Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dreamin' of chips n' salsa

After almost a year in Pakistan, people have been asking what I miss from the US. While eating my ziti tonight, I thought, "What I really miss is the 5 'F's - fiance, family, friends, food and freedom." The first three need no explanation, but the other two, those I will go into depth on for you.

FOOD - Warning: Your mouth may start watering while reading the following

One of the things I miss most about America is the wide variety of food. Here everything is either spicy (extremely) or sweet (extremely). I do like some Pakistani foods (if not TOO mirchy) like Biryani, kebabs, samosas, and sag, but well my yearly quota for oil, ghee, and mirch was full about six months ago. Recently I've found myself craving so many different foods that are available back home -

Mmmmmm American pizza with real tomato sauce, not ketchup
Meatball grinders from Subway without the Pakistani spices

Chicken Caesar Salad
Boundless heads of lettuce in the supermarket
Cold meat......turkey...ham....normal sandwiches
a full variety of cheese

The DINER in Hadley after Night Watch

Whole grain fresh bread
EVERYTHING from Trader Joe's
Sun dried Tomato and basil Hummus with pita chips
Sesame and blue corn tortilla chips
Spicy tortilla chips
Salsa tortilla chips
Black bean dip on my tortilla chips
Mexican mix kraft cheese on my tortilla chips, dipped in salsa

Coffee flavored soy milk
Freshly brewed hazelnut coffee
Sesame seed bagels with veggie cream cheese
French vanilla coffee coolattas

Cream of broccoli soup in a bread bowl - yes from the Hatch food court
Clam chowder

Macaroni and cheese with the spiral noodles

Baby spinach leaves with blue cheese dressing

Cheese balls
Nacho cheese Doritos
Can you tell I like cheesy junk food?

I'm gonna gain 20 lbs when I come back and then I won't fit in my wedding dress....

And in Amherst -

Antonio's pizza - chicken & blue cheese, mexican, just plain cheese
Wings! - honey mustard & honey barbecue boneless
Sandwiches from the Black Sheep on a french baguette
Anything from Panera
Rao's paninis
and Greg Haughton's pad thai....and spaghetti with sausages! :)

Wow, I'm feeling really hungry right now. If I think of more I'll come with the FOOD part deux post.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Linguist, more dangerous than CIA

I had a good laugh reading the following language log post.People do seem to be more suspicious of linguists than of other foreigners. Even at my language institute there was at least one anonymous person who was worried I was selling nuclear secrets to the US government. My boss told me of this incident, which had happened while I was on a trip to the Northern Areas. My boss found it quite humorous and had promptly replied to the accuser, "What? What secrets does our institute have to hide that you are so worried?"

Sorry, I lost the ability to make these links clickable. I'll be working on that...

They might as well've given me a pizza recipe...

The time has come for me to grade my students' final projects in Syntax & Semantics. They were assigned a project where they had to do original research in either the area of Syntax (language structure) or Semantics (meaning). Out of 25 students, 10 handed in A+ projects. They did WAY more work than was necessary and I'm so proud of their final products. About 5 girls handed in decent projects. They followed the directions of the assignment and fulfilled most requirements. And well,the other 10, they might have just handed me recipes for pizza because I have no idea how what is written on the papers relates to what I assigned them to do.

There should not have been any confusion over this project.Yes, it was probably the first time any of them have been assigned original research, but we discussed the project in class more than once. I even gave them a four page list of ideas for project topics AND gave them an assignment to make a proposal (outlining their goals, hypothesis and methods) which counted for extra credit. If they had a low homework grade I would replace that grade with the grade they received on their proposal. I also gave all the girls who handed in proposals advice about how to better go about or focus their research.

Aside from that I gave everyone a detailed handout outlining how the proposal should look. I gave two outlines myself, one based in syntax and one in semantics, to show exactly HOW they were to go about making the proposal.

THEN, after half the girls didn't hand in this proposal, I set up extra office hours so that they could come to me for help a few days before the project was due. I went in to the college on a saturday (it's 30-45 minutes away by rickshaw during rush hour) only for the purpose of being available to help them on their projects. They also had my email and phone number to call me at any time (since I am usually at a diffrent college and not at Lahore College during the week). Well, the same girls came to me with questions and for clarification, the ones who already had A+ projects in the works. The other ones just took off after their class and didn't bother.

So now I've got their papers and what do I do with them? I'm not even quite sure what they were doing or trying to prove. I think they were just trying to write something down on paper. One girl did a project about how some speakers use "a" when they should use "an." This deal with phonology, which was not the topic of our course. One girl wrote that her goal was to observe subject/verb agreement. She then gave her students a quiz which had absolutely nothing to do with subject verb agreement (test looks like something I've seen online....) and told me their scores. A bunch of students just wrote down a number of "incorrect" sentences and handed me a list. Meanwhile half of the allegedly "correct" sentences are actually incorrect.

If this was the US, all of those papers would be out with the trash. This project is 20% of their final grade.

.........anyway this is what you deal with as a teacher in Pakistan

Worse part is I failed those girls last year and suggested that they need to learn English before going for a Masters in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), and they were still admitted to the second year of the program.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Don't have a vase...koi bat nahi! Use your blender


On my last day at Lahore College several of the girls got together to give me a gift. They gave me a gorgeous Sindhi work (hand embroidered) rug and a bouquet of flowers.

When I got home I realized I didn't have a vase, and after searching my whole room I decided the best option was the blender! Don't worry it's not plugged in.

