Abez sez Assalamualaikum!

Well, now that I’ve gotten my hands on a copy of Microsoft FrontPage I’ve been causing all kinds of chaos. And since I somehow broke my tag board in the process, you can see that not all of it is the good kind of chaos. Well, I’ve repented. I have to get someone to give me a Front Page tutorial before I get all excited and start tearing up the pea-patch again. (Read James Thurber’s Sitting in the Catbird Seat) I’m having a terribly hard time trying to restore my blog to the way it was before I messed with it. I don’t know what the problem is, but when I look at the page (even though I’ve restored the original HTML that Tora sent) I get little A’s all over the page. Is anyone else getting that? I need help undoing the damage…

Well, it’s 3:30 am, and I’m still awake. Aside from the fact that I’m tired, I enjoy being up late night/early morn and hearing no cars, no city sounds, just chirping birds. Though I would enjoy it more if I wasn’t frustrated with my inability to successfully alter my blog. -sigh-

I learned something yesterday that I wanted to mention. That is: the reason why the UN vehicles in Islamabad drive so obnoxiously is because the drivers are instructed to always be the lead car when they stop at a light. That’s why they’re always rushing around and cutting people off, they don’t want to get stuck at light behind any other cars, because they consider that a security risk. They’re afraid of being blocked in traffic if they ever need to make a quick escape.

This may not sound very interesting to my comrades in blogistan abroad, but if you live in Islamabad and are cut off or driven off the road by at least two UN vehicles a day, then this is an epiphany. Suddenly the speeding, the passing on the shoulder of the road, the running of red lights, this all makes sense! Wow! How did I learn this? One of my students (who works for the UN) told me. We were talking about the many security precautions that some foreigners take here.

Basically, there are three types of foreigners in Islamabad. The first type is the First World Embassy/UN foreigner. This type is never seen outside of the embassy without a guard and a look of genuine nervousness and anxiety. Their security officers are always rumor-mongering and frightening these poor people out of their wits. I remember the last US embassy briefing we got was: “Terrorists posing as common street vendors will be targeting US citizens! Our intelligence tells us that they have bombs strapped to their bodies and can detonate themselves at any minute!“ Because these people are brainwashed to have an “us vs. them” mentality, they never mingle with the locals and lead very sheltered, very isolated lives.

The second type is the Second & Third world Embassy/NGO foreigner. Since none of the second world countries are particularly politically rapacious (for example: Mauritius, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, the Maldives, Nepal…) they have no reason to be afraid of the local political retaliation, and do not usually have armed guards, with the exception of the ambassador, and maybe the military attaches. They, as well as the foreigners working for NGO’s, zip around freely and enjoy themselves in the big hotels, tourist resorts, and shopping bazaars that the first-worlders live in mortal fear of.

The third type of foreigner in Islamabad is, ‘The Local Yokel.’ Those are foreigners who have gone native, usually from marrying a Pakistani or studying or working here for a long time. They usually speak tolerable Urdu, drink the tap water, shop local, and fit in pretty well. I think they have the most fun. Well, at least it seems like they’re having the most fun. I know I’m having fun! Part of the experience of living in Pakistan is in the bazaar food (and the ensuing illness) and the interactive shopping, the meeting of new people and seeing new places. You can’t do any of these things if you brush your teeth in bottled water, shop only in import stores, and hide in the embassy. (except when sunbathing at the UN club)

I feel kinda bad for the foreigners in category number 1. We know a guy who worked at the US embassy who used to be stationed in Karachi. Because Karachi is a bigger, rowdier, riskier city, the embassy staff were allowed to travel only between the embassy, their houses, and the McDonalds. No joke. Even for shopping, the embassy had a commissary store, you didn’t need to go out to buy anything. I suppose those poor people have more freedom when the US isn’t busy making itself World Terrorist No.1, but for now, they’re all holed up.

Ah, something exciting happened to me today. I was attacked by a lizard, a big dirty-looking one with beady eyes. Normally I have no problems with lizards. In fact, I think they’re rather cute. (I also think snakes are smooth and pretty, go figure) But today, as I walked into a stationary store, a lizard dropped down from the ceiling not one foot away from me onto a pile of notebooks. I looked at the lizard, and the lizard looked at me. It was a staring contest. Inevitably, the lizard won, because as far as I know, lizards don’t have eyelids. I could be wrong. But I blinked, and the lizard scurried through the notebooks, making quite a papery commotion, and then ran back up the wall.

Aniraz maintains that the lizard came not to attack me, but to revere me, since I am a friend of the lizards, not an enemy. That may be true, but the lizard came pretty close to landing on my head, and with friends like that, who needs enemies?

Leave a Reply

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: