Meet “Teresa Lister”, An American Mom With A Pakistani Heart.

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Jovago Pakistan recently interviewed Teresa Lister, an American mom who hosted a Pakistani son, Sulman who went to U.S on Fulbright scholarship. And the event led her to fall in love with Pakistan.

Read her story and experiences of Pakistan.

Our first question is who is Teresa Lister? Tell us a little detail about yourself.

Who am I? It would seem an easy question. Some of my international students call me the American mom with a Pakistani heart. I love that title. I am a simple woman who always wanted a large family. I just didn’t know God would answer that prayer so late in my life! My husband and I have been married 43 years and have 3 children and seven grandchildren, along with our growing number of international family.

What was the primary reason to visit Pakistan?

Six years ago I volunteered to become the host family for a young man who was coming to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship. He was assigned to Columbus State Community College where I have worked for many years.

Americans in Pakistan

My knowledge of Pakistan and even my life began to change from that very first day I picked Sulman up at the airport. Sulman, along with his roommate, shared with me about their lives in Pakistan, their families, as well as the culture and traditions of their homeland.

In the days that followed Sulman, his roommate Samad, and two Egyptian students became a part of my family. I took them on adventures all over the United States so they could see and experience everything possible. We visited places like New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., St. Louis, and Disneyworld. We also went to many smaller rural areas in West Virginia and our Amish community here in Ohio.

When it came time for the students to return to their home countries they invited me to come and see the real life and culture of their countries. I could not imagine never seeing the students again as they had become a part of my family so I decided I would make the journey to see their life with my own eyes.

What was your perception about Pakistan before your trip?

Because of Sulman I knew Pakistan was not like the images the media is prone to show but I could not really picture the reality until I saw it with my own eyes. Even though the Pakistani students had explained much about the culture it was a totally different thing to experience it firsthand.

My first trip from the airport to Hyderabad was unforgettable, I became completely enthralled with artwork on the Pakistani trucks.

Americans in Pakistan

How will you describe your trip to Pakistan in three words?

Colorful, unique, tantalizing

What differences do you feel while hosting Pakistani student at your home than others?

Sulman was the first of several Pakistani students who have become a part of my life after they came as students America. Sindhu, Shariq and Sajeel came the year after Sulman and then Paras, each of them have left a place in my heart. The most wonderful part of it all are the relationships that have been built. Because of these students my children and grandchildren have a heart for Pakistan. It makes the world a better place when you get to know people as individuals.

How many Pakistani cities you have visited so far?

I have had the pleasure of visiting Lahore to meet with one of the students’ families and also to Islamabad. I was surprised honestly as I did not imagine Pakistan to have malls and such an organized city as in Islamabad. Until I saw with my own eyes I had imagined Pakistan to be all villages.

Foreigners in Pakistan

What 3 places you love the most in the cities you visited in Pakistan?

My number one place I love the most is always the homes of those I visit. Their families have treated me with great care and hospitality unmatched anywhere in the world. When I go to them it is like going to my second home. I confess that Sindh has my heart and exploring the history and culture of Sindh intrigues me. I have seen photos of many beautiful places in Pakistan but to me, Sindh has a uniqueness that tugs at my soul.

One night I sat out in the desert with Saif Samejo and listened to the beautiful sufi music. It is something I will never forget. Music is like a connection to the soul that goes beyond nationalities. The Sketches band brings that alive for me and sharing their love of humanity is something I treasure.

My other favorite places to visit are the schools. Mr. Shamshad Ali has been kind enough to take me to St. Bonaventure’s several times as well to several village schools.

What 3 places you will recommend to every American to visit in Pakistan?

Thatta – Makli Hills– the history of Makli. It is an amazing place to see the architecture and learn the history of this area. And of course a trip there MUST include the Shah Jahan Mosque. It is so beautiful and of course, everyone is challenged to count how many arches it actually has. It was the first mosque I had ever visited in my life and its beauty remains.

Foreigners in Pakistan

Bhit Shah – To see this beautiful place and listen to the sufi poetry. It is also there at Bhit Shah to see the process of making adjrak. I enjoyed the entire experience so very much.

Islamabad and visit Daman – E – Koh at Margallah Hills Park. I remember being so surprised at the wild monkeys! It is a beautiful place and I remember wishing I could show American’s this side of Pakistan. The park was full of families just out enjoying the day, having picnics and seeing nature’s beauty. We have more in common that most people would imagine.

If you get a chance to visit Pakistan again, which 3 destinations you would like to explore?

I would like to visit the Pakistani – India border to see the closing of the gate. It is famous and I missed having the opportunity to go there.

Second I have wanted to see Mohenjo-daro

There is an adjrak maker and shopping area I would like to visit.

In Pakistan, you have been promoting organizations like SOS children village. How did all this started?

Children are the future of our world and the work the SOS Children’s villages make such a difference in these children’s lives. I became acquainted with the village in Jamshoro because of my heart daughter, Sindhu, and her sister Benazir. I believe we are all responsible to care for orphans and children in need. The village is well organized and the children are educated and the tools they need to build a successful life. The people who work at the village not only provide a home for these children but a family.

Jovago Pakistan

What were some of the problems you faced in Pakistan as a foreigner?

The biggest problems for me personally have to do with physical limitations for the elderly and handicapped people in Pakistan. In the United States we have many building codes that help elderly, disabled and handicapped people. One example are handrails for walking up and down steps. Other challenges for me is wishing so very much I could understand the language.

What will be your answer if anyone asks you, “Why Should I visit Pakistan?”

I think it is important for all of us to visit other countries and learn so that we can better understand one another. Our misconceptions leave us blinded and the world would be such a better place if we had an understanding of one another. Pakistan offers a uniqueness to the world, a place where hospitality and family are as important as any natural resource.

Out of the different types of cuisines, you had in Pakistan, which one was your favorite?

Pakistan is a little spicy for me sometimes but I am very fortunate that those families who know me make some on the mild side for my tastes. My favorite is tandoori chicken and nan.

Jovago Pakistan

Share one of your most memorable moment or incident in/about Pakistan.

The most memorable event absolutely has to be attending the wedding of my heart son, Sulman. I have never experienced anything quite like a Pakistani wedding. It was beautiful, and amazing. The dancing and enjoyment of this celebration is one I have never seen or experienced before and one I will personally never forget.

Any ending note for readers?

I always encourage people to build bridges, we cannot always change the whole world but we can change our own corners by opening our eyes and our hearts to one another.

Jovago Pakistan

With this ending note, Jovago finished the interview.

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