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Beginning-of-goodbye-047

Packed

It’s 4:00 am and the movers are coming in four hours. What’s the point of going to bed at this point? It seems especially useless since my bed is covered in piles of clothes and I’ll be sleeping on the couch tonight anyway. My instructions were to stack up everything I want shipped to Pakistan in a specific location and they would do the rest. (Which, I have to say, is the WAY to pack. How fantastic is not having to scrounge up boxes by hanging around the backdoor of the liquor store? I do not miss this.) So this is what a year in Pakistan looks like, in stuff. Plus all the clothes on the bed, of course. In the end I don’t think I did too badly. Fully 30% of what you see is non-perishable food items. I hit it hard at Trader Joe’s, Shaw’s, and Whole Foods to amass the pile of high quality snacks and absolute essentials you see before you. With it, I can make the following feasts for an ex-pat community hungry for non-naan: Mexican, Italian, Thai, Chinese, American, and Crunchy-Hippie-Vegan. (Note, for example, the Bragg’s Amino Acids. If you don’t know what that is, it just means you’re not crunchy hippie or vegan). I have mac & cheese to get me through those days of homesickness for the US, roasted red peppers to put on my famous zucchini pizza assuming I can ever find gouda in Pakistan, and Celtic Sea Salt because my naturopath told me iodized salt is from the devil. Most people send their couches, bookcases, and beds to their country of posting, I send food. […] Read More

lucy

Surprises

I was just alerted to a devastating piece of news. From hulu.com: For now, Hulu is a U.S. service only. That said, our intention is to make Hulu’s growing content lineup available worldwide. This requires clearing the rights for each show or film in each specific geography and will take time. We’re encouraged by how many content providers have already been working along these lines so that their programs can be available over the Internet to a much larger, global audience. The Hulu team is committed to making great programming available across the globe. That’s right, no Hulu in Pakistan. Everyone knows what Hulu is, right? Maybe you saw that commercial for it where Alec Baldwin is an alien? Man, that Alec Baldwin is funny. Anyway, for those of you still watching shows on your tv, hulu.com is a website that lets you watch all sorts of shows and movies right away, on your own schedule, with limited commercials. I love it. On my original list of “reasons why not to move to Pakistan,” I didn’t add “missing a year’s worth of Lost, 30 Rock, and The Office” because I thought I had Hulu in my corner. I naively assumed that what’s available on the internet here would be available there. There’s a rumor that you can still watch shows on nbc.com overseas, but no such luck with any of the other channels. Seriously: what am I going to do about Lost? This is just the first of many surprises I imagine I will be encountering in the next few weeks as I move to another country. Speaking of surprises, I was surprised when I caused a security alert […] Read More

capitol

Crammed

So I’ve been too busy this week to post. The way things have gone lately, I actually think I might have more time in my life once I arrive in Islamabad. I’m back in Washington for training. This includes meeting everyone in the company, absorbing about 300 different acronyms, and pretending to understand all the international development lingo. I’m also taking care of mundane activities like picking up my work laptop, learning the company’s timesheet system, and signing up for emergency evacuation insurance. Well maybe that last one is not so mundane. I’m headed back to Boston tonight to commence my final week on American soil for a while. Those seven days will be filled with saying final goodbyes, consuming large quantities of soon-to-be illegal martinis, and trying to make a year’s worth of stuff come in under the 400lb airfreight shipping limit. The karaoke machine is complicating that process. Wish me luck! […] Read More

peeps

Peep It Up

Nothing is weirder than a Peep. I’m ready to eat a lot of new, strange food, starting in less than two weeks when I move to Pakistan. Twelve different kinds of mangoes and three different kinds of pomegranates, I’m told. Goat curries, bitter gourd, mutton in tomato sauce, and chicken. (Well, chicken’s not weird, but the fact that you can buy it live off the street in front of your house is.) I love curry and flatbread and samosas, but I’m sure my visits to my favorite Indian restaurant down the street in Boston will not have prepared me for full immersion into the daily food culture of the subcontinent. But back to Peeps, the weird food of my own country. You know ’em: fluorescent little marshmallowy chicks and bunnies that appear suddenly in every drugstore and supermarket this time of year in an array of colors found nowhere in nature. They’re weird, they’re highly beloved, and they’re very American: add them to the list of things I won’t be seeing in Islamabad. I’ve had some time to think about Peeps a lot today as I scraped smashed Peep out of the carpet and pried dried Peep off the sides of empty martini glasses. (Peeps figured prominently in my spring-themed going-away party last night.) What are Peeps? Marshmallow, obviously, and a crapload of toxic food coloring, but oh so much more. Peep is an industry onto itself. You would think that, much like a Cadbury egg, they would be cursed with the problem of seasonality. They are chicks and bunnies in lurid approximations of pastel colors after all, trotted out at Easter for candy baskets and the […] Read More

