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.