Yes, I’m a sci-fi geek. I’ve been looking forward to the new Star Trek movie since I heard internet whisperings about it early last year. I got all hopped up after I saw the special trailer that has Leonard Nimoy at the end. I love the director, J.J. Abrams (Lost!), I love the original series, hokey uniforms and all, and I’ve loved watching Star Trek movies in the theater ever since I snuck out of “An American Tail” to go watch Star Trek IV back in 1986. (Trek. Time Travel. Whales. That movie will be hard to top.)
So in putting together my mental list of “Pros and Cons of Moving to Pakistan,” I have to admit that “missing the release of the new Star Trek movie” was sort of on it. But like so many things I thought I would have to sacrifice when I became a resident of Islamabad (Italian food, driving, jeans) it turns out I can get Star Trek too. However, there are a few issues.
Issue #1: Film Quality. If I wanted to, I could be watching all the geeked out action this very second. This is because Pakistan has a healthy and flourishing trade in bootlegged DVDs, and all the big movies basically become available immediately upon release for like 50 rupees (about .60 cents) at Jinnah Market. However, quality varies widely, from a shaky recording of someone who snuck their camera into the theater to a movie you can actually watch. And I don’t want to risk it where Star Trek is concerned.
Issue #2: Safety. So this brings us to watching the movie on the big screen, the way God intended. The nearest Cineplex is in Islamabad’s sister city, Rawalpindi, about 40 minutes away. Apparently it’s quite nice, has a full array of snacks and sodas, and only differs from its American equivalent in that there is assigned seating and they check your bags thoroughly upon entrance (meaning you can’t sneak in any candy). So what’s the problem? Our security team doesn’t want us to go to the following locations: 1) Places with crowds of people. 2) Rawalpindi. That makes the Cineplex two-for-two on the Not Allowed list.
What’s a geeky expat to do? Certainly James T. Kirk wouldn’t be hampered by a little thing called “rules”: we all know the total disregard he showed for the Prime Directive in “The Return of the Archons,” and “Friday’s Child.” (And by “we all,” I mean my fellow nerd brethren and you know who you are.) On the other hand, Captain Kirk wasn’t having to think constantly about probable suicide bomb locations.
As I take you through this careful thought process, it occurs to me that it’s possible you’d rather hear an informed analysis of the political situation in Pakistan than a description of my quest to watch the Star Trek blockbuster. I totally sympathize—the country is in the news all the time, there are lots of conflicting reports coming out of the area, and it’s fairly pivotal as far as foreign policy and, like, global stability goes. It might be nice to have a source on the ground giving you hard-hitting reports and an insider’s view so you’d know exactly what to believe. I wish I could be of service, I really do. Once again, there are a few issues.
Issue #1: I am pretty far from qualified to talk about it. The complicated history, subtle allegiances, and shifting alliances of Pakistani politics would take a few years to understand well. No one wants to hear the uneducated opinion of the Girl who Just Got Here on what should be done in this country.
Issue #2: There is no dearth of folks already talking about it at length. Google “Pakistan” and “blog” and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll find hundreds of hours’ worth of reading on the subject. On the other hand, I don’t see a lot of people ranting about cheeseburger availability or what it is like to actually live in Islamabad. There seems to be a niche for someone inordinately interested in food who just moved to Pakistan, and that niche has my name on it.
Issue #3: I live on the island that is Islamabad. (Note: it’s not an actual island, for those of you who are geographically-impaired. This is a metaphor.) When you send me text messages and emails wondering after my safety because you just heard an especially terrifying report about Pakistan on NPR, I say thanks! but don’t worry: as I stroll to the gym through the lobby of the Marriott hotel, past lovely potted palms, smiling staff, and fancy restaurants, everything looks just fine here. That’s not to say that it is just fine, only that sometimes I feel the people who live here are the last to know. Really you should probably be updating me on the political and security situation in Pakistan on a daily basis.
Isn’t this always the way? We all live in a bubble of our own making, carrying on with our habits and preferences, with the frustrations of traffic or the delights of a good dessert defining our daily routine whether we are in Islamabad or Indianapolis. The thing is, you just can’t live an exotic life all of the time. So you’ll have to forgive me for failing to bring your attention to the U.S. ceding partial control of the drone campaign over to the Pakistani government or the hoards of refugees apparently descending on Islamabad even now. And I’ll try not to feel too guilty about the decidedly pedestrian conflict most on my mind today, the same one many of you back home may be pondering as well on a Sunday afternoon…Should I catch a movie?