Ten risks in Pakistan apart from terrorism
Without attempting to put any humour at all into the recent terror events in Lahore which were saddening, I thought I would have a semi ‘light hearted’ look at other aspects of day-to-day life where things are completely different to home, and maybe a bigger risk! The perception in the west is Pakistan is dangerous due to terrorist activities, and sure, they do have some challenges, but there are a few other risks here as well.
- The Roads
The roads are chaotic to say the least. Cars, trucks, rickshaws, donkeys, horses, camels, street vendors, bikes and motorbikes come each and every way on the road towards you, in front of you and around you. No one stops at intersections and simply a ‘beep’ of the horn is all the notice you have to make a life changing decision to go or stop. Crossing the road is like a giant game of human Frogger, and you have to have the courage in the system and just go, and hope they all go around you! I won’t even start with my 2 bike riding attempts…still building up courage to re-commence training in that regard.
- The airlines (at the airport)
Being in a position where there is plenty of domestic and international travel involved, I am becoming accustomed to the whole airport routine. But, it too come with risks, even at the airport. There is a strong chance of being trampled in several stampede situations, whether the cue for check in, the cue for immigration, and the final announcement to board, when it is a ‘free for all’ rush to the gate…best tip, is stay back and wait The plane will still go (usually).
The airlines (in the plane)
This one is taking a bit of getting used to. The airlines feel dodgy in comparison with others I have frequented i.e. QANTAS, Virgin, Emirates etc. Having become a regular of the troubled National carrier –PIA (or Perhaps I’ll Arrive- as I call it), and Air Blue, I have already had several ‘dodgy’ experiences. The amount of luggage loaded honestly makes me fear the weight calculations, and many flights appear to shudder and struggle to get off the ground, which I have tried to re-assure myself via Google is not due to weight, but wind turbulence on the wheels at take off, but it feels like the former, and that’s what I say as I break out in a cold sweat at take off…
- A crazed guard
Everywhere has guards outside, whether in shops, banks, restaurants and even homes, (we too have one), and they all have a variety of guns from what look like sworn off shot guns to machine guns and many in between. I often wonder if any will become trigger happy, or desperate to fire one-off at times. I often go by the hopeful self reassurance that they don’t have bullets or the guns don’t even work, which helps!
- Dodgy street food
When you see sheep carcasses and chickens hanging in the 30+ degrees open air you have to question the food safety at times. While you can buy a chicken at the market and have it ‘prepared fresh’ for you, the other options sometimes make you wonder how the food you eat is prepared, and this may explain the several cases of upset stomachs we all have suffered from time to time. At least it is building up some sort of ‘iron gut’ hopefully, and good for the weight loss program!
- This one is serious – Blasphemy
NEVER, EVER, EVER say anything negative about anything religions. Full stop. My advice, is keep your views to yourself. We all have the right to choice and that’s fine by me. Enough said.
- Becoming a celebrity
Being a white family creates a lot of interest here. There aren’t too many of us around! Whenever we go out we are stared at, followed, stared at some more, secretly photographed and publicly photographed. There have been a couple of instances where an innocent person has asked for our photo with them and we obliged only to very quickly have it turn into a mob like situation with people pulling and poking to get their shot, and were forced to exit with some force and aggression. I am sure it is all innocent, but very weird, and somewhat confronting.
Things happen differently here and clearly in a different language. You can drive yourself to death by frustration over trying to find a simple location, an item or finding out how to do a daily task. I’m not there yet, but slowly learning to chill and let what will be, be! But its’ tough! An example: We have been trying to find out how to re-cover some furniture. We asked many people and been told places we can’t find, had a tutor explain to our driver who said he knew and would go there, so I got ready, and next minute he went home, then we asked the driver and he knew nothing of it, only to find 3 weeks later when driving he was pointing out places and said ‘ this is furniture area, where you re-cover things’. We just looked at each other and asked him why he hadn’t told us about it. “Oh” was the reply (we still haven’t got it done by the way!)
- The heat and lack of infrastructure
Summer is approaching and power and gas supplies are a challenge here. Load shedding, where they power is shut off, or gas shedding, where gas supplies stop are commonplace each season. When its high 30’s outside and you lose power you have no AC’s or no heating or cooking in winter. Not something that has effected us too much yet, but it will, and will add to point 8 I am sure.
- Missing Home
One can’t die of home-sickness, but I needed to add a number ten, so this will do. Whilst not suffering from this at all (speaking only for myself and not the family, but I think they are coping), it can be an issue. You do find yourself thinking more about Oz, especially at times when we would do various things for special events like Australia Day, Easter, AFL, cricket etc., but this is all part of being an expat. The experience makes you cherish your homeland more than you do when you simply live there, as they say, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’, and this is true when you are about 11,000 kilometres away.
So there you have it, there are many challenges and watch outs here in Pakistan, but if I was to add risks in Australia, it would be full of snakes, spiders and crocodiles, so this is much more exciting…