Passage to Pakistan
If it is a blog that you want then it’s a blog you will get. My blog for India was a resounding success for several reasons namely a) I didn’t have to bother writing and or emailing people individually and more importantly b) Jenna Jane’s memory sucks (I uhh did it for you honey!).
Anyway on with the proceedings. I touched down in Islamabad at approximately 6am last Friday. My entire journey was a pretty smooth ride, and I had been expecting at least a few things to go horribly wrong. There is so much potential for things to go amiss on trains/at the airport/on the plane. Fortunately they didn’t find any contraband items in my luggage (contact lens solution is a common offender) and I had a good few hours to kill in duty free browsing shops that sell items I might be able to afford after saving for say, 100 years. Anyway, I did what any pikey would do spraying myself liberally with cologne testers and searching out free stuff. I found Pimms and lemonade – how very English darling.
The plane ride was great mainly because I was unconscious for most of it. I had a very attentive and rather attractive flight attendant who brought me snacks every so often. Then I had some red wine with dinner which sent me off into a deep slumber… The plane was mostly empty so I could stretch out and lie down. Next thing I know, I have half an hour flight time left…and I still hadn’t cracked open my plane letters. Many thanks to everyone who gave me a slice of entertainment – Jimmy for his kind encouraging words, Jen for reminiscences of India (and advice on loose motions), Ruth for her Christian corner, Sascha for his ever philosophical musings, Aaron for his hilarious games and cartoons, Rhea for the random copy and paste from Google affair (I know you had exams dear) Danny for his ‘Learn Urdu in ten easy phrases’ and contingency plans for every possible eventuality and Thomas for his adorable baby pics and ‘La femme d’ete’ quiz.
Danny collected me in his Suzuki Mehran which is infamously known as the Red Rocket in Islamabad . Google it and you’ll see the irony. I have a nice little bedroom of my own with an en-suite bathroom and AC. Danny has a mini fridge which houses Corona and butter. Needless to say we eat out and the kitchen is something of a no man’s land (he has a just-in-time cleaning system which takes the ‘as and when you need it’ approach to washing up). I went home and slept whilst Danny went into work for his last day.
In the afternoon we got me a Pakistani SIM card – email me and I’ll let you know my number and you can text me sweet nothings. That evening, we went to a party at the Norwegian embassy. I didn’t think a pool party was what I’d be doing on my first day in Pakistan . We stayed right until the end (let’s face it you have to when your host is also the DJ) and it was still really hot and I didn’t have to be asked twice to go swimming. Most people didn’t have their swimwear including me so I just went in in my jeans and T-shirt like the rest of them. It was sweet relief from the heat of the day… On Saturday, we slept in because by now I had a bit of jet-lag and post party fatigue to deal with. In the afternoon, we continued the swimming theme at the Canadian club and I learnt a bit of French (‘Pas de jonglage autour de la piscine’ – No horsing around!) too which will come in handy when I visit Paris later this summer.
In the evening we went to dinner with Danny’s parents who happened to be in town for the day, and then to an ice cream café. It’s run by a guy who directed Pakistani’s first horror flick, and it’s there I picked up one of my first words in Urdu – Zibakhana – slaughterhouse. So I’m going to try and drop that into conversation as much as possible. After that we headed over to a friend of Danny’s house/mansion and sipped Margaritas on the roof whilst I personally provided dessert for approximately 8-12 mosquitoes per square inch.
On Sunday, we went to a church in the diplomatic enclave. Apart from the fact that you have to go through a metal detector and get frisked on the way in, it was reassuringly like most churches round the world (Worship band, post communion tea and coffee etc). We watched Wedding Crashers in the afternoon (great for those like me who have the sense of humour of a 13 year old boy), and in the evening we went to play volleyball (I read GQ from the spectator area) at another friend’s house (Peter and Pam who have worked in development for years and lived in every continent going).
On Monday we napped again til around afternoon (we are both free agents, it’s so liberating) and then started feeling pangs of laziness, and went shopping to find me some Punjabi suits. I got some money changed up (after getting used to Danny paying for everything thus far). We came back with a bag of peaches and cold coffee and ice cream (fast becoming a favourite) in our bellies. In the evening we had a romantic dinner by candlelight (courtesy of the Pakistani national grid) with Tom and Jo (also in development).
