Tag: Building

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.
San Sebastián

San Sebastián

San Sebastián, Spain – July 11, 2011

We departed Pozuelo and made it here today at about 13:00. It is strikingly beautiful. We are staying in the Hotel Mercure Monte lgueldo in rooms 120 and 121.

The main entrance to our hotel.

On the drive here, in the last 80 or 90 kilometers (50 or 56 miles), we went through 21 tunnels. It was like tunnel-rama! After checking-in, we went to our room and unpacked. The hotel is on a high point. Somewhere I read that it is 765 feet above the bay. So from our rooms, we have a commanding view of the Bay of Biscay, Concha Bay, the town, and old town. There is a small island, Santa Clara, that helps separate the two bays.

The tower Monte Igeldo near our hotel.
Ondarreta Beach as seen from our hotel vantage point.
A lighthouse just below our hotel, warning vessels in the Bay of Biscay of approaching land.
A panoramic view of the approach from the Bay of Biscay to Concha Bay. The old city of San Sebastian overlooks the east side of Concha Bay.

When we finished unpacking we took the funicular (cable car) from the hotel down to Ondarreta Beach. We walked to the beach and sat on a bench for a while. From there we walked inland a couple of blocks to find an ATM. After I got some cash, we walked back to a small restaurant on the beach. We sat there and had a drink; Hillary had a rosé, Leslie and I had red wine, and Tyler had a beer. From there we walked down and sat on the beach. Tyler and Hillary immediately set to making sandcastles. Leslie and I just sat there and watched. We ultimately took our shoes and socks off and waded in the ocean. It was cool, but not cold. We went along the beach until we came to a ramp from the beach up to the sidewalk. We went up there, rinsed our feet and put our shoes and socks back on. Then we walked back to the funicular and went back to our hotel. There, Leslie and I sat on our balcony with a glass of wine, looking at the bay. Very relaxing!

Thing 1 and Thing 2 riding the funicular from the hotel down to the beach.
About halfway down, we passed another funicular car going up to the hotel.
A bus in front of the funicular building near the beach.
My traveling companions at Ondarreta Beach.
The kids walking along the beach. The Bay of Biscay begins just beyond that upper breakwater.
Tyler and Hillary on the esplanade beside the beach.
Santa Clara Island is just across Concha Bay from the beach.
Portable changing stations at the edge of the beach.
A bright red vehicle for a local driver training school.
A typical residential scene near the beach.
Changing stations waiting for the next user.
The son and the mama.
Tyler demonstrating how to quaff a beer.
The view west from Ondarreta Beach. Our hotel and the tower are at the top of the mountain.
Who, us??!!
Putting his engineering skills to the test.
The view from Ondarreta Beach to the east and the old town area.
The sign for the funicular. The tower and a small portion of the hotel can be seen at the top.
An advertisement at the lower end of the funicular.
Back at the top, a partial view of our steed.
It is difficult to tell in this view, but the grade of the tracks is quite steep.
A view of Concha Bay.
Santa Clara Island helps protect Concha Bay.
Hillary and Tyler enjoying the water ride at the Monte Igueldo Amusement Park by our hotel.
The water wheel powering the water ride.
The eastern entrance from the Bay of Biscay to Concha Bay.
The historic tower.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant that was recommended by the hotel staff, la Rampa (The Ramp). The name derives from its proximity to the marina boat ramp.  It was next to the aquarium, near the old town area. We all had a salad as a starter. For the main course, Hillary, Tyler and I had sole. Leslie had Hake. It was a very good meal. It came to 170€ (US$207), including the six Euro tip we left. To go with dinner, we ordered a bottle of Campellares Rioja Tempranillo. It was wonderful. Even Tyler had a glass!

The smile preceding dinner.
Tyler watching a trailer with sculling boats pass by the restaurant.
Our hotel atop the mountain at dusk.
The view toward Concha Beach at dusk.
La Rampa Restaurant at the green awnings at dusk.
Tyler standing by the canon at the entrance to the aquarium.
The wonderful detail of the door to the aquarium.
A small boat approaching the wharf near the aquarium.
Another boat entering safe waters just under the Spanish flag.
Another portion of the marina at dusk.
The marina is packed with boats.
Kaimingaintxo Plaza at dusk.
The view along Calle Mayor toward the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Choir.
The view from our hotel in San Sebastian at night.

After getting up on the first morning, we went to the dining room to have a cup of coffee. By about 09:00 we called for a cab to take us to the Cathedral, Catedral Buen Pastor. Before we went inside we stopped at a cafe so the kids could get a little something to eat. When they were done we went into the Cathedral. The Cathedral was built in 1897. It was very dark and very plain inside.

Sunrise over the eastern end of the Bay of Biscay.
The Good Shepherd of San Sebastián Cathedral.
A rosette of stained glass inside the cathedral.
A statue of Mary and Jesus in the cathedral.
A depiction of the Holy Family.

When we left the Cathedral we made our way to Getaria Street and began our walk to the old town, Parte Vieja. As we walked along we went into several shops. We stopped at Plaza de la Constitucion. There were numbers painted above every window looking onto the plaza. My understanding is that the windows were sold in years past to watch bullfights in the plaza.

A weaving supply store.
A group of youngsters walking along the street.
This man may be rich! …or it may just be the sign…
A bicyclist passing by a very, very small vehicle.
Another group of kids walking along the street.
If Tyler was able to get inside this vehicle, I am not sure we would have ever been able to get him out!
Apparently, not all trees are skinny.
A unique flowering tree.
Another flowering tree in a flower bed.
A relaxing water feature.
Plaza de la Constitucion.
Detail of the buildings around Plaza de la Constitucion.

Leaving the plaza, we walked another block or so to San Vicente Church. It is a Gothic-style church that dates from the 16th century. It was much more ornate than the Cathedral.

A model of the St. Vincent Church.
The altar in St. Vincent’s.
Artwork in the church.
A depiction of the Holy Family.
Stained glass in the church.
A depiction of Jesus during the passion.
The main entrance to the church.
An empty water fountain near the church.
Children playing at the plaza in front of the San Telmo Museum.

From there we began to make our way toward the aquarium. Along the way, we stopped at the Church of Santa Maria. Of the three churches we saw that morning, this one was by far the most beautiful. The church dated from the 18th century.

What a Trip!!
Ornate work above the main entrance to the Basilica of St. Mary of the Choir.
The main aisle in the basilica.
A side chapel.
Detail of the chapel.
Another side chapel.

When we came out, we worked our way to the aquarium. It was just ok. It was certainly nothing compared to the aquarium we went to last year when we were in Valencia, Spain.

The view along Calle Mayor toward Good Shepherd of San Sebastián Cathedral.
A selection of mopeds near the stairs.
A fishing boat at the wharf.
A ship model in the aquarium.
Sculling uniforms on display in the aquarium.
Surely Nemo is here!
Dory is on the hunt for Nemo.
A couple of eels.
A small apartment near the aquarium and la Rampa.

Leaving the aquarium, we walked all the way back to the shopping center called Centro Commercial la Bretxa. We went there because there was a McDonald’s. By the time we got there, we were all beat. We ordered our meal, took it outside, and sat along the street. We were all incredibly hungry due to all of the walking we did that morning. The real coincidence of our trip was our taxi driver. At the end of our walk, we stood at the taxi stand, waiting for a taxi. When we got in, much to our surprise, it was the same driver that had taken us to the Cathedral earlier that morning.

When we got back to the hotel, the kids went up to their room. Leslie and I sat on the terrace and, you guessed it, had a glass of wine! After our drink, we went upstairs, laid down and fell fast asleep.  The next morning we would drive into France.

Cloudy morning over San Sebastian.
Salamanca with Hillary & Becca

Salamanca with Hillary & Becca

Salamanca, Spain – July 9, 2011

Today we decided to visit Salamanca. It was a very enjoyable trip. It is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of our home.  It took us about two hours to get there. We arrived around 09:15 and parked very near the first-century Roman Bridge (Puente Romano), on the street called San Gregorio.  From there we walked toward the Cathedral along Calle Tentenecio.

The first-century Roman bridge in Salamanca, Spain.
The remnant of a wild boar carved out of stone.  It dates from the 13th century.
Let the hike begin!
A stone crucifix at the Puerta del Rio.  It is known as Cruz de los Ajusticiados, the Cross of the Executed.  According to popular tradition, the heads of those executed were hung from the crucifix.  A local newspaper debunked that story, stating the cross is simply one from a 14th century church.
The National Historical Archive building.
A man walking toward the side of the cathedral.
The main façade of the cathedral.
Detail of a portion of the façade of the cathedral.
A man entering the cathedral.

Even though the cathedral was open we did not go in because after two hours on the road we were all looking for a restroom. Now, 09:15 in Spain is like 07:15 in the United States, very little is open. I thought for sure we would find a little coffee shop open.  That would have met all of our needs. Not so much! Everything was closed.  We made our way to the Casa de las Conchas. As we were taking a few photos, I noticed the building actually housed the public library. We went inside and were able to use the restrooms.

The Casa de las Conchas (Shell House).
Three men standing near the entrance to the public library at the Casa de las Conchas.
Carved detail on the Casa de las Conchas.
Another side of the Casa de las Conchas with the church of the University of Salamanca in the background.
Stone carving detail in the public library.
A memorial to the beloved Francisco de Salinas (1513 – 1590).

When we emerged we stumbled across a pastry shop. We bought some coffee and pastries and walked back to the small plaza in front of the Casa de las Conchas. After consuming that, we found a little gift store where we bought some t-shirts and a book on Salamanca.

From there we walked back to the cathedral to go inside. It was quite large and impressive; however, it is not as big as the cathedral in Toledo.  Regardless, we all thought it was very nice.

Construction of the “New Cathedral” began in 1513.  The completion did not occur until 1733!  After viewing the detail throughout the cathedral, one understands why it took so long to build.

The north side of the cathedral.
The trascoro of the cathedral.
The very ornately decorated Dorada Chapel.
A statue of Mary and Jesus catching the morning sun.
The main altar.
An ornate ambo used for proclaiming the gospel.
The main cupola of the cathedral.
Detail of the cupola.
The choir area behind the metal gate.
Detail of the choir area.
People gathering at the Chapel of St. Joseph.
The Chapel of the Virgin of the Truth.
A rack of prayer candles.
A depiction of the Holy Family.
A large painting in the cathedral.
A side hall of the cathedral. The woman is rounding a column toward the choir. She provides a scale of the immensity of the cathedral.  The ceiling must be some 60 feet above her, enough for a six-story building.
The pipe organ in the cathedral.
A tomb along the side of the cathedral.

When we departed the cathedral, we decided to walk to the University of Salamanca.  We based that decision on the advice of the shop keeper we patronized earlier.  He told us the façade of the university had a carved skull with a toad on top.  We would enjoy good luck if we could find the skull.  We discovered when we arrived that the façade is very ornately carved.  None of us could spot the skull.  Finally, a person nearby pointed out the skull.  We all had our aha moment when we finally saw the skull.  I am not sure how the assistance we received may have effected the luck we were to have received…

A typical street in Salamanca.
Patio de las Escuelas (schoolyard) complete with a statue commemorating Fray Luis de Leon.
The façade of the University of Salamanca dates from 1218.
Detail of the façade.
The façade is famous for the skull with the toad on its top. One can see the said skull at the upper left.
Another view of the skull and toad.
The sign for Faith Street.
One of the many cupolas throughout the city.
This likeness of the skull and toad was in one of the many tourist shops. The t-shirt at the lower left reads “before death everything was simple.”

From the university, we walked back to the north along Rua Mayor. We stopped at one of the cafes at about noon, sat down, had a glass of wine, some patatas bravas and watched the people walk by.

A fairy on the wall…
Another view of Casa de las Conchas.
A family walking by the tourist information building.
This seemed an odd juxtaposition of signs.

At the conclusion of our break, we walked about a block to the east to the street called San Pablo. We did that because I wanted to see the Torre de Clavero. After taking a few photographs there we continued our trek to Plaza Mayor. We walked around the perimeter of the plaza and departed, heading south along Calle Melendez.

A memorial marking 400 years since Christopher Columbus discovered America.
Torre del Clavero (Clavero Tower).
Torre del Clavero (Clavero Tower).
The façade of Palacio de la Salina dates from 1538.
Detail of the façade.
Plaza Mayor.
Typical medallions around the plaza.
Another view of Plaza Mayor.

Just after leaving the plaza, there were several artisans with tables set up. Hillary spotted one that braided leather into peoples’ hair. She had to have one!  When that was finally done we made our way back to the car and drove home.

Balloons for sale in front of Iglesia San Martin (St. Martin Church).
A woman preparing leather strips to braid into Hillary’s hair.
Hillary’s braiding beginning.
Hillary held the various beads for use in her hair.
The braid ended up being very long.
A dog wandering around the area.
Hillary and Becca standing by a statue of St. Martha.
Toledo with Hillary & Becca

Toledo with Hillary & Becca

Toledo, Spain – June 25, 2011

With the exception of Tyler, we all went to Toledo today. We had no idea the town was celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi that day.  As soon as we got into town, it was quite evident.  We began to see banners hung from buildings as we walked along the west side of the Alcazar toward a coffee shop.  When we arrived we went to our favorite little coffee shop, el Faro de Toledo.  We had some coffee and some pastries.  It is a little café right on the corner of the main plaza, Plaza Zocodover. Hillary was a little cold so she wanted to sit inside. We did go in, but it was so hot! I was very happy to get back outside.

The Alcazar in Toledo, Spain.
A monument to the Alcazar.
Walking past a parking garage.
The Spanish flag flying over the Alcazar in a stiff breeze.  Note the festival banners on the buildings in the distance.
Another view of the flag.
Banners everywhere for the Feast of Corpus Christi.
A table tent at el Faro de Toledo.  The mojito prices vary depending on where one sits. At the bar, 6€ (US$7.32); at an inside table, 7.50€ (US$9.15); and at a table on the patio, 9€ (US$10.98).
The sunny sides of Plaza Zocodover.
Banners in place for the festival.

