Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The smallest joke ever

Heard a great joke on TV:

Once there were two Pathans playing chess. (finished)

(Pathan are people of one of the provinces or states of Pakistan. I use them in the joke as i belong to them so they shouldn't feel offended. I have purposely exchanged them for a much more popular joke group of India).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Staring death into the eyes

I described earlier our trip to Oslo Norway. We traveled there with a cheap airline called Ryan Air. The next night we took our return journey which was delayed an hour. The pilot taxied the plane to the runway and then took it off to a side lane saying ice needs to be cleaned from the wings. This was unusual. They cleaned the ice for a half hour. Then we took off from the airport. The pilot asked us to expect a bumpy ride because of bad weather. After about 15 minutes of smooth flying, the seat-belt signs went on and the plane starting jerking vertically. After another 15 minutes, the pilot asked the cabin crew to take seats and fasten seat-belts!!! And then the plane shook violently. I saw an air-hostess grab a seat trying half-heartedly to smile at the passengers. With one big bounce the women gave out screams. But after half an hour it became ok and we forgot the event for the next hour.

Half an hour before landing in Germany, the pilot again put on the seat-belt signs and later asked the cabin crew to take seats. We again started experiencing the bumpy ride. This time around, the plan was not shaking up and down, rather swinging left and right. We could easily see the spin of the craft. The pilot began descending the plane and we started praying. There was pin-drop silence in the plane. The pilot took the plane below much before the usual time. I could see the runway a few feet below the plane and still the plane was swinging. The plane touched the runway, bounced up and again landed on ground. The pilot finally stopped the plane and we sighed with relief. Despite the bad weather, the pilot had made a very smooth landing. As we got out of the plane, the wind was so strong that our jackets ought to being blown off. Two of our frequently flying friends exclaimed that they had experienced many bad flights but none like this; and others said that this flight brought God closer to them than ever before.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Trip to Oslo, Norway

A few days back we 5 friends made a trip to Oslo, the capital of Norway. We bought return tickets of the cheapest airline "Ryan Air" for only 15 euros each. A combined room in a hostel in the center of the city was booked for about 20 euros per person. It was just a two day trip with one night stay. The airline Ryan Air offers such cheap tickets across Europe as it operates from non-regular airports far from big cities. The airport we were to fly from laid about a two hour drive from Frankfurt main airport. So we traveled there in a friend's car. We then took about a two hour flight to an airport in Norway from which it was a two hour bus to the Oslo city. This bus costs 40 euros for a return trip to Oslo.

Temperature in Oslo was not much below that in Germany, but strangely we felt extremely cold there. We reported at the "Anker" hostel at 11 am as required but they told us that check-in starts at 3 pm. Since we had the accommodation in city center, we didn't have to travel on bus or tram. We could go to the tourist places by foot. There were lots of Pakistanis on the streets. You could hardly walk for ten minutes without seeing a Pakistani. They were employed everywhere, from restaurants to security. The day was very short as Maghrib (evening) started at 3:15 pm. It is a city of just 500,000 people but it looked much more than that during the day (Wednesday). We saw the king's palace, Nobel peace prize building (where the ceremony was to be held on the coming weekend) and the (small) port. We also elevated to the 34th floor of a hotel to see the city. There were zebra-crossings on the road, but with traffic signals :) People were frequently breaking those signals and traffic had to stop even on green signals because of that.

One pleasing thing was that everybody could speak English, even on the streets and in shops. The old people could also communicate in English. We met only one old women and a couple of forigners who couldn't speak English. The most disturbing thing were the prices there. We were happy to receive about 5 Kronas but were startled by the prices even in the super market. A mere sandwich bread costed about 2-3 euros; 5-6 times more than in Germany. A small bag of chocolates candies costed about 10 euros.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ramadhan and Eid in Germany

This Ramadhan was like the last one. We had Iftaar (ending the fast) every evening in the mosque. It is a totally different culture we have not experienced in Pakistan. Most of the bachelors do Iftaar in the mosque. There are about 70-90 people there daily. We also arranged two Iftaars. On both occasions we had more than normal attendance, thanks to the impression of South Asian food we left on the people last year. On the first occasion, we served chicken korma and sawayyan. As a drink, we served doodh soda (carbonated sweet milk). It was the first time in the mosque that the people couldn't fit in the eating hall and about 20 of them were seated in the praying hall. The second time, we prepared biryani and zarda (sweet rice). This time too people liked the food but they went crazy over zarda. It was unbelievably tasty and peopl searched to eat it aftwards till early morning.

On Eid, we prayed in the mosque, which as usual was over-crowded. It was a rainy day so we couldn't expand to the open area of the mosque. Had the Eid been one day earlier, we would have prayed in a conference hall at the university reserved for us. This was usually the case before the mosque was started. After the prayer, we decided to have a party at a Bar-B-Que spot in the university. At first the coals were not burning. Then when they burnt (after an hour of effort), it started to drizzle. We found a big piece of foam from the construction site nearby and used it as a cover for the Grill. It took us a lot of time to cook, but all-in-all it was fun.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Living the Pakistan quake in Germany

Today is the day a devastating earth quake struck Pakistan last year. I still remember the events that happened. We got the news at night that there was a quake in Pakistan and a portion of a building in Islamabad collapsed. It seemed nothing too special. The following morning i woke up and opened and saw the death toll raised to dozens of thousands. I was shocked and so were my friends whoever i told. The whole nation then turned to help. I tapped into the helping streams and was overwhelmed by the volumn of efforts put in by normal people. The universities turned into supply hubs; students into NGOs; pockets into fountain-heads. People here were making their largest charity spendings. Calls were going on from China till US for managing funds and buying tents and stuff.

