Last year right before Christmas I hauled out my pair of headphones and did an interview with the Expat Chat podcast with host Tony Argyle. Tony lives in Australia, making the most difficult part of our interview trying to find a time that worked with our schedules and the eight hours of time difference. As usually happens when people start asking me about living overseas, our conversation drifted to Pakistan and stayed there for awhile: most people are curious about what it was like to live there and surprised when I say how much I enjoyed it. We also covered Botswana, life with kids overseas, my favorite things to eat in Botswana, and the “Big Five” animals you have to see on safari. Also how great my mother-in-law is (and not just because I knew at some point she would listen.)
Today I got out my recipe for Sausage and Fennel Stuffing: a classic fall dish from Epicurious that I first adopted for a Thanksgiving dinner back in Boston in 2004. It uses lots of butter and sausage and fennel in two different forms and it is delicious. It’s not exactly “light” and doesn’t quite go with what is happening outside my window: a hot wind to start off a day in the ’80s which will grow to ’90s before noon and over 100 shortly after that. This is spring in Botswana.
Next time you find yourself pregnant and unable to easily return to your home country to have the baby (yeah, okay, not super likely), I highly recommend Cape Town as an alternate destination. The very air here has a pleasing and soothing effect: and the fact that every time you look out of any window you see either the sea or a gorgeous green mountain doesn’t hurt. It’s also a great place to indulge pregnancy cravings.
4 days, 3 guest houses, 1500 kilometers, 12 energy drinks, 10 episodes of Daniel Tiger, 6 gas stations, 4 Magnum ice cream bars, 2 toddler meltdowns, many bags of trash, car songs, tickles, and one big hole in the ground: all in all I will declare our roadtrip a success. It is amazing how much the landscape changed in less than 20 total hours of driving: from the barren flat dry tumbleweed zone of Botswana (no actual tumbleweeds but you get the idea) to striking green gorgeous mountains like something you would imagine after the evil witch’s winter spell in the Chronicles of Narnia is broken. The best thing about arriving in Cape Town (besides the dark blue ocean, the amazing restaurants, and the gorgeous cool sunny weather) is that we are now safely ensconced in the city where we will have our baby. No longer do I have to stress over every twinge, thinking pre-term labor is upon me while picturing being airlifted out of Gaborone by emergency helicopter.
One of the cool things about living in Pakistan is that you are smack in the middle of South Asia. What this means is that if you want to get away for a few days to celebrate a friend’s birthday, you can easily jet off to the Himalayas, Dubai, Thailand, or Sri Lanka. Dubai is boring unless you like wandering around cavenous, freezing malls containing only stores you can’t afford. The Himalayas are awesome but you are definitely going to be delayed by an extra day or two when you try to return (due to “weather” “overbooking” or “computer problems”: thanks PIA), and Thailand is a dream but was hit by severe rains a couple weeks ago. That left Sri Lanka! Our group of three cancelled our tickets for flooded Koh Samui and made new ones for Colombo with only four days to spare. We got hotels, ordered taxis, packed our beach bags, and in one short flight from Karachi we were there. The trip was special because I will be leaving Pakistan in two weeks and returning to the U.S. My job has finally ended and it’s time to go. I hope that I will be back, but for now it is goodbye, and goodbyes always make me sad. So I couldn’t pass up the chance to go away with two of my best friends that I made over the last two years here. I also found out I don’t get any compensation for unused vacation days: perfect time to go! We stayed one night in busy, bustling Colombo that didn’t seem all that different from Lahore or Karachi but offered a gorgeous […] Read More
No, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth. I just took a vacation, had an especially crazy month of work, and spent an inordinate amount of time trying to do very simple things like 1) get rid of the ants in my kitchen and 2) figure out why the internet hasn’t worked at my house for 6 weeks. So at present I’m short any substantive update about the grooviness of life in Pakistan over the last month. But I figured at least I could show you a few vacation pics! The idea was radical: take a long weekend off in a place with no cell or functioning internet service, where no one could do work of any kind and everyone could relax. I got away from the city, gulped down a ton of fresh air, visited the highest plains in the world, and read two books front to back. After four months of working weekends, putting in more than the occasional 12-hour day, and living and breathing my job, getting away felt like a long drink of water in the desert: much needed. The only bad news is that I got trapped in the mountains and started to despair of ever returning to civilization. A ticket to Skardu will cost you about 8,000 rupees, (or 14,000 rupees if you’re an American and don’t have one of your Pakistani friends pick up the ticket for you which luckily, I did. Thanks Fahim!!) Either way it’s a steal. The only downside is that the sole air carrier to the mountain towns is PIA, the government-owned airline of Pakistan where service is indifferent and your trip […] Read More