Archive for November, 2013

Uneasy week

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Across the street

We were free to move about again starting last Sunday, but the government took down cell phone and Blackberry service. We didn’t want to be without communication, so we ended up staying home anyway. We had a flurry of emails and phone calls about whether or not our local staff would be able to get to work on Monday, since there had been so much violence in Rawalpindi this weekend (they did).

The week was pretty quiet, but there were lots of protests planned on Friday. The local staff stayed home, we canceled visa appointments and only the Americans came to work. I don’t think the protests were as big as they expected; when John and I drove home at 6PM, the roads were clear and everything was quiet. Thank goodness!

I’m still working on getting my friend Danielle’s cats back to the U.S., so yesterday morning I had a driver run me over to the vet’s office to pay him, give him some paperwork, and buy larger cat carriers. This morning, the cats were dropped off at my house; I plan to take them to the vet later today and he will ship them back to the U.S. in the next few days. The cats won’t be happy for a few days, but eventually they will make it back to Danielle and be much happier.

I had my Spanish lesson on Monday night and a school board meeting Wednesday night. John and I went to an office happy hour last night after work, but otherwise things were quiet.

The cats at work are starting to use their feeding stations, so they are not as big of pests as they were while humans are trying to eat. It’s still an educational process trying to get folks to not feed them at the tables, but we’re making progress. Our efforts were the cover story for the Embassy newsletter this week, which was some nice publicity.

I’m not really sure what all is tied to the bike in the photo above. It’s extremely common to see people with huge bundles of sticks, limbs and twigs tied to bikes and motorcycles or being carried. People are constantly gathering up fire wood to heat their homes and cook. Amazing in such a country where the wealthy are very wealthy, but they can’t supply basic needs to their citizens.


Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Trash pile across from our house; two cats hang out there and someone dutifully goes through it a few times a week

So Monday was Veterans’ Day, then Thursday and Friday of this week were Muslim holidays. Since they historically are prone to violence, everyone stayed home from Thursday until this morning. Even now, the neighboring city where many of our local staff live, is under curfew after a mosque was burned and many were killed. The city is currently holding its breath to see what – if anything – happens today (Sunday). We are hoping it will be back to work as usual.

I did get permission to go to work on Friday in order to see two emergency visa applicants whose family had been critically injured in the United States.  It’s nice to feel like you’ve helped someone in a small way. On a related note, I was happy to get an email from my friend Gerald back in Little Rock. He lost his passport in Sri Lanka this week, and wrote to tell me that the consul there also went in on a holiday to make him a new passport. Who says gubment workers aren’t dedicated?!

When I made my run to the commissary today, I found that volunteers had varnished our cat feeding stations. With the help of a co-worker, we got one moved into place today – fingers crossed that the cats will use them! We brought two more cats home from the vet this week after being sterilized and released them back onto the compound.

Monday (holiday) I took two cats to the vet for a friend, in order to get them microchipped and vaccinated. She got stuck back in the U.S., so I will be helping her get them shipped this week. Monday night I attended a financial committee meeting for the international school.

John and I went out to eat on Wednesday – we figured we should get out of the house before the lockdown started! We had a nice bottle of wine and a good steak (BYOB, of course!).

My friend and neighbor Sarah brought me some homegrown lettuce that we have been enjoying this week – in exchange for basil from my nice plant in the yard. We also have a small rosemary bush and lots of mint (I don’t think you can ever have just a little mint, as prolific as it is!).

We were saddened to hear of the death of Mark D. today, a good friend of Jim and Joan’s and – coincidentally the nephew of one of Ginger’s good friends. In a small world way, we had met Mark many years ago through these connections.

The weather here is simply gorgeous! Cool and sunny. Inside the house we have to turn on some heat to get the chill out of the air, which Flavie adores!

Here are some parting shots of some of the cats at work that we are taking care of.


Diego (aka Dirty Cat)

Feeding station (before varnish)


Peg-Leg (our three-legged cat)

No name yet - but he sure has a loud meow!


Oh no! 5-0!

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

John turned the big 5-0 this week! Happy birthday! Unfortunately our celebration plans were thwarted due to security concerns, so our dinner party last week got canceled, and we just stayed home and ordered pizza for his actual birthday on Tuesday. Not exactly the way we had planned it, but it’s how it turned out. At any rate, we enjoyed being together!

