Monday, 19 September 2016

Salaam Alaikum: Notes from an American Teacher In Pakistan

Asian geckos
Salaam Alaikum (Let peace be with you). The morning call to prayers from the loud speaker of a nearby mosque awakens me from a deep sleep. Elvis, my house lizard, is motionless on the wall beneath the bamboo shade that protects my desk from the early morning rays of the intense Pakistani sun. He has had a busy night eating the ants and other insects that wander into my house in search of a random crumb or two. He is most likely unaware that his scientific name is Hemidactylus frenatus or the common house gecko. I am used to his 'tchak tchak tchak' chirp, always three times in unison, from having lived in South India for two years. The house geckos kept the house free of insects, especially mosquitoes. I am now in north eastern Pakistan, teaching mathematics at an international school and having Elvis as my housemate is a welcome event.

Elvis first introduced himself on Day One as I, dripping with sweat, dragged my suitcases into the front door of my home for the next two years. I saw a dull grey streak careening up the wall near the front stairwell. With a 'tchak tchak tchak’ chirp, I knew that I would not be the only occupant of my new home here in the shady tree-lined streets of Lahore and felt a sense of relief at the familiar call.

My school day in Lahore is hectic, as most high school teachers can attest to. My international students are polite, inquisitive and full of energy. I have picked up a copy of the school yearbook to find pictures of my students to make learning their names easier. I have 80 students over the course of a school day so learning unfamiliar Urdu and Korean names is my biggest challenge right now. Six weeks into the school year and it is becoming easier, but I still have a lot of memorizing to do. Days are passing quickly and I look forward to the solitude of my house each evening, with the 'tchak tchak tchak’ that welcomes me.

Yesterday, Elvis scampered behind the bamboo shades, his go-to place in my home office as I came into the room with an armful of math tests to grade. It was 7 pm and his day was just beginning. With a 'tchak tchak tchak’ he disappeared into his bamboo bunker. I opened the first test booklet and glanced at the bright yellow wall near my desk as a movement caught my eye. It was a miniature Elvis zig-zagging toward the bamboo window shade; its 'tchak tchak tchak’ much fainter than that of big Elvis. Could it be that Elvis had spawned a miniature version of himself while I was away at school? Would there be enough ants for both of them? Yes, no worries there.

I have named the spawn of Elvis, Bambina, since I am the mother of two grown daughters and I wouldn’t know what to do with a Bambino. Elvis is staying Elvis since I couldn’t bare changing his (her?) name. My biggest fear is that they will find my daily routines dull compared to the nonstop activity of their busy existence that I relish watching each evening.

Salaam Alaikum. I awake once more to the call to prayers drifting in with first rays of the morning sun. Elvis and Bambina have moved to a new home behind the Japan Airlines calendar that hangs over my desk. The golden Buddha adorning the month of August is the door to their secluded abode. It has more room and light than the small dark corner behind the bamboo blinds.

A bright new home, a view of life from a different vantage point with many as yet unknown people to meet in the next two years. Salaam Alaikum, Elvis and Bambina. Let our journey begin

Thursday, 8 September 2016

An Adventure in Driving

I am fortunate to have a vehicle issued to me by my employer and drive myself to work and back every day. Mornings are fairly easy since I get out the door at around 6:30 am. The trip after school can be harrowing at times depending on if the traffic lights are working or not. I go slow and since we drive on the left in Pakistan not the right like I am used to, I really have to think when turning or making quick decisions.- like not hitting the cyclists or camel moving along in the shoulder area. (I really did see a camel two days ago on the way to work.) We don't have camels in Boulder, CO so I was rubber-necking to check out its colorful harness.

Sunday mornings are quiet on the roads here and some of my co-workers suggested practicing my driving skills before the city begins waking up. I did last Sunday and after almost 30 minutes of feeling very cocky and sure of myself, was promptly pulled over by two traffic policeman for failing to stop at a light that had just started working. I was able to talk my way out of a ticket since I am obviously a newbie when it comes to driving here, but it shook me up enough to head home and lay low for the rest of the day. I will most likely curtail my trips into the city or hire a driver when traffic is bad. It's all an adventure and driving in Lahore is adding up to be own of my best adventures yet.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Sipping Chai in Lahore, Pakistan

photo credit https://www.tripoto.com/places-to-visit/pakistan/lahore
Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, Pakistan (photo www.tripoto.com)
Another new place, another new culture. After a year in Shanghai, China, I am now living and teaching in Lahore, Pakistan. I have been here for a little over a month and am settling in to life as a maths teacher and single woman exploring life in a Muslim country. More to follow, just a much needed update.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Sipping Chai in Shanghai

Dear Readers,

Apologies for my long lapse in blogging. I know I am behind in my book publishing of "Sipping Chai in Chennia" but I have decided to take it in a new direction based on my publisher's recommendation. I appreciate everyone's patience.

Tomorrow I fly to Shanghai, China for a new chapter of my life. I will be teaching at an international school in Shanghai for two years. I may start a new blog but may just continue this one with the new adventure...will update soon. Beth

Friday, 20 March 2015

India Unplugged: What Really Happens When You Are Traveling, Living and Working in India

I recently had the pleasure of exchanging emails with Aurelia Zoss who has lived and studied in Austria, Canada and France. During her studies, she traveled across the Indian subcontinent once as a tourist and once as a researcher for several months. She has seen every corner of India: from the Himalayas to the Southern tip of India; from the Northeast to the coasts of Kerala – and every place in between. She has lived in Bangalore and Delhi and has now settled in Bangalore where she is working for an international organization.

She has written a book about her experiences called "India Unplugged."

From an Amazon.com book reviewer: 

"So many expats live in their air conditioned offices and enjoy being driven around by their drivers to fancy restaurants and clubs but have no clue what is really happening in 'their' country. Not so Aurelia. She immersed herself in this India experience like a naïve but curious girl. And her openness paid off: She was able to fill an entire book with crazy and funny stories about her travels and her life in India.

This is not a boring account about lame and uptight expat parties or hanging out on the beach. This is an expat memoir of a different kind.

Instead of bragging about her superior lifestyle, or lamenting about the 'tragic' deprivations she had to endure in India - as you can find in plenty other expat reports - Aurelia really took the plunge. She is telling us stories about REAL people: Bus drivers, coconut sellers on the street, Indian bosses, co-workers, dentists, tailors, and her hilarious interactions with them.

I was amazed at the humbleness with which she shares her stories in such an authentic and unassuming way. Lastly, I have to admit that I am impressed by her deep understanding of this complex country.

Totally worth a read."

Here's a link to the kindle edition on Amazon: