Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Notebook replacement from Dell

I finally got my notebook replaced by dell. I bought this Dell notebook three years ago and it was having problems every often. In these 3 years, Dell replaced my hard-disk, DVD drive, processor fan and heat-sink, LCD screen and charging adapter. Now they wanted to replace my motherboard because of the problem. I refused to let it happen and asked them to give me a permanent solution to this time-waisting routine every six months. I asked them to either replace my notebook with another model, or to "tell me their office address so I could shift my home near them so that they can come everyday to my house to repair my notebook" :) This suggestion had the desired effect and they resorted to replacing my notebook. I did many upgrades to the free notebook they offered me and hence I got 2 GB ram, 160 gb hard-disk, bluetooth, integrated camera and metallic blue cover in 250 euros extra. The new notebook i got is an AMD Turion X2 TL-58 (Insprion 1521) with 15.4 inch wide-screen display and 3 years service warranty. I have formatted and packed my old notebook and waiting for the delivery service to pick it up. Dell Inspiron 1521

Thursday, November 15, 2007

First snow in Kaiserslautern

It snowed here today. Actually it snowed a little yesterday but the snow couldn't accumulate on ground. Today when we woke up in the morning and the ground was pretty much covered in snow. This was the first snow of this winter. Normally, in our area it snows for 2-3 months. But last year was an exception as it didn't really snow last year. There were snowfalls a couple of time but the snow was soon gone. So practically, there was no snow last year. This time, we have yet to see whether it really snows or not. We usually get one snowfall at the end of November and then the regular snowfall follows in the end of December or start of January. However, this time it snowed a little earlier than usual. Well, strange things are happening with the weather every year.

Friday, September 28, 2007

New life in Lahore Rapid Mass Transit (LRMT) Rail Project

The chief minister of Punjab Ch. Parvez Ilahi announced on 26-sep-07 that the Lahore subway train project will be started after Eid (14 oct). Many train lines are proposed to be built. The first line is the Green line covering 27km area from Shahdara to Hamza Chowk. This line will take 3.5 years to build and cost around 3 billion dollars. The original plan estimated the completion date in 2012 but the authorities want it to be built till 2011 before the World Cup.

You can find a lot of information about the project on the website: http://www.pakistaniat.com and in a forum thread at: http://www.skyscrapercity.com

Monday, September 17, 2007

Flying with Mahan Air through Tehran

Last month I travelled on Mahan Air through Tehran. Mahan Air is a private airline of Iran having 24 planes and flying to 27 destinations. I was very cautious about it based on rumours but had no other option. It didn't fly from Frankfurt, but from Duesseldorf instead. They gave a train ticket so I took the journey of 4 hours to reach that city. Duesseldorf Airport is also a nice airport with landing/take-off viewing platforms. The train station is on one end of the runway and hence a hanging sky-train takes visitors between the terminals, the parking and the train stations. The plane from Germany to Iran was surprisingly smaller than the one from Iran to Lahore. They had far more newspapers than Gulf and Emirates Air. They also offered passengers coffee-toffees once on board. The flight was smooth and we were offered standard drinks and food. They presented kids models of aircrafts. We landed on the new airport of Tehran, the Imam Khomeini International Airport.

Before landing into Tehran for a plane-change, the pilot requested the women to dress properly according to Islam as required by law, even at the airport. They then presented all of the women pink long-shirts and white head-scarfs. It was fun to see European women wearing these nice modest clothes on the airport. Exiting the plane, they gave everyone a small box of pistachios. Once in the airport they gave us our next boarding cards and also coupons for a free burger/cake and a free drink. This was uniquely generous considering we had a stay of only two hours. Then we went to buy sweets from there. The first sweet-box I saw costed some 50,000 Rials. Their currency is extremely devalued and a Euro is equivalent to about 12,500 Rials. They had made very beautiful shapes filled with dry-fruit. The flight to Lahore was even more peaceful so that I slept and missed the meals. They always presented their own carbonated drinks similar to Coke, Sprite and Fanta. All food items were also made in Iran. The return flight was also ok except there was a delay at Tehran airport of about two hours which is normal with cheap airlines. Thank ALlah that I caught the last train to my city in time.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Muslim Students Group at University of Kaiserslautern Germany

Some days ago we decided to attend a lecture in Karlsruhe. We being the Muslim Students Group at University of Kaiserslautern (Muslimische Studenten Gruppe, TU Kaiserslautern). This group existed before but ceased to be active some years ago. We reconstructed this group to actively arrange activities for all the students at the university. We are starting from smaller activities and progressing towards bigger ones. So first of these activities were an Islamic weekend. We went to Karlsruhe on Saturday to attend a lecture by a converted German named Pierre Vogel. The lecture was arranged in a sports hall which was full with audience, both Muslims and non-Muslims (including German) with as many women as men; reason being perhaps the topic: Position of Women in Islam. The lecture was in German and the speaker was a native speaker. So I understood less than my level of German understanding. Before going to the lecture we had lunch together and saw the Karlsruhe castle. We 10 men had travelled from Kaiserslautern with Train while about 8 women came in a van we had rented. Photos.

The next day we arranged a Bar B Que party for the members and potential members. Though it was summer, summer was nowhere to be found. It rained that day as well, however, with a bit of wind. So we found two covered places at the Uni for Grill. One saved us from the wind but not rain; the other saved from rain but not wind. After some to and fro motions, we opted for the second option. There were about 50 people at the party. We had beef sausages and chicken and people brought salads. We also gave small talks about our MSG in German, English and Arabic. As soon as we started the party, the weather got good. Photos.

Now we are planning a trip to Trier to see the city and attend a couple of lectures there.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Happy Independence Day

happy independence day to all. The independence to be corrupt and to rob and kill each other. Let us promise today that we will never do corruption, never give or accept rishwat, never accept or do sifarish, see our fellows above the divisions of language, province, ethnicity, sect, etc. Only then do we deserve to celebrate our freedom. Otherwise: long live our new masters (internal or external).

Monday, August 13, 2007

Receiving Pakistanis in Frankfurt

Last week we decided to go to Frankfurt airport to receive a batch of Pakistanis coming to Germany. They had received the HEC scholarship for phd and were being sent in 3 groups. Two groups had their flights 4 hours apart and the third group was coming 3 days after them. We opted to receive the first group while others chose to receive the second group. We started our journey in the morning, reaching Frankfurt city in the afternoon and strolled to a Pakistani restaurant "Shahid ka Dhaba". There we were served delicious dishes with hot roti and lassi. Then we went to a Bengali mosque to pray and subsequently to a Pakistani sweet shop (Akmal). We bought freshly made "Gulab Jaman" and returned to the train station to catch a train to the airport. The flight was delayed half an hour. PIA was banned from Europe shortly but now was allowed to operate again. This time around, they probably didn't have flights to Frankfurt. So the students were flown to Milan, Italy. Then they were to reach Frankfurt through Al-Italia airline. When the scholars finally reached Frankfurt, they told a horrible story of their change-over. The luggage of some of them was placed in the next flight. So these people chose to stay and wait at the airport.

We came back after sending the scholars on their way to their respective cities. Some other Pakistanis were to receive the remaining scholars at night. One of them tells the story of reception like this:
"In the next flight 8 scholars were missing. They were supposed to spend night at Milan airport as they were not allowed to go out side the airport but I heard that then some Pakistani from tribal area helped them & they spent night at some hotel. They arrived then next day at 11:30 am & went to their cities. Two or three of them had lost their luggages. The students arriving with 10 pm flight were very upset & many of them had lost their luggage (as well). All the clothes & important things were missing. I helped them to claim the luggages & hope the airline will send them when they (are) found. This was really very bad & was due to the PIA & HEC officials. All have told all the story to Pakistani embassy & also to DAAD."

btw, a funny thing happened as well. One of the students gave me the telephone number of the hostel's manager where they were supposed to stay. I called there and asked if all of the 8 scholars of that city will stay with him. He sounded like a Turkish guy. After confirming, he asked me a question: "these people coming from Pakistan, are they some high officials or some ministers or something?" At my surprised answer that they were just students, he exclaimed: "You are the sixth person to call to inquire about them".

