In hours it did not take us 72 hours to reach Pakistan but date wise, our journey spanned three days. When one grows up in the Western world, one doesn’t dream to make Pakistan their home, especially not after 9/11, but one day you join the Foreign Service and the next thing you know you have a one-way ticket to Islamabad.
Sunday, June 17th – That day in 1885, the ship Isère delivered the Statue of Liberty to New York City. France should ask for royalties: what would New York be without this statue? And this day in 1963 the Supreme Court voted to abolish Bible reading in public schools in the United States. But for us, June 17th is when we took our first flight to Pakistan. One day I’ll tell what crooked path led us to choose this mission.
We had to check out of the hotel at noon. In order to pass the time we went to the pool, then to the movies, and then it was finally time to go to the airport to start a new adventure. We have to fly American companies, or companies which have a code-share with American companies. It happens that United Airlines is paired with Qatar Airlines, which was great for us because Qatar is one of the best companies in the Middle East.
We chose the smallest Italian greyhound of the litter so that she would always travel in-cabin with us. Except that Qatar doesn’t accept any pet in-cabin, of any size. Except falcons. Falcons are not pets though, they are emirs’ best friends. Who wants to lose the emirs’ business?
So for the first time of her life, poor minuscule Venus was in a crate and I was even more worried than her when I handed the crate to the special pet staff. What if she doesn’t make the second flight? What if they forget to feed her, give her water? We are finally all in the plane. The flight attendant checked – or not, but then she lies well!
Monday, June 18th – In Western India, a father angry with his daughter for her ‘shameful’ (in his eyes) attitude beheaded her with a sword and showed her head to people in his village. She was 20 years old. Are we really going to live next door?
When we travel we promptly set our watches to the destination country. On this basis, we were served dinner at 7:00 am and breakfast at 4:30 pm. We arrived in Doha at 6:25 pm. 40 degrees Celsius (104F)! When I travel I like to wear comfortable velvet pants. At this temperature though velvet becomes very uncomfortable and sticky. Qatar is a tiny country, a little peninsula in the Persian Gulf, home to only 1.7 million people, yet it has a first-class airline. The Doha airport is very modern but they have already planned a brand new airport for the year to come. Oddly there are no signs in Arabic, everything is written in English.
There was a time, just the year in which my husband became a diplomat, where any one assigned to a new mission that required over 14 hours of travel would benefit from a business class ticket. Knowing that we need to work immediately upon arrival, it seemed reasonable to allow us to sleep. Congress believes that diplomats are spoiled brats so it decided otherwise in 2006. Nowadays, whatever the grueling length of the flight, we must take the economy class. Productivity is so overrated!
We took off at 11:40 pm.
Tuesday, June 19 – At two o’clock in the morning the captain announced that it was already 27 degrees Celsius (81F) in Islamabad. A half-hour ahead of schedule, our plane landed on Pakistani soil. We descended on the tarmac and immediately spotted our ‘facilitator’ – an unknown stranger to whom we entrusted our lives for the next hours.
Life in Pakistan to be continued …