The story of “How I didn’t leave Pakistan”

22 06 2009

22nd of June, 07.20 AM: the date of my departure from Karachi towards Doha, then Istanbul, then finally Bucharest.

22nd of June, 04.15 AM: I’m on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. I change my Pakistani currency into dollars, I light up a cigarette and think of the great moments had in Karachi

22nd of June, 04.25 AM: I pass one security check point and head to Qatar Airlines officers

22nd of June, 04.30 AM: After I weigh my luggage I find out that it has 10 Kg over the limit and I start thinking of how much would I have to pay extra. The guy doesn’t let me finish my thought and comes up with something like 9000 Rupees the equivalent of 110 USD

22nd June, 4.27 AM: My sharp senses notice that when the neighbouring luggage of a fellow citizen is taken of from the weighing machine my luggage doesn’t have 10 Kg extra anymore but 6 Kg instead. I notify the guy from Qatar office and he seems to restart some calculations. The result: I don’t have to pay anything!

22nd of June, 4.35 AM: I got my Boarding passes and then I loaded my luggage on the outgoing conveyor belt and got my control receipts.

22nd of June, 4.38 AM: I’m heading towards Gate nr. 24 but first I have to pass Customs of course. There were 2 types of Custom wickets  – one for Pakistani passports and another one for foreign passport. I obviously chose the foreigner’s wicket.

22nd of June, 4.43 AM: I arrive in front of the Immigration Lady Officer, I show her my passport and Boarding pass. She looks through them and notices that my Pakistani visa expired a couple of days before. I say to myself that this shouldn’t represent an issue as I knew that I had a 2 weeks period to re-new it or leave the country.

22nd of June, 4.45 AM: The lady officer doesn’t seem impressed with my explanation and tries to say something but English was not her best ally right now. In fact her colleague from Pakistani passports tells me in a fluent nice English language to wait a bit.

22nd of June, 4.55 AM: After waiting for 10 minutes a mustached Immigration officer appears and addresses some questions such as “Who am I?”, “What was the purpose of my visit in Pakistan?” and some others. He also doesn’t seem impressed with my answers but now I already now that this might happen because his lack of English skills.

22nd of  June, 5.05 AM: After leaving for a few minutes with my passport and boarding passes he comes back without boarding passes, and with a big stamp on my passport: OFF LOADED!!!

22nd of June, 5.06 AM: The mustached dumb-ass (I changed his status meanwhile) tells me “Come, come!” and I understand I have to follow him. He takes me into a Customs office where there was another mustached officer and a guy with a pajamas blouse, bell-bottoms pants and slippers snoring his heart out on a couch. I repeat the same story over and over again to the new mustached dumb-ass (his status was also changed quickly) of course interrupted at some points by strong and loud rounds of snoring.

22nd of June, 5.20 AM: The mustached dumb-ass nr.2 finds himself in trouble with my case so he decides to wake up the snoring dude which in fact was his superior.

22nd of June, 5.20 AM – 06.20 AM: The snoring guy first wakes up, then he is updated on the issue, he barely moves from one end to another of the room, he looked for one pen for 5 minutes and solved nothing. He gave me back my passport, and said I cannot leave Pakistan since my visa expired.

22nd of June, 06.20 AM: a guy appears with my extra 6 Kg luggage which was called back. He hands me over a receipt and then asks for a tip, which of course in the heat of the moment I found it to be totally outrageous. I tried to say something to him but the only English word he knew was “tip”. Of course, I didn’t tip him.

22nd of June, 06.30 AM – 07.00 AM: I am on my way back to the Intern’s House where Jeremy greets me with the traditional: “What the hell?!?”

22nd of June: 07.10 AM – 09.40 AM: I went to bed dreaming of heading back to my country.

22nd of June, 09.40 AM – now: I checked with Qatar, I can leave Pakistan on Thursday, 25th, of course only if by then I get my visa extended (AIESEC is working on it). Qatar guys also became dumb-asses when they told me on the phone that my round trip ticket to Pakistan is expired since May  – and this considering the fact that the round trip on the ticket is 22nd of June first of all, and second of all – in the morning when I got my boarding passes there was no such issue.

