Stories about foreigner

A Belgian nun in Manghopir

It was wonderful to meet Sister Jeanine Geuns, a Belgian nun who has lived in Pakistan for 50 years and works at the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre, at the International Women’s Association tea for International Women’s Day. Sister Jeanine came out here at the age of 21, three days after her birthday, originally planned to be here for only three years, and has stayed on ever since. A short woman with close-cropped hair and remarkably clear skin and eyes, she’s determined and hard-working, speaks better Urdu than me, and wears a shalwar kameez. She lives in Manghopir and looks after the ...

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I’m a Pakistani marrying a gora

The past 10 days have been very eventful for me – no, scratch that-  they have been momentous; I received some excellent news about my future, went on a wonderful business trip to the sunny state of California, and yesterday my gora (foreigner) best friend asked me to marry him. I said yes, in case you were wondering. Yes, I am the other half of an interracial couple. The funny thing about being in an interracial relationship is that in a world where everyone is always talking about race, that’s the last thing on my mind when I’m with C. To me, he isn’t ...

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As Pakistani as you

This past summer I met with a prominent lawyer, one who supposedly fights for human rights and women’s activism in Pakistan. Before I met her, I believed her to be a symbol of the fact that women can bring change in Pakistan. However, when I confessed to her my desire to live in Pakistan and engage actively in civil society, I was snapped at and told crudely that my “misplaced sense of patriotism” was unwelcome. Unfortunately, her crass “holier than thou” attitude is not unique to her. There are hordes of Lahoris, Karachiites and more, itching to tell me that ...

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What a gori learned in India

I didn’t get to ride an elephant or dance and sing about love and heartache in choreographed Bollywood style. But during a little trip to India to attend my boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding, I did learn some things about Indian etiquette. Here are a few lessons for non-Indians who find themselves sari-wrapped in India. Lesson #1: The price is never fixed You can haggle for literally everything in India — even when there are signs saying “price is fixed.” The process is like interpretive dance: prices hang in limbo while unresolved arms sway and strike poses to the rhythms of sari fabrics brushing ...

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Pakistan, I love you!

Re-visiting Pakistan for the second time this summer, after having spent 4 weeks last year exploring Karachi and Lahore, I no longer feel like a completely clueless gori like I did before. I now find myself amused over my shock that there was dinner served after we went out for Iftar to BBQ Tonite, my utter cluelessness of what paan is, leave alone how to eat it, and my wonderment and childish excitement to see donkeys in the middle of a city.  This time around I did have a much better understanding of what was going on – what the ...

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Pakistan: Locally underrated, globally misunderstood

“Out of all the places in the world, why on earth would you want to go to Pakistan?”  A question I have heard in various forms by countless people. After six months of living in Pakistan, I imagined the questions and shock would have settled by now. However, I am still continuously asked why I am here. On many occasions, Pakistanis have been just as shocked as anyone else as to why a non-Pakistani would ever want to stay in such a country. I am not only troubled with the misconceptions and ignorance of non-Pakistanis, yet find it just as ...

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A ‘Russian spy’ in Lahore — not quite

A Russian walking past a crowd of Punjabis will hardly qualify as news in societies open to exchange of ideas and people. But television channels in Pakistan are used to treating foreigners’ presence in the country as breaking news. On the afternoon of September 9, most channels reported the arrest of a Russian “spy” in Lahore with an undertone that a disaster had been averted. With hundreds of thousands of dollars having moved around in ad revenues and blood money following an American spy’s presence in the city, the September 9 report was all set to occupy prime time slots for several ...

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High time Pakistan gets a European football coach

The arrival of Portuguese Carlos Queiroz as the head coach of Iran’s football team is an important development on the Asian football horizon. The versatile tactician has signed a three-year contract with the country renowned for great football credentials, a proud history, talented individual and a good infrastructure. However, there must be reasons that provoked the established football nation to hire a European coach instead of local one. Iran, once a powerhouse of Asian football, is witnessing a decline at international level. It failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and has not won the Asian Cup since 1976. Even ...

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Karachi: No longer a tourist spot?

It happened a few months ago. I was on a bus, on my way home. Just when the bus reached near Old Sabzi Mandi, no less than twenty people, all belonging to a single family, climbed in. There were many children too, causing a lot of commotion on the bus and making it look like a packed circus ring. I asked who they were and where they were from. One young lady, who said she was hosting all these people said, “They are my neighbours, have travelled all the way from Larkana to see Karachi.” Amazed, I asked, “Why Karachi?” “Oh, they hadn’t ...

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My first bribe: Pakistan brings out the worst in me

I’ve lived in the UK most of my life and visited Pakistan last summer after five years. I was simply overwhelmed when I arrived at the airport and was smiling at everyone and everything I saw. Unfortunately, my feelings of  joy came to an end soon enough. Fist stop: baggage claim I waited at the baggage claim for the last piece of my luggage -a lawnmower that that my grandfather had requested – for half an hour. Finally, I saw the big orange box. It was sitting on a luggage trolley along with another suitcase. Standing next to it was a tall, grey-haired ...

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