Friday, August 20, 2010

New friends and new clothes

I wasn't sure what to expect when I got to Pakistan but what I have found is amazing warmth and hospitality.

I'll be honest, I was in two minds about coming here. You hear so much in the Western media about the violence in this area, and the hatred that Muslims have for people from the Western World, especially if they are Christain. So I was nervous about what I would find once I got to Karachi.

A wonderful welcome
What I found found is people who could not do enough for me - I am being treated like a queen. I feel incredibly honoured to have been given the opportunity to come to a country that has such a different culture. And I know the experience I am having now will stay with me for ever for all sorts of reasons....more about that in blog posts to come.

I am staying and working in the Aga Khan University in Karachi. Dr Rafat Jan is responsible bringing me over, and her staff are taking very good care of me. I have to laugh because the girls are very worried I am going to starve because of Ramadan, so they keep plying me with food. So my plan for losing weght is coming to nought...I'm going to go back to New Zealand fatter than I ever was!

New clothes
As I mentioned before, Rafat and her team have had two traditional outfits made for me. I was taken to a tailor, who was very polite and didn't faint with shock when he took my measurements! I would never have found the tailor's shop in a month of Sundays. Amber took me up several flights of stairs in a rather dingy building. It was dark...lots of flys buzzing around suspicious looking staring at us as we passed. I was very glad Amber was with me because I would have felt extremely nervous by myself.

New but old friends
The other thing that makes me laugh is that Rafat introduces me as the person she met by way of Internet dating. I know there are many people who believe true friendship cannot be formed on the Internet, but my experience contradicts that. Rafat and I have been talking, mostly via Elluminate, for nearly three years and when we met on Tuesday, it felt as if we had known each other for years.

Surreal experience
Living here on the university campus is a surreal experience. It feels very 'civilised' here. The buildings are beautiful. Clearly the people who work here are well off...or at least the academics, nurses and doctors are. Yet, just down the road there were riots last night and several people were killed. The city is currently holding its breath to see if more violence breaks out. I know there are refugee camps here, filled with displaced people from the floods. I also know there is terrible poverty, sickness, drug problems and so on here in Karachi. But here I am...sitting in my air conditioned room...linked up to very fast Internet...sending my tweets on Twitter and writing this blog post.

Two different worlds......just metres apart.

If you're interested, keep an eye on my YouTube and Flickr pages for more photos and videos about Karachi and my adventure here.


cristinacost said...

what a great story.
and just a tiny, tiny little bit - I think I know what you are saying.
People are so kind, honest, humble and above all generous!
I have never been to Karachi, but your blogged experience reminded me of my staying in Algeria where I went to give a talk. My suitcase got lost, but I had never felt much 'richer' People were so generous with me that I often wonder what I had done... to realise it was not me but them - their kindness and welcoming attitude towards me ...a stranger, a foreigner. I truly experienced community spirit. Funny enough I was talking about communities of Practice and was able to make the analogy! And Yes, I truly believe in the power of the web for weaving connections, establishing deep bonds. One of my great learning mates lives in Sudan. We still haven't met face to face but we act as if we have been in the same physical many many times.
Keep the posts coming. They are truly inspiring :-)

Love your new clothes!

Carolyn said...

What a wonderful experience. I think Petal needs a new Shalwat Kameer too :)

Sarah Stewart said...

Cristina: I have been challenged to think whether I am as welcoming when strangers come to my country - I am not sure I am?!

Carolyn - brilliant idea :)

cristinacost said...

I know what you mean Sarah : we are culturally not that 'giving'.
Interesting isn't it...? Sometimes, in our own culture and environment, people (may) even think we are odd, or are up to something if we show such generosity.
We have loads to learn from these people(s). I think it is in countries and cultures like this, in which the greatest personal wealth is 'humanware', where the genuine traits and living examples of communities (or practice) are to be found.
Thanks for sharing. You are capturing your moments there very well, and I am enjoying reading them ;-)

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you, Christina. I am really valuing all the comments left for me here, FB and Twitter...I really appreciate that people are thinking of me :)