One of the comments to my last entry said: “Billi, you are a master of making lemonade when life hands you lemons.” This was a note from Beth, who has followed my website since I climbed Mount Everest last year and it referred to me changing my plans from working for the UN in the summer to attempting Gasherbrum 2, the 13th highest mountain in the world, situated in the Karakorum.
Well, I had to hand the lemons back as I had to change my plans again, and rather than going to climb a mountain I have now got another job with the UN in Pakistan, which will keep me in Islamabad until the end of December 2010. It is a great opportunity, which I could not reject and even though my heart is bleeding that I cannot go to Gasherbrum 2 this season, mountains do not move and I hope to be going there in summer 2011.
Sometimes things just do not pan out the way you are planning them and for me life is like a train journey. You buy a ticket for a destination but sometimes the train stops at a place that you really like and you just get off. However, it does not mean that you will not get to your final destination – it might just take a bit longer.
The good news is that I will still be able to go to Manaslu in September as this was one of my conditions for taking the job. I was surprised – and pleased – to see that the parties involved accepted my request. So at the end of the day, I have the best of both worlds – I have a job for six months and I get to climb Manaslu in September!
Another advantage of me staying in Islamabad is that I will be doing more CORE classes with Ale and I am just about to start teaching classes with her. It is something I really enjoy and I am keen to get more people involved, and staying here gives me the opportunity to work on that.
Coming back to Islamabad was actually a very pleasant experience as I received such a warm welcome, which made me feel very humble and grateful for having met such wonderful people here. Even the guard at my house flung his arms around me when I arrived from the airport, shouting: “Madam, you are back!” (Yes, they always call you madam here – if you are lucky that is, as sometimes they call me ‘Sir’.)
Pakistan is a country with wonderful and kind people. When I went for my first run on Saturday morning (it was about 38 degrees at 6.30am!!), the police officers at the checkpoint waved at me, saying: “Nice to see you again”. And even though it is sometimes not easy to live here as a woman, the warmth and kindness of most of the people here is just amazing and I had a good feeling to come back to this crazy place.
So, every moon has its silver lining and even though I will not get to see the Baltoro Glacier, Concordia or even reach the top of Gasherbrum 2 this summer, I am hoping to learn a lot more about this country and its beautiful people in the next six months. I will keep you posted.