The memorable trip to Sydney!

This October I went to Australia to attend the launching event of a three-year-programme, Oxfam International Youth Partnership. It was a get-together of 300 youth from 100 countries to bring positive change in their communities.

I was among the five persons selected from Pakistan to attend this wonderful event and it was like getting a noble prize. And going to a place I have only read about in books and seen on TV was more then awesome.

As I was enthusiastically preparing for the trip I received an email informing me that I was also selected in the media team, I will be interviewed by the Australian media and would have to leave a week prior to the event.

The day of my departure arrived and I left Pakistan from Karachi airport. As the plane headed towards its destination I had pangs of anxiety. I diverted my thoughts to concentrate on the upcoming 20 days I was going to spend in Sydney; the thought of it gave me thrills of joy.

Landing on the beautiful land of Sydney was both exciting and envious, seeing the large buildings and the sparkling sea, was like watching TV. Suddenly the Syrian girl sitting near me shrieked, “Oh look! The Opera House!” I gazed down the window at the turtle like Opera House and knew that this trip is going to be wonderful.

Finally the plane landed, and to my dismay I found out that I had lost the number I had to call to pick me up. I thought I was lost, but fortunately a Pakistani family offered to drop me at the Glebe Youth Hostel, this is where the media team was accommodated.

Glebe YHA is something you would see in any high school English movie, everywhere I could see young people — sitting at the steps leaning on walls, shouting down in the kitchen, yeah! (They had a kitchen. People here in Sydney cook and do there own laundry, if they like it or not.) And, of course, hanging out at the game room, the TV room and for a nice BBQ on the roof top. It was like a big happy family in that big happy house.

I met the three media team action partners, who had arrived that day. And I was like, ‘Oh hello, how are you? How was the journey? You must be Daniel, Alexandra and Lesther.’ And the last thing I had to know was that they didn’t speak and understand English. Yes, for two days I was stuck with Spanish people from Latin America and Spain, we started with head shakes and hand waves, ending up with me learning about 10 words of Spanish.

The third day a whole crew arrived, that is Roman from Samoa, Emily from Kenya, Jirra from Melbourne, Samira from Azerbaijan, Nader from Lebanon, Harry and Patrick who called themselves, H and P from Solomon Islands and a few others.

That day after we made our greasy noodle type food and ate it with much effort, we headed out to explore Sydney and visited the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge, the Botanic Gardens, and a lot of other places, and at last managing to get lost.

As the bad thing about Australia is they don’t eat chapatti or roti and rely on fast food, the good thing is the people are so friendly, I was amazed when the first time the shop keeper said ‘hello, how are you?’ And I was like, ‘excuse me, are you talking to me?’ Even the bus drivers speak nicely to you, which is quite amazing for us. An old man, walking down the street, yelled in Urdu! Shukria! shukria! I knew that he has learned only a single word and is proud of that; we ought to be more proud as we know the whole language.

After about four days of visiting every single place in Sydney roaming around and getting blisters on our feet, we had the media training. They told me that I have five interviews; live programme, Sunday programme, on phone and two on radio national. I couldn’t help being exited and certainly couldn’t wait for the kaleidoscope to begin.

At last the kaleidoscope began and we all moved to King’s School on a bus. We were told that the school would be big, but, good heavens, the school was huge, with about 80 per cent of forest trees in it. Entering into the school grounds, one could see all the different worlds just in one place together laughing and talking. My eyes caught site of Indian action partners and I headed towards them smiling from ear to ear. We shook hands; we shrieked with joy we laughed breaking all barriers between India-Pakistan. I gazed at everyone, who were dressed up in their cultural dresses for the welcome ceremony, and each of them representing a broad cultural background, just then I knew these eight days were going to be fabulous.

And they were, we had homerooms, workshops, discussions, courses, conferences, and cultural exchange programmes. We had dance parties too, where all the action partners came up to be acknowledged as part time dancers, they were experts on dancing, except for Pakistanis and Indians. But we had great practice on “rang dey basanti” and we awed them by singing “kajrary”.

During the event when the action partners shared their areas of work it just seemed so amazing to know how the same issues affecting our country might have even destroyed others. Sometimes we are so engaged in solving our own problems we don’t know what’s happening in the neighbouring countries. I analysed this when other action partners spoke with rage of the impacts of WTO-IFI-CSR. They too suffered from these, just as Pakistan does. Somehow this was quite inspiring for me to know that we are not alone to fight these powerful rulers but we have the support of many countries.

All the difference in languages and cultures vanished when all of us found out that we had the same problems and same issues, all of us joined hands and promised for a better and just world.

The other issues raised were human rights, sustainable livelihood, and access to essential services. The fact is no matter what we might name it, everything links back to injustice, and that’s what the poor countries are suffering from today. At the end of the programme all of us were overloaded with inspiration, motivation and commitment. I prepared to go back home. And waving back at the Spanish friends I said, “gracias por toda! Chao chao!” And they all chanted, “In sari dinoo ka shukria, Khuda Hafiz!”