Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Of Donkeys

I love The National :)

NEW DELHI // Plans to remove all working donkeys from India’s capital in a bid to clean-up the streets ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games have left hundreds of families fearing for their livelihoods.


Across Old Delhi there are an estimated 2,500 donkeys and mules usually carrying bricks to construction sites or removing concrete rubble from demolished buildings. They are led by their owners or labourers employed for the day to tend to the animals.

“MCD officials surveyed the area recently and we have been asked to remove all donkeys and mules and clean up the stables because, they said, they don’t look good in a beautiful city,” said Saleem Mohammed, who keeps two donkeys in the Turkman Gate stables and is the son of 76-year-old Yusuf Mohammed, the union leader.

For Mohammad Nazar, who owns two donkeys and one mule, the eviction cannot work. The 50-year-old believes that as congestion in the old part of the city grows and roads and lanes becomes narrower, construction companies will come to rely more on the donkeys and mules.

“Eighty per cent of construction sites in Old Delhi are not adjacent to bigger roads,” he said. “Inside most of the narrow winding lanes and by-lanes even mini vans cannot enter to bring in the bricks [to a construction site] or take out the rubble. Donkeys and mules cannot be outsmarted by any other mode here.


“As the population is growing, roads and lanes are getting narrower. In this situation I think the utility of the donkeys and mules is in fact increasing in Old Delhi. You don’t need them in well-planned modern parts of the city where most construction sites are connected with wide roads. But you need our animals in Old Delhi, where congestion is higher.”


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Awkward Defines My Life :S

So I've been mia for while... Things were pretty "busy" at work. The other day, I was getting coffee and this guy walks up to stand next to me, "Gee, meray khyal main humara email pe raabta hua hai" (I think we've communicated via email before). I respond with a blank stare... "Aap pehlay kahan kaam karti theen?"(Where did you work before?). I told him I was in Abu Dhabi and in the US before that. "Acha? To aap ke pass green card ho ga?" (Oh, so you must be having the green card (residence visa for the US))... LOL!!!!! I mean, really, how desperate do you have to be?!

On Friday, I went to Roasters for lunch (packed with office people and aunties because the pious uncles had gone for namaz :P). Try the Mushroom chicken and Quesadilla... yummy! Once upon a time, when I was a fob, I used to ask for Quesadillas without cheese... but then my kind-hearted American friend took pity on me and explained that quesadilla was Spanish for "cheese tortilla" :P.

In other news, our cat gave birth to four more kittens! It's her third litter this year :P.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Busy Sunday

Baba has been with our family for over 25 years... He was my grandfather's batman and then moved in as chowkidar/comptroller. Last year, Baba retired from service, went for Umra and then joined the Tableegh with frequent trips to Rywand.

Baba sent his son Ajmer in his place and today, we went to visit him at his home since he'd just become a father for the first time. Baba, Ajmer and his four brothers all live together in a house in Landhi with their wives and children. They'd done a lot of ehtemam in honor of our visit and everything was clean and shiny. They entertained us in the best room (beautifully decorated with flowers and wall hangings) and introduced us to all the children (around 27 in all). I was surprised at how liberal they were (I'd expected segregation and covered heads) but all the women were dressed in their colorful outfits and wore lots of makeup and jewelry :). Ajmer's baby girl Ayman is gorgeous Mashalah with beautiful big black eyes and he dotes on her :)

Baba's wife spoke mainly Pushto but my mom understood most of it and translated for me. They served us a lavish lunch and kept refilling our plates. Finally, Ajmer's wife served us green tea with sliced lemons and sugar...

I came away highly impressed by their consideration and saleekha and feeling slightly ashamed of my not-s0-dhang-walay ways. I can't think of an English word for "dhang" or "saleekha". Any suggestions are welcome!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another Week Goes By

So I'm going to pretend all is hunky dory in the country and put on my blinders... (and I've decided to not watch the news in an attempt to retain my sanity) but I hope and pray that the victims' families find peace.

Work was pretty slow this week... Btw, I'm confused about the whole "saying hello in the morning" deal. Am I, as the newest/youngest member of the firm obligated to go around and greet everyone with a "Good Morning/Salam"? Do I appear rude/stuck-up if I don't? I'm also the only girl so I guess I'm supposed to remain sitting when all the guys are going around doing the whole Eid Mubarak/3-way hug :P. It's pretty complicated and it's stressing me out :p.

I went to Saddar today after a really long time... traffic was awful and it took us an hour to find parking. Finally, my mom found a parking spot and we went off to do our work. When we returned an hour later, the car wasn't there.

Ammi: "I'm sure I parked it here"
Me: "Really? maybe you forgot where you'd parked it?" (When in doubt, I doubt my faculties rather than external circumstances)

Just then, we saw a police car towing our car and started running after it. The police car refused to stop, so we continued running (on the sidewalk of the crowded road) with our dupattas flying out behind us as the sun set in the horizon and the Maghrib azaan blared from the Avari mosque. After asking various passers-by, "Aaap ne koi police car dekhi hai? Us ke peechay aik white corolla tow ho rahi thi" (Have you seen a police car towing a white corolla?), we finally spotted our car, payed Rs. 500 and drove home. We promised mommy not to tell dad, otherwise, she'd never hear the end of it :).





Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday

I guess this time, Eid was pretty unconventional... Back when I was young (and relatively docile), mum and dad used to take us around visiting random people whom we saw once a year on Eid. This time, I ended up going to Gunsmoke for lunch with friends from school... The food was decent and the servings, huge but I think it's more suited for meat-lovers with big appetites (I'm more into vegetarian/white meat/desserts). They had peanuts in bowls and we were supposed to shell the peanuts and throw the shells on the floor :P. For someone as obsessive/compulsive as me this was trying... I remember using a carpet brush to brush my carpet straight after someone had walked on it and disturbed the alignment of the fibers :P

I visited an aunty who is now suffering from dementia... When we were younger, she used to give us a pack of candy for Eid and money for ice cream and it made me sad to see her like this. Old age is scary, especially if your kids are all abroad and you're alone...

So, Eid Day 2 is over and now I have to look forward to work Tuesday... *joy*

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Corporate in Karachi


So I'm working for one of the big multi-national(ish) organizations in Karachi and it's been rather interesting. I have three bosses: B1 is 24 and just one level senior to me (we went to the same school, small world, eh?), B2's been in the firm for the past 12 years and likes to boss me around. He likes giving me a ton of work at 5:30pm (just when I'm getting ready to leave!) so that I end up staying till 8... and B3 is the cool Aitchisonian guy from Lahore (I'm slightly in awe of him but he's fun when he isn't stressing out about one thing or another).

My dad never raises his voice, most of my professors were soft-spoken and so were my previous supervisors, so the Pakistani male baritones took some getting used to :P. Once, B3 was stressed out and addressed me in a slightly harsh tone... it brought the tears to my eyes (I know, I know, I'm a wimpy, weepy girl) but thankfully, I managed to control myself before the all-out weeping began... LOL.

Oh, and I'm the new "weird kid" in the office... I bring my own coffee mug (instead of using the communal ones used by everyone else) and I also have a little green glass that I wash and use instead of the plastic ones :P. Also, I drive to work when all the shareef girls come with drivers. The other day, one of the uncles asked me, "Beta, aap ko dar nahin lagta?" (Dear, don't you feel scared?). Ummm... not really, not after being stuck in NY Penn station waiting for the subway at 2:00 am with lots of sketchy characters around.

