Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fees to Deposit Money in the Bank!?

So I opened a dollar account recently at Askari Bank in Lahore. The minimum initial deposit was $500, so I changed some rupees into dollars and deposited it. Today when I went to check on the account balance, it was only $497! I was confused and asked the guy, "Where did the $3 go since I deposited $500?"

"There is a cash handling fee," he replied.

I was thinking (but didn't say), "What? A fee for handling cash? Isn't that what a bank does?"

I read the account opening forms thoroughly, and I don't remember it saying anything about a cash handling fee for foreign currency accounts.

If I'm going to lose money every time I make a deposit, then why should I keep an account there? Maybe this 'cash handling fee' is normal in Pakistan, but if I put in dollars into a dollar account, I don't understand why there should be any fee. Banks here don't do currency exchange, you have to go to Western Union or other money changers to do that, and there you lose a bit of value when you exchange currency. If you open a dollar account at Askari Bank, you will lose some money when you exchange your money into dollars, and then you'll lose more money when you pay the cash handling fee.

If the 'cash handling fee' is normal for foreign currency accounts, the bank employees should at least tell you before you open the account.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sunday Brunch at GunsSmoke in Lahore

A few weeks ago we went to the Sunday brunch at GunSmoke. "Brunch" is a relative term in Pakistan, as I believe it actually starts at 1:00pm and goes until 4:00pm at this particular restaurant. The brunch menu includes steak, eggs, salad bar, soup, juice, coffee or tea, bread and a side of potatoes. None of us could finish our plates! I can't remember the exact price, but it was less than 400 rupees ($5) per person. The brunch deal is only offered on Sunday afternoons.

Goodbye Party at Ali Institute

Today my students threw me a goodbye party at the Ali Institute. There was tons of delicious home-cooked food, and everyone was dressed to the nines. We endured the heat for a few minutes and got some great photos outside. I'll be posting them soon!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Our BEEPIN' Neighbors!

So I know a lot of my blog posts about Pakistan are negative, but hey it's the negative things I need to vent about. Blogging is such a great way to get out all of that pent up angst and frustration!

One of the things that drives me crazy is people I call "beepers." Beepers are too lazy to get out of their cars themselves and ring a doorbell or open a gate. They drive up a house and immediately start beeping. "Beep beep beep beeeeeeep!" Two seconds later (not near enough time for anyone to actually get out of the house and open the gate), "BEEEEEP BEEEEP BEEEP!"

These beepers have no concept of disturbing the peace. At least once every day I am woken up by a beeper. At four in the morning, when even most Pakistanis are sleeping, they seem to beep longer and louder than they do during the day. What a nice alarm clock. "Beep beep beeeep! Beep be beep beep beeeeeeeep!"

They beep in the morning. They beep in the evening. They beep when I am enjoying my dinner .They beep when I am sleeping. They beep when I'm talking on the phone. They beep so loud I can barely hear myself think. This is not a nice little 'honk honk,' but a laying on of the horn as if the driver is constantly in an aggravated state.

If you are a Pakistani who gets out of the car to open to your own door, I respect you. Thank you for being considerate and thinking about the sanity and peace of others. Even if you give a missed call to someone, but stay in your car, this is still much appreciated. Beeping is not necessary for doors to open and shut. My gate seems to open just fine without a password of "Beep beep beep beeeep!"

If you are a beeper, you may not think your beeping bothers anyone, but I'm sure you have woken someone up at some point with your incessant honking. If you ever move to a country where disturbing the peace is a crime, you will be faced with steep fines and a lot of angry neighbors. Beeping on the road at dangerous drivers is fine; but beeping in quiet residential neighborhoods is just plain rude.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fried Chicken Cheese Balls: Wholesome Snacks?

There is a huge billboard towering over the road on the way from Lahore Cantonment to Defence. The bright red and yellow billboard shows the new Mon Salwa Chicken Cheese Balls that are meant to be deep friend before eaten eaten. At the bottom of the billboard it reads "Wholesome Snacks!" Hello? Does the person who made this advertisement have any idea what the 'wholesome' means? If Fried Chicken Cheese Balls are considered a healthy snack, it's no wonder why so many people in Pakistan have high blood pressure and heart disease before the age of 40.

I saw another funny billboard for the new Media institute opening in Defence:

Excited Career Opportunities!

Of course it should have read "Exciting Career Opportunities!" By using 'excited,' it makes it seem as if the career opportunities are excited about something. In this way, the 'opportunities' are personified and have their own personality.

Why do people spend so much money on advertising and paste it all over town without getting it checked over?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Three-Year Love Affair with Lahore

This month I wrote a 'letter to Lahore' for the Pakistani e-zine The Green Kaleidoscope. It's a reflection of my last three and a half years here.

Check it out:

My Three-Year Love Affair with Lahore

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bible Plagiarizer Confronted

"Look, you didn't write these poems. This one is a famous limerick. It was written well before you were born. Did you write it in a past life? And this one, this one is from the Bible! It's almost two thousand years old. Don't even try to tell me you wrote this."

"But miss, I wrote those other poems."

"I don't care if you wrote some of the poems, although I don't believe you did because I didn't see you write them in the class. Look, here underlined in red, 'any instance of plagiarism will result in a zero.' Zero. That's what you are getting."

"Miss, miss, can I resubmit? I will email it to you."

"No. I told you clearly that you must write the poems yourself, and that if you did not, you'd get a zero. If you email me I will not read it."

You think by now the girl would have some dignity and either confess or give up. She stayed around for 20 minutes begging me to let her re-do the assignment. Two former plagiarizers who had changed their way were also there to witness the scene. They had learned their lessons and handed in excellent work. One of them even earned 97% on her assignment.

I was adamant with the newest plagiarizer.

"Look, would you take verses from your Holy Qur'an, and put your name on them? Would you say that you had written them? This is exactly what you've done. You can not steal other people's work and lie and say that it is yours. This is not acceptable."

Finally, she gave up. The sad thing is that she'll surely try it again with other teachers.

Car Air Filters in Pakistan - Change Every 2 Months!

Yesterday we learned something that would have been useful to know when we bought our first car in Pakistan. In the US, car air filters are usually changed once a year. I thought I was doing well to make sure our car had its air filter, fuel filter, and spark plugs checked and changed annually. Well, I forgot to take into account the amount of dust in Pakistan! Our landlord's son showed us our car's air filter, and it was totally clogged up, cracked and dry after 11 months. I remarked that it must be time for a new one, as we had changed it a year ago. He replied, "A year? Here in Pakistan we change them every two months!"


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Plagiarizing God?

My B.Ed students handed in their poetry portfolios yesterday. Despite the warning on their assignment sheets, I've still got one blatant plagiarizer.

"All items submitted must be 100% original and written by you. Your instructor will search the Internet if the items do not match your writing style or level. Any instance of plagiarism will result in a zero for this assignment and a warning from the department."

Now, we did all the writing in the class, and this girl used to sit blankly without writing much in her notebook. I must admit that her English level is quite low, particularly writing skills, and she should have had to pass some prerequisite in order to take my course: Teaching Creative Writing.

I suggested she withdraw from the class and take it later once her English skills were stronger, but she stayed on.

When she handed in her poetry portfolio, it was by far the most decorated project. Any teacher knows that at the university level, this is a red flag! Unfortunately for her, this was not an art collage, but it was supposed to represent a semester of poetry writing. I don't believe she wrote any of the poems in her portfolio. She included the famous limerick attributed to an anonymous author:

"There was a young lady from Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside,
And a smile on the face of the tiger."

She then went on to plagiarize the apostle Paul by using the famous
love passage from 1 Corinthians 13, as quoted from this website.

You'd think if someone was going to steal another person's work and
put her name on it,that she'd at least avoid plagiarizing the
Holy Spirit!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Murder Here, a Stoning There...

One of the most fascinating things to do in Pakistan is to read the local newspapers. The stories that you find in tiny blurbs deep within the paper would make for shocking headlines in North America or Europe, but here they don't even make waves. Some of the most shocking stories don't even have their own headlines! Here's a snapshot from the Pakistan newspaper "The News"; keep in mind that these 'run of the mill' stories did not even show up on the front page.

March 21, 2009

A thirty-year-old woman, named Lubna, was killed by her brother after she allegedly had an extra marital affair. In Bahawalpur, a man stoned his sixteen-year-old daughter and her 'paramour' to death with bricks after finding them in a 'compromising position.' A 'compromising position' could be as innocent as holding hands or sitting together on a park bench. Girls have been killed by their own families for less.

Continue reading this article here:

Shocking Non Events of Local Pakistani News

Will I End up Being a 'Really Smart Sucker?'

I've gotten myself into a bit of a funk after doing some research into grad schools. With so many interests and a love of teaching, study and research, I found myself dallying between applying for several different types of programs: MA in Journalism, MFA in Creative Writing, MA in Middle Eastern Studies, or the big time consuming one, a PhD in Anthropology. At the same time I'm trying to figure out the most cost-effective and time-effective way to get my teacher certification in Secondary English.

I was getting exciting looking into grad school and thinking about getting back to studies, and then I started reading about the problem of PhD overproduction.

Wanted: Really Smart Suckers

This opened up a whole can of worms and has consumed the better part of my Sunday. I've been reading about the problem of PhD over-production and about how tenure-track professor positions are decreasing by the year. I feel a bit stuck now, wondering if 8-10 years on a PhD (plus the thousands of dollars in loans and living on a shoe-string, delaying having children) is really all it's cracked up to be if the job competition is so fierce. One blogger, a PhD herself, said she didn't feel it was ethically right to encourage students to pursue PhD's, knowing that it was such a high risk path.

Check out the article and let me know your thoughts.