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Khudaa haafiz, Pakistan

April 8, 2010

This is the first part of the Epic Journey Update:

So Much has happened, the March bombing in Mansehra of WorldVision Offices really shook up everyone in Islamabad, including my program. Thus, it was decided that international teachers would not be living up at the school this year due to safety concerns. I am pretty heartbroken, but Pakistan works in mysterious ways and I respect KMT very much for not putting us in harms way. Instead, I filled my time fundraising, visiting The Khan Family in Peshawar again and working on lesson plans to be executed by the Pakistani teaching assistants at the school. But I came to South Asia to teach, so it is with much sadness I have left Pakistan and am now in Thailand (to be discussed in the next post).

typical Pakistani "Flying Coach" Bus, Peshawar

Pakistan has won me over, hook,  line and sinker. Not only is it a nation where women head straight to the front of the line (amazing!) but I have also never felt so welcomed and (surprisingly) comfortable. I enjoy wearing my shalwar kemeez and dupattr and have not encountered anything less than respect and tolerance from people I’ve spent time with here. I have had so many conversations with Dr. Khan about science, religion, politics, “young people”, travel and life in general–conversations which leave me feeling hopeful for the future…ideally a future in which I can picnic at the Khyber Pass 🙂 I haver learned more about Islam in these past months than I have in 16+ years of excellent schooling, more knowledge that leaves me feeling encourages and inspired.

Bounty, Peshawar

But I am going to miss a whole passel of folks here. I will especially miss Pasha (although not his cooking), Ali, Ummer, Faisal, Mohammad Ghool, AlimShir, Yusef, Amir Zaib–the wonderful staff at the Bani Gala house. When I left, AlimShir told me I was like a little daughter to him and that he would be looking up into the sky when my plane took off..very moving. Pasha dug out an old, red velvet box, and showed my pictures from throughout his life. Most showed a much younger Pasha, with all of his teeth, sporting a very dapper brown suit. Amir Zaib told me his mother said I could come visit his house whenever I’d like, and Yusef told me a long story in Pashto–I have no idea what it was about but it contained Sayira (his name for me) so I’m going to assume it was a compliment or grand advice. The casual, unstinting kindness I was shown in that house by even just the gardener really resonated with me.

Bounty II, Peshawar

But there is also a tiny part of me that is relieved to be going: I visited Peshawar this past weekend, left Peshawar on Sunday, and then there were triple suicide bombings on Monday. Parts of a suicide vest ended up in my friend Hina’s yard..this was incredibly unnerving and I spent several hours texting to make sure folks in Peshawar were ok. I have gotten so used to waking up each morning and checking BBC South Asia for headlines, checking throughout the day, and then again before signing off for the night. I don’t think this is a habit I’ll be able to break easily as I found myself waking up in Thailand and still scoping the South Asia BBC page for tidbits and updates, with my fingers crossed that it would be good news and not disasters.

I really hope to return to Pakistan–I already miss the muezzin calls… especially the dusk ones, I miss the look of excitement and incredulity that often appeared on peoples faces when they said “but you came all the way to Pakistan? You wanted to come to Pakistan?!” I miss the remarkably cheap cell service (even calls and texts to the US!) and, of course, the lovely long suffering Bani Gala Tailor.

Cricket at College, Peshawar

The Universe has really dealt me a good hand this time though,  I have been fortunate enough to be offered a position working with refugees on the Thai/Burma border, and have arrived in Thailand safe and sound. The journey started off on a high note with a remarkable upgrade on Etihad Air to Business Class: more comfortable than my own bed & with limitless cheese plates ohmygosh. I have not lived in Thailand since 2002, but am excited and eager to be back.

Insha’Allah I’ll spend another chink of my life in Pakistan with the many people I’ve come to know and care about, hopefully in a more peaceful and prosperous nation–Pakistan Zindabad!

(a post explaining the Thailand situation in more detail will be forthcoming once I finish busing and flying to my final destination)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Arshad Khan permalink
    April 9, 2010 8:58 am

    All the best with your assignment in Thailand. I am glad you enjoyed your stay in Pakistan, although a brief one. I am sure your stay will have cleared many misconceptions that people in the west have about Pakistan and hope that you convey this to your friends as well.

    We all miss you immensely and hope to be able to meet in the future Inshallah!

  2. willowmata permalink
    April 9, 2010 6:28 pm

    I can’t believe how quickly things happened, and that you’re in Thailand already. Amazing writing, stories, adventures. I’m so glad you’re writing, keep doing it, on this blog, in journals, in emails to yourself. Don’t know if you learned about “jottings” in anthropology, imagine you did. But it’s writing tidbits of what’s happening, phrases, places, names, images, feelings. You are such a wonderful storyteller, and at the same time have this amazing ability to connect with people across cultures. I think you can make a real difference in the West’s understanding of Pakistan, Islam…I know you have with mine already after your short time there. And now Thailand, refugees, another thing you can teach us all about!

    Huge hugs, miss you a ton and hope for the best as you land in your new place!

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