We have lunch in a cafeteria... the menu isn't very creative, featuring things like daal chawal and qorma while I'm more of a pizza/sandwich person. I miss our Spinney's cafeteria in AD...

I'm also trying to find a balance between work and personal life. I mean, we do hang out as a group and go out for lunch together but I don't want to get *too* close to my colleagues (as in having them over at my place for dinner/hanging out after work). It could also get awkward since they're all guys (and single) and I'm a girl and this is Pakistan after all...

Anyway, since it's Eid tomorrow, B2 and B3 have both gone to Lahore and I'm freeeee :D hurrah!

Eid Mubarak y'all!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday at French Beach

What do Karachiites do on a sunny, wintry Sunday? They go to the beach :). The road to Hawkesbay is awful but we finally made it after much jolting and knocking about in the car. The scenery is pretty drab... All you see are freight containers, massive trucks and seedy khokhas (I think I'm spoiled after Abu Dhabi's pristine Corniche).

We had a barbecue lunch and went in for a quick dip, got wet, dried off and headed home. Fun :)

Sometimes though, I miss my "alone" time. Between work and family, I'm always surrounded by people (alhamdulilah) but I miss cooking and doing laundry and shopping for groceries. I also miss having showarma and mint lemonade at Special and my weekly Baskin Robbins sundae...

Oh, and I'm supposed to take my colleagues out to dinner with my first salary (it's a company tradition)... :0. I'm making 1/15th of what I was getting in AD it's probably going to cost more than my entire paycheck :S.

Ana ghareebah jiddan...




Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Updates



Sorry, I temporarily dropped off the face of the earth but I had so much going on that it was hard to put everything down. It was one of those times when I felt like I needed Dumbledore's pensieve to siphon off my thoughts and then examine them at leisure :P.

So last Thursday I got an eye-infection and it was one of the worst I've ever contracted. Since it's barely been a month since I started work, I didn't think it would be nice to take time off, so I went to work with my huge Abu Dhabian sunglasses (I used to wear them back in AD because they kept the dust and sun out of my face). Well, this is Pakistan where people can't help themselves and absolutely have to comment. Here are just a few that I had to endure:

"Gaia se kaho ab raat ho gayi hai" (Tell Gaia it's evening now)

"Aap to female James Bond lag rahi hain" (You look like a female James Bond)

"You look like Chaudry Shujaat"

"We're not in the Matrix you know?"

One lady made me take them off just so she could get a good look at my watery, bloodshot eyes :P. I mean really people, I'm obviously wearing them for a reason!

On top of that, last week was more hectic than usual and I had to attend a conference at Sheraton with the glasses on... :P. It's really awkward being the only girl at work because all the guys are talking guy-stuff and I feel left-out :'(. Plus, there's noone to go to the bathroom with...

Next post: Trip to Thar where there is no electricity, no fresh water and people burn cow dung for fuel.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another Bizarre Week

My brother called yesterday from Lahore to tell me that he woke up in the middle of the night when his bed started shaking so he grabbed his wallet, keys, cell and laptop before trying to find his way outside :P Honestly!

It gets a little chilly in the mornings (that's still around 22 degrees Celcius, but hey, we look forward to winters in Karachi and putting on our shawls and sweaters). The people at work got me a huge chocolate mousse cake for my birthday :). I was red in the face because I get embarrassed by things like these but I guess everyone else was happy to take a break and eat cake :P. Karachi was on red alert on Friday so when the delivery-guy came with the cake, he had to wait outside for 20 minutes because he didn't have an ID. Paranoia reigns supreme...

I really like my colleagues but I'm slightly in awe of my immediate supervisor. He's originally from Lahore but went to the HKS in Boston and then came back to "save Pakistan"... He says things like, "Okay, jee"... lol.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Enforced Normalcy


So I'm going about my daily routine, getting ready for work, driving to the office, lunching with my colleagues and going home when I'm done to have dinner with my family and get some rest. But it feels strangely unreal... I'm finding it increasingly difficult to ignore what's happening all around me and continue living my selfish lifestyle. My 12-year old sister's joking about her classmates making faces at the newly installed security cameras in their school and the security personnel surrounding the area makes it look like a war zone.

I found a couple of great articles here and here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

One-Year Anniversary

I know I'm a few days late but Yayyyyy! one year blogoversary :) Thanks for stopping by whoever you are and have a lovely day!

Bechari


Neelum Valley

Aaaah... Work has taken over my life :( I had to come in to work on a SATURDAY!! Bechari Gaia... sad...

Anyway, the good part is that I really love what I'm doing (so far) and the team is great! Most of the people are the "Pakistanis who went abroad to study but decided to move back to Pakistan-types." I'm the only girl though which makes things slightly awkward at times (like when the guys are laughing at slightly x-rated jokes and then one of them realizes, "Larki hai yaar" ("There's a girl present") and there's a sudden silence :P).

Everyone's really committed and I think I'll have a steep learning curve. I'm learning about the PPIB and NEPRA and Pakistani energy sector jargon. I'm sometimes embarrassed by how little I know about my own country! I had no idea where places like Bhikki and the Neelum Valley were and the last time I read about Tharparkar was for my O'Level Pakistan Studies final :P. I really really want to visit Kashmir at some point!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A phase "blew" in a our last night and since then most parts of the house have been without electricity... Strangely enough, the ac in my brother's bedroom is working, the lights in my room are on and the fridge and freezer are still running (thank God!). I just hope no one trips over the extension cords in the dark :P.

On a completely different note, when I first started college in the US, a friend very kindly explained to me what the term "Catholic schoolgirl" meant. Basically, a Catholic schoolgirl is a ho. She wears a tightly buttoned white blouse with a short skirt and fishnet stockings.

Recently, I saw a woman wearing a sari with a really tiny blouse so that much of her tummy was exposed. In an attempt at (modesty?!), she'd covered the exposed part of her tummy with a fishnet... Fashion faux pas?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2nd First Day at Work

I got up bright and early and got ready in plenty of time, had a proper breakfast (for the first time in 3 months!) and drove my dad's old Suzuki to work in the morning sunshine. My office is by the sea in a building shaped like a yacht and I have a lovely view of camels on the beach :)

I arrived at 8:55 am... and no one else was there except for the security guard who smiled and said, "Welcome on board". People started trickling in around 9:40 am so I read the textbook that I'd brought along to "look busy". It's an interesting and varied group of people... (more on them later).

My cubicle is bang in the center of the office, which is great because I get to see lots of people but I had a pebble in my shoe today and I couldn't take off my shoe and shake it out because it would've been too embarrassingly conspicuous :P. I couldn't even log on to facebook because everyone can look at my screen :P. I also realized I'm taller than 80% of the men that work there (and I was only wearing 2 inch heels!). I think guys find that intimidating :S.

What's really ironic is that I'm working on a coal mining/power project which is the complete antithesis of Masdar. I do feel a little guilty but if it will alleviate Pakistan's chronic power crisis, it will be totally worth it (and no, we can't afford carbon sequestration and all the remedial measures).

The project is based here:

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's one of those things about being back in Pakistan; you're always surrounded by family and friends or just random people ringing the doorbell (the maasi (maid), the maali (gardener), the chowkidar (guy who opens the main gate and lets people in), the line man or your great aunt's cousin whom you haven't met in years). It's a great feeling most of the time (alhamdulilah) but I miss the times when I could just shut myself away from the world, take solitary walks by the Corniche whenever I felt like it or blast music to my heart's content without having to worry about the neighbors' afternoon nap...

Mum's leaving for a short trip next week and *I'm* in charge :O. Just last week, I went shopping and very conveniently slammed the car door shut with the key still in the ignition... oops! So, I called my dad on his cell and asked him to bring me the spare key (without telling my mum of course, otherwise I'd be banned from driving alone ever again :P). Thank God for indulgent fathers :). I hope nothing untoward happens, otherwise "ana sa-ashuru bil khajl jiddan jiddan"

And here's a story that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8299780.stm

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Khudi

Allama Iqbal:

"Khudi ko kar buland itna
Ke har taqdeer se pehlay
Khuda bandey se yeh poochay
Bataa, teri raza kya hai"

Ralph Russell's translation:

Exalt yourself so high that,
Before issuing each decree of
will Himself ask you, (His servant),
'Tell me, what is your wish ?'

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In the end...

... it doesn't even matter

So, I was probably the second geekiest kid in my school. I had a non-existent social life in the last two years of high-school and I got into a prestigious Ivy League university where I spent the best four years of my life. But, now that I'm looking for jobs back in Pakistan, I will end up with the same remuneration package as someone who went to Preston University. I guess I should've just bunked classes and bought a fake degree or married a rich businessguy at eighteen :(

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

But.... you're a "lady"!

So I had my first job interview today. First, they gave me an IQ test with a hundred pattern recognition questions... I think I bombed it :S. By the time I got to question 35, my brain was all fuzzy... This was followed by a verbal and math section along the lines of the GRE (I think this part was ok). Then came the personal interview. The HR person interviewing me was probably in his mid-fifties with a beard and pot-belly :). Clearly, he hadn't looked at my resume before because when I walked in, he went, "Lekin aap to lady hain!" ("But you're a lady!"). For the record, my real name is completely feminine. Completely nonplussed here :S

Friday, October 2, 2009

Irony

Yesterday evening, I received an email:

Dear Ms. Gaia,

"You applied for entry clearance to the United Kingdom under Tier 4 (General) Student of the Points Based System. Your application failed to meet the qualifying criteria and was refused on 00/00/ 2009. Your request for Administrative Review was received on 00/00/ 2009.

I have reviewed your application and I am pleased to confirm that you have met the qualifying criteria.

The ECO did not award you any points under this category. I have reviewed your application and I am satisfied that the ECO overlooked additional documents.

Your application therefore meets the requirements of the Immigration Rules and I am satisfied that you should be awarded points in this category. The decision is hereby, overturned."

Ummmm... hurrah! Classes start on Monday and there is no way I'm going to get a visa in time :P. I'm not mad, not even sad, in fact, I'm rather numb...

My sister got me this to cheer me up:

It worked :)

But, for other applicants out there still waiting for a decision, don't lose hope...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Boys are Back!



Is it just me or do they seem a lot more girly than before?

Mundane Matters

We almost won the match today (Cricket: Pakistan vs. Australia). I'm not the biggest cricket fan out there but today's match was phenomenal! Final ball, final run, nail-biting finish (Ricky Ponting was biting his :p).

I went to the gym after almost three months of no exercise... Unsurprisingly, I lasted barely 10 minutes on the treadmill :p. What struck me as amusing (or maybe just pathetic) was that the electricity went suddenly and the gym was plunged into darkness. I was running slowly and the treadmill jerked to a stop without warning; I sort of rolled off and landed with a bump and a bruise. I think that was a divine sign to say "no more gym for another three months" :p.

I'm half-heartedly working on job applications :( Everyone's trying to be ultra-helpful but it's stressing me out... (I like doing things at my own pace).

In other news, my parents keep asking me if I "like" anyone. Ummm, dearest mum and dad, it's not like you ever encouraged me to date/hang out socially with guys and specifically told me not to get "involved" with anyone in college lest my academics suffer :p. And being a somewhat "shareef" Pakistani girl, I doubt I'm going to run into the love of my life at the grocery store :p.

Friday, September 25, 2009

And the days go by...

George writes about Pakistanis' visa dilemma here. I can empathize 100%.

Eid was lovely! I decided to go all out and get mehendi done since I don't have to go back to school or show up for work a couple of days later. We had a constant flurry of visitors and this time, my own friends came to visit! It's such a grown-up feeling :). I think I ate too much biryani during Eid but then I fell ill and lost all the weight I'd gained :p.

Anyway, now I'm looking for jobs and it's been uphill so far... My field (energy and environment) hasn't really developed in Pakistan and most places prefer hiring men since employees are usually based in rural areas like Interior Sindh and I don't think my mom would be comfortable with me relocating to Islamabad as a single lady :p.

So, in order to get a job at a decent place in Pakistan (a multinational firm or a prestigious UN-type organization), you need to find someone you "know" who's already working there. This can be achieved by combing your parents' extensive network of family and friends for a suitable uncle in a senior management position. Step 2: Call uncle, set up appointment to discuss career options and give him your CV and hopefully, he'll be able to use his contacts to get you in. Blatant corruption, I know! But, I've given up trying to fight the system :P.

So, inshalah, I'm hoping I'll be employed soon... Pray for me dears!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Eid Mubarak Y'all!

So, Munib-ur-Rahman has declared tomorrow to be in Eid in Pakistan. Of course, we have the usual confusion with some communities celebrating Eid a day early and suing the Ruet-i-Hilal committee :p. As an aside, I still don't get why a bunch of old men (with cataracts) and beards get to decide when we'll celebrate Eid...

The announcement on tv and radio was followed by firing... That is how we Pakistanis express our khushi (happiness). We fire kalashnikovs into the air and more often than not, some innocent person falls victim to a stray bullet and dies.

Later, my mom took me out for some last minute Eid shopping and the streets were packed! KFC had loudspeakers installed outside the restaurant blaring "Desi Girl" (from the bollywood film Dostana). At least we are a lively nation...

EID MUBARAK!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Grandparents :)

They're the only people with the power to sway my mum and dad and spoil me to bits :). Once upon a time when I was around 5 years old, my brother and I were playing in our balcony and my brother somehow fell and fractured his arm. I being the older, more responsible sister should've taken better care of her baby brother and I felt guilty. My parents had to take my brother to the hospital to have his arm set, so I was dropped off at my nana's (grandfather's) house (grandma was in Lahore) for the night.

My grandfather made sure I brushed my teeth and put me to bed. He had a huge bed and I asked him to leave the lights on. But he did something even better... :) He used to keep a torch in his bedside drawer and he entertained me with the play of light and shadows, regaling me stories of his youth until I finally fell asleep.

In the morning, when I woke up, Nana Abbu made me scrambled eggs with toast (with the toast cut into perfect bite-sized pieces) and we ate in front of the tv while watching "The Wizard" on NTM. Good times :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

UK Visa Reject

:'( *sob*!

That means no grad school this year... I'm praying God has something better for me, otherwise, I'm currently unemployed in Karachi... *sob*.

"At the end of the day faith is a funny thing. It turns up when you don't really expect it. Its like one day you realize that the fairy tale may be slightly different than you dreamed. The castle, well, it may not be a castle. And its not so important happy ever after, just that its happy right now. See once in a while, once in a blue moon, people will surprise you , and once in a while people may even take your breath away. "
Meredith Grey
(Grey's Anatomy)
If there's one skill I polished this Ramadan, it was cooking. Every day during the blessed month, each tv channel has a cooking show focusing on iftaar snacks and drinks and, having nothing better to do, I've become an avid follower of Poppy, Aida, and all the other celebrity cooks on tv. I thought this month was all about restraint/resisting temptation/moderating one's lifestyle but I guess the food/beverage industries need Ramadan sales to boost profits :p

I can now make oreo cookie milkshake (using Olper's milk), pizza margherita (using Mundial olive pomace cooking oil) and all varieties of pakora, samosa and other fried stuff using Dalda :p.

I'd also like to plug Dr. Aamir Liaquat of Aalim Online fame... He lectures on Islamic history and has a call-in show where people ask questions and either he or a guest speaker answer based on Islamic jurisprudence. He might be a quack for all I know but he is an engaging speaker :). Yesterday's topic was Yajooj Majooj... (I remember being terrified of these when I was a kid).

After my somewhat boring Ramadans spent in foreign lands, Karachi is pretty lively. Zamzama (and various other streets) have been lit up (with illegal connections to the electricity poles :p), shops are open until 2 am and restaurants are open until Sehri. I went to the Sea View the other day and it was full of people enjoying doodh patti and kababs around midnight :). I heart Ramadan festivities in Pakistan!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mera Wajood Paak Hai

Only in Dubai...

do they have a VIP Gold class section for "higher paying customers who don't want to mix with the rest of the public". Let's just embrace apartheid already...

Friday, September 11, 2009

In "Dog" We Trust

Since there's nothing on tv (and I'm not a big tv-watcher anyway!), I'm now following, Greatest American Dog. Basically, it's a bunch of dogs with owners competing to win :p

Next, they'll probably come up with something even more outlandish... like Greatest American Baby or Turtle or "insert animal of choice" here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In Limbo

I'm waiting for my study permit to arrive... so I'm hoping (inshalah, inshalah!) that it comes soon... I don't have a plan B yet... :S.

The electricity situation's turned awful again... it's especially bad at night when you're trying to sleep with mosquitoes buzzing around...

My twelve-year-old sister thinks I'm turning into a control freak because I insisted that she sort out her books subject-wise in her bag and sharpened all her pencils :P

Ramadan's half over... I'm trying to be a better person by keeping quiet and staying in my room (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, right?) but my mom thinks I'm turning into a hermit...

Also started on my reading list for the course starting this fall. The last time I studied Chemistry was back in A'Levels... *sigh*

Saturday, September 5, 2009

BRATZ CHATZ

I can't believe I'm doing this but I'm reading my sister's Bratz series :). Bratz are a group of teenage girls with pouty lips and hooker-ish eyes. Here's an excerpt:

PRETTY PRINCESS: Yo, Sash.
BUNNY BOO: I'm here. Hold onto your seats, cuz I've got a scoop as pretty princess sez.
KOOL KAT: What did U find out frm Koby?
BUNNY BOO: It's not what I found out frm Koby it's what I found out while he wuz OUT!
ANGEL: Spill!

"Prowlin' round with feline grace,
Kool Kat's the one that's settin' the pace.
Sleek and sassy, always dressed to kill,
She's the girl who makes my heart thrill."

Ummmmm, I'm probably old-fashioned but I think I preferred the more refined and gentle Barbie :")

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What Karachi Does to Me...

It's been two months since the return to my hometown and I'm slowly becoming Pakistaniized... Plus, it's Ramadan and my daily schedule is completely messed up. I wake up around 5:15 am for Sehri, groggily down some cereal/toast, pray and go back to sleep only to wake up around 1:00 pm, pray some more, do a bit of reading, help my mom with iftar, pray Asr, watch cooking shows on tv, have iftar, pray Maghrib and then baby-sit my sister (who's listening to Poker Face on repeat... aaaargh) while my parents go for Taraweeh.

I'm reading the Harry Potter series for the seventh time (currently on The Half-Blood Prince) and being completely anti-social and lethargic :p. My mom thinks I'm sickening for something but I don't think I am...

Missing my friends from college and work :'(

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Darzi Woes

A trip to the darzi (tailor) never fails to bring me down. With Eid approaching, my mom insists that I get a couple of shalwar kameez made so I can "fit in" with fashionable Karachiite ladies. So far, I'd been subsisting on last season's Generation stock (for the uninitiated, Generation is a boutique that provides ready-made outfits for women, which works well for me, except for the fact that you'll probably run into someone else wearing the exact same outfit as you at the next get-together :p).

So mom and I went to Khaadi and Aashiana where we purchased material (in bright yellow and fuschia); then we went to the darzi.

All darzis call themselves Master Saab (Maas Saab is the abbreviated version). When we arrived, poor Maas Saab was already beleaguered by a begum (middle-aged, self-assured lady) asking him to complete her outfit by 7:00 pm as she had to wear it to an iftaar party that evening o_0.

After she left, we gave him the material, measurements and design and he assured us he'd have the completed outfits ready in a week. I showed up at the darzi's place ten days later only to be informed that he hadn't even cut the cloth and to come back after another week.

I finally went to collect the outfits and realized: he'd stitched my clothes using my mom's measurements :'(

Sunday, August 30, 2009

And it's pouring...

Snug at home, I'm watching the rain and lightning from my window. Sounds like a waterfall outside. Thankfully, we've still got electricity. Stay safe people!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lazy me

These days I'm sleeping at 6:30 am (after sehri) and getting up around 1:30 pm (insert embarrassed smiley). My twelve year old sister gets ready for school at around 6:30 am and comes home exhausted at 2:30 pm, rests for an hour and then starts homework... bechari... :p

I'm glad I'm through with that phase of my life but I miss the routine, the assurance that I'd wake up at a certain time every morning, wear certain clothes, associate with the same people and repeat the cycle the following day.

I think I'm becoming increasingly lazy in Karachi. Just received the reading list for the core course and I'm slightly overwhelmed... so not ready for grad school :S

Sunday, August 23, 2009

E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One)



I got a chance to visit the State Department in DC for one of my policy task forces and found this interesting. Notice that the American (bald) eagle is holding a branch in one talon and arrows in the other. In times of peace, the eagle's face is turned towards the branch and in times of war, its face is turned towards the arrows.

Another Cat Post...




The kittens are at their cutest right now :) They're frisky and full of energy while mommy (cat) dearest is perpetually exhausted... They've recently started eating solids (boiled chicken liver purchased by moi from Pervaiz Chicken Center in Khadda Market).

Sometimes, I feel guilty spending Rs. 100/day on the cat when the streets are full of human beggars :S. We took them to the vet for shots and the other cats (pedigree Persians and Siamese) looked down their nose at our old pussy cat adopted off the street :p.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ramadan'09

And so, Ramadan 2009 begins today! I feel like it came upon us really suddenly this year... Hopefully, we'll settle into the routine pretty quickly.

When I was a kid, Ramadan was a huge deal. My mom would wake me an hour before Fajr (around 4:30 am), force-feed me parathas and make me drink 6 glasses of water so I wouldn't become dehydrated. School would start early and end early too so students could go home and sleep until Iftar. My brother and I would watch Ramadan programs on tv while our mom cooked yummy iftar food (pakoras, samosas and dahi baray oh my!). My dad would make fruit chaat with each piece of fruit perfectly sliced, diced and cubed. We'd send food to our neighbors in a platter covered with an embroidered napkin and they'd send us food in return.

I never really "felt" Ramadan in college... It's no fun waking up for a solitary sehri when you've barely slept 4 hours all night :( but my friends were wonderfully supportive and we'd have dinner together. Usually, I'd grab a bearclaw pastry from Panera on my way back from class and eat in my room while watching Full House on youtube before starting a paper or finishing homework :p.

