I know it has been way too long since the last post. It has also been very very busy, e.g. I have been to three countries since then, and when it got less busy, I was recovering from all the busyness. On the other hand, I’m writing this post on the first day of not having the internet at home since I can’t remember when, so there you go – now you know where all the free time just disappears into!
As you all remember, I guess, between June and September I spent 10 weeks teaching at the University of Liverpool again, which was not all entirely bad, but not at all what was supposed to happen. The ‘not entirely bad’ part was the students and the teaching, usually the most rewarding bit anyway, as well as colleagues (special thanks to Cathy, Rozanne and Helen), some of whom I have known and worked for for three summers now. My class consisted of 100% Chinese students who have actually been amongst the least judgmental about my living in Pakistan and just accepted it as a fact without facial distortions. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the people that I know in the UK aren’t necessarily judgmental, but do remain (slightly) skeptical, even though I have really tried to debunk common myths about the amazing country of Pakistan. My students didn’t need convincing at all, so much so that on the last day of classes when they were given a free session in which they could decide what they wanted to do, they went for a Bollywood drama Bajrangi Bhaijann (Brother Bajrangi) based on a true story of a Pakistani girl who got lost in India and then was accompanied by an Indian (or two?) back to Pakistan. I was very touched by the choice of the film, as well as the only person who … didn’t understand anything! The subtitles were all in Chinese only and my knowledge of Urdu/Hindi is still pretty much close to zero (I feel very, very ashamed of this), so if it wasn’t for Wikipedia and understandably, the cinematography and acting, I’d have been lost. The projection lasted for over 2.5 hours during which time 99.9% of the students were glued to the screen ignoring their break and not even taking a toilet break, and when it finished, all the girls (majority of the class) were crying their eyes out (whereas boys did not really reveal their emotions). All in all, I thought it was a nice way to end the course with and worth mentioning.
The not-so-nice thing was mainly the fact that B. was supposed to join me for several weeks, but the visa process was taking so long that we had to cancel it so that he could get his passport back in time for Oman. Also, due to the fact that his exams started in late August, there was little point in him going over anyway. I generally think that the British visa system is a scam. They had misinformed us about the visas and also charged over FIVE pounds for sending an email which they then failed to reply to in a way that made sense. On top of that, they didn’t even seem to know that B. got his passport back (how come??), because they emailed him about his application long after he collected his passport from the Islamabad office. It is a scam and a joke and I was adamant that I’d complain, but in the end, I just wanted to go back home and forget I was away for 2.5 months in the first place.
I also seemed to have been very unlucky about my accommodation this year. While the landlord was extremely helpful and always available on the email, several things went seriously wrong, which certainly overshadowed my stay. First of all, out of the ten weeks, I had issues with the internet at home for about four weeks. Isn’t the UK supposed to be like a leader in the telecommunications industry?? I guess so, yet I always seem to experience internet problems only in the UK. When the internet was eventually sorted, the washing machine broke (twice) and out of the six flats which were apparently using it, I was the only one for whom it was actually a problem. I had a week of daily promises of it being replaced met with daily discoveries of it not having been replaced, and so on and so forth. Eventually, that got sorted too and so was the hot water and the noisy neighbour (all-night partying and karaoke until 6am several times a week, violent arguments with fellow party people, etc.) who apparently was eventually evicted (‘thanks to’ my complaints, I reckon). Ahh, I forgot the bike issues. Last year I cycled to work for almost a year and the wonderful Helen whom I sold the bike to was so kind as to lend it to me this year too. It wasn’t plain sailing (riding?) though as ‘thanks’ to the many alcohol-drinking-and-then bottle-smashing people (there is glass absolutely everywhere in Liverpool; ban on alcohol in Muslim countries suddenly made even more sense to me), the tyre got punctured (twice), which made my life miserable and complicated and it never went back to normal, because I was too stressed to cycle and constantly looked at the road rather than ahead. Had I stayed longer, I’d certainly have asked the council for compensation, just like I did with the bus (which I took for the first few weeks – a big, big mistake, but I did get some of the money back).
Despite all this, I can’t really say I regret going to the UK. I got a lot of things sorted, like the stuff that I left behind in Spain two years ago, or in South London six years ago (sic!!) (BTW, if anyone needs English-Polish dictionaries, incl. general, medical, technical, and Polish only, do let me know!). I went to Devon to visit a very good friend, for the first time in her little home, I went to Droitwich Spa and got myself admitted onto a PhD, I met an online British student of my mine for the first time too and had a great time. It was important for me to do all these things and I wouldn’t have had I not gone to the UK.
Having said that, I was on the first plane back to Islamabad on the very same day the course finished and the following day reunited with my Beloved B. with whom we spent 19 amazing days before I took off again. I didn’t do much, to be honest. We went to our favourite places, like the open-air market Itwar Bazaar, Naan-Stop or Cheema & Chattha, and away to the mountains in Nathia Gali, which is only located about 90 km north from Islamabad, but where the temperature is about 20 degrees Celsius lower. Gosh, I really love those places…!!! I also visited a university in Islamabad, COMSATS, and was impressed with their resources so much so that some of the British universities at which I’ve worked don’t even come close. I went to the dentist who in terms of professionalism very much reminded me of my Polish dentist who I’ve been going to since I was 15 and who’s absolutely amazing (the Polish one). I had new clothes and other things bought by my wonderful husband. It was all awesome, but way too short, plus B. was also doing his exams, so it was actually also quite busy. It was with a heavy heart that I left for Oman a few days ago, hoping that B. would be joining me ASAP…