For Eva Zu Beck, ‘astonishing’ Pakistan is the constant element of surprise

For Eva Zu Beck, ‘astonishing’ Pakistan is the constant element of surprise

December 19, 2018

“If there is one word that describes Pakistan in its truest essence it’s ‘astonishing’,” chirps Polish blogger Eva Zu Beck. 

As I sit across from her under the evening blue sky, I wonder what it is about Eva that makes her any different from us. Nothing, yes! Donning a simple white kurta paired with muted golden kohlapuris, I can’t help but marvel at how she has embodied our culture so perfectly. As I continue to be in awe of her, I feel an eerie connect with the quintessential storyteller that she is.

A travel blogger by profession having roots in Poland, growing up in the midst of an uber-modern household in London, Eva’s journey has been tremendously astounding in life. However, her stay in Pakistan has been the most amazing so far.

Fostering a passion to discover, explore and document the unseen parts of this side of the world, Eva embarked on a distinct journey in Pakistan some six months back that has taken her from the mighty, misty mountains up-north to the serene shores of Gwadar in the south. Her aim lies in projecting a soft image of Pakistan, contrary to the one that already persists, and elucidating with her adventures the country’s undying magnificence.

“I visited Pakistan in April this year when I was invited by a friend of mine that I knew from school. She is a foreigner living here working for an NGO. Upon her invitation I decided to google Pakistan and not that many positive things came up, but I decided to check out all the beautiful places here and I did,” Eva shares in an exclusive conversation with The News.

Speaking on the sidelines of the launch of her upcoming venture titled ‘Eva Travels Pakistan’, she goes on to explain about how she thinks Pakistan has a similar connection with her homeland Poland.

“It’s actually quite surprising just how many Polish stories I have heard in Pakistan and I think one thing that not many people know about, that always makes me smile, is the story of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and the Polish pilots who came here and were partly involved in the training of the Pakistani pilots when the PAF was first set up. There’s even a graveyard in Karachi with Polish graves in it dedicated to them. There’s a Polish café in Islamabad which serves proper Polish donuts. At the same time, Pakistan of course is very different as well. We are in a completely different region of the world. The cuisines are different, the flavours. An interesting aspect that I would also like to mention is the value of family and community people have here. Meanwhile in Europe, there is a lot of individualism. I like how people of Pakistan are so very close to each other,” she shares.

Eva’s growing popularity is a testament to the fact that she has won over a million hearts. But how has she been received by the people here is a question that has always intrigued me.

“It is that family sentiment that makes people over here so welcoming. I don’t know if it’s because not many visitors from abroad come here or whether it’s just in the nature, but I felt warmly welcomed a 100% of the time. I have never been in any situation where I felt like I wasn’t welcomed including people encouraging me to call them my mother or grandmother, which I think is amazing,” she adds.

Terming Karachi as her favourite part of the country, Eva says, “I really have to say for the food, vibrancy and people, Karachi is my favourite part of the country. I love the energy of the city, the size of it, the fact that you find all of Pakistan here. In terms of nature, I think the place that has really stuck with me is Swat. They call it the ‘Switzerland of Asia’, but maybe Switzerland should be called ‘Swat of Europe’, it’s so beautiful!”

In response to a question about her first big project, Eva enlightens, “So ‘Eva travels Pakistan’ is my most ambitious project to date. I have written all the requisites and picked all the locations and I feel like this project is my baby, through which I will be exploring various parts of Karachi, Sindh and Balochistan over eight episodes. I am so excited to make it happen, of course there is a lot of pressure, but it is interesting to see a foreigner’s take on let’s say Balochistan. I can’t wait to have all the episodes online and have the collective reaction which I am sure would be wonderful.”

It is no secret that Eva’s blog has an international audience which she reaches to document the lesser highlighted areas.

“Also to show off just how much culture and beauty there is because there are a lot of amazing human stories and I want to help convey them,” she quips.

Inarguably, taking the mantle of a travel blogger with a digital platform that is accessible by anyone is bound to have perils. So how does Eva manage to stay focused to her mission despite all the negativity she is subjected to on the internet?

“I have over half a million fans across social media channels and I got a lot of amazing love and support but also negative trolling and hate. Everybody is entitled to their opinion and view of course and that is fine. I am very confident about my mission and that mission is to show to the world the side of Pakistan that has not been seen before. Some of the hatred can get personal and it gets you down a little bit, but at the end of the day what I think about is the bigger picture which is I feel a good thing that a lot of people seem to love,” Eva goes ahead to shed light on dealing with online hate.

When asked about the one thing that she likes and dislikes about Pakistan, a joyful Eva answers, “I dislike the driving (chuckle). I have experienced new levels of road rage but I hope I have become a more careful and vigilant driver. And what I love? I think my favourite thing about Pakistan is the constant element of surprise which is why one word according to me that describes Pakistan aptly is ‘astonishing’.”

She adds, “Surprise in all the diversity in languages, the diversity in people and the communities. You go from one region to the next, they are like different countries, and they are so different! The landscape changes drastically, so I love how with every 200 kilometres you’re in a different place and that is what keeps me so fascinated with Pakistan.”

“Out of 10, how would you rate Pakistan among all the countries you have been to?” I save the best one for last.

“For me, Pakistan is 15! I am so overwhelmed by everything I have seen here so far, courtesy people who have guided me and in that sense it has definitely been the most hospitable and sharing country I have been to,” Eva states.

“And that one fond memory of Pakistan which is going to stay with you forever? I ask.

“Something that I didn’t expect to experience ever, even after coming to Pakistan and spending months here, was when recently I went to the tribal areas and I got to see a Jirga. It was absolutely fascinating. It sure seemed very intense with all the serious proceedings and the tribal elders with all these massive guns. I was the only woman there, the only foreigner and I felt intimidated at a point. But by the end of the proceedings, all of the elders started requesting for a selfie with me which is another shining example of love and welcome that I have been blessed with on my visit to Pakistan.”