Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Karachi and Cricket

Funny different places different strokes. (No pun intended!)

Cricket. I'm not a great lover of Cricket I like it but can happily take it or leave it if you know what I mean. But to use yet again the old phase 'when in Rome do as the Romans do' or rather when in Pakistan talk, eat, drink (soft only!) and sleep Cricket. Especially with the World cup in starting in less than 14 days. Might as well get in the mood and enjoy.

It's amazing how big a part of life in Karachi that cricket seems to be. Most of the world will see kids with footballs on every corner or in parks and any other open area where they can just kick the ball around. Here in Karachi that is not the case. In almost every corner, back streets and beach areas there are kids with a bat an ball and a set of stumps. All potential world champs! Well maybe a rags to riches story for them to dream about and for some that surely will come later.

Very noticeable to me over the last two weeks has been the content of the daily papers, particularly the sports sections. Pick one paper, say 'The Dawn' and turn to the back page. Like everywhere else the back page is the sports page. There is no mention of football or rugby or even basketball. But Cricket, yes printed column after printed column about this bowler and that batsman, fitness and of course statistics and more statistics. Yes you've guessed it, all devoted to the game. The whole back page and the inner page devoid of anything else. OK slight exaggeration there was sometimes a minor mention of other sports such as golf, tennis and hockey on one of the inner pages. So I lied a bit, but you get my point.

It was more noticeable this morning as "The Dawn' has finally caught up with the FA Carling Cup. It got a mention on the inner back page in 3 short columns together with a photo. I can only begin to imaging the contrast with what would have appeared in UK papers like 'The Sun', News of the World.

Still it adds to the flavour and character of Karachi and gives me a chance to see things in a different light while living here. Perhaps when I look back on this, my Blog I will notice these types of observations and see the overall effects it may be having on my outlook. I'll look back and reflect at any changes "Well maybe that's what living in a Cricket mad society does to you". We'll see.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

My first Saturday in Karachi

Saturday morning and no work. Great. At last a chance to look round Karachi. I’ve got a small map from the lonely plant guide book. Not very details and the hotel one is even worse.

Having studied the map of down town Karachi I realised there were a lot of things to see. One thing clearly missing. Bars. There are no bars or clubs but what the hell, they can wait till next holiday making that beer all the more sweet when the time comes.

I decide to walk around. First the markets. The main on is Saddar Bazzar which is about 1 1/2 kilometres from the hotel. Easy to find just leave the hotel hang a right then a left!!!! Easy? And easy it was. Only thing to watch for was the traffic. As with all city centres it does not have a clear start or demarcation line but before you realise you are in the bazaars. If you needed directions the best advice is follow the dust. The whole place is dusty but the nearer the market the more the dust. Easy!!

It sells everything from pots and pans to outlandish plastic flowers and the ever present assortment of T shirts and jeans. It would not have been complete without the street hawkers selling ‘genuine ray bans’ and fabulous ‘Rolex’ watches.

There was one block of shops that specialised in leather coats and sheep skin jackets. Really good quality. You can pick up a decent leather jacket for about 100US$.

Then there are the gold shops. If there was one there were 100 all selling the same type of jewellery. The gold is that bright yellow colour you associate with Middle East gold. And no I did not check the prices.

But what is a bazzar without these things. All part of it right. I wondered thought a range of streets some small some pedestrian only. One of the first things you notice if the lack of women. I’ll rephrase that to the ‘absence of women”…

The few I did see were pretty. The ones covered in black from top to bottom..? Well they could be attractive underneath it all but I did not get to see...

The walking in the sun and heat and the ever present dust made me want of a long cold beer. I fancied finding some shady place, some little hidden away bar of café where I could sit down and watch the world go by. Not to be. No beer and no hidden away café. So next best thing was to get myself a cool fresh orange juice at a street sided stall. You know what? It was great! Took Abdul about 5 minutes to hand crush the oranges and make me a long cool drink. You know what? It was good, very good but did not quite make t to being as good as a cold beer!

Then I sat at the juice bar, juice in hand people watching. I don’ for one minute think I fooled anyone that I was a local just watching the world go by but it was fun and totally hassle free. The place, it never stopped, people rushing from one place to another, jumping on and of busses and constantly haggling on the price of whatever they were after. The whole place is a kaleidoscope of colours, sounds and the smells. Almost a totally new range of sensations.

The people and the shops with all their bright colours to the busses painted in very colour of the rainbow. I got to wondering just how long does it take to paint a bus. Years surely?

It was such a wide range of smells for deep fry to fragment curries and spices and that sort of mixed humanity that comes for some many people together.

Anyway enough of the sitting I’ve go to go. When I set out this morning I had given myself 3 hours max as this afternoon is apartment hunting.

And last but not least Karachi Supreme Court. Be good!!!

Friday, 23 February 2007

Karachi news by email

Friday afternoon and everyone in the office has gone to the Mosque. Very quiet and I have to wait till later for my lunch to arrive. In fact I'm writing this while waiting. Terrible I can smell all the various currys and spicy. Oh the fragrances!

