memorable moment or incident in/about Pakistan.

One of my favorite memories was from one of my visits to a particular nomadic fisher community of the river Indus, near Larkana.

Each time I have visited there, I have been greeted by a large crowd of beautiful and boisterous children, who take my hand and walk with me along the river bank.

On one particular occasion, I unexpectedly stepped into some deep river mud, and felt that slippery cool substance immerse my feet up to the ankles. It was a lovely feeling, but then I needed to clean my feet off again somehow.

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The children, who were all barefoot anyway, let me back up the bank to where some thick fishing nets were laid out like a carpet. One child took my shoes and rinsed them very thoroughly in the river for me. Another two children brought a jug of clean water, and they poured it over my feet and helped me to wipe the mud off completely.

All this they did without my asking, and without my even guessing that they might do something like this. And they did it with such gentleness and love, as if I were a dear sister to them, and not a stranger from a faraway land.

Any ending note for readers?

Pakistan Zindabad!

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Indeed it is great seeing people like Emily Hauze (Devika Mittal from IndiaMahazizi Abd Latif from Malaysia and Christian Lindgren from Norway) putting up efforts to show the brighter side of Pakistan selflessly.

Jovago Pakistan

4 Comments

  1. Ali Akash

    July 12, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Great interview dear Emily as if someone is talking about self of mine.

  2. Shukeel

    July 13, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    Hi Emily.

    You truly are a unique lady. I loved reading your blog. I’m a British born Pakistani and i find it incredible that a young American girl has the inclination to want to be in Pakistan. I wish you well on your journey.

  3. Omer

    August 9, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    amazing story…well done !!

  4. Danish Raza

    August 15, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Bless you sister Emily more and more,

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