LESSONS to keep in mind: Pakistan might be the only place in the world where if your visa expires you have to spend some more time in the country; the immigration officers are so stupid that they are not worth getting mad at; when people would ask me if I want to leave Pakistan then I would say for sure yes, considering that during the last week I kept telling people around me that I would wanna stay some more and here I am;


Me in Islamabad and Murree

19 06 2009

After a 40 minutes bumpy flight from Lahore to Islamabad, here I was in the capital of Pakistan, a young city, built especially to serve as a capital as  Karachi already became to crowded, to exposed, and it was not close to the center of the nation.

So, in the 1960’s the Pakistani Government decided and started to build this city, near the town of Rawalpindi, in the middle of the woods. As per this reason, Islamabad is one of the greenest and well organized cities in South Asia. It is said to count up to 1.5 million people nowadays and if you would ask somebody from Karachi or Lahore how the life in the Capital is, the most probable answer you would get is: “boring”. You could say so, but then again what city doesn’t seem boring compared to the near 18 M people, agitated and nervous Karachi or 10 M people, fascinating and filled with history Lahore?

DSCF0251I myself liked Islamabad very much. It is somehow quiet, impressive through its organized city plan or through some majestic pieces of modern architecture such as Faisal Mosque, Pakistani Monument or Saudi-Pak Building.

One of the 3 days I spent in Islamabad was almost completely wasted as I had to confirm the already bought tickets to Gilgit – a pit stop on my way to Hunza Valley. I stayed 7 hours in the crowded, noisy and hot office of Pakistani International Airways (PIA) in Rawalpindi to get my flight tickets confirmed. It was the first time in my life I saw people fighting to get some plane tickets (the tickets to Northern Areas – Gilgit and Skardu – are limited), the first time in my life I saw an Airliner Office operating in such an archaic manner (imagine a countryside railway station from Eastern Europe and maybe you will get half of the big picture :P) and the first time when I was confused several times to a Pakistani Pathan – inhabitant of the Northern parts of Pakistan with the colour of the skin a little brighter.

Rawalpindi is a city that doesn’t say very much, but it was nice to walk around it and experience some genuine Pakistani daylife. Almost forgot: in Rawalpindi I saw a Pakistani porn Cinema :D, I had a nice cold beer at Pearl Continental and I saw the place where Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.

Next morning, my flight to Gilgit was expecting me… but then guess what?!? After waiting for seven hours in PIA office of Rawalpindi to confirm the ticket, in the morning I arrived in the airport to find out that the flight was canceled in the last minute. Facing such a “disaster” the only logical solution was to join the Lahore interns (Matt, Laura and Stefanie) in their trip to Murree – and so I did.DSCF0386

Murree is a Pakistani mountainous touristic resort 70 km away from Islamabad. It was not as spectacular and impressive as Hunza Valley would have been but still it was a very interesting experience thanks to its markets, heights or people.

Overall, this trip around Pakistan was one of the highlights of my internship, either it was hot or cold (Murree – 10 degrees Celsius and rain during night time), plains or mountains; it gave a better perspective over Pakistan and also the occasion of some new nice friends ;). More pictures you can find either here or here.

The “Garden of Mughals”

17 06 2009

My experience in Pakistan is coming to an end unfortunately. Being in my last days here in Pakistan, my company – GlaxoSmithKline – thought it would be nice for me to travel around the country a bit, to get a deeper sight into Pakistani culture, society and beauties. The plan was made for me to travel to Hunza Valley, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, thought to be the the legendary valley of Shangri-La. On my way to Hunza I was supposed to visit Lahore and Islamabad, this meaning that I would see the the cultural capital of the country and also the administrative capital of Pakistan.

The experience itself was amazing and I would like to start with telling the story of me travelling to Lahore – also known as “The Garden of Mughals” because of its rich Mughal heritage.

I had only one day reserved for Lahore, and for sure I missed a lot of interesting spots. In fact… I saw only 3 up to 4 local attractions. In stead I was fascinated to how different this city can be to what I imagined it would be. I mean, I know Karachi, I stood here for almost 3 months but Lahore is so different and I somehow feel sorry that I didn’t had the chance of experiencing more of it, but at the same time I’m thankful for being there even for one day only.

The history of Lahore is pretty rich in facts and interesting happenings. It is said to be there for the last 4000 years at least and that its founder is Loh, son of Rama (hindu epic hero from Ramayana). More recently though, meaning in the last 500 years, it was ruled by Mughals (it was capital of Mughal Empire for a few years), Sikhs and British. Now its the second largest city of Pakistan with 10 million people, capital of the State Province of Punjab, a symbol for Pakistani independence and the cultural heart of the country.

