My first impressions of Karachi are that it's a wild, crazy, frantic place...full of energy...a place of contrasts.
Taking my life into my hands
The first thing that struck me was the traffic. If you want an adrenaline buzz, don't waste your time bungy jumping or sky-diving...all you need to do is get in a car, or better (or worse, depending on your point of view) a scooter and drive down the main streets. Everyone is rushing around in different directions...amazing speeds...honking their horns and determined that they will not be the one to get out of the way. Whole families take their lives in their hands on one scooter...with no crash helmets. I tell you...taking a drive is more fun and more terrifying than the fastest roller coaster at Disney World.
What I have seen of Karachi has been mostly by car. There are areas of the city that are not safe to go. And it is a little intimidating to see soldiers and security men around with guns. But I do not get the sense the place is under lock down. I would not go anywhere on my own, but I feel very safe when I am escorted by the folks here.
I would like to take photos because I know people back home will be interested to see where I have been, but I am very wary and not wanting to attract attention. I hope to get some photos when I go out sight-seeing at the weekend.
On the first day I got here I was taken shopping...these women I am working with are women after my own heart! They have bought material to be made into two Kameez Shalwar for me. I just adore the colours that the women wear - so pretty and far more colourful than the clothes we wear in New Zealand. Wearing a Kameez Shalwar will make me feel a lot less conspicuous when we go out and about.
The food is fabulous. I thought I would find it too hot and spicy but it is what I am used to eating when I go to an Indian restaurant in New Zealand, or when my husband cooks a curry at home. It is Ramadan at the moment which means people fast during day light hours. This hasn't been a problem for me because I have been given lots of fruit to eat during the day - I've got a whole fridge full of mangoes. The thing I focus on is drinking plenty of water so I don't get too dehydrated. It is very hot and muggy here, but the air conditioning stops me getting too hot. The main thing I have noticed is my feet are swelling up which is really uncomfortable - I'll have a lot more sympathy for people with oedema from now on.
I am staying in the woman's hostel on the campus of the Aga Khan University. It is extremely safe with lots of security guards. I am totally happy now I have full Internet access. I've already had chats with people from home on Skype and Gtalk - it is lovely to know people are thinking of me. And of course, regular Facebook updates are obligatory these days.
Everyone has been extremely kind and welcoming and have bent over backwards to make sure I am comfortable. In my next blog post I tell you more about what I am doing while I am here.