A Recipe for Something...

Trip Start Oct 06, 2008
Trip End Oct 27, 2008

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Flag of Pakistan  ,
Tuesday, October 7, 2008

And so what exactly makes someone of sound mind, without any agenda other than to explore, visit a place like Pakistan?

I've tried explaining this to non-travelers and yes, even to serious and well-expierenced travelers. I would have never even considered traveling to this part of the world in my twenties -- I was far too busy dreaming of -- and jetting off to chic European hot spots. The hot spots, as they were, have changed to more, shall we say edgy political hot spots. It's a bit like having your first spicy meal -- the next time you feel the heat less and so you order your dish medium spicy -- later you order the vindaloo: your eyes glaze, your face flushes, you laugh as you blot your brow -- you take another bite. The question is however, just how hot is too hot, and how can you know until you've tasted it?

I could see a large illuminated mosque bathed in amber, streams of cars lights and little else as my flight was touching down in Lahore Pakistan late last night. I thought my business class upgrade a most auspicious omen and with several flutes of Moutard for courage I inhaled deeply as the cabin door popped open and I, now had the coveted position of being the first to exit --alone.

I'm also the first and only person in customs and as I hand over my passport I scour the men in the distance with their long Punjabis waving their handmade signs -- and I cannot see my name on any of them. As I come nearer I look more closely and pass the luggage carousel --there are no more men with signs. I near the exit and stand beside the armed militia and I stare.

Throngs of people -- hundreds -- are waiting to pick up the other passengers and here I stand alone between men with machine guns strapped across their chests. My heart sinks and my stomach knots. I turn to my left, "I'm looking for my driver and I don't see him." He motions with the tip of his gun for me to step back and explains that I must wait inside "you be safe --go." I spin my carryon toward the Tourist Office and the solider yells back for me, "You called Christina? Adja! Come! Your boy is here". And I exhale.

With a leveled chin and squared shoulders, I part the sea of glaring onlookers amidst murmurs, and even a gasp. My "boy", a man of roughly 50, puts his key in the car door, scrunches his face and looks inside, "Wrong car. You stay, I find the car." Cue the screeching sitar strings and booming timpani and throw in one of those deafening Middle Eastern tongue-wagging-death-shrieks just for good measure. Shell shocked I stand in a parking lot in Pakistan looking haughty and practically daring someone to bother me. I throw up in my mouth just a little bit and I'm pretty sure I turtled. I'm standing next to a truck that's parked in the middle of a row and is empty -- it's leaking gasoline. Flashes of recent car bombings dance in my head. Two men in matching long white shirt dresses walk past me staring, stop and return. Across the maiden I see my boy -- he honks and I -- I can breathe again.

We speed past rickshaws burgeoning with people and garishly festooned lorries barreling at top speed, their horns temporally blotting out the crackling Bollywood music on the radio. A family of four on a motorcycle whizzes across our headlights --the infant holding on to her mother's arm looks back.

Now as we enter the city things take a gentler turn. Down tree-lined boulevards we pass hulking Mughal architecture -- spiraling confections from the builders of the Taj. The famous Gymkhana Club comes into view and across the way faded remnants of the British Raj -- it's now easy to see why Rudyard Kipling was so enchanted by Lahore that he chose to live here for several years.

It's chaotic and charming, and edgy for certain -- it's exactly the recipe that I need at present. And it may be just about as spicy as I can handle. Or is it?

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radsolv on

from an Old Fan
Hi Christina,

We communicated for a short time a few years ago while you lived in Manhattan and I in Yonkers. Then you stopped replying. Well we are a generation apart. We can still be fair weather friends. But you had said keep me informed of your travels ..for fucks sake.

You seem to have an even better command of original prose .. without the expicatives, which however when used judiciously, could be hilarious. Still laugh at your religious experience at Mt. Sinai.

I have been to Lahore and Northern Pakistan 1981. Loved it and the people // more than India. Do get up- to Gilgit, Hunza, Chitral and visit the infidel Khailash.

Now finally off on my final trip which you can follow at travelpod.com/members/radsolv
Homeless in the World.

Now in Kiev with a visa to Russia and intention to take TransSiberian Express to China, then Cambodia, Vietnam. And who knows where I will wind up.

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