Anyway, these days I'm unemployed and basically home all day... it actually feels good!

Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm hip... no really :p

I've been caught up in Karachi's frenetic social scene. I attended a couple of weddings, one of which had Zardari in attendance :P. When the President decides to attend a wedding, they cordon off entire sections of the city while civilians are forced to spend an extra hour or so taking detours or waiting for the President's entourage to pass...

Also tried out two new eateries :). Cafe Koel (Koel = quail) is located in the same lane as Cafe Flo (26th street) and has outdoor seating as well as an air-conditioned restaurant-style seating area. I went on a Saturday morning with my friends and the place was packed with aunties wearing crisp kurtas in various pastel shades and hair blow-dried to perfection. It's not too pricey and I really liked their mint lemonade (shikanjabeen) and kulcha sandwiches.

Cafe Aylanto is located in Zamzama and it's been around for a while, but back when I was an (impecunious) student, I didn't visit snooty gourmet places with my friends :p. Most of the main entrees were priced at Rs. 600 and above (yikes!) but Karachi's "hip" crowd was there in full force... Right opposite our table was a couple who was "getting to know" one another. The guy was dressed in a purple and pink striped shirt and the girl was wearing a slinky black dress... Ahem, last time I checked, exposed calves and bosoms were a big no no in Pakistan?

The guy asked the girl if she was "into" Aamir Khan which for some obscure reason struck me as funny and I had a fit of giggles :p. We had white chocolate cheesecake for dessert and it made me really happy :D

Ramadan Mubarak!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Of Mehendis and Shaadis

I've been busy attending friends' mehendis and shaadis in Karachi. The arrangements are more lavish and creative every time. Yesterday's mehendi theme was bright pink and baby blue (it used to be green, orange and yellow eons ago but I guess times are a'changing!). The girls from bride's side were wearing peshwazs (long flowing frocks with skinny trousers underneath) and the girls from the groom's side were in ghagras (long flowing skirts with heavily worked blouses). The guys on both sides wore kurta shalwars...

The invitation said 9:30 pm so my friend and I arrived around 10:30 pm, thinking we'd be fashionably late. Alas, NO ONE was there except for the bride's siblings and immediate family... so we sat around and listened to bollywood music playing in the background. They played this song



at least 5 times in the space of an hour. For anyone who's watched the movie, this song is played when the girl (Zubaida) is being forced to marry someone against her will and tries to commit suicide by shooting herself in the head with her dad's gun :p Now, why would you play that at anyone's wedding?!

At long last, the groom arrived at 11:30 pm singing and dancing with his friends... It was funny though, because he had to stop and pose at multiple intervals for the video and video guys made him repeat the moves a couple of times :)

The bride arrived at midnight in a doli (a wooden box/carriage decorated with flowers carried by the bride's brothers and cousins). The groom was polite enough to come down from the stage and receive her (some grooms are lazy, and remain sitting, waiting for the bride to come to them :p). After that, they had a couple of dance performances but the diyas kept blowing out because of the wind so they had to do without. At that point, I was exhausted and my hair was getting frizzy thanks to the humidity, so I went home, had a sandwich and went to bed :)

Happy Anniversary!

Ammi and Abbu celebrated their twenty-fourth wedding anniversary last week. Next year inshallah will be the big 25 but we decided to make this one special too since the whole family was finally together.

My mom met my dad for the first time on their wedding day. Luckily, my dad was a good guy and it turned out ok :) He said "hi" to her when they finally got to sit together but she didn't reply, being the nice, demure Pakistani bride of the eighties, even though they both came from "liberal" family backgrounds :p

My brother and I would save up each year and buy a gift for our parents. We'd plan ahead and get our grandparents to take us shopping because we wanted it to be a surprise and neither of us was old enough to drive. I'd make a card, get flowers and bake/buy a cake and we'd usually go out for an (extended) family dinner. Now, my sister makes the card and I end up paying since I'm technically "grown-up" :p

And this is their song... cheesy, yes, but we're like that :)


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Applying for a UK Student Visa...

... is no easy task; especially, when you happen to have a Pakistani passport... After repeatedly calling 0900101411, I finally got an appointment to make my application and arrived at the Visa Application Center bright and early (8:30 am) for my 9:15 am appointment.

I went inside while my mom waited in the car. At the reception, they checked my documents and informed me that I needed an A4 size copy of my National ID card so I walked back out to get some money from my mom for the photocopy (I'd left my purse at home, independent woman that I am :p). She only had a 1000 rupee note so we asked a lady seated in the waiting area for change. I went back inside, obtained my token number (22) and met with a visa representative.

After looking through my documents, he informed me that I needed original copies of my O and A'Level certificates! Apparently a valid BSE degree is not proof enough... He said, he'd hold my place for an hour. So, I went back out again and asked my mom to drive me back home so I could find my O and A'Level certificates and rush back. After a (well-deserved) lecture in the car about being grown-up and responsible, my mom got me home and I rummaged around frantically searching for my certificates (from 7 and 5 years ago). Luckily, I found them in a file and my mom drove me back in record time so I could turn in my application just in time...

Sometimes, I feel like I'm still the 5 year old little girl being scolded by my mom for forgetting my lunch box at home... *sigh*

Friday, July 24, 2009

To hug or not to hug?

So I had an awkward "meeting" today :p. The time and place was arranged by the moms since we didn't want to do the traditional chai at home and at 6:30 we arrived at a popular club near the sea...

The cafe was pretty crowded and we were meeting the prospects for the first time, so it took a while to figure out who they were (thank God for cellphones!). They'd sent us a picture, but I doubt anyone actually looks like their prospect pic in real life :p We found a quiet corner and made small talk for a good 15 minutes while aunties and uncles seated at nearby tables gave us knowing smiles. Ana embarrassed jiddan!

I determinedly gazed at my hands while the prospective aunty gave me a once-over. The small talk continued and I remained the silent, nice girl :p. Half-way through, it started drizzling so we all got up and moved to another table. When we got up to leave, I experienced a bit of a dilemma... to hug aunty goodbye or not to hug? I didn't want to appear too effusive/clingy since we were meeting for the first time and in all likelihood, I probably wouldn't see them again... At the same time, I didn't want to appear rude/stuck-up... In the end, I just sort of smiled and did the air-hug (hugging without actually touching).

Awkward!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

La

I've been feeling la for the last few days; too lazy to do anything productive, yet sad because I've been sitting in one place like a lump. I did manage to clean out my cupboards if that counts as being productive :P And I discovered a wet tissue from Boots that was lying in one of my purses for the last 10 years... I opened it, the tissue was dry but the fragrance was still intact :P.

I miss being around intellectual people who can talk about subjects other than clothes, tailors, electricity and family issues... I've been entertaining myself with Samantha (my sister named her :p).


Some of my friends took a trip to India. I want to be there right now, *sigh*.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bun Kabab


Wikipedia describes the bun kabab as an "authentic South Asian sandwich" consisting of a spicy patty, onions, chutney or raita in a hamburger or hot dog bun warmed on a karhai.

I had one today after a really really long time. I usually avoid street-food on short visits but this time I'm here for a while so I decided the risk was worth it (the risk of food-poisoning/gastroenteritis/typhoid due to the dodgy hygiene conditions :p).

Boy, was it worth it :) My mom and I tracked down the old bun kabab-wala since he'd moved to another area and ordered four bun kababs. He served them fresh and hot and we devoured them hungrily, reliving days gone by when we'd stop by the bun kabab-vendor on the way home from school and have bun kababs for lunch.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

KESC Torments Poor Civilians

Electricity... hurrah! after 4 days (= 96 hours). The last four days have been straight out of a bad horror movie (ok, it could've been worse if everything happened to me but I did get a lot of feedback from other Karachiites).

After the epic rainfall breaking a 30-year record, the people of Karachi are grumpy, bone-weary and resigned. Several roads remain submerged, cars are stranded due to water entering the exhaust pipes, residents are still mopping up the water that flooded their homes and shopkeepers/businessmen are rioting in the streets and burning up KESC (Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation) complaint centers (which is self-defeating but they're too desperate to care).

One of my friends spent Saturday evening hammering holes in the wall of his roof with a screwdriver so the water could escape because the puny drainage pipe got clogged with muck. Another stole bricks from a nearby construction site and propped up her bed while the water levels steadily rose around her. My uncle drove his new car into a ditch because he couldn't see the road and someone nearly electrocuted himself trying to start the generator...

Food rotted away in the fridge, the UPS died and I couldn't check my email for three days straight! (gasp!)... I felt rather primitive, hand-washing my clothes and hanging them out to dry, cooking on the gas stove by candle-light and using my wind-up alarm clock instead of the cell-phone alarm (because the charge had run out). I whiled away the time with some light reading and tried to stay out of everyone's way because people were getting on each others nerves without fans/airconditioning, sweating it out in the hot, humid weather.

So, why did I leave my comfortable lifestyle in Abu Dhabi and come back to Pakistan again?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Rain in Karachi...

Monsoon season is finally here and Karachi is clean and green in the aftermath of the heavy downpours. The new drains installed last year seem to be working... so far. At least we haven't had to wade through knee-deep water yet!

Early in the morning I drove to Sea View (all by myself :) yayyy!). There's a lot of ugly construction going on but I could just glimpse the waves through the gaps in the wall. A couple of men in suits had stopped by the beach to enjoy the weather before heading to work on a Saturday morning.

Now I'm sitting outside in our little garden patch, reading Nadia's song and raindrops are spattering the pages. I can hear the water sloshing in the drains. Earth worms revel in the puddles outside.
:
:
:
Guess I spoke too soon :p Went to the mall in the afternoon (and of course every other person in Karachi decided to do the same :P) so we got stuck in traffic. The drains got blocked so there were a number of cars partially submerged on the roads and people did end up wading through inundated roads...

Rain is nice when you're snug at home gazing out the window with a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a book to keep you company. It sounds like a waterfall outside!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Aunty Parties

Yesterday was my mom's friend H's birthday and so, her friends decided to throw a surprise party for her. Aunty H's daughter was told to bring her mom to Pizza Hut at 1:30pm and the other aunties got there early bearing gifts and flowers. To add to the ambiance, the waiters put up Pizza Hut balloons and streamers around our table and when a little kid came along eager to claim the balloons for himself, Aunty F told him, "Beta, hamari party hai" (son, it's our party). The little guy's face fell and he scooted away :P.

Aunty H finally arrived around 2:30pm but I'm guessing she'd guessed something was up because she was beautifully coiffed and dressed :) The aunties ate, drank and made merry (they now have flavors like Showarma Pizza and Karahi Chicken Pizza and appetizers like Seekh Kebab Rolls to cater to Pakistani tastes). Finally Aunty R left the table and came back 5 minutes later with a secret smile on her face.

After everyone was done eating, the waiters came along bearing a cake with candles and proceeded to belt out "Happy Birthday to You" in off-key voices. They made noise enough so that every other table in the restaurant was watching ours. Aunty R blushed at the attention and cut her cake... At 3:30, she got a call from Neelo's salon asking her to confirm her appointment at 5:00 for a blow-dry, pedicure and lifting facial (this was her daughter's birthday gift... awwww).

Once lunch was over, the aunties wanted chai so they decided to go to a dhaaba (a roadside cafe) and drink dhaaba wali chai... Ofcourse, aunties are too hygiene-conscious/sophisticated to drink in the dhaaba cups, so they asked for the chai to be put in disposable plastic cups and sipped away. So ended Aunty R's birthday party :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Week 2


I can't believe I've been home for a week already! I went out for a drive today and got samosas :-) and jalebis. Only in Pakistan will you find fresh samosas for Rs. 6 ($0.07). Ana saeedah!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seriously...

I realized I have a hard time letting go and moving on... My homepage is still set to www.princeton.edu 0-O

In other news, I was scanning the "Careers" section of Dawn and applied for a couple of part-time positions for the summer.

And here are some matrimonial advertisements from the newspaper... Be amused :p

"Anmol rishtay: All kinds of proposals are available: Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, professional degree holders, pretty girls and boys, USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Holland and UAE. "

"Daughter 27, MS plus chartered accountant, good looking and good cooking!"

"A well-off young Urdu Speaking businessman living in posh area needs pretty bride from a compatible business family. High class proposals including problem cases available. "

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Semi-Happy Post

I realized that my thoughts are becoming progressively sadder day by day... Today was interesting. I met some friends after a reallllly long time and we had fun catching up. There's something about old buddies, people I knew as awkward teenagers who've grown up to become successful men and women that always gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside :) (of course, I was an awkward teenager too :p).

Later, we went for dinner at Arizona Grill... It was packed since it was the weekend and we had to wait for a table... When we were leaving, a little boy (around 6 or 7 years old) came up to me and said, "Baji, don't break my heart baji, please buy a flower for 10 rupees " in perfect English and started handing me flowers... I bought a few and handed them out but he followed us all the way back to the car along with his younger siblings. At the stoplight, a swarm of little boys literally ambushed us with their windshield wipers... When the traffic light turns red, these little boys come up to the cars and start wiping the windshields, then expect to be paid... it really breaks my heart... :-(

“In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope. In a world filled with anger, we must still dare to comfort. In a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream. And in a world filled with distrust, we must still dare to believe.”
MJ

:S

If a guy you've known and liked (as a friend) since O'Levels (high school) announced out of the blue that he was interested in "taking things further" (getting engaged-----> getting married). What would you do?

He graduated this year and is starting med school in the fall (with a hundred thousand dollars in student loans)... Isn't med school tough enough without having a girl to worry about? Are 22 year old guys mature? What are the chances that a long-distance relationship would work out over a four year period?

P.S. The girl has a job, he doesn't... wouldn't he suffer from inferiority complex?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

*sigh*


Bagel display in Central Park (NYC). People do funny things in Central Park... (and I miss bagels)


A corner of my garden at home :)

My friend S has two of the cutest puppies: Bianca and Brownie... We've known each other since fourth grade (S and I)... and now she's moving to the US *sigh*

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Aam

I'm enjoying succulent, juicy mangoes in Karachi... I had a chat with the fruitwalla today and he said that fruit is ripe for harvesting in the Swat/Chitral region but no one's there to pick and process it... This is the area where the Pakistani military is battling the Taliban and the people who lived there have been forced to abandon their homes and orchards and are currently living in makeshift tent camps in other parts of the country... it's a sad situation and no one seems to care.

I've slowly been adjusting to life in Karachi... For a start, I went to the salon to get "cleaned up". There was a ten-year old boy in the reception (he'd come with his mom) and I amused myself, observing his facial expressions. By turns he looked fascinated/horrified/bored out of his mind as his mom got her hair dyed, brows and face waxed and threaded and her skin polished. Then, I went to Aashiana (a shopping center that sells loose cloth) to buy material for shalwar kameezes since mine are hopelessly outdated. After shrinking the material by soaking it in water, I'll go to the tailor to get the outfits made.

I hope I find something productive to do soon, otherwise I'll end up socializing my summer away at frivolous aunty-parties and friends' weddings. And I'm surprised at the fickeleness (if that's a word) of my attachments because I don't miss Abu Dhabi at all... is that weird?

Currently reading: The Adventures of the Wishing Chair (Enid Blyton).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tis Warm in Karachi

After yet another "adventure" I arrived safe and sound in my beautiful home city :) I'd decided to keep all of Saturday free to say goodbye to everyone since my flight was booked for Sunday evening and I'd have all of Sunday morning to pack, clean and wrap up things (or so I thought). Al came over from Dubai and we hung out at IKEA. I was planning to meet some people for dinner later that evening.

At 4:30 pm, my mom called to say hello and confirm my travel plans. She told me to make sure the flight was for the 5th and I assured her it was confirmed but she told me to check again just to make sure... (mom's intuition). I didn't have my ticket on me so I went up to the Etihad kiosk and asked for a confirmation receipt. The person at the counter said I wasn't listed... (Gaia has mini panic attack). He ran another check and informed me that I was booked on the flight leaving tonight (Saturday evening at 11:00 pm)... major major panic attack!!!!

After some deep, abdominal breathing, I called my friends and asked them to meet me earlier (at 6:30 pm) and after a quick farewell, I sped back to the villas... We got stuck in traffic and it was 7:30 pm by the time I arrived at the villas (time to check-in = 1 hr 30 mins).

I did laundry, dried and folded my sheets and towels, took out the trash, finished packing and weighing my luggage and cleaned the kitchen in 1 hr 30 mins. I also ended up giving away 50% of my things including my favorite Pton t-shirt :'(. Coming down the stairs with my over-stuffed suitcase, I managed to fracture a bone in my right hand (I heard a slight crack) and the hand swelled up and turned purple.

Thanks to Zubair (our awesome driver), I made it to the airport just in time (huge sigh of relief) and made it to Karachi where the temperature is around 42 degrees Celcius and there's been no electricity for the past two hours (which means, no airconditioning/tv/fun).

But I'm happy to be home :) and our cat is expecting again and my hand is back to its normal size...

Friday, July 3, 2009

I'm tearing up... :'(


Il and M got me a cushion and a cookie:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Farewell

The people at work threw me a farewell today... I feel all warm and fuzzy inside :) We had Arabic food and set up chairs in the lobby. Almost everyone showed up (mostly for the free food :p)!

It's a bittersweet feeling- I'm happy to be going home but at the same time, sad. I filled out the exit clearance form and turned in my work laptop, house keys and i.d. card (sniff), cleaned out my desk, recycled all the paper and took my name tag off... It's been a rewarding experience and I did learn a lot during the course of the year. I'm going to miss some people a lot, others, not so much. I gave Il my wall calendar and mousepad to remember me by and got small gifts for the girls. We did the three-way hug/kiss and exchanged emails and phone numbers but I didn't cry... In fact, I couldn't stop smiling (is that weird?).

I also received my "good conduct certificate" from the Abu Dhabi Police today (200 Dhs!!).

Final steps: do laundry, empty fridge and cupboards, dust and mop house, make cake for security guards...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

R.I.P.



Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I feel like I'm standing on the brink of a deep, dark abyss. I decided voluntarily to not renew my job contract in Abu Dhabi. With no immediate employment prospects for the summer, I am not looking forward to sitting at home, lazing on the couch, and generally being a burden on society :p... I don't want to volunteer at an NGO because my past experiences have been pretty negative- you drive to far away places (paying for your own petrol and mode of transport), you sit around all day reading papers or magazines, take loooong chai/lunch/namaz breaks and basically exhaust yourself without accomplishing anything worthwhile.

I finally read Outliers (by Malcolm Gladwell). It's an amazing book, although some of the relationships that Gladwell highlights are a tad farfetched. He claims that the key to success is meaningful work; i.e. an activity in which there is a direct and obvious relationship between effort and reward (i.e. the greater the effort you put into something, the greater the reward). I think I agree with him... Now I need to find a project where I'll see immediate, tangible results. Easier said, than done :p

I've also started watching TED talks! TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design- fascinating...!



Monday, June 29, 2009

Min Abu Dhabi ila Dubai bil Bus


My last trip to Dubai was memorable. I woke up bright and early on Saturday and got dropped off at the Abu Dhabi bus station near Al Wahda Mall. Luckily, there was an Emirates Express bus leaving for Dubai in 10 minutes so I hopped in, paid the fare (15 Dhs only!) and settled down with my book. The bus filled up pretty quickly; mostly young men (Indians, Pakistanis and Filipinos).

Since traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road was low on Saturday morning, we made it to Dubai in an hour. I wanted to get off at Mall of the Emirates where I was meeting my friend for lunch but the bus went all the way into Bur Dubai. This is the old Dubai area, the buildings are somewhat dilapidated and run-down in comparison to the bright and shiny "new" Dubai and you hardly see any Arab/Emirati nationals. I got off at Al-Ghubaibah bus station and tried to figure out how I could get to Mall of the Emirates. There were no maps, so I asked the RTA officer for directions. He told me to take the 9D bus to Al-Satwa station and from there I could take another bus to MoE.

Forty minutes later, after roasting in the heat, I boarded the bus to Al-Satwa. Again, I got stared at since I was the only female (weird enough? stupid enough?) to take the bus. The bus ride from Al-Satwa to MoE took another forty-five minutes. By this time, I was tired, hungry, hot and frustrated.

Mall of the Emirates cheered me up :) I met Al (one of my Pton roomies who got transferred to Dubai). We had lunch (creamy soup with warm bread fresh from the oven) and wandered around the mall. Al had to leave early so I decided to head back around 5:00 pm. I ended up taking a taxi to Bur Dubai and from there I took another bus back to Abu Dhabi. This one was filled with Pakistani laborers and again I was the only girl :S.

I know this sounds really mean but they were smelly! It's the weekend... they could have taken a shower and put on some perfume or attar... I've noticed South Asian men have a strong smell; Arabs and Filipinos are generally cleaner and are more particular about personal hygiene (and they don't stare).

Masalaam Dubai!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Transformers 2 Revenge of the Fallen



I just saw the movie and according to a friend who accompanied me it was "cringe worthy". But, I have to say it was better than I expected... (or maybe my expectations were really low).

Megan's role was basically geared towards the dreams of hormonal males; luscious lips, cutaway shorts, bouncy ummm assets and all... Shia LaBeouf did a blah job of being a Princeton freshman and saving the world :P The Transformers made too much noise... I zoned out after a while.

The glimpses of campus were pretty cool though and I liked the shots in Petra and Egypt :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Peter and Jane


Anyone remember Peter and Jane? I grew up learning to read using the Key Word Reading Scheme (based on the premise that just 12 words make up a quarter of all the English words we read and write and that 100 words make up a half of those that we use on a daily basis).


Napoleon Dynamite Dance Scene

A Little Golden Book



When I was little, my mom used to read aloud stories to me. She used a lot of expressions, intonations and gestures to make the stories come alive. I'd memorize every single word and the routine had to be perfect... if she skipped/altered a single word or forgot to make the right sounds at the right places, I'd throw a tantrum :p

One of my favorites was Four Little Kittens. It was part of the Little Golden Books series and I adored the pictures. It was the story of a mother cat with four little kittens (Tuff, Luff, Ruff and Muff) telling them what they could be when they grow up. Tuff chooses to be an alley cat (a tough life), Luff decides to be a ship's cat (a life of adventure), Ruff wants to live on a farm (responsible and useful) and Muff simply can't make up her mind. In the end after her siblings leave, Muff has a revelation, "I'm a cushion and cream cat, a purring cat, a cuddlesome cat, a playful cat, a little girl's cat, - I'm a house cat!"

