Happy Birthday, Pakistan

Today is Pakistan Day, the anniversary of the founding of Pakistan on August 14, 1947. It hasn’t been an easy journey for the Muslim country that was carved out on the western and easter edges of the British India. In addition to the slaughter that occurred at “Partition,” as Hindus and Muslims raced to get on the right side of the border (India or Pakistan), there were 2 subsequent wars with India (1965 and 1971). Its recent history has been marred by increasing violence.

But as those of us who grew up there know, Pakistan is more than what we read about in the news. It has a rich history and culture, gorgeous and friendly people, and some of the best food in the world.

I spent my growing-up years in the coastal city of Karachi. In honor of Pakistan Day, here’s a video of what the city looks like today: (email readers, click here to see the video).

My, but it has changed! There were only a few spots that I recognized.

If you’re interested in reading more about creation of India and Pakistan, I highly recommend the book Freedom at Midnight, by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.

Freedom at Midnight

Related Posts:

Touring Karachi

Karachi Memories

Nixon in  China, 43 Years Ago


Evacuation, Part 2

Touring Karachi

When I was growing up in Karachi, Pakistan in the 1960’s we (surprisingly) had quite a few visitors come through and stay with us. In fact, it often felt like our place was a guest house (something we loved, by the way). If the visitors were from out of the country, we would all pile into our green and white Volkswagen Microbus and my dad would take us on a grand tour of the city.

Our old VW may not be plying the streets of Karachi anymore, but apparently there is a new tour company that organizes bus tours of the city. Here’s the story, as told by Robin Show on a YouTube video:

The Pakistan city of Karachi, infamous for targeted killings and carjackings, ranks in the top 10 of the most violent cities in the world. But one man has decided to show that there is more to Karachi than crime and terror and has started the first ever guided bus tour of the city. It involves armed guards, an itinerary that changes all the time and highly negotiated access to sites where people are worried about coming under attack if they attract too much attention.

If you’ve spent anytime in Karachi, I think you’ll really enjoy this video! And if you haven’t, it’s interesting as well!

(If you receive this post by email, please go here to see the video.)

Related Posts:

Karachi Memories

Nixon in China, 43 Years Ago


Evacuation, Part 2



50 Years Ago

I have been studiously avoiding all of the hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. I have an aversion to American media hype, and since I was only 3 1/2 at the time I don’t have any personal memories of the event.

I do know that my family were living in Karachi, Pakistan at the time, having just moved there from a smaller city in the middle of the Sind Desert.

A friend and colleague of my parents sent me a copy of something he submitted to the Macon Telegraph in which he recounts his memory of that day. It also turned out to be a sweet reminder of my dad. He graciously said that I could share it on here:

“I was in Karachi, Pakistan, recuperating from a severe bout of malaria. My wife and I were staying in the home of missionary colleagues. Coming in from fetching the morning newspaper, our hostess, Grace, shouted to her husband words that sounded like, “Sam, our kitty has died.” We all ran to her and saw the large headlines, “KENNEDY HAS DIED.” An ordained American minister, Sam was asked by the U.S. consular general to conduct a memorial service the next day for the large American community. With very little time to put together such an event, Sam asked for my help in writing the eulogy. From my bed, I did so. Before a packed out crowd of Americans and other nationalities, he read the eulogy.”

Thanks Uncle Hu!



Top Ten Posts of 2012

It seems that every other blogger on the planet is doing an end-of-the-year “Top Ten” list, so why not me?  Herewith, then, is the list of my top ten posts of 2012, as measured by WordPress stats:

10. Living Well Where You Don’t Belong (full version)

A collection of lessons I’ve learned over the years about successful cross-cultural living. Many lessons were, of course, the result of cultural mistakes that I made.

9.  The Great Moon Cake Exchange

A look at the art if giving and receiving moon cakes during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

8.  Start Seeing Mops

A fun slide show of random mops seen on the streets of China. There is no problem that cannot be solved with a bucket and a mop.

7. Flooding in Beijing — What Does it Mean

Some observations on the historic flooding that hit Beijing in July. Think of Beijing is a small state, rather than a large city.

6. Silly Season

A look at life in Beijing in the run-up to the Party Congress meetings in November, and what the authorities did to prevent people from throwing “reactionary leaflets”* out the windows of taxis.

5. A Letter to Language Learners

Some thoughts and ruminations on the privilege of learning a language.

4. Chinese Bumper Stickers

My first installment of funny Chinese bumper stickers.

3. Swimming Masks

A few scary photos of Chinese swimmers at a beach in Qingdao.  Do not click on this link if you are given to having nightmares!

2. Karachi Memories

Some of my fondest memories of growing up in Karachi, Pakistan.

1. How Long Does it Take to Learn Chinese?

Some accused me of spreading discouragement with this post. I see it as helping folks set realistic expectations regarding how long it takes to learn a second language. That’s actually discouragement-prevention!

