Archive for September, 2012

Back to normal

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Roses with bee

Things are pretty much back to normal here. We did close early Friday because of planned protests and street closures, but they all concluded peacefully. In fact, John and I were able to go out to dinner that night with friends – we had a very good Asian meal.

Last Sunday we went to brunch with our friend Rick. Afterwards we went to the jewelry store I like so much where I bought a nice peridot and citrine bracelet. On the way home, John dropped me off at the salon where I had a manicure. A good day!

Wednesday my boss hosted a lunch for folks from other embassies, so I met counterparts from Germany, United Kingdom, Australia and France. It was nice to meet them and compare work stories.

I was happy to see my air shipment finally wind its way out of customs. It was delivered on Wednesday, so I took the afternoon off to unpack. I also spent time Friday afternoon unpacking clothes and trying to find space for it all. We have a big house, but not a lot of hanging space.

Last night we went to a going-away party for our friend Gene. He brews beer, so we got to sample several different flavors (I had a blueberry-wheat that was delicious) – it was fun to get out and socialize a bit.

I’m posting some photos of the flowers in our yard. I was describing the red velvety flower to Mom – she thought it might be an allium, but my Google search calls it a celosia. They grow two to three feet tall, and the flowers are more like velvet-covered stalks. Very pretty. Here are a few shots of it, along with roses and one of our flower beds.














Celosia, roses and marigolds with guard house in background
































Taking it to the streets

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

This week, Pakistan joined the list of countries that were protesting the anti-Islam film, and the Embassy and Consulates were targets here. Luckily in Islamabad, the protests remained peaceful for the most part. They started on Thursday afternoon and continued through Saturday. The office shut down early Thursday and most staff left. A few of us had to stay a while longer because the roads to our neighborhood were blocked; when there was a window to get us off the Embassy compound, we jumped in the motorpool SUV and made a beeline for home, where we stayed put!

Friday we were closed; John and I spent the day reading and monitoring emails and news. Saturday we ventured back into the office for a short time, then came home when we heard there was a new protest starting near our neighborhood. We stayed in the rest of the day, reading and watching our new favorite series, “Breaking Bad.”

The Embassy was also closed on Monday and semi-closed on Tuesday due to the possibility of protests in the aftermath of Libya. We were up at midnight on Sunday when we got word of Monday’s closure, scrambling to get the word out to staff and to hundreds of visa applicants.

We are hopeful that things will quiet down from here on out!

The week leading up to the protests was busy for me, as we continued to get last-minute travelers to meetings in Washington and New York. I stayed at work until midnight Monday night, and had another late night on Wednesday to get VIP visas done. A lot of my work is dependent on Washington, and a nine-hour time makes that difficult.

We did have a nice brunch at the Serena Hotel last Sunday with our friend Konstantin, who recently arrived – good to see another familiar face!

On an up note, Flavia really seems to be happy here! She loves her climbing tree at the top of the stairs; she rolls around on the Costa Rican rugs that Joan’s housekeeper made many years ago; she runs up and down the stairs; and watches birds out the front window. Her hair has pretty much all grown back, although it’s still shorter in the problem areas, but not that noticeable. It’s great to see her so content!

Flavia on the stairs

Everything is quiet here

Saturday, September 15th, 2012


The headlines this week were filled with bad news. A U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in Libya when protesters attacked the Consulate in Benghazi. There were also protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and in Tunisia. Fortunately, things in Pakistan were pretty quiet. We closed the Embassy at noon on Friday, in anticipation of protests after Friday prayers. There were some, but from the news accounts, they were relatively small and peaceful. Let’s hope it stays calm here.

We had a busy week at work. The UN General Assembly will be meeting in New York later this month, so my office has been working like Trojans trying to get the visas ready for the Pakistani delegation. Along with the UNGA, there are several other delegations traveling for meetings on the sidelines of UNGA, so we are up to our eyeballs in official visas. I stayed till after 10 PM one night just trying to get one group on the road.

