Balakot Internet Café and My “Crib”

Welcome to my Balakot “Crib” (A small crude cottage or room. Slang: One’s home.). It is about time to give you a tour of the place that I have been staying at for the past few days.

Sorry it will be a quick one but as the saying goes: “a picture is work a thousand words”.

Once we turn off the main highway, we go down a into a ravine and then back up to enter our camp. The camp houses several NGOs including the Red Crecent (AKA Red Cross) and the UN World Health Organization (W.H.O.) . There is also a small tent village at one end and then a large military camp at the other (right over our back fence).

Driveway to our tent
Driveway up to our tent. The dish can be just seen in center above cloth fence.
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Great Technology

These are the times when technology is great. As many of you know, a large portion of my work here in Pakistan providing internet and phone services to relief workers. In Balakot, I spend a large part of my time in tents. During the day I am in the internet café tent. Once we close in the evening I crawl into a sleeping bag in a little tent within a larger tent (keeps us warmer). Though the living conditions are a little primitive, I can still lay in bed and chat with my family and listen to streaming audio.

Well, our local radio station, WFRN, also streams audio so I often listen once the café closes at 9:45 pm in the evening (this is 11:45 am Eastern Standard Time). This is during the music request time at the station and so today my children requested a song for me. As the song was playing I emailed the station thanking them and asking for a song for my children.
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Christmas Surprise

When I arrived here in Balakot from Muzaffarabad a few days ago, I was told that the Pakistani army was throwing a Christmas party for the relief workers in the area. This came as a pleasant surprise since I was not only going to miss Christmas at home with family but also Christmas in the UN camp in Muzaffarabad which was going to be quite the dinner. This was also quite surprising because Muslims do not celebrate Christmas.

Last night was the big party and I was asked to read the Christmas story which was followed by a prayer. What fun.

We presented a gift of sweets to the army camp and nice gloves to the commanding officers. There was a Christmas tree, cake and dinner.
Officers and I by tree
The Colonel, me, and one of the Majors in front of the Christmas tree.

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Abrar-ul-Haq and Friends

Wow, guess who I got to meet up close and personal! Abrar-ul-Haq! Can you believe it! Are you telling me you do not know who he is? You’ve got to be kidding! He is “the most famous Pakistani singer in the world” (so I am told). Only yesterday did I find out who he was.

Though this blog is not intended to focus on him, he helped in getting the pictures so I will give a little background while my friends in Kitchener are laughing (long story there). Abrar-ul-Haq is a Pakistani bhangra singer. The bhangra music is from the Punjab area in the northwest part of the Indian subcontinent and refers to not only the lively dance but also the musical accompaniment to the dance. Abrar-ul-Haq is also the chairman and founder of the Sahara for Life Trust which had developed a tent village here in Balakot. That is most likely why he was visiting and spent some time with the children and military.

Click Here to listen to some of his music (Hint: Once on the music page, click on the song titles for music)

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Changed Locations

Yesterday evening I changed locations moved about 20 miles (~30 km) North Northwest of Muzaffarabad to the city of Balakot (see Closer to the Epicenter – I have found this title to be a misnomer, though the distruction is much more).
Map between Muzaffarabad and Balakot
Click Here for a low res map of the effected area (1.7 MB).
Click Here for very high res map of effected area (8.1 MB).

Though the earthquake itself was located in the valley north, north east of Muzaffarabad (yellow astrik but varies by about 5 miles with in that valley depending on whose map), Balakot was one of the hardest hit cities.

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