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Pakistan - A Learning Experience

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    Pakistan - A Learning Experience

    It's been slightly over a week since I returned from my trip to Pakistan. I was in Pakistan for only 3 months, but I think in that short period I found out more about myself than any other time in my life. Here are some of the things I've learned:

    1. The values which are instilled in those born outside Pakistan are as beautiful, if not more beautiful, than the values of those who live within Pakistan. In particular the value of 'innocence', which is often looked at as a vice rather than a virtue in Pakistan.

    2. Home, family and friends, whether they are in Pakistan or elsewhere, are the most important things you'll ever have - hold on to them, because you really don't know what you've got until you've lost it.

    3. Working in Pakistan (or probably any other developing country) is extremely difficult. If you have dreams of giving up life wherever you are and contributing to the development of Pakistan, be prepared to make incredibly large sacrifices. And be prepared to deal with an entirely different world, with different rules - a world which can be extremely harsh for someone arriving from the outside.

    4. Despite what your parents, friends, and society tell you, arranged marriages may or may not be suitable for you. If you have cousins or family friends of the marrying age, than perhaps arranged marriages may be a favorable option. If not it may be a better idea to look yourself and find someone who you are attracted to, both physically and emotionally.

    5. Pakistan is not the angelic land some make it out to be, it in fact contains all of the social ills of the west on some level, its just a matter of time before you run into individuals participating in questionable behavior. Sexual repression combined with a desire to be 'western' and a 'bollywood' psyche has created a volatile combination of strange (somewhat perverse) behavior in both the young and old in urban areas. On the other hand, perhaps this behavior is quite understandable in light of Pakistan's very 'closed' society, which shuns interaction between the sexes.

    6. The relationship I have with Pakistan, and many others I talk to, is one of love-hate. When there, after a certain period of time, you hate Pakistan and ***** about everything wrong with the land, its people, customs and culture, but once you leave it, you have an indescribable longing to return, which is difficult to explain or understand. You fall in love with Pakistan, its people, customs and culture - you can't help it.

    My experience in Pakistan was probably like the experiences of other foreigners - a mixed bag of good and bad. Initially I became quite depressed and frustrated after arriving in Pakistan - a feeling I also had on my last visit in 1997 (after witnessing poverty, corruption, etc). I shook that off after a few weeks.

    Caught between two cultures, one western and one eastern, I've often found myself confused. I've always tried to take the best of both cultures and integrate them into my life. Living in Canada my entire life, my parents never provided me with any extensive knowledge of either my culture or religion. What little I know, I've learnt myself, through both my own unabashed curiosity and eagerness to gain an 'artificial' attachment with my parents home. In part my fascination with both Pakistan and Islam has been fueled by a partial rejection of western values and morals which I have deemed inappropriate for my particular way of life.

    There have been periods in my life where I truly believed that I could completely detach myself from Canada and become integrated into life somewhere in the Muslim world, in particular in Pakistan. This summer I attempted a partial integration into Pakistan. That attempt, in some respects failed, in other respects I met some success. I think I've learnt that at this particular time in my life, I cannot live 'permanently' in Pakistan. I've also learnt that parts of me are truly Canadian - and those Canadian traits are something I should be proud of.

    I now hope to return to Pakistan, perhaps in as short as 4 months, partially to complete some research and partially because I can't help but miss it. I'm sure my next visit will provide me with more insights than this one.

    Achtung

    #2
    Thank you for sharing your experiences with everyone....I for sure appreciate what you have talked about as I also plan to work there for a semester. I haven't been back for 8 and a half years. I am truly scared of going back due to the drastic changes that have occured both socially and economically in Pakistan. And whenever I talk with people who travel back and forth, I find out newer and scarier details about the changes. But I do realize completely, that in order to make up my own mind, it is important for me to go there myself and experience the ever-changing life of Pakistan. Inshallah you will have more success and more of your questions answered the next time you visit Pakistan. Ameen.


