Amazing DC Trip And My Art Display At The 2nd Annual Afghan Arts Festival

I was supposed to write a blog post on this ever-so-wonderful trip/event as soon as I got back last labour day long weekend, but because I got so busy with back to school and work; and also due to the fact that I was missing DC so freakin’ much, that I guess I just needed some time before I got back to blogging again. And, of course, come back to reality. Le sigh.

But, anyway, so, last weekend was absolutely INCREDIBLE! And if it weren’t for my darling friend, SK, who is also an incredible artist, I would have totally missed out on this wonderful event and the opportunity to display my artwork. And, mind you, this invitation to participate in the event wasn’t something planned either. It was more kinda last minute actually. What happened was that SK noticed that we were both mutual friends with this amazing girl I’ve known for a little over three years now. She used to live in the UK and just moved to DC. I will not mention her name due to privacy reasons, but she is a really dear and close friend of mine, and it was only until I met her face to face that I truly realized what an incredible person and a beautiful gem she is. And I absolutely love her to pieces!

Anyway, we all started commenting on her wall, and the next thing I know, they both mentioned the Afghan Arts festival that was taking place on Sunday, September 4th and SK asked me if I would be able to come; the next thing I knew, I was talking to SK on the phone and making plans to drive down to DC. And it all happened so fast, and so abruptly! I even mentioned it to Abaseen, and the beloved sweetheart that he is, he just smiled and told me that he’d love to accompany me to DC. My reader needs to understand that I married THE most amazing and THE most incredibly supportive man ever! Heck, if it weren’t for him, I doubt I’d have ever gotten back to my art. He’s been my backbone since day one and I can’t be any more grateful! Gosh, I love him SO freakin’ much!

So, after making all the arrangements with SK jaan and one of the organizers of the festival, Abaseen and I were all set and ready to go! We were supposed to leave on Friday, September 2nd, but because I couldn’t take time off from work, we decided to leave early Saturday morning, around 3 am. My husband has driven to DC before and he assured me that we should be in DC in less than nine hours. Oh, and by the way, we got to stay at the Crowne Plaza hotel; the room was originally close to $400 a night, but because I’d booked through, we got the MOST amazing deal ever!

The drive itself wasn’t too bad. We’ve driven nine to ten hours in the past (I.e. when we went to Quebec City), so it was quite nice. We took turns driving too, so that eased the burden off of our shoulders.  We got to DC in record time (12 noon), I must say. And because I’d asked for an early check-in, there were no problems whatsoever as soon as we arrived. And, yes, the hotel was just as BEAUTIFUL as I’d imagined it would be! We seriously got our money’s worth, and more. We decided to get some shut eye, of course, after driving for nine hours straight, and I was also waiting on a girl (festival organizer) who was supposed to come by around 6 pm later that evening to pick up my 13 art pieces for the festival. It was SO damn sweet of her to come out of her way to do that. Seriously, it was so incredibly refreshing to meet such wonderful, helpful, and good-natured people!

The next day we got up around 8 am, got ready and decided to tour the city for a bit before going to the festival. I’d made plans to meet SK and my other friends later that afternoon, so Abaseen and I had about six hours to kill. We decided to do the autobus tour, ‘cause we’d heard good things about it, and also because it passed the place (National Mall) where the Afghans Arts festival was taking place. So, we figured it worked out perfectly into our schedule. One of the big drawbacks that day, however, was that it was really, really hot! Scorching, I might add. We did not expect DC weather to be THAT hot, considering it was quite chilly where we currently live. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the heat. But because I was wearing makeup that day and my best outfit, I was just a tad worried.

Anyway, the tour was really awesome. I loved how the tour buses came by every 10 minutes, so if we were to get off at a museum or art gallery, we didn’t have to wait too long to get on to the next bus and continue the tour. We saw all the great DC monuments, the house in which Lincoln passed away, The Capitol building, and of course the beautiful and classy White House. One of my friends later told me that one can even get a tour of the White House, BUT they would have to book like a year in advance! Dayum! I was thinking that since I plan to participate in this Afghan festival once again in next year’s labour day long weekend, I might as well book the tour. 😉 Who knows, next year, around this same time, I’d be touring the pretty White House.

During the tour, we managed to check out the incredible Air and Space Museum as well as the International Spy Museum. There were a few art galleries that I also wanted to check out, but because we were running out of time, and we had to leave for the festival, we missed out. However, I realized this won’t be the last time I’ll be in DC anyway, so the next time I go, in the near future, I’ll be sure to check out all the art galleries and Georgetown, which I hear is absolutely gorgeous!

We got to the festival around 3pm, and all the artwork was displayed inside this huge tent right in the middle of the National Mall. I loved how they gave me a whole wall with just my artwork displayed on it (see picture below).

One of the attendees checking out my artwork 🙂

It was very gratifying to hear people praise my work, and even see some people show enough interest to come up to me and ask to BUY my work! Indeed it’s the greatest feeling ever. One sweet girl even asked me if I offered art classes, ‘cause she would love to learn how I drew and painted my portraits. I told her that IF I lived in DC, I would have loved to teach an art class, but because I wasn’t from the area, it was very unfortunate. I guess what I loved the most about this experience was the fact that I was able to motivate and inspire new aspiring artists. I am ALL for creativity, and the more people get involved in the arts, the better it will be. Not only does it awaken your creative side, but it’s also incredibly therapeutic! I don’t understand how I lived over a decade totally neglecting my art. THAT is my biggest regret. But then, at the same time, I am at a really good place in my life right now. I feel I am more ready now than I was before to really focus and dedicate myself to my artistic passion. I am married to the love of my life; pursuing my doctorate in a field I am immensely passionate about (and will be completing a thesis on the MOST interesting topic ever – will reveal that once it is published, lest it shall be copied, sorry!), and I finally know what my ultimate purpose is in life. And it is through my artwork that I am attaining the chance to portray/express my love for Pashtuns, feminism, and of course my womanhood!

In addition to the artwork display, there was also a huge stage, with live singers – they sounded incredible! And the BEST part about the event was the attanr dance! OMG, the more I see that dance, the more I desperately want to learn it! Well, the attanr and how to play the rabab. Luckily, I do know people who know how to dance the attanr quite well, so will definitely see if I can take classes. Seriously, it’s the most beautiful dance ever! I was also amazed at the turnout! There were probably over 800 people there! And most of the songs they played were in Pashto! Awesomeness to the max!

I also got a chance to meet the lovely SK and my friend, whom I’ve known through Facebook only – the one who moved from the UK to DC not too long ago. And OH EM GEE, it was HEAVEN! We totally clicked! Heck, it felt like we’ve known each other since forever! I thought she was so beautiful and so humble in person.  SK was just as amazing and a real sweetheart. It really didn’t feel like I was meeting these girls in person for the first time. The connection was insane! I also got a chance to meet some other people I’d met online, mostly through Facebook, and the experience was equally amazing and humbling. We all really got along and had suuuuuch a marvelous time. Later that night, we all went to dinner at this really nice – yup, you guessed it – sushi place! And I hadn’t suggested it either! I was worried they would choose some fobby, Afghan place. As much as I love chapli kababs and ruz bukhaari, I have to say I’d pick sushi over it any day. Not because I don’t like Afghan food, I just find it very heavy, especially when eating it so late at night. At least sushi is much more healthy and gosh oh-so-freakin’ DELECTABLE! It’s trés yummy! So, yeah, they were indeed the coolest Pakhtuns ever to pick a sushi restaurant! 😀 We probably stayed out till 3 am that night! Honestly, I haven’t had this much fun in eons! And considering it was our last night in DC, I really didn’t want that night to end. :: sighs ::

The next morning, Abaseen and I were supposed to leave DC to drive back, but I was invited to the Voice of America studio to give an interview about my being a Pashtun artist in the west, as well as my participation in the Afghan Arts festival. The building was really nice! And as soon as I walked in to it, I was surprised to see how crazily secured it was! Not only was I required to show them my id but I was also asked to walk through an active millimeter wave scanner! FTW! I felt like I was at an airport! Needless to say, I thought that was pretty cool. Though, I am sure it must be annoying for those who have to go through it every single day.

The interview was great. It took almost an hour and by the time I was done, I didn’t have time to chill with my friend as I was running late; and Abaseen and I had a really long way to go. We said our goodbyes, and we were on our way. I must say, we both left with a heavy heart. After meeting everyone, we felt like they were already like family. The intellectual conversations, the jokes, the laughter, and the warmth– it was all so surreal and magical. I anxiously look forward to go back to DC and relive it all over again.

DC, thank you for giving us such an incredible time! I love you and you shall dearly be missed.

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