So I have put myself in a pickle. Let me explain.

While trying to decide whether to move to Pakistan, I made a list of all the little things I would have to give up if I came, just to make sure I was ready to make the jump. You’ve heard about them all many times already: pork products, vodka & soda, lettuce, cheeseburgers, driving, skirts, showing your bum in public, a totally Taliban-free life, etc. I thought it over carefully and decided it was worth giving up all these things for a great job and a new, exciting experience. Then I got here. I discovered, first of all, that not everything on my “banned” list was truly banned, thanks to three little miracles called the French Club, the embassy commissary, and bootleggers. Turns out champagne, bacon, and even provocative clothes are not a part of my distant past (you can wear all manner of sexy outfits to the monthly French Club dance party if that is what you are into).

Then another thing happened. I realized all the things you can get in Pakistan that you can’t get back at home. This includes: people to drive you around, iron your clothes, plant a vegetable garden and exotic varieties of fruit trees in your yard, help you cook, give you a spa pedicure for $10, sell you beautiful handmade jewelry, patrol your house with large guns 24 hours a day, and carve all your salad vegetables into intricate little designs, all at very reasonable cost. (Is the ability to live like royalty all the time due to a country’s cheap labor conditions problematic? I’m sure it is. But this is a larger issue that needs to be tackled in a separate post. For now I am just loving the carrot flowers and the $20 massages.)

There are other things I’ve grown to enjoy as well: permission to wear flat, comfortable open-toed sandals to work every single day even in the most professional office, delicious green tea (even though it comes out of utterly nondescript little packets, I swear it tastes better here), and the kind of soft hair that can only come from showering in non-chlorinated water. I mean, given all these conditions, why doesn’t everybody live here? I’m thinking maybe just the parasites and the terrorists.*

But in all seriousness, this is a beautiful country full of lush vegetation, lovely mountains, and some of the nicest, most welcoming people I’ve ever met. It’s occurred to me recently that I’ve already ruined myself to live back in the U.S., and I’ve only been here three weeks. This is the problem with traveling, with moving, with seeing another country or even another neighborhood: you can never again live in ignorance of what you are missing. Of course I would miss the US if I couldn’t go back there as well–that’s exactly my point. I guess the only answer is just to soak it all up wherever you are.

In that spirit, I bought a huge disco ball today for 500 rupees (that’s about six dollars). I love this country.

*Yes, the Taliban has captured Buner; Yes, it’s 70 miles away; No, this doesn’t mean they are headed to Islamabad.