Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Baked Penne "Lasagna"

Have you ever boiled lasagna noodles, and they just turned into a heap of hot sticky gunk? Well, that happened to me yesterday when I was making lasagna. In Pakistan, many local companies try to make pasta. They are not always successful. Kolson brand is usually good, but their lasagna noodles were a train wreck. They all fell apart, stuck together, and tasted awful. I had everything ready to go for the lasagna, but no noodles!

Thank goodness my friend Ericka left me some nice imported pasta when she moved out last week. Although lunch was delayed by 30 minutes, I think the meal came out better when I subbed the penne for the lasagna noodles!

We got a new camera this weekend, so that may explain why I'm so excited to post stories about anything I can take a picture of. We didn't have a fully functional camera for about a year!

Read more about choosing the right pasta in Pakistan here: Guide to Buying Pasta in Pakistan

A Little Remodeling

After sleeping on the floor in the office for months, we finally decided to swap the office and bedroom. Whenever there's loadshedding, our neighbors' generator comes on and it's impossible for me to sleep. For a while, the loadshedding was on one hour, off one hour, so the most sleep I could get at any one time was about 45 minutes, then wake up for an hour, take 15 min to fall asleep, sleep 45 minutes....it was awful. I felt like I was in a zombie state.

Duarte and I moved all of our bedroom furniture to the office and vice versa. The only problem was, we couldn't swap the curtains 'cause they were completely different sizes. So much for all the hard work we put into making everything match! I really didn't feel settled with so many patterns going on, so for Christmas I had new sheets and bed covers made for the bedroom. They match the curtains and our embroidered pillow cases from Kyrgystan perfectly! Only problem is that the stitching on the comforter was poor, and we had to spend an hour cutting all the loose threads off of it when it was delivered. It has a few holes where they didn't stitch properly, but thankfully those can be hidden. I'm not sure if I like it as much as the last bedsheet set, but at least everything is not a hodgepodge of different stripes and colors!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Lahore

Merry Christmas to anyone reading! Although Duarte and I did not put much effort into celebrating Christmas this year, our Pakistani friends made sure we were wished a happy holiday. Our phones were buzzing with SMS messages and calls of Christmas greetings all day, and our landlord's family invited us for an evening Christmas BBQ. Not only did they prepare tasty BBQ chicken on their grill, but they also strung up Christmas lights and had wrapped gifts for us! The funny thing was, after the food we watched a football movie that was reminiscent of watching those football games at family Christmas and Thanksgiving get togethers back in the states.

I had a successful first attempt at making gingerbread men after finding cookie cutters at Metro last week, and the Christmas cookies were a bit hit with our neighbors. I'm glad they liked them, since they had put so much effort into helping us celebrate Christmas at our home away from home! God certainly gave an extra measure of hospitality to the Pakistani people. : )

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pakistan Shows Off Its Military Might

While baking a pizza for lunch yesterday, suddenly I heard a loud noise that sounded like an aircraft missile flying through the sky. I thought, well if there is a missile or bomb coming, we are totally unprepared. Our windows aren't duct taped, and well what can we do if a missile is coming? I continued taking my pizza from the oven as the noise got louder and louder. My husband came running from the office saying, "Heather, do you think it's a bomb?" He ran up to the roof to see what was happening in the skies.

When he got up there he saw Pakistani fighter jets showing off for neighboring India. Everyone was outside watching the airplanes. We found out from a neighbor that the news was saying Pakistani jets were flying over three major cities right now, ours being one of them. They wanted to show India that they are "serious" and "prepared for war."

Now, everyone knows that the Indian army is the second largest standing army in the world. They've got 2.5 troops if you include both active and reserve members, and all are voluntary recruits. Pakistan's army, with 619,000 active personnel and 528,000 men in reserve, is less than half the size.

Pakistan has not fared well in previous wars with India, of which there have already been four since both countries gained their independence. In 1947, there was the First Kashmir War, and in 1965 this issue brought the two countries to war again. In 1971, Pakistan lost it's eastern half (East Pakistan), which subsequently was 'liberated' by India and became Bangladesh. The most recent conflict that has escalated to war was the Kargil War in 1999. This took place when then army-chief, Pervez Musharraf, took his troops across the Indian Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir and was forced back into Pakistan by Indian forces. Aside from these four conflicts, there have been other incidences of tension between the two neighbors where each side has resorted to massive troop build ups along the Indo-Pak border.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Warning: Fishing for Bank Info in the Name of Allah?

Just got this email from an alleged "Mrs. Zainab Ali Hassan" in Libya, but if you look at the information of the account it was sent to a yahoo groups account based in Japan. Beware of these scams and never give your bank account information to anyone. If you read through the message, you may find it interesting that this person can not answer phone calls, due to a supposed health problem, and assures you that all transactions can take place with the help of her trusty laptop. No need to actually talk to her. I wonder, if she'd have a Japanese accent. Notice also that the writer alternates spelling of Muslim and Moslem, and does not consistently capitlize either.

Would this type of scam qualify as blasphemy?

Assalam U Alaikum,
I am MRS ZAINAB HASSAN from Libya I am a muslim but my believe in life is that muslim or christian, we all serve the most merciful and the most benevolent and all humans are created by him so we must love one another.I am married to Late Mallam ALI HASSAN of blessed memory who is an oil explorer in Libya and Kuwait for twelve years before he died in the year 2000.We were married for twelve years without a child. He died after abrief illness that lasted for only four days.
Before his death we were both devoted Muslims.Since his death I too have been battling with both Cancer and fibroid problems. When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of $3million (Three Million U.S Dollars) with a Bank in overseas. Recently,my doctor told me that I have only six months to live due to cancer problem.
Though what disturbs me most is my stroke sickness.Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to either a Moslem organization or devoted Muslim individual that will utilize this money the way I am going to instructs herein. I want this Muslim organization or individual to use this money in all sincerity to fund mosques, orphanages, widows, and also propagating the word of ALLAH (swt) and to ensure that the society upholds the views and belief of the Holy Quran.
The Holy Quran emphasizes so much on ALLAH'S (swt) benevolence and this has encourage me to take the bold step. I took this decision because I don't have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives does not believe in ALLAH (swt) and the teaching of our prophets as they are new converts so, I don't want a situation where this money will be used in an Unholy manner and i do not want my intentions to be revealed to them.Hence the reasons for this bold decision. I know that after death I will be with ALLAH (swt) the most beneficent and the most merciful. I don't need any telephone communication in this regard because of the stroke which has effected my health, but i am able to monitore the progress of the fund with the access of my laptop as i can write and thus have little knowledge of communication, With ALLAH (swt) all things are possible.
As soon as I receive your reply I shall issue a letter of authority to the bank authorizing them that the fund has been willed to you and also send you the contact information of the bank and the country where the money was deposited and also the document to proof fund with the bank.

I want you and the Muslim community where you reside to always pray for me.
My happiness is that I lived a true devoted Muslim life worthy of emulation.
Whoever that wants to serve ALLAH (swt) must serve him in truth and in fairness.
Please always be prayerful all through your life. Any delay in your reply
will give room in sourcing for a Muslim organization or a devoted Muslim for this same purpose. Until I hear from you, my dreams will rest squarely on your shoulders.May the Almighty ALLAH (swt) continue to guide and protect you.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Almost All Furniture Sold

Almost all of my friend's furniture has sold in just 3 days. The remaining items are:

1) The dining room table and chairs
2) The gas grill & canister
3) One small dresser with 4 drawers

E-mail me ASAP if you're interested! Let's hope when we go to sell our furniture in June it will go this quickly.

My landlady purchased many of the large items, and she is very excited about the side-by-side no frost fridge. People got some good deals as the items were like new and for a fraction of their market prices.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Lost Photos Found!

Apparently my Snapfish Account was deleted after I did not order any prints from there after a certain period of time. I had hundreds of photos on there from 2003 and 2004, when I studied abroad in Morocco and traveled in Europe. I was so bummed that I lost all those pictures, as the old laptop they were on just no longer has the will to live.

Today, my friend and travel companion Jenna told me that she still had access to all my items on her Snapfish account! I was able to sign in and get all the photos. They are not the Hi-Res photos, but hey my camera back then was only like 2.0 megapixels in the first place.

Made me remember how different Moroccan traditional dress is to Pakistani dress. The top photo is me getting henna done, and the second is Moroccan flags in the southern city of Taroudant.

When will next month's bill come?

Today the maid showed up two hours early, apparently because her niece is going into labor and she needs to be at the hospital.

After I was interrupted by her unexpected coming, the "cablewala" came. He's the guy who collects the money for the cable internet. We never know when he is going to come, but he just shows up at my landlady's door on his motorbike with the bill. He expects the money right then.

This can be quite stressful, as many times I just don't keep cash in the house or I'm not home and the landlady pays for us. Today I decided to have a talk with the cablewala and ask him when he would usually come. When I asked him, he sad, "In the first days of the month, between the 1st and 10th."

So, that means if I want to pay the bill, I need to stay home during daylight and early evening hours for 10 days? I mean, I do have a schedule, a job, and other things to do besides wait for the cablewala! The best part is, if he comes later than the due date, I have to pay a late fee!

I gave the cablewala my number and asked him to please give me one day's warning so that I could at least give money to the landlady in advance, who is at home most of the time during the day.

The walas and I are not doing well this month, as our paniwala from Nestle has not come for two weeks and we've run out of water. We're supposed to get Nestle water jugs delivered every Tuesday. I try not to go out or do errands so that I don't miss him, because he could come at anytime in the afternoon.

I'm starting to see why people keep servants to just be at the house all the time and take care of all these things.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Maid's Punctuality Progress Chart

Months ago I gave up trying to use negative reinforcement on the maid. I told her that if she arrived late, I’d cut her salary. She was still late so much, that I couldn’t bear to cut her salary by the amount she’d merited, or more accurately de-merited. I would cut it by a little and she’d make such a big deal out it I just lost my resolve. For the past 9 months, she has been asking me for a raise, and my response is always that when she starts coming on time, she can have a raise. Well it’s been a year now and she just has not been able to come at a consistent time. Now I’m trying something new.

I have a chart on the wall with a calendar of December. If she comes within 10 minutes of the set time, she gets 10 extra rupees. So, if her target time is 3:00, and she comes between 2:50 and 3:10, she gets a bonus. If she does that everyday for a week, with 6 working days, she gets 60 extra rupees. If she comes on time every working day, she basically gets a 10% raise.

There’s now a big calendar on the door opening to the terrace where she does the laundry. She can’t read numbers, so I’ve color-coded it. If she comes “on time”, she gets a +10 in green. If she comes late, she gets a big red “X.” At the end of the month I’ll total up her bonus rupees and add them to her salary.

When I explained this to her she was looking at me as if I was from the moon. She seemed to think it was quite funny that she would have a little punctuality progress chart in our house, but she’s happy that she’s already earned 30 extra rupees by being on time three days this week. Let’s see if she continues or just gives up! I think if she manages to actually come on time all the days in a month, I’ll add a bonus on top of the bonus, although I may be too shocked to believe it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Ghostlike Photos from Summer 2008

I've finally gotten around to editing some photos from my summer LIP class at Ali Institute. 
From Summer 2008 at AIE

From Summer 2008 at AIE

It was a great group that I taught English to for three weeks this summer. The class generally preferred to be gender segregated, at the end of the course I got two separate cards, one from "the ladies" and one from "the guys." We had a wonderful going away party and they treated me to a lovely gift as well.

Monday, November 24, 2008

International Schools Search

As many of you know, I'm currently looking for a new locale for the 2009/2010 academic year. I'm primarily looking for jobs as an English or ESL teacher in international schools.

Two months into my search, I now have notebooks full of information about schools, cities, cost of living, etc. This is what I've found to be essential information:

1) The school's profile on Search Associates, a company that brings together schools and candidates on the international education scene
2) Any reviews of the school on International Schools Review, looking for well-written balanced reviews and not just rants about this and that director the poster didn't get on with
3) The school's own website
4) Lonely Planet information about the city and country
5) Conversations in expatriate forums and teacher forums, such as Dave's ESL Cafe & Expat Exchange
6) Blogs from other expatriates living or teaching in the locality

I write down the name of the school and thoroughly go through steps 1 and 2. I highlight good information in green, such as "school has 90% North American staff" and bad information in red "school offers 3 month contracts." Then I look at the red and the green and decide if the school is

1) a green light - go ahead and check it out!
2) a yellow light - looks good, but there are some questions to ask and things to look out for
3) a red light - avoid this school/it's not a good fit for me

If the school is a green light then I go ahead and look up all the other relevant information.

So, armed with my trusty red, green and yellow highlighters, I've got some research to do. : )

To read more about how to become an international teacher, see here:

How to Start a Career as an International Teacher

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Searching for Bombs, Chemical Weapons or What?

After becoming extremely frustrated last week when my mail was searched, after I left the premises of the courier's office, I wrote an article about how to mail packages in Pakistan. I could not believe that the man did not search the package in front of me, but waited until I left and then searched it. He called me when he found something he thought was questionable in the package, and after reaching home I had to go all the back to the office. I guess the Pakistani government gives mail services permission to search for bombs, chemical warfare or whatnot in any package being sent locally or internationally. Here's all the ins and out of sending mail from Pakistan:

Processes such as using the post office, which are fairly straightforward in your home country, are not necessarily so in countries where bureaucracy pervades the way of life. Save yourself the headaches and time by knowing what to expect before you try to mail a letter or package from Pakistan.

In most major cities in Pakistan there are four options available. From the cheapest to the most expensive, they are the Pakistan Post, OCS, TCS, and Fed Ex. Following are details about sending letters and packages from each of these options.

Pakistan Post

The Pakistan Post, or the government postal service, will be your most affordable option, although it may not be as reliable as other services. While the other services promise 4-5 business day delivery of international mail, letters or packages sent by the Pakistan post can take 2-4 weeks. One letter I sent to Canada even took longer than one month through the Pakistan Post. For low cost, it is a great option, but not for speed.

On the positive side, domestic rates are dirt cheap with a 20 gram envelope costing only 4 rupees (about 5 cents). A heavier envelope up to 2000 grams will not be more than 50 rupees (61 cents). You can send a post card internationally for 26 rupees (30 cents) or a 20 gram letter for 33 rupees (40 cents). A 2000 gram package will cost about 1120 rupees ($13). I've found that most of my letters can be sent internationally for 80 rupees, or about $1. Prices have recently gone up, but as you'll see these rates are much cheaper than those of the competitors.

Continue Reading Here

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Descent into Chaos - Losing the War on Terror

I went out today to pick up a 35 rupee (44 cent) notebook and a couple of pens at the bookstore, but I must confess my bibliomania kicked in and I left with a 1500 rupee bill instead of a 150 rupee bill. Journalist Ahmed Rashid's latest book, Descent into Chaos, was staring right at me on the new arrivals shelf. There was only one copy, and I had to have it.

It fits right into what I've been reading lately, Enemy Aliens:Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism by David Cole, Rageh Omaar's The Real Story of the Battle for Iraq, and The Age of Kali by Willian Dalrymple.

Dalyrmple's collection of essays on travels in India and Pakistan may seem the odd one out in this group, but as the underlying theme of The Age of Kali is the Hindu belief that we are currently in "an epoch of strife, corruption, darkness, and disintegration." There are four great epochs in Hindu cosmology, based on four throws of dice in the traditional Indian dice game. Hindus believe that the first epoch of the four is the best, or the Age of Perfection, and that each age gets progressively worse until we reach the Age of Kali. According to the Vishnu Purana from the seventh century:

"The kings of Kali Yug will be addicted to corruption and will seize the property of their subjects, but will, for the most part be of limited power, rising and falling rapidly. Then property and wealth alone will confer rank; falsehood will be the only means of success in litigation. Corruption will be the universal means of subsistence. At the end, unable to support their avaricious kings, the people of the Kali Age will take refuge in the chasms between mountains, they will ragged garments, and they will have too many children. Thus in the Kali Age shall strife and decay constantly proceed, until the human race approaches annilihation."

After the completion of the Kali Age, a new age will begin, starting from the Age of Perfection again. I truly recommend Dalrymple's accounts for anyone who wants to enjoy a good read and feel your spine tingle as you about the daily blood sacrifices given to appease the goddess Kali.

I'm sure I'll enjoy Descent into Chaos, although it may not make a movie script as well as Charlie Wilson's War did. Everything I'm reading seems to lend support to the Hindu belief that we are, indeed, in the last age.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Want to Eat Some Paper Chicken?

It seems there is a new restaurant on the scene in Y Block Defence which doubles as both a pizza place and a Chinese restaurant. As opposed to the G/H block market, where you could eat in a different restaurant each day of the month, Y block does not have as much to offer. Phase III and IV dwellers can get a bit sick of the handful of restaurants in the neighborhood, so Twins Pizza & China Town Fast Food may just stand a chance to become popular.

Pizza Menu

Twins Pizza boasts no less than 27 different types of pizzas. Prices range from 150 to 250 rupees for a small 7" pizza to 440 to 720 for a family size 16" pizza. For example, if you wanted to try the "Two in One Pizza," a 7" would cost 150 rupees ($1.80), a 10" would cost 250 rupees ($3), a large 13" would cost 380 rupees ($4.67), and a family size 16" pizza would set you back 440 rupees ($5.40).

There are several pizza options lifted straight from the Pizza Hut menu including, Chicken Tikka, Chicken Fajita, Euro Hot, Cheese Lovers, Margherita, Chicken Supreme, and Veggie Lovers. Several more interesting options include the Chicken Maceranic which is apparently topped with roast chicken, "macereni," onion and sweet corn. Now if you were a golfer, what would you like on your pizza? The Golfer Pizza includes "beef mushroom," onion, bell peppers and "olive cheese." It seems the typist was having trouble with not only spelling, but the use of the comma as well.

Continue reading here to find out about the Chinese menu and the "Paper Chicken"

Obama's Victory Celebrated in Pakistan

"Congratulations! Your new president is Obama! You know, I supported Obama. He is a great man," claimed my Pakistani landlady when I went downstairs to visit yesterday. Despite media predictions that Pakistanis would respond negatively to an Obama victory, the mood here in Lahore is not only positive but celebratory. People are smiling and congratulating me on my new president every time we meet.

It was hard to control my Creative Writing class a few days after the election, as everyone wanted to talk about Obama's win. "We think he will be a good president. His mother has visited Pakistan and he will deal better with Muslim countries," one woman said. Many people have been boasting that Obama's mother has been in both Karachi and Gujranwala. Pakistanis feel very involved in the US election; it's as if it was their election as well. People here are saying that if an African American can make his way to the White House, any American can. Pakistanis believe that Obama will bring positive change to America's foreign policy.

This is a huge change for a country that has one of the lowest favorability ratings of Americans according to the PEW Research Group. In 2007, only 15% of Pakistanis had a favorable view of the United States, while 68% had an unfavorable view. This is one of the highest negative ratings in the world, with only Palestinians and Turks having a lower view of the United States. Can Barack Obama as president help to turn back the tide of anti-Americanism in Pakistan and the Middle East?

Continue Reading Article here:

Obama's Victory Celebrated in Pakistan

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pakistani Views on President Elect Barack Obama

Calling all Pakistanis, whether in Pakistan or abroad, to take a quick survey here.


Shouldn't take more than 5 minutes. Let me know if you agree with the media's assessment that Obama will be unwelcome in Pakistan, or not.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yes, Zenith Does Make Qurbani Easy

Here is the brochure to prove that Zenith offers hassle free Eid packages for this year.

See the previous post for more information.

Monday, October 27, 2008

An Easier Way to Celebrate Eid al Azha in Lahore

Every year Muslims commemorate Abraham's obedience to God, and his willingness to sacrifice his own son, by offering an animal sacrifice on Eid al-Adha. There are two celebrations whose basis come from the Quran, that are celebrated by tenants of the Islamic faith all over the world. The dates for both are determined by the lunar calendar. In 2008, Eid al-Adha is expected to fall on December 8th. Eid al-Adha is popularly known as "the big Eid." In Arabic this translates to "Eid al-Kabir," and in Urdu it is commonly called "Bari Eid."

The most important event that takes place during this holiday is the sacrifice of an animal. Each family will purchase a goat, sheep, cow, bull or camel for this purpose. After the animal is slaughtered, the meat is divided between family members and given out to the poor. In orthodox Islam, the sacrifice is not meant to have an atoning quality, such as in the Judaic sacrificial system, but is meant to serve as a reminder of the prophet Abraham's unwavering faith and obedience.

This year in Lahore, families can celebrate Eid al-Adha without transforming their garages into butcheries. Zenith, a store that specializes in fresh meat, is offering all inclusive qurbani (sacrifice) packages. How does Zenith make it easier?

Continue Reading Here

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What to Wear to Pakistani Wedding

For a foreigner, figuring out what to wear to a Pakistan wedding can either be a great delight or a big headache. The first time I went to a wedding in Lahore, I wore the wrong kind of clothes on each and every function! These tips should help you avoid making the same faux pas. Many of the same traditions take place in India, particularly in Muslim weddings. The way people dress in Bollywood films is a pretty good representation of what the upper class would wear to weddings in Pakistan.

