Archive for July, 2008

Chronicles of Pakistan: Day 10

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Sunday.
July 13, 2008.
Islamabad.

With the heavy curtains closed all the time, I have no concept of day or night. In addition, I can pretend I am not in Pakistan. I wake up around 8am. I’m hoping nobody calls me today to go out so I can just relax and recuperate.

hotel room in islamabad     I watched some episodes of the Office and surfed the internet. I decided to try some breakfast so I order toast and an omelet. Fortunately I can now bare the smell of food. I patiently wait to see if it comes out. It stays down. I smell horrible but I am still exhausted. It is amazing how much vomiting and diarrhea expend your energy. Around noon, I fall asleep and wake up 8 hours later. Now, that is a nap. I drink some more of the nasty electrolyte powder in water and watch some episodes of the Office. I eat another set of toast and an omelet and tip the guy 1000 rupees. It is only a $14 tip but I think it is huge for Pakistan but I am not sure but I want to keep them happy since they are my only contact with the outside world. After he realizes how much he got he comes back in and tells me that if I need anything from anywhere such as medicine, I can just let him know 24 hours a day. I have not vomited or pooped today so all is okay. watching officeNo calls come except for Bhutta Uncle checking in. I do a whole lot of nothing except watch all of season 3 and 4 of the Office. I finally had my shower around 1am after getting some soap from the front desk. The only time I left my room today was to get soap. I have not gone outside since Friday when I got back from the embassy.

A couple days ago when I was looking for an outlet in the hotel room in a convenient location by the bed I saw the lamp plugged into an outlet right by the night stand in a perfect location. I put my hand on the lamp wire and I got a jolt that scared my hair straight. I have not felt that kind of jolt since I was too lazy to cut the power when installing a ceiling fan in the living room in our duplex in Austin. This was 220 volts. I’m not sure what voltage for what duration will kill a person but that sure did scare me. The wire was not exposed so I have become afraid to touch any electrical appliance. Plus, a couple nights in a row I kept waking up thinking there was a current running through the bed. Fortunately, the pain and exhaustion of the sickness has distracted me from my thoughts of electrocution so another silver lining.

PK Day 9

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Saturday
July 12, 2008
Islamabad
stomach ache I woke up around 8am with a bad stomach ache. I knew this was not a good sign so I tried to sleep it off. Around 9am, I heard some grumbling in my stomach. I thought maybe I was hungry but it did not feel good. I high tailed it to the toilet. Oh, it shot out like the bullets of the AK 47 into the toilet. I wiped up and hoped the worst of this diarrhea was over. Forget rice stool, this was pure liquid. A couple hours later I raced back to the toilet again. Some more AK 47 firing but this time it also included some nasty tasting burps with the distinct taste of Kudayi (sp?) chicken which I ate yesterday. Some sniper fire came out of my mouth, it was painful. I, fortunately, leaned over into the bathtub so I’m firing into the toilet and bathtub simultaneously. The vomiting lasts for a few seconds but I don’t feel much better and the burps start again so I launch some more sniper fire as I stare into the previous sniper fire and can see distinct pieces of chicken. Surprisingly, it does not smell as appealing as it did when I initially ate it. Again it lasts a few seconds. I’m in severe pain at this point. I cannot remember the last time I puked and I had forgotten how much I hate it. Diarrhea, I can handle, it’s an inconvenience and limits your mobility but is effortless, just sit back and relax. Vomiting on the other hand really takes a toll on you. Uses lots of muscles, prevents you from breathing for a few seconds, leaves a horrible taste in your mouth. At this point I was hoping I passed out. I was sweating profusely and it came so suddenly. The last time I remember breaking into sweats so quickly was when I saw a rat in our place in Austin, TX. I am not sure which scenario I prefer. So all the while the AK 47 is on rapid fire with seemingly no end in site with intermittent sniper fire. One last sniper fire erupted and apparently it hit the target. The burps stopped and there was no movement in enemy territory so the AK 47 firing also stopped in conjunction. I sat on the can for a few minutes, exhausted. I thought about showering but then thought about all the puke in the shower. I thought about brushing my teeth but I didn’t have the energy so I stumbled over to the bed and fell asleep

A couple hours later around noon, I hear some enemy troops arming themselves so I head back to the toilet and commence AK47 firing to finish them off. Since there are only a couple of them, the AK47 firing is short and sweet and no sniper fire is needed. I stumble back to bed and go back to sleep.

A couple hours later I wake to a phone call from Jawad. He invited me to lunch but I notified him of my illness so he understood when I declined and offered to bring over whatever is needed and also said he will tell the hotel staff to do the same thing. Bhutta uncle called later and I told him too. He called Jawad and told him to drop off some cipro and some electrolyte powder. I took the meds, watched some more of the Office and drank lots of water with the nasty powder in it along with some 7up.

Later that night, when the room service guy delivered some 7up, they asked if I would switch rooms to accommodate a family gathering which wanted the whole floor. I gladly said yes but warned him he would need to clean the tub as the vomit was still there plus since I was ½ a level below the ground floor I was far from the router so the internet connection was slow. I hope he remembered to clean the tub. Suckers.

Silver Linings:

1. The chicken tasted good on the way in on Friday, although, I should have known my weak American stomach could not handle the pool of grease in it but it was a celebratory meal and since I technically could taste it on the way out, I can count it as enjoying it twice.

2. If anyone asks when the last time I vomited, I can say definitely that it was Saturday, July 11th 2008, in Islamabad, Pakistan.

3. If anyone asks which I prefer: vomiting vs Diarrhea I can definitely say I prefer Diarrhea.

4. The timing was perfect.

a. It happened after all the adoption stuff was taken care of so it did not affect any of my business. I am not sure how the judge would have reacted had I puked in his hot steamy office. Perhaps that would have gotten his sympathy, we’ll never know.

PK Day 8

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Friday
July 11, 2008
Islamabad

The moment of truth has arrived. The embassy guy told me that the judge’s document was the only issue preventing the visa. Before I came they said they had the right to do a special investigation even though the central office did one already.

I only slept a couple hours and was ready by 6:30am. I wait in the main lobby. I have all the papers read — 7am I move outside and see a monster size beetle. By 7:30am, perhaps the driver overslept, so now I start thinking about a cab but I have no idea how much that would cost so I wait until 8am which was my original time. By 8:05am, I ask the hotel manager how much a cab would cost and he says around 100 rupees are less than $2 USD so I flag a cab and it costs me 120 rupees. I give him 200 for good luck. Buy the embassy bus pass and head out. Then I got into the embassy around 9am. They called my name almost immediately. Fortunately, it is the same nice guy who took my documents the previous day. We go over what I have and then he told me an immigration agent will call me. I ask if it is the same guy as the previous day and says that guys is off today. I figured that can’t be good. New person usually means a new issue as they can interpret the documents as they wish and even though the previous guy said only one document needed a change, this one can bring up any new issue they want. I only have to wait a few minutes and my name is called. The guy is Desi. There are some Desis (Indo Paks), some whites, some blacks. I don’t know which one works in my favor. He says it’s his first adoption case so that scares me because I’m worried he’ll start digging for obscure laws to protect himself and cover all his bases and require us to get more documents. The guy sounds American looks to be in his 20s so I ask if he is from the US since he does not have an accent. He says he is from the New England area. I tell him I am a Tom Brady fan and so I root for the New England Patriots since Tom Brady went to the University of Michigan, where I went to undergrad. He said he is a big Patriots fan. I ask his name but he says he is not allowed to give it out. We get on to business but I am happy so far. He says he sympathizes with the process we have gone through especially since there is no official process in Pakistan and so it can be difficult but he says from the notes, only one document needed to be fixed which we did so it looks like everything is in order. So I ask to be clear, does that mean Jamal has received his visa and he says yes. I thank him possibly about 20 times. He also says today is slow so he’ll process the visa right now and to sit tight and he’ll have it for me shortly. He was not joking, about 30 minutes later, he called me back, had me verify the information and it all looked good. He handed me a packet that won’t fit through the slot so he met me at the door, we shook hands and he handed me a packet of documents to give to customs upon arrival in the US. I took it and headed off. Mission accomplished. What a relief.

I took the bus back to the embassy parking lot and just took a cab instead of calling for a driver. I want to get away from the embassy as quick as possible before they can change their mind. I don’t know the name or address of my hotel so I have the cab take me to the Parliament Houses where Jawad stays. I go to the security office and give them the names of the people but they need their address so after a few minutes I borrow a stranger’s cellphone and Jawad happened to be leaving at the same time so he picks me up and drops me off at home. I celebrate with a full order of chicken kudiyi sp? It is greasy but I try to avoid the grease. I call Tannu and let her know. I am mentally exhausted and took a long nap. Later, I just study and relax in my room. Now, I just wait to go back home with Jamal.

PK Day 7

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Thursday
July 10, 2008
Multan/Islamabad

     Grease rules for the cooking here. If it doesn’t shine, it is not a meal. I mainly just eat fruits for breakfast. It appears in Pakistan, people here, including the working people, do not get up until around 10-11am and then they eat breakfast at noon, lunch at 5-7pm, then dinner around 11pm to midnight. Plus, they like to nap a lot and sleep a lot at night. I ate some sliced mangos and some other fruits I could not identify.

     Off we went to the courthouse at 10am as planned. Fortunately, the judge was there in his chambers and said he would get to it shortly. I really have no idea what is happening. Turns out he decided to amend the original order by eliminating the 3 clauses as requested despite not agreeing with it. He knows I have a flight back to Islamabad at 3pm so he promises to have it typed up before 1pm. While were waiting earlier, I asked Uncle who all the people in his office were. Turns out they were all lower level judges.

     Anyhow, I thanked the main judge for everything and headed back. We were told the documents will be ready at 1pm to pick so I go back and eat and pack. Turns out that what we did was file a petition through our lawyer, the judge had a hearing, and then gave a verdict, in our favor.

     I say bye to Jamal and give a box of Roses Chocolate to Bushra as a thank you. I say bye to Bushra but she does not respond. I’m not sure what the rules are for saying bye for servants.

     The Multan airport might the smallest one I have ever seen. 3 cars in the parking lot. I put my bags through screening and walk through the metal detector and right as I walk through, the ticket counter is there. The guy at the counter asks for my ID and when I give him my passport, he is upset that it is crinkled. I’m not sure what kind of response he wants plus he said it in Urdhu so my only response is “Jeb me tha, is liye”. I don’t know why he cared, it was my passport. Then he mumbles something and I ask in a polite voice “Sorry sir, I could not hear you” and he stares me down and says “I was not talking to you.” Apparently, that guy was having a bad day. The rest of the flight was uneventful and Jawad’s driver picked me up. In the 10 minutes I waited for the driver, I probably had about 30 people come up to me asking if I needed a ride and trying to convince me my driver was not coming. I went back to my hotel ordered some dinner, watched some episodes of the Office and arranged with Jawad to have the driver come at 8am for the embassy the next day although Bhutta Uncle called later and said he told them to arrange it for 7am to be on the safe side.

Chronicles of Pakistan: Day 6

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Our flight at 8am is delayed an hour which is displayed clearing on the board. At 8am, they announce it is an hour late. The flight to Multan is an hour and a half. Jamal seems to enjoy it. Pretty uneventful. We are picked up by their driver at the airport and taken to their house. It is in a commercial area where a security guard with an AK-47 opens the gates and lets us in. A clinic or lab in the front and nice house in the back.

For those of you who do not know much about Pakistan, like me, this is what I think:

First off, I’ve never seen so many AK-47s in my life. Right when you step off the plane, there is one pointed at you coming off the steps off the plane. All the security in the airport have them, too. Hotel security, house security, embassy security, government building security. Some are just standing there, some are chatting with their guns laying on the ground or on chairs. I’m pretty sure I could walk up to one and grab the gun before them but rest assured I will not make any attempts. The scary part is that many of these guards are elderly men. I’m guessing that Walmart, perhaps, initially found their inspiration in hiring the elderly from the nation of Pakistan. Now, I think Walmart is doing a better job of this because they put the old folks in more harmless positions such as greeters. I have 4 concerns here:

1. What if, due to their old age, their eyesight or mental state is off and they confuse me with someone they want to shoot?
2. What if, due to their old age, their aim is off and they want to shoot someone near me?
3. What if, due to their old age, their muscle control is off and they have a muscle spasm?
4. What if they just decide to shoot me?

I don’t think they like Americans here and I don’t think the punishment would be to severe to shoot me, although, I hope those of you reading this would at least sign a petition or hold a candlelight vigil in my honor.

Reminds me a poor man’s version of the Nicholas Cage movie Lord of War.

The poverty does not seem to be as bad as Pakistan but it may be that I have only been to 2 cities which may be wealthier than the average population but I have barely seen people going to the bathroom on the side of the road, so that is a nice surprise (the not seeing it part). Servants are a staple here. I assume labor is cheap. Little girls and elderly men always want to carry my bags. I’ll let the old men do it because if somebody sees me carrying my one bag, they may assume the old man has no value and he could be out of a job which means he would be out on the streets. As for the young girls, I figure they wont lose their job for not carrying my bag since they will get older and stronger. I had to fight with a young servant girl not to carry the carry-ons at the airport.

Some dogs running around and one day I saw a horse galloping down the street. I asked Jawad if that was normal and he said no but I saw it again the next day so who knows. More greenery here than in India especially in Islamabad.

Power outages seem to occur all the time here. I’m guessing the power is out about 1/4 of each day. Some of it is schedule due to “load sharing” and some are just basic outages. Many places have generators to supply limited power to certain essentials during these times. I find I am most often on the can or in the shower when the power goes out. I have also found it is not as easy as you would think to wipe your butt in the dark.

All in all, it is like a slightly cleaner India. The people look worn out from the weather and they seem to have very light schedules. They eat breakfast at noon, lunch around 6pm and dinner around midnight. Lots of grease in the food which does not bode well for my stomach. The temperature seems to hover around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, back to my story: I meet Uncle at his house. He enjoys a conversation. We eat quickly and head over to meet the judge. It is probably about 110 degrees today and I’m in a full suit. The judicial area is surprising. It reminds me of Alcatraz or a Turkish prison. These tiny little brick enclaves like jail cells that are apparently offices for lawyers, assistants, etc. with a small fan so it is easily 120 or so degrees in these little cells. I see cheap construction paper all over the place and basic typewriters with an occasional computer sprinkled in. Eventually we walk into a room where about 10 people are sitting around chatting. Turns out the judge is in trial and won’t be back for a couple hours. We talk to the judge below him who had also met my wife. Fortunately, he is fluent in English. He mentioned that he was glad I came because it shows we are serious. It didn’t help that the office we were in was at least 120 degrees with 2 fans and no AC and power outages every 30 minutes or so for about 15 minutes. Fortunately, we left soon and headed over to Uncle’s doctors office for him to do some work until they called us upon the judge’s return.

sweating     His pathology lab was hot but not as hot as the judge’s chamber. I saw people carrying chemicals in their bare hands. He brought me a drink to cool off. I had been accepting drinks all day without asking if it was tap water. I am already as wet as if I had played basketball for 3 hours and I’m wearing a suit so a little diarrhea can only add to my party. He apparently wrote a book on Immunology so he had an employee get a copy from a local store and I started reading some for an hour. No signs of diarrhea yet.

So, at 2:30pm we get a call that the judge is back in his chambers. We get back over there in 5 minutes. He is finishing up some other business and had us take a seat right next to him. When he finished, he asks Uncle to explain so he gets up and explains. I also get up and he asks me to take a seat. I figure that does not bode well. After Uncle’s explanation, he explains that he has to look after the welfare of the child and that is why he put in those conditions. I am not sure what to say. I only tell him I understand what he is saying but my hands are tied and that the US embassy specified the removal of these 3 clauses and without their removal, Jamal will not be issued a visa. He asks to think about it for a few minutes and says to file a petition and he’ll do something tomorrow and to come to his office in the morning. So, off we go to this tiny little Turkish prison cave with no power where I meet my Pakistani side attorney who writes a petition.

I have no idea what the judge is going to do. Tannu emails the judge from the US. I eat dinner, (their lunch) play with Jamal for a little while, study for a while then we go out to eat: me, their nephew, aunty, uncle. I just have soup having already eaten too much all day. Uncle wants to eat a big meal but you can tell he feels pressured to eat light because I ordered soup. So, he settles on French fries and takes some chicken to go.

Day 5

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Tuesday
July 8th 2008
Islambad

Jawad was going to arrange with somebody so we could drive directly to the US embassy instead of driving to the main public parking lot and taking the embassy bus which all in all takes approximately an hour. Unfortunately, because of the bomb a couple days before, no passes are being issued.

I am ready by 8am with all the documents and sit in the main lobby waiting for them. We got to the embassy parking lot around 11am and get to the embassy around 11:40 with only 20 minutes to spare. My name gets called quickly and the guy is friendly and he is asking for various documents. After about 10 minutes, he just asks for all the documents I have and says he will sort through them and let me know. So, I give him all the documents.

A couple hours later, he called me in again and asked me to fill out a couple simple forms which I did. Then he says a visa agent will call me. I thought he was the visa agent but I guess not. So, I wait. For today, I have had some water. It is about 95 deg F; cooler than I thought and the embassy is air conditioned. Surprisingly, the bathroom is a traditional hole in the ground at the US embassy. I’m wearing a suit and I know there is no way I can maneuver in a suit with the hole in the ground without somehow soiling my own clothes so I hold off on talking a 0000002 .

2, 3pm, 4pm. The crowd is dwindling but nothing. Jawad took off and a driver will wait for us when we are done. At 4:45, the security guard tells me I should ask the embassy folks if they are going to call me. I go and check and they tell me to wait patiently. At 5:15pm, the security guard goes and asks himself since we are the only ones left and security is only waiting for us. Finally at 5:30pm, a friendly guy tells us that one pile of documents is ok and he points to the thick stack but that in the Judge’s document, he put conditions such as needing a bond, coming to Pakistan every year to show the health of the child and giving rights to the biological parents if they ever show up. To issue a visa it needs to be irrevocable and unconditional. I ask them for specific language they want the judge to write and so I can give to the judge so he says to give him a few minutes and he’ll provide some. Bad news. Now I have to go back to the judge. The embassy agent called me back and decided he would not give me any language and sent me on my way. They held the bus for us so people who left the embassy office an hour before were waiting on the bus for us.

Horrible day from start to finish. I am drained mentally plus hungry. I got to Jawad’s place and went to the bathroom. I sit on the toilet and am not sure if I have diarrhea or just suppressed gas from holding it in all day. I let a juicy wet one rip for at least 2 minutes on the toilet. I’m worried that I already have diarrhea which I always expect to get when I go to India so why not Pakistan. I eat, hang out at Jawad’s place. I just want Jamal to come home.

A servant girl takes care of Jamal. I’m guessing she is around 13 years, name is Bushra. You can tell she enjoys playing with Jamal plus she treats me with respect. Perhaps she has to, but either way, she treats Jamal well.

I get dropped off by the driver at my place, pack my things and head off to bed for my 8:00am flight back to Multan.

PK Day 4: Islamabad

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PK Day 4: Monday
July 7th 2008
Islamabad

I know nothing about Pakistan. Until today, I couldn’t have told you the capital.

 

Click on Image for HQ view.

pakistan map

Pakistan Map

Turns out there was a bomb explosion in Islamabad in the city center the day before. Internal issues between various political parties. The people here are not phased by it. Plus, I think the Dutch embassy was bombed a coupled a weeks ago due to the cartoons making fun of Islam. I seem to have a knack for showing up at the time of bombings as I did the day the bomb went off at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. (more…)

Chronicles of Pakistan Day 3

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Sunday
July 6, 2008
London

I arrive at 7am on time; didn’t sleep much on the plane and did not do much at all. The food was excellent on British Airways. I just watched TV shows and movies on the seat. The line for departing the airport with the landing card was long. Fortunately, my bag stayed checked in so I didn’t have to lug that around. It took 1.25 hours to get out. I got some cash converted and directions to the Underground.

As I was walking out I heard my name. Muna Uncle decided to pick me up. It was a nice surprise to see him, although, I would have preferred to take the subway so he wouldn’t have to drive 1.5 hours each way from his house.

There are 3 families in London who are somehow related on Tannu’s side. They are all siblings. I love all 3 of them. I’ve only spent time with them once before but they were amazing to us and treated us with an amazing amount of love. We spent about 1 week with them a year or two after we got married before we went to India. Muna Uncle and Ruksana Chachi and their 3 kids, Faisal (around 19 years old), Sumaya (15), and Uzair (11). Uzair was a chubby violent infant last time I met him so of course I did not know much about him. The other 2 kids were very affectionate. Parveen Aunty is the one who always called us in the US and made sure we were okay even before meeting us. She is also very affectionate and a good person.

Shayaz Aunty and her husband and 2 kids: Adil and Aman. Aman was a newborn last time we were here and Adil was probably around 5 or 6. I played around with him for while last time and the parents were also also very loving. Last time we were here, they threw us a little wedding reception amongst the family, something even my in-laws did not do. We spent a couple days at each of their houses. I wish we could see them more often as they are all very good and loving people. Since I was merely on a layover with a last second ticket, we could not give them any advanced notice I was coming. Fortunately, at least it was a Sunday so they were not working. The unfortunate thing was Shayaz Aunty’s family was renovating their house and had travel plans so I only got to see the parents for 1/2 an hour and never got to see the kids. I met everybody else though and enjoyed my time at their house. All the kids of course have grown up. Hopefully I can see them all again soon and on a proper vacation.

So I got to the airport already checked in and set off for Pakistan with an arrival time of Monday at 10AM accounting for the time difference. Pakistan is around 11.5 hours ahead of the US EST.

Chronicles of Pakistan Day 2

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Saturday.
July 5, 2008.
Michigan and Chicago

     I woke up sorted some papers and head out on my way. I had a long day ahead of me.

     A noon flight out of Detroit, 5-hour layover in Chicago then a flight to London with a 12-hour layover. I arrived in London at 7am on Sunday with the time change and will try to see my relatives in West London who I have not seen in about 8-9 years.

     Tannu will call them and let them know I am coming and directions on the subway. The Chicago layover is painful and the internet is not free so I eat and do nothing.

     Nothing interesting happened this day.

Chronicles of Pakistan: Day 1

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Day 1: Friday 4th of July 2008.
Bonaire and Michigan

The journey begins. I had a nice dinner Thursday night with a friend after playing basketball for a few hours before that, where I won the only game of 21 after choking a free throw on 20 but coming back to sink on 20 the second time around. After that we played 2 on 3 and, everyone won in the threesome. I figured I would stay up all night since I was leaving for the airport at 4:15am. I fell asleep on my bed and woke up around 2:30am in a panic. I couldn’t remember why I was dressed and my lights were on but after a couple minutes I figured it out. I set my alarm and went to sleep.

(more…)

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