On a positive note, we went to a nice brunch last Sunday at Scott’s house with our Consular management team – he made some yummy biscuits among other goodies. I also test drove a used SUV this week and am hoping we can get the paperwork sorted out so I can buy it. We have one car already, and we have motorpool, but I like the idea of having my own wheels.

The photo above was taken last Saturday when we were coming home from our shopping trip. Before I arrived, I expected Islamabad to be brown and desert-like, but in fact there  is a lot of greenery.


Out shopping

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

F-10 area of Islamabad

I was excited to get out with a couple of girlfriends to go shopping yesterday! Aroosha is a Pakistani-American who speaks Urdu and has been here a couple of years, so she knows her way around. She took Kellee and me to a little jewelry shop above the shopkeeper’s house – a treasure trove! I found a lovely pair of citrine earrings. We stopped at a couple of jewelry stores, a leather store and a clothing/rug shop – lots of fun!

Ravia, my new favorite jeweler

Ravia is the jewelry designer at the little shop we liked so much. She looks very young; we’re not sure if she has had medical problems that kept her from growing a lot, but her English is good and she has lovely jewelry! I couldn’t get her to smile for the camera, but her face lights up when she does.

Click for more photos of my shopping trip.

Saturday was pretty busy – before shopping, I went with two of John’s co-workers from the Embassy for a golf lesson at the Islamabad Country Club. We were there at the crack of dawn, before it got too hot (although I was still drenched from the humidity).  I had a good lesson with wedges and low irons – I hadn’t had a club in my hands since 2006 but it’s funny how your muscle memory works (including bad habits!). It was a lot of fun and I appreciated Gene and George inviting me to go with them.

Last Sunday we had six people over for a welcome brunch for our friend Mike from Tel Aviv. We had lots of good food and mimosas, and everyone had a good time. It was so nice to have a group of friends around the table – very warm and comfortable.

Later that day, we went to Jim and Kellee’s for a fun sunset cookout on their rooftop. They’ve added a “disco cat” to the roof, bequeathed to them by someone who had left post. I’m not sure what the story is, but these things are everywhere. You can get other animals, but the cats are the most popular. Theirs is about three feet tall:

Ubiquitous disco cat














Monday was a holiday. John and I stayed home; I logged in to the computer at work and spent most of the day working. After that, John took me over to Nirvana to get a manicure.

You may have heard about the car bombing in Peshawar this week. Peshawar is one of the most dangerous places in Pakistan – it’s a couple of hours from us and a totally different world from what I have heard. Thankfully our co-workers made it out alive. Very scary, but we are fine here in Islamabad.

Here’s one more photo taken at the ribbon store.

At the ribbon store




To market, to market

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

Barber Shop, Nathia Gali

This was a pretty low-key week since John and I are both getting over colds. We have medicine from the health unit to treat the symptoms, but we’ve had fairly low energy.

That said, we did manage to get out for a few fun get-togethers.

Last Sunday, we went to a going away party for an Embassy employee. The party was held at the home of a woman who works for the International School here. We met lots of non-Embassy people, including teachers from the school and folks from other embassies and the U.N.

My predecessor in my job left this week, so I’m really on my own now and moved into my office. She really helped me a  lot the last few weeks to prepare me for the job. We had a going away lunch for her that the local staff put together – very nice.

Friday was John’s boss’s last day in the office before he and his wife move to Karachi for their next tour. We really liked both of them and I hate to see them go. There was a big happy hour at the American Club for him that night that was a lot of fun.

Our friend Mike from Tel Aviv arrived this week – how fun to see a familiar face! He and some othe folks are coming over for a welcome brunch this morning, so I did some cooking yesterday.

Oh! Also yesterday, John took Brett and me to the market. It was my first outing to go shopping here. The “market” is more like a strip mall with a couple of small grocery stores, a fruit/vegetable store, a meat market, housewares store, etc. The grocery stores are actually pretty well stocked with both Western and local foods – I was very happy. Between these stores and the commissary at work, we’re in pretty good shape. After shopping, we sat down at Gloria Jean’s and had a latte – it really felt like I was back in the US!