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bar B Que party at my research group

This month we had the yearly Grill party at my robotics research group. We hold this party every summer at a Bar-B-Que location next to our building, and invite all the students who have worked with us during the last year. This year, summer has not come completely yet, so we were afraid of a bad weather. However the weather got better at the time of the party and we started a little earlier than scheduled. The initial phase, burning the coal, was tough, so we used a heat blower to speed up the process :)

I came back at about 11 pm while the party was going on with still a few participants there. Some left-over food and drinks now lay in our kitchen ready to be made good of...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Joining East and West Germany

A few days back, the university arranged a trip to Berlin. We travelled on bus with Brazilian students singing and making noise at the back for the first two hours. This was a ten hours journey because of our stopovers. We got a hostel to stay neat the city center in this relatively big city (but only a third the population of Lahore). There we were briefed on our location and where to go in the evening and which areas to avoid. Yes they told us two areas where we could be engaged by neo-nazis that got us worried. Nevertheless we got out and met a friend there who took us to an Lebanese restaurant serving tasty KFC style chicken.
The next day we went to a research institute to hear some presentations and see their super-computer. It was in a large noisy room with a long line of cupboards containing processor arrays. They had more than a hundred hard-disks which were used as temporary storage. The actual data storage was on tape drives on which a robotic arm was used to switch tapes. We also saw pieces of Berlin wall placed at city centre. There was a clear brick all through the city marking the position of the former Berlin wall. Since the Berlin wall was not straight, rather circular, so it was always difficult to tell which side of the wall (marking) was East and which West. Even the guide had problems sometimes. However, there were some things that provided some clues. Like the traffic signals for pedestrians were different. There was a very small portion of the wall intact at one place surrounded by a metal fence. Near it was a very long piece along the river with paintings depicting the history and sufferings due to the wall.
This wall made Berlin a very interesting and complex place. Like in other cities, foreigners were colonized on the outskirts of the city. In the case of Berlin, they lived near the wall as this was considered a dangerous place. When the wall vanished, these foreigner colonies found themselves in the middle of the city at important locations. So there are colonies like Turkish, Arabic, etc very near to the city centre. Secondly, once the wall was removed, Berlin was the first capital of the world with a huge empty space right in the middle. They didn't know what to do with it, so they sliced the area like a cake and divided it among huge companies. So now there are triangular buildings in this area made by Sony, etc.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A bold step at KFC Mall Road Lahore

A guest-post from a friend (Ahsan Saleem):

Out of the blue, instead of going to relatively cheaper AFC (Mall road) I went to neighboring relatively expensive KFC. I haven't been to a KFC recently but the crispy chicken KFC ads have been tempting me for a while. With a watering mouth, and ready to go air wallet I entered KFC. Unlike its main branch (Barket market walee), the restaurant was almost empty with only a few tables filled, which I thought was an achievement of AFC. I hate rushy places so that came as a plus. The counter line was all empty and a girl with hijab was standing there.

Without wasting any time, I picked a menu and went off; I want this .. I want that upsize .. I want breast piece etc etc etc .. when suddenly the attendant at counter stopped me with a silent signal of her hand, and pointed to her ears with a negation. I was a little embarrassed or not.. I cant remember, but I surely felt surprised. I mean thats not common, I haven't seen that anywhere before. I spent some time in Beijing china some couple of years back and had developed a pretty pathetic sign language. It brought back old memories but the attendant was pretty quick and on the spot.

I started to realize that all of the walls were filled with posters teaching sign language and the menu appetizing me had sign language on it also. With in 10 minutes I was able to find a holding describing that KFC as a special branch being run by special ppl. I was happy to see someone in mainstream taking such a step. I had fun eating crispy chicken [ :) ] and practicing original and authentic sign language. Do try the KFC mall road.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My first encounter with French language

Recently we decided to visit a French city near German border. It is called Strasbourg and is located at a three hours train ride from my city. We traveled on the "Happy Weekend train ticket" (a ticket that allows you to travel anywhere in Germany within one day) to a German city (Kehl) on the border of France. Where here, Strasbourg was lying over the river. We thought we should cross the bridge into France and then purchase a "full day ticket" in Strasbourg to make use of local transport. But the ticket office near the border was closed. The bus stops had no ticket machine and the bus drivers didn't sell "full day tickets". Worse, the drivers didn't speak either English or German. People at the border also didn't speak anything but French. So we used our natural instincts to ask for directions. We took the bus to the center of the city and climbed the highest cathedral in France there. It had more than 300 steps and induced hunger when we climbed down. We asked for a Turkish restaurant and ate a Halal Döner (shawarma) from there.

Then we set out to see the chocolate museum boasting to show chocolate manufacturing process and offering free chocolate. We took the tram to outskirts of the city till a bus station and asked a waiting passenger for further directions. He told us in broken English to take bus nr 50 after half an hour. The sun by this time was starting to burn. When the bus came, we showed the map and location of museum at which the driver asked us to take bus nr 2 with hand signals. We again waited and then got to the driver of bus nr 2. After showing him 3 maps of the region, he pondered for about 10 min and identified the place where we were standing on the map. Exhausted, we asked him about the museum and he began again searching the map and his brain. After about 10 more minutes he explained the directions in French to which he also didn't seem confident about. So we decided to head back to the city and took a boat tour around the city. The one hour tour showed us the European Parliament there. Then we took our dinner from a Bengali restaurant and headed back to Kehl with bus. The bus stopped in the middle for tne minutes to make us miss our train and wait for an hour for the next train. Once in Kehl we had to wait another hour for the next train. So we went inside the city coincidentally finding a loud festival there. We reached back at 2:30 am instead of 12:30 am. Pictures of the trip can be seen at Picasa.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Celebrating Labour day in Germany

1st May was a public holiday in Germany on account of Labour day. The graduate students union arranged a trip to a local garden-show including numerous dinosaur statues, ranked among the uniques in Europe. We gathered in the city center at 10 am, noticing that the police was stopping cars from going towards the city center. Soon a rally emerged from a side walking towards the city center. There were hundreds of people carrying slogans to increase the pays. Many of them were whistling and some were beating drums. There were also children carrying banners reading "increase the pay of my papa". But it was a very peaceful rally. I heard there was trouble at the rallies in biggest cities like Berling and Hamburg. We joined the rally for fun and walked with them to reach the Garden-Show. They scattered inside the garden where speeches were held on a stage. We left them to wander off in the garden.

The garden was publicising 1 million tulips from the start of April. This was a replica of the famous tulip show in the Netherlands. Half of the tulips had withered at this time. Then there were dozens of very big and very small dinosaur models. In the evening, we played cricket as on every holiday.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Trip to Switzerland

Soon came the Easter holidays. Four free days demanded some outing to get out of boredom. A friend had earlier proposed of going to Switzerland. That seemed a good option. So off we went on Saturday morning to Zurich, the biggest city of Switzerland. We arrived just in time to catch a city bus tour which guided us in and around the city for four hours. The city lies around the mouth of a lake and goes up the surrounding hills. We also took a cable car up the hill to get a bird eye view of the city. The bus then boarded a ferry alongwith 15 other cars to cross the lake. Zurich has the best living standard in the world. The guide showed us the most expensive area of the city. He also showed us the place where Churchill raised the slogan "Rise Europe" to pave the way for making the European Union, of which Switzerland is ironically not a member. We then headed to search for a cheap hotel, not having booked one in advance. After about two hours of searching, we found a hotel offering 30 Euros per person lying on the lake-shore close to the train station. Zurich was surprisingly clean with staff collecting junk in trains at regular intervals. There was even a steward in train selling eatables and collectibles. Most of the train journey to the next city was underground.

