BLOG 3: Doc in Pakistan
(Dr. Wasel Kabir is a Canadian physician who is volunteering to help Pakistanis affected by the floods. It is the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Dr. Kabir is blogging exclusively for Day 6. Our interview with him will air on our September 11 program - our inaugural show!)
DR. WASEL KABIR'S PAKISTAN BLOG
Day 3: Re-acquaintance (September 4)
We just landed in Lahore. We are on our way to Multan where we'll be staying, before heading out to Muzaffargarh and the location of the camp. It's four in the morning.
The last time I set foot in Pakistan was 17 years ago. I must admit the view has exceeded my expectations (but to be fair it is dark).
The people have also exceeded my expectations. I expected disorganization, anarchy; instead, I see order. I expected pushy and aggressive characters, almost grappling to garner my foreign attention, trying to profit from my newbie nature. But I did not experience any of that. Perhaps it's too early in the morning. Perhaps the stereotype is just simply wrong.
We got our bags and were greeted by Brother Riaz, our Islamic Relief escort and driver. Brother Riaz looks like your typical Pakistani male and has a heart of gold. He is soft spoken and sincere.
He pulls up his gray pickup. We load our bags and pile in.
Driving in Pakistan is exactly how I remember. The only rule is: there are no rules. There is a blatant disregard for even the most basic driving etiquette and consideration, save a loosely held observance of which side of the road to drive on. We share the road with bicycles and motorbikes carrying supplies, if not entire families; tractors; carts drawn by ox and donkeys. All this, and we see only one, flipped over, truck.
There is something about the eclectic multicolored mosaic truck designs that make me smile. I have got to drive here.
Dawn broke sometime ago. This stretch of the countryside is quite green with fields of corn and wheat. We see farmers managing their crops and cattle. We pass many villages. The buildings are sparse, made of concrete, weathered and run down yet thriving with natives. Others are completely abandoned and broken.
Brother Riaz has been up for 24 hours trying to make arrangements to accommodate us. He skillfully maneuvers the pickup through all the traffic and commotion, trying to get us to Multan safely.
Preoccupied with taking in all the sights, for a fleeting second I almost forgot why we are here. It is good to be back, but I remind myself this is no vacation.
We reach our destination and are warmly greeted by the members of Islamic Relief; instantly we feel welcome and a part of their team. The brothers here seem to work tirelessly, managing the effort administratively, and on the front lines.
After a brief rest we make our way to survey the camp in Muzaffargarh and take inventory of the medicine and supplies.
Brother Riaz drives us to the site of our initiative. The streets are full of people, all dressed in their traditional clothing (shalwar and chemise). I do not see many women and definitely no tourists. Our clothing distinguishes us as foreigners.
As we approach the limits of the flood I see countless displaced families, children, babies, couples living in open tents and sleeping on the ground or on makeshift cots. They line the streets, they line the fields; some are fortunate enough to have the shelter of a tree.
I have to think beyond my own spoiled self and realize what I take for granted that these people do not have: a bathroom. Clean water. Privacy. Clean anything. Four walls and a roof!
We move inside the limit of the floods. Here, entire fields once filled with corn, rice and wheat are ponds. Houses are washed out, abandoned islands. It looks bad and it's not the worst affected area in Pakistan.
Men women and children walk the streets and play and work. It seems like a simple life, but way too difficult for us, or anyone back home, to live like. Apparently most of the world lives like this.
Yet in all cases, as dreary we think the standard of living is, each one of these men, women, and children seem content, are smiling.
(some editing by Day 6 producers)
Dr. Kabir's wherabouts:
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SEE ALSO: Canadian Doc in Pakistan (part one)
SEE ALSO: Canadian Doc in Pakistan (part two)
LINK: Islamic Relief Canada
LINK: Adams Mosque
DONATE: CBC Pakistan Relief