Archive for August, 2012

Short week

Saturday, August 25th, 2012


So this was a short week, since we were in Nathia Gali through Tuesday. We were off work on Wednesday, but I went in for a while to work and go to the gym. Afterward, I had a manicure/pedicure at a nice salon near our house.

Thursday night we watched a good movie, “Footnote.” It’s set in Jerusalem and is in Hebrew with subtitles – it was fun to hear some Hebrew words that we understood.

Last night, we went to a large party at Frank and Lita’s. Lita is John’s new manager. They had a fire pit set up in the front yard with lots of lawn chairs, along with a big table where folks could eat. It was a nice evening – not too hot. We came home fairly early – we’re both struggling with summer colds right now and aren’t feeling 100%.

It rained a lot last night, and is still raining a little this morning, but it will probably get steamy this afternoon!

Since not a lot has happened since my last blog entry, I’ll tell you a bit about our daily life here. We’re usually up early and head into the office. I go to the gym (very nice and big), get dressed there, then meet John and his management friends for breakfast at the cafeteria. For lunch, we’re both usually at the American Club (the restaurant on the compound),  but usually at different times and with different people.

The compound is pretty self-contained, complete with medical unit – where John and I both went this week to see the Embassy doctor and get medicine for our colds. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a college campus.

Yesterday marked my one month anniversary of my arrival here – so far, so good!

John, Nathia Gali



To the mountains

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Sunset, Nathia Gali


Eid marks the end of Ramadan, and it’s greeted with fanfare that the U.S. reserves for the Christmas holidays. We had a long weekend from work, and our friends Kellee and Jim organized a trip for several of us to go up into the mountains to Nathia Gali.

Nathia Gali is at an altitude of around 8000 feet. The mountains dotting the way are filled with guest houses like the one where we stayed. Cool weather! Sweaters! Rain! Books! Scrabble! Eating! Relaxing!

Scott, Laura, Kellee, John and Jim at the guest house











As peaceful as it was at the guest house, getting there and back was crazy! On the way up, we had good weather, but we crept through crowded villages where traffic came to a standstill as passengers climbed on tops of passing busses, pedestrians wove in and out, vegetable trucks stopped to unload, and cars pulled over to buy grilled chicken from a street vendor. We also passed lots of monkeys on the side of the road, begging from cars, or hanging out in the trees!














But if going up was hard, coming down was even harder in rain and fog. There is a one-way bridge that all visitors must go through into or out of the mountains. It was no problem going up, but coming down, we sat for almost an hour for our turn. It looked like half of Islamabad was heading to Nathia Gali as we were coming out – we suppose to spend the remaining couple of days in the mountains. The traffic going up the mountain went on for miles and miles and miles, and I imagine those folks are still waiting to cross the bridge!

Drivers here are pretty crazy, too. Passing on blind curves in rain and fog is just the way they roll. And people stop just anywhere to take photos, have lunch, play in muddy water, rest, sit a while, dance (yes), etc. Even on the highways, you see cows, goats, chickens, donkeys and toddlers in the road. John has been doing a great job of getting us around, but I think we are both pretty white-knuckled by the time we get home!

Here’s a photo of a “jingle truck” – pretty much any kind of vehicle is decked out in this fashion – and they jingle from all of the adornments. Jingle trucks can be busses, milk trucks, small vans that function as taxis, donkey carts, etc.

Jingle truck














Last Sunday when our friend Richard was in town, we went to the Serena Hotel for brunch with Richard, Michael, Jim and Kellee – they have a very nice buffet and the hotel is beautiful. And the hotel’s golf cart is also decked out as a jingle truck.

With Kellee in a jingled out golf cart











That evening, John and I went to a carpet party at Melinda’s house. Folks usually have their favorite carpet vendors, so often people will have a carpet party – the vendor will bring a large variety of rugs, and you can shop in the comfort of someone’s home. Quite nice and a good introduction to the different types of rugs here.


Carpet party














After the carpet party, we went to another iftar with the consular group, as a welcome party for the new Consul General and his deputy.

Thursday night, John hosted an iftar at a mountaintop restaurant just outside of town. They are a cute group and it was a lot of fun. The view over the city is breathtaking!

