Ayesha, an American lady who converted to Islam in 2011 and is settled in Pakistan these days, was recently interviewed by the media about her experience in Pakistan, and her efforts to help out a friend and the local community in Larkana.
Who is Pat Isringhausen (Ayesha)? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Ayesha. I converted to Islam on August 12, 2011. My profession is in healthcare where I worked as the director of a pediatric neurosurgical office. I enjoy adventure and challenge.
What was the primary reason to visit Pakistan?
This is actually my third trip to Pakistan. I came for personal reasons (love brought me here), but I find Pakistan to be a very unique and charming country.
What was your perception about Pakistan before your trip?
Well, like most of us in the Western World, the news and media would lead us to believe that Pakistan is a very dangerous place to visit. But, I for one never listen to what others tell me. I tend to want to experience things firsthand.
What makes Pakistan different from U.S.A?
The differences between Pakistan and the USA are like night and day.
Coming to Pakistan is liking stepping back into time. There are the obvious things like load-shedding, lack of good infrastructure, and then the cultural differences.
For me as a woman living in Pakistan, it’s very different. I am used to moving freely without being noticed. But obviously here, that is quite another matter. I stick out like a sore thumb with my blonde hair and green eyes.
Everyone is curious about me.
What factors made you take a decision of settling down in Pakistan?
As I said earlier, I came to Pakistan for personal reasons but I stay out of my love for the Pakistani people.
I am currently involved in helping a friend to build a clinic/maternity hospital and school in his village, Ali Sain Abad, which is near to Larkana/Khaippur.
I am fond of the people in the remote villages in the Interior Sindh. I walk six to eight miles daily and when I visit the villages. I simply take a walk and when I enter the village, I am immediately taken to different homes and surrounded by swarms of people. They bring me chai, cold drinks, poni, fruit, biscuits, chips, etc. Always trying to tend to my every need.
No matter how poor they are, they give me the best they have to offer a guest. I am showered with love. It is the tradition of the Sindhi people to give their guest a gift. I never leave the village without some gift.
I have been given relli work quilts, woven bread baskets, relli work purses, a tasbih, hair clips, on and on. For me, having their friendship is the biggest and best gift of all.
How many Pakistani cities you have visited so far?
Islamabad twice, Lahore, Hafizabad, Thatta, Shaddapur, Ali Sain Abad, Tando Adam, Tando Jam, Hyderabad, Karachi.
This is just a small list of where I’ve been in Pakistan.
I actually lived in Hyderabad for five months on this trip. On my second trip to Pakistan, I was in Tando Adam for a month helping the teachers in Sayara Khanum Islamic School to learn English.
You are living in Karachi. How do you found the people of Karachi?
The people of Karachi lead a much busier life than those in the Interior Sindh.
I have many friends in Karachi and enjoy living here.
People are just people everywhere. There are good and there are bad. I really haven’t had any bad experiences in my interactions with the people in Karachi.
How is Karachi different for you than any other metro city of the world?
It’s considered (depending on which statistic you look at) to be the second largest city in the world. Therefore, right off the bat you are going to have problems with congestion.
Fitting 25 million plus people into a metropolitan area creates a multitude of challenges.
Pakistan is a poor country and the infrastructure and energy needs aren’t being satisfied. I’ve never been to any other large metropolitan area and found load shedding for example.
But I find Karachi to be a bustling vibrant city. Full of interesting marketplaces, food vendors, restaurants, and places to visit.
What 3 places you love the most in Karachi?
I’m very fond of water.
I love oceans and my home in the US is right across the street from Lake Michigan and a beach. So Seaview is a place I like to visit. Where else can you ride camels, horses, and dune buggies.
I also like to visit historical places. Mohatta Palace is beautiful and I am also an art lover. So I enjoy going there to view the latest exhibition. I can only pick three so, I will choose Mazar-e-Quaid. It’s an iconic symbol of Karachi. Very majestic and beautiful monument to the Founding Father of Pakistan.
Whenever I am traveling by rickshaw (which is my primary means of transportation), it serves as a reference to my destination.
You have traveled to many other cities. Which city you like the most other than Karachi?
Hyderabad is near and dear to my heart.
I lived there for five months and I have so many friends there. It’s a bit less rushed than Karachi and easier to move about there as well.
Like Karachi, it has many interesting marketplaces, restaurants, etc.
What 3 places you will recommend to every American to visit in Pakistan?
Definitely they should get to Islamabad. It’s considered one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world and if you stand at the overlook, during day or night, the city of Islamabad is breathtakingly beautiful. A well-designed city carved out of the mountains.
It’s a given that one must visit Karachi. Having been a resident here for six months on my first two visits and now seven months on this one, for a total of one year and one month, it’s become my home away from home. Vibrant city always on the go.
Lahore can’t be missed. It’s beautiful, clean, green, and full of historical places to visit.
You only give me three choices but honestly, I never miss the chance to go anywhere in Pakistan.
What were some of the problems you faced in Pakistan as a foreigner?
Again, the biggest problem I have is that I don’t speak Urdu. Other than that, I don’t find any real problems.
What will be your answer if anyone asks you, “Why Should I visit Pakistan?”
I tell everyone to visit Pakistan (I believe I almost have my daughter talked into visiting me here). I think when I talk to people about Pakistan, I light up with animation.
There is no way to describe the people, places, and things in Pakistan. They must be experienced firsthand. I tell about the rich history of Pakistan, the unique culture, and mostly just the wonderful and warm people.
You must have researched on Pakistan before visiting. What is different in the real Pakistan?
Honestly, I didn’t really do any research on Pakistan. I had made my mind up to visit and so I did. The “real” Pakistan is not the one portrayed by the news media. The “real” Pakistan is the warm and loving people of Pakistan. I have been smothered in love and kindness here.
Out of the different types of cuisines you had in Pakistan, which one was your favorite?
Biryani. It’s my favorite dish of all. There are so many wonderful and unique culinary treats in Pakistan. I am fond of sweets and there are so many wonderful tasty sweets here.
Share one of your most memorable moments or incidents in/about Pakistan.
I’ve been to every type of function you can name.
I’ve been to mehndis, shadis, valimas, aqeeqas, and funerals. I’ve been to qavalis, millads. I’ve seen traditional Sindhi wrestling (only woman present). Attended Uhrs celebration.
I know I should be able to pinpoint one moment and incident that sticks out above all others but honestly I can’t. I think I’m a simple person with simple wishes and needs. I just simply live in the moment I’m in. I enjoy it all!
Any ending note for readers?
I came here for personal reasons and have found that maybe it was Allah’s plan all along to bring me here for an entirely different purpose.
I have a real love for the people of Pakistan and their country. I hope that in some small way I can help to make life better for some of the people who have given me so much love and respect.
Via Jovago Pakistan