If you have followed this blog, you know I previously spent three years in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, located 710 miles north of Karachi. There is a complex reason why I chose Karachi as my final post, but one important element is that I honestly like the people.
This usually comes as a shock to people who have never been there, especially Americans who interpret the troubled relationship between the United States and Pakistan as anti-Americanism of the Pakistani populace. I’m not a political person, despite the fact I am employed as a diplomat, but I can say with certainty that the problem between the average American and the average Pakistani is that they each know the same thing about the other, which is to say almost nothing. Both groups have formed opinions based on rumors and sensationalized news stories, and the reality is far different from the perception.
Please note I did say average Pakistani, because there is no denying there are radical factions at work in Pakistan, as in many countries. Fortunately, I need only interact with people who are just trying to get through another day, as am I, with no ill will toward anyone else. I can honestly say that, in my previous three years in Pakistan, I never met a single person who was anything less than welcoming and friendly to me. I hope I never do.
This moving ritual that we Foreign Service employees participate in always brings up the question of “Which post did you like best?” I can never really answer that question, because I’ve found something to like about all of them and comparison between embassies is very much an apples-and-oranges dilemma. But I can say what I liked best about each post:
Accra, Ghana was my first taste of Africa, as well as my introduction to Foreign Service life. It was an excellent beginning, as Accra has a vibrant culture, the provincial travel possibilities were marvelous and I developed friendships that are still important to me.
Conakry, Guinea is the place people mean when they say “the end of the earth!” In spite of the poverty and lack of opportunity for the citizens, I met some of the kindest people I have ever known in Conakry.
Kabul, Afghanistan is the zenith of my Foreign Service experiences. I’ve explained why in previous blogs. To summarize, it is where I experienced great professional purpose and enormous pride in American assistance to others in need.
A two-year “roving” tour that took me to nine different countries over four continents during which I learned a person can live for an extended period of time with only two suitcases of material goods. I also had one of the most amazing experiences of my life in Rwanda, as I climbed through a bamboo forest to watch mountain gorillas in their habitat.
I appreciate Islamabad, Pakistan for the art, food and generous hospitality of the people. I also have to say the work-team environment was as close to perfect as I will ever have.
Prague, Czech Republic is a gift of beauty at the foot of Cinderella’s castle. It is almost a fantasy to walk down these cobblestone streets and enjoy the spectacular architecture. I’ve been on a two-year vacation, but shhhh, don’t tell my bosses, okay?
I will depart Prague this week, and I have several weeks of vacation and a couple of weeks of training before I report to Karachi. Please be patient while I take a break. I will be back.