Category: Pakistan

Farewell to a Part of Embassy Islamabad

Farewell to a Part of Embassy Islamabad

Fruita, Colorado – April 24, 2020

This blog represents the views of the author.  One should not assume or conjecture that the United States Department of State (DoS) holds the same views expressed below.  If one feels the need, one can navigate to https://www.state.gov/ to find the views of DoS.

Leslie and I served at Embassy Islamabad from January through November 2015.  It was a tough post, but for me at least, it was the best job I held during my entire career with DoS.  As a facility manager (FM), this was the only posting at which I felt I was truly impacting the mission at the post.  Normally, a facility manager turns on the lights and AC upon arrival, sits in the FM office, peruses Facebook and Home Depot web sites, turns off the lights and AC, and goes home (actually there is a bit more to it than that…maybe I will blog about that in the future).

A portion of my job satisfaction in Islamabad may stem from the fact that while I was there, a massive project was literally changing the face of the embassy.  When Leslie and I arrived, the project was about three months away from moving into a new chancery, as well as several other buildings on the “new” side of the embassy compound.  It was my privilege to help the coordination of the final project phase and the move to the new spaces.

I knew that once the move-in finished, the “old” side of the embassy compound was ready for multiple machines of destruction to raze the remaining structures.  The destruction was necessary to make way for the remainder of the new structures on the compound.  With the fully completed embassy compound, Embassy Islamabad will provide diplomatic and consular services well into the 21st century.  For those interested, the First Phase Dedication Fact Sheet provides additional information on the project, https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Islamabad.pdf.

With time literally ticking away, I received permission to photograph what I felt to be some of the more iconic parts of the “old” side of the embassy compound.  Things that would soon be bulldozed and leveled patches of ground, ready for new buildings to arise.

Built as a brand-new embassy in 1960 when the capital of Pakistan moved to Islamabad, virtually everything I saw on the “old” side was new after the tragic attack of November 21, 1979, on the embassy compound.  On that day, numerous protesters overran the compound, setting fire to the buildings.  At the end of the afternoon, the human toll was great with the death of four people; U.S. Marine Corporal, Steven Crowley (he was shot); U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer, Bryan Ellis; and two Pakistani staff members, Nazeer Hussain and Sharafat Ahmed.

Several of the men that worked for me while I was at Embassy Islamabad started working with the embassy to rebuild after the attack.  Many began as contractors and ultimately hired on fulltime with the embassy.  Some of those described to me the reason for some of the discolored bricks on several buildings, the fires of 1979.  I found it humbling to have trod some of the same places that were the epicenter of the tragedy.

The American Club building. Note the smoke stains on the brick.

One of the more somber areas of the “old” compound was the memorial to those who gave their life in Pakistan.  Included amongst the 21-plaques are the names of the four noted above as well as David Foy, an FM killed in Karachi, and Ambassador Raphel.  The construction crew relocated the memorial to a serene spot on the “new” side of the compound before demolition began.

The memorial garden.
The plaque memorializing Corporal Crowley.
The plaque memorializing FM David Foy.
The plaque memorializing Ambassador Raphel.

The “old” side of the compound had a collegial feel due to the aged buildings and the very mature shade trees.  It was beautiful, even on those oppressively hot Pakistani summer days.  The “new” side of the compound lacked that feel.  Surely once the landscaping matures, the “new” side will become softer in appearance.

A brick pathway through the compound.

I hope the reader will enjoy the following photographs of things long past.

A cafeteria mule parked near the back door of the cafeteria.
Some may argue the help was underpriced…
A colorful bird.
A beautiful sign for the CLO office.
A sign just as beautiful for the Refugee Office.

I can only assume mongooses and jackals can read.  I never saw any on the compound.  Now cats, that was a different story.  There were many feral cats at the compound.