From the café, we walked toward the Museo de Santa Cruz. On the way, there is a statue of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. We all took turns taking photos with the statue.  We continued on to the museum and sat on some benches.  We had to hang around and wait for the museum to open at 10:00.  Just a minute or two after it opened, we entered.

One thing that is probably lost on those who immediately go into the museum, bullet holes.  The museum, I think it was a hospital at the time, was a key location in Toledo during a battle of the Spanish Civil War.  Many parts of the south side of the museum are scarred from bullets.

Leslie on the arm of Miguel Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote.
Becca and Hillary with Sr. Cervantes.
…and yours truly…
The main entrance to the Santa Cruz Museum.
Even if they can get it back to the car, it will never fit in their luggage!
More banners for the festival.
Bullet holes in the side of the museum, remnants of the civil war.
The view west on Calle Miguel de Cervantes.
A couple more bullet holes.
The group waiting patiently for the museum to open.
Flags near the museum entrance; from left to right, City of Toledo, Spain, and the European Union.

The Santa Cruz Museum is an amazing museum for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it is free! Secondly, it houses some amazing works by el Greco. He had lived and worked in Toledo. Once inside I immediately led the group upstairs to see those famous paintings. It is very cool to be able to enjoy those paintings with virtually no one else around. I took several photographs of them.  I hope they turn out well.  One of these times I want to go to the museum at the home of el Greco.

Detail of a set of stairs inside the museum.
One of many wooden carvings of Mary and Jesus on display in the museum.
Another of the carvings.
A view of the interior of the museum.  At the far end, one can see the Immaculate Conception by el Greco.
Detail of a painting of the Madonna and Child.
Detail of a bas relief.
Detail of a woman in one of the paintings.
Detail of The Holy Family, El Greco 1590.
The Immaculate Conception by El Greco, 1608-1613.
The Immaculate Conception Seen by St. John the Evangelist, by El Greco, 1580-1585.
Two of the floors of the museum.
A carved crucifix.
The Dolorosa (Our Lady of Sorrows).
Detail of The Tanners’ Workshop by Ricardo Arredondo y Calmache, 1897.
Another set of stairs in the museum.
The interior courtyard of the museum.

When we left the museum we began to walk toward the Cathedral. It took a while to get there because Leslie and the girls stopped in nearly every store along the way. Also along the way we encountered several street performers. They were funny and very talented. Probably the best was the man and woman trapeze artists. They were set up right in front of the Cathedral.

A worker cleaning Plaza Zocodover.
People milling about in the plaza.
Entertainers preparing in Plaza Zocodover.
The view west on Calle Comercio from Plaza Zocodover
A woman walking by a Toledo police car.
Some street performers on Calle Comercio.
People stopped to watch the performers pass.
Heading back down Calle Comercio.
A shoe store on Calle Comercio was able to lure the women inside.
A four-story mural down one of the sidestreets.
There were lots of lights in this shop!
This deli was well stocked with wine, cheese, olives, and jamon serrano.
Calle Arco de Palacio runs down along the west side of the cathedral.
Street performers on Calle Arco de Palacio.
It is hard to determine what was so “appealing” about the banana woman…
Flowers at the base of a large chalice on the west side of the cathedral.
A bedecked Cityhall is just across the plaza from the cathedral.
A street performer begins a routine on the west side of the cathedral.
She made it onto the bar.
She whistles for her friend to join her.
He has just a bit of difficulty getting to her level.
Nearly there…
Hillary working for the perfect shot of the performance.
The performance drew quite a crowd.

The Cathedral in Toledo is by far the most amazing Cathedral I have ever been in.  Since we were there during the festival of Corpus Christi, the huge monstrance was in place at the high altar for adoration. During the trip, I finally found the name of the “thing” I had seen on a previous trip with Monsignor Henry, the Manga de Terciopelo Rojo (red velvet sleeve). A priest told us in Spanish that it is used in the processions.  Now that I have the name I will have to look it up and research exactly how it is used.

When we came out of the Cathedral, we walked with a street vendor to a building where they make the traditional damascene objects.  We were able to watch them working.  We ultimately bought a couple of trinkets.

The view on Calle Ciudad toward the bell tower of the cathedral.
A damascene worker.
Damascening is very delicate metalwork.
Leslie holding some examples of the worker’s damascene product.

We left there, had lunch, went back to the car and drove home. It was very hot, so when we got home we all got into the swimming pool.  That was refreshing.

Timeout for some lunch.
A cat getting a drink of water.
The same cat trying to cool down after drinking the water.
A mannequin placed on a terrace for the festivities.
A dog waiting patiently for its owners to emerge from the store.