Taking time to reflect during fieldwork…


A few nights ago, in the weekend, I walked into the back area of my residence here in Islamabad, to get some fresh air. The night was clear, and the moon was more than half full, but bright and gallant. The Full moon will be coming this Wednesday on United Nations Day. I am looking into seeing what kind of activity there may be for UN Day here in Pakistan.

After a brisk walk, I sat on a park bench and just breathed in the fresh air and stared at the moon for a while. I then took out my notebook and favorite pen and started writing. Some kids were playing in the park area and celebrating their birthday. They offered me some cake too, and I wished them a happy birthday. You don’t see that happen too often in the States: offering of sweets to strangers you just notice sitting around. I notice the men around me watching me, while I write and glance and smile at the moon occasionally. Perhaps they are curious as to where I am from. I wear my black shall around me and over my head. It must seem strange for them to see me alone on this bench after dark it seems. But I ignore them, and allow them to ponder, it is a safe area, so I have been told, and the night is cool and fresh so I will take in this moment. I am taking time here with my Friend, the moon, to enjoy His company, to meditate, and be calm, and to reflect on my experience so far.

Sometimes I look at my cell phone and find the Islamabad time on there. Regardless of being here, my mind and soul remains in awe that I am actually here again on this beautiful journey in Naya Pakistan.

I am trying to learn new words each day too. Like with respect to the 5.2 magnitude earthquake that hit some parts of Islamabad and Peshawar and Rawalpindi a couple days ago. Perhaps I do remember feeling something. I don’t know. But the word for earthquake is “zalzala.” I didn’t know that before. I definitely want to learn to improve my Urdu as much as possible. It seems I am speaking in English in my meetings, which is fine, but elsewhere I try to speak Urdu as much as possible and learn new words each day. It is such a beautiful language, and improving the vocabulary will be vital. At the same time, I have been yearning to learn Pashtu as well. So many people around Pakistan speak it. There is such a large and sparse Pashtun population in every city of Pakistan.

There will always be moments where you won’t have field interviews or meetings scheduled every day or throughout the entire day. It is only my second week here, but the planning and the meetings are happening simultaneously. As I noted before, a meeting could pop up at any time. But there may be times where meetings are canceled or roads are blocked, or something just doesn’t work out. We can use those moments to keep the momentum going by emailing, contacting, preparing, writing, researching, etc. We should never look at those moments as time passing by, as a waste of time. It is all part of the fieldwork process. Preparation may have to happen on the go, and with the flow, hand and hand with meetings, of course. You have to research every organization and person before you meet them anyway. So far I have 3 meetings scheduled this week and more to come, as well as the presentation on Network Analysis to the SDPI on Friday. Excitement is there. So the moments when meetings don’t happen, are precious, because they are times you can sit down, read, write, and perhaps most importantly breathe. We must never forget to breathe.

Today, my meeting was rescheduled for next week, so I went to do some work and reading at a coffee shop at a large Mall, called the Centaurus. It is quite an amazing Mall. The view of the mountains in Islamabad is quite breathtaking from the terrace at the Gloria Jeans Coffee shop. I remember the view in Karachi too, from the exact coffee shop, of the Arabian Sea and the Karachi Sea View Beach at Dolmen Mall. This was a different scene. If your mind is not clear, sometimes the mountains will look fake. Once you clear your mind, the depth and realness of them start to appear. You see their sincerity and their grace. I’ve painted these before, I tell myself. I know it. Both in my mind and on the canvas. Perhaps a little de ja vu moment or a premonition of some sort for this moment when I can embrace this terrain firsthand. I will paint them again when I return to the US and reunite with my oil paints. I will paint how the sun hits the mountains at sunset, the shadows, the greenery. I will paint the fluff of the clouds hidden and surrounding the jagged shapes. I will paint the many different variety of trees that touch the bottom of the mountains. I will paint the rocks and the road passages along the edges and corners. I will paint the tiny homes that appear like little toys from afar. I will paint even if I may not know how, because my heart is here right now, and it will scar in my memory, and I will honor these mountains, the way they are honoring me, when I am given the opportunity to grab my favorite fan brush once again. It will never be just and perfect, but I will always try…





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