The Basics

Pakistani weddings generally take place over three to four days. You have three major functions: mehndi, barat, and walima. These may be preceded by a more intimate function called the mayun, to which only close friends and relatives are invited. You may also attend a mungni, engagement party, or a dolki, dance party, well in advance of the main functions.

While in the West it is only the bride who really gets decked out for her wedding, in Pakistan everyone dresses to impress. Ladies attending a wedding may get their hair done, make-u applied, hands painted and body waxed at the beauty parlor on the day of the event. The closer you are to the family, the more expensive clothing you should wear. Many times immediate family members get new sets of jewelry custom made for each day of the wedding. Most people prefer to wear new sets of clothes for each function as well. You are expected to spend more on making yourself look good than on giving a present to the bride and groom. It is important that the closer you are to the bride or groom, the more expensive and extravagant your clothing should be. If you do not dress appropriately, it will be seen as an insult to the family. You may get away with it if you're a foreigner, but you will certainly feel out of place if you are not dressed to the hilt.

Ladies in Pakistan match everything, so when shopping for wedding clothes you must make sure to match a purse, shoes, bangles and jewelry to your suit. Taking a swatch of the fabric with you while shopping can help with matching.

Read more and see photos here

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pastel Trio

When we went on our trip to Pakistan's Northern Areas in early September, the guys all decided to wear shalwar kameez. They did not, however, discuss what colors they were going to wear. The fact that they ended up in cotton candy colors is hilarious.

This photo was taken when we were held up by a landslide blocking the road. It took 24 hours just to get from Rawalpindi to Gilgit, when it normally takes about 14 to 16 hours. Although the guys tried to blend in, we still looked pretty "ghora." (foreign)

The Story of the Beggars

I've recently started giving out little packets to beggars I meet in the street, at traffic lights, or knocking on my door. So far, I've had some interesting reactions. Some have been encouraging, others not so much. Here's the latest:

Newspaper Boy

A young boy selling newspapers on Walton Road seemed quite excited to get a toothbrush, soap and toothpaste. His stone faced expression turned into a huge smile when he accepted the bag.

Whistle Man

After I gave the bag to the newspaper boy, a man started frantically blowing a whistle and staring at our car. My friend Ericka said, "I think he wants one too," so down went the window and I beckoned him over. He asked if there was food inside, and at this point I didn't have the wheat so there wasn't. Nevertheless, he seemed happy and continued blowing his whistle with a smile and salute as we drove off.

Turbaned Old Man

I spotted a crippled old man in a white turban in Defence market and called him over to my window. His eyes lit up when I gave him the bag, and as I smiled, I realized my folly in giving a toothless old man a toothbrush! Although he probably didn't have much use for the toothbrush, he hobbled off with a gleam in his eyes.

Street Salesman

I offered a bag of wheat to a street salesman who had small cleaning cloths on offer. He wasn't interested and scowled at me as if I had wasted his precious stop light time. I decided not to offer things to men who were already holding a lot of stuff.

Whining Woman

There is an old woman who sometimes sits outside of Pace in Y Block, DHA. She's always moaning and complaining about food, and she'll follow you to your car and press her face against the window until you drive off. She constanly invokes Allah and tries to look as pathetic as possible. I gave her some wheat, and she kept going on and on about food. I said, "Dekho, yih khana hai!" (Look this is food!) even though I'd already told her it was wheat and she had seen it. It seemed that she actually did not want food, but wanted money. A few others have actually refused to take wheat and have asked for money instead.

Sticker Boy

Usually I run and hide in my car before the little boys selling stickers can get to me. This time I happily gave him a hygiene kit and some wheat. I don't think he'd ever seen a toothbrush, so I had to explain how to use and how he shouldn't swallow the toothpaste. He grinned from ear to ear and asked me, "Sticker lena?" (Take a sticker?) I declined, say bye and was on my way with more wheat packs ready in the back seat.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lost in Translation

Yesterday the maid was really harping on me for a raise. As I've said in previous posts, she is already overpaid compared to the domestic help of anyone else I know. She kept telling me to please ask "bhai jan" about the raise. Bhai jan means something like "dear brother" and that's how she refers to my husband Duarte. I told her she had a good salary and we weren't going to give a raise. Then I sent her off with some wheat flour that I'd picked up to distribute to the poor.

Now today I watched her interact with Duarte. He said he thought she might have asked him about a raise, but he doesn't understand Urdu save a few words like tea, water, hot, cold, and things like that. He certainly can not discuss salaries and raises in Urdu. Well, what he tends to do when he doesn't understand is to say "thik hai," which means "ok." So here the maid was asking for a raise, and he was saying ok! No wonder she won't let me have any peace about it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ramadan in Lahore: Fasting, Feasting, or Both?

This is a result of a team effort by three Americans who are crazy enough to call Lahore their primary place of residence.

Props to:

Coty Coleman:The Photographer

Matt Dickey: The Driver

Heather Carreiro: The Visionary/Producer

One of the most amusing things to outsiders about the month of Ramadan is that it is a much, if not more, a month of feasting than it is of fasting. Shops and schools close early. People meet up with friends and family nightly to enjoy breaking the fast together. Many workers and drivers are grumpy during daylight hours because they've stayed up most of the night eating. Some people flip-flop their entire schedules around, eating during the night and sleeping during the day. The boldest proof of this lifestyle can be found on the "All You Can Eat" billboards for Lahore's most exclusive restaurants. Here is a sample of three photos, click on the album link to see the whole project.

From Ramadan in Lahore: Fasting, Feasting or Both?

From Ramadan in Lahore: Fasting, Feasting or Both?

From Ramadan in Lahore: Fasting, Feasting or Both?

Adventure in the Bazaar

Today I had a wonderful experience that reminded me why I love Pakistan.

I've decided to not let beggars come away from my house empty handed anymore, and so recently I've been devising a plan of what to give out when they knock on my door or car windows. I gave out a few 'personal hygiene' bags including a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a bar of soap. People were very grateful, but always asked if there was food in the pack. Why bother with brushing teeth when they don't have anything to eat?

Now Pakistani readers will probably think this is funny, but I just did not know how to buy wheat flour. We don't use it for cooking and the only ones I've seen at the super market are big 10KG bags. I'd go broke if I started giving those out to everyone, or I'd made a huge mess in my living room trying to make smaller packs out of the one big one. Once my husband had gone with our friend's cook and just gotten 1/2 kg of wheat flour in a small plastic bag. That's what I wanted, but I wanted a lot of little bags. Where should I get it?

I had to go to the Ali Institute today to pick something up, and I knew there were some small markets over there near Gulab Devi Hospital. I drove over there and stopped my car. The first shop keeper I asked did not sell wheat, but he told me to go all the way to the end of the road and I'd find a bazaar. I went to the end of the road and parked again. There were tons of little shops and workshops, and chickens and goats were running free everywhere. I didn't think the people were used to seeing foreigners, so I covered my head and off I went. I stopped in a small shop and a chubby bubbly man told me that he did not sell wheat, but that I could find it further into the bazaar. He came out of his shop and gave me wonderful directions, possibly some of the most detailed and accurate directions I've ever gotten in Pakistan.