karaoke-machine

The Beat Goes On

Update: I bought a karaoke machine. Frivolous purchase or wise investment that will yield hours of entertainment in entertainment-challenged Pakistan? You decide. I’ve been told again and again that people don’t go out to bars (illegal) or restaurants (high-profile targets); they hang out socially in people’s homes. I’m thinking that will be entertaining for about a week and then we will need something to do. Enter the Karaoke Party Machine. I’ll be breaking this fine piece of equipment in at my going-away party tomorrow night; if you’re not in Boston and can’t make it, think of us belting out “I Will Survive” wherever you are and feel sorry/relieved that you can’t join in. […] Read More

pakistan-rejoice

Craziness

Looks like I missed all the excitement in Islamabad this weekend. Blockades around the city, a convoy of protesters marching towards the capital, last-minute negotiations, and finally, celebrations in the street. While I was busy picking out the best probiotics to pack for my trip, my very soon-to-be-home country was in turmoil, agitating for the reinstatement of the chief justice who was booted from the Supreme Court in 2007 by then-President Musharraf. Oh, you didn’t know presidents could fire judges? Welcome to Pakistan. Although at least on this day, it appeared to be a different Pakistan, as lawyers and citizens took to the streets to demand justice, and Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was returned to his post. What I don’t know about current Pakistani politics could fill several large, heavy volumes. Today’s storyline has a lot behind it, including old rivalries, new political tensions, past judicial proceedings, and lots of bad blood, but it can also be summed up rather simply by a novice like me: Something fishy happened. Today it was rectified. People rejoiced. (Come to think of it, the same words could be used to describe the events of January 20, 2009 right here in the USA!) Today’s situation in Pakistan can also be summed up in another way, as in the short yet comprehensive description my friend in Islamabad sent me earlier, in words that I’m only reprinting because my dad doesn’t know about this blog: The past 48 hours have been maybe the most tumultuous of my 3.5 years involved with Pakistan. Islamabad under siege, cell phones service cut off, gas stations closed, marching lawyers, trips canceled, embassy closed, everything dead quiet for the […] Read More

shopping

Frenzy

I am buying stuff. My mode is consumer, the internet my gateway. It turns out The Magic Bullet was just the tip of the iceberg. The last three days have seen me purchase, in no particular order: An iPod speaker/docking station thing An alarm clock that wakes you up with ocean noises and gradual soft lighting that approximates the gentle dawn. A metal thing to hang all my necklaces on. A year’s worth of my favorite shampoo, conditioner, and chapstick. A new yoga mat. Green Vibrance vitamin powder that tastes like grass. A black cocktail dress for “embassy parties.” A webcam. grapefruit seed extract. charcoal. It’s a weird list; I recognize this. It’s the kind of list that emerges when you 1) are moving to a foreign country without health food stores or Western retail and 2) have spent most of the last decade in graduate school. (The grad school thing just means you’ve been broke for a long time and couldn’t justify paying for frivolities other than heavy anthologies of Irish drama and endless stacks of photocopied scholarly journal articles at 10 cents a page.) Anything unnecessary that I wanted over the last ten years I pretty much didn’t buy. But I never forgot that I wanted it. Which brings us to the Progression Alarm Clock. I’m sorry: did I call it an alarm clock? My mistake. It’s actually the Progression Wake Up Clock, as its manufacturers take care to point out. That’s because this product is specifically designed not to alarm the body into wakefulness, but to rouse us how nature intended. That is: peacefully with the earth’s light and sound, the way our ancestors […] Read More

washington-dc

A Beautiful City

I just got back to Boston today from a few days in Washington DC. I was there for a conference, some pre-Islamabad meetings, and a visit to my naturopath so she could tell me the best way to fend off parasites from Pakistani street food. It was a beautiful weekend–so warm we could have drinks outside at Sequoia on Sunday afternoon and pretend it was June. Being there made me think about moving and living in a new city and change in general. Right after college, I moved to Washington DC for two years, and I can’t say I loved it. I was broke, working an entry-level job, and shell-shocked by my switch from sunny Santa Barbara and the luxury of college life. All of a sudden I was getting up early, wearing nylons, and wrestling with parking meters, winter clothing, and a fridge crammed with the food of five roommates. I missed California, the easy measure of academic success, and not talking about politics. I think I overlooked some of Washington’s beauty in the process. I remember thinking it was cool that I could see the lit dome of the Capitol outside my bedroom window and that I studied for my GREs in the gorgeous Library of Congress reading room. But I always knew I was going to grad school and would be off before too long, so I never settled in as much as I could have. My friends and I had lots of after-work drinks on the roof of the Hotel Washington, we watched Fourth of July fireworks from the office balcony of whichever Senator someone we knew was working for. We […] Read More

TravelMedicineSuitcase

It’s On

The contract was signed last Thursday. There was a 48-hour waiting period in which Congress could have rejected it; they didn’t. I still don’t know my departure date. I have a hangover. That about sums it up right now. I’ll celebrate later! […] Read More