Baxter Bark Twice

Do as I say, never as I do

This is Pakistan

Posted by AllieB on February 16, 2011

The power goes out every morning at 8 A.M. for two to six hours; the main thoroughfares are congested with donkey-pulled carts, rickshaws, motorcycles, sedans, buses, and the occasional armored vehicle; and guards with AK-47 assault rifles flank the entry to a local church: this is Pakistan.

To briefly summarize what I’m doing here in the first place: I’m in Lahore, Pakistan (pop. 9 million) with my mom and seven other people from Peachtree Presbyterian Church visiting the Forman Christian College campus – one of the oldest and most highly regarded schools in southeast Asia that offers baccalaureate, bachelors, and masters degrees as well as a safe haven for students of all religions and social backgrounds. Pakistan being what it is, that Muslim and Christian students study together, side by side, and are best friends and room together and eat naan together, is amazing. Approximately 4 percent of Pakistan is Christian, and not all Muslims are radicals – obviously – but it is still remarkable that such a large chasm can be overcome in the spirit of education. So, we’re here as ambassadors of Peachtree Pres, who is an avid supporter in many ways, to strengthen our relationship with the administration, staff, and students, as well as ascertain what needs to happen to further its growth.

I think bullet points might be the way to go so as not to overwhelm myself or readers with information:

  • I have not – not even for a second – felt unsafe here. Not even in the Old Town markets with throngs of people…to give some perspective on tourism here, I’ve seen one Westerner not with my group since we arrived. While we definitely stand out, I do not feel at risk…so that’s good.
  • Lahore is a madhouse. Nothing makes sense – there are no traffic laws, the poverty is horrific, there are constant demonstrations on every roundabout – I’m pretty sure people were picketing against Valentine’s Day on Monday. I can’t read Urdu (the language they speak here), but all of the signs had VALENTINE written on them in large letters, and people were waving them around angrily, so I’m just putting two and two together…the protests are all benign, however, with the most negative outcome that I’ve seen being that the streets are shut down and it might take 45 minutes to travel 10km.
  • I was very surprised when, on our sightseeing day, we were encouraged to go inside the inner sanctums of the mosques, particularly when people were in the midst of prayer – that was definitely interesting…and a tad awk. The Badshahi Mosque, the largest mosque in Lahore, was breathtaking. Also, and this of course is my favorite fact about it, the mosque made international headlines in 1991 when Princes Diana attended formal prayer wearing inappropriate clothing – I think her knees were showing – but she was allowed in anyway. One thing I can say about this: Kate Middleton would never, ever commit such a gaffe.

Badashi Mosque

  • Pakistanis are, collectively, the most physically attractive group I have ever seen. Seriously, I feel like such a dud. To begin with, it being a mission trip and all, I did not pack my finest garb and left all of my jewelry at home. Also, due to the cultural customs here, women must have rear ends and shoulders/arms covered at all times, and that’s just the minimum – most people sport these calf-length tunics with baggy pants and enormous shawls; the ensemble is called a salwar kameeze and is worn to school, to the market, to dinner, to parties… see the pic below. I actually got an outfit made upon the suggestion of our group leader, and I have to wear it tomorrow when we go out to some rural villages to visit the schools. It is not my best look, but I will sacrifice my appearance for the sake of not being targeted by anti-Christian radicals; I suppose it’s a small price to pay. In addition to dressing like a total frump, I forgot a hair brush and the weather is eternally damp so my hairs are in a state of perpetual emergency. I’ve looked better, and next to these women, I look straight homely. Seriously, it’s like a bedazzler had a wild night with a deluxe box of Crayolas – I’ve never seen so much color, nor have I seen it worn with such panache. Also, they all have perfect hair.

typical daytime attire in Lahore

  • My hopes of coming home hollow-cheeked and waif-like are for naught; I love the food. Shocking.
  • I am astounded and rendered speechless at least once/day hearing the stories of some of the people we speak to. Here on campus, we’ve spoken to faculty members as well as students about their backgrounds, and each one wowed me more than the last. These people are the hardest working, most motivated group of people I have ever encountered – and it’s not just one or two annoyingly zealous teachers pets, it’s devoted, incredibly intelligent people who want to be able to support their families so they can indulge in such luxuries as having three meals/day.
  • To my tall blonde friends (Pal, Pants, JTomm, Kayruh, Yance, Leila, Char, Talbie…I have way too many tall blonde friends to name you all): I might hold off on your own Pakistani adventure. It’s one thing to stand out with my white face, but your white face + blondeness would likely cause riots or similar.

So…yeah. I don’t have pictures yet, which is such a bummer, but I don’t have the camera cord blah blah so my WikiPics will have to suffice for now. Pakistan is awesome, every part of it. I’m having a lot of fun and I also feel like I’m learning a lot – I think it’s turning out to be everything a Mission Trip is intended to be…which, I think, is very positive.

Love and miss!

12 Responses to “This is Pakistan”

  1. Missing My Sistie said

    One helpful hint I have learned in my travels is that the only thing worse than being tall and blonde and traveling in a conservative Muslim country is to be tall and blonde and travel in a conservative Muslim country during Ramadan.

    P.S. Please post pics of you in native garb immediately.

  2. MC said

    This was a really great post; your way with words never fails to impress me. Glad you are enjoying it!

  3. A said

    Allieb, this sounds like a truly excellent adventure! what an experience, i can’t wait to see all of your photogs. This post is beyond superb! next stop….??

  4. Baxter you know I don't speak Urdu said

    This is fascinating! Can’t wait to hear more stories/see pictures (mainly to see your locks)- come hooooooome!!!!!!!

  5. Kayruh said

    i miss you. come home. bring me one of those cool outfits.

  6. HB said

    I’m glad you’re safe and you aren’t fearing for your life! Bring me a present.

  7. sweet dee said

    allieb— your trip sounds amazing. I’m so jeal I’m considering dying my hair brown and adding Pakistan to my bucket list. Take pictures of everything…seriously…you never regret having too many photos because you can always simply delete the insignificant ones. The riots, the poverty, the kids in the’s all so shocking but so real to most places in the world. I’m so happy your trip has been a success. Here’s a youtube from the western world…I’ll send you an email filling you in on grammys, modern fam, etc.

    love and miss!

    • AllieB said

      for the LOVE do not dye your hair brown…surely there are other ways to make it here. thank you for keeping me abreast of what I missed; please keep your Wednesday evening open

  8. Tina said

    Your trip sounds so incredible! I can’t wait to hear and see more about it. What a terrific and once in a lifetime experience?!


  9. […] bummed. I know – first world problems and all that – but this is just bleak…this time last year I was preparing to go to Pakistan. That was a great trip. NOT that I’m saying I wish I was returning to Pakistan – […]

  10. […] 2011 I was in Pakistan. Have you been to Pakistan? Allie: 1, VDay: […]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *