Shane in Pakistan

I will be traveling this year with a group of people from Eastern Mennonite Missions to Pakistan. Our aim is to offer ongoing help with the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake. We will be helping with the cleanup and rebuilding effort in a village called Bugna. For more information about Eastern Mennonite Missions, you can have a look at their website:

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I'm back

For those of you who know me, you will know that I have been back home for about a month. Finding a working internet connection in Pakistan was rather difficult, especially from Bugna, so I didn't get to write as often as I would have liked.

I'll continue writing about some of my experiences there as I get a chance to reflect and digest.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

High point so far.

Today, we went to the home of Makhdoum ( hope I'm spelling that right) who works at the Bugna field hospital. His daughter just had a child, and this dinner was in celebration. His home is near/in the village of Satnara. We took a car down an awfully bumpy road that is still under construction. I hope that next time we visit Satnara, we
just walk.

The meal was, as usual, excellent, and I have now fallen in love with riata (again, not sure on the spelling). Riata is a yogurt-based sauce with shallots and a bunch of spices. Absolutely wonderful over rice.

Anyway, the high point of my trip here so far came afterwards. Mr. Mujtaba, Ishfaq, David and I visited one of the houses that we had worked at last year. It's the house that only had the door standing. Everything else was piles of dirt and stone. Now, it's a concrete foundation waiting for government inspection.

When we arrived, two of the grandchildren ran up to us. Their names are Umar and Salma. Both of them remembered me, and also remembered that I was open to them using my camera to look at photos and try shooting some of their own. I have a few photos of them, and I'll post them when I can access the Internet from my own computer. I also took some photos of the current condition of their house.

Upon seeing the family and the progress on the house, I pretty much lost it. Honestly, I haven't cried so much in years. (I'm a bit teary-eyed thinking about it now)

The homeowner sat us down to tea, and we chatted for a while while the rest of the family looked at some of the photos in my camera. They made it a point to ask about Daryl, who was our trip leader last year. We explained that he is leading a YES (Youth Evangelism Services) team to Guinea-Bissau next week, and won't be available for several months.

After exchanging contact information and promising to try our best to return before I leave for home, we took our leave. I do hope that we meet again.


Unfortunately, both Dave and I got the classic case of travellers' diahrreah. After taking some Cipro, we're both feeling better and are hungry once again.

At one point in the beginning, I suffered from nausea. During one of my episodes, two of the staff heard me outside, and came out to make sure that I was OK, and gave me some water and hauled me back to bed. It was really late at night, and they were very nice to come out into the cold to help me. Good people here!


After a long flight, the four of us landed in Islamabad. Mr. Mujtaba and company was waiting for us outside, but we had to first get our baggage. This is when we noticed that two of our bags were missing! My toolbox was nowhere to be seen, and David's only extra set of clothes was missing. The toolbox was a bit inconvenient, but Dave is totally without a change of clothes. We filed a report with the airport, which was a good long process, and proceeded to our hotel.

We got to the hotel around 10:00 AM Pakistan time, and all of us took a good nap. Our driver, Haroon, took us to a restaruant in town, and we had a fine lunch. Prelude to lots of Pakistani cooking goodness.

The next day, we had a meeting with the CEO of the Human Development Foundation, Mr. Saleem. He thanked us for coming and welcomed us to Pakistan.

From there, we took of f for Bugna. We eventually arrived somewhere around 1:00 AM.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Travel plans update

I received some information about our travel plans yesterday. The current plan is for the four of us to meet at Harrisburg Discipleship Center (run by Eastern Mennonite Missions) for a day of training on Thursday morning.

We are scheduled to take off the following evening for Pakistan via London. I will be returning the evening of December 3rd.

Of course, this all hinges on whether or not our visas come through in time. Hopefully, Loren, the man who is taking care of trip organization while we're away, won't need to camp out at the Pakistani embassy in D.C. on Thursday night to get them.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

RSS Feed

I recently found out that this blog has a RSS feed (Thanks to Donna for telling me!) Here it is:

If you want to keep track of what is being posted to this blog, this is a great way to do it.

What is RSS? It stands for "Really Simple Syndication", and it's an easy way to keep people up to date on your website or weblog. All you have to do is one of the following:
  1. Install a news feed reader
  2. Use a web based news feed reader
  3. Set up your email client to download RSS feeds
Have a look at the Wikipedia page for more background on RSS.

My personal favorite way is to have Thunderbird (my email reading program aka. email client) download the RSS feeds from my subscribed sites along with the rest of my email. If you're an Outlook Express user, there is a plugin that you can install to have OE read RSS feeds. It's called RSS Popper

If read your webmail in Firefox (you are using Firefox to read web pages, aren't you?) there are several extensions that can help you with this. A very easy way to get feeds in Firefox is to use Live Bookmarks. Simply click on the orange icon on the right side of your address bar, and follow the instructions from there.

You can also download and install a stand-alone news feed reader. Do a web search for something like "RSS reader GPL" and you should have a zillion choices. (The GPL bit stands for GNU Public License. Basically, anything with this license is free to download and also free to modify. Since it's free to modify, GPL'd programs tend to not come with spyware, since any other geek out there can tell exactly what's going on and complain loudly.)

If you like, feel free to add a comment about your favorite method of dealing with RSS feeds, or keeping track of blogs in general.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Online Donations

EMM has a website where you may donate with a credit card online. The page is:
Simply put my name, Shane Knudsen in the "Designate my contribution to:" field in their form. You will get an amount confirmation page next, and you will then be taken to a secure website where you can enter your credit card information.

Thanks again for your support!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


On the Sunday that we went to Muzaffarabad, we also went to visit the rest of the EMM workers in what remained of the city of Balakot.

We got there just before sundown, but there was just enough light to see the scale of the devastation of Balakot. Apparently, the city sat right on a fault line, and took a lot of damage. Balakot is about the size of Lancaster, and about 3 houses are left. Really.

Last I heard, the government had decided to move the city rather than clear away all the rubble and build again.

We eventually found our friends camped out with the rest of the city residents on the farming terraces at the edge of the city. Each terrace is about wide enough to put up a good sized tent and still have enough room to walk by , but that's about it.

I mostly talked with Benji, the photographer who had been sent to Balakot. We showed each other our photos, and shot the breeze for a while. He took a few of us to one of the few remaining buildings where there was a shop. I bought a Pepsi (which I had to drink there and return the bottle) and some strawberry candies for the kids in Bugna. By the time we were done there, it was time to start the 2 1/2 hour trip back to Bugna.


Muzaffarabad is the capital city of Azad Kashmir. (Azad meaning "free", as in not under the control of India)

Dean and I had the opportunity to go with Mr. Mujtaba and Yasir (the hospital's ambulance driver) to Muzaffarabad on the first Friday that I was in Kashmir. Some of the guys that had been there ahead of us warned us about the trip into town riding in the ambulance. The ambulance has one fixed bench seat in the back that faces backwards, and any extra riders would have to sit in plastic lawn chairs. Apparently, Jay and Steve had to ride in these chairs on their last trip into town. Every time that they went around any sort of serious turn, (which is something like every 60 yards of road coming down the mountain!) one of their chair legs would buckle, and they'd almost take a spill. Fortunately, Dean and I got the bench seat.

Muzaffarabad is a decent sized city, a bit larger than my home town of Lancaster, PA. Like most Pakistani mountain cities, it is situated on steep hills, and dust is everywhere. The main landmark is the confluence of the Jehlem and Neelum rivers. Between the two swift and deep rivers and the mountains all around, it is a beautiful place.

Unfortunately, Muzaffarabad was only 20-30km from the epicenter of the earthquake. It got hit hard, although not all is lost. Most of the government buildings survived, but the university took a lot of damage, and several schools and market places were destroyed completely. You can't look anywhere in the city without seeing heavy damage. A good number of people are camped out in the ruins, and a large encampment has been set up on a sand bar next to the river. The river is fairly low in the winter, but you can see that the river rises about 15ft in the wet season. I'm not sure what they plan on doing with the thousands of people who are camped below the high water line when the rainy season comes.

We didn't have too much time in town, but I did get a chance to take some photos. Mr. Mujtaba needed to stop at the barber shop and get a trim and a shave, so Dean and I tagged along. Dean decided to get a shave while we were there. I, obviously not needing a shave, started taking some photos. The trick was to ask one man who looked fairly curious if I could take his photo.(ok, ask isn't quite right; I don't speak Urdu. I gestured with the camera.) Then, I'd show his photo around, get the rest curious too, and snap a bunch more. By the time Mr. Mujtaba was done, I had photographed just about everyone who came in and out of the shop.

We stopped on the way out, got a few supplies, and then headed back to Bugna. I noticed that Yasir had the ambulance emergency lights flashing as we drove home.