A list of critters that must forage elsewhere.
A stylized peacock.
In English and Urdu.
The signage worked, but it reminded me of M*A*S*H.
The sign for the club included a crescent moon and a stylized eagle head.
The six-lane swimming pool.
The patio seating area of the American Club.  Leslie and I had lunch here frequently.
The volleyball pit was a favorite area for the feral cats…
The entrance to the temporary ambassador’s quarters.
One of the FM mules just outside my office.
One of the Facilities Management Team’s containers.
A more detailed view of the painting on the side of the container.
The commissary on the compound. The construction in the background was just beyond the U.S. embassy compound. I believe it was to be an apartment building.

To deal with the feral cats on the compound, several employees banded together to form a group known as the Cattaches.  The group provided medical care for the cats, birth control, and feeding/sleeping stations such as the one below.

A cat feeding station below the consular mule sign.
Mules are not welcome here…
The entrance to the commissary, complete with shopping carts.
The buildings and grounds shop for the FM gardeners.
The door to the FM’s righthand engineer!
A typical door to a toilet facility.
A barber and tailor were always at hand.
The pickup window at the Handi Shandi. This facility made and sold traditional Pakistani food.
An admonition in English and Urdu.
The sign for the Crowley-Ellis Memorial Field was stored during the construction project.
This building housed the Dunkin’ Donuts outlet.
Another view of the Dunkin’ Donuts building and its outdoor seating.
Another decorative bird.
A yellow submarine Pakistani style!
The door to the motor pool.
A trophy outside the motor pool.
The building in which I worked prior to the move-in.
My office was at the far end on the left.
My old office is the first one on the right.
The remnants of a portion of the “old” compound. My old office is somewhere below the yellow Komatsu.
Departing Post

Departing Post

Islamabad, Pakistan – November 25, 2015

The driver picked us up in Islamabad at about 19:00 on November 25. We said goodbye to Patches the cat and hopped into the vehicle.
Roughly 40 minutes later, we were at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport. I was surprised we made it that quickly. There was construction activity at an overpass on the main road. That narrowed the six-lane passage down to only two. Of course, the traffic was very heavy, so we sat in a traffic jam for a little while. Luckily, there were no jingle trucks (they travel very slowly) in the traffic with us. If there had been jingle trucks, I am sure the traffic jam would have been much worse.
Many motorcycles shared the road with us too. While sitting in traffic, the motorcycles weave through traffic like annoying flies. When traffic is moving, the motos are downright dangerous. Some of the more powerful motos wind through traffic while driving at speed with the traffic. The less powerful motos are especially vulnerable when crossing from the fast lane to the slow lane. That frequently happened at U-turn crossings as the motos transitioned from northbound to southbound lanes. The actual U-turn places the moto directly into the fast lane. From there, it is a dangerous journey across all the other lanes.
The terror of the moto crossings is exponentially higher as the number of passengers on the motos increase. The norm is one or two riders. However, we did see a couple of families of five; the mom (always sitting side-saddle), the dad (ever the driver – although we were told women were beginning to drive motos in Lahore), and three children of various ages. I guess one does what one has to do, but I do not think I have enough courage to operate a moto in Islamabad/Rawalpindi.
As if those incidents were not frightening enough, we saw dozens of pedestrians trying to walk across the five or six lanes of traffic while the traffic was moving at speed. A couple of times, we saw men walking on the painted lane markings, facing on-coming traffic. They were no doubt looking for the next gap in traffic large enough to make it to the next lane markings. It seemed like a life-size version of the old video game, Frogger.
As if not all of that were enough, there was the impatient bus driver. He was continually honking, flashing his headlamps, and weaving back and forth, from lane to lane. Leslie and I commented that he must have come from Georgetown, Guyana. He operated like the bus drivers there.
Some of the on/off ramps for the main road had unending lines of carts, each selling what appeared to be fruits and vegetables. Illuminating each was a single lightbulb powered by a gasoline generator. We had never seen anything like that, but then again, we were not often in that part of town. Pedestrians were everywhere. Periodically, a vehicle picked its way through the crowd.
At the airport, we had to wait until about 20:30 to check-in. That short amount of time was all the more unbearable because of the temperature. Outside, the temperature was 17 degrees Centigrade, about 62 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside, the temperature had to have been 27 degrees Centigrade, about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrestling 85 kilos (about 170 pounds) of luggage through groups of people and security checks made me sweat. I probably lost two or three pounds, a very short-lived decrease (as one will see in my next blog entry.

