Sunday, 31 December 2006

Happy New Year!

>From Lahore, Pakistan, wishing friends, family and random visitors to this
website all a productive and happy 2007!

Tonight the Regale Internet Inn is organising a BBQ and band for its new
year's eve party.

Tomorrow I'm flying back to Karachi to meet again with Hani and his
family. On Tuesday I return to Turkey.

I also wish all Muslims a joyful Eid with their families and friends.
Bayraminiz kutlu olsun! Many goats, sheep, cattle and the odd camel will
be sacrificed in both Pakistan and Turkey for this sacred festival.

Saturday, 30 December 2006

Quick Update From Lahore

Wednesday evening I flew AirBlue to Lahore from Karachi. Here I am staying
at the Regale Internet Inn, the local backpacker hang-out.

On Thursday afternoon I saw a Sufi concert and that night went to an
evening of Sufi drumming, dancing and wacky tobacky.

I haven't felt 100% much of the time, particularly in the mornings. After
waking up I often need to go to the toilet straight away. I think my body
is still adjusting to Pakistan.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I plan to go to the old city to see the ancient fort
and mosque.

On the 1st I will catch a bus to Islamabad and then fly back to Karachi.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Karachi: A Few Thoughts So Far

First of all, thank you to Hani, Hadi, Huda, their parents, family and friends for brilliant hospitality.


The Wedding Dinner

Before I arrived to Karachi there were 3 functions: a dinner at Hani's place; the Nikah (religious wedding ceremony in a mosque); and a fun evening of dancing and singing. In Turkey the wedding is legalised by a government official and religious wedding are not recognised. In Pakistan, the religious ceremony is the official wedding.

On the late evening of the 24th was Hani and Mehwish's wedding dinner arranged by Mehwish's family and held in a large tent, well decorated. 700 people attended, ate dinner and took turns to meet and have their photos taken with the newly-wedded husband and wife. Mehwish and many of the female guests were dressed in stunningly beautiful and colourful clothes, whilst Hani and the several of the male guests wore plainer but still beautiful traditional Pakistani sherwani. You will have to wait until I'm back in Turkey to see photos. Several of the females also sported elaborate henna tattoos on their hands and feet. A singer and keyboardist played live for part of the evening.

After dinner the Hani, Mehwish and their closest family and friends journeyed to Hani's place to cut and eat the wedding cake. At the end of the night (after 2:30 am) Hani and Mehwish entered their bedroom for the first time together. Hani and Mehwish have been given the upstairs level of Hani's family's home. The rooms are exquisitely decorated and prepared.

Tonight is the wedding dinner prepared by Hani's family.


Karachi

Karachi is a sprawling city of around 15 million people, the largest in Pakistan and one of the largest in the world. The roads are in poor condition and teeming with cars, buses, trucks, motorbikes and auto rickshaws. The buses and trucks are highly decorated, full of colour and stood out immediately to me on the way from the airport to Hani's place.

Circling above the city are numerous eagles, floating around in the currents. I've never seen so many wild birds of prey in the vicinity of a city before. Crows are also plentiful.

The poverty is apparent with many disabled, children, elderly or other people begging or trying to sell products at traffic lights and outside shops. The military and police presence is also obvious.


Food

The food has been delicious and never-ending. I've eaten several different curries accompanied by different breads and fragrant long-grain rice. Lamb, beef, chicken and fish are all popular and meat dominates the diet. Omelettes and scrambled eggs have featured for breakfast.

The food is surprisingly mild and I haven't eaten anything mouth-burning. For lunch one day several of us went to Cafe Zouk to eat Thai and last night we ate various Pakistani kebabs at the extremely popular BBQ Tonight, a mult-storey eatery that began as a street restaurant.

The most common drink is milky and sweet tea. Twice I've drunk it outside Cafe Clifton, a local hang-out where people drive up and get served in their cars.


Other Points Of Note

- Karachi has a sub-tropical but dry climate and the winter days are mild, sometimes almost warm, although the nights are cooler.

- Hani's extended family live in 4 different houses on the one property. Several helpers (servants) do much of the work.

- Coconut palm trees abound.

- The locals stay up late. The earliest I've gone to bed (excluding the first day's afternoon nap) here is 3 am.

- One night I went with several of Hani's friends to Darwish's (sp?) place in the consulate district. There we lit a fire on the roof of his family's house. That night I stayed at Farooz's place.

- Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is a popular fuel for small vehicles as it costs less than half of conventional fuel.

- Today I managed to watch the last 10 minutes of the Boxing Day test match between Australia and England, something I cannot watch in Turkey. Cricket is ingrained in the culture here and there are references to the sport everywhere. I have not had my first bat or bowl yet but I'm looking forward to when it occurs.

- Hani's family and friends constantly switch between English and Urdu in the same conversations and even in the same sentences.

- English is very widely used here, although people are not native speakers. The results can be amusing.


That is all for now. I'm about to get ready for the wedding function tonight. I also hope to buy a flight to Lahore for tomorrow night or the morning of the 28th. Lahore is a prettier city than Karachi with more tourist sights.


PS: I can view but not reply to comments (or post) as I cannot access the commenting page. Infidel, in answer to your question: I'm not missing Turkey yet.

PPS: Thank you to all those who have send emails. I may not reply until I return to Turkey. Please forgive me.

Hi From Karachi, Pakistan

I'm sending this post via email as I'm not able to login to my blogger account. I'm not sure if this inability is related to Pakistan's censoring of blogspot.com blogs.

I've been in Karachi for more than 2 days. Hani's main wedding function was on last night. He and his family have looked after me wonderfully well.

I've got some great photos but you will have to wait until I can access blogger before they will be uploaded and published. I hope to write much more tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Efes Blues, Ankara Visa, Istanbul Flights

I'm curently in Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, about to fly to Dubai and then Karachi. In the airport there are many mature men and women dressed in white towling looking ready for the hamam. Instead, they are flying to Saudi Arabia for the Haj pilgrimage.

This week has been hectic.

Tuesday night Peter and I had a good time at the Efes Pilsen Blues Festival at the Armada in Mersin. I missed the last act as left early to catch an overnight bus to Ankara. On Wednesday, feeling not too good from the previous night, I obtained an invitation letter from the Australian Embassy and then applied and obtained my Pakistani visa. In between I visited Armagan and Yekta at IES's Ankara office and also met with Selin, who gave me a laptop part she had brought from Australia 9 months earlier.

At Ankara's ASTI bus station I arrived too late to catch the 5 pm buses to Mersin. Instead, I caught a bus to Adana. At Adana's otogar I chatted with a couple of friendly police offices for over an hour whilst waiting for a bus to Mersin. I eventually arrived home around 4 am Thursday morning. Thursday was my last day at work for 2006.

5:30 this morning I woke up finalised my luggage and caught the local amca's ancient, rickety machine, technically known as a taxi, to the AtlasJet service bus.

I'm due to arrive in Dubai at 1:15 am tomorrow and depart for Karachi at 8:00 am. Hani, see you very soon!

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Monday, 18 December 2006

Colourful Mildly Hot Chilli Peppers


I had to buy the above capsicums/peppers at the weekly Wednesday fruit and vegetable markets (pazar) just for their colours alone.

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Friday, 15 December 2006

Pakistan - Here I Come!

Today I received the wedding invitations by courier from Hani. I will write more on this later. In the meantime, here are some Pakistan links:

BBC Country Profile

Pakistan Ministry of Tourism What to Eat page. Note the following recommendation: Seekh-Kabab (minced meat grilled on skewer). Sound familiar to Turkey fans?

Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum Pakistan country page

Wikipedia Transport in Pakistan

Wikipedia Tourism in Pakistan

Hani's family company, Garibsons

Seat 61, Pakistan train travel

Australian Government travel advice

Australian DFAT country profile

CIA World Factbook - Pakistan

Wikipedia Pakistan

Lonely Planet destination Pakistan

Popular tour itineraries

Virtual Tourist Pakistan Travel Guide

Pakistan Travel Forum

dmoz Pakistan Travel and Tourism Directory

Preparing for the Subcontinent

Health information for travellers to countries in South Asia


Any further suggestions are appreciated.

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Thursday, 14 December 2006

The Wireless Internet Is Gone - Damn!

Since approximately 8:30 am yesterday morning, my laptop has not seen its partner - the "helpler" unsecured wireless. Alas, this 5-month relationship seems over...


PS: This is my first article sent by Blogger's post-via-email service.

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Wednesday, 13 December 2006

My Camera Is Repaired

Canon's Istanbul service centre unexpectedly repaired my Canon A710 IS camera (damaged 2 weeks ago) under warranty for no charge, even though I had bought it in the USA and they did not see a purchase receipt. I didn't know it was fixed until I received a parcel sent by courier. Yippeeee! :)

The retractable lens cover piece was stuck and not broken as I had thought. If the camera required significant repairs I wonder if it would be fixed under warranty...

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Thursday, 7 December 2006

Japanese TV To Feature Turkey?



Last week Yutaka emailed me, asking for assistance with questions about Turkey. Yutaka was an AIESEC trainee in Turkey in 2004-2005 and TBS, a Japanese TV station had contacted him via his website. They wanted to know specific answers about Turkey to help decide which country to base their end of year episode of Ichiteru on. Ichiteru is a talk-show featuring non-Japanese women living in Japan. I hope they choose Turkey!

As TBS required answers promptly, I have already sent my replies to Yutaka. I will disclose them on this blog later. In the meantime, what are you responses to the following questions?



In Turkey,

1: is there a job that is NOT likely to exist in Japan (or in any other countries)?

2: is there anything free that is NOT usually free in other countries?

3: how men satisfy their sexual needs by PAYING MONEY?
(since Turkey is a Muslim nation, the TV station simply wonders..)

4: what are criteria for good-looking men?

5: do you know anybody who personally runs her/his own zoo?

6: is there a TV show specially aimed for house-wives?
If yes, can you please name some (with details, preferably)

7: is there an interesting/funny/strange accomodation for students?

8: is there a special signal that you send when you want to have sex?
(like making eye contact, etc..)

9: is there a "taboo" present that you should never ever give?



UPDATE (2006/12/12): I have justed posted the answers I sent to Yutaka in the comments.
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Mersin And Turkey Links And News Stories

Below are some stories I had bookmarked earlier but only now got around to posting:

- Turkey's senior women's soccer team defeated Northern Ireland in Mersin as part of their EURO 2009 qualifying

- An Ak Party member of the Turkish Parliament from Mersin redefines the definition of political cowboy

- An Islamic version of creationism is being heavily pushed by mysterious forces in Turkey

- 2 women journalists arrested in Mersin were finally released after being held for 9 months

- Mersin Sosyete (Mersin Society), a well designed local entertainment portal opened in the summer although I only noticed it recently

- For your viewing pleasure, a video showing some of Mersin Province's highlights:



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Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Mersin Motor Show 2006

On Sunday the 26th of November I borrowed Levent's bike and rode down the coast with Peter and Michael Can to the new Marina complex for the Mersin Car, Commercial Vehicle and Motorcycle Fair (Mersin Otomobil, Ticari Araclar ve Motosiklet Fuari). The weather was brilliant - sunny and mild, like most of the past month.

2.50 YTL each later we were inside the exhibition. As the names suggests, the fair was divided into 3 sections: motorbikes, commercial vehicles and cars.


MOFO'6 sounds better than MOF'06 (Mersin Oto Fuari 2006), doesn't it?


Peter and Michael Can's dream family bike


Earlier this year, Mersin's government-run bus system entered the 20th century, introducing new buses containing electronic signs and air conditioning.


A slightly better sound system than my 1979 Chrysler Sigma's (R.I.P.) AM radio


I heartily endorse Coskun's automotive supplies and services. To get this photo I played the foreigner card :-)


Looking down the car hall


No Ferraris, Rolls Royces or Lamborghinis were on display but EUR 178,000 for a Mercedes 4WD is still impressive.


I don't know how effective this backdrop for the Skoda display was


Peter accidentally set off this Ford's car alarm


The gorgeous sunset, automobile style

Overall, a great day, except...

Part of the way home, we stopped at the park next to Cep Sinemasi for a kick of soccer. Unfortunately, at some stage my Canon A710 sustained damage to the lens cover. The camera is now at the Canon service centre in Istanbul and I'm waiting to find out how much the repair will damage my wallet. In theory, the replacement lens cover part should only cost a few cents. An alternative option is to fly to the US and get the camera repaired under warranty. However, the return flight maybe more expensive than the repair in Istanbul.

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Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Chinese Cabbage Sighted

I saw Chinese cabbage ('Cin Lanasi') in Mersin for the first ever today, at the weekly fruit and vegetable bazaar ('pazar') outside the stadium. As my fridge is full, I didn't buy a monster 3 kg cabbage but my boss did and I took a quarter of his. Bring on the stir fries and salads...yum!

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