Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm In.

This morning at 3am, Dean, Brad and I arrived in Islamabad. Although it’s considerably warmer than Minnesota right now (about 50 degrees), it’s also damp, rainy and chilly. Glad I packed my long johns! Am looking forward to moving southward, to Lahore and Karachi later on next week.

Having slept until noon, I woke up to find Dean and our Pakistan Country Manager, Rashid, on their way out the door for a walk. We were scheduled to drive to Murree today, about 1 ½ hours away, to see the British hill stations. It was a chance to see some of Pakistan before starting work tomorrow. I got them to wait five minutes, and soon Brad and the other consultant, Greg, joined us as well. Unfortunately, the late start, pouring down rain/hail and general inclemency had us abandoning that trip before even the first stop.

Instead, Rashid and the drivers took us to two scenic overlooks of the city, which, by the time we got there, had cleared up enough for a nice view. We had chai at a beautiful restaurant set high in the hills above the city, along with the rest of Islamabad’s population. After that, we wound our way back down the slick and winding roads to a local market, where Dean bought a Kashmir coverlet for his bed and Brad bought a sweater.

At every stop, I am stared at. Not impolitely, but casually and with interest. I’ve been covering my head, more to keep my head dry and warm, than to keep the stares away. (They stare anyway). A little girl came up to me, not more than 12 at one of the overlooks and wanted a photo with me. We chatted for a little bit – she is studying in Islamabad, but from Lahore. She wanted to know my name, and its meaning. I wanted to ask her why me, but I didn’t.

Dean is conducting a project for one of his friends, who is an elementary school teacher. They have this cartoon character, Flat Stanley, which is basically a cardboard cutout of a little man about a foot high. We’re supposed to take photos of him in all these exciting places. Dean asked the girl to hold him and took one (of many) photos today.

Last stop was the National Monument of Pakistan, which looks like a big ½ of a lotus flower. Four enormous petals rise off a platform, with etchings of former leaders (Iqbal, Jinnah) and other famous Pakistani monuments (Faisal Mosque). Rashid’s driver, Nawaz, broke out some more chai for us from the boot of his car, which we drank in the rain. We also had some cold samosas and gulab jamun (my favorite!).

Currently, I am waiting for my internet to start working and the electricity to come back on in my hotel room (in that order). There have been intermittent power outages all day, I assume because of the weather and in part rolling blackouts that are hitting the country (although I hear this is mostly in Lahore).

One day down and nine more to go. So far, so good.

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