This week has been very fruitful so far. However, time is flying by fast. It has already been 12 days and it still feels like I just got here! I guess 10, not counting the weekend I arrived. I am getting a little concerned about how fast time is drifting by. The pace I am going is not nearly at the pace I need to be treading, in order to be able to reach my targets. Nevertheless, progress is evident and I have to appreciate what I am getting accomplished.
I began the week by returning to the National Rural Support Program again, located at the Institute of Rural Management (IRM) Complex in Chak Shehzad, to speak to the General Manager overseeing the entire NRSP. He then introduced me to the Gender Program Manager, and I really enjoyed hearing her experience working with gender and women’s rights issues.
They recommended I speak to the communities in order to truly experience and understand the “impact” of the rural support programs and the sincere “community-driven development” approach, especially in Sindh. I hope I will be able to do that when I return to Karachi and Sindh this December.
Later that day, I met with the CEO of the Agha Khan Foundation (AKF). Another fascinating discussion. This time the conversation was all on Afghanistan, and precisely on the case study of my interest on Afghanistan. I was very happy about that. He suggested I definitely go to Lahore and I’ll be able to take a tour there to learn about AKF’s impact on the social and cultural side of Pakistan. Looking forward to that opportunity.
I returned to the Agha Khan Foundation again the next morning (this morning) for another meeting with an extraordinary development practitioner. From there, I was able to gain more contacts.
Today was the United Nations Day (Wed, 10/24), and I had the rest of the day to fill with activities. I wanted to look into any events in the area. There were a lot of road blockages near the “Red Zone” area the past few days, including today. I think there was something going on at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since I couldn’t get into any events, or know of any, and I had a deadline to meet, I decided to spend the UN day checking out the National Library of Pakistan, which was located within the federal capital area, just 5 minutes from where I live. I had a lot of observations about the Library. It was quite the interesting experience, as it appeared that only men were going to the library at the time I went, besides two women in hijab within a packed reading room. I have always wanted to study in a library in Pakistan, and this was the first public library I have visited in Pakistan, (not to mention actually sit down and do some work at the same time!).
There are many similarities of DC and Islamabad, indeed. Especially with all the historic and federal buildings in the federal capital territory. I will go into details about this later.
Of course the difference is you don’t get that incredible picturesque view in the surroundings of the green mountains…
Yet another first I had today was to be able to sit down in a cafe with a lab top and do work in Pakistan. Many people would say to me, that’s normal, but it was certainly a first for me, and special nonetheless. Especially if you have been told to be very careful with your valuables and extra discrete as an American in Pakistan. Perhaps it is not possible in Karachi, and extra precaution is needed there in some areas, with the danger of robberies and looting. But in Islamabad, it is pretty safe and secure, though it’s always important to be extra careful in new areas.
Along with the UN Day, the nightfall presented a Full Moon. My first full Moon in Islamabad since I got here. I can’t recall if I saw a full moon last December, either way I did not notice it. So I took a walk outside and got some fresh air with the moon tonight, continuing to remain inspired and engaged in the experience.
With my first visit to a Pakistan public library, my first cafe-laptop-work experience (lol), my first full moon in Islamabad, my first United Nations Day in Pakistan, it was a day of several “firsts,” along with amazing field interviews, and I am looking forward to many more…
You only fear what you do not know, and you will not know until you experience it…however small the experience may be….
Happy United Nations Day!