Islamabad Journal - Dec. 30th, 2009

We've been here almost a week.
The last two days Tom has been at work. I have been recovering from jet-lag/cold/respiratory issues/diarrhea/period/etc. I spent almost 48 hours in my pajamas huddled in bed, sleeping. Yes, traveling is glamorous.

Today I went to look at some apartments in the diplomatic enclave. Whatever images "diplomatic" invokes, are shattered. Perhaps, the fancy license plates and nicer cars are true to hype. Beyond that, the actual "enclave" seems more like a prison, soulless concrete buildings surrounded by barricades and barbed wire, desolate open space dotted by canvass army tents on a grid of asphalt road interspersed with seemingly inert but abundantly staffed checkpoints. The real estate agent showed us about 8 apartments in two housing complexes. They seemed like a multi-national communist housing development. The common areas were particularly dismal. Dark. Damp. Cold. Hallways lined with cracked concrete and tiles. Smells of gas and food swirled through stairways and elevator shafts. I asked one of the group of 4 men who made up my motley entourage for the afternoon (2 from Tom's office, one real estate agent, and always one other random person who was presumably somehow connected to the apartment we were going to look at) "who lives here?" I wondered, motioning to the compound in general. "The big shots" was the reply of the youngest member of the group. Hmmmm. Occasionally a Chinese or Thai emblem hung above a door. The insides of the apartment bore the scars of the "big shots." Imagine your Pakistani grandma's furniture used for decades by strangers from all corners of the globe. If I were a cockroach, it's just the kind of place I would want to call home.

Who are the "big shots?" I wondered. Who are the "diplomats" from countries all over the world? What does one have to do to become a "diplomat" in Thailand? Or Russia? Hmmmm. Do I want to live next to these people?

Maybe we could stay at the Serena for 4 months...

But probably not. Only 6 days into our visit and already we avoid Zamana restaurant with its overbearing wait staff. We've cut back on room service, preferring to take snacks from the "executive lounge" upstairs which has a continental array of sandwiches, potato pancakes, cold cuts, fruit and surprisingly delicious array of delicate pastries and cakes. And of course, tea. I do love the tea. And the delicate pastries.

It could feel strange being cooped up here, really separate and isolated from ordinary life. And when I leave the hotel, I feel very vulnerable. But we are two, Tom and I, and in the space of our marriage it feels comfortable and good. And makes it easy to be in touch with my own heart, which feels good. I am very thankful for this experience. It is something I want to know more of. Love in awkward and challenging circumstances.

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