John's team at iftar dinner











So, it was a very fun and busy week! Here’s a misty shot taken at our guest house in Nathia Gali. Click here for more photos from Nathia Gali.

Family with goats

Lots of eating going on

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Our housekeeper Saleem

Since I arrived, it’s been Ramadan here in Pakistan. There’s a lot more to it, but in a nutshell, Muslims can only eat or drink before sunrise and after sunset. Their evening meal is a big deal, as you can imagine and is called iftar. So Thursday night I went to an iftar at one of the big hotels in town, hosted by one of the U.S. agencies here. I met some of the folks from the Pakistani government who I will be working with.

Friday night, the Consular section hosted an iftar at the home of one of the section chiefs. It was primarily a party to “hail and farewell” the myriad of folks coming and going. Our whole management staff is turning over with old bosses leaving and new ones arriving. It was a lot of fun, and all of the food was cooked on the premises – when we arrived there was a huge metal disk over a fire filled with fattening, yummy goodies cooking in oil. It was a fun party because it was both officers and the local staff, so I had a chance to get to know some of the local employees better. We also had two welcome lunches this week for the new folks.

This week was definitely fun and busy, with lots of good food. Tuesday night, we went to Paul and Derek’s house for a lovely dinner. I’ve been friends with Derek on Facebook but had never met him in person, so it was fun to get to meet him. Both really nice guys.

Last night, we went to a party hosted by John’s boss Doug. There were about a dozen of us there – most all from the GSO section where John works. They are a really fun group of folks, always joking and laughing. After dinner we sat on the upstairs balcony and enjoyed the cooler weather.

I finally met our housekeeper Saleem, who also works for Doug. He cooked last night’s meal for us, including kabobs and chicken over a coal fire. He’s a very sweet man and his cooking was good, too!

Yesterday afternoon, our friend Richard came over to visit – we sat out on the terrace and yakked for a few hours. Richard is working down in Karachi at the Consulate there, and had come up to Islamabad to meet his counterparts here. (Richard spent a couple of weeks with us in Tel Aviv.) Always good to visit with him. His life in Karachi is very different from ours: they have to live on a compound and can’t get off the compound unless they have tight security with them. He was pretty amazed at the amount of freedom we have here.

John’s been out on the terrace this morning roasting coffee, and he spotted a new bird in the fig tree, some sort of a barbet that’s really cute.

Here are a few photos from the party last night.

John and Rick









Monica, Rick, Doug, Val and John










John doing a card trick for Robert

Week One – check!

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Flavie on her new cat tree

I’ve made it through Week One, and think I’m finally over jet lag. They say it takes a day for every time zone you cross, so nine days should have done it.

Flavie seems to be doing just fine. This is a photo of her on her new cat tree. She really likes the staircase, so we put it on the landing at the top of the stairs.

We had a couple of social outings this week. Last Sunday, we went to a welcome brunch hosted by consular co-workers. It was nice to be able to visit with folks and get to know them better outside of work.

Monday night, we went to Trivia Night, where our team came in 2nd (no thanks to me!). It was a lot of fun.

Friday night, we drove in a torrential downpour and traffic jam to the Marriott Hotel for a birthday dinner at the Marriott’s Japanese restaurant. The folks there were primarily John’s buddies from his area, and they are really nice and fun to be around. (This is the same group of folks that we usually eat lunch with at the American Club each day.)

Otherwise, we just came home and relaxed after work. We’ve gotten hooked on the Danish version of a TV series, “The Killing.” It’s excellent!

Yesterday, we went to the office for a few hours. During the week, I interviewed non-immigrant visa (NIV) applicants each morning so I could get to know our applicant pool, so I had gotten behind on some supervisory tasks (for example, each day, I’m supposed to review a sampling of adjudications from the NIV staff). I got caught up, and hopefully will be able to stay on top of things from here on out. There’s a lot to do, but the staff (both FSOs and locals) are really good and conscientious, which makes my job a lot easier.

The rain from Friday night continued into Saturday, so we had a very welcome relief from the heat yesterday. I took advantage of cooler temps in the kitchen to organize some of the cabinets and put up my kitchen decorations, so it feels a lot more homey now.

With any luck, we’ll have more rain today – we can always hope!