Thursday, June 3, 2010

Passport to Pakistan

I've got a dilemma. I was invited to attend a women's expo and fashion show in Pakistan to help the women to create products marketable in the USA and possibly to develop a long term business relationship.
I read the invitation and jumped at the chance. Everything in my being accepted this as a natural course, an eventual progression for my business, my career.
All has been going smoothly, although slowly on my part. I misplaced my passport, was unable to print and thus sign the agreement, the visa application and last night, had difficulty taking and printing a profile photo in order to move on the paperwork. No big deals. No frustrations. Just a slowing of the process. I have all of the paperwork now and shortly will make copies of everything before I send it off later today.
And with each moment I delay, I have to wonder. Is this the right thing to do?
Sure, I want to work with women who NEED the income, NEED to elevate their status to gain respect from men, to gain some leverage in their lives. I want to work with THOSE women. I want to find a worthwhile producer group. To share my now seven years of experience in developing products with another group with other skills/talents. I want to take this opportunity to experience a different culture, afterall, I'm a writer/journalist first and foremost. How can I pass it up!?!
Because of my kids, that's how. I participated in the security briefing for the trip. I have never had a security briefing before, not even when then President Bush came to Mokolodi in 2003. We were told that the country is considered high risk with pockets of violence. Islamabad is where the government resides and so has some dangers but is pretty well protected. The fashion show and expo will all take place in the very nice hotel where we will be staying. I've stayed in 5 star accommodations thanks to my travel writing so staying in a very nice hotel is not a draw for me. I started to shake at the thought of armed security accompanying us everywhere we went, out of necessity, not vanity or protocol. I started noticing my breathing and my heart racing as she told us that should we be evacuated or if there is a problem, the security team was not to be questioned but their instructions followed to the letter. That it's hard to plan the itinerary since daily actions hinged on whether or not we would be safe. Site-visits were being planned, but not to be too disappointed if they did not happen depending on the threats we may have that day. All sobering thoughts.
I went to college, worked and lived in Manhattan. When you travel the world - hell, when you travel outside of the East Coast, the thought of gun violence is synonymous with Manhattan. But I never saw any in the 12 years I was there. I am a journalist and I am fully aware that violence sells newspapers and that is what is covered on the news. Does that mean it is as prevelant as it appears? Apparently in Pakistan, it is.
As each hour ticks away from the moment I decided for myself that I would go, I hear those "rational" voices in my head. I also hear the voices of concerned friends and relatives. My father-in-law, who had been in Pakistan many years ago, told me that the morning they arrived, he picked up the newspaper. The headline was of Americans who were killed while visiting Islamabad. My mother-in-law asked him what was in the news. He folded up the paper and said, "Nothing. Nothing at all." and they attended their conference, required to stay in the hotel unless the group traveled outside of it, were escorted by armed security details and each day, they went a different route to the school they were accrediting. But do you think I should go? I asked him. I would go, he said. Do I think you should go, I can't tell you that, was his response.
In times of indecision, I fall into fear-mode. I relinquish my inner voices and look to the outer ones, which seldom serve me well. I am questioning whether this trip is necessary. If the invitation, perhaps, was a wake up call to me, to get me to act on something I wanted, but didn't know how to achieve. Sometimes, opportunities are just that - cues and clues to what you really want but didn't know you wanted it or how to get it.
What if something does happen? Would my children understand that this is something I HAD to do? Or would they feel as if I abandoned them, chose my NEEDS over theirs? Would they question my loyalty to them, my devotion, my love? I know that every day we face these questions, sure, with more mundane situations, but they are posed to us, each and ever moment of each and every day. What to do, what to do?
I will do what was clearest to me to do. I will send in my passport, my signed contract, visa application and send it all off today. I will wait to see how things unfold. I think that our course in life is changeable (we do have free will), but I also think we have a course in life and there are higher beings that set us on our way. I have been very well taken care of thus far. I trust I will be during this trip as well. I will see how things go.
And today, I will be excited about going to Pakistan. (...and should it be cancelled, I'm sure I will breath that sigh of relief...but today, I'm going to Pakistan!)

1 comment:

Saman said...


First I want to congratulate you on not letting your fear cloud your judgment and for wanting to help women in less developed countries. But what I really want to point out is that Pakistan is really not as violent or unsafe as you think it is. Your fear is a product of what the media shows you, as well as fear of the unknown. It is a lovely country with really nice people, and it is just like any other developing country that is grappling with global issues of terrorism, corruption and foreign interference.
The attacks are few and far between and in specific regions due to tensions. Normal life goes on otherwise, and I am sure you will be very well taken care of. Security briefings like the ones you attended are meant to exaggerate situations so that you do not take any unnecessary risks. Pakistan has a large expatriate population and I guess if nothing else you should go to see it for yourself; only then will u realise how different reality is from perception.