Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Furnishing apartments

A couple of weeks ago we picked some things off the street. Here people put things (furniture, electronics, kitchen-ware, etc; that are no longer used by them or are too old) on streets every once a week. The next morning comes an official truck carrying this stuff away to a junkyard or so. While these things lay on streets, passer-bys take a peep and carry along anything that may be of use to them, if it is in good condition. So have we carried some things also to our apartments. This was that day that we picked a sofa and two matresses from a street in the evening. A friend had rented an unfurnished apartment so we thought these things might come in handy for him. A little farther and he realized that he didn't need this stuff. So we left the sofa there. Some other friends had taken the matresses to our building so we rushed to them and asked them to leave these as well. We layed them against the wall of the building next to our's, but an old man shouted something from the top. We picked the matresses again and put them in front of our building so that they could be picked up by official trucks the next morning.

The next day some of us saw these things still lying where we left them. Why weren't they taken away? Later that day, our hostel incharge caught one of us and inquired him about the furniture. He then told him that there are specific days designated for specific areas of the city for this activity. And it was not the day for our area. Our neighbour must have told our hostel manager about the whole incident and our outlook. So we removed the stuff and put it in our apartments, waiting for our turn to throw it out.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Wrong assumptions

Never assume in a foreign country that all the people around you don't know your language. A friend quoted two funny events that happened with his friends in Hamburg:

Once they went to the stadium to watch a hockey match of Pakistan. After the match they entered the field among others. Now to get out, they chose a short-cut that involved jumping over the advertisement boards. They saw a girl trying to jump over the boards and one of them exclaimed "help her guys". At that came the voice of her father from the side "tum log yahan aa kar tou badal jaya karo" (you people should change at least when you live here) :D

Similarly, they were once standing on train station waiting for the train. A woman, seemingly arab, was also standing with her child there. Another european woman was eating a burger near them. The child was crying and speaking to her mother in a foreign language. The woman eating the burger guessed it and gave her burger to the child. At that one of them exlaimed "what a spoiled child it is". His mother turned to them and said "apnay hon gay tou pata chalay ga" (you'll know when you'll have your own).

Friday, August 19, 2005

Plagiarism

Two students and their professor found plagiarising multiple papers from famous authors and publishing them in high profile ACM publications:
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/08/plagiarism_and.html

I was tired of Pakistanis cursing those people from that uni and blaming them for everything. I think we should learn from it. That is what intelligent nations do: learn from their mistakes, never to repeat them. I would just like to add one aspect to this discussion: that is our character. It is not only research culture that is important, but also character is important. I am studying in Europe and as others, i have found their studies no better than those in Pakistan. In fact i have attended here that lecture which i have taught in FAST lahore many times and i am confident that the Dr here didn't teach it any better than us (if not worse). Here they have two semesters per year and lots of holidays. Similarly, their researchers spend far less hours per week in their universities than us. They go back from work at 5 or 6 pm. They rarely work on Saturdays and working on Sunday is a sin here. So it is something else that has developed them.

All of us were very quick to blame to an extreme these people who did palgiarism. Yes they did wrong, but is there anyone among us who can claim he has never done anything similar? or that he has never cheated in exams? or that he has never copied assignments? I have caught copies in assignments in all courses i taught and i had to stop everytime afraid that the whole class will be failed by me due to cheating; so i failed only very serious cases. We had a teacher from abroad who asked us to write a paper. and later he declared in the class that if the papers submitted by us were really written by us, he would send us on the next flight to MIT in USA. How can such people blame others for cheating? Here i can't think of any German cheating in Uni or in his daily life. They just don't think of it. and all the pakistanis here learn nothing from them. They do all their normal cheating here as well. Even people posing to be very pious do it, let alone others. And they feel very happy by fooling the Germans. It is not the Europeans we are fooling my brothers; it is us who are becoming fools. Germans are not harmed by our cheating, only we are.