But still, as expected, such a huge help didn't turn out to be enough. There are still problems there, even after one year. Just the other day i heard in the news that there is no water supply in the city of Balakot. Govt plans to shift people into safe cities made in the area over the next 2-3 years. But how are they going to survive these many years in the coldest and highest of regions. They need constant help and honesty. May Allah enable us to help them continuously.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I have seen God - many times

I love my Lord: Allah. He never lets me go too far in pride. It's only last week that i bragged about my cooking, and this weekend i totally ruined a dish i was supposed to cook for a party of about 20 people. I wanted to make Chicken Karahi (one of my favorites) and ended up with boiled chicken in tasteless sauce. This has happened a lot. Whenever i get too proud, God gives me a chance to come down to earth. I remember after about one year of successful teaching at my university, i was over-confident that i could get any course i wanted. And i got rejected to teach a course that semester. Though painful at that time, it is soon realized that it was a blessing in the hiding.

Similarly, when i got some knowledge about Deen, i proudly quoted a hadith about an issue on a mailing list, and got an immediate reply disclosing the correct version of the hadith and advising me to be careful with them. May be it happens to others as well. So watch out for God's clues.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Comment on my cooking

Recently a married friend of mine passed a surprising comment in a dinner party at my place. He uttered "Yasir's cooking is very good. Even our wives become very careful while making food that we intend to send to Yasir. They make sure everything is perfect in the food."

I don't know whether to be proud of this comment or...

Not that I critisize bad food. I don't critisize any food, I just give my opinion how to improve it if someone asks. I praise everybody's cooking :)

btw, i get my recipes mainly from

Monday, September 04, 2006

Pakistani birth in Germany

A few days back, a pakistani student was gifted with a son. This event invited a swarm of curious and sometimes funny experiences. The day his son was born, they went to the hospital in the morning, but they asked them to go back and come in the evening. Since my friend requested English to be spoken, they became mistakenly known among the staff as the "American Family". They were especially surprised to see that the grandmother of the newborn was also present there. They are not used to relatives visiting or taking care of the family. We went to the hospital to see the child and asked at the reception for our friend. They searched for some time and declared that the name of the mother is indexed and hence required from us. One of us was married, so he had some idea of the name and hence we got to the required room. Guests were allowed to stay only till 7 pm and father till 9 pm. Only mother could stay overnight, if she wanted.

The doctors discovered a bacteria common in South Asia but extinct in Europe on the baby. They did't care much about it. My friend consulted doctors in Pakistan who advised to take the matter seriously. So they took the little guy to the hospital and told the doctor that they had consulted British qualified doctors (actually true) and quoted their advice. The local doctors then admitted their mistake and took the child in for a week for vaccination and checkup. That problem is now solved.

Another critical problem remains: Khatna (circumcision). Local doctors are mostly not prepared to do it or at least not through the health insurance. They don't treat it as necessary so my friend will have to pay for it. He hopes to find a Muslim or Jew doctor who can do it from the health insurance.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fed up with Yahoo's war with Google

I have long been a Yahoo loyal, but now i can't stand Yahoo's new moves. It has waged a war against Google in a negative way. Earlier i thought that this was just a conincident, but it happens everytime. The issue is that i am the owner and moderator of some of the groups on YahooGroups. Recently i sent some emails on these groups using my Gmail account. They were shown as delivered on the group's hamepage but they never got to the members of the group. I then re-emailed from Yahoo email and it got through. Since most of the members are subscribed to the groups through their Yahoo email accounts (as recommended by me, since it allows usage of other group features), my Gmail emails ended in their "spam" email folders, while my Yahoo emails got to their inbox. The same story has been happening since a few months now and without an exception. Yahoo email delivers my Gmail messages into "spam" folder even though i am the administrator of these groups. Has anybody else experienced the same?

I have been using Yahoo's email, web site provider (geocities), groups, photos and briefcase services. I always preferred services other than Microsoft's because of their attempted monopoly. Now Yahoo is going on the same road. Although Yahoo is among the top website visited around the world, and Yahoo provided Video search long before google did, this is a very cheap step they have taken towards monopolizing their services. I am now thinking of moving to Google groups.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Trip to Holiday Park, Hassloch, Germany

This Saturday i went to a theme park in South-West Germany. It is located in the city of Haßloch, 40 min train from my city. There are many thrilling rides and the pathways leading to these rides go through forrest-like environments. The first and most exciting ride we took was the roller coaster which took us 60 m high only to drop down at an angle of 82 degrees. It's frightning seeing the earth in front of you coming closer and closer. Then it completes its tracks with ups and downs and twisting. This coaster won the public's award for "best coaster of the world" in 2003 and 2004. As we got off of it, it started raining. There was a small round cloud covering only the park. I could see the blue sky all around this piece of cloud. Anyways, it rained for an hour during which they stopped most of the rides.