The whole group of us got to spend the next Sunday in Muzaffarabad. We divided up into smaller groups, and spent most of our time in a shopping district down near the Jehlem. We walked down to a hotel a bit further south along the water front, and had a delicious lunch. The hotel was still in operation, but had a ton of damage done to it. For example, the mens' room had a regular door that you would expect to see, or, if you were feeling lazy, you could walk through the nice, big hole in the wall. A crew of about 6 men was at work rebuilding the lobby when we walked in. One wing of the downstairs hall was completely blocked with rubble. We ate on the balcony overlooking the swimming pool and the Jehlem.

Shezad, our driver, was held up with something at Bugna, but he showed up in time to take us to Balakot to visit the rest of the men that EMM had sent to Pakistan.

Going back again.

Barring any unexpected difficulties, it looks as if I'm going to get to go back to Pakistan this year.

The current plan is to send several people back to Bugna some time in October. Men who are going will be working on more sanitary facilities, and helping some of the local families with the rebuilding effort. Women who go will be doing medical work. It seems that there is a shortage of female medical staff in Pakistan.

If you would like to help me raise funds for my return trip to Bugna, Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster will be handling most of my donations. Checks should be made out to CMCL and Shane Pakistan should be noted in the memo. CMCL's address:

328 W Orange St.
Lancaster, PA 17603

I'll be looking into electronic donations this week, and I hope to post the information soon.

Thanks to everyone who has offered support!

My second week in Kashmir December 2005

Our second week in Bugna was mostly taken up with working on clearing rubble from nearby houses.

Daryl and Jon had made it clear to Mr. Mujtaba (the HDF director in Bugna) that we would be eager to help some of the neighbors clear out the remains of their houses. Mr. Mujtaba eventually settled on two different houses for us to work on. I'd say that easily 3/4 of the houses in the area were totally flattened by the earthquake. The rest took damage of varying amounts. There was a school nearby that seemed to be undamaged. I think it's the only building to take no damage.

The first house that we worked on was in Satnarra, a neighboring village that took us a good half hour or so to hike to. I'm not too sure how we ended up at this house. There were plenty of totally destroyed houses in between Satnarra and the hospital. My guess is that Mr. Mujtaba and Dr. Sajid put their heads together and decided on a few families that would be most open to westerners coming in and working. Another mitigating factor may be that the two places that we worked on were too isolated to have some of the emergency shelters put up at their houses. The trail to Satnarra was so rugged that we couldn't even get a wheelbarrow over there.

The only thing that had stayed put at this house during the earthquake was the wooden door and door jamb. Everything else had collapsed into a pile of rocks, beams, and dirt. We decided to set the goal of clearing out the two westernmost rooms of the house. It took 8 of us, the homeowner, one of his sons, and a few neighboring kids 4 full days to clear them out. The roof of the house was made of a combination of large beams, brush, and mud. So clearing out a room involved getting rid of the biggest rocks first, loosening a beam (each beam took 6 men to move) digging out some dirt, moving more rocks, digging dirt and so on. Since the trail was so rugged, we ended up only bringing a few shovels and used some old rice bags to haul the dirt away. Eventually, the bottoms broke out of the rice bags, so we had to lay them out flat, put a bit of dirt on them, and wrap it up as best we could to haul the dirt.

Later on in the week, we worked at a different house that was a bit closer to Bugna. There were two houses on the property, one of which was totally flattened, and the other was heavily damaged. We worked there for two days and cleared out most of the flattened house.

The last goal of the week was to get the concrete pad poured for the latrine at the hospital. After several delays, we got to it. (sand wasn't delivered on time the one day, and all the water was gone the other day) After a hard day, we got it done. Rather, we got it 2/3 the way done. The plumbing for the Asian style squat toilet never showed up. Par for the course.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

My first week in Kashmir. December 2005

I traveled to Pakistan last year with a group of men from Eastern Mennonite Missions who were sent in response to the October 8, 2005 earthquake. Our aim last year was to be emissaries of peace, provide what help we could, and to offer any comfort that we could to the people affected by the earthquake.

40 men went to Pakistan; 16 of us were sent to a village called Bugna, which is in the Hindu-Kush mountains. In Bugna, we met up with an organization called the Human Development FoundationLink
We started working on the field hospital that HDF had set up there. Starting out with building "rooms" in the Hospital tent itself. We also built a set of stairs from the parking lot to the hospital tent, and a latrine.


Hello everyone,

I'm setting up this blog with the aim of keeping in contact with everyone at home who would like to have information about what I'm doing in Pakistan.