Koi bat nahi means "no problem"

(if you can't see the pic on facebook you can click on the "view original post") Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sitting with Headless Buddhas


just in case you wondering if I was still having fun in Lahore after 11 months.... Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 17, 2006

Women's Rights bill submitted in Pakistan, last straw for MMA

A new bill on women's rights was submitted this thursday in the Pakistan national government. Apparently that was the last straw for the religious alliance of the MMA, who have decided to resign from the government.

The focus of the bill is to combat six specific anti-women practices. In the words of the federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Sher Afgan Khan Niazi

“One, it seeks action against those who deprive women of their inheritance or property rights. Two, it legislates against vani or the custom of giving the hand of women, mostly under-age girls, to settle murder disputes. Third, it criminalises forced marriages. Fourth, it proposes legal action against those who issue three divorces to their wives in one sitting. Fifth, it makes women’s marriage with the Quran a crime. Sixth, it puts an end to the custom of watta-satta,” he explained, adding that the bill incorporated the views of religious scholars.

More details on the current practices:

1. According to the Qur'an, women receive half the property that men do in inheritance law. In Pakistan, most women are expected to give up even their half share of property to their brothers out of "respect," but in rural society it means that basically gets NO share of the inheritance.

2. Vani is usually a child marriage to pay off a family member's debts or crimes. If my father were to murder a man, he could marry me off (at the age of 12 or 10 or maybe even 7) to pay for the crime. I would then be married off to a family that would be engaged in a continual blood feud with my family and I would likely be treated as a slave in their house.

3. Criminalizes forced marriages. This is a difficult one, because usually the girl or boy will not even stand up to the parents to say that they do not want to go through with the marriage. Most children, in rural or lower class families, do not even dream that they would have a choice when it comes to marriage. They are obliged to respect their parents wishes and marry whomever the parents choose. In some cases, young good looking girls are married off to better off old men looking for a second or third wife. The girls are pressured into the marriage because their families are poor and will take advantage of the money they will get for the bride.

4. In Islam men can legally divorce their wives by saying "I divorce you" three times. The Pak government is trying to make this illegal so that men will not divorce their wives so easily or in a fit of rage. Divorce is a big deal for women because after being divorced a women is considered as "used goods" and may not be able to marry again. As women move out and move in with the in-laws when they get married, a divorced women is kicked out of her in laws house and may or may not be accepted back at her family's house. She will be seen as someone bringing shame on the family and may even be killed by her OWN parents in order to cover up that shame.

5. In some parts of the country, particularly interior Sindh, women are married off with the Qur'an. The motivation for this does not seem to be religious fervor, but rather a desire to keep the family property and not divide it. As this is an agricultural society, when daughters are married off it is tradition to give some land to the groom's family. If the daughter is married to the Qur'an (legally!), she can not marry any man and therefore the family lands stay intact. The girl becomes a spinster.

6. Watta Satta - is the custom of bridal exchange or bartering. For example, if my parents wanted to marry me off, they would seek a family that also had a daughter of a proper age to marry my brother. Basically it means that one girl is exchanged for another girl (in the groom's family) at the time of the marriage. If you want to marry off your daugther, you need to be willing to allow your son to marry the proposed groom's sister.

Aside from these practices, which are the current topic of the women's rights law, there are the problems of karo-kari (honor killing), swara (similar to vani), pait likkhi (arranged marriage before birth or when children are very young) and many other similar practices.

The MMA opposes a lot of bills presented in the national assembly, but apparently women's rights was something that was too much to bear. They will be officially resigning from their seats in a month's time.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Indian Cow - MUST read!

One of my students gave me a copy of the following essay which was (allegedly) written by a candidate for Indian Intelligence Services. It may or may not be authentic, but I have seen essays of the same...ahem..."quality" so to say from Pakistani CSS (Civil Service Sector) candidates.

This is a true essay written by a candidate at a recent UPSC (ISAS) examination. The candidate has written an essay on


He is the cow. Cow is a success ful animal. Also he is a four footed, and because he is female, he gives milk, but will do so only when he got childs. He is same like god, sacred to Hindus and useful to man. But he has four legs togather. Two are forward and two are afterwards. His whole body can be utilized for use. More so the milk and so forth. Milks come from four taps attached to his basement. Horses don't have such attachments what can it do? Various ghees, buters, creams, curds, why and condensed milks and so forth. Also he is useful to cobbler, waterman and mankind generally. His motions is slow only because he is of lazy species. Also his other motions (cow dung) (gober) is much useful to trees, plants as well as for making flat cakes like pizzas, in hand and drying in the sun. cow is the only animal that extricates his feeding after eating. Then afterwards she chews with his teeth that are situated inside of the mouth. He has got tails also, situated in the backyard, but not like similar animals. It has hairs on the other end of the other side. This is done to frighten away the flies which alight on his cohesive body here upon he gives a hit with it. The palms of his feet are soft on to the touch. His eyes and nose are like other relatives. This is the cow ______

We are informed that the candidate passed the exam and now is an IAS somewhere in Bihar

----Note from Heather -----

Now I am sure that is as much a lesson about bad English as it is a jab at the Indians, and the same essay written by a "Pakistani" is likely circulating in India. Nevertheless, many of the mistakes made in this essay are common ones that are made by my students.

See what I have to deal with everyday! A lot of time I have to prevent myself from cracking up and keep a straight face while correcting the students...not because any mistake is funny, but particulary mixing the gender (pronouns don't have gender in Urdu) and using sayings like "at the backside" to mean "in the back."