…. Pakistan is a land of extremes: from extreme heat to extreme hospitality. From extreme religious sentiment to extreme devotion to food. From extremely exaggerated journalism to an extremely undervalued global reputation.
What most of the world fails to realize is just how beautiful this country is and how spectacular its people truly are. It is impossible to overlook the problems: Pakistan is facing lawlessness in Karachi, a violent political system, jaw-dropping inflation, an insufficient power supply and terrorists staking claim over the northern areas. These are real issues that do exist: but they do not define Pakistan—as much of the world would have you believe.
While it may be impossible to overlook the problems, it is (apparently) quite possible to overlook the splendor that a country like Pakistan offers.
Where else do you greet every stranger with the phrase “Peace be with you”?
Where else do you find BBQ Chicken Tikka that melts in your mouth?
Where else is being 20 minutes late considered on-time? ….
…… Pakistanis are hospitable. I’ve spent my entire time here living with a host family. At first I was a guest, but Jean, Wilburn, Asim, Maria, Susie, John, Ben, Thomas, Annie, Tashu and Ethan made me feel so welcome that they became family. I know I have a home here forever. Anywhere you go in Pakistan, people will welcome you with open arms (and probably a even a hug—from strangers too).
Pakstanis are loyal. I mean…crazy loyal. When you make a Pakistani friend, you’ve created a serious bond. Leaving is so hard because I feel such powerful ties with people here. For my farewell dinner, a co-worker (but really a new best friend), Jamshaid, made two 9 hour trips between our site in the flood affected areas and Lahore just to join for dinner. Another friend of mine who had moved out of Lahore months ago made a 250Km round trip to meet me for Sehri breakfast at 3am. I’ve never felt so honored.
Pakistanis love tea. If this isn’t self-evident, I don’t know what is. Pakistanis love to sit down, stir their chai and chat. Spending time with others and building quality relationships is so important. Back home people tend to fly through their days, but in Pakistan, every moment with another is cherished.
Pakistanis are optimistic. I’ve never been somewhere where young people were as energized about opportunities in their own country as here. There is a bright future ahead and Pakistan’s youth are driving it. A few friends of mine—Ali, Babar, Zehra, Saba, Jimmy, Khurram—have inspiring aspirations for change in PK.
This is the Pakistan that the world needs to come to know. Yes, there are terrorists and violence, and that can’t be forgotten, but if that is your perception, then you are judging a book by the headlines.
Sure, there are probably safer ways I could have spent this year, but then I wouldn’t have been stretched in the way that I have been.
Pakistan has become a part of me; it has forever changed me, my perspective on the world, and my trust in humanity.
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