Saturday, September 24, 2011

What I wouldn't give for a strawberry ripple

Alright, I admit it: the jazz group was fun and well-received. From orphans to blue bloods, Lahoris like the jazz. I'm not too proud to say that my skepticism was unfounded. I've heard rumors that the PD Powers That Be are plotting revenge on my lack of faith by sending me Broadway singers this summer (searching for the emoticon that conveys 'shuddering-in-horror-while-offering-a-meek-smile-of-acceptance').

Still, despite a program that I have tentatively labelled a 'success' -- i.e., fulfilled the somewhat amorphous PD goal of keeping populations A, B, and C in touch with concepts D, E, and F -- this was a rather trying week. Not strictly for jazz-related reasons, though after Dengue took over Lahore and our trip to Faisalabad was cancelled*, I had desperate visions of the group being reduced to playing for the guards on the Consulate grounds. No, more trying in that one's full-time desk job doesn't stop just because a program is in town. Which leads me to my first ever PD Rule of Thumb:

Schedule ye not a jazz tour if that jazz tour shall coincide with the end of the fiscal year procurement push, grant push, IVLP nomination push, award nomination push, your boss' R&R, a mosquito-borne epidemic, two official delegations, and the arrival of a new Consul General. For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain of work, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall be sorely disappointed.

After over a week of twelve to sixteen hour work days (shades of ACS!), general exhaustion finally caught up with me today. I was still bleary-eyed and unwashed when the guards rang the bell at noon asking for their ice; I was no better at three when a vague and annoying desire for ice cream prodded me out of my sleep state. Annoying, since of course I have no ice cream and no chance of strolling out to buy some. Browsing through ice cream makers online didn't really satisfy the craving.

And blast if I can't get jazz 'Happy Birthday' out of my head.

*Aedes mosquitoes and Faisalabad police, I shake my fist at you in impotent CAO rage.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Somewhere in the southern Punjab, the police are forcing Kevin Bacon to remove that nasty jazz tape from his car. Though, I guess if your name is "Bacon" in Pakistan, you were kind of asking for it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

Ten years later, this was a day just like any other. I did laundry; I read a book; I went jogging. I thought about things.

It was a day just like any other. Only more remarkable for having been so.

Which I'm pretty sure is how it should be.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Dubai Dialogue

"Hello, Ahlan wa Sahlan to the Oriental Hammam. Please, allow us the honor of showering you with rose petals."

"Gee, thanks, I... hey, that tickles!"

"That's merely our waitstaff anointing your feet with priceless attar. They have tickled you? My sincerest apologies. They will be shackled by their wrists and beat with wet shoes."

"This place is really fancy. What goes on behind those big doors?"

"Secrets too unspeakably delightful for human ears."


"The very wonders of the Orient are behind those doors. To reveal its contents would be to risk the wrath of Allah."

"Oh, I don't want you to get in trouble. No big deal, I'll just..."

"I fear for my very life if I were to outline the marvels that await one who enters that room."

"That's cool, I don't have to know."

"Shall I give you a hint?"

"You could just keep doing that rose petal thing -- that was good."

"Through that magical portal lies a room where we gently soap and steam the skin of delicate young women such as yourself...."

"That sounds nice."

"...then rake it with rusty steel wool and rub mud and honey into the scoriated flesh."

"What?! Yowch, that sounds awful!"

"It reduces many to tears."

"Is that even legal?"

"Yes, madam -- it is in Dubai."

"What do you pay the poor souls that you mistreat in this manner?"

"They pay us."

"Get out. How much?"

[Wordlessly, he scratches a sum on a piece of paper and pushes it across the desk, head bowed.]

"That's outrageous. That's got to be more than your monthly salary."

"Many times over."

"This all sounds so barbaric, so socio-economically imbalanced. And yet..."


"...I'm intrigued."


"Who performs this sadistic act?"

"A Tunisian woman with small, sharp hands."

"Is she a trafficking victim?"

"Almost certainly."

"Is there any other incentive?"

"For every pound of flesh we viciously rub from your body, we will feed you that same weight in dates."



"Medjool or halawi?"


"Well then. Proceed."

"Very good, madam."