Saturday, 5 December 2009

Au Revoir Pakistan

I have decided to come home early, for many reasons. The thought of one year without freedom and only explosions for comfort weighs heavily in my mind, the mission is lacking in strategy and we are generally risking too much for too little impact. I am sorry to go, but am thrilled at the thought of home. What luxury to be able to walk freely and to roam around on my own without having to tell anyone where I'm going.

Pakistan is a culturally rich country, with a generous population and I would be delighted to return as a tourist if ever there is peace here.

Credit for these beautiful photos of the women with their children goes to Cecile, my party partner and good friend who is still in Islamabad, may God take care of her out there.

Friday, 4 December 2009

The Punjabis Versus The Pashtuns

Conflict everywhere. Fighting amongst the different breeds of Taliban, fighting all country neighbours, fighting between states. We received some complaints today regarding favouritism within the team. We try to work on our team composition, so that all tribes and ethnicities are recruited in equal portions. But the Punjabis complained today that our Logistics Supervisor was giving preferential treatment to his fellow Pashtuns; better shifts, more overtime, first pick for holidays. Looking at the rosters, their claims appear founded at first glance. I wonder, where will the next bout of conflict arise?!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Good But Suspicious News

We have been granted access for foreigners to go back into one of our remote-controlled projects, albeit only temporarily. But we cannot fathom why there has been a change of heart.

During one of our meetings with the local authorities, we were told that their communication means were tapped, and thus we could no longer continue to telephone them. Perhaps this is why they have chosen to work side by side with us for the time being, as messages cannot be passed on.

We also know of a jihadist training camp very close to the site of one of our hospitals, could it be that this is no longer a threat to us?

Some of the elders have fought with the entire community for our continued presence after seeing the quality of our work. It is crucial now that we ensure headquarters are behind us so that we can stay put and invest in the area. If we were to pull out now there would such a loss of face for those who have risked their lives to support us. We will return to our hospital and hope that this move may be permanent.

Close To Home

Another suicide bomb in Islamabad today, this one the closest yet at about 100m from the house. Way too close for comfort. I was standing outside when it went off; a deafening noise that was heard for several miles, we couldn't tell which direction it had come from, only that the birds had fled.

Wanting to be home right now, but at least I know that the end is nigh, only one more trip to Peshawar left.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Sacrificial Slaughter

The traditional way to celebrate Eid al-Adha is to slaughter an animal allowing it to bleed to death with the head facing Mecca. I visited a family to witness the experience for myself, blood and guts a-go-go.

Good friend Esphandyer and I with the decorated cow. Little does she know...

The streets are awash with blood pouring from the gates of every house
Skinning before going into the cooking pot
You cannot find fresher meat than that! It is customary to offer the meat to family, friends and the poor, our freezer is now stocked up with enough proteins to make it through winter.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Life And Soul Of The Party

I went to a fancy dress party recently and guess who I saw strutting his stuff on the dancefloor?!?

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Another Eid Mubarak!

Eid al-Adha is here. The Muslim version of Christmas, this is the biggest festival of the year in Pakistan. It is a family time focused on the offering of a animal to mark the sacrifice Ibrahim made of his son to God to show the power of his love.

Travelling back from NWFP today it was fascinating to watch the makeshift goat and cattle markets forming on the side of the road. Everyone was walking home with his goat, or a bull for the richer families. Some of the beasts were decorated, painted in neon colours and wearing garlands and tinsel, to signify a choice piece of meat. Strange marketing, but all the fuss and commotion made me want to buy one too.