Tuesday, August 06, 2013

I Need a Crystal Ball...

Serving at a location listed as a ‘hardship’ post can sometimes be a pleasant surprise.  That’s how Lahore, Pakistan has turned out for me.  I’m now 14 months into my 2 year tour and have really enjoyed life here.

Sure, there are the expected hardships that you won’t encounter living in the U.S.  The load shedding is at the top of the list.  The power company shuts off all power to the city for everyone on a daily basis.  In some areas, there is only about 6 hours of power in every 24 hours, and in already unbearable heat, no air conditioning or water (water is delivered by pumps) makes life very hard.  The lack of green leafy vegetables for most of the year is another hardship for someone like me who loves salads.  The list goes on but currently, something else has jumped to the forefront of this list.  That would be the fear that your workplace is targeted by terrorists.

For the past few days, there has been a very serious threat of terrorism and it is being taken very seriously.  The Consulate here is normally closed on Sundays, so the mass closing of Embassies and Consulate in this region didn't affect us.  We did have a 2 hour delay in pickups by the shuttle that brings us from our homes to the Consulate and some additional security measures put in place.  We aren't sure of what the days ahead will bring.  Anything could be possible.   

Last September, as a result of the anti-Muslim film and the protests that followed, we were evacuated to Dubai and spent 10 days there.  It wasn't bad but I would have rather been home in my own bed.  We had a taste of what it was like to be whisked away, out of the path of danger.

This is transfer season and most of those assigned here have left for their next assignment.  Those of us who are still here and remember being flown to Dubai in the middle of the night already have our ‘go bag’ packed and ready to grab.  Just in case.  It’s not all that bad to be evacuated…you just hope it’s for a short period of time.  You aren't allowed to return to post until the people in Washington D.C. say you can return.  And after Benghazi, no one is in a hurry to put any of us back in harm’s way.   

So here we are, wondering just what will happen with this latest threat.  We’re off Thursday and Friday, which brings Ramadan to a close. Many are out of town and the few of us left here are hoping that we don’t need to ‘defend the Alamo’ or prepare for a quick ordered departure!  I’m sure we’ll be fine, but thinking about it makes us more mentally prepared to handle whatever might come our way.

Lahore…the final chapter of my short 6 year career in the Foreign Service.   Six years ago, if anyone had told me I would spend 2 years in Pakistan at my age (a very young 64 years old), I would have cracked up!  No way would I have dreamed that I would be here, during these turbulent times, and would have found it even more unbelievable that I would say I enjoyed it!

Pakistani kids signal for Peace...


Black Smith said...
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Debi said...

Thanks for your comment! As things turned out, I, along with 6 others from Lahore, are now 'refugees' in Islamabad. We aren't sure how long we'll be here or where those who weren't in Lahore will end up going. To serve in the Foreign Service, above all else, one must be flexible and accept what comes our way with a smile..and sometimes a laugh.

Jane and Douglas said...

Yes, it is too bad that you have a mandatory retirement age - it sounds like you would have continued on this Foreign Service journey. Here in Canada we have banned mandatory retirement. So many 70 year olds still "young" - like my parents we are in their early 70's and still work full time and enjoy being kept busy. I have enjoyed reading of your travels - I hope you still continue on your adventure! (I couldn't stand the heat in Pakistan - I experienced extreme heat like that in El Salvador and it was unbearable!)

Debi said...

Pakistan can get warm, for sure. But my previous post was Muscat, Oman and 7 months a year it is 120 degrees. But...your body does get used to it. I will be sad to see this chapter of my life come to an end in June. Currently, we have been evacuated from Lahore to Islamabad with no return date. Time has really ceased to fly. But June will arrive, in spite of terrorist threats! :)