15 Feb

04 August 2010 Travel

Part 4 of Dubai and Pakistan Trip Journal

9:52 AM

We’re about to head out to play golf at Hasan’s club. For breakfast, we had toast with guava jelly and eggs, served by Ferhan and the other servant. There is a cleaning lady that comes in the mornings too.

3:15 PM

We played nine holes at the Karachi Golf Club, and went out to see the Pakistan Air Force Museum. On the golf course, there were so many labourers working on maintenance and landscaping. There must have been about fifty of them; we saw less than five other golfers. They used donkeys to move piles of sand as there was no heavy machinery. In Canada, the jobs of ten of these workers would have been replaced by one guy with a backhoe.

All the water features on the course made use of greywater. The smell of sewage in the breeze was a constant reminder of Karachi’s water scarcity. Even in this “oasis in the city”, the electricity is shut off for one hour, three times each day. It’s part of the rolling blackouts that are necessary because Karachi’s energy needs outpace its grid capacity by 15-20%.

Tonight, there is a big gathering at Hasan’s mother’s house. There will be 36 guests, or thereabouts.

7:38 PM

So. Much. Food. The call for evening prayers has been going on for a while… we’ve had warm chickpea salad, cold guava salad, German cake, and tea already, and we haven’t even left for dinner yet. Trying to wrap my head around this family tree is exhausting. With so many people, we’re certain to go late into the night. Hasan said Pakistanis regularly stay up till 1:30 AM.

12:40 AM

Well, it’s not quite 1:30, but it’s late nonetheless. Before heading out to dinner, Hasan produced a hand-drawn family tree to make it easier to identify who’s who. Pakistanis typically marry their cousins - like Hasan said, “it eliminates many of the unknowns” - so family trees can get complicated.

I had a great conversation with Romina and Saman about The Second Floor, or T2F. It’s a venue in Karachi for local art, poetry reading, book signings, public lectures, and the like. It seems like an amazing cultural hub for the highbrow activist student community - it has a cafe on the ground floor, and Saman said she loves to go there (she’s a graphic designer). Romina also mentioned a famous restaurant where they roast chickens and various other animals by the hundreds on a big spit - she assured me that there would be a veggie kabob too. We’ll probably hit both of those places before the end of the week - I’m excited to actually go into the city and get a taste of Karachi!

We met so many different people tonight, it’s difficult to remember them all. Hasina, who is over 90 years old, recounted stories from her childhood with Ashfaq (they were siblings). She remembers Ashfaq sneaking into their mango orchard as a child, picking the choisest ones and eating them all himself. Ashfaq’s sister-in-law one-upped that with a story about how, when young Ashfaq would come to visit, he would sneak into her bedroom and put on her clothes and lipstick and then sit gleefully on the bed.

The amount of new people - and new food - we experienced tonight was pretty overwhelming. It’s clear that Pakistanis value family over most anything else - how else to explain the warm hospitality shown to a couple of English-speaking North Americans that they didn’t even know existed a few months ago? Tomorrow, we set out on a guided tour of Karachi to see what this city’s all about.

Sam Nabi

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