Monday, July 21, 2014

The top floor apartment

Moving to another country, even if it is for a short period of time, is often a journey in itself, but try doing this in Pakistan. Surprise visits from the police looking for illegal Chinese immigrants and waking up to a strange man in the living room is never a comforting feeling.

Bodies are draped over the couches, lying helplessly and motionless under the fans. The fans swing from side offering each body momentary relief from the hot sticky 38C air that surrounds them. The whites and creams of the apartment are interrupted with colourful fabrics thrown across every bit of furniture trying to air them out as there is no water for laundry.

A lizard has claimed the kitchen of the apartment and has successfully set up his living space in the corner cupboard. His mere presence is enough to scare the tenants of the apartment from the room.

The small fridge bursts with half opened foods from each house mate, tempting those fasting for Ramadan and abandoned by those with upset stomachs. On the fridge is a piece of paper with the sacred ‘shower schedule’ scribbled onto it.

The apartment has a water shortage problem. This meant that the first weeks of housing 7 students in the hot apartment ended in frustrating half showers and full toilets as there was no longer water to flush. Water had to be rationed, including showers. Each week each person in the apartment is allowed two, two minute showers. Forget about washing your clothes, water is too precious. This makes it a little uncomfortable especially when there are regular power cuts meaning that the fans we so relied upon stop working.

It is a humble life in the apartment, but nothing compared to those living outside. I can’t help feeling guilty as I complain about the lack of AC or about not having enough water for showers or washing when thousands of people right outside my doorstep are homeless. Karachi is the largest city of Pakistan, one of the largest in the world and attracts people searching for jobs and opportunities, where not all are successful. A high heel steps over a homeless man’s leg as he sleeps on the side walk and paints a perfect picture of the unequal distribution of wealth that Karachi faces.

It never makes you feel comfortable, however, when two men with perfect English arrived at the apartment early one morning, claiming they were police.

“Do you have illegal Chinese immigrants in your apartment?”

They had a picture of a Chinese lady and a letter of invitation from her visa application, written in Chinese, that they had claimed was fake. We had two Chinese girls in the apartment, but none resembled the photo and none were illegal.

The police left without a fuss and left us wondering what had actually happened. According to locals, the men did not provide documentation so they were probably not police at all and instead were business men checking to see if we were running an international brothel upstairs.

But still the fact remains, as a foreigner you attract all types of attention.

The apartment blues add excitement to our lives. It is just another odd chapter in what it is like to stay in Karachi.


  1. Hang in there, bro. You're gonna go home a new person.

  2. lol :P an experience of epic proportions :P but a word of advice... do ask for random people's ID before letting them in :)

  3. What's your general opinion of Pakistani people?