Islamabad

Islamabad is like dead city. It was build in the sixties, it’s very new. It is full of wide empty long streets and big modern buildings. Everybody comes to work to Islamabad, but nobody can say he is from here… Sixty years ago, this city still didn’t exist. Now Pakistanis are very pround of it. It is their dream to get a job in Islamabad. It’s new, it’s safe and it’s soundless…

Lahore life

Lahore is colourful, laud, and clean (comparing to Delhi). It is a beautiful city, with old buildings made from red brick, parks and bazaars.

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The canal is going across the town. During many hot summer days young bouys are having a bath in the canal. In India canals and rivers inside the cities were full of rubbish and dirt, but the one in Lahore is almost perfectly clean, except the colour of water which is still muddy brownish. City is full of shops with newest western fashion, but it is Pakistani fashion that catches your eye.

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If you have money you can try any food you like. Restaurants have a huge menu and there is so many of them. However , there is NO ALCOHOL. For me, coming from Poland it was very hard to understand. There was a big dissapointment every time when I saw a beer in a restaurant menu, and then noticed the letter below ‘non alcoholic’.

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There is an amazing Mosque looking over a Diamond district, next to the Old Fort. Old fort in Lahore looks very much like Old Fort in Agra and Delhi, being example of the same Mughal art.

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People are more modern than I expected. Girls are emancipated, although most of them preffers to stick to their Pakistani clothes and traditions. A lot of the young girsls are students, they have boyfiends and they wear T- shirts and skinny jeans. Those who live in their own appartments, can live their lives however they want to, but it is still not so popular to go out alone as a girl. It looks a bit like an illusionary freedom, because all these modern girls spend most of their times in their appartments and when they cannot find a job after their univesity or don’t have the money to live on their own, they would come back to their hometowm, leave their boyfriends and their life full of freedom and marry  a man their family chose for them. After that they become traditional housewifes and mothers, forgetting about the different life dream they maybe once had.

Memories from Lahore

When I arrived I was in shock and I cannot remember much from what was happening. The things I remember are more like a film I have seen once, not like my own memories.

There is a collection of pipes on a chimney in a TV room. Portrait of a scary man in our bedroom, T. covering it with a towel. There is a fan on a very high ceiling.  There is me, being scared of T. at first, his voice sounding different. His red T-shirt when I saw him after four years on the Lahore street. There are two boxes of grapes from Quetta. I cannot remember all these general things. I don’t remember what colour were the room walls. I honestly do not remember what we were doing during all these long hours in the house. I don’t remember the moment when it felt more normal. I know that I liked the city, although I do not know why exactly…

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Staying at the beautiful big old house with Auntie and Uncle. Looking at the collection of old pipes. Looking at Olimpic games on TV. Eggs and toast for every breakfast. Driving in air conditioned car. Driving in non- air conditioned car. Driving around the city. Old fort. Diamond district. And the Mosque. The most beautiful Mosque I have ever seen. Ramadan. Iftar. Pakora, Samosa, fruit salad. Drinking beers in a hotel room. Meeting Haider and Nadia. Planning to eat a steak every night and always ending up eating Auntie’s delicious food. Rain in the morning. Power on, air codition on. Power off, air condition off. Black outs. Olimpics. Watching Olimpics in the middle of the night. Four dogs. One small grey fluffy cat, looking at T. with big sad eyes when he was leaving the room.Feeling lonely. Cigarettes.
Breakfast every morning – eggs, toasts, chicken, cheese, jam and tea, on the big old wooden table.
In Ramadan everything is closed. We ‘broke the law’ and went to Gloria Jean’s for coffee. I smoked so many cigarettes I felt sick. It is hot. We came back to the house.
People don’t stare like in Delhi.City is old and beautiful. Clean. There are no rubbish in the canal on this side.
I am trying to convince T. to go to Gilgit. Everybody says it’s amazing.
In this old beautiful house with caring Auntie I felt like a small kid. Especially when we were sneaking to the fridge in the night…

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Restaurants in London

Ever wondered what do you really buy when eating out in London? Ok, we all know that high class and four stars restaurants cannot serve bad quality food, but what about these regular ones? The restaurants which take the majority of London dinning scene? Spending my summer working in four different restarurants/ cafes/ pubs and gathering information from many of my colleagues I could tell you a little bit about it.  First of all, forget about fresh products.  Even if the meal is prepared fresly on the spot, the products have been alredy few days in a fridge or they were preparred before. Basicly, freshly preparred product is fresh only for a few hours. Try eating it a little bit later or the next day… I remembered when my mother in Poland used to prepre casserole or some long cooking dishes which only tasted better the next day when it absorbed all the spices and herbs and gained rich full flavor. Not in this country. The smell and taste of ‘fresh’ products on the next day is so discusting, you would not be able to eat it. Even foods in supermarket have special chemicals added to them, that actually makes them go off quicker. What happens is people buying huge quantity of food, when they finally have some time for shopping, which goes off faster. Then they just have to throw it away and buy some more food. That is how supermarkets make money on us.

But lets go back to restaurants. There, it gets even worse. Not only they don’t have fresh products but they use the cheapest and the lowest quality ones. I mean for example, they would use parmezan for chicken ceasar salad, but it would be the cheapest parmezan they can find. The other thing is using the cheapest oil for salads instead of good healthy ones, like olive oil, they also use cheap equivalents of butter. Do you know what I mean?

The other thing is cheating  on ingreadiends that they put in a meal. For example they would put a name of salad – ‘Salmon salad’ and then there would be hardly any salmon in it. Me myself I witnessed the situation when our boss, she came to the restaurant before a lunch time and saw salmon salad made by the cheff early that morning (there was a lot of salmon in it). She ordered to take it downstairs to the kitchen and then with no special kitchen clothing, shoes or eaven gloves(!) she started to take the salmon out off the salad and putting it away for the next day to use. When I saw her in the kitchen, all her hands full of golden rings, covered with salmon, mayonaise and pieces of salad, it made me sick. She did the same thing with the chicken salad later.

The same restaurant also did not have concession for cooking meat and hot food. So they had all the dishes delivered frozen and then they just heated it in an oven or pan before serving.  Actually it is not so bad, when you realise, that in most of the other places they use microwaves for heating up most of their food. In a very famous chain of steak restaurants in London, where a lot of my friends use to work, they didnt even have a proper kitchen. Everything came frozen and it was just heated up before serving to customer.  In most of the restaurants it is a regular practic to buy frozen, already prepared food and then just heat it up. The only thing which is really prepared fresh is probably a salad. All the cakes, desserts , potatoes, fries, meats like steaks, chicken, grilled meats, minced meats, casseroles, lasanas come from frozen or they were prepared many days ago. ‘Freshly baked bread’ is also from frozen. Scrambled eggs would be made form prepared egg mass, delivered in big plastic 5l bottles.I could give you a long list here, but lets just say more or less everything you can imagine is prepared like that. The worst of all however, is fish and seafood, which never should really be frozen and defrosted because it looses its taste and simply starts smelling bad. But as it is, most of a times, just impossible to get fresh seafood in London, every restaurant uses frozen one.

Other thing is ‘healthy’ fast food restaurants that claim to be a healthy choice among the others. Their food except all the healthy ingredients also containts high amounts of sugars and fat usually hidden in sauces they add, bread, crutons, cheese they offer. Their healthy desserts are not healthy at all. They just make us fall for the ilussion of healthy.

The things that probably we can figure out ourselves is: serving food which exceeded its expiry date, food heated up many times (many times to many), charging too much for low quality of food, cheting on coffee quality (very hard to find 100% arabica).

At the end of all these prectics here comes the most important one- higiene.  I cannot even think about one restaurant which would respect all the higiene laws. Food is prepared in dirty containers, sometimes with dirty hands. Kitchen serving so many dishes a day can never be properly clean and most of the times workers do not really care.

Customers in London are often tourists who really don’t understand what they should get on their plate, but the original Londoners are not being smarter eather. They are usually too busy and too short of time to care about what they eat. They are rich enough to pay the bill which reagrding the quality of food, should be much smaller. They are addicted to junk food so much, that as long as what you serve them has their favourite sugar or fat taste, they don’t care. It is really dissapointing that so ‘high developed’ city is so low food conscious.