The next morning, we abandoned the plan to go the third largest city Basel and instead set out for Luzern, upon recommendation from tourism people. The coutry was covered in clouds which were expected to clear in the afternoon. We took a trip in Luzern to a very high mountain through cable cars. The cable car journey itself took more than half an hour with two interchanges to take us to a beauty i had never seen before. We crossed the clouds to reach the top of the mountain, called Mount Pilatus (dragon). It was a rocky mountain covered by snow on its flat areas and naked on steep slopes. There were two tops guarding a small flat strip over which people lied on berths under the furious sun. The mountain crows made it their backyard playground accepting food from tourists with their yellow beaks. Two hotels bordered the strip with a restaurant serving hot meals. A radar and a communications antenna watched over the surroundings from two different peaks. A 500 meter slippery cave lined one of the tops supposedly housing the fire-breathing dragon. Not wanting to leave that scene we came back to find the city bathing in bright sunlight.

After touring the city on the high city walls and eating from the train station, we headed home on the last train, a big risk in Germany. And the feared happened, the train stopped at one point to load us into a bus to reach the next train station. The ticket-checker although assured us that the next train will not leave until she has boarded us in it and thus that train waited 5 minutes for us 5 persons. Thank God we reached home that night.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Trip to Paris

This month, we unexpectedly got a chance to visit Paris. A Pakistani student had earlier come from Sweden to our city to do his masters project. He was leaving this month so he urged us to make a trip to Paris. We conceded. He planned a one day trip with a tourism bus service So off we went, we five guys, early in the morning to a nearby city from where we were to catch the bus. The bus journey took about 4 hours, excluding a half hour stay we did on a highway filling station. The driver drove us through the city telling us significance of different buildings there. He finally stopped near the base of the Eiffel Tower and asked us to wander around and come back to the bus till 9 pm. he also gave us a map of the city telling about important locations and also which train station shoots the train to Germany in case...

We had already heard of the long lines at the tower and were puzzled whether to climb up. The line didn't seem that big, although it was one the three lines at the four base pillars (one elevator was out of order). We also had to wait there for a resident Pakistani who had lived in our city and was supposed to show us around. So we got into the line which was moving in quick steps. The straight line was not so long, but when we got near the counter, the line was twisted in a zig zag form with about 10 turns. We finally got the tickets and went into a big elevator that took us up to the first platform of the tower. It waited for a couple of minutes and went up again, diagonally this time, to the second platform. There we got off and stood in a line to get into a small elevator taking us to the top. The view was magnificant. We couldn't find the boundaries of the city. Seine river was flowing next to the tower.

Then we came down and took a very long walk along the river, passing by Les Invalides museum and (one of the World's biggest) Louvre Museum, to reach the Notre Dame. Then we passed through the Royal palace, coming to the Concorde and walking back through Champs-Élysées (famous shopping street of Europe) to reach the Arc de Triomphe. On the way we saw offices of PIA and National Bank of Pakistan on this street. Eating fish burgers from a Macdonald there, we came back to the tower, took its night pictures and caught the bus. The driver again took us through the city and finally headed home.

Btw, the city Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan is the partner city of Paris.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Trip to Nuernberg and Rothenberg, Germany

The university (of Kaiserslautern) arranged a trip to the South-Eastern cities of Nürnberg and a smaller city Rothenberg. We moved in a group of about 40 people changing trains to complete a journey of more than five hours. Such a long distance required that they arrange a night stay. We were to stay at a youth hostel in Nürnberg which was located inside a castle. It was historically inpsiring from the outside and modernally beautiful from the inside. We went to a bunker of world war but couldn't go inside. Then we went to an hour long trip in the tunnels under the city. That was a huge network of tunnels with the guide offering us another trip to cover the rest of the tunnels in another hour or so. It was a very important city during world war and even after the war, the trials of german generals etc were held here.

Photos from Asif Shahab

The next day we went to a small city in the South, called Rothenberg. After seeing Nurnberg we were wondering what better had this city to offer. Ignorant had been our thoughts untill we climbed the city wall. Tracing the wall we walked on and on and the wall never seemed to end. We walked for about an hour to cover only one third of it and then climbed down to see the city. It was surprising that this wall was intact after the world wars. The city also boasted an "investigation museum" which was more of a torture museum. It had about a hundred different tools for torture or shame for the criminals. A high-rise tower in the heart of the city provided a nice view of the city and the surroundings, among very high winds. Exhausted, we finally went to see the river and climbed down dozens of steps to get to it, only to find out that we have to go up all those steps to get to the train station.

