Tuesday, January 27, 2009


After the exciting Monday morning visiting Old Town, I went back to the office, did a little work and then took off with my chaperone to Sukkur, population 2 million, in Sindh province. It’s here we have our school feeding project and I have ONE day to see three schools, our distributor’s and everything in between.

The airplane ride was uneventful, but there were a few things that I wanted to note. Our flight was delayed by two hours – but that was pretty much expected.

No one asked for my id at the airport. Perhaps my foreign name matches my foreign looks, and I don’t look threatening, so they let it slide. Fine.

However, there were a lot of security checks. There weren’t separate lines for women – we were still asked to go through the metal detector, but then all women were pulled, one by one, into a dark, curtained room and frisked by a female. And by frisked, I mean felt up. First time, I didn’t notice so much, but the second time, there was definitely too much touching in the chestal area.

Also, personal biases aside, I notice that the communication style isn’t so straightforward here. I’ve encountered this in other places, sure, but it’s taken to new and dazzling heights here. I get detailed explanations on what I should and shouldn’t wear, but then zilch on others.

For example, my chaperone handed me some paper luggage tags when we checked in. It just so happens that I have a large orange embroidered leather luggage tag my mom gave me on my carry on, so I politely declined. He put them in my hands and walked away. I stuffed them in my bag.

We get to security and I get stopped. Where are my luggage tags? I point to my LARGE ORANGE luggage tag. That’s not good enough, says the big scary soldier, so, thinking quickly, I pull out the previously stuffed paper tags and slip them on.

It’s only then that I understand what’s going on. The scary dude hole punches my tags and let’s me go get fondled. I emerge, slightly ruffled, and collect my things. I get stopped again, trying to leave the area. A woman not only must twice stamp my boarding pass, but ALSO my luggage tags.

By this time, my chaperone is so far ahead of me, I have no idea where he’s at. And I’m a little miffed he didn’t take TWO SECONDs to explain to me why I needed these tags in the first place, instead of just handing them to me and walking away. I mean, no harm, no foul, but this is just one example of many. If it was the first time, I wouldn’t think anything of it. But after awhile, you start to seriously doubt whether they do this on purpose or not.

The only other thing of note is that, before taking off, the captain got on the speaker and sang to us. I could tell it was some kind of prayer, and this was confirmed by my chaperone as something one sings before traveling.

Huh. I wonder what would happen if airplane pilots in the US started doing this? There would probably be a lot more suspicions of drunk pilots, but other than that, it’s kind of a nice tradition.

I arrived in Sukkur, two hours late, but no worse for wear. I was greeted so warmly by our project staff, who explained that even the towels were purchsed new (and washed!) for me, already I’m regretting that I have so short a time here. I leave again tonight, on another PIA flight that has already been cancelled and delayed by 3 hours.

I am ready to arrive in Karachi for the last day of my trip. I leave Pakistan tomorrow evening. (In sha'allah!)

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