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bricolage \bree-koh-LAHZH; brih-\, noun: -a dump site for anything at hand, in mind-

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

reminiscing pakistan

raison d'etre
It was a training on report writing. I went there with a working colleague. Nothing much happened. Except that mind-boggling news on around 11 PM about the big apple's twin tower tragedy. The day after: it became a talk of the town. "The Dawn" and a local Urdu newspaper were the most wanted items. A group of people from the bigger cities of Pakistan and the American trainer read "The Dawn", the so-called the most prominent English-speaking newspaper; while those ngo activists from the smaller and remote cities held on to the Urdu-speaking newspaper. The funny thing was that the two groups exchange comments in Urdu-mixed-English or English-mixed-Urdu (whatever was that),
I didn't quite get the lingo as I only speak English and not Urdu.

The training center was 1.5 hrs drive from Islamabad. Murree, twas the name. for Pakistanis, it's the Switzerland of Pakistan. It's freezing cold up there. when you check the map, you'd find Murree somewhere up in the mountains, around one cm. ahead Islamabad.

We could have flown, but we were shanghaied in a blue Mazda 2000 van to take the road trip from Lahore to Murree. It was pitch dark as we stopped in a Shell gas station. A pretty fancy gas station for a Pakistan standard, I'd say. And it was early in the morning when we arrived in the freezing cold Murree. The trip to Murree took around six hours.

went to murree to write
Ay, in the report writing training, there are people with no e-mails. There are people who has never touched any computer. Some because they didn't know how to use it, some others because they had personal secretary to help them. They don't know how to make their writing "double space" or "single space". Some of them really hate laptops cuz they're so cute and small (BTW, have you guys ever heard about this joke -- that laptops are designed especially for men because of that cute-roundish-little mouse in the middle. *LOL* huh?) On the last day, there came this rumor of me being an IT person. neat, huh? Hey, if I were a real IT person, I wouldn't get myself stuck in my current work.

my travel mates

people & politics
I talked a lot to a handful of Pakistanis, both male and female. The males would hug each other for greetings, while they will not strike any conversation to the females. males and females would really sit separately. The males wear a traditional dress either in white, gray or khaki colors --the shalwar-kameez-- (you gotta see how those Afghanis look like on TV, they wearing that dress), while the women wear something that looks like Indian's sari. "are you married?" was the most common question. I was asked to move to another planet as I shared my views about marriage (IMHO, it's a legal procreation) *grins*

it's a heritage of Zia Ul Haq's regime.
the shalwar-kameez for the men.
the sari looked-alike dress for the women.
the gender separation.
the poverty stricken situation.
the hidden billingual ability.
the diverse actively-speaking local languages
(each province has its own local language.
someone from pubjab would probable not understand
someone from baluchistan, unless they both speak
in urdu - the national language, or english - the colonialization's heritage).

I'd say Pakistanis still retain traces of arrogance inherited by the Brits. They're pretty egoistic in their own way and less Asiatic than Indonesians. We tend to serve people while they tend to.. dunno, I thought I was being exploited by some of them.
taking the benefits of my being a so-called computer savvy. You really have to be able to say "No" to them

But not all muslims practice there. only a few does. I'm not sure whether Pakistan fell under the cathegory of "secular predominantly muslim state" in any media. I know a Pakistani guy who's married with two kids, having a very interesting, rich view about his nation; and is an atheist. An atheist in plain vanilla who used to be a fundamentalist-atheist. Said that he mixed the two " isms" in purpose

fort lahore

The home of the eight million human beings was the city that we really visited and observed in quick six hours ride. It's the canals, the shady trees, the vast fields of wheat and the innumerable computer courses, plus the wide streets as wide as Sudirman and Thamrin in Jakarta (four sedans in a row, two lane streets, in total: eight sedans in a row). But please, forget not the most attractive donkey carts!

cute donkey cart

the decorative windowless bus

And the beautifully decorated windowless regular buses, besides the green and white Daewoo aircon buses. It's the streets of Lahore that attracted me most. Especially the old red Honda motorbikes and the tuk-tuk> like tribikes (Lahore has two version of this, the three persons tribikes and the six persons tribikes).

blue "bajaj" version of pakistan

the daewoo bus!

the old 1970s Honda motorbikes are everywhere, and it's always full house. a driver (usually the man of the house), a mother with two children squeezed between the driver and the mother, count also the one on her lap.

feature: pirated books
Bookstores.. bookstores: Oh how you'd love them -- cuz they pirated books instead of CD and VCD in Pakistan. And books are cheap. the pirated Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilization" cost like Rp. 45,000.00 in Indonesian Rupiah (US$ 1 = 66 PAK Rupee at that time); while the original thing cost like SIN $ 25.00,00 non-GST inclusive in Changi Airport. *die die die with that price* again, Pakistan is a book-lovers heaven. And I haven't roamed the second hand book stores. And I haven't set my eyes on Islamabad's foreign book spots. There are some excellent spots. including the new Oxford bookstore. In the end I secured eight books with me. A novel and another two different novels. All of Pakistani writers (Tehmina Durrani's works and another novel, I forgot). Supposed to be damn good ones since I consulted a reader and the book review.

Ever seen "War and AntiWar" by Alvin Toffler sold at the price of 495 PAK Rp. means around ID Rp. 70,000.00? that copy wasn't pirated, OK. And Huntington's pirated copy and also another literary work by a Latin American writer. Ah, and a copy of Roald Dahl's book -- it's a children book. Can't complain about it. It's a good one. But you might want to be careful with Indian writers. I couldn't find any Amartya Sen's book (he's this famous expert in Social and Economics issues) only for one reason: that he might be an Indian -- although the bookstore manager wanted us not to think that way . "We don't have his book not because he's an Indian, but simply because we don't have it."

eating out
I believe I'd survive Pakistan, even if I were paid in Pakistan Rupees cuz the chapaati (the thin baked bread that looked like tortilla) went well with my system, although I got bored with the Chicken Karahi dish (it's a curry-like chicken dish and you can put either beef or mutton inside). You go out to lunch or dinner, be it four people you invite and the toll you have to pay is only 492 PAK Rupee. It's equal to ID Rp. 63,000.00 to 70,000.00. For four people in a nice airconned resto.

Lahore has nine McDonald's restaurants (you won't miss the huge ad banner as you;re exiting the airport). Then there are Pizza Hut and KFC joints. *god, none of those things*. KFC's just opened their flagship store in Kemang (this cafe and clubs area down in south jakarta) and that's enuff. Be careful with the water. I mean, I'm a tough nut. I do eat in the warung tegal places and would drink anything with ice in any place. But try Lahore's street food stall once and hang on to your health insurance It wasn't that bad, though. I tried this local-salted lemonade. It's made of three squeezed lime with sugar and a dash of brown-spotted salt add ons plus water and ice cubes. A perfect thirst quencher on a hot, sunny day in Lahore. And may your stomach has the strength to bear whatever came after that I survived though. tough nut, huh?

en route home
On the way back to Indonesia, we were supposed to fly via Islamabad to Lahore and then to Singapore. Due to the fall of the twin towers, security has been pretty beefed up in Islamabad. UN and INGO staff members in Afghanistan as well as a handful of them in Pakistan evacuated themselves. We were advised not to fly to Lahore from Islamabad, and should go by road instead.

the toll road that stretches from Islamabad to Lahore for a freaking 350 kms had no lights at all. Only scotchlite marks along the road-divider ramp in the middle. I wasn't aware of this after the arrival cuz I slept all the way from Lahore to Murree, only woke up a couple of times. I'd say there are one rest area for every 50 kms. The facility was pretty fancy with a huge parking area and modern toilets.

Pakistan was something. I'd love to stay, but the tickets didn't allow me, so did the workload I left in Jakarta.



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