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Meeting the Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf

On Friday the 2nd of April a group of 25 students along with organisers and teachers dropped in to see the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf.

All the students were very anxious to meet him but didn’t really know what to expect, especially after meeting the Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali the day before.  We couldn’t wait to ask lots of questions and interact with such an important person.

As we pulled up to his house we had to go through some security checks before even proceeding towards the doors of his house.  Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed in, so they all had to be left with they armed guards by the door.

As we walked through the doors into the Presidents home we couldn’t believe how lavish it was, it was amazing.  We were then directed into a room, which was bit like an auditorium, where there was little nametags on our seats so you knew where to sit.  We waited for a few minutes before the President walked in.  He went on to tell us a bit about Pakistan, his history, how he became President and what he has done as President to help his country.  We all found this very interesting.

We then had a chance to ask him questions which were not always the easiest questions to answer.  However he did answer them very honestly and motivated us to do well in life and help others in need and not to run away from things like terrorists but to fight them and defeat them.  He explained that terrorists are like trees, if you cut off a large branch from that terrorist tree it will just re-grow, and the tree will become worse, so you have to kill the tree right at the roots.

After his inspiring talk with us he then invited us out into his large and beautiful garden to have a bite to eat and a drink under a huge gazebo.  While we were outside he told us more about himself, his family life and what he enjoyed.  We also had a small presentation where all the schools handed over a small gift; our school gave the President a silver quaich (a Scottish drinking cup, traditionally used to drink whisky out of).

The President was certainly a very busy man as his staff were continually trying to move him onto other appointments but he just kept talking to everyone.  He ended up staying for a further hour before heading off to his next appointment.  It certainly meant a lot to us to see him wanting to stay with us.

When we left President Musharraf’s home we all agreed that it was an amazing experience which we never would have imagined possible to happen to us and we really cannot put into words how we felt and enjoyed his company.  This in one remarkable experience that we will never forget!

Christie Lowe

Adventures of the Hercules

Everyone was up bright and early, at around 4 o’clock in the morning, for our trip to Skardu.  We were going to be travelling first class in a military Hercules jet.  The Hercules is one of the safest planes to fly in, and it costs the government £25,000 each time it flies.

There were numerous security checks involving us filling out forms and having our luggage scanned.  We were then lead out to the airfield and were very reluctantly allowed to take some photos before we were ushered inside by men in camouflage jump suits.

Inside the plane was amazing, the seats were red canvas chairs with netting behind them to lean on.  There were two rows of seating all of which were facing sideways to the direction of travel.  The walls were covered in equipment and big black signs saying ‘for emergency use only’ and ‘ensure hatch is closed before take off’. There were three tiny porthole windows on side of the plane, making it impossible to see what was happening outside.  It took a while us to figure out how to do up their seat belts, though we did crack it in the end. 

We then spent a while trying to determine whether we were flying or if we were still on the ground.  It then became obvious when we were taking off because the entire contents of the aeroplane was thrust sideways when it was happening and the whole ordeal was accompanied by a very loud and alarming noise as the engine kicked in.

The view from outside the plane was the most spectacular sight I have seen.  The Himalayas stood tall in the sky line, triumphantly reaching to the heavens.  The jagged and stiff look of the mountains was highlighted by the perfect white snow, dusted over them like icing sugar.

It was easy enough to see their beauty from the porthole window, but the real place to see them was from the cockpit.  We got to go up and have a look, and were hit by the stunning view.  It was breath taking.  I could see all around, the magnificence of the world shining through from below.  In the distance I could see K2, the second highest mountain in the world, towering over the giant mountains in front.  The entire world was angelic, and not even the worst of all wars, or the most devastating of natural disasters could defeat the Earth at that moment.  This was what Pakistan was really about.  Not the killings or the suicide bombings plastered all over the news, but the uniqueness of its scenery.

I felt enlightened after that, like I knew a secret that only a handful of people had seen.  I knew that I would remember that scene for the rest of my life.  It was something that couldn’t really be captured on camera, but something to be treasured in memory.  I slunk back to my seat and strapped myself in.  The pictures I had just seem loomed in my head as the place descended into Skardu.  Then I sat back, and waited for thud of the planes wheels on the runway.

Anna Wollman

Trip to Shangrila and Satpara Lake

The most memorable experience for me during the trip of a lifetime to Pakistan was our visit to Skardu on day 5. 

After landing at Skardu we travelled into the mountains to visit one of the more impoverished schools in the area.  For me although we witnessed immense poverty at the school we visited it did not compare to the villages we passed where children stood at the side of the tracks making bricks out of clay and mud or collecting wood to help their parents.  These children have no chance of an education, no opportunities of making something of their lives and witnessing this was painful.  It forced me to think about my life compared to these children and it hurt to look at how many luxuries we have and to see that what little they have that they cherish so much.  Everyone was touched in some way by what they saw that day.

We travelled on down to Shangrila where the contrast was stark.  Here the wealth showed through by resort’s hotels and restaurants and luxuries were everywhere.  The scenery was magnificent – even while the sun was out, Shangrila still had a back drop of snow topped mountains and the trees and flowers were in full bloom.  Refreshments and snacks were laid on by the resort and the whole organisation was faultless.  As we left we were given leaflets about the resort at Shangrila and among other information was how Shangrila got its name.  Shangrila is a Chinese word meaning ‘Heaven on Earth’ and by the fab time I had there it was no exaggeration.

The next stop was Satpara Lake. Bordered by the Himalayas on one side and the Karakorams on the other this was a great place to stop for lunch.  The lake was still and bright blue and the sun reflected off it.  We spent most of our time down near the water and when we had to leave we picked up some rocks as a little piece of Satpara Lake to take with us.

So we left as we had come, in our Hercules jet with very different thoughts to that of when we had arrived.  The experience that day left me feeling extremely privileged to have seen what was a once in a life time opportunity but also touched by how much aid that part of Pakistan really needs and the task now is to spread that awareness to others who haven’t experienced the things we have this last month.                                                         

Rhona Murray

Innovative Education in Pakistan

The Teach A Child School (TAC) is located in Lahore and gives underprivileged children the opportunity to receive an education in order to have a brighter future.  The schools enrols children living in a family who earn only $1 a day and are able to pass an entrance exam as the school only accepts children who have potential.  A fee of 8p a month was enforced in order to make the parents feel involved in their child’s education.

We made our way into the playground of the school there was a group of 10 year old children perform a dance, this was finished by appreciative applause.  We then proceeded into the main school building after receiving rose from the children as a gift.   A PowerPoint presentation was given explaining what happens within  the school and they pointed out that they have achieved a great deal especially giving equal opportunities to girls, which is often not the case in Pakistan.

We were given the opportunity  to speak to the children , their English was very good.  They asked us about Scotland and our school, so we showed them some postcards including Edinburgh Castle.  We gave them some tablet, but by the look on their faces it is obviously an acquired state.  The children told us about their school and they also told us about their hobbies which included hockey and fashion design.  The children very kind and polite and showed that they valued their education and wanted to learn.

It was great to see that despite the large amount of poverty in Pakistan children’s education is valued greatly.

The visit ended with a musical performance, which was extremely heart warming and the children had obviously spent a long time working on it.  They performed a variety of songs and a poem, which they accompanied with dances and actions.  One boy read a poem which spelled FAMILY giving each letter a different word – Father And Mother I Love You. 

This was one of my favourite places to visit in Pakistan because the people we met were so welcoming and willing to speak to us.

Catriona Morton