Photos from Asif Shahab

Friday, February 23, 2007

Experiencing extreme climate change in Germany

This winter was unbelievable. It was like there was no winter at all. There was no snow. It just snowed on two occasions, but only for the night. The next day the sun rose high, and the snow was gone. That is pretty strange for a city that used to spend a couple of winter months under the snow. Some regions in north and south were a little more (un)lucky, as they got some heavy snow; but that too didn't live its usual life. It makes life easy but it also takes away the pleasure of walking in the snow. A colleague also told me that snow kills different germs and so it is necessary to have.

Similar was the effect back in Pakistan. We weren't used to seeing negative temperatures in my city Lahore. But this winter we saw -2; and a good number of times. Seems like in a couple of years, the snow that fell in Kaiserslautern would instead start falling in Lahore. Global warming is taking its toll too early than predicted. Good to know that Pakistan Government has waived custom duty on all solar power equipment. Germany is the largest generator of solar power in the world.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Freedom of expression!!!

"A German court on Thursday convicted far-right activist Ernst Zundel of incitement for denying the Holocaust, and sentenced him to the maximum five years in prison..."


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Receiving fellows from Pakistan in Germany

Last week we got news that about 52 Pakistanis were coming to Germany on scholarship from HEC. That is the largest we have ever heard of. We decided to welcome them and guide them as usual on Frankfurt airport. They were supposed to reach Frankfurt on Sunday at 5 pm. 4 other persons beside me were also coming from different cities. I took 4 friends from my city (a weekend ticket can be used by upto 5 people to travel around Germany). We first went to Mainz, the capital of our state (Rhineland Palatinate), did some sight-seeing, took lots of photos and went to Frankfurt city. Once off the train, we scavaged the streets for Pakistani restaurants. One of us found one and we entered among greetings from its Pakistani owner. We ordered daal, chicken curry, paey and chicken tikka with fresh roti and naan. After filling ourselves till the top, we took tea, paid 32 euros and took the 20-min train to Frankfurt airport.

We walked through terminal one to the skyline train, which took us to terminal 2 where the PIA flight was scheduled to land. The flight had landed earlier than expected. We were greeted by other hosts and we waited for the arrivals. Soon came two Pakistani guys pushing their luggage carts, with first arrival looks on their face. We asked if they were HEC scholars and asked them to park the cart along one wall. We handed them the contact list to fill and also the small info broshure we had prepared. And then started the long flux of arrivals and the space soon became overwhelmed. We asked hem to group according to destination. They had their studies in different studies but have to do 2 months course divided in 4 cities of Germany. So they formed 4 groups. Biggest was the group for Dortmund (about 20 students) which was sent off first with two guides to the integrated train station. Then was the group for Berlin consisting of 10 students sent also with two guides. The Frankfurt group of 8 students was handed over to a local Pakistani, and then the group of 4 students for Munich was sent with one guide. So in total, we had about 40 people, as some stayed behind for various reasons.

I then escorted the last group (Munich). We saw the Berlin group who were going up the escalators in a seemingly wrong direction. I inquired from the airport staff and before changing direction, saw the Berlin group coming down again. I told them to follow and went towards the train station. The Berlin group got a little behind. I purchased tickets for the Munich group and left them at the station with a guide to return. On my return I saw the Dortmund group going towards the train station, so I went with them again to see them off. Meanwhile i got news that Berlin group was sent off in train. We then gathered and returned to Frankfurt city train station where we again met with some Frankfurt people. From there we five took the train back to our city Kaiserslautern. It was fun when the new arrivals asked us whether we were hired by HEC or DAAD for the purpose. Others who heard about our trip asked if we had someone known among the group. Of course we had; they were all Pakistanis there!

