Thursday, April 24, 2014

Winding Down

As expected, I have mixed emotions about leaving the Foreign Service. As the days and weeks go by and I approach my June 20 departure date from Karachi, I've reflected on the good times I've had and how those memories will be with me forever.  I'll miss so much of this lifestyle when I make my transition to retired person.  But I'm also excited about returning to Texas and now that I finally heard that I am a homeowner once again, I am thinking about what all I will now have time to do in that house to put my stamp on it.  I know all my carpets will look beautiful on the floors.  I was lucky to find a house with no/no wall to wall carpet, so I won't have to rip anything up!
These past 6 years have been so good; I don’t even know where to start listing what I’ll miss when I return to a normal life.  Probably the biggest thing I’ll miss is working with the local staff at the posts…Tegucigalpa, Muscat and Lahore.  Unless you are exposed to other cultures and people in other countries, you can’t appreciate how much I will miss this part of my job.  Living in America, we tend to believe that our way is the best way, the only way and any other ‘way’ is unacceptable.  This is totally not the case. I've learned so much from the Hondurans, Omanis and Pakistanis.  Not only do you learn that there’s more than one way to do something, depending on your circumstances, what supplies you have to work with and the skills you have to get the job done, you also learn that that your way may not be the best for all.  And the way of doing business around the world is amazing.  When I was in Oman as well as here in Pakistan, I would look at carpets…gorgeous, expensive hand knotted carpets.  There would be 30 carpets unrolled in front of me and the shop keeper would say…”Take some home with you and see how you like them.”  Hey, we’re talking over $1000 per carpet and this man is telling me to just take a few home.  “Pay me later”, he says…”or bring them back.  It’s OK.”  Of course, they knew that once you got it home, you’d fall in love with it even more and the carpet would never be returned.  You would go back the next day or week with cash in hand, thanking him profusely for letting you take them home to see just how you liked them.  Can you see Macy’s doing that?  Heck no.  There’s also a place in Islamabad who would sell items and, knowing we were diplomats and would be leaving in a year or 2, would buy back the items you had bought (less a small percentage) when you moved on if you decided you didn't want to keep them.  It’s kind of like a rental service for local items without having to keep them forever if you don’t want to.  This helps you avoid the problem of accumulating a ton of things at each post around the world.  After a 20 year career, I can imagine a home looking like a museum!

What will I not miss?  That list deals mostly with the quality of life.  It will be nice to be able to drink the water from the tap again.  I will love being in the same time zone as friends.  Being able to pick up the phone and call my doctor, insurance company, or whoever it might be that I have a problem with instead of waiting a week for emails to bounce back and forth.  And I will not miss being chauffeured around!  I can’t wait to get my car back!  And I won't have to soak my vegetables in bleach water.  

There’s another thing that I’ll have to deal with when I return home.  I've had the greatest opportunity to travel the world and see things that most people never get the chance to see…and experience things that others will never experience.  I’ll have to be very careful to not go on and on about my travels and experiences when with friends.  I have photo books with photos I've taken that I’ll leave out and if people ask, I will be happy to talk about my travels.  I may need to find an outlet for my love of places I've been…maybe the library or schools that sponsor things like this where I can share my experiences.  As much as I want to share where I've been and what I've seen, I don’t want to bore my friends.  I can see their eyes rolling and them thinking…’here she goes again.’

I can’t wait for what’s in store for me…