Tomorrow is a big day. Going to look for accommodation . Didn't mention it earlier but the other night I went and looked at one place. Seemed OK. But to be true it was a bit of a let down after the executive suite in the Sheraton. To be expected I suppose after all it is US$ 150 per night.

So while waiting I decided to check out some of the Blog Spot web features. Wonder of wonders I can post this through my email system. Well that's what they say I can do so if you can read this it works!!!! Here goes......

Checking my Blog

Well if you’ve been checking my Blog you will notice that what started out as a planned busy Blog is already slowing down.
Not because I’m lazy, well that too, but I have had real difficulties in uploading my pages. The internet system at the Sheraton Hotel where I’m staying has fire walls and so to does my current office.
When we move to our new construction office and set up our own internet access things should change. However having not been able to upload to my Blog I decided to check the site through internet explorer. Could not access it that way either. So doing my Sherlock Holmes bit I decided to access other Blogspots.

Couldn’t access them either! “@#$%” was my response. Perhaps Pakistan has blocked the whole lot? Will keep checking. I cannot expect someone else to post them for me so have to find a solution.

I have yet to have sufficient time to get around Karachi so have only taken a couple of quick pictures.
Outside the port are numerous multi painted busses. Multi colours is a simplified way of describing them. They look like a blaze of mixtures They are so ornate with what must be hundreds of hours of painstaking paint work. Fantastic to see. There are loads of them.

Also managed to buy some peanuts.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Arrived

Wonderful having spent the whole day on planes and in airports finally I could get off. We landed about 10.pm.

However arrival is one thing, but being relaxed about arrival is another. You know what its like. New place, and next to Iraq etc etc you cannot but have some reservations about “did I or did not make the right decision to come here?”. "Too Bloody Late Mate to turn back" I told myself. Take a big breath and get up from your plane seat and move on!!!!

I was concerned, no point lying about it. My earlier web searches had not inspired my with brimming enthusiasm. Before I realized I had left the plane, And you know what ? The airport looked like any other!!! I suppose really they do all look the same so why should this one be different. No reason that I could think of unless I wanted to make up some stupid thoughts to make it so. What next ? I had been told I would be met at the airport and here’s the good news, there at the bottom of the stairs before Immigration was a man with my name on a placard. Mr ALAN LLOYD. In large bold print. “Yes” that’s me I told him. “Sir, Good Evening. Mr Lloyd welcome to Pakistan. If you would please follow me”. Straight through Immigration we went at almost running pace. Then without a pit stop picked up my luggage! Onto a trolley it went. Still at running pace my man said a few works to the Customs Officer, (not sure we slowed down even a little bit) and what do you know next thing I find myself standing in the car park of Karachi Airport!! Wow !!!! The fist thing that struck me was its warm. Not to overpowering and not so humid. I had expected an overbearing and smelly air with little breeze. Ignorate me. Its warm and it seems envelopes the busyiness of everyone around me. The was not a clash but a very tranquil mass of humanity all of who were busy gong about their business, and so polite to each other. Porters looking for business, Touts offering taxis and hotels and people looking for friends and arrivals to greet. Out we went into a waiting car. Off to the Sheraton…And a good nights sleep. The view from my room next morning also assured me that coming to work here was going to be a good thing.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Got the visa

Well at last yesterday I got my visa. Needed to submit the forms and have an interview. All straight forward after all teh toing and frowing. Off on the 15th to Karachi.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Consulate encore

Well spend the morning going back to the Pakistani Consulate for a Business visa. Very helpful.

'But Sir, Your application is fine but the accompanying support letters request a Work Permit'. We did tell you on your last visit that we cannot issue a work permit. Please take these letters away and come back on Monday morning at 09.30am with a new set of letters adn hte same application forms. You will need to have an interview in the afternoon and we will issue the visa by the end of the day. The Business visa will then be issued to you.

How much for a visa to Pakistan as I cannot find Seychelles on the Countires list from your web page? And before you respond please let me tell you that entry to Seychelles for a Pakistani Citizen does not ever require a visa........

He smiled. Maybe sir but for any country not on our list it is US$5 for a Business Visa.

And for multi entry I enquired. That is easy Sir. 10US$. OK See you Monday.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Visit the Consulate of Pakistan

Its mid day on the 8th. Filled in some work permit application forms yesterday. Spend a lot of time on the internet looking at flights from Hong Kong back to Thailand. Think I might just pop back for the weekend. Does not cost to much aboot 1000 HK$. Hong Kong is not my sort of place. To busy and everyone in such a rush. General unfriendly feel about the place. Maybe I felt this as I just want to get to Pakistan and get stuck into the work. Hong Kong was just a transit stop. Then once in Pakistan I am sure I'll be OK for a while. Oh well back work and chase up the HD department this afternoon.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Why the blog

Indeed why the blog? Well it seems to me everyone is using the net as a media to transmit their thoughts and observations to friends and colleagues. Added to which it is open to all so anyone can have input.

I'm off to karachi to work for 15 months and want to share my trip with you.

The secret to "Success" ..... is never, never, give up trying.