Saturday, July 17, 2010

Internship in Pakistan

 During my senior year of college, I wanted to do an international internship (preferably in a third-world country).  Nancy Blake was my internship coordinator.  I didn't know if she was a Christian or if she would understand the type of "mission project" I wanted to do.  I set up an appointment with her, and told her my idea.  She thought for a minute and said, "How do you feel about Pakistan?"  Nancy IS  a Christian, and she knew the Angerts, who were missionaries in Pakistan (they're now in India).  Barbara is an occupational therapist working with handicapped kids in the villages.  So, a plan was born, and I ultimately spent a little over two months in Pakistan.  Nancy made plans to go with me for the first two weeks of my trip.  Since I had never flown by myself and never traveled internationally, this was SUCH a blessing.  My cousin, Lee, and his wife, JJ, were missionaries in Hong Kong at the time, and I decided to add a month long stay with them into my agenda.  It was cheeper to buy two round trip tickets instead of three one way tickets, so Nancy agreed to add Hong Kong as a layover on our way to Pakistan (it's complicated)....just know that Nancy graciously agreed to travel several extra hours to accommodate the wallet of a poor college student.

I remember being so excited about some of the pictures I took, and now looking at them, I wish I had the luxury of digital photography at that time.  sigh...

After 26 hours of traveling, Nancy and I arrived in Hong Kong where Lee and JJ hosted us for a few days.

Nancy and I sent our measurements to Barbara weeks before our trip, and she had Pakistani garb waiting for us when we arrived in Pakistan.

Here are a few pictures of the villages where we worked.  I remember having a sort of out of body experience as we sat in a market bargaining for bamboo to make parallel bars for the boy below that wouldn't burn his hands in the hot sun like the metal ones he had.  I saw myself sitting in the crowd...How did I get here?!?  I'm in a market on the other side of the world bargaining for bamboo!  Is this really me?  Am I dreaming?

This was another boy who suffered from Rickets...a disease caused by vitamin D deficiency.  He was walking on these legs.

I lived with the Pakistani family below for two weeks.  The man, Rehmet, was the only one who spoke English.  He ran three rehab centers, and every day, he arranged somewhere different for me to go.  I spent time in all his centers, a school for kids with mental handicaps, a regular school, a hospital, an eye clinic.  I never knew where I was going each day.  These weeks were the hardest by far, but were also an amazing experience.  The first night I was there, Rehmet said, "Do you want to go to a party?"  Turns out it was a wedding!

Their girls were adorable, but they had a hard time understanding why I couldn't speak to them.  They would speak slowly and loudly in Urdu, and I would just shake my head.  I played my flute for them, and music seemed to cross all cultural borders.

Rehmet's nieces spoke some English (they enjoyed practicing with me), so we spent a lot of time with them.

I took this picture to remind me that I never wanted to see another bottle of Coke or Sprite again!!!  In every place we visited, they wanted to feed me and give me a "cold drink."  It was either that or chai (which I love but not in the 100 degree heat!).  I had to be careful what I took so I wouldn't get sick, and soda was one of the things I could accept.  It was rude to refuse, but there were days when I was SO SICK of soda that I wanted nothing more than to pour it on the dirt.

I also spent two weeks with Debbi (a physical therapist from Michigan) at a Christian hospital in the foothills of the Himalayas.  There I saw a forceps birth, a c-section of twins, a leg amputation, and a tendon repair surgery, among other things.  I made a lot of splints and enjoyed using my OT skills.

When this trip was in its early planning stages, I remember wishing at times that I was with a process the experience and go through it WITH someone.  However, in hind sight, I think I really got to see more of the culture this way.  When you go with a team, people arrange their schedules around you.  When you are alone, you just go along for whatever is on their agenda.  I went to two weddings (one Christian and one Muslim), saw births, went to a funeral, attended a language lesson, and ate Easter dinner with some villagers.  I am so thankful for this experience.

After my time in Pakistan, I returned to Hong Kong to spend a month with Lee and JJ.  It was so fun to get to know them better and explore this part of the world with them as my guides.

There is a reason I finally got around to scanning pictures to do this post....stay tuned.


Mari said...

What an amazing experience! I enjoyed looking at the pictures and am waiting to see why you were scanning them.
My niece is going to leave on an international internship in a month. She just got a degree in social work and is going to India for 4 months.

Denise said...

what a wonderful story lynn.
your non digital pictures are terrific, they say so much.
what an adventure.

this reminds me of a terrific book the kids and i read this spring, "three cups of tea." have you read it. so good. so inspiring. a very good family read.