On Tuesday, I had a more successful shopping trip with Pam and Thirza buying fabrics to be made into salwar kameez (the first one came back and fits like a glove). Again the power went so we were running back and forth looking at colour choices and designs. In the evening we went up to a restaurant with Elliot, Thirza and two British students from Edinburgh called James and Ben in Daman-e-Koh in the Margalla hills which border the northern part of the city. The view over Islamabad was beautiful.
Early the next morning (as in 5am – yes people, be impressed) we returned to go for a walk in the hills with Ben and James before it got crazy hot, and I realized just how unfit I am. The view from the top looks even better by day, and is quite a nice reward for your hard efforts. We then further rewarded ourselves by going home and taking a nap on the floor for oh, about 5 hours. For dinner, we went to a place called Mr Chips (which confusingly sells delicious Pakistani food) with Colin and Elliot (two of Danny’s friends from school).
Afterward we were just getting ready to settle down and watch a movie when Thirza calls and invites us over. Next thing we know we are in the car heading over to the house of the Minister of Culture for Pakistan . I can’t even remember what this dude’s name is. All I know is that it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. This man was quite fond of talking, mainly about himself and his opinions on pretty much everything. He was like the caterpillar out of Alice in Wonderland. Someone would ask him a question and he would take a long drawl on the hookah and then pause for what felt like an eternity, then say “Hmmmm” and then if you were lucky get an answer. He was previously Minister of Tourism.
This is what I learnt: (On China ) “They love me” (On Pakistan ) “ Pakistan is s***!” (On the Czech Republic ) “If you want beautiful women go to Czechoslovakia . Almost none of them are ugly.” Anyway, I kind of feel like Wednesday night didn’t actually happen. Like I was dreaming and then I saw a white rabbit and decided to chase it and then I fell down an hole and sustained serious brain damage and started hallucinating and met a caterpillar with a penchant for shisha and recreational drugs…or something… Well we finally got back at about 2am so of course we slept in again (Loz, I am definitely part of the pro napping mafia now!!)
The plan was to get up and go to Khanpur lake and dam at around 10am, but following our strange night, we consulted one another and pushed it back to 12pm. We finally left the house at 2pm, picked up Ben and James and headed over. It’s about a 1 1/2hr ride away so we got there just before 4pm. The drive goes through Taxila which is famous for its stonework apparently and also Disco cheetahs (Mirrored disco balls but in the shape of a cheetah – so not really a ball at all really!). Anyway I must get me one of those. When we arrived the guys stripped off whilst I found a secret spot and changed into a dirty Punjabi suit donated by Thirza which I can wear when things get messy! Haha. The temperature was just right, and we just swam and chilled for a while. When I got out my pink suit was rather transparent. Luckily I had a vest on too, but I still felt like an actress from a Bollywood movie dancing in the rain. Just a bit less glamourous.
On the way back, we heard suspiciously ‘broken car’ sounding noises emanating from the back of the car…on closer inspection the exhaust pipe thingy (I’m sure that’s the technical term!) had fallen off… One of the boys donated the string from his kurta pyjama pants and they secured it whilst I sat back and took photos of the whole charade. We managed fine across the bumpy gravel roads but then the car started slowing and Danny realized the accelerator connection had died so the car sort of didn’t work. About 6 pakistani guys came over and pointed and repointed out the problem. In the event Danny called his mechanic (an amazing guy who picks your car up from anywhere, fixes it up and returns it to your residence in about 2 days) and we took a taxi back.
It made us almost an hour late for a birthday dinner but we arrived just as orders were being taken so it wasn’t all bad (for us!) That was last night. Since today was even hotter than yesterday and I don’t have a lake as respite, I have taken refuge at this Internet café. Danny is at work – although technically finished he is finishing off a proposal so he went in today. I told him to just cut off emotionally but I know it isn’t that easy…I spent the weekend after my official end date at Y Care finishing off my case studies (my baby) so I sympathise.
I hope some of you guys are reading and commenting. I am having a lovely time in the 42 C heat, and it is nice to be with a tourguide whose mental age also festers at around 12. Danny’s favourite phrases are “You heard me” (when I have failed to understand his Southern American mumble), “You just got told” when I’ve apparently been put in my place by some supposedly humiliating insult or other form of defeat and “Hmm yeah” in the manner of the dude from Office Space (which he uses whenever I’m blatantly right which is quite frequently). I hope all is well whichever corner of the world you might be reading this from. Go and play “Here in your arms” by Hellogoodbye. It is becoming my soundtrack to the summer. Also, come back next week for more tales from the Pakistani hood…