21st January 2015. After going through tonnes of difficulties and multitude of hassles, my flight from Guangzhou finally took off, and headed to a previously unheard of country, a country shrouded in mystery, a country the mention of which had haunted me for 3 months. The country I’m talking about is Pakistan.
As I exited the Karachi airport I was confused, scared whether my pickup would come or not. Everyone was staring at me, even the guards. I felt tensed. As I searched for a friendly sight my eyes chanced upon a group of rather enthusiastic group of boys wearing their AIESECer clothing waving at me while one of them was holding a cardboard sign with my name on it. I felt relieved. I was officially welcomed to Pakistan. We got into Yasir’s car and headed towards the apartment. A cozy little place in an area called Zamzama which I called home for the next few weeks.
In the days that followed, I explored, nay … I experienced Karachi. What seemed like a messy dirty metropolis on the outset was infact a beautiful labyrinth with mysteries waiting to be unfolded at every corner. I experience Pakistani cuisine, which was quite different from what we got back home in China. I would say it was more spicy but I could never be sure as the spices here were quite different from what I had in the Orient. There is no comparison you could say. There’s one thing I think I might never get used to is the late dinner, people here eat as late as 10pm which is very unusual for me.
Then I had the opportunity to attend the International Leadership Conference at IBA, one of the best universities in Pakistan. Those 3 days at IBA were amazing to say the least. I met a lot of friendly locals who were always keen to introduce themselves and show me around. I made a lot of friends there, and by a lot I do mean A LOT. I went on a cruise, saw the sea, not a pretty site I must say, it smelled too but I was with good company so I enjoyed still. The media portrays Pakistan to be all Bhurkas and Kalashnikovs but there is so much more to this country than that, the friendly atmosphere between girls and boys came as real shock to me, it was quite the opposite of what was shown in the news.
Times flies, I have been in Pakistan for nearly one month now. At the beginning, I couldn’t get use to of the life here. As I mentioned earlier I found the food here to be very strange I didn’t like the “late dinner”. But, I have become a Pakistani girl now; I can eat burgers and/or “Karahi” at 10:00pm. I can sit in a rickshaw, encircled by flies but I’m totally okay with it, I have you could say, embraced the chaos that is Karachi. I can wear a T-shirt and walk around on the roads all alone (although I’ve been told by my AIESECer friends to avoid that). I can eat and take photos calmly in an ‘all men’ restaurant without even flinching, the stares I get don’t bother me anymore.
It turns out that Pakistan is not same as what we, the foreigners, imagine it to be. Yes, they have dusty upaved roads, horrible terrorist attacks and the majority of the population is in poverty. But they also have very secure areas, wealthy men/women, a lot of talented students and few of the most excellent universities in the world. Pakistan has pretty much everything that we can get in China but in China, I think, we lack the kindness and optimistic attitude that most Pakistanis have.
In a matter of one month, I have fallen in love with this wonderful area, I love the beautiful smelly sea-view here (it grows on you), I love the strangely delicious food here, I love how sunny the weather here is and mostly, I love the oh so hospitable people of Pakistan.
You will never know unless you experience it.
Many people want to know that whether being an intern in another county can make a difference, I know because I was one of those people. After the time I’ve spent here, I’ve realized that the impact is mostly on individual level rather than the society. Maybe we can’t see some significant change right now, but our personality, our values of the world, our capability of understanding differences is changing unconsciously. Maybe someday, I will find myself becoming stronger, thanks to this unique exchange experience.