Monday, January 29, 2007

My eyes are a challenge for the medical experts

I went to my eye-doctor to try out the contact lenses she had ordered two months ago. I had this problem of vision for as long as I can remember. I went to this doctor here who did some extensive testing using 4-5 machines. After that, she put aside all machines, sat in front of me staring at my face and asked, "how did you survive so long? how did you manage it?" I shrugged my shoulders and said "I just got used to it". "I have driven a car for years" I further added; to which she got shocked and turned away saying she couldn't believe it. That made me believe she would call the police and get me arrested. But she didn't. Instead she told me that my eye-balls are of abnormal dimensions and lenses of this dimension are not made. This disease is called Astigmatism and I have an extreme case of it. They would have to put a special order for them and see if the manufacturer can make them at all.

So today, after two months, I went back and they put on the lenses on my eyes. It took long to get used to them and then continue with the tests. The Astigmatism problem was gone but the image was blurred. She put some lenses in front and I managed to get a perfect vision. Then I saw the world like never before. So clear and so beautiful: for the next ten minutes. I could read the smallest of numbers she projected on the front wall. Time froze, there and then. But there was pain in my eyes. She took off the lenses. She said that new lenses have to be manufacured with some adjustments. She said that normally people start with soft, round lenses; but for me they have to start with these oval and extremely powered lenses. One added feature was that my eyes didn't provide enough fluid cushion between them and the lenses. So they have to put a soft lens below the actual lens, again if that can be manufactured. This is getting very complex, but I am prepared to go through it, to relive the ten minutes of a new world I saw before. I can now feel how amazed are the people who get vision after almost completely losing it.

She did say one encouraging thing. She said that my vision itself is perfect and that is a miracle. She couldn't believe that I could get such a perfect vision with only the removal of astigmatism. Ideally people should have zero Astigmatism. Disorders cause it to grow to 0.5 or 1.0 or even 1.5. But I have an astounding 9.5 Astigmatism. She was an old lady but looked like she had never seen something even close to that. Anyways, that means I have perfect eyesight (6x6), but my eyeballs' shape distorts the image before it reaches my retina. I am thankful to God for that. I am also thankful to God that He has given me eyes with which I can see. I am very thankful that He has given me hands, arms, feet, legs, tongue, ears, nose, and all the other things and that He created me in a time when He gave knowledge to people to cure my little eye disorder.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Easy & pure charity in the developing world

Last time I went to Pakistan, I rediscovered the pure and easy charity method I had earlier formulated. The problem was to discourage begging while giving charity. We had also heard of stories that people kidnap children or women and make them disabled for begging. Even poor parents do that with their children. This is a very serious crime and citizens also need to discourage alongwith the government. So if you give charity to beggers, you are just encouraging this practice. This is kind of a paradox. Once I was sitting in my car in a market and a young guy came to me in a wheelchair asking for money. I asked him to sell something instead. He sighed and said: Sir I have been selling things like newspaper etc, but now i have to wed my sister and for that i need more money. So i have resorted to begging this season. Surprised, I asked him the difference of income, and he told me the figures. I don't remember the figures but his begging brought him more than his selling. That is a shame for us, the society.

So what I do is: i never pay to beggers. Instead i buy small things from people selling them near traffic signals etc. I pay them more than the thing costs, like ten rupees for a newspaper, and they become very happy. I let guys clean my windscreen and pay them, instead of screaming at them. I buy balloons even though there are no children in my house. We can even get useful things from here, like newspaper, pens, flowers, etc. You can't imagine the nice environment at home if you bring your wife flowers every now and then. So buy what you need, and buy what you don't need if possible. This way i do my part in reducing begging and increasing trading. So let us all encourage selling small items instead of begging. Let us stop more people from getting disappointed from selling and going to begging.