After the rain we took to the "free fall tower". It takes the visitors 70 meters high and drops at an angle of 90 degrees with extreme speed. The pressure is so much that our legs are stretched out and its difficult to draw them back down. There is another roller coaster that is not so high as the previous one but circles around many more times. A water-log ride made us a little wet before we went to the "Light house tower" which spun us around at a height of 80 meters. After taking many more rides, we headed towards the laser night show. With a lot of spectators, this was an amazing show. They used lasers to project huge and unbelievably detailed images above a lake. They presented different presentations and the story of Alladin flying with his carpet over different landscapes and ended the show with fireworks accompanying the last laser presentation. I tried, but my camcorder was unable to capture the full beauty of the show.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A briton MP's truth about Lebanon Israel conflict

(9 min video)
Truth about Lebanon Israel conflict explained by a British Member of Parliament (MP) George Galloway on Skynews. A little rude, but blatantly straightforward and convincing.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Pak India cricket in Germany

A few days back we were invited to play in a cricket match between Pakistani and Indian students in Heidelberg, Germany. This is the city where Allama Iqbal lived for some time and learned the German language. Match was played on universit's football ground with coordination from the university of Heidelberg. There was even a trophy for the winning team. Players were collected from cities around the region and most of them met for the first time to form a team. Indian players were supposed to wear white shirts and Pakistanis wore black shirts. Match started after national anthems were played. Indian captain won the toss and invited us to bat first. Our start was very bad with wickets continuously falling with less runs, After half the overs, we picked up pace and started scoring to get about 125 runs in 15 overs. At that moment it was drizzling. As soon as first half ended, it started rainging cats and dogs. We ran to find refuge in university buildings. After more than half an hour, the Indian team started batting, They kept their wickets but could only score half of the runs.

After we won, the Indian team chanted a loud, "Three cheers for Pakistan, hip hip hurray, hip hip hurray, hip hip hurray" that surprised us all. That was an sxcellent gesture shown by them even after losing from their archrivals. We couldn't help but utter that though Pakistan won the match, the Indian team won the event. Credit goes to the chief organizer, Atif, a pakistani student at Heidelberg university. See photos here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tsunami and earth quake in Indonesia

A tsunami occured in Indonesia on Monday. So far 525 people have died with 273 people missing, More than 35,000 people have been displaced and hundreds of buildings were destroyed. (CNN)

Today an earth quake struck Indonesian capital Jakarta. Reports are coming in of damages. Our brothers in Indonesia need us just like our brothers in Pakistan earlier. Try to donate as much or as little as possible. Even a single euro would help.

In my opinion, it is best to donate to Islamic Relief. You can easily donate to them using your bank account. Just do an Uberweisung to:

Islamic Relief
bei der Sparkassen KölnBonn,
Kontonumer: 12 20 20 99
BLZ: 370 501 98

For refernce: Islamic Relief de

Other relief agencies worldwide: CNN List


Friday, July 14, 2006

It's a bird, it's a plane...

Look! it's an islamic terrorist, it's a taleban, it's an al-qaeda member...
No, it's just an israeli soldier.

(Pic courtesy: CNN)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Upsets of the world cup 2006

Although the Germans didn't expect their team to even reach the second round of the world cup, hopes raised of it grabbing the cup after it defeated Argentina (1:0). That was probably the first major upset of the tournament. Germans did good in containing Argentina and stopping them from scoring. Argentina was considered one of the favorites, scoring highest number of goals in this worldcup (against Serbia and Montenegro 6:0). Their game with Germany went into extra time but still undecided. So it was to be decided through a method which everybody hates: panelty shoots. There Germany was stronger since it has never lost a panelty shoot-out ever in the world cup history. But they lost to Italy (0:2). Italy played better but couldn't score until the last minutes of the game. Italy were desperate to stop the game from going to panelty shoots given the fact that they have never won a panelty shoot-out in worldcup history.

A minor upset was Portugal defeating Holland (1:0). It looked more like a wrestling match than football. Portugal started the foul play and Holland responded. Especially in the second half the game was very brutal. Both teams ended up getting the most foul cards in the world cup history: 16 yellow and 4 red cards.

And finally the biggest upset was the defeat of Brazil from France (0:1). It was said that Brazil wanted to take revenge of the final of 1998 where France defeated Brazil 3:0 to claim the cup. But now Brazil has to take two revenges. Brazil was the hot favorite of many from the very start. Even most of the Germans had a Brazilian flag alongside a German one on their cars and houses. Ronaldinho of Brazil was perhaps the most renowned player of the tournament from the start, but he also couldn't do much. Ronaldo performed much better than expected. Zidane took his team to the final which will be the last match of his career. It was interesting to know that Zidane is an Algerian Muslim.