I folled his directions, and sure enough I found another smiling chubby shopkeeper who was selling wheat. He told me that wheat was going for 24 rupees/kg which is about 30 cents. At first he was a bit confused at why I wanted 10 kg, but in twenty seperate 1/2 kg packs. After I explained that I wanted to give it out to people, he understood and got very excited about the idea. He proudly showed me all the other things on offer in his store, lentils, corn flour, rice, soaps, and all sorts of chips and food items. It took a while to make the twenty packs, so we had a nice chat. We talked about the current economic crisis and how the poor people really only want food nowadays.

Sweating in the sun, surrounded by the smell of livestock and talking to the smiling shopkeeper, I felt at peace. Even though I was in a poor area where many foreigners do not go, I was greeted warmly and helped by everyone I met. I parted with the shopkeeper assuring him that when I ran out of wheat, I'd be back to buy some more.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What's Up with the Electricity?

Yikes, there's something going on with electricity in Lahore today. I woke up sweating with the power went from 4-5am, then it was only on for an hour and went off again from 6-7:22am. The rest of the day has been like this:

7:22 - 8:00 POWER
8:00-9:00 NO POWER
9:00 - 10:00 POWER
10:00 - 11:00 NO POWER
11:00-12:00 POWER
12:00-1:00 NO POWER
1:00-3:00 POWER (Wow for two whole hours!)
3:00 - 4:00 NO POWER
4:00-5:00 POWER
5:00-6:00 NO POWER
6:00 POWER....

Is it going go on and off every other hour? Has Pakistan just run out of money for energy? There was barely any loadshedding during Ramadan, so this seems like very poor planning.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

US Foreign Policy Recommendations for Iran

One of the most challenging assignments I took part in during my university days was to come up with a comprehensive U.S. foreign policy towards Iran. I thoroughly enjoyed Professor David Mednicoff's course on U.S. - Middle East relations during the Spring 2005 Semester. When our group had to choose a country for our foreign policy project, we put Iran at the top of the list. According to our wishes, we were assigned Iran and delved into the background research we needed to shape our policy. At the end the course, we had to present our policy to the group. In order to save our classmates the boredom of listening to us rattle off facts and recommendations, we decided to put a little creative "spin" on the presentation. We presented our policy in the form of a breaking news interview on "The O'Reilly Factor." Here's our script if you want to learn more about our policy recommendations for Iran, or if you want to just have a good laugh! Some facts are slightly outdated as this presentation was given in May 2005.

Cast of Characters:

Sana Hussain: herself & women's rights activist Gugush Mazjoubi
Harlan Knipes: Bill O' Reilly
Aaron : The intellectual Arash Reza Nekshabani
Heather Carreiro: Senator Bobbie Joe Baker (D-Texas)

All characters, aside from Bill O'Reilly, are completely made up and bear absolutely no resemblance to anyone we've heard of!

Sana: Good Evening, this is Sana Hussain live in Tehran where we have some breaking news. There has been a radical shift in U.S. policy towards Iran. After 26 years of our relationship with Iran being in an official state of emergency, both the U.S. and Iran have taken steps to normalize relations. In the interest of increasing both regional and global security, as well as universal human rights and ensuring open trade between the two countries, the U.S. has agreed to attend a U.N. summit meeting in Geneva in order to address the issues that have for so long caused animosity between the two countries. The summit, which will focus on improving American-Iranian relations as well as regional security, will be attended by world leaders including the EU-3, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and King Fahad of Saudi Arabia. More about this breaking news on the no spin zone. Here's your host Bill O'Reilly and I'm Sana Hussain, live in Tehran.

Harlan: Tonight we have a serious show where we will be addressing the new policy put forth by the administration to normalize relations with Iran. Since 1979, U.S. policy towards Iran has been based on containment and isolation. In order to curb the spread of the Iranian revolution, stop state sponsorship of terrorism, and prevent the development of nuclear weapons, Washington has focused on keeping Iran isolated both economically and politically. The U.S. government has been hoping that the ILSA sanctions will lead to the downfall of the radical theocratic regime in Tehran. Aside from this, the Iran Democracy Act, drafted for the promotion of democratic change in Iran, has provided $57 million to opposition movements within the country. Iran has been considered a rogue state and a member of the "Axis of Evil," but this new policy seeks to eliminate such language in a move towards normal diplomatic relations and political engagement.

Personally, I am taken aback by the news of this new policy, but here with me tonight is Arash Reza Nekshabani president of the Iranian-American Alliance for Reform, Senator Bobbie Joe Baker of Texas who helped push the bill through Congress, and Gugush Mazjoubi of the Iranian Women's Rights Watch. Both the Iranian-American Alliance for Reform and Iranian Women's Rights Watch were involved in drafting the engagement policy.

So my first question for you, Senator Baker, is that after so many years of non-engagement, what are the issues that have played a role in determining this change in policy? Why is Iran important to us?

Continue Reading:
US Foreign Policy Recommendations for Iran

The Top 10 Destinations on the US Travel Advisory List

The US Travel Advisory List is not a likely source of travel inspiration for most people, but for the more audacious traveler it certainly can be. At the time of writing, twenty-eight countries made the cut for a full-scale travel warning and not just a travel alert. Travel warnings are deemed appropriate for countries that are seen as long-standing "no-go" zones, while travel alerts are generally only issued for a limited time. A travel alert may be issued to warn travelers of a disease outbreak or an approaching hurricane, but a travel warning may even mean that US diplomatic relations in that country have been shut down due to security risks.

There are some of you out there, and you know who you are, who get more excited about the possibility of meeting a Taliban member or witnessing a historic coup, than spending a week at a five-star beachfront hotel. You probably swung from trees pretending you were Indiana Jones as a kid, and your favorite Halloween outfit was to dress up as James Bond. If that's you, you'll be sure that at least one of these top ten destinations will make their way onto your next travel itinerary.

10) Kenya

Take a ride on the wild side in East Africa. Tourism has been Kenya's number one source of foreign exchange since 1997. Although internal security significantly deteriorated after the December 2007 election, most people would never guess that Kenya makes the US Travel Advisory List. Combine rugged mountains, colorful coral reefs, unrivalled wildlife parks, ancient ruins, and the majestic lakes of the Rift valley and you get the nature's playground that can only be this East African country. Camp overnight surrounded by zebras and graceful gazelles in Hell's Gate National Park for an unforgettable experience, or jump across the border into Tanzania for a quick jaunt up Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak.

Read the rest of the Top 10 here:
The Top 10 Destinations on the US Travel Advisory List

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Travel Warnings from the US Government: Inspiration for Intrepid Travelers

Those you adventurous travelers out there must be familiar with the US Travel Warning List. I was excited to see that my current locale has topped the list once again!

Following Text from:

Current Travel Warnings

Travel Warnings are issued to describe long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government's ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff. The countries listed below meet those criteria.

Pakistan 10/01/2008
Israel, the West Bank and Gaza 09/26/2008
Yemen 09/17/2008
Bolivia 09/15/2008
Iran 09/15/2008
Georgia 09/10/2008
Lebanon 09/10/2008
Afghanistan 09/10/2008
Algeria 08/22/2008
Kenya 08/22/2008
Colombia 08/07/2008
Congo, Democratic Republic of the 07/23/2008
Saudi Arabia 07/09/2008
Uzbekistan 07/03/2008
Chad 06/23/2008
Sri Lanka 06/13/2008
Iraq 06/13/2008
Eritrea 06/11/2008
Cote d'Ivoire 06/09/2008
Somalia 05/20/2008
Nepal 05/07/2008
Haiti 04/30/2008
Burundi 04/22/2008
Syria 04/15/2008
Central African Republic 03/25/2008
Sudan 03/14/2008
Philippines 02/13/2008
Nigeria 10/30/2007

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why Our Maid Deserves an Oscar

Our maid is surely more deserving of an Oscar or a Grammy than many of the latest nominees.

Intense Drama

Her life has more drama than a mini series. I don't know many people who can have a death or injury in the family on a weekly basis. Her brother-in-law has fallen off a ladder and seriously injured himself. Her sister had a complicated pregnancy. The next week somebody falls off the roof and breaks his leg. The following week a child goes missing and she allegedly searches several villages for him. Small babies and elderly people seem to go at the drop of a hat. She spends more time in the hospital and taking care of sick children than anyone I know. Her perfectly healthy husband doesn't work but has the luxury of a mobile phone.

Continue Reading

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Take on the Bombing and Security in Pakistan

From an American expatriate living in Lahore, Pakistan

Saturday Pakistan's capital city was rocked by one of the deadliest suicide attacks in its history. At least 43 people are confirmed dead and 250 injured after a large blast at the Marriott Hotel. The blast left a 20-foot crater and a fiery inferno that blazed for six hours.

Internal Security in Pakistan

Unfortunately, this attack and its aftermath do not come as a surprise. Having lived in Pakistan for over two years now, I have come to expect this type of news. Most Pakistanis are desensitized to the terror attacks that plague their country. When an attack happens, news tends to spread rapidly via SMS and word of mouth. Then within 24 hours people are back to business as usual. In the case of this blast, my husband and I did not even find out about it until Sunday morning when we checked the news headlines. None of our many friends in Lahore thought it newsworthy enough to send us a message or let us know about it. In the past, we've received multiple text messages about news like Benazir Bhutto's assassination. People are just not shocked by bomb blasts anymore. In a way, they are expected and accepted as part of the daily life of this country. That doesn't mean people like them or agree with the bombers, but the general public does not seem to see any course of action to take in response to these attacks.

Read more here

Deadly Suicide Attack at Marriott Hotel

At least 43 people are confirmed dead and 250 injured in one of Pakistan's deadliest suicide attacks yet. Many of those wounded are in critical condition in the capital after a large blast at the Marriott Hotel.

Bombers ensured a large loss of life by detonating explosives during the evening iftar meal. As it is currently the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, many Pakistanis are fasting during daylight hours. Each evening at sundown they gather together to break the fast. Five star hotels and elite clubs are booked solid during this month for iftar functions, and you can assume that places like the Marriott Hotel are busy at sundown.

Read entire article here

Friday, September 19, 2008

Life Goes on in Lahore

Here's us in Lahore, safe and sound despite whatever is coming across in the news nowadays. Really, this issue between the U.S. troops and the Pakistani troops at the border is not having much of any effect outside of the affected areas.

We're doing well. Duarte is busy teaching physics and starting a boys' soccer league for some high schools in the city. I'm having a blast designing ESL curriculum and setting up a post-graduate English Language Teaching course for Ali Institute. I've also started pursuing writing as a part time job and I'm psyched because three of my articles sold this week on Constant Content! It's nice to have some income coming in with dollar signs since the rupee is at about 25% inflation after just a few months. Electricity prices have been raised by 110%, and food prices are going higher every week. Our monthly budget for food used to be about 9,000 rupees; now it is 12,000. When you see Pakistan on the news, remember the biggest problem most people are facing over here is personal financial crisis.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tips of Women Travelers in Pakistan Part 2

Dress Conservatively

Considering Pakistan's news image as a Taliban stronghold, you may be shocked to see young women wearing hip huggers and designer tank tops in Pakistan's cities. Don't be. Pakistani women run the whole gamut when it comes to fashion do's and don'ts. You will, however, notice that western clothing on women is regulated to posh areas of major cities and exclusive parties for the in-crowd. In most the country, you should expect to dress conservatively.

This means that your legs should be covered, all the way to the ankle. Desis are usually fascinated by white skin, so avoid the stares by covering up. Women usually wear long shirts called kameez or shorter shirts called kurtis. Both adequately cover a woman's behind. The shorter the shirt, the less conservative it is. Kurtis are really only appropriate in upper class areas. Along with the long shirt, women wear loose pants called shalwar. These pants resemble something from "I Dream of Genie." Make sure you wear your shirt long enough to cover the pleats. Many tourists in India wear shalwar pants with short shirts. This is the equivalent of showing your underwear to everyone! Avoid doing this at all costs in Pakistan.

Most women, again outside of posh areas, don't leave home without a dupatta, or long scarf. This scarf can be a bit difficult to manage at first, as you may keep dragging it on the ground or getting it stuck in car doors, but it is worth it. The main purpose of the scarf is to cover your breasts and your neckline. Some more brazen women wear it merely for fashion, but most wear it for the sake of modesty.

So, if you want to avoid being propositioned on the street, make sure you're showing as little skin as possible, wearing loose clothing, and that your behind and chest are covered. You can accomplish this by wearing western clothes and draping a large scarf or shawl around you.

Read More Tips Here

Friday, September 05, 2008

Tips for Women Travelers in Pakistan - Part 1

Traveling as a woman in Pakistan is not always easy, but it can be extremely rewarding. As a woman, you'll have access to parts of Pakistani society that most men will never have access to. If you're planning to travel to Pakistan, keep these tips in mind as you travel and plan your journey.

Look out for "Ladies Only" Signs

Segregation of the sexes is much more prominent in Pakistan than in neighboring India. If you're coming straight over the Wagha border, you may find the gender separation a relief after battling unruly mixed crowds in any major Indian city. In Pakistan, you can expect ladies only seats on the bus and ladies lines at ticket counters. This is especially helpful as people usually push and shove while trying to get the counter. The ladies may be more vicious than the men sometimes, especially when it comes to buffet dinners, but generally standing with ladies is more comfortable. At some places, like the post office, the majority of the customers are men. This is great for women, as we can walk right up to the front of the ladies line while twenty men are standing in the queue.

Read entire article here

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Steer Clear of the Mehran

Yesterday I was stuck in traffic behind this Mehran out for Sunday drive with no destination.

Here's a poem inspired by my experiences with Mehran cars in Pakistan:

Steer Clear of the Mehran

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Thousand Hot Pokers, or Ten Minutes Late?

My friend Frances posted a link about how she thought this personality test employed spies as her results were so accurate. I wondered, if they did have spies, were they active in Pakistan? So I clicked on the following link and took the normal looking personality test:


This is an excerpt from my description....

"About that "Disciplined" bubble... If someone called you "anal" you would correct them and say, "You mean anal retentive, not to be confused with anal expulsive, which Freud also wrote about." But see, you're like that. You are both meticulous and thorough with everything that you do. If there was ever a person who ironed their jeans or kept a color-coded closet, it would be you. Life as a perfectionist is not so bad. Despite the teasing that you get from your not-as-perfect friends and family, you always know where that CD you're looking for is because of your alphabetized collection. And, you can have a holier-than-thou attitude towards others because you know that you got it going on. People can always depend on you because you would rather be poked by a thousand hot-pointed needles then have someone think that you're a slacker. You are so punctual that you even show up on time for your root canal and wonder in frustration why it is that everyone always seems to be late, including your dentist. Never fear, with your personality, you will always have a career in professions that require extreme discipline, such as Buddhist monk, drill sergeant, or high-wire act."

Ahem....so anyone who knows me well can see that they have hit the nail on the head! I do have my jeans ironed and although my closet is not color coded, it is organized by type of material. Before marriage my CDs and books were all alphabatized, but well when two become one it doesn't always stay that way. And yes, I would of course arrive early for a root canal and wonder why the dentist was late. This is ALL totally me. I'll pass on the Buddhist monk thing but the high-wire act sounds more like it. Wonder how those spies know what it looks like inside my closet.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pakistani Rupee Falls Lower

Yikes! I read on BBC that the rupee is currently at 76.9 to a dollar. Last year it was about 60 rupees to a dollar.

That means, if you make 60,000 rupees, your equivalent in dollars is drastically different from last year.

Last year: 60,000 PKR = $1000
Current: 60,0000 PKR = $779
Difference: $221

Man, that's a pay cut without even being punished!

If you make around 30,000 PKR, that means

Last year: 30,000 PKR = $500
Current: 30,000 PKR = $389
Difference: $111

We need to find a way to earn in dollars and spend in rupees, instead of vice versa.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Are you proud to be a fundamentalist?

I've created a short survey to look at how Pakistanis think about God, religion and life in general.

Take the Online Survey

Notice how the mosque's graffiti says, "Proud to be an Islamic Fundamentalist." This photo was taken along the Karakoram Highway in North West Frontier Province.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Car Saga Continues

We received some bad news today regarding our car's theft in June. In order to clear the court case and be able to drive the car, we had to have someone put a $5000 deposit in the court's bank account. As I suspected, the court has their ways to prevent you from retrieving that money. The bond that was signed said that the money would be given back after one month's time. Well we waited two months and on Saturday started trying to get it back.

Our landlord's son spent 10 hours on Saturday and 8 more hours on Monday going back and forth between the court and the police station. It takes about an hour and a half to drive between them. When it all came down to it today, the court refused to give the $5000 back. They said that it was a "known" rule that we were not allowed to transfer the ownership of the car for two entire years after it was stolen and recovered. We did transfer the name from our friend's name to our landlord's name, as our friend plans to immigrate to another country and was not available to handle the court case. This "known rule" about not selling the car or transferring ownership was not written on the surety bond. It was told to us AFTER we tried to get the money back.

Now we have something quite bad, a letter which tells us that the penalty for transferring the car's registered owner is $5000. Yes, five thousand dollars as a penalty! Then it also says that we can not sell the car or transfer the ownership for two years. If we do, they can take legal action against my landlord.

This is how I feel right now: Pakistan's justice system is sold out.

The whole system is a harlot, a brazen prostitute.
She laughs in the face of justice,
a slave to her masters desires.

You step gingerly into her chambers,
where she lounges on exquisite velvet cushions.
Her long, black hair dances flirtatiously over her shoulders.
As you take your seat,
she knows why you have come.

"Justice? Ha! Law?"
she reclines and bats her furled eyelashes.

Read the entire poem here

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pakistani Hospitality at its Best

Tonight at 10:00pm, my doorbell rang. "Strange hour for folks to be visiting," I thought. Especially considering I go to sleep around 9:30 or 10:00.

I looked downstairs into the pitch black to see the forms of two men. One was carrying a big tray wrapped in a towel. I figured it would be safe to talk to them from behind my locked metal gate and see what they wanted. Usually beggars don't come bearing gifts.

I threw on my dupatta and grabbed by mobile in case I needed to call someone. I said, "Kaun hai?" "Aap log kia chahiye?" (Who are you? What do you want?) They spoke quickly and said someting about "bajji" who lives across the street. Without bajji being in sight I was apprehensive to open the gate. Sure enough, after about 60 seconds bajji made her way across the street and I opened the gate.

She introduced herself with a big smile and said she had sent some food for me. As I peered under the towel I saw two humungous plates of rice! One was biryani, a salty dish, and one was sweet rice that they usually eat for dessert. I said, "Oh! Yih pure hafte ka khana hai!" (Oh! This is a whole week's worth of food!") She smiled and said, "Aram se khaye." That translates to something like eat it and relax/you don't have to eat it quickly. We had some small talk and exchanged a hearty handshake.

I tasted a morsel of the chicken, and mmm it was delicious. Not too spicy. Duarte, there will probably be some left in the freezer when you arrive.

I'm looking forward to get to know the new neighbors! I'll have to make sure to visit them on an empty stomach.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gender Bias in Pakistan

The uproar created by the hard-line Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) party, in response to a bill regarding women's rights, clearly highlights the fact that gender bias is alive and well in Pakistan. The bill, introduced in November 2006, sought to give greater inheritance rights to women, create a path for legal action against spurious divorces, and to criminalize widespread cultural practices that discriminate against women. Some of the current practices that the MMA wishes to uphold include the following.

1.Inheritance Laws

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. Many people will argue that getting a half-share of property is better than getting no share of property, which may have been the common practice regarding women in pre-Islamic times.

Read full article here

The Role of Silence in Corporate Prayer

For the past several years I have been an active member of different Christian sub-cultures in New England. Silence has an important place in corporate gatherings of prayer and worship, and extended periods of silence tend to be comfortable whereas they would tend to be awkward in most other settings. There are three exercises in prayer that seem to have distinct uses of silence: meditative prayer, prophetic prayer, and intercessory prayer.

"But the LORD is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him."

Habakkuk 2:20

Read full article here

Moving Abroad and Hiring a Maid

To most Americans, the idea of having house help is a luxury. But in many developing countries, anyone who can afford to will keep at least one domestic helper. Many households have several paid servants. There can be a maid, a nanny, a cook, a driver, a gardener, an errand boy, and a guard all working full time in the same house. If you're an expatriate living overseas and most upper and middle class families in your host country employ house help, you'd probably be best to do the same.

When I first came to South Asia, the idea of having a maid was not something I liked. I thought, "I can do it all myself, just like I do when I'm in America." Well in America we have washing machines. We have dryers. We don't need to iron our clothes every day. We might even have a dishwasher. We certainly do not have as generous a helping of dust as Asian countries have. Living overseas our house needs to be dusted, swept and mopped every single day. I was spending hours a day washing clothes in buckets and attempting to iron them in the 120-degree heat. I finally gave in and hired someone to help.

