Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 154: "Pak"istan?

OYLPA Day 154: "Pak"istan?, originally uploaded by klodhie.
Wed., March 2, 2011

So, I've told you about my observations of the top schools of Lahore, with their impeccably clean marble floors and yoga rooms and such, and I've told you about two NCHD schools that provide mass, quality education to children and adults in rural areas in Pakistan. And, while I don't think I spoke about it, I could have told you about the number of high-end designer stores lining the streets of Lahore, where women come to buy ridiculously priced "Jimmy Choo" shoes and such.

However, today I've seen how many (and maybe even the majority) of Pakistanis live: I am overwhelmed. As I had hoped and mentioned before, our driver Arif gave us a tour of his neighborhood (the name of which I need to reconfirm), his childrens' school, and his home. While I could not spend much time at the school, it was at least within a building and the children had seats; as for the quality of the education they are receiving, I remain unsure.

The entrance to this part of Lahore contains a major "water" canal, which is really only a dump for trash. This is what bothered me the most while in the neighborhood, and I began to immediately think about what kinds of community projects and larger national campaigns could be put to work to help community members clean up their water systems. The streets were all unpaved and, without trying to be too detailed, smelled of filth as well. There were tiny children walking along the streets along with the adults, but surprisingly the children "appeared" healthy and were clothed (key word "appeared"). Tuberculosis is a major issue here, but many of those who live in such areas are unaware of the immediate medical need to treat TB; those who are not used to regular doctor's visits and are unfamiliar with treatments in the form of pills will often neglect doctors' prescriptions and suffer from otherwise avoidable illnesses and fatalities.

Arif and his family were so kind and welcoming as they invited us into their home, a brick home with two-three rooms joined with two or three other units, which housed Arif's brothers, etc. Most Pakistanis, regardless of socio-economic status, still seem to live in joint-family systems. I've seen both the benefits and the disadvantages of such a system, but I'm curious to hear what your opinions are on the topic (comment below!).

While always trying to avoid any kind of "savior mentality," I cannot help but note my observations and feelings about those observations, and after today's visit, I know that I am nothing short of disturbed by the great disparity in the socio-economic situations of various Pakistanis. While I understand that the source of income will differentiate much of the quality in living accommodations, etc., the shockingly unhealthy physical environment in which many Pakistanis live is something that must be addressed at a national level. For me, it always all comes back to the importance of 1) education and 2) a government party that truly cares about and exists for its people.

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