Sitting in the VIP Lounge at the airport in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Our luggage was over our weight limit by about 5 kilos (11 pounds). For whatever reason, the woman at the check-in counter did not charge us extra.
From the check-in counter, we walked to the business class lounge. It was much quieter there and, thankfully, much more refreshing. We had some refreshments and snacks while we patiently waited to board our Thai Airline plane, reminiscing on our tour in Pakistan.

Allah Hafiz Patches

Allah Hafiz Patches

Islamabad, Pakistan – November 21, 2015

Allah hafiz, roughly translated, means “God protect you.”  It is an expression used in Pakistan when you will not see someone for a while, such as when one departs work and goes home or to those left behind when one is going on a trip.  In the case of Patches the cat, it is the latter.

Approaching

Patches adopted us shortly after we arrived in Pakistan in January 2015. She was probably around three or four months old. She and her brother, Smudge, were a great joy to watch in the mornings as we waited for our rides to work. There is a piece of the wall-to-wall carpet at the front door of our home that provides a surface on which to clean shoes before entering. When exiting the house each morning, Patches and Smudge were usually curled up on the carpet, trying to stay warm. They immediately got very excited, waiting for feeding time.

Smudge

Within a couple of months of our arrival, our roommate at the time gave Smudge to some other Americans. Patches remained at the house. She was skittish, not allowing anyone to get too close to her. Over time, she became more and more used to us. She got to the point where she rubbed against our legs, even letting us touch her tail. However, trying to actually pet her back, or contact her otherwise, resulted in her turning quickly and batting at one’s hand. Usually, the batting was without claws.
Over the last couple of weeks, as we sat on the terrace with a cocktail, watching the Margalla Hills go by; she jumped on my lap on two occasions. Almost as immediately as she landed on my lap, she jumped off. Last night, now that our time in Pakistan is so short, she jumped on the lap, laid down and curled up. She stayed on my lap for a long time, sleeping. She would no doubt still be there if I had not stood up after 20 minutes or so. It was nice that she finally made that connection with us.

Content on the lap.

This morning, while we waited for a vehicle to take us to the Embassy, Leslie sat on the chair on the front stoop. Pretty soon Patches arrived. Before we knew it, Patches was curled up on Leslie’s lap.
While Patches is a beautiful cat, providing us hours of entertainment and enjoyment, we will leave her in Pakistan; it is her home. I hope that she will learn to love her new humans more quickly than ten months.
Allah hafiz Patches.

Drinks with Patches.
Lying on the roof.
Nap disturbed.
The bite.
Attack!
Patches napping on the BBQ briquettes.
Looking back.
Walking by.
Who me?
That riveting eyes look.
Young Patches II.
Young Patches.
Attention diverted.
Watching
Small roar.
Skinny Patches.
Scar, the male cat.
Shorty and Mama Patches.
Lying on the terrace tile.
Looking up to the camera.
Meow
The inquisitive look.
Full view, just after the nap.
Raising her head from a nap.
Nap undisturbed.
Just barely awake.
Nap undisturbed II.
Snoozing in the shrubs.
That look.
The look.
Nearly asleep.
Looking into the distance.
She seems very unconcerned.
Look into my eyes.
Breakfast buffet.
Patches and Leslie rubbing the cat’s ears.
Rubbing her head.
Very content during our cocktail time.
Looking down from above the door.
Climbing through the window grills.
Lahore

Lahore

Lahore, Pakistan – April, 29, 2015

Disclaimer – before viewing the photographs in this blog, please understand that the clicking shutter was in a vehicle traveling at up to 80 miles per hour. Please forgive the less than sharp images.

A construction barrier at speed.

Today I had a business trip to Lahore, Pakistan. Several chimneys along the side of the road caught my eye. I guess their height averaged 100 feet. Some very dark black smoke spewed out of several of the chimneys. They appeared to be a key component in the manufacturing, by hand, of bricks. The farther south we traveled, the more apparent it became that brick construction was the norm.

A small town.
Brick structures beside the highway.

The drive was very scenic, especially on the approach to the Salt Range Mountains. The pass over the Salt Range was spectacular. The downhill side of the pass toward Lahore had a seven percent grade complete with numerous “Emergency Climb” areas. Emergency Climb is the local lingo for a runaway truck ramp. Instead of sand, the slopes had a filling of roughly fist-sized rocks.

A turn on a mountain pass.
A rock formation.

The road was similar to roads in the U.S. There were several truck weigh-stations along the route. A unique feature was the signs on virtually every overpass. Each sign trumpeted a safety slogan such as:

  • Reduce Speed in Fog and Rain Slow down, Life is Precious Check Gauges Frequently Check Tyre Pressure
  • Better Late than Never
  • Fatigue Causes Accident – Take Rest
  • Replace Worn Out Tyre to Avoid Fatal Accident

It probably would do no harm to have similar signs posted along the highways in the U.S.

For roughly two-thirds of the trip, either side of the road had acres and acres of wheat; there must have been hundreds of thousands of acres of grain. The amazing part was the number of people in the fields harvesting the wheat by hand. We only saw four or five combines, but other than those, the wheat harvest was a manual effort. I am sure the work was not only backbreaking but also fatiguing. The temperature was right around 100 degrees Fahrenheit during most of our trip. It reminded me of a live-action van Gogh painting.

One of the many wheat fields.

In comparison to the wheat harvest to the U.S., it is odd that the harvest in Pakistan was well underway in April. The harvest in the U.S. usually does not begin until about June. That may indicate there are two crops per year in Pakistan; I am just not sure.
It is difficult to describe the number of motorcycles on the road in Lahore, but there must be tens of thousands. They dart around the other vehicles like flies. In addition to bikes, there are numerous three-wheeled carts. I know them as tuk-tuks. Those vehicles are popular in India too. The number of them in Lahore is probably due in part to the fact that the India border is only about 29 kilometers (18 miles) from Lahore.

A tuk-tuk in Lahore.
Traffic at a roundabout on the outskirts of Lahore.
A motorcyclist in Lahore.
Another tuk-tuk driver.
No parking…supposedly…

We passed Canal Bank Road. It gets its name from the canal in the middle of this major thoroughfare. Our driver referred to the channel as the “poor mans’ swimming pool.” We did see several people swimming in the muddy water as we drove by the canal.
Lahore has much more of the hustle and bustle feeling than Islamabad. That is no doubt due to the population being about five times that of Islamabad. Lahore’s population is somewhere around 10,000,000 people.
When we left, there was considerably more northbound traffic than what we encountered on the trip to Lahore. Many of the jingle trucks hauled cattle in the bed of the vehicle. Some entrepreneurs rigged makeshift beds above the livestock for human passengers. In addition to the jingle trucks, the smaller vehicles with a rear cargo bed had people mixed with either goats or sheep. I hope their rides were short.
On the return trip, while crossing the Salt Range Mountains, we encountered a rainstorm. With the combination of rain and altitude, the thermometer plummeted to 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit), down from 39 (102 degrees Fahrenheit).  Unfortunately, once we were off the pass, the temperature jumped back up.

Hills in the distance.
A small town by a river.
Red rocks.
A hill in the distance.
A jingle truck.
A mesa in the distance.
A mesa with communication towers.
A jingle truck II.
A mesa in the distance with a jingle truck just coming into the frame.
A jingle truck III.
A jingle truck IV.
An opportunity for lunch.
The Colonel is Pakistan!
Books for sale along the side of the road.
HFC must stand for Halal Fried Chicken.
A closer view of HFC.
A customized tuk-tuk.