One last point is the practice we normally adopt concerning poor sellers. I often see people standing at roadside carts and fighting over the price. Those sellers are very people who can't even afford a shop. We are very happy to go to a very big shop or a restaurant and pay them whatever they demand, but we fight with a poor guy who saves just a couple of ruppees in every trade. It's disturbing when somebody in a big car comes and fights for five ruppees over a half kilo peanuts with a poor seller. True that most of the sellers ask more money than deserving, but in a society that has little justice, people are seldom paid according to the hardwork they do. And those who are, are not well paid because of their hardwork. So until the society becomes just, we should pay these sellers a little more than they deserve in trading.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dubai stay with Emirates

The Dubai airport is huge. We walked a long way to get to the transit gates where all my friends said good bye and went into their next plane. I again undertook a very long walk in the airport to get to the counter of Emirates and later outside where we were escorted to a van which dropped passengers at three different hotels. I arrived just in time to catch breakfast. My stay was for about 10 hours. The hotel was very high and outside the window of my room i could see Dubai city port with big ships and endless lines of cars being transported. They gave me a nice double-bed room. Although the airport had muslim showers installed in the toilets, the hotel lacked them, just like in Muscat. Then i went to the tour guide sitting next to the hotel entrance to get some info about the tour options she provided. She gave me a booklet with multiple options out of which i choose one and found out that it was not so expensive. It was a 4 hour personal cab tour of famous places for about 30 euros. I consented and met an Indian Muslim guide who took me in his cab to start the tour. He showed me the beach with the famous 7 star hotel "Burj-ul-Arab" build on a small artificial island near the beach. Entry was allowed only for people who had booked a meal or a room. Then he showed me the newly developing "Marina" area with skyscrapers all over the place. I must have seen about 50 skyscrapers (mostly under construction) at one place. Then we went to this big mall where they had built a skiing slope with snow. Now imagine this: seeing a snow slope in a dessert. How can someone be more luxurious?

Then he took me to the camel feeding grounds where we saw a herd of camels being returned after feeding. These were truly dessert areas. The person steering the animals became furious when my guide took the car near the camels saying that this disturbs the animals and the owner may kill us without getting into any problem. Then we went to the racing arena where a race was to take place that evening. The security guards didn't allow us to enter but the guide told them i was a German tourist here only for 10 minutes. And that's what we did...just took some quick snaps and came back. On my way back I saw a white boy playing with his dangerous looking hawk in the parking area. At the end he took me to a museum which looked very small on the surface but was very long underground. I saw Pakistanis as policemen, security guards, hotel hosts, tour guides, cooks, camel steerers, etc. I even saw some road side signals with Urdu among other languages. Although it was middle December, but the weather was warm. It was drizzling sometimes and the people said that it is a rare event that they have such a pleasant weather because of the clouds.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Trip to Dubai with Emirates Air

In middle December I got an intermediate stop in Dubai during a flight. The stay was to be of 15 hours. I asked my agent to arrange a transit visa and hotel stay from the airline. Five more Pakistanis were traveling with me but they didn't have such a long stay. When we reached Frankfurt airport on the flight day, we got the information that the flight was delayed for 3 hours. We got in the very long check-in line. The other Pakistanis had to catch the next plane in Dubai after just 3 hours. We asked the Emirates guide the reason for delay which she said was that the plane from Dubai was late. We told her about the situation and she went away. After about half an hour, when we finally reached close to the check-in counter, the guide came back; asked us to come out of the line and told us that they are sending us through Lufthansa Air to Munich where we can catch an Emirates plane to Dubai so that we don't miss our next plane.

We hurried to terminal one of the airport. There are two terminals of Frankfurt airport connected by both a skyline train and a bus. We took the bus and walked through the terminal to reach the Lufthansa Air counter. They didn't have a clue about this transfer of passengers. They phoned their supervisors and Emirates counter and finally figured out the situation. Then they started the check-in, only to find that the Emirates staff had written one less name on the paper they gave us. Lufthansa staff said they couldn't check-in that passenger. They tried to figure out some way to resolve this problem, but in the process they found out that the plane flew off. We took the train back to Emirates counter where they checked us in. There was some problem with one of us as two of his suitcases weighed more than 30 kg, the new limit put on every piece of luggage, the resolution being transfer of extra luggage to the boxes they provided us. They gave 15 euro dinner vouchers to all passengers because of flight delay, which we spent in Macdonald's while watching planes take-off and land. The airport had prayer rooms for all religions. The plane took off 3 hours later and we landed in Dubai.