Thinking back on the past few weeks and my time in Pakistan, I hardly know how to relate the mix of emotions that seem to wrestle around in my heart. I can clearly remember the drive to the airport on my last day, squeezed into a small white taxi with my brother, watching the Murree hills fade away from me. Lush trees were soon replaced by sparser shrubs, the cool mountain air grew hot, and my shirt began to stick to back. I watched as I was taken away, feeling like a banished criminal, being led from the place I wanted to stay. I know that it was me who decided when to leave, and when my flight would be, but somehow it felt forced, like a sentence carried out routinely. Like visiting hours were over.
As I sat on the plane, surrounded by Pakistanis, I remembered the joy I felt when I had taken this same flight coming to Pakistan, and the anticipation with which I watched out the windows to see the small houses with flat roofs and little Japanese vehicles that dotted the airport tarmac. Now I thought of the airports in Canada, where clean Fords drove around, pulling the long baggage trains toward the plane, and not a plastic bag was to be found on the grass around the runway. Something about Canada always seems to be a little too clean – antiseptic maybe.
I had a pleasant surprise the evening of my flight as my brother and I landed in Karachi, and rode a shuttle to the nearby airport hotel. Thinking we were heading straight out of the country, I had forgotten that we would be spending the night here, and that my time in Pakistan was not quite over yet. Instead, I gazed out the window at the silhouettes of trees and buildings as the air of a Karachi night blew warm in my face – enjoying Pakistan for a short while longer. I hadn’t even planned to be down in the Sindh, and then, unexpectedly there, I felt I couldn’t have left without being there first. I felt as though, in some ways, I hadn’t truly been to Pakistan without being in Karachi, with its lights, its memories, and bustle of activity.
Our hotel seemed like an oasis. It was surprisingly enjoyable, ignoring the not-so-clean looking sheets, and the cockroaches that skittered across the floor (thankfully they were only small ones – much better than the huge ones we sometimes found in our bathroom in the Sindh. The ones that would take a few good smacks to kill, and that would then wiggle their massive legs feverishly until you had washed them down into the toilet in the ground).
Once at the hotel, my brother and I made our way to the restaurant for a buffet of various Pakistani food. It was evident that I would be given ample opportunities to enjoy the little things of Pakistan for just one more night, and I made the most of it, with rice, vegetables, chicken and roti. After the meal, my brother and I, tired as we were, made our way around the compound, following the signs to tour the games room, the work-out room, and even a swimming pool, which was closed for the night. We managed to pull ourselves up high enough up to wall to peer over at the still water in the pool. I texted my Mum that evening and told her we had decided not to go to Canada quite yet, and that instead we would enjoy the hotel for a few more days, and give ourselves time to enjoy the pool and the other facilities. If only it had been true.
After our explorations of the hotel were complete, my brother and I returned to the room for cool showers. The water was soothing, as I let the cold water rinse off the sweat that stuck to my clothes. I lay damp in my bed, staring up at the roof, listening to the sound of the water as my brother showered. Again, questions and emotions poured into my head. This time I closed my eyes, and prayed aloud instead – going before the one Person that I knew would stay with me, that has a plan for me, and that will give a purpose to each morning and fresh joy to fulfill it as well.