I don't have much interest in football. But its true that you get excited being in a football-excited country. I didn't know who was playing before the cup began. Now thanks to m friends, i am following the game excitingly.My favorites were Argentina (without any reason), but they are out. The sorrow was somewhat relieved when Brazil got out as well :)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Meat-eater Germans

A few days back, one of my colleague invited the whole research group to his town Bingen. It is a small town located on Germany's biggest Rhine river in the most beautiful of areas. It is a hilly area with lots of grape fields and forest. That's why this area is called weinstraße (wine-street). The river curls through the valleys hosting the largest density of castles in the world. It has 40 castles in just 65 kilometers. We took chair-lifts, walked through the forests on hills viewing the rhine river below and the small towns located on it and took small cable-cars. We also visited the statue called "Germania". It is the statue of a woman representing Germany.

In the evening, our colleague took us deep inside the town to a restaurant to have a special dinner. This restaurant had seats in its lawn with wines growing long to produce a roof. I as usual looked for fish and ordered smoked fish. When it came, i was surprised to see red slices of fish meat spread across the plate. I tasted it only to find out that it was uncooked. My colleagues told me that it was only half-cooked. I somehow managed to finish it, trying to keep it down my stomach. By that time others had finished their dishes and a couple of them had ordered some snacks containing some sort of meshed tomatos. When i proudly announced that i had finished the fish, they asked me: "do you know what we are eating?". Upon accepting my ignorance, they declared they were eating what many Germans eat: beef. Not just beef, raw beef!!! completely uncooked. I watched them in utter disbelief as they continued eating it with bread and butter.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Living the Football Fever in Germany

Football fever everywhere in Germany. Each day fans, both locals and guests, turn out to take part in city parties, parades, festivels and head to the viewing arenas to watch their favorite games. My city Kaiserslautern has posted two giant tv screens at two different locations. Both grounds have stalls selling drinks and edibles. The main road between the two arenas and the area around them is also decorated with stalls and joy-rides for children. There are groups of famous street performers performing in them. We went to one of the arenas to watch the first game of the worldcup between Germany and Costa Rica in Munich last Friday. Naturally there were lots of German fans flooding the tv arenas. We got there after the game started, so couldn't get in. There were many people outside the arenas as well watching the match as much as they could see. Germans got very happy when their team won 4:2.

This Monday Kaiserslautern got its first game of the WM (german name of world cup - Weltmeisterschaft = world-championship). The game was between Australia and Japan which was won by Australia 3:1. Swarms of fans flooded the city that day literally blocking the pedestrian pathways of city center. People had to jump over benches to get through. Yesterday i watched a sensational game between Brasil and Croatia. Though Croatia lost 0:1, they played surprisingly a very beautiful game against the WM favorites. Obviously there were more fans of Brasil in the arena, but they started cheering Croatia in the second half for their fearless play. They made more attacks than Brasil and their goal-keeper ended up saving less direct shoots than the Brasilian goal-keeper. Everyday three matches are played in Germany (3/4 pm, 6 pm and 9 pm), which are telecasted live on giant tv screens in major cities. See the football fever in my city Kaiserslautern at: Kaiserslautern Football Fotos.

Friday, June 09, 2006

FIFA worldcup - from Germany

FIFA Worldcup kicks off in Germany today with a lot of anticipation. The first match is between Germany and Costa Rica in Munich. Many month-long parties have been planned in major cities. Giant screens have also been put up in these cities to show all matches. In Frankfurt, a giant screen has been placed in the river Main to be viewed by people on the river-banks and on boats. In my city Kaiserslautern, they have placed a big screen near the city-center. Almost all the many construction points are completed in my city. All hotels and hostels are booked. Cities are making tent colonies to host the fans. I have been getting requests from people for a place to sleep during the worldcup through Hospitality Club.

It has been reported that Germans want to show their openness using this event. Traditionally, the world has viewed Germany as a closed society and as a result tourism has failed to develop in the beautiful country. The theme of the cup "A Time to make friends". They are working against racism and discrimination. The authorities are worried about a million foreign fans arriving here. Special arrangements have been done for English fans, although disorder by them has almost vanished since the last two worldcups.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Book of Mormon

This Saturday we got a visit from a couple of preachers. They were Christian boys, one American, one German. We sat with them thinking they would preach Christanity to us. Instead, they presented a new book to us called "The book of Mormon" and emphasized that we should turn to God. We were confused and after some time asked explicitly their place in Christanity. They said that they were Christians but also believed that Bible was changed and is no longer in the original form. However, another book was written about 400 years after Jesus using quotes from some other Prophets before and after Jesus This book was burried to be discovered in our time. A guy in the US was instructed in nineteenth century by an angel to go to a place and dig up this book. He digged it up, translated it in English and gave the original book to the angel. Since then, they have been following the teachings of this book, which is similar to Bible. This group is called "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". They have had many prophets and are still having them. One important thing that they mentioned is that though their story may not be very convincing, its only a matter of faith and belief. We offered them cold-drinks but they said they were fasting. They'll come again next weekend and bring the book translated in Urdu. Their website: LDS

On Monday, we organized a party given by a Pakistani fellow to his university working group. We prepared Pakistani food and asked them to eat it Pakistani style. Photos and details on a friend's blog: Danish's Blog