Continue reading here

Sunday, July 20, 2008

AIE Summer Classes

Here's me with two of my language improvement program students.

Coping with Pakistan's Energy Crisis

As power cuts are getting worse and worse I've had to think of creative ways to beat the heat.

Read more about it here

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Summer Workshops 2008

I’d like to let you know about my upcoming workshops being offered at Ali Institute of Education. If you know anyone who you think would benefit from these workshops please let them know. All workshop participants must have at least high-intermediate English as the entire course will be conducted in English.

Creative Writing

Dates: July 7 – July 19
Days: Monday to Saturday
Timing: 9am-12pm
Total Hours: 36
Cost: 3000 rupees
Course Details

Great for anyone who wants to improve their own creative writing or learn how to effectively teach creative writing skills for grade 6 and up.

**Sign up now!**

There are only a small number of participants registered for this course. It is the summer workshop I am most excited about. I have created all new material and practical teacher-resources that would be of great use in your English classroom. This workshop is broken up into 4 mini units of 3 days each. You can join for only one or two units at a discounted price.

Learn Grammar by Having Fun

Dates: July 21 – 26
Days: Monday to Saturday
Timing: 9am-12pm
Total Hours: 18
Cost: 2000 rupees
Course Details

Improve your understanding of verb tense and parts of speech in English while doing interactive activities and playing fun games. Designed for both language students and teachers.

English Teaching Skills

Dates: July 29-Aug 1
Days: Tuesday to Friday
Timing: 9am-12pm
Total Hours: 12
Cost: 2000 rupees
Course Details

Understand the basics of English language teaching in this intensive four-day workshop.

For any of the workshops contact:
Naima Qureshi
Ali Institute of Education

Ali Institute of Education is located off of Ferozepur Road, near Gulab Devi Hospital.

Corruption and Car Theft

Having my car stolen really opened my eyes to the depths of corruption in this society. Read more about it here:

Car Theft in Pakistan

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Teaching Creative Writing: Basics

Check out some of the new course materials for my upcoming workshop:

Teaching Creative Writing

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Registration of Cars in Pakistan

There are further complications that a foreigner can not register a car in his/her name anymore unless the name shows up in the 'system.' You must go to Farid Court house near Mall Road (Anarkali side) to register a car. The 'system' is apparently made up of anyone who owns property or a business in Pakistan. I have been in Pakistan for over 2 years and come in and out of the country multiple times. My name was not in the system. It only would be if I owned another car or property already. It is no longer possible under the new government for foreigners to register cars in their own names if their names do not show up in the records. The immigration records are completely separate from these records.

Make sure your car is registered under the name of a national who is likely to be in the city you are in and easily contacted if trouble arises. We are putting our car in my landlord's name who lives in DHA and does not travel often. Previously it was in the name of a friend who lives in New Garden Town and can not easily take time off of work or travel all the way to DHA police station. To transfer ownership of the car it costs 1800 rupees for the papers. There may also be extra charges.

Bottom line: Do everything in your power to prevent your car from being stolen in the first place! We have certainly learned a lot from this experience and do not have any desire to deal with the 'justice' system ever again.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Recovery of Stolen Cars in Pakistan

This would have been useful information for me to know beforehand. If any of you reading have any information about who decided to go for a joyride in our car, please contact me immediately. Since the car was taken from where I work and dropped off where I live, it must be someone who knows us. It seems that nothing of value was stolen from the car, so that means it was done for "fun" although this week has not been any fun for me, my friends, or my family.

Here are the steps you normally take if your car is stolen in Pakistan:
  • Call the police
  • File an FIR (report)
  • Police will allegedly be searching for the car
  • Continue calling the police for updates
The police themselves told me that cars may be recovered after 2 or 3 months time. Recovery rate is likely less than 50%. An army source told me that the police do not really have the capabilities to search the country for the car. They will supposedly have all road check points supplied with information about missing cars.

If your car is found, by the police, this is what normally happens:
  • Police will take your car into custody
  • You may or may not be notified that it has been found
  • If you are notified, now you must try to clear the FIR
  • You must go back and forth between your local police station and the court waiting hours upon hours for this and that official to give you official looking stamps. This took my friends 8 hours on the first day and 5 more hours on the following day
  • You will pay 1500 rupees to a case agent at the court for filing the FIR clearance case
  • You will pay 3000 rupees to a solicitor to represent your case
  • At the end of the stamping process, you must find a guarantor to vouch for you
  • The guarantor must appear in court and must be the registered owner of a car himself
  • Then you must give a $5000 deposit (3 lakh rupees) to the court for one month. You must arrange the money as soon as possible
  • The guarantor undertaking paper costs 150 rupees
  • The court assurance demand bond note for the 3 lakh rupees costs 5700 rupees
  • The court reader costs 200 rupees
  • After one month, supposedly the money will be returned to you
  • You are not allowed to sell the car for 2 months time
  • If the car has been in police custody, likely 'only half of it will come back', even if the police found it in perfect condition
  • Who knows what is next, because none of these steps are told to you until you complete the previous one. Just when you think it's about to end it gets worse and worse.
  • It's possible that after going to the police station to get the FIR cleared you may have to start another court case to get your car back. This will inevitably take more money and more time.
To the joyriders:

Do you think that is just "sherarat"? Do you think this is enjoyable? Even if nothing physical was stolen from the car, don't you see that you have still stolen from us? You have stolen our time, our money, and our peace of mind. You have even stolen my vacation which I planned to take this week. You should be happy that Hazrat-Isa-al Masih teaches to 'bless your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,' but also know that God is a God of perfect justice and He will judge those who have persecuted his servants. This little prank is certainly not funny.

To anyone owning a car in Pakistan:
  • get a steering lock (875 rupees)
  • never let your keys out of your sight
  • get a security system (5700 rupees + 700 rupees installation)
  • don't report your car stolen to the police, if you do you now know what to expect

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Daylight Savings Confusion

After confirming the rumor about Daylight Savings coming into effect last night, I messaged my coordinator from school to see if she thought our staff would know about it. She called back and told me that she had heard the rumors but was unsure if people would really start following. Apparently, in 2002 DST was also attempted but failed miserably. It was supposed to be from June to October, but somewhere in August people just gave up on it! Only government offices and some schools pulled through until October. We're both expecting three months of people missing trains, buses, planes and never knowing when to show up for things. Praise God this is happening during school vacation, although our students start back August 20th. There will be about 10 days of confusion over the time and then the Ramadan schedule will start. What a headache. For those of you who aren't familiar with Ramadan timings, school will change from finishing at 2:30pm to 12:40pm. Nobody will know when they are starting OR ending school if there's still confusion over DST.

Power just went out again. The government has kept the same loadshedding timings but moved everything an hour ahead. Since we do start to tell time by when the electricity comes and goes, that might be a good way to get people into the new time.

I have a meeting this afternoon at 4pm new time, but I'm going to work tomorrow at 8am old time (9am new time). My husband couldn't have picked a better time to be back in the states and away from this chaos!

Read more here:

An exercise in futility for the 2nd time

LA Times - Interesting look at time zones in Asia