So after analyzing this situation, we should always try to put up a solution as well. My suggestion is that we all promise to ourselves that none of us will ever cheat again, no matter what the people around us do. We won't lie, cheat, fraud, take/give bribery, use "sifarish", skip our duties, break a traffic signal, throw a rapper on road, abuse each other, etc... Only and only then can the rightful get their rights in our country. Only then, the hardworkers will get their reward here, just like they get in USA or Europe. If we make this promise then we can blame these plagiarisers and any future wrong-doers. Otherwise, we have no right whatsoever to blame anyone for any kind of cheating.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My lost jacket & rare German attitude

Today we went to Frankfurt. One of my friends was going to receive his wife coming from Pakistan on Frankfurt airport. It was a weekend so we could travel five people with one ticket. So he took three others with him to see the city. The flight was coming at 5 pm so we had plenty of time to roam about. But hard-luck, as it was raining since morning. Nevertheless, we took out our umbrellas and went around the city. First we went to a train station where there was an Indian restaurant offering "daal chawal", but it was close. So we wandered a little more to find food and cam across a street with many Indian, Pakistani and other South Asian food shops. Fearing them to be costy, we finally landed in a Turkish shop to eat roast chicken and went in a nearby mosque. It was a surprise to see a Turkish, a Pakistani and perhaps an Arab mosque side-by-side there. After roaming some more we went to the airport and walked around. Surprisingly there were many Pakistanis and Indians arriving that day there. We helped some of the first-time comers find appropriate trains untill my friend's wife arrived.

On our way back the train was unusually crowded and we had to stand in the train. We searched desparately to find a place for seating at least his wife. In our portion of the train, some luggage was placed against some seats. A man was standing there drinking. I asked him whether we can move the luggage up in the luggage apartments to make room for sitting, but he refused. An extremely rare response here. We got some seats after some time as people got off. When we finally arrived our city after changing one train in the way, i asked my friend for my jacket that i had placed with his luggage but failed to inform me. He was shocked alongwith me. The jacket was left on the previous train when we changed trains. The previous train was going to a city farther than our city near French border. I called my friend in that city to pick my jacket from the train. Then i called the train service telling them the train number and asking to find my jacket. Finally at night, my friend in that city informed me that he had found the jacket and that i should now relax.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Missing a train in Germany


Today we went to a historical city in the far South-West of Germany, called Tübingen. We started our four hour train journey in the morning and landed at the apartments of Pakistanis there. They started their hospitality by a delicious meal and then we went to see the city. Walking through the streets of this extremely hilly city, admiring the looks of old houses etc; we reached the beautiful fort. After inspecting it inside out, we came down to the river Neckar. It is a smaller river that falls into the big Rhine river later on. There were many types of boats there ranging from pedal-boat to rowing-boat and even long boats with a long wooden stick with which one of the sailors pushes the floor of the river to move the boat forward. My friends being afraid of the other options, we took a big pedal-boat into the river and travelled in both directions, stopping occasionaly giving way to other longer boats, amidst great confusions.

Later we got on the train back home. We had to change trains 3 times on the way to get the cheapest journey possible. There are normaly 10-15 min for train change at a station. After our first train change, our second train was reaching the station where we had to do our second train change. Five minutes before that station, we got up and gathered our small luggage and came towards the door; when all of a sudden, the train stopped. It waited there for about 15 minutes with the driver announcing he didn't know why the signals ahead were not clear to go. We were praying that the next train we were supposed to catch also gets late. Finally our train reached the station. We got (jumped) off and ran to the respecitve platform; but the train was gone. We returned to the ticket machine and got a new time table. Now it would take us one hour extra to reach home. We reached home later than expected and slept long after eating the meal our friends had prepared for us back home. See the photos of the trip at:
http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/yasirniazkhan/album?.dir=bf8e&.src=ph

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pros & cons of a Pakistani community

Yesterday night i attended the farewell dinner of one of our Pakistani colleagues at another colleagu's (apartment). The night before, i arranged a farewell dinner for him at my apartment. At the same time, one of us returned from Pakistan, so he received a couple of welcome dinners. This is the typical tradition here; at least in one bunch of Pakistanis. When Pakistanis arrive or leave from this city, other people arrange dinners for them in which some of us sit together and cherish the last moments or the start of a new companionship. Sometimes, another Muslim joins us (indian or arab). In case of arab, we try to have the conversation in English since many of us are still not comfortable in German language.

The reason this Pakistani is leaving is that he was not able to pass the German language requirement even after four attempts of the university German language test. He is among the three with the same fate. Now they are transferring to other universities. This requirement is not common and so far i have only heard of it in this university. They arrange mostly free language courses for international students and the students have to pass this test in at the most three semesters. It is supposed to be an easily test, but the problem with us is keeping only in our own community. We tend to make friends with Urdu or Hindi speaking people, or at the most with English-speaking. So our German doesn't get improved. Even i felt afraid after some time that i'll forget the German i learnt if i stay like this. So now i tend to make more foreigner or German friends with whom i speak German.