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.

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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