In lieu of a thoughtful, substantive statement about my life here or conditions in Pakistan, all I’ve got today is a cockroach story. Hey, it’s been a busy week.
Yesterday, while thinking about the different steps needed to design a communications strategy for US government audiences, I looked over and noticed a cockroach the size of a small child crawling along the floor of my office. Attempting to make use of the head waiter that hovers around all day offering diet Cokes and being very disappointed when I refuse (I’m still trying to ixnay the caffeine), I pointed to the roach and asked if he would mind killing it for me. Well, to be honest, what I actually did was point to the roach and make insect-murdering noises and motions to communicate this request (my Urdu not as yet including the words for “cockroach”, “kill”, or even “please.” Yes this is embarrassing). I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that a roach of this size would pose no undue trouble for a local. I figured it is normal here to have insects that could double as small pets, and that he would know right away how best to dispatch it.
I was surprised when he ran out the room, but heartened when he returned almost immediately with a big can of bug spray. I am usually extremely opposed to bug sprays as they are toxic, and what’s the point of getting rid of bugs only to give yourself cancer? But I kept my mouth shut and figured he knew what he was doing. A full 60 seconds of direct spray on the roach later, I began to doubt. I thought maybe he could just walk over and step on the roach instead. I suggested this. More spraying. I tried to convey once again my idea for vanquishing our sturdy intruder by securing eye contact (with the waiter, not the roach) and then making an exaggerated stomp on the ground. Head waiter responded by performing a little minuet near, although not quite on, the limp cockroach’s body. Picture a ballet dancer dipping one pointed toe toward the ground for a quick développé.
Not surprisingly, the roach remained groggy but undead, and started to make a super slow break for it. Alarmed by the movement, the waiter abandoned his delicate technique and stepped on the roach. Dead. End of story. Except that he then turned on his heel and walked out of the room, leaving the smashed roach like a hideous Rorschach on the carpet. I thought perhaps hotel policy dictated that guests are on their own when it comes to dead roaches of enormous size. I moved to grab a piece of tissue and scrap him up without getting roach gook on my fingers. My resolve was interrupted by the return of the head waiter, who had brought with him the head housekeeping person and an industrial vacuum the size of a small house. Picture the head of the head housekeeping person basically obscured by an armful of complicated hosing attachments that took the work of both parties to wrestle into the room. After setting up this tremendous vacuum, our heroes sucked up the roach carcass and then cleared out. What does this have to do with Pakistan, a communications strategy, or living abroad? Not sure, except that it is just one more example of how they do things a little differently here.