October 8, 2011

As I sit here in the Ministry of Rural Reconstruction and Development, Afghanistan I must confess that so far this has been my least glamorous international travel experience. For one, we had to exit the country through the Islamabad International Airport. Those of you who don’t have the privilege, walking into the capital’s international terminal may not have had the opportunity of discovering just how depressingly dingy and disorganized it is. You may also never have almost-tripped over the mangy drug-sniffing Labrador sprawled across the customs aisle fast asleep and dreaming of a job-with-better-perks.

Speaking of customs, we sailed through the process this morning – the boss and I. Not, unfortunately, because we received VIP treatment but because when we told the half-asleep gentleman in police uniform where we were headed he smiled and waved us off. When questioned by a colleague he turned and laughingly said ‘they’re heading to Kabul’. I’m not sure whether to be offended or to just understand that he probably feels there’s no sense in checking for exported drugs when the likelihood of imports is infinitely higher. That said, I noticed that Civil Aviation was most unconcerned about security concerns once they found discovered destination: Afghanistan. Perhaps they thought we would make good use of the heavy artillery in our handbags once we reached Kabul.

Anyhow, we proceeded to the international waiting lounge to be bombarded by oodles of men in various stages of undress as each of them shucking their day-clothes for the stellar white garb of pilgrimage. As it turns out, a number of Haj flights are scheduled for this day and the entire airport is resounding with sounds of prayers and precursory ‘labbaiks’. Except for the gentlemen right behind me who couldn’t resist talking to his brothers about various people who he kept referring to as ‘haramis’ – but I’m sure he’ll be done gossiping by the time he hits Mecca.

A lady next to me (a bit of a stiff-upper-dame to tell you the truth) went on and on about how her flight the previous day had been cancelled due to bad weather in Kabul. Apparently the PIA-flight-mess up was seriously affecting a belated (re)honeymoon plan her husband and she had for Italy. Given that I have recently browsed through a colorful – and very beautiful – picture album of V & E’s Italian escapade I’m both envious and extremely sympathetic. That said, after a sleepless night and a threat of a full weekend’s work ahead of me I think it may not be an altogether horrible thing for the flight to be cancelled and for me to go home and snuggle into bed.

My nice, warm, bed with a soft heap of pillows, heavy-yummy comfortable and – ofcourse – Satan (In case you missed the point – I just really, really miss my bed right now *sigh*)

Anyhow, bed-talk aside, leaving the waiting lounge for the plane is equally painful at Islamabad international. There is a steep, uncomfortable ramp followed by an abbreviated, bumpy bus-ride all the way to the grand aircraft which was *drum-roll* a tiny little ATR.

An ATR? For international travel? How utterly sad is that?

Welcome, my loves, to the Af-Pak Saga in Xeb K’s life!


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