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Volume 68, Isuue 80, Thursday, January 23, 2003


Pakistan vs America? It's a tie

Samira Zaidi
opinion columnist

Welcome back to the spring semester a new start to the year, with the hopes of improving our lives.

I know Iim a little late with these good tidings, as I was in Pakistan until yesterday afternoon, when I was greeted by the Houston heat. 

Traveling overseas in Southeast Asia, I learned some valuable lessons. Having been born and raised in America I took a lot of things for granted. The last I visited Pakistan was in 1989 and I can hardly remember a thing about it, except for the heat and flies. 

Pakistan was created in 1947, and that makes my parents first generation Pakistanis my grandparents, etc. were born and raised in India. 

As I have grown, I have learned to appreciate my culture and background. I always took my religion to be my only identity, and now I am honored to add my heritage and culture to that. 

It was certainly a culture shock for me. In Pakistan, not only is the time difference hard to get used to, but the way of life as well. The people are so relaxed and comfortable in their own lives. There is no rush or stress to meet lifeis daily demands, and yet everything manages to get done.

Their traffic is the same way. I saw traffic lights, but no one followed them. I saw cops, but no one listened to them. I saw lanes, but no one was in them. And surprisingly I saw not one accident. On one street I saw cars, taxis, donkeys, horses, buses and trucks and people trying to get across.

I enjoyed just watching and observing the chaotic way that people drove and still managed to make it to their destination in one piece. 

What I love about Pakistan is that the people enjoy life. Each day is a celebration. I was welcomed into every home, even though I had no direct relation with some of the people I visited. 

I consider Karachi to be the city that never sleeps. Even at 2 a.m. business was going on as usual. And being used to rules and consistency, it wasnit the particulars I was looking for it was the realness of it all. Eating chicken biryani at a small restaurant where the chairs were all different and the dinnerware didnit match. I can tell you it only made the food taste better. 

While I was there three men were murdered in our area and that caused the local businesses to go on strike, because the political party the men belonged to forced it. One shop owner said that if he opened his shop and the party found out, they would probably kill him. 

There was a lot I saw and witnessed that made me grateful I live in a country where, to some degree, my voice and opinions are heard and valued. Where an individual is allowed to grow and live life to her/his own ideals. 

I miss the noise and lively atmosphere of Karachi. Shopping in the bazaar, the food, the vendors who wandered the streets announcing their wares and the people who greeted me and never made me feel like a stranger it is with these memories that I hope to visit Pakistan again. 

I hope those of you who have never left the United States make an effort to visit a foreign country, and experience a culture rich in its own beliefs, values and rituals. And that once you come back home you will appreciate other cultures and still long for the comfort of your own bed.

Zaidi, a senior communication major, can be reached at


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