Archive for October, 2012

Feathered friends

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Blue-throated barbet in the fig tree

We’ve really been enjoying watching the birds in our fig tree this week. This shot of the blue-throated barbet was my favorite – love the camera! We have rose-ringed parakeets who come with the barbets to eat the figs – they love them! Click to see  more birds in our yard.

Last Sunday, we went with a group from the Embassy to Taxila, just outside of Islamabad. Taxila is a small town with several ruin sites around it – it’s interesting because the ruins are of Buddhist temples, monasteries, etc. There’s a lovely museum that was built by the British after they began excavations.

It was interesting being in this little town – they definitely aren’t used to a lot of Westerners. We were the objects of much curiosity!

Very curious children, Taxila, Pakistan










They do a lot of marble work there, and a big business is making coffins (mausoleums?) by the side of the road, and other pots, etc. I enjoyed poking around and taking some photos. Click to see more photos from Taxila.

Street scene, Taxila. Making some sort of stone pots.







Barber shop, Taxila, Pakistan













We also were fascinated by the drive through Islamabad and out to this small town. It was the week before “bloody Eid” when Muslims make an animal sacrifice to Allah, so we saw lots of goats, water buffalo and even some camels for sale in ad hoc markets along the way.


Public transportation, Taxila














Public transportation













We’re reaping the benefits of Eid this weekend, enjoying four days off thanks to the lunar calendar that governs when it is celebrated. I made it a point to stay in today, so I wouldn’t see any of the animal sacrifice. Basically each family buys a goat or cow and they kill it and butcher it in the yard sometimes with the help of a roving butcher. John saw part of it going on from our upper-level balcony in our neighbor’s yard (it did look like the butcher truck had come to them – not sure, as I ran back inside as soon as I realized what was happening). Anyway, I’ll take a pass and continue to buy my meat pre-packaged.

Thursday night we went to a nice dinner party with John’s co-workers to welcome a new human resources officer. We met a young fellow there who graduated from the Air Force Academy with James’s step-son Jason – they also went to flight school together. What a small world, hm? It was funny thinking that I had been at this young man’s graduation back in 1999 and was now having dinner with him in Pakistan!

Friday morning, I went to work for just a little bit to check on some visas, then John and I went to a yummy brunch at Joseph and Sunera’s. It’s was a nice group and folks and a great way to kick off the Eid holiday.



Saturday, October 20th, 2012

A well-deserved break in Bangkok













Our mini-vacation in Bangkok was just what the doctor ordered, especially for John. John arrived in Pakistan back in April, and had not really had a break since then, so it was great to get away, if only for the weekend.

Our last day there, we took a taxi over to the Jim Thompson House, the former home of the man who revived the Thai silk trade. (The really interesting thing is that he went for a walk one day in Malaysia and never came back.) The home/museum is a lovely oasis in the middle of the city, and we loved walking barefoot on the smooth-as-silk floors (teak?) and enjoying the gardens and ponds.

Jim Thompson House










Whazzup? Fish in pond in Bangkok










Squirrel in the Spirit House, Bangkok














Afterwards, I enjoyed a massage and a cup of tea, then it was off to the airport to fly home. Click for more photos from Bangkok.

Thursday, my land shipment arrived, so I came home mid-afternoon to take the delivery and start unpacking. The house is really starting to look like a comfortable home: maintenance has hung all of our art and now the shelves are filled with books. The upstairs is still a bit of a mess, but it will come together soon enough. Flavie is certainly happy. And the geckos.

Flavie on her tree














One of our many houseguests










Friday night we watched an excellent Iranian movie, “A Separation” – some of the best acting I’ve seen and a wonderful multi-layered story.

Saturday was a vendor bazaar at work – lots and lots of vendors set up booths on the quad, so Michael and I spent time wandering around and checking things out. We had lunch on the Club patio where they had set up a buffet with burgers and BBQ chicken – it was actually a bit chilly and overcast (even some drizzle this morning). Very nice.

Tonight we went to a shrimp boil at Frank and Lita’s – these guys really know how to throw a party. We especially enjoyed the fire pit in the yard. Afterwards, we stopped by another party on the way home – lots going on this weekend.


One night in Bangkok

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Actually, a couple of nights in Bangkok – John and I flew out of Islamabad Friday night and came here for a couple of days for a little get-away. We had a nice flight over – our good friend Michael was on our flight, so we all hung out together in the lounge waiting for our flight.

We’re staying in a nice little boutique hotel around the corner from the Four Seasons. Unfortunately, I got sick promptly upon arrival, so we didn’t get out of the room at all yesterday. I’m still moving slowly today, but we sat out by the gorgeous pool for a while, and I napped while John got a massage. Afterwards, we walked over to the mall to see “Argo,” an excellent new movie about the Iran hostage crisis. After a stop at the hotel cafe for a banana smoothie for me and a glass of wine for John, we’ve called it a night.

Getting through the Islamabad airport was nuts – luckily the Embassy provides us with a driver and an expediter to get us through the crowds. Evidently this is the time of year when many Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca, so the airport was jam-packed.

At the Islamabad airport










Last Sunday we spent the afternoon and sunset on Jim and Kellee’s rooftop for drinks. The weather is cooling off, and the evenings are quite pleasant. The next morning, Kellee and I met up at Nirvana for manicures, then had lunch outside at their cafe – a nice way to pass the Columbus Day holiday.

After that, Scott and Laura came to get me and we went rug-shopping – fun! We sat and sipped tea while the proprietor showed us dozens and dozens of rugs. I brought one home on trial that I really like – and Flavia loves it! She immediately starting rolling around on it and marking it – I just it’s ours now! She didn’t deign to let me show her acting silly in this photo (and the flash makes the rug look bright orange, but it’s very muted and beautiful).

Flavie on the new rug










Wednesday afternoon, John and I had drinks at the club with Doug, John’s former boss who was visiting from Karachi. Good to get caught up with him.



Life in the fast lane

Saturday, October 6th, 2012


Don't give John any ideas!

The highlight of my week was buying a car – it’s a cute little SUV. It’s fun to have my own wheels! It’s still an adjustment to remember to stay on the left side of the road…and to remember which side of the car the driver’s side is on, but I’m learning!

This was a busy and fun week. Last Sunday morning, we went to Rick and Sarah’s for a yummy brunch with homemade waffles. I enjoyed chatting with a woman who is visiting them – she is here for a couple of weeks working with an NGO. We were able to walk to their house because they live right behind us – there’s a gate in between us (sort of like Mom and Aunt Bonnie’s set-up). We had met them briefly because they were in Jerusalem when we were in Tel Aviv – a very nice couple.

Monday I had lunch with Barbara from the German Embassy – I had also met her in Tel Aviv last year when we were both working there. She is lots of fun, and I hope to see more of her.

Tuesday night we took Rick out for his birthday – we went to a great Moroccan restaurant at the Serena. Even though the restaurants don’t serve alcohol, some places allow you to bring your own bottle of wine, which is nice. Rick has become a good friend – and there is also an Israel connection with him: we met his girlfriend last year because she is serving in Jerusalem. Small world.

Friday night was a big management section cookout after work in one of the courtyards at the Embassy – lots of folks turned out for burgers and beer – a good way to end the week!

I have an update on the celosia plant from last week’s post. My friend Joan wrote to say, “Actually the celosia is an amaranth which is native to Latin America.  The greens are edible and very nutritious. I always referred to this species as “brain flower.” Maybe I’ll cook up some of the greens!

Speaking of Joan, she has concluded her chemo treatments and had her surgery last Thursday, and it sounds like she is doing great! She was home after just a short time in the hospital, and was already planning a walk around the neighborhood when she emailed me  – she’s really amazing. Here’s to a speedy recovery!