Julie Zahs at the Book Talk
After completing my studies at Iowa State University in elementary education, I joined the Peace Corps. I then flew to the Marshall Islands where I taught 1st-8th grade students on the outer islands from l972-4. My two years there got me totally “hooked” on traveling and learning about other cultures. I returned to the U.S. and started teaching 7th grade social studies and language arts. I carefully saved my money, then traveled/explored the world during my summers. In l976, I found a summer class at Iowa State University taught by a geography professor from Pakistan who took students to Pakistan for 5 weeks. I immediately jumped at this opportunity. We traveled all over Pakistan visiting universities, homes, libraries, mosques, forts, industries, cities, early cradles of civilization, and more. Seeing, smelling, tasting, and experiencing Pakistan was far better than reading about it in textbooks.
Traveling in Pakistan as a female was a whole new experience. To be culturally accepted, I needed to cover my arms, legs, and head. (Note, in the Peace Corps, in the Marshall Islands, I needed to wear long dresses/skirts to cover my thighs. That meant I swam in a long dress!) I made some outfits before I went to Pakistan, but planned on “shopping” there and wearing their clothes. I had a delightful time selecting clothing, as outfits were so elaborately hand embroidered. Different areas had their own unique “styles” in decoration. The curled toe shoes were a “must buy”. I wore a bandana type scarf, especially if I visited a mosque. When I returned to the states, I found that my students loved trying on the Pakistani clothing. The super wide baggy pants, where one size fits all, and the burqa veil have always amazed students!