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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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