Which one was your favorite?

Onward to 2013! Happy New Year!

*I wish I could take credit for this term “reactionary leaflets” but I can’t. I picked it up from blogger Imagethief. It was too brilliant to  pass up.

Karachi Memories

Last week I ran across an interesting slide show on the Foreign Policy website.  It is a collection of photos taken in Karachi, Pakistan during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The introduction to the slide show talks about how Karachi (population 13 million) has become one of the most dangerous cities in the world, but then goes on to describe what life was like in an earlier time:

But the Karachi of the 1960s and 1970s was a much different place. The city became a stop on the “Hippie Trail,” a popular route that led bohemians from Britain and the United States across Asia on their search for enlightenment. With the influx of Westerners before the country’s takeover by Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1977, Karachi enjoyed a period of relative permissiveness, with nightclubs, bars, cinemas, and restaurants hosting the city’s vibrant nightlife. Here’s a special collection of photographs from that time, courtesy of the Citizen’s Archive of Pakistan, a non-profit organization dedicated to cultural and historical preservation. 

Since I spent my childhood in Karachi during those years, as you can imagine, I savored every photo.

People often ask me what it was like growing up there. I tell them that since I was born there and lived there as a kid, I didn’t know anything else.

I do have great memories of growing up in Karachi during that time period and these photos got me thinking about some of them. Herewith are ten of those memories, in no particular order other than how they popped into my head!

1. Summers at the pool. Karachi in the summer is hot – mind-numbing, brain-cell-melting, skin-burning hot – so as soon as school was out our family (and other families my parents worked with) would sign up for pool memberships at the local hotels.  The Hotel Intercontinental.  The KLM Midway House at the airport. We pretty much spent every summer day at the pool, swimming and feasting on shrimp and french- fries. By the late 60’s our school, Karachi American School had its own pool so that was where we hung out.

2. Winter weekends at the beach. The organization my parents worked for owned a ‘beach hut’ at Hawkes Bay, where we usually spent our Saturdays. Keep in mind that a cold winter day would be one in which the temps dropped into the upper 70’s. Besides swimming and building sand castles,we always had time for a camel ride. During turtle season, we would stay late into the night to “go turtle hunting,” which wasn’t hunting at all but rather watching the giant green turtles come ashore to lay eggs (and sometimes helping them up the beach). Several weeks later we would be on hand as the eggs hatched, and then we’d help the babies get to the ocean.

3. Riding around town in blue-smoke-belching, white-knuckle-inducing three-wheeled rickshaws. How we survived I’ll never know.

4. Midnight runs to the airport with my dad. Most international flights in Karachi landed between midnight and 5AM because of the excessive heat. My folks believed that every visitor we had (and we had a lot) should be met and sent off, no matter what time of the night they were coming or going. For a kid to be able to get up in the middle of the night to go to the airport with her dad was a big deal!

5.   Eating chicken tikka at The Spot, a roadside eatery on the highway heading out to the airport. It  had the absolute best chicken tikka in town. I know that chicken tikka (succulent chicken marinated in spices and roasted over coals) is a common menu item in Indian and Pakistani restaurants worldwide, but I have come to the conclusion that this is one food item that simply cannot be replicated outside Pakistan. The Spot, with its tikka, naan, and greasy parathas was where we headed every Sunday night after church. When my family was preparing to leave Karachi n 1973 I remember being sad knowing I would probably never eat real chicken tikka again. I did eat real tikka again, on 3 trips back to Pakistan in 1980, 1985, and 1986. I haven’t had the real deal since then, unfortunately.

6. Crab fishing in Karachi harbor. Fishing boats in Karachi are called ‘bundar boats’ and a fun thing we used to do was hire them for an evening of crab-fishing. As we caught the crabs, the crew would cook them for us right there on the deck. I didn’t like crabs (and still don’t), but spending an evening on the boat with family and friends was great fun.

7.  Christmas caroling at the Hotel Intercontinental on Christmas Eve. This was something that our church did every year. We always felt sorry for the foreign businessmen who were stuck in the hotel on Christmas Eve, so this was our way of cheering them up.

8. The arrival of television in 1968. Broadcasts were only in the evenings and not on Mondays. At first we didn’t have one, so would hang out at our neighbor’s place to watch the one English program that aired each night.  Bewitched and Marcus Welby, MD were among our favorites.

9.  Skate-boarding on the roof of our house. The roofs of our cement houses were flat, with a wall around the perimeter. My mom used the space to hang laundry while my sister and I treated the flat surface as our own personal skate-boarding park.

10. Pot-luck dinners at church.  I remember Mrs. Patterson’s chicken curry as being exceptionally divine.

There are thousands more memories, of course, but I will stop.

Perhaps you, dear reader, grew up in Karachi as well.  What special memories do you have? Please leave a comment and share one.

Rickshaw photo: Karachi Digest

Chicken Tikka photo: Infokorners.com (click on the link for a recipe)