Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Insha'allah, I’ll be back to Little Pakistan

Brooklyn is huge and diverse and I know that I have only explored and live in a tiny (perhaps unrepresentative) part of it. But I still admit being surprised by my visit earlier this week to a part of Brooklyn I think is called Midwood. Midwood is about 30 minutes southeast of Brooklyn Heights on the Q line.

I was sent out there for work and felt as though I had entered a different world for a number of reasons. Impression #1: I got off at the Avenue H stop and thought I had taken the subway to the suburbs or Cape May, NJ. Victorian Houses peppered the streets as far as the eye could see.

My amazement quickly turned to concern, however, with Impression #2: no Starbucks. I was an hour early for my appointment at saw nothing but a “Food-o-Rama” and a Laundromat. At first I thought Coney Island Ave. was no better. The only shops nearby were Halal meat and pizza shops. I saw the Golden Arches beckoning me in the distance but I resolved to find something local. I found a gem: a sweets shop owned by a Pakistani family. I told the guy that I had never had Pakistani sweets so he selected a few of his favorite cakes/candies for me and then proceeded to tell me how you make each one. He was also quick to tell me all about growing up in a Christian part of Lahore and how he loves Christians because he went to a Christian school. I told him that I was surprised there were no Starbucks in town, but very happy that I found his shop. He said his English wasn’t good and the conversation ended, but I most enjoyed our little inter-cultural dialogue moment.

After another cup of coffee, I bought some samosas for dinner, stuck them in my purse and headed for my meeting at the mosque, headscarf in hand. I covered my head upon arrival, but was horrified to accidentally open the door to the men’s part of the mosque while the imam was speaking instead of using the womens’ entrance, which I had yet to find. Luckily, a mosque official came out soon after and welcomed me in. When the rest of my group arrived from Manhattan we had our meeting and I was thoroughly impressed that two of the visitors from the UK spoke English and Arabic. The non-verbal cues we received from the congregation when they started speaking Arabic were great! It definitely showed the importance of foreign language in effective public diplomacy. On a personal note, I was a bit unsure about how I would feel wearing a head scarf. I was unquestionably willing to do so because I was a guest in a house of worship, but I thought I would feel stifled. By the end of the meeting, I decided I rather liked it as a fashion statement if nothing else:-)

So overall my trip to Little Pakistan was amazing—good food, better understanding of how a mosque works, and a better understanding of the borough I live in. For an international affairs geek this was a good day!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We like your head scarf-your "cute"!!!

Love, G&G

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Nikita said...

I agree! You make a very cute head-scarf-wearin' blogger. I may need to add a scarf to my wardrobe when I'm feeling international. Might not go over well in Nashville, but it would certainly help on a bad hair day.

9:41 AM  

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