In Lahore I was accommodated at the interns house (thanks for Laura, Matt and Stephanie ;)) and with the huge contribution of some friends (Arsalaan, Talha and Syed) I visited some important sites such as Badshahi Mosque – an impressive sized and extremely beautiful mosque build by the Mughals, the Lahore Fort – the place where every  power which was present in this city set its print in the architecture and aspect of the place or Cooco’s Cafe (in the photo) – a famous restaurant in the Old Town, built exactly near the former Red Light District of Lahore. We also spotted Minar-e-Pakistan – The Independence Monument (which was closed because people have a tendency of killing themselves by throwing themselves from the heights of the Monument) and The Sikh Mausoleum of  Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

I found Lahore to be more clean and neat than Karachi, but also hotter (at least this time of the year). The temperature reached at some point 47-50 degrees while we were roaming around the city and for instance when we were at Badshahi Mosque we thought that our bare-feet got burnt.

If you ever get in Lahore keep in mind that is a place that will kindly welcome you, it will show majestic pieces of history, culture and architecture or it will impress you with its immense dishes – which I think they taste better than in any other place in Pakistan (don’t miss the Food Street ;)) 

You can find my Lahore pictures right over here and I shall be back with some information regarding the rest of the trip as well 😉

[RO] Autocratia lui Papura

29 05 2009

“Tara lui Papura Voda”  – este o expresie (cu vadita tenta ironica) foarte des folosita de romanul de rand pentru a-si manifesta nemultumirea, surprinderea, satisfactia, etc vis-a-vis de un anume eveniment al carui martor este.

Dar cine este acest Papura de fapt si de drept? Conform unor adepti ai teoriei conspiratiei, Papura este cel care, din umbra, detine cu adevarat controlul in Romania, aflandu-se in spatele tuturor deciziilor la nivel inalt, controland cu autoritate si cu o mana de fier parghiile puterii, institutiile de stat, media si chiar mediul de afaceri romanesc. Dar se pare ca cei mai multi dintre noi stim deja lucrul asta, de la mic la mare, indiferent ca ai 4 clase sau esti absolvent de facultate, de la tara sau de la oras, cu totii cand vedem vreo minunatie (groapa in asfalt, maneaua din BMW, stirea de la 5, balacareala de la Talk-Show) stim sa  i-o atribuim direct lui Papura – “tara lui Papura-Voda”.

Alti teoreticieni spun ca, din contra, Papura-Voda nu este decat o marioneta a unui sistem mult mai complex condus dintr-o umbra si mai profunda de unul care isi zice “Peste”, un prosper om de afaceri, cu identitate necunoscuta dar a carui avere este impresionanta. Detine sosele, institutii de invatamant, armata, trusturi de presa, echipe de fotbal si  care are acoliti in posturi cheie cu ajutorul carora manipuleaza sistemul. Acest “Peste” nu este nici el chiar invaluit in mister in ochii romanului (papureanului), iar proprietatile si tentaculele sale sunt cvasi-cunoscute de-a lungul si de-a latul tarii: autostrada lui Peste, echipa lui Peste, facultatea lui Peste, armata lui Peste, ziarul lui Peste si chiar ministrul lui Peste sau politistul lui Peste.

In schimb, Peste, din cate se pare este amenintat la varful puterii de un frate al sau mai putin bogat dar in plina ascensiune caruia i se zice “Peste Prajit”. Acesta, prin metode doar de el cunoscute, a reusit sa puna mana pe multe din avutiile si proprietatile fratelui sau si din cate se zvoneste deja il controleaza pe seful statului, Papura-Voda, astfel incat se prea poate ca in viitorul nu foarte indepartat sa intrezarim o optica noua in societatea romaneasca (papureana).

