I feel like I should say something about Christmas…about spending Christmas in a different country for the first time in my life, about spending Christmas in a Muslim country where they don’t celebrate it, etcetera. But instead I am just so excited I am going to Thailand on Friday that I am feeling over Christmas. (Quick highlights version: it was very nice, I had a few lovely holiday events with the other random few expats still left in town over the holidays, I didn’t buy one single Christmas gift or hear one single Christmas song in an elevator or store. Certainly a first.)

The end of the year (decade!) is almost here and it has certainly been one of change for me. A year ago, I had no idea I would be moving to Pakistan, would be starting a new career in international development, or would know how to say “I’m hungry” in Urdu. I didn’t know any of the many people I now know in Islamabad, both friends and colleagues, and I had never even been to Asia.

I went from never having paid anyone to clean my house–ever–to having a housekeeper that comes in almost every single day and even does the dishes. I also have a gardener, a driver, a guard, and a house manager to keep this massive effort together. This is worthy of an entire post all by itself, titled: “Move to Pakistan and Ruin Yourself for a Return to Middle-Class America Forever.”

I went from eating a nearly-vegetarian, largely organic diet of mostly salads and whole grains to eating the kind of thing that most Americans eat: refined flours and sugars, meat, and not that many vegetables (this is one thing I am determined to change in the new year).

I went from being worried that I would not find any cheeseburgers in my new country of residence to eating them more than I ever have before (it’s research).

I went from doing Pilates twice a week at my Brighton gym to doing yoga whenever I can fit it in at a random empty house in Islamabad that is hot as a furnace all summer (we just call it “bikram”) and chilly in winter. (Mostly I am just grateful that great yoga classes exist in Pakistan and are even free!)

I went from being acronym-averse to using the following a million times every single work day: USG, GOP, COP, PSD, AIP, PMP. (Yes, I’m annoying.)

I went from thinking of Pakistan as a very far-away, very dangerous place troubled by conflict and violence to thinking of it as normal, as mostly peaceful, as home.

I went from being a committed environmentalist to someone who gets all of my water out of plastic bottles (granted, tap water’s not safe) and throws each one right in the trash when done with it (granted, there’s no recycling here). It still hurts me a little every single time.

In addition to traveling to Asia, I’ve also done the following things for the first time ever this year:

Wore shalwar kameeze

Saw the Himalayas

Had meetings at a U.S. embassy

Went to Dubai

Had visa trouble

Went horseback riding in heels

Tried a shisha pipe (I recommend double apple flavor)

Attended a Pakistani wedding

Witnessed a Presidential inauguration

Appeared on Pakistani television

Found the super-secret sneaker shop in Boston

Took a golfing lesson

Had my own orange tree

Had all the oranges stolen off my tree (This too is worthy of a whole other post as I am still mad about it. Title: “Bitter: I Will Find My Orange Thief”)

Shipped 11 boxes of health food internationally

Ate chicken karahi eleven thousand times (it only felt like that)

Visted a Pakistani emergency room

Broke security protocol to see a movie (Star Trek)

Bought a plane ticket to go to Thailand. Finally.

All in all, it’s been a good year and certainly one to remember. I hope you have enjoyed reading about it here, and I hope you’ll continue in the new year: I promise new adventures, new near-calamities, and new cheeseburgers to write about. Have a lovely ending to 2009, everyone!

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