Two days into pre-Pakistan training, and not an hour of it has gone by without some fellow officer telling my how "difficult," if not "impossible," my job in Lahore will be. And that's if the person is being kind: one guy today was more frank in his assessment that Pakistanis hate us so much and so deeply that PD work in Pakistan was a "waste of time." He felt the need to press this point for some number of minutes. It was a little uncomfortable.
It's hard to respond to the cynicism -- somewhat problematic in and of itself as responding to cynicism looks to be the core of my duties over the next year. I'm not someone who thinks reaction to US policies and actions can be papered over with free concerts, and I loathe all the talk about needing to 'brand' our aid, as if the point of our spending was to buy friendship. I do think, however, that personal relationships between Americans and people of other nations can make a difference in attitudes, enough to maybe, hopefully, transcend the ups and downs of politics. That thought was why I chose the Public Diplomacy cone over the Political cone all those many years ago.
I hope I don't regret my choice. I really don't want to spend the next year wasting anyone's time, least of all my own.