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Zainab Rizvi: Visiting the Motherland After a Decade

Over winter break I was sick with the flu and spent over a week in bed drinking only hot tea. Meanwhile, Zainab Rizvi was sending me five Snapchats a day, as she was traveling to Pakistan to see her family and partake in events. Since I never got a chance to follow up with her – I decided to ask her about her trip to see if Pakistan was somewhere I, or other travelers, might want to visit: 

I asked her what it felt like to go back to Pakistan after so long and if she had any traveling jitters.

“I visited Karachi, Pakistan over winter break for 2 weeks after 10 years. Before going, my family and I were a little reluctant and afraid because we haven’t gone in 10 years. We did not know what to expect in terms of the day-to-day life, culture, whereabouts, and most importantly our safety. Everything we saw on the news we would believe and we were actually afraid of what would happen to us. People told us that while we are out shopping we shouldn’t take our iPhones out, we shouldn’t speak English, and we should stay under the radar. Luckily, all our fears dissolved as soon as we got there and we quickly realized that although these are great precautions to take, it was unnecessary and people just freaked us out for no reason.”

When I asked Zainab what the most challenging part of the trip was she said:

“The most challenging part of the trip was definitely the culture shock that came from living in a 1st world and going to a 3rd world. Some differences were the pollution in Karachi. It was at another level, and there was garbage everywhere. Also, poverty is more obvious and prevalent there. We were waiting at the stoplight and several kids, women, and men of all ages would knock on the window and beg for money. It was difficult to witness because we could not give to every single person that came to the window and it was upsetting to see children begging for food/money instead of being in school. One instance we saw a young mom with her baby in her arms and they looked very poor from their ripped clothing and dirty demeanor and she was begging for food for her baby. At the time, my younger sister and I were the only ones in the car so we creaked open the window and gave her some money. Another instance was a young boy who was selling something to make money and of course it killed us to see a little boy doing this for a living, so my younger sister had an unopened bag of crackers and gave it to him. The young boy happily took it and as we turned the corner we saw him open the bag and eat it. This really made us happy to see that even though it was something little we were still able to provide something to these people.

Also, they do not let you do anything there on your own: you will have a driver, someone to iron your clothes, someone to wash your clothes, someone that will make you food and serve you, someone that will come to clean your living area everyday. The labor is extremely cheap and they honestly do everything – even in stores they will have someone hold the clothes for you while you shop. It was a very different experience and although it was nice to have someone catering to you, I like the independence we have here in which we are taught and expected to do everything ourselves. It was difficult for us to constantly ask and have others, who were older than us, do everything for us even though it was technically their job.

Lastly, the people are much more respectful and are kinder than they are here. Everyone would greet us and call us “sir”, “ma’am”, and “sister” which we are not used to, but it just shows how respectful they are towards everyone and I really appreciated it that. People are also very helpful since we were considered “foreigners” in Paki.”

Demonstrating her true passion as a future teacher, Zainab even visited a school in Pakistan to observe different teaching styles and curriculums:

“Although I did not get to see classes in session I was able to walk around and see the school. It was different from schools that I taught at because it had all grades in one school and their resources are less than what we have here. However, it was nice to compare the Kindergarten classroom to the one I student taught in. In terms of the curriculum it was similar to ours: they taught the English alphabet and their sounds, taught about the 4 seasons, and they also have rules in their classroom. On the other hand, the class had two bulletin boards, one white board in the middle and then just tables and very tiny chairs. Classrooms here have so much going on with colors, decorations, supplies, teacher’s desk, storage spaces, etc. which I did not see in the classrooms there. It was really interesting to just see the difference, but also notice that it is very similar to our schools. They have sports teams, debate teams, spelling competitions and they take pride in their accomplishments, as do we.”

When I asked her if she would go again or skip out on the motherland, Zainab said:

“Overall, it was a pretty good trip. Before going I was not looking forward to it at all because I was afraid, but it didn’t take long to adapt and get used to the way of life in Paki. I missed home at times, but I enjoyed shopping, visiting family, riding a camel, and seeing the amazing new spots that have opened up in Paki that remind us a lot of America. From their amazing new malls with multiple stories and modern vibes, to the amazing new food places that have opened right by the water, and to a cool new boardwalk with rides, boating, and food was actually really fun. I hope to go back in a few years hopefully not another decade.”

All photos courtesy of Zainab Rizvi.

A Junior Biology major with side passions of coffee, fashion, makeup, and Netflix. 
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