The summer of 2008 proved to be a turning point for my perspective on life. Not only was I able to meet my extended family after eleven years, but my experiences in Pakistan taught me a valuable lesson. Pakistan was completely different from the United States. With its dirt roads, dust storms, and scorching heat, I never imagined both countries could exist on the same planet. In addition to the heat, Pakistan also had an electricity crisis. Scheduled power outages occurred for hours at a time, several times a day.
It seemed life would be unbearable particularly when compared to my cushioned existence in the states. When the power went out back home, everything was in an uproar. While fumbling for flashlights and wondering who was responsible for this unacceptable turn of events, my family would make calls to the electricity company and start counting the minutes. But in Pakistan—it was like another world: new, exciting, and undiscovered. People filtered onto the streets, hoping to catch a stray breeze or two. Friends and neighbors clustered into groups and exchanged news, asking after each other and generally carrying on like business as usual. Streets now devoid of traffic became playgrounds for younger children. It was all very laid back.
And the sights—! The stars that embroidered the nights tossed their own magic over that world. We never got stars like those back home. Sleeping on the flat rooftops and being bitten by mosquitoes at dawn is actually a fond memory. Using the hole-in-the-ground variety of toilet was another experience—though much less enjoyable. I hadn’t realized that I could have so much fun and make such lasting memories in a place that didn’t even have what I considered to be the bare minimum of necessities. But as it turns out, when I released my ethnocentrism (minor thought it was) I became open to a vast array of new experiences.
In short: forgo the air conditioned car in favor of an open-air rickshaw or a bus whose width surpasses that of the road it’s driving on—but say all your prayers first!
For videos of our travel, please visit: http://vimeo.com/sairah/videos. Special thanks to my sister, Sairah Bashir, for creating these videos during our stay, and uploading them.
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