Two Kids & the Kindness of Strangers

I think the low point was me in the courtyard of the mall trying to wrestle Denton under the nursing blanket when he peed out of his diaper, soaking both of our laps, while it simultaneously started raining and Lila darted out of the drugstore alone brandishing a roll of stolen Christmas wrapping paper like a triumphant warrior. (She’s been watching too much Mulan.) It is true what they say: the adjustment from one kid to two kids is nowhere near as earth shattering as the adjustment from zero kids to one. However, let’s be honest: it’s still an adjustment. Based on today I would say it’s one we’re still getting used to. The scene went down this afternoon in the open air courtyard of the Woolworths shopping mall in upscale Hout Bay, South Africa.

Retail Therapy

Tonight in Lahore I checked out a fashion designer’s latest collection at her house, picked out some great fabric to have stitched into a fancy shalwar kameze, and bought a pair of shoes at Charles & Keith (flat, shiny, greenish-black, for work). The shopping choices are much more plentiful in Lahore than in Islamabad, so I have to take advantage of that when I am here on business. Before going out shopping, I went to Subway to pick up a quick veggie sub and white chocolate macadamia nut cookie, which all tasted pretty close to how Subway tastes in the U.S., and reminded me instantly of road trips, since that is pretty much the only time I go there under normal circumstances. To sum up: the evening was nice and normal, not loud, not dangerous, and involved cookies. More points for Pakistan! (Sorry, Kabul: give it a few years and maybe I could try you again…) […] Read More

HGTV Pakistan

I’m redecorating. After living in Pakistan for nine months(!) I guess it’s finally time to really settle in: hang curtains, paint rooms, remove old cabinets, get new lighting, replace an entire bathroom. Somewhere along the way, while trying to entertain myself in a country without bars, malls or mini golf, things may have have gotten a little out of control. But you know how it is with home improvements.I got the landlord to let me renovate the upstairs bathroom in lieu of paying rent money for a little while. It’s a good deal for him: I do all the heavy lifting of finding a contractor, designing the bathroom, picking out the fixtures, finding another contractor after the first contractor turns out to be sketchy and incompetent, managing the second contractor, making the second contractor go back and fix all his mistakes while he tries to blame them on first contractor–you know, the usual. Perhaps home improvement is always an adventure. I don’t know: I’ve never tried it in the United States (I’m a renter, not an owner.) But let’s just say putting in a whole new bathroom in a country without access to Home Depot, IKEA, the Yellow Pages, the Better Business Bureau, or the ability to speak Urdu offers a whole new set of challenges. There was the tussle over where to put the Muslim shower (if you don’t know what that is, google it). There was trying to figure out how much a reasonably-priced toilet should cost in Pakistan. Or calculating how many ceramic tiles I would need for the floor in meters, when math isn’t my strong suit on the best of […] Read More


I can now report back to all of you that I have found the place in the world where you can buy anything. It’s the Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok, and it’s amazing. I spent 5 hours there the other day, and I can confidently say I probably saw about 10% of it. Prized items in my haul include: a super cool string of lantern lights for the terrace, candles in the shape of orchids, a woven purse, a huge bag of saffron for about $2, a cute white linen dress for $9, enough Masaman and red curry paste to make a lot of Thai dinners, woven placements, handmade chopsticks with tiny knife and fork decorations on them (utensil irony), and a beautiful painted ceramic tea set. But those things were far from the weirdest or most exotic wares available in Chatuchak. After seeing whole stalls delivered exclusively to the following: silk flowers/snow globes filled with Disney princess dolls/life-size bronze elephant statues, I thought I had seen everything. Then I hit the “puppy” row. That’s right, an entire endless chain of stalls devoted to selling every kind of adorable, wriggling puppy available in Asia. If I thought I could sneak a dog through Pakistan customs, I would have bought one on the spot. (Not that I support keeping little puppies in cages.) Oh, and I also got to drink coconut water out of a coconut they hacked open in front of my eyes, have a surprisingly accurate cartoon of myself done in 6 minutes, and shovel down delicious pad thai from an outdoor makeshift set of “restaurants” in the center of the market that beat […] Read More

Surprising Scoop

I’ve been back in Islamabad for 10 days. During that time, the following things have happened: The development project I work on was denied funding by the U.S. government and has been told to close down. I accidently bought a $15 pint of ice cream.

Sweet Boston

What is it about leaving something that makes it seem all the sweeter? Ever since I knew I was leaving, I have been conducting a love affair with Boston, one that has involved candlelit dinners, walks down Newbury Street with smiles for each budding spring flower, and sighs of appreciation and nostalgia for every favorite corner, haunt, and quirk about this city that I have lived in for ten years. After all, thanks to Skype and the fact that calls from Pakistan to the US are only two cents a minute, I can keep in pretty good touch with all the people I love while I’m gone. But I can’t stroll over to Devlin’s for the juicy bacon cheddar burger, and I can’t go to the Public Garden to sit on the brass ducks or make fun of people for going to the “Cheers” bar. I can’t sneak my favorite Cuban sandwich from Yawkey Way into the fancy Fenway seats upstairs before the game starts. I can’t get all excited about ivy on brick buildings, or order pad zeeyou from one of the three excellent Thai restaurants around my house. I can’t go down to Daisy Buchanan’s to sing “The Piano Man” during last call (or to borrow their plunger in the middle of a very crowded Christmas party when we realize we don’t have one). I can’t take Boston with me. Yesterday is a perfect example of this recent love affair. I spent the day with one of my dearest friends doing a bunch of great Boston things. There was a little Newbury Street, a little trafficky Mass Pike, a little Waterfront, a little […] Read More


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


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