Islamabad – like Rubik’s Cube
This might be a weird association with a city, however, that is how I feel about the town planning of the Pakistani capital. According to the online encyclopaedia ‘Wikipedia’ Islamabad is ‘one of the most organised and well-planned towns of South Asia’, and this does not surprise me. The whole city is divided into different sectors and zones and it somehow reminds me of Rubik’s Cube. It is very difficult to lose your way here and it is almost impossible to lose direction – even for me! In the north of the city lie the Margalla Hills, which are great for getting your bearings right, and then you have sectors that go from north to south starting with D and ending with I. Every sector is identified by a letter and a number and covers an area of approximately 2km x 2km. In the middle of every sector is a so-called Markaz, which is an agglomeration of shops and restaurants. What is lacking in this city is a proper town centre. There is the ‘Blue Area’ in the east but that is only a huge road with big shops, banks, airlines, etc.
Juggling two Cafe Lattes
During one of my reconnaissance bike tours through the town, I discovered a nice little market, the Kosher Market. It is in sector F-6 featuring two coffee shops that sell good Café Lattes – and as I like a good Café Latte in the morning I had a splendid idea yesterday. I biked there in the blazing heat to get one of these fine coffees for me and one of my colleagues, however, I had forgotten how tricky it was to juggle two coffees in one of those paper cups inside my shoulder bag. By the time I had left the coffee shop, thinking that I had put them in a good place inside my Crumpler bag, I already felt a warm stream going down my back. So I went back inside and asked for a plastic bag, which they very kindly gave me, and off I went on my bike in the now even more blazing heat. However, half way on the way to work I noticed that one of my bike pedals was a bit wonky and the next thing I knew was that it came off and of course, I did not have any tools on me. Unfortunately I was still quite a way away and I had a little hill to master – with one pedal and two Café Lattes that had been half empty by the time I had lost my pedal. As I did not have any time to push the bike (I had to be at work for a meeting) I took off my shoe, wiggled my toes around the pedal stem and mastered the hill. I did manage to get to work in time, however, the man I was meeting was wondering why I was so exhausted and why I had coffee all over my trousers!
After my meeting, an Irish colleague of mine was kind enough to help me put the pedal back on and I hate to admit that I had made a fatal mistake – I had put the left pedal on the right side of the bike, which means that every time you pedal it loosens. Well, I hope that male Irish engineering is better than female German engineering and that I do not have to bike around Islamabad with one pedal again.
Despite all Friday’s biking troubles, I still managed to find a flat at the foot of the Margalla Hills, which seem to have become my running ground. The Margalla Hills are a National Park and there are lots of guards and rangers watching the park, and you can actually find dedicated running trails. I normally run up the hills in the mornings but yesterday I went to the Fatima Jinnah Park after work. This is the park I thought I would see women run, however, all I saw were a few running men and very few power walking women in their Salwaar Kameez.
Before I ventured to the park I went on a flat-hunting tour with a real estate agent, who was recommended to me by the Swiss Developing Agency (SDC). One of my colleagues, Muktar from Kenya, has been living in our guesthouse for the past two months and I dragged him out to look at flats with me – and guess what? We both found something we liked. It was really nice to see how happy Muktar was that he could finally move out of the guesthouse! And it made me realise how much I enjoy getting people to do things! Not that it was down to me that he was taking the flat, however, he probably would not have gone house hunting had I not dragged him!
So, if all goes well, I will be moving to a nice 2-bedroom flat with a huge terrace this Monday – so watch the space for more news from Islamabad.