Muff was my favorite, the sweet one who'd stay at home and bring joy to a little girl... I guess I turned out more like Tuff, Luff and Ruff...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Home


After five years of living independently, away from my family, I'm always a little apprehensive going back home for extended periods of time... I've visited frequently, sometimes three or four times a year and each time it's a different experience. People have changed; my grandparents seem older, more frail than before; my dad has more silver hair and gets tired quickly and my mom's more conservative than I remember (or maybe I've become more "liberal" ?!). It takes a while adjusting to the changes, observing things through a fresh lens. Things I took for granted growing up (health, family, physical and financial security) seem ever more precious...

Then of course, there's the extreme lifestyle makeover: intermittent electricity, intermittent water supply, dependency on servants, the never-ending round of social commitments, a curfew :p

Last time there was no electricity at the airport, so people were filling out forms manually at immigration, the conveyor belts weren't running and there was complete chaos at the airport... it's terrifying when you think about how backward we are compared to the rest of the world. Even a simple task like checking your email becomes a chore. Plus, I feel like an ingrate complaining, knowing there are millions of people worse off than me :p and frustrated because I'm wasting precious time doing routine stuff that could be taken care off by machines (hand-washing clothes and dishes, doing jharoo poncha (sweeping and mopping) etc.) or supervising others to do it...

Then again, there's no greater bonding experience than sitting in one room in semi-darkness in my pjs (in an effort to conserve the UPS/generator) playing ludo or snakes and ladders with my siblings to while away the time or simply going to Seaview for a long drive (with the car ac on) to wait out the blackout.

Of course, not everyone can afford three meals a day let alone UPS or generators or even a car with ac. In fact, while we sweat at home, people's livelihoods are at stake- men are sitting idle in tailoring shops, workshops, photocopy/binding shops, offices and bazaars. In local hospitals without power, hundreds of patients are lying helpless. At times like this, we Pakistanis become resigned to our fate... Indeed, what will be will be... and I have to say, I admire our patience and fortitude.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Ramblings

In preparation for my impending departure, I am trying to finish up food items in the fridge and I've managed to come up with some strange concoctions. Today, around 11, I had ice cream with whipped cream topping for breakfast... except, the whipped cream turned out to be labneh :P blech.

I took the bus to Madinat Zayed Shopping Center around 2:30pm. It was rather deserted for a Saturday afternoon except for the usual crowd of expat men who have nothing to do on weekends. In winter, they congregate at the Corniche but since it's boiling outside now, they hang out at the air-conditioned shopping centers and ogle at women. There was sale at Ninewest and Charles and Keith but it turned out to be a hoax- they jacked up the prices and after discount, the prices were more or less the same as before :p.

I bought a heavily embroidered table runner for my mom from a handicrafts store. The shopkeeper turned out to be Pakistani but he continued speaking to me in English... In situations like these, I'm always confused. Do I talk in Urdu? Do I appear arrogant/sound like I'm trying too hard to be "western" if I speak in English? Plus, I can't always tell whether a person speaks Urdu/Hindi or Tamil/Malayalam or some other language just by looking at him... some Arabs take offense if someone mistakes them for an Indian; it's quite a dilemma sometimes!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Date-picking in Abu Dhabi

There are date palms all around the area where I work. This one caught my eye because the fruit was red... (usually they're green and turn yellow as they ripen). The heat dries them up, they shrivel and turn brown, ready for picking!



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Applebees


Yesterday evening was M's bridal shower. I got her a nice set of crystal drinking glasses and Il and S got her a coffee machine and a blender along with a couple of gag gifts :p. Afterwards we went to the newly opened Applebees in Mazyad Mall.

I ordered a Cowboy burger. It's a huge patty topped with a crunchy onion ring , barbecue sauce, jack and cheddar cheeses and strips of fried chicken (recipe for atherosclerosis :p). This morning, I googled "Applebees Cowboy Burger" to find that it contains 840 calories not counting fries and dip!!! The others got quesadillas and regular sandwiches which were probably slightly healthier...

On top of that, we got complimentary dessert! (added advantage of going out with giggly girlfriends). White chocolate with walnut brownie topped with vanilla icecream and maple butter sauce... sigh!

How to get a Cell Phone in Abu Dhabi


Etisalat and Du are the primary telephone and internet service providers in the UAE. To purchase a cell phone plan/sim card in Abu Dhabi, you will need a copy of your passport and residence visa and fill out an application form. Etisalat offers the Wasel prepaid plan. Onetime registration charges are AED 165 and you can subsequently purchase phone cards or top up online. International calls can be pretty expensive- the international rates for Etisalat subscribers are listed here.

Du is cheaper than Etisalat (a one-time payment of AED 62) and offers a monthly plan- details can be found here. Alternatively, you can purchase the Pay as you Go service (a one-time payment of AED 55).

Note: Du coverage may not be available in all areas.

Public pay phones are available in most areas in Abu Dhabi and accept coins (50 fils and one dirham) and prepaid phone cards, which can be purchased from grocery stores and Etisalat outlets. To make a telephone call to a mobile subscriber within the UAE, dial 050 (for Etisalat) or 055 (for Du) followed by the seven-digit cell phone number. To call a landline number within the UAE and outside Abu Dhabi, you must dial the city code followed by the seven digit telephone number.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Khwaari


So, in order to apply for a student visa, I need "good conduct certificates" from three countries! (USA, UAE and Pakistan). For the US, I had to send a fingerprint card all the way to Clarksburg, West Virginia (and hopefully they'll mail it back soon). Prior to this, I'd only heard of West Virginia in a song by John Denver. For the UAE and Pakistan, I had to go to a police station with the required documents and obtain clearance.

Note: I've never been to a police station before, not even for a minor driving incident!

So I went to the criminal headquarters in Kharadar, Karachi. The officers were surprisingly polite and efficient and rolled my fingers on an ink slab. Afterwards, they gave me Surf Excel to wash the ink off my hands :). I didn't see any criminals but there were a couple of addicts sleeping on the floor... and the head officer had to leave in a hurry because there had been a bomb scare somewhere in the city.

So if you're planning to study in another country, allow plenty of time for processing of documents and be prepared for a lot of khwaari :p

Disney Roll :p

I heart this site :)

http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/2006/

When I Need A Good Cry...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saying Goodbye


Goodbyes have always been awkward for me. Usually, I put on the tough-girl act and say a terse, off-hand goodbye (while trying not to burst into tears and resisting the urge to bawl like a baby). The other person usually ends up thinking that they've offended me deeply :p so I follow up with a highly emotional email explaining why I was rude... Some things are just easier expressed when written rather than communicated face to face...

I will inshalah be leaving soon and I want to do it the right way...

I could be cheesy like SRK and come up with bollywood-ish farewells...

But I'd rather be dignified and calm. I bought gifts for my close friends and colleagues and I'll probably send out a mass email to everyone else thanking them for the opportunity to work with them.

I'm definitely older and perhaps a little wiser after my stint in Abu Dhabi :). It's been quite an experience after the Princeton cocoon but I think I'm ready to move on and try something new...