After an interesting direct flight with Pakistan International Airlines from Kathmandu, where I seem to have been the only woman and the stewardess asked me where I was going (??), I have finally arrived in Islamabad. It is always strange to come to a new country where you do not know the culture, you have no idea how to behave or where to go. And as usual I was pretty unprepared but that is how I live my life – ‘I cross the bridge when I come to it’. And this bridge is quite a big one to cross!
I am working as a press officer for the United Nations’ ‘Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ here in Pakistan, however, I am not quite sure yet what my role will involve. Tuesday was my first day of work and the people seem very nice, however, the office is in the basement and all I can see from my desk is a concrete wall – that makes me miss the Himalaya even more.
Work is one challenge, however, the bigger challenge is going about my exercise here, which is a very new city as it was only built in the 60ies to replace Karachi as capital city. Islamabad seems to be extremely green and all the parks scream for a good workout. The whole town is very planned and is divided into several sectors. There is no centre of town and every sector has a so-called supermarket, which is an accumulation of small shops.
Despite of being extremely green and covered in hills, you don’t really see people run or bike around these mountains, however, this is going to change for the next six months. Every once in a while the Pakistanis will see a mad German woman running through the parks or around the Margalla Hills, which are in the north of the city, wearing long trousers and a Nepali Khurta. And yes – it is possible as I tried it out this morning. I have been told though that there is a park in sector F-9 where you even see Pakistani women run in their Salwar Kameez – so I shall venture there tomorrow morning. It would be great to see Muslim women go for a run.
Last night I was already brave enough to get on my bike and cycled to the shops but I have to say I felt slightly uncomfortable as I seem to be the only woman in the whole of Pakistan, who is brave enough to ride a bike. Of course I was wearing a long top that covered my backside but most people were still stunned – or even shocked – by the sight of a woman on a bike. However, all I can do is ignore them and get on with it.
After the exciting experience of getting on my bike and venturing to the shops I braved the running track along the Margalla Hills this morning. When I left the guesthouse in my Muslim running gear at 6am, the receptionist looked at me rather strange. He probably thought that I was mad going for a run but I guess most people would have thought that this morning. But the trail was good, there were no people around and I felt safe – and I think that wearing a Kurtha that covers most of your body helps and it was actually not too bad running in one.