Last Sunday afternoon, we went to our neighbor’s house, Rick and Sarah, for a little neighborhood get-together. It was fun – we drank wine and sat on their balcony around a fire pit. Very nice! Rick whipped up some pasta, and someone brought some incredible cheese and jamon from Spain, so it was a little feast.

Last Monday I went after work and picked up the males cats after their sterilization and released them back on the Embassy compound, then repeated that on Tuesday for the females. They were all happy to be out of their cages. Mike and I nabbed two more yesterday and ran them to the vet. The feeding stations are being built by two of the men in Facilities – they are doing a bang-up job. I thought we’d get pitiful little structures, but Jeff and Steve have built something more akin to condominiums! We’ll get some volunteers out to varnish them and they will be ready to put around the compound. Very impressive.

Thursday was rainy and chilly. My new Spanish-speaking friend Eva came to the house and worked with me in Spanish for a couple of hours. She is really amazing! I really appreciate her time.

Friday, John, Brad, Barbara, Edward and I had our French Friday lunch. Very pleasant.

John and I watched two movies this week – “Now You See Me,” a fun movie about magic. And we watched “The Heat” again – it’s so funny. We watched it this summer when we were in Hot Springs and we wanted to see it again. Fun!


Uncle Jimmy

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

Jimmy and LJ

We received the sad news this week that Mom’s younger brother Jimmy passed away. I’m very thankful to Julie for calling Mom and having her and Aunt Bonnie come to the hospital to see him before they disconnected life support after his heart attack. And, I’m thankful to David and Alison for taking Mom to the services in Mt. Tabor. He was a nice man and will be missed.

On top of a particularly hard week on the visa front, I’ve also been working on an issue near to my heart, the cats that reside on the Embassy compound. The Embassy management team has been getting complaints about all of the cats on the compound. We had a couple of litters of kittens born over the summer and they were really becoming a nuisance, along with all of the already-existing cats. People feed them (including me), several of them are spayed or neutered already, but the kittens were bothering people trying to eat outside on the patio.

There’s a loose-knit group of cat-lovers, so we mobilized to see if we could do something. Management was threatening to do a “round up” which just means round them up and either kill or dump them. They have done it in years past, but luckily it seems that this Management team understands that if you do that, more cats just come onto the compound. So we are working to stabilize the population and keeping a healthy, spay/neutered population there. Our little team dubbed the C’attachés quickly raised money, and yesterday Mike and I got four of the naughty kittens and one pregnant female and took them to the vet to be spay/neutered. We’re are also going to establish formal feeding stations around the compound to draw them away from the restaurant and cafeteria, and we are embarking on an educational campaign to get people to stop feeding them at the tables. These are all measures that have been established at other Embassies, and we’re excited to get a good program going here.

Pakistan is extremely primitive when it comes to animals and pets. For one thing, in general Muslims think dogs are unholy. Their animal control consists of having the city periodically go out and shoot stray dogs. The senior local staff member who works for me, who is so smart and has worked with Westerners for years, heard me talking about spaying cats and asked me what that was. When I explained it, he just shook his head and said he had never heard of such a thing. There are no shelters here, of course. It’s very depressing – but, I think we are on the right track with the cats on the compound.

It occurs to me that I don’t think I have announced in this blog that John and I are slated to go to Guadalajara in Fall 2014 after we leave Pakistan. We had to wait a while before we got “paneled” into the job, but everything looks good at this point. The sticking point was our Spanish. Our official scores had expired last spring, so we had to take an informal phone test before DC would agree to put us in the jobs. But we still have to pass a formal test before we go to Post, so we are studying as much as possible. We are very excited about Guadalajara! If all goes as planned, we’ll be there for three years.

Some friends here put me in touch with a lovely Honduran woman. We met for coffee after work on Thursday so I could practice Spanish with her. She was so nice and helpful, and we plan to meet again. It was a boost to my confidence to be able to carry on a conversation for an hour and a half without too much trouble. That said, my real work is still ahead of me in terms of preparing for the actual test.

John and I have laughed and laughed at this cartoon this week – it pretty much sums up our relationship: