After a long hiatus, the blog is back! I haven’t had anywhere to live for the past month so I’ve been between houses, villages, and net cafes with extremely slow connections. Things haven’t been TOO exciting, or well maybe they have been which is why I’ve been so busy. Currently I’m settling into a girls’ hostel in Lahore and running teacher training workshops 2-4 hours a day on weekdays. I spent 10 days in the Northern Areas which was amazing and I’ll be sure to post photos of soon. Actually I’m trying to post them now but the speed is slow and it keeps timing out before uploading one photo, so it might take another week or so until I get a fast connection. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to update you on the past month or so. And make sure to check the other blog as well for some more details...
May 12, 2006
Basically my former employer was supposed to take care of my work visa but failed to do so, and so now my visa is overstayed which means I could be deported and I can't even leave the country on my own will. It is a pretty serious issue, and I have been trying for a month to get my passport back from my employer but by the time they finally gave it back (as I was about to call the police) it was already two weeks over. The police and government officials aren't necessarily helpful here, and many rapes are committed by police so they cannot help you or at least I'm not planning to ask them for any help.
As soon as I got my passport I was advised to go straight to the US Embassy to try to get some help. After an all night bus and four hours of long lines, where I was the ONLY Am Citizen, I received a tiny slip of paper with an address that I already knew and no advice. I went to the Ministry of Interior by myself to apply, and it is this one guy who is there for only 45 min a day and is so full of himself. Anyway, I waited in the office because I was the only lady, gender segregation but good protection for me, and the ministry dude was SO rude to me, telling me why don't you have this paper and that paper and that it's illegal for me to work here. He basically said I have to go back to the US in order to apply, but there is no process in the US to apply for the work permit either. I've been calling government offices and receiving no answer or no help for days. Even information gives you the wrong number. Anyway, so there I was sitting in the hot sun (it's over 110 every day here) just crying outside the ministry (which is this tiny building with Afghan refugees lined up down the block trying to get in). Turns out some believers came to help me and they helped me fill out the form and after three tries they at least said they'd look at it and not arrest me or deport me. So then the believers, one guy who escaped from Ir-n with his family after coming to faith and having a death warrant issued by the government and another guy, took me a church for a bit. Then I finally got in touch with some friends to stay with.
In Lahore, I was staying with a friend whose mother confided in me (in Urdu/Panjabi) that her husband has another wife and he is only with her every other day. She said - translation, "For women life is nothing in Pakistan." It broke my heart and made me want to improve my language skills so I can share a message of hope with these women.
Current Update on Visa (June 14, 2006) : It took one month for a paper to get mailed from Islamabad to Lahore. Today I picked up my paper and tomorrow I need to go to the National Bank, pay the overstay fine of about $20, and return to the passport office where they will extend my tourist visa until July 15th. Then I need to get working on contacting the board of investment to apply for a work visa. Inshallah I can get something in the works before July 15th. Just in case, I’ll be applying for a visa to India in case I need to leave the country and apply for a new visa from outside the country.