Friday, May 26, 2006

Europe's largest train station opens in Berlin

Germany boasts today the opening of Europe's largest and probably most expensive train station. It is built right in the centre of the city, thanks to the undeveloped area along the former Berlin-Wall. Costing 700 million euros, the station took 10 years to built, the only major station in a century to be built from scratch. Aiming to serve 1,100 trains and 30,000 passengers daily, it is a big multi-storey structure with a lot of glass to allow sunlight to penetrate down to its lower storeys. They even had to change the path of a river (Spree) away from the station.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Trip to Spain (not really)

This Saturday we went on a university trip for ship-riding in the biggest river of Germany: Rhine. We travelled by train to a city near the river and from there we boarded a small ship that took us on a one and a half hour journey through the most beautiful route in the area. Travelling through the twists and turns of the river, watching big cargo trailers and admiring the greeny hills and small villages in them, we reached our detination town. On the way i made friends with a couple of Spanish guys. Later they talked with an Italian guy and it seemed they could understand each other. Another guy from Columbia joined them and also started speaking Spanish. The group leader was from Peru but had no trouble speaking Spanish. I found a guy from Argentina with whom i spoke English. He also started speaking Spanish with them. It was like i took a ship to Spain. They told me that Spanish is the major language in most of the countries of South America except Brazil (where Portuguese is spoken). And Spanish and Italian are much alike so they understand each other. So Spanish was the language of our trip.

The town we reached with our boat had a big castle, most of which was still standing. We read a sign on the door of the castles that flashlights or candles must be taken to visit the caves. This sign was ignored by us and we went inside - thanks to the rain that came along. We were handed maps of the castles to find our way. After strolling through the castle, we had seen all the visible area in it and were wondering why they gave us maps for such a small region. Instead of waiting for our departure, i took my Argentinian friend (Santiago) to explore some more. We finally reached a cave-opening and two more friends joined us. The more we went into the cave, the darker it got; until it was pitch-dark. I had a mobile with flash-light, so they put me in front and we walked for some time until i announced "i see light". My trailing friends got new energy and we got out. Now they insisted that we go back the same way. So again i was the path-finder. We had seen some smaller caves openings but we couldn't go in them standing. I decided to explore them this time. We sat on our feet and inched into the smaller tunnel. We kept going until the cave sunk with a greater angle and water started seeping in from the walls. It was too dangerous to go further, so we returned. Turning in this small cave was another problem. We turned suffering some bruses. When we came out, we were lost. We couldn't figure out the map and ended up on the other side of the castle. We troted the road to reunite with our friends.

See the trip photos here: Rhine-trip Photos

Friday, May 12, 2006

Flying back to Germany and Nepal tales

On Monday i started my journey back to Germany. I was supposed to come back with Gulf Air. There were a lot of passengers at Lahore airport, most of them going for "Umrah" (religious trip to Makkah). They were getting their luggage checked just after they enter. I was also directed to get in line, but later an officer called me aside and asked me to go to the next stage without checking. The remaining process also got through easily, except for some waiting. The plane flew a little late (as usual) but got to Muscat (Oman) in time. Muscat airport was terrible. They directed us to a queue with non-transit passengers. These queues were huge in heat and humidity. We had to go through all checks that we had already gone through at our last airport. They should have maintained a separate route for transit passengers without repeat checking. From there, we changed the plane and flew to Bahrain to exchange passengers.

I sat with a Nepali boy who could speak English and Hindi. He was fun to talk with and know about Nepal and Nepalis. He told me that many people in Nepal can speak Hindi because of Indian people and movies in their country. I was surprised to know that he was married and had two daughters, one of them eight years old. He was definitely younger than me. He married a classmate in 10th class. He proudly told that it was a love marriage and his parents accepted it. He was a jewelery-maker back home and was going to Qatar to his relative to find work. He said Nepali language is similar to Hindi but i couldn't understand a word when he spoke to a passing-by Nepali. I asked him about Mao rebels. He said they were against the king and wanted democracy. He added that most Nepalis want democracy and now the king has lost most of his powers to the prime minister. There is a peace agreement for three months with the rebels.

The plane again flew late about half an hour from Bahrain but the pilot announced that we'll reach Frankfurt five minutes before scheduled. This scared me a little. The delay was caused by them counting and recounting passengers many times. One of the passengers who was supposed to get off at Bahrain didn't. They were searching for him. This had happened on my earlier flight as well. At Frankfurt, the procedure was not too complex. There weren't many passengers and the airport was almost empty. I met a Pakistani who had come to Germany for a trip, so i guided him to the train leading him to his destination.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Visiting Pakistan in Summer

It's been quite a while since i arrived in Pakistan, and summer started with my arrival. It has been between 30 and 40 degrees in the day, even sometimes surpassing that. First two weeks were taken away by the preparation for my brother's wedding. His flight back to Australia was scheduled two days after the wedding. He got sick on that day and had to delay his flight for one week. He then departed for Australia.

