Saturday, July 28, 2012

Two Fingers of Liquor for Your NASCAR Driver

Two weeks in and I'm still not quite sure what to think about this new job.  Talking to friends, I've described it variously as a NASCAR race, a cocktail waitressing stint, and the email equivalent of a slow motion barroom brawl.  It's fascinating in a 'Shark Week meets WWWF meets PBS telethon' kind of way.  (No, really -- sit on the couch with the remote and flip back and forth between those three things, and you'll pretty much have captured my day.  Only you're probably wearing more comfortable shoes.) 

I should have known what I was getting into when my introduction to the office was a mostly drunk bottle of Scotch left sitting on my desk.  "Really?" I said aloud to no one in particular, nudging it with the clicker end of my pen and wondering what I would find in the spin dial safe.  Other warning signs:  being asked -- more than once -- "Is this your first tour?" and realizing that your floor is the one with the infamous female urinals in the restrooms.  But you know, I'll get the hang of all this eventually.  Or I'll develop cirrhosis, either one.

I'll tell you the story sometime about my first weepy / panicky moment on the Egypt Desk.  Surprisingly, it had absolutely nothing to do with the urinals.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Words for Loss

It was much more emotionally tremulous than I had anticipated to leave Lahore -- a post that was stressful and even (on occasion) frightening.  I didn't expect to feel so invested in the place; I didn't expect to care so much for -- and worry so much about -- the staff.  I still feel like I had more to learn and do there, a lot more.  But I couldn't have stayed, not at that pace of work.  Or maybe I just couldn't have stayed, period, and the pace of work is my justification.

Talking to family, friends, I want them to ask me about the experience... though precisely what the question ought to be, I couldn't tell you.  Without context they don't know where to start, and I don't know how to properly articulate things to them.  Coming into Dallas, the customs official flipped through my passport and eyed the Pakistani visa.  "So, Pakistan," he closed the travel document and handed it back to me.  "What was that like?"  I struggled for an adequate response.  "Good and bad," I finally told him.  I'm not sure that really captured it, though.