Care optica? Optica asta a noastra autohtona de ne indeamna intr-o maniera aproape sadica la ignoranta, delasare, “jemenfishism” creand in acelasi timp un repertoriu bogat de vorbe de duh cum ar fi:

– “ca n-o fi dracu’ asa de negru”, “lasa-o bai, ca merge asa”, “ce-am avut si ce-am pierdut”, “rau cu rau dar mai rau e fara rau”, “de nu curge, pica”, “decat codas la oras, mai bine-n satul tau fruntas”, etc

…dar in acelasi timp, ca si papureni, suntem si din cale-afara de mandri de noi, de realizarile noastre, de terisoara noastra si stim ca suntem “cei mai tari din parcare”,  “ca la noi la nimenea” si ca nimic pe lume nu ne lipseste, de unde si expresia: “…asta ne mai lipsea” (ca in rest avem de toate, adica).

Insa, chiar si asa, Tara lui Papura Voda prospera si va prospera in continuare de pe urma activitatilor de frecat menta, duda sau mangalul (la rece sau la cald), fratii Peste vor face parte in continuare din peisajul cotidian, iar liderul Voda (marioneta sau nu) va manui cu abilitate destinele poporului, plimbandu-se prin gradina cu loboda a Palatului sau.

Nota: Lasand gluma si ironia la o parte, Papura-Voda = Voda Stefanita Lupu, domn al Moldovei (1659-1661) si fiu al lui Vasile Lupu, in timpul caruia datorita unei secete cumplite, foametea a lovit tara iar oamenii au fost nevoiti sa se hraneasca chiar si cu paine facuta din faina de papura, de unde si nefericita porecla a domnitorului.

A Passionate Night

22 05 2009

I’m still in bed, and all I can think of is you, all I can think of is the last night and my desire to hold and crush you by my chest is overwhelming! You suddenly came to me in the heat of the night and what happened next I will remember for a long time, as long as the unforgettable sensations are still with me. You came out of nowhere with no fear and no shame and I found you touching my body… you felt my indifference and then you bit me with no mercy, making me go insane… we tossed all night like in some kind of a crazy game and you astound me with your passion and lust. I finally fell asleep almost at sun rise, I felt jaded and still I could feel you near me…

When I woke up, I looked after you but the only signs I could get from the last night are the bed sheets all around me and the scars covering my guilty body; tonight I am going to pretend to be asleep, and I’m going to wait for you to reappear… but this time  I will get you, you fucking ruthless mosquito!!!

Power Off!

21 05 2009

Few days ago I was talking about the unpleasant heat in Karachi and how KESC – Karachi Electrical Supply Company is contributing to it by cutting the power several times a day. Meanwhile, the heat issue somehow faded as the temperatures in Karachi dropped with 5′-10′ Celsius making it easy to survive now. But KESC, which i think that really stands for Karachi Electricity Stinks like Crap”, manages to exceeds its past performances by cutting the power in a more drastic manner – yesterday, between 4 PM and 2 AM – we had only one hour and 1/2 of effective electricity.

For you to get a better understanding of the electricity issue in Karachi is very important to know that this huge town is consuming more electricity than KESC can produce and distribute. So, how does KESC solves the problem? The answer is simple: load-shedding. Now, what is load-shedding? I never heard about this term until I arrived in Pakistan so I think it deserves a little explanation:

According to load shedding normally used in industrial, large commercial, and utility operations, is monitoring electric usage continuously (usually by automated instrumentation) and shutting down certain pre-arranged electric loads or devices if a certain upper threshold of electric usage is approached. In English, this means that the city of Karachi never has power across all areas of the city at the same time. Let’s say that Karachi is split into 20 areas – 15 of them would have electrical power right now and 5 won’t have electrical power right now – and these areas are rotated at a 1 hour interval approximately. Thus, it results in 4-5 power cuts per day/ one hour each.

Now, you can easily imagine that KESC is not the most popular company in Pakistan. This load shedding issue is pretty serious sometimes as it can result in violent protests around different parts of the city – spontaneous or not – that often have bad consequences over the public safety. Moreover, you would think that this energy issue would make people more aware of the problem, encouraging them to save electricity when it is not required, to close the fans when they are not needed, to shut off lights during day-time… well there’s a long way until that would happen, it’s a long way until people will realize that is easier to save power than to burn tires while protesting.

If you ever think to come to Pakistan, and I suggest you do, take this little problem into account and make sure that where you’re staying there is an auxiliary generator ;). If there’s none, don’t worry, at some point you will get used to this issue and you will find some other stuff to do in order for the time to pass (like joining a anti-KESC protest, for instance :P).

While writing this post I had to make an 1 hour break.. wanna guess why?

[RO] Euro-viziunea mea

17 05 2009

Va spun sincer, show-ul asta Eurovision este un spectacol dat dracului, ce sa mai. In primul si primul rand sunt tare nedumerit cum poate avea atata popularitate. Singura explicatie care mi se pare cat de cat apropiata de o asa zisa logica mi se pare a fi faptul ca audienta este cu mult mai interesata de competitia inter-tari decat de show-ul muzical propriu-zis. Tot aici cred ca zace si explicatia referitoare la calitatea performerilor de la Eurovision. Cate case de discuri au promovat cantareti care “au impresionat” la acest concurs pana intr-acolo incat sa-i faca populari la nivel european macar. Sincer, produsele cele mai de calitate ale Eurovision-ului contemporan sunt Ruslana si Elena Paparizou… na’ si cu asta am spus totul despre calitatea muzicii (foarte adevarat ca in trecut aici s-au remarcat pe primul loc si nume mari precum ABBA, Johnny Logan si Celine Dion si… cam atat).

Anul asta am urmarit si eu Eurovision-ul, impulsionat fiind poate de promovarea de care se bucura cat si de faptul ca a fost singurul stream care se impaca cu internetul din Pakistan. Nu am cum sa nu remarc mediocritatea melodiilor participante care cred ca se situeaza undeva intre slagarele Festivalului de la Amara si Cheeky Girls. Apoi, nu au cum sa treaca neobservate nici performantele celor 2 gazde ale showului – un barbat si o femeie de obicei (anul asta tara gazda a fost Rusia) care reusesc cu usurinta sa puna in scena un joc actoricesc de toata jena ca sa nu mai punem la socoteala ca stalcesc limba engleza (sau franceza dupa caz) mai ceva ca nea’ Nelu (e.g. “Your parents is here?”). Basca, tre’ sa mai tinem cont si de faptul ca voturile publicului se acorda aproape in proportie de 75% in functie de harta politica a Europei (Multumim Moldovei pe aceasta cale, fara voi Romania era aproape pe ultimul loc anul asta) si mai putin in functie de calitatile artistice exceptionale ale pop-istilor de pe scena.

Ai zice ca la un asemenea concurs Romania, prin tinerele ei talente, ar trebui sa nu aiba niciun stres, daca ar fluiera o doina pe scena si tot ar iesi intre primele 10 tari… la o competitie de muzica mediocra ar trebui sa luam laurii, ce naiba! Ei as, ti-ai gasit… cea mai buna performanta a Romaniei la Eurovision vine din anul 2005 – locul 3 – cand i-am lasat sa incerce pe cei de la Sistem si Luminita Anghel de-au batut ei la butoaie acolo si asta tare i-o mai impresionat pe europeni, ca dovada ca si Zdob si Zdub in acelasi an au luat locul 6 cu “Bunica bate toba” pentru Moldova… q.e.d.

Anul asta am reusit cu prea minunatul concurs al Elenei Gheorghe (o fata de altfel simpatica care pe vremuri isi zicea Mandinga) si al ei “Balkan Girls” performanta de a “castiga” locul 19 (am multumit Moldovei deja, nu?).  In rest, media locurilor obtinute in 11 finale de Eurovision este de 14. Tin sa mentionez aici cateva participari de un inalt angajament cum ar fi: “Liubi, Liubi, I love you” de la Todomondo, “I admit” de la Sanda Ladosi sau Nico&Vlad Mirita cu “Pe o margine de lume” (ca sa nu mai vorbim despre “Ruga pentru pacea lumii” – Monica Anghel dar care surprinzator nu s-a calificat in finala din ’96).

Daca nu prea am reusit noi sa ii impresionam pe europenii astia pretentiosi cu fetele noastre balcanice eu as propune ca anul viitor sa le facem o introducere in ritmurile noastre mioritico-balcanice. Il trimitem pe Guta la Eurovision si cu asta am rezolvat problema, locul 1 este garantat iar Bucurestiul ar trebui deja sa se pregateasca pentru “cheful” Eurovision 2011. Sau, mai bine ar fi sa ne facem propriul concurs care sa se cheme foarte original Rovision, unde sa ne facem noi de cap acolo iar Romania sa iasa pe primul loc.

Btw, anul asta a castigat detasat unul din Norvegia de zicea la scripca un cantec despre o poveste (si care seamana izbitor de mult cu Harry Potter) 😉