My departure date is tomorrow. A few days back i looked for my air ticket but found it nowhere. All the family searched for it but in vain. Then i declared to Gulf Airline that i have lost the ticket and want a reprint. They said they'll have to send a request to Frankfurt to block my old ticket. The request will then be redirected to Bahrain headquarter which will allow Lahore office to reprint the ticket. This can take one to two weeks. This means i'll miss my flight. Later, my mother suggested to query my brother in Australia. I asked him; he searched; and found the ticket in his belongings. He then dispatched the ticket through the fastest service, but it won't reach until Monday (my flight day) since Monday is holiday (Labor day) in Pakistan. btw, it's not a holiday in Australia. So i also had to delay my flight a week and now i'll be flying next Monday if nothing else goes wrong. I will be able to attend six weddings during my five week stay in Pakistan :)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Flying to Pakistan with Gulf Air

I flew to Pakistan with Gulf Air last Thursday. It was a big plane from Frankfurt to Muscat and a smaller plane from Muscat to Lahore the following day. I was to have a 14 hours stay in Muscat for which i was to be provided with a hotel and visit visa for Muscat.

The plane left Frankfurt a little late. The crew visually demonstrated emergency exit points. It was raining at that time. The staff in the plane was very nice and polite. Announcements were made in Arabic, English and German. Seats were comfortable and blankets were provided for sleeping. Air conditioning was really good and i felt cold at times.

First stop was Bahrain: about a five hours journey. We were to drop and pick passengers and then fly to Muscat. After some time in Bahrain, the crew started to get paniced. They moved to and fro down the aisle and counted and recounted the passengers, requesting passengers to sit in their designated seats since they couldn't count for all the passengers and couldn't fly without doing it. After about a half hour delay, the plane departed from Bahrain and reached Muscat in an hour.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Elections and time change

Yesterday was state-govt election day in 3 of the 16 German states. These states are more autonomous than provinces and have their own local laws (btw, in germany, every officer has his own laws :) My state also had the election. Preliminary results show that CDU (chancellor Merkel's party) is winning in two states and SPD (Schroder's party) is winning in my state. This is probably the only state left where SPD is so successful. In other states, CDU is becoming more popular. It doesn't matter a lot since both of these big parties are partners in the government. However, they'll now depend less on small opposition parties to pass laws; that is, if they can come up with a common set of laws.

What does it mean for us? Well, CDU is stricter in terms of foreigners. This has been reflected in states having CDU governments in matters where foreigners called their families to germany. Many people were refused by the state govt and then allowed after a lot of effort and assurances. In my state, however, people didn't have many problems in this matter and everybody's family joined them easily and quickly. My state has had an SPD government.

We changed our time this Sunday. Clocks were moved one hour ahead on Saturday night. It still seems strange since we don't have such a system in Pakistan. But a usual person hardly notices this change. We only notice the prayer timings change. This time changing was tested one time in Pakistan and it resulted in somewhat chaos. This was expected since it was a start. But don't know why this system was not followed afterwards.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Preparing for a visit to home

I am going to visit home next month inshallah - next week. Its a been a long time away from home. There is excitment...and confusion. What should i take home? For whom should i buy gifts and for whom not? What will i do once i am at home? How will home seem now? Will there be mangoes?

I am also worried about my transit in Muscat. I have a stay of 14 hours at night. Thats a long time. The airline will provide hotel and visa but what will i do at night? I plan to probably sleep in the evening and see the city in the morning. Let's see how is the service provided by Gulf Air.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Tales of Tokyo, Japan

Recently one of my friends visited Japan for a project meeting. What he told on his return was quite interesting as well as surprising. His plane landed at Tokyo international airport which is one and a half hour away from the city. A very fast shuttle train takes people nonstop to Tokyo city. There are not many sky-scrapers, may be because of the earth quakes. There was only one high-rise building in the city. Traffic drives on the left hand side, so they have the same cars as in Pakistan, not like European cars. Power lines run above ground near the buildings just like in Pakistan.

The restaurants seated guests in the traditional Japanese way by putting the table on the carpeted floor. So guests sat on the floor with their legs in the small digging beside the table. This digging i had never heard before of. Almost all of the dishes served contained sea-food - mostly uncooked. So my friend enjoyed different types of "sushi" with raw fish using sticks instead of cutlery. In the toilets they have electronic toilet-seats which fire a jet of water at your body for cleaning. It is turned on by a button and switches off automatically when you get up.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Huge snowing in Germany

It snowed like crazy today. Starting from last night heavy snows fell in my area. Everything is covered in snow. It is difficult to walk with about 5-6 inches of snow. Buses have stopped operating. All the trees have bent down with the heavy wight of snow on their branches. Cars are identifiable only by their doors. A friend living here for 9 years said that it is the most snow he has ever seen in Germany. My colleague told me that the highways are blocked by traffic jams all around. He got up early today to reach home in this day. Young guys are skiing on slanting roads. Kids and adults alike are sledging down the slops. More snowing is predicted tomorrow, but not as much as today's. A few days before we were thinking of changing our warm clothing with less warmer ones. But now we need snow clothing - clothing used for skiing :)

See photos of snow in Germany

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Karneval in Cologne & packed trains

We went to see the Carnival (Karneval) festival in Cologne (Köln) on Monday. People dress up in colorful costumes and go out on streets to watch the parade and collect sweets and flowers from it. Although this festival is celebrated to some extent all over the Christian world, it is with more color in only some cities. In Germany, the biggest celebrations are held along the middle section of Rhine river: from Frankfurt to Dusseldorf including Mainz, Bonn and Cologne. So people from areas away from this region tend to flock to this belt of cities. Carnival was not a religious festival, but it has not become sort of a religious season, marking the start of Christian fasting starting from Wednesday. This fasting continues for 40 days and is ended by Easter celebration, the biggest event in Christian calendar.

So we also chose to travel to the largest city in Rhine river belt: Cologne. The trains were jam-packed and more people got on at every station. This delayed the trains a lot and caused us to miss next trains. So we had to wait many times for next trains. We reached Cologne one hour later than planned. As expected there were lots of people on roads dressed in colorful novel clothes. The carnival parade continued through the city till evening. We had planned to return home the same evening, but the trains were late and were coming in random order. So we ended up taking the wrong train, going in opposite direction. We came back to Cologne and spent the night at a friend's in Bonn city. We took the train on Tuesday to reach home.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pizza Party & Turkish hearts

Last Saturday we arranged a Pizza party from the profit we gained in Global Village stall. We arranged it in a Pizza restaurant owned by a Turk Muslim (or Arab?). They serve all halal food and no pig or alcohol. Invited were all Pakistanis and Indian Muslims. It rained all day long that day. The time of the party was at 4 pm and as could be expected: everybody arrived late except 4 of us. We ordered party pizzas of different tastes and had a lot of it. About 25 people attended this party.

See photos here

Afterwards when we approached the owner for the bill, he refused to charge us telling us to donate the money to Earth Quake victims in Pakistan. Surprised we offered him to take half of the money leaving the other half for Quake aid. But he again refused. Moved deeply by his passion we came back and donated the money.

The Carneval season is ending and this calls for the biggest festivels in North-West Germany. This Monday they'll have big parades through cities. I intend to go to Köln (Cologne) to see the Carneval parade since its not so big in my city.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Protests in Pakistan against Denmark cartoons

We are hearing horrific stories about violence in protests in Pakistan against Danish cartoons. This is neither normal nor expected. We are all surprised to hear such news. I have talked to family and friends in Pakistan and everybody says that this is not right. Nobody supports this mode of protesting. Endangering the lives of civilians in Danish embassies or companies while attacking them is not correct at all. Burning vehicles on roads is total madness. These vehicles and small shops belong to poor or middle-class people. What did they do wrong? Why should they pay for this?

But this all is not done by the general public. There are news in local newspapers that this violence is always started before the protestants reach the scene. I also heard interviews of protest organizers in BBC Pakistan news and they said that violence broke out a couple of hours before their protest was to start. Newspaper also told of groups of mysterious people doing violence before the processions reached there. So there are some elements who induce violence into these protests, and most probably they are international. The general public is against this violence. This is evident from the fact that there were huge protests in Pakistan some time ago against Iraq war but none were violent. I also heard of the protest organizer saying in the news that now the protests are against the Pakistan govt. Anyways, i think that the protest organizers should now volunteerily call-off their peaceful protests so that the trouble-makers cannot take advantage of them any more.

Having said that, we also believe that Danish paper didn't do right by publishing those cartoons. We love our Prophet (pbuh) much more than our parents and ourselves. It was very painful to see these cartoons. But the protest against it should always be peaceful and legal. We have protested by voting in online polls and signing petitions etc and these methods are legal.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Many faces of India

When i came to Germany i discovered an astonishing fact: India doesn't have a national language!! People in South India can't speak Hindi. Then how do they communicate with the North? They use English. Thats strange as it sounds. So, now whenever we meet an Indian, we ask him whether he can speak Hindi. However, Muslims in South India can speak Urdu. But most of them cannot read it since it has an arabic script.

Whenever we speak Urdu with Indians, they speak pure Urdu and don't use words of Hindi (Sansikrat). Thats strange as well. Because when we hear Indian poiticians in news or when we hear Indian news channels, then tend to use at least some Sansikrat words. But Indian students here don't. I don't know whether they do it for us or is it their normal way of speaking.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Global Village at university

Yesterday night we participated in an event called Global Village held in the university. Students of different countries are asked to put up stalls depicting their culture. We also made a big stall with many things. Almost all the stalls had some presentation about their country runing on a projecter. We had cooked Chicken Biryani, Samosa, Pakora and (Carrot) Halwa, which all sell out despite the chillis in Biryani. Women had placed some jewelery and other stuff on the tables with posters and pictures hanging on boards behind us. Some of us wore Shalwaar Kameez. The event started at 7 pm and continued for two and a half hours. Many people came to see the event.

Besides us, the Iranians had prepared a very nice stall with cloth, carpet and traditional utensils; and the Indonesians had placed dresses and some sweets. Some East European states including Russia made good stalls. Indians also put up a good stall but without food this time. Germans had a stall in center with a tiny German flag stuck into every edible item. Americans had a small stall offering info and cookies. French and Swiss stalls offered free bread and cheese. I'll put up pictures of the event soon since i haven't got them yet (i chose to make a movie with my camcorder instead of taking snaps :)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Shifting a house in Germany

Yesterday we shifted the house of a friend here. He was to move from a bachelor's apartment to a family apartment (yu hu!!). Thanks God that the new apartment was in the same building. In Germany, if you leave an apartment, you not only have to clean it, you also have to paint its walls. So during the day we packed and moved his stuff. There were many of us (5-6) so it wasn't a big problem. In the evening we painted the walls. I also got to paint one of the walls, to prepare for the time when i have to leave my apartment ;)

In the evening (after Isha prayer) there was an Aqeeqa party in the mosque. It is a tradition to do this party for every born Muslim child. They had prepared their famous dish "kuskus", which we could hardly eat as always. We also got to construct a double-bed for another friend, which turned out to be more of a challenge than painting the walls. The bed came in in the smallest of parts and instuctions on how to put them together. There were lots and lots of screws and we couldn't find an electric screw-driver. So we had to screw every screw manually. It was easy, but took us hours to complete even with three persons.

It is snow on the ground everywhere. It last snowed on Thursday but the snow has not melted yet. Its quite sunny today. I hope it melts away today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Indonesian names

There are many students from Indonesia here. Its fun to meet them and talk to them. But their names are difficult to remember. They don't have Arabic names like us Pakistanis, rather some strange ones. For example, one of them is named Yo Yo. The other is Yudi. And third one has the name Apri. When asked where does that come from, he replied that he was named this way since he was born in the month of April!!! He said that its not common practice but is done sometimes there.

Like us, they are much more comfortable with English language rather than German. Arabs, on the other hand, seldom know English and thus can speak better German. This seems to be the phenomena here. People who know English don't learn much German as they always end up speaking English in the university. People who don't know English, have to learn German to survive here.

There is an event coming up in a couple of weeks called 'Global Village' in the univeristy. In this event, people set stalls to represent culture of their countries. We also plan to do so. Let's see what happens.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Eid with Arabs

Eid-ul-Azha was on last Tuesday. This eid wasn't so loud may be because of the very cold weather and the fact that Arabs were arranging an Eid party on Sunday. Nevertheless, we did sit together and an Indian Muslim friend cooked a delicious and tedious rice dish (Biryani). On Sunday we went to the Arab Eid party. It was a big party with probably more people than the hall's seating capacity. The hall was located in front of a church. I guess they rented the hall from a Christain orgnaization since there were some bibles placed in one of the rooms.

Children sung songs and performed small skits on stage. There was also a prize distribution ceremony for an arabic course for children. Many families were present there including some European wives of Arabs. They started the program after Zohar prayer and served the food after Asar prayer. The food was a lot and with much variety. In contrary to that served in Ramzan, some of the dishes were very tasty. They always prepare a particular dish called "khus khus". It consists of small grains like gained rice. It always tastes aweful but they keep preparing it. Desserts were served after Maghrib prayer and this too with great taste and variety. During the whole function, there was chaos, so it was a real party.

Last week saw an extreme weather. Temperature dropped Sunday evening to an unbelievable -11 degree Celsius. This continued till Monday noon. But it changed back to above zero today. I bought a camcorder last week. It is a Panasonic GS20 (German version). Similar English models have received excellent ratings. The result of the camcorder is very good in ample light conditions.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Trip around North Germany on Christmas and New Year

End of December brought us the news of holidays coming. So me and a friend (Javaid) decided to take a tour around North Germany meeting our friends on the way. We set out on Saturday to our first destination, the city of Cologne in North-West Germany. We spent one night there with a friend (Ramzan) and played with his cute little children while enjoying parathas (oil-bread?) of his wife's hands. You can see the pics at:

We missed our second stop-over due to mis-communication and had to go to our third destination, the second biggest city of Germany: Hamburg. It lies in North of Germany and so suffers extreme winter. It started snowing the day we arrived there and continued till we came back. It is a port city where a river meets the ocean. Containing lots of bridges, the city runs ferries (boats) alongside its tram and bus network. It was nice to walk through a tunnel under the river and see a museum of transport models of European and American cities. These models were fully operational with trains, buses, cars, emergency vehicles and ships running around. It simulated the whole day with darkness and daylight. Pics are present at:

From there we returned to our last stop-over missing again another intermediate station to Giessen, a small city in almost middle of Germany and near Frankfurt. We travelled with a person who was going there by car by paying him some amount. When we left Hamburg, a snow storm hit North Europe and traffic slowed even on highways. It took us double the time to reach our destination. We saw the New Year fireworks in the city-center of Giessen. Pics at:

Finally we took a trip (rather two) to Frankfurt. First trip was to help the next batch of HEC scholarship holders who were arriving on 30th Dec. The flight was delayed for two hours due to snowfall and so we had to spend the night at the airport. After boarding them on respective trains we came back to Giessen after spending some time with a friend in Frankfurt. We returned back home on Sunday 2nd Jan. Pictures at Frankfurt can be found at: