Finally, after months of excitement and preparation, plus a few hours of flight delay, here I am in Pakistan! The joy of accomplishing your dream is something far beyond what words can describe. I was so happy I couldn't fall asleep on the night I arrived in Lahore.
Even though I've only been here for a little over a week, I can already feel the hospitality of the Pakistani people. They really welcome everyone and are eager to show the best sides of Pakistan. Also, they are always at hand when you find yourself in trouble.
My first host family cooked me the most amazing Pakistani food, showed me around the city and told me many things about Pakistan. What’s more, it was a nice bonus for me to have sweet and caring host parents and three sisters: Virda, Zantasha and Zunaira. I was so touched when Virda gave me a popsicle to cheer me up when I was so bored and frustrated about having not started work yet. I was amazed to find Zunaira feels as uncomfortable in traditional Pakistani dress as I do in dresses. And I was so moved when Zantasha said she will always be by my side and that I am part of the family now.
Everything was so smooth I thought I wouldn't have any difficulties adapting to life in Pakistan. Turns out, it was too early to say so.
The day I was moved to the intern house was like a heart attack to me.
When another intern, Warda from Cyprus, and I arrived at the intern house we found most of the furniture in the house broken ... except a mattress. Also, there’s no electricity, running water or Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). Pakistan mainly relies on renewable energy to generate electricity, and blackouts happen daily there. In order to maintain electricity for basic utilities like lights and the fan, there is UPS to help provide back up electricity.
When we tried to explain we couldn’t live in such a harsh environment, the people who took us there said it was far better than when they were on exchange, and that they have tried their best to find us accommodation during their exam period. I wasn’t prepared for that and was so frightened that the people who sent me there would flee and leave me alone in the house. I was totally pissed off, so I freaked out and started crying immediately. I hadn’t even bought myself a SIM card yet, but luckily Warda was there and so I used her Wi-Fi hotspot to message Zantasha and asked whether I could go back to her place.
Zantasha immediately asked them to bring me back to her house, and helped me try to figure out what had happened with the intern house. I cried all the way back to my host family, who then spent the whole night trying to comfort me and to explain what had happened. Unfortunately, I was so pissed off at that moment that I wasn't really willing to listen and be convinced by any of their explanations.
As Zantasha’s family needed to go out of town, I was soon moved to another host family: financial director of Aiesec-Rizwan’s cousin place.
On my way there, Rizwan asked me whether I minded living with his cousins. Since cousins in English doesn’t specific gender, I answered that I didn't mind. When I realised I was going to be living in a house full of guys, I freak out again. I was shivering when I arrived. I went to the room they prepared for me and locked myself inside. I started WhatsApping Hong Kong friends to figure out how to stay safe and calm. I even installed a safety app that features a siren just in case anything happened. I didn't sleep at all that night.
It wasn't until later, when one of the guys named Tahir started chatting with me, comparing the political and historical differences between Pakistan and India, and China, Taiwan and Hong Kong that I was finally able to relax and enjoy my dinner in the living room. I felt sorry for being so scared of Tahir, Khizar and Hassaan.
After that, Rizwan performed magic tricks and cooked me breakfast too. (He’s my saviour as I am really bad at cooking.) Khizar and Rizwan then took me out by motorcycle to try the local dessert: gol gappy. My first time on motorcycle! Soooooo cooooooooooooool! It was a funny experience to learn how to eat gol gappy too!
That night, I finally found out what happened with the intern house. Rizwan is the director of the financial department and responsible for the intern house. He told me that the UPS generator was stolen by construction workers, which is why the back up electricity was not working. But it took time for them to get the budget to buy another one. Also, there were still legal issues with the intern house that needed to be sorted out, and that’s why everything went wrong and they couldn’t solve the problems immediately. Rizwan said they were trying their best to fix things as soon as possible. So, it wasn't actually anyone’s fault, but a matter of bad situations that just happened. It was also a good experience as it gave me a chance to reflect upon my crisis management skills. I have to admit: mine are really bad.
One in-depth talk with Tahir sticks with me. The conversation wasn't about just this internship, but about what can happen in one year or throughout my whole life. The conversation was actually also about what's called a saint night for all the Muslims, which is a night to forgive past mistakes they have made. When Tahir told me about this I started sobbing. “Have you forgiven yourself?” and “are you ready to move on?” are questions I hope to answer throughout this journey.
“Everything happen for good,” Tahir told me.
So this is Pakistan. Everyday in Pakistan is a brand new day.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”
So prepare yourself and challenge your own comfort zone. I am sure you will learn and grow up a lot from it.