Weekend Trip

Here is a list of great places to go away for a weekend trip: the Hamptons. Cape Cod. Santa Barbara. Hilton Head. Mackinaw Island. Miami. You will notice that Kabul, Afghanistan is not on that list. But I’m all about experiencing a little adventure, and I already live in Pakistan, so when I got the chance to go to Kabul, I thought…Afghanistan: can’t be that much more dangerous than Pakistan, right? An opportunity came up to go to check out a development project for the weekend, so I took it. I mean, you can handle anything for a year…would it really be so hard to live here? (Also, it is hard for me not to try anything once.) Everything went fine for the first 16 hours or so of my trip: I met a lot of nice people at the compound, I had a nice lamb dinner, I went out for martinis at a bar called “Martinis.” (Not so much with the inventive names here, apparently.) I saw some cool huge Afghan dogs, everyone was paying for things in American dollars, which I hadn’t seen for months, and there were tons of expats running around looking like they were having fun. It made it a little easier to overlook all the barbed wire. After getting to bed not so early, I was awakened at 6:30 in the morning by what sounded like the loudest crack of thunder I have ever heard in my life. I am never great in the morning at the best of times, but this rude awakening in a foreign country and unfamiliar bed (and the smoky smell) left me even more […] Read More

Ten Days of Movies

It turns out you CAN go to the movies in Islamabad. There are still no movie theaters here, but for ten days a “film gala” is running at the Pakistan National Council for the Arts. The PNCA is housed at a beautiful building right by the Parliament in downtown Islamabad, the film nights are free and include an extensive buffet of tea and fried things (samosas, egg rolls, fish fingers) before the show. I couldn’t pass it up.I went to the opening night of the festival with a group of friends. The movie was “Tin Cup,” telling you right away what kind of film festival this wasn’t (artsy, independent, serious) and what it was (sponsored in part by Pakistan’s new movie cable channel, “Filmax”). Even still, I thought “Tin Cup” was a strange choice. I happen to like the movie, and I know at least one person who considers it his absolute favorite, but a golf movie starring Kevin Costner from 1996 is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think “film festival in Pakistan.” Looking at the brochure, I realized the movie choices only got weirder. Girly teen flicks seemed to predominate, with “What A Girl Wants” and “A Walk to Remember,” but the festival redeemed itself by ending on a high note with “The Wedding Singer.” On Night One, the crowd seemed excited about doing something a little different on a Thursday night in Islamabad (Hong Kong or New York, this isn’t), pleasantly stuffed with fried food, and ready to settle into the adventures of Roy McElroy and his leggy love interest. Things hit a small snag when the disc […] 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