My long visa saga over, I finally came back to Pakistan, exhausted but happily clutching my stamped passport in hand, just in time to celebrate Christmas.
Last year at Christmas I felt very far from home, as the holidays can make you feel when you’re living abroad. I had a lovely dinner with some American friends, but the city seemed a little cold and empty (even though it was 65 degrees) and definitely lacking in the “festive” factor. No presents and no tree: it seemed like any other day.
Being stuck in the US for a month changed all of that this year. Trying so hard to get “home” to Islamabad made me love and appreciate my life there all the more. The long journey back was sort of like an international “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” but picture Christmas instead of Thanksgiving, Islamabad instead of Chicago, and recalcitrant government bureaucracy instead of a rental car on fire.
My 14-hour layover in the most boring airport in the world (Frankfurt, Germany) intensified the feeling, especially after I walked out of customs in a sleep-deprived haze only to realize I couldn’t get back into the main terminal for another seven hours with only the unwashed masses and a German internet console for entertainment. (Try typing emails without using the letter “y.” Just go ahead and try it.)
Just the sheer act of getting back into the country felt festive and put me right into the holiday spirit. A tree (small and fake, but still) and presents followed, as well as peanut butter dog treats for Marlo and Kima. You can see where the tree came from in the photo above: it’s Kohsar Market, all decked out for the holiday-celebrating Christians on Christmas Eve, which was also a Friday, which is why you can also see people headed to Jumah prayers at the mosque just behind the Santa. Who says we can’t all get along?
No snow, no carols, and still far away from family, but this Christmas it felt really nice to be at home.