    Take Care.

    Comment


      #3
      Achtung,

      Welcome back.
      Excellent post! Thanks for your observations and thoughts stemming from what can obviously be termed as much soul searching. I have to agree with everything that you have presented.

      Comment


        #4
        Nice observation!!! I agree to all that you have posted.

        Comment


          #5
          Achtung, Welcome back!

          Thanks for sharing your observation and experiences with us. You presented it very well.

          Personally, even born and raised in Pakistan for 24 years of my life, I wish I could relate to your saying
          you have an indescribable longing to return, which is difficult to explain or understand. You fall in love with Pakistan, its people, customs and culture - you can't help it.
          And I wish it could also be only a love-hate relationship for me.

          However, despite all the detachment, that culture and people still bring out the very best in me on times!

          Comment


            #6
            Most people leave Pakistan (or any other third world country) slightly disillusioned but they need to take a broader perspective. Most of us have compromised our principles to some extent to improve the quality of our lives. It is a lot easier in a first world country because we have a head start and don't have to worry about starving.

            People in Pakistan are no different to us and it is when they see our luxuries and gadgets that they start to covet them themselves even if they can't afford them.

            Anywhere that rule of law and order is not enforced you are going to get crime and dishonesty. That is what happens in Pakistan where money has become everything. Crime pays in Pakistan and the example is set by those in authority who are the biggest crooks of all. It's Darwin's theory in practice...ony the fittest survive.

            [This message has been edited by Mr Xtreme (edited August 18, 1999).]

            Comment


              #7
              Achtung…Good to have you back….though it is sad your rose colored glasses are broken… there is also happiness in any type of self discovery that makes you grow.

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                #8
                Achtung

                Thats an excellent post. I think it describes what not only you ahve probably thot about a million times, but what a lot of us "pakistanis-abroad" think about all the time. it is often a fight between preseving what we peceive as the culture we are born into and the one that we are made of. of course our values are based on a system that our parents brought along with them. and these values have stood still where they were years ago as there has been very little input into it, while the system of values in pakistan has moved on with the times (for better or for worse ). so when we go back we are struck by the distance between the two ...

                In the end I think it comes down to our trying to figure out our identity in this world.. where exactly do we fit in the grand scheme of things..... Till then the soul searching shall continue.. either at the concious or at teh subconcious level

                As for helping out in the developing world, I think there are also ways where you can try and have both worlds... by working or living here but trying to make a change over there .. of course such opportunities are limited but they do exist if you seek them. Often we try and help at the individual or micro level , but we should at times also look at the big picture and figure out why are things the way they are and how we can fix them? more often then not.... a small change in a macro level effect can be more beneficial then a direct change at the individual level....
                but for everything there is a time and a place

                anyways, enough about this ,.... too much soul searching going on here

                [This message has been edited by hmcq (edited August 19, 1999).]

                Comment


                  #9
                  Achtung,

                  Welcome back brother. Excellent post and one that most people can relate to in many ways.
                  Did you get a chance to visit Azad Kashmir at all?
                  Take care.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Concerned Pakistani: I think working in Pakistan was one of the best experiences of my life. The environment in which I worked was wonderful. I met some great people and hope to work there again. I hope you have a good experience. The most difficult thing for me to adjust to was surprisingly not the 'living conditions' in Pakistan (although it took some time to adjust) or the poverty, but rather the mentality of some Pakistanis'.

                    Thanks Muzna, I'm glad to be back. Soul searching is the best way to describe it. The problem is, I got a whole new bunch of questions - and few answers. That's life I guess.

                    Thanks Basit and Roman. Roman, I know alot of Canadian born Pakistanis who have had the worst experiences of their lives in Pakistan. They now hate Pakistan and swear they'll never visit again. I try to convince them otherwise. Its all a matter of perspective I guess. I don't know if thats the case with you or not. I'm sure you can see the same beauty I see in Pakistan and Pakistanis (along with the cracks and blemishes).

                    Mr Xtreme, I agree. Pakistan is definitely a country where only the fittest survive. Fit unfortunately often equates to 'dishonesty' and your ability to rob others of what they may rightfully deserve.

                    Kashmirigirl - Most of my friends are patriotic Pakistanis (born in Canada). They are more patriotic than Pakistanis themselves. Most of that patriotism is still intact, but its tempered now. I got a barrage of question about my experience from friends who wish to return to Pakistan. They weren't so happy with the answers I gave them, I think most of them will attempt their own journey to Pakistan and their own self-discovery.

                    Hmcq - thanks for your comments. You are so right. My parents are definitely in a time warp. Their values are still pre-1970. My parents couldn't survive today in Pakistan. Those values and their perseverance to preserve them and their culture and instill them in their children definitely helps to create some 'identity' confusion. As far as helping out those in need, I think on this trip I realize more than ever, that I can probably help out in my own backyard (perhaps do a better job at it) than helping those so far away. Most of my friends and class mates are big on social justice, volunteering across the world and here in Canada -I''ll continue that - cause it really gives me a purpose in life. The American dream of a big house, a nice car, and lots of money just doesn't intrigue me enough. There is alot you can do from here, but I think its worth the experience to travel and work directly in a developing country.

                    Camille: Good to hear from you. I'm glad to be back. No didn't get a chance to visit Azad Kashmir - Went to Abbotabad and Nathiagali. With the Kargil crisis, my relatives didn't want to venture into Kashmir, not even Azad Kashmir - Inshallah next time!

                    Achtung

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Achtung, like it said, it's not a matter of hate and love with me. I don't hate Pakistan and its culture at all... I just can't relate to it... like any other culture I have been exposed to so far. But since I was born and raised there, there are few things in me which reflect that culture, and I like them

                      [This message has been edited by Roman (edited August 21, 1999).]

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Won't rag anyone too much ... am in a good mood today.

                        > Islam has been fueled by a partial rejection of western values and
                        > morals which I have deemed inappropriate for my particular way of life.

                        I never quite understood this western values part but have heard many people (usually a tad bit self-righteous and holier-than-thou - no, I'm not taking a shot at you, dude) talk about it. Tell me more about the 'evil' western 'values' and morals ... and perhaps, a bit about the guilt too.


                        > success. I think I've learnt that at this particular time in my life, I
                        > cannot live 'permanently' in Pakistan. I've also learnt that parts of
                        > me are truly Canadian - and those Canadian traits are something I
                        > should be proud of.

                        I'm just curious, why can't you live permanently in Pakistan ?

                        Dev "FOB" Uchka.
                        ps: Canadian traits - are these the same as western traits and how are they different from the values/morals ?


                        Comment


                          #13
                          Dear Achtung … Yes!

                          It does take some digesting to enjoy what Pakistan has to offer. It is a land of contradictions, that’s what makes it so unique. Our history is glorious. Indus valley gave lessons in civilization to the rest of the world. The Europeans (and the rest of the world) were climbing trees (a metaphor for monkey like behavior!) when we had the modern drainage systems in place (envied even by today’s engineers). The lack of direction is only a result of an increasing confusion caused by a value system not suited for the people of this land. We have been colonized and raped by foreign invaders more than any other nation. The only reason that we even exist is a testimonial to the greatness of our people.

                          I enjoyed your post immensely. I am sure your next trip there will be a lot more fun! I hope you enjoyed some of the local food during your visit. Without that, a visit there is just, let’s say, a business trip!


                          Comment


                            #14
                            Devuchka:

                            >I never quite understood this western values part but have heard many people (usually a tad bit self->righteous and holier-than-thou - no, I'm not taking a shot at you, dude) talk about it. Tell me more about >the 'evil' western 'values' and morals ... and perhaps, a bit about the guilt too.

                            Western values aren't 'evil'. Values was perhaps not the best word, perhaps 'culture' would make more sense. When your caught between two cultures, one eastern and one western and you know your different from the dominant culture, you know your parents are different, and you know that difference bothers some people in one of the cultures - you may start to reject some of the cultural traits present in one culture. That rejection brings you closer to one of the cultures (western perhaps for those with an inferiority complex, eastern for those who fear a loss of their cultural roots). Having an affinity for one culture in it-self causes you to reject parts of the other (especially when they conflict). I think eventually you come to the realization that incorporating the best of both cultures is not only the best thing to do, but its inevitable, something you can't resist. Because parts of both cultures become imbedded in you, whether you like it or not. I think that's one of the reasons that a sort of new hybrid of 'Islam' and the cultures of Islamic people is emerging in different parts of the world - especially in the Western world - where Islam is sort of being molded to meet the needs of Muslims born in the West. To a certain degree, Muslims in the west feel it necessary to reject western culture in a sort of defensary mechanism, in an attempt to preserve their own culture (i.e. the wearing of hijab, the application of purdah at weddings). In other respects certain parts of western culture are incorporated into the cultures of Islamic people in order to cope with the change in environment. That's why some don't talk about Islam singular anymore, but rather Islam(s) plural - due to the diversity of the religion and the cultures which occupy its purview. You can apply the same principle to other examples. Another good example would probably be the cultural antagonism between Indian Muslim migrants and Sindhi's (although that example has some other dimensions) or blacks in America.

                            >I'm just curious, why can't you live permanently in Pakistan ?

                            On my trip one morning a taxi cab driver asked me what it is that prevents me from living in Pakistan, other than the heat. I had to think about it for a few minutes. He kept throwing out his own answers - "is it the poverty?" "Nope," I'd answer. "Is it the crime, the corruption, the pollution?" "Nope, nope, nope." I told him it was the people. It was their mentality. Not the average Pakistan, but some of the richer ones. I wouldn't be able to survive in Pakistan. Most people will tell you that those Pakistanis born outside of Pakistan are too 'innocent' (masum) for Pakistan. I think there right. I wrote a post after a week of being in Pakistan (I think I was a bit bitter and disappointed and wrote it in haste) but I explain there some of the reasons why I wouldn't be able to live in Pakistan - the immodesty of some of its people being one of the biggest annoyances for me.

                            >Canadian traits - are these the same as western traits and how are they different from the values/morals?

                            They are and they aren't. I guess it's difficult to avoid semantics. If we can agree that values and morals are part of culture, than we can say that Canadian culture is part of western culture. Canadian culture though is distinct from American culture. You have regional variations in western culture (English, Canadian, American, French, etc,). This is evident if you travel - Canadians are generally treated better in Europe for example when travelling than Americans - due to differences in culture which outsiders can perceive.

                            NY Ahmadi wrote: "I hope you enjoyed some of the local food during your visit. Without that, a visit there is just, let's say, a business trip!"

                            I miss the fruits and vegetables the most. Ours seem so bland, when compared to Pakistan's. Your home city of Lahore is definitely the best place to eat. Restaurants galore!

                            Achtung

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Here is something a friend of mine sent me after reading my post. I thought it was interesting. I hope he doesn't mind me posting it here (some of you can probably guess who the poster is):


                              hmmmmmm I dont like it. I dont like your post. ITs too honest and personal.
                              I was hoping for some bitterness but all I see is some weird realizations
                              you have gone through.

                              Also I dont like the way you have admited your pride for Canada. Now I cant
                              label you as an Anti Western Extremist.
                              Also why havent you rationalized our failiure as some Western Conspiracy?

                              Where is the usual anger and escapism? What are you trying to be? Realistic?
                              Fine ... be that way. And also i dont like the way you impose your personal
                              discoveries on the people who read them. Are we supposed to fluctuate with
                              your evolution of thought? How arrogant.

                              I dont like your email address its too strange. Ok write back.


                              Anonymous

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