BY RAJA MUSHTAQ AHMAD
I work as a faculty member at Karakoram International University (KIU). Currently, for one semester I am in Eugene, Oregon, United States, participating in a faculty exchange program between University of Oregon (UO), USA and KIU, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, for my professional development. It is a great experience for me to be here to observe the teaching strategies of the UO and exchange my knowledge and discuss Pakistan, and specifically Gilgit-Baltistan, with faculty and students at the UO.
US universities are undoubtedly more advanced than those in our country in respect of facilities and other resources.
It has been eight weeks since I landed here and that’s a quite reasonable time to have a quick comparison between where I come from (Gilgit) and where I currently live in (Eugene).
Similarities – dissimilarities
There is a wonderful abundance of outdoor activity here. The Pacific Ocean (beach) is only one hour away and the mountains are small. There are a lot of hiking, trekking, bird watching and angling areas.
This is the same as in Gilgit; you find everything there, too, except the beach. It's illegal for a vendor to hand you plastic bags when you buy something. That means the people are environment friendly and care about sustainable development. But what we notice back in Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, plastic bags are everywhere and often cause to chock sewerage lines leading to wastage of huge money every year on the repair.
The landscape is beautiful. I love living in Spencer View Apartments. The small mountains surrounding Eugene are full of wild juniper trees, but we lack such scenery in our mountainous Gilgit-Baltistan.
The people of Eugene celebrate events such as Halloween in a very organized way. We also celebrate and observe our holidays in Pakistan but not in an organized way.
The Saturday Market is huge and there is so much to choose from. Farmers from everywhere come to sell their food, and people from as far as Ashland and eastern Oregon come to sell their products and crafts. There are very artistic and creative people there indeed!
The majority of the population is friendly and helpful, which is the same as in our Gilgit-Baltistan.
The homeless are everywhere and all over the city. They normally are dirty and no one cares what they look like. They don't take care of themselves.
They make the city look even trashier. There are rescue missions, but I think most of the homeless choose to be on the streets and just beg for money for using drugs. Most of them can be seen at the Eugene bus station. There are a lot of tent cities in Eugene on the banks of the river and in forest areas. As I see them in such circumstances, I take pride in our way of living, we won’t find a single case of homelessness in Gilgit-Baltistan.
There are lots of drugs. Even Marijuana is legal in Eugene. On July 1, 2015, recreational marijuana became legal in the state of Oregon. Thanks God we don’t have such kind of environment in Gilgit-Baltistan.
There is lots of crime for a city of this size, which most of the hippies may deny because they are not aware of their surroundings as they don't watch the news. They like to live in fairy-tale land where everything is perfect.
The rainfall is constant and regular. If you like to get out and hike, you won't do it the whole winter unless you are ready to getting soaked.
Some people are rude or not polite in any way. May be the irritant is constant rain, but they are pretty rude.
The author is currently in Oregon, United States, participating in a faculty exchange program.