Sunday, December 16, 2007
This is a picture of the front of my house and my front yard.
Friday I hiked the perimeter of the Embassy. That meant walking around the outside of the compound walls with a security detail, checking the surrounding area. We look for blind spots between guard posts, evidence of tunneling, encroaching vegetation or cover and any other obvious security concerns. Although there weren't any security issues, I did come upon a family of wild pigs. A river runs along the back wall and, I suppose, these pigs were on their way down for their late afternoon paddle. They ignored me and I didn't intrude on their personal space. The boar was HUGE! I'm told they can be quite dangerous, but I'm a very non-threatening type so they left me alone. Interestingly enough, although pork is strictly prohibited ('haraam' in Urdu) for Moslems, wild pigs are hunted, butchered and sold as 'Mountain Game'. Perhaps they taste like chicken?
Yesterday I played golf at the Islamabad Country Club, Members Only. It seems that, as diplomats, we receive courtesy memberships and can play simply by ponying up the greens fees. There are no carts and we are required to hire the local caddies to carry our clubs. We also hire one or two fore-caddies to stand down the fairway to keep track of our golfballs. Our caddy displayed an amazing talent for finding the balls that were in the fairway but didn't prove to be so adept at locating the balls that went hither and yon. If I ever actually hit a fairway, I'm pretty certain that I could find the ball all by myself but I tend to lean more towards the hither and yon side as a rule. After I'd lost the third ball to the dense rough I suggested that he might try to watch where my ball was going, that being his job and all. He said, "Yessir, but it would be much easier for both of us if you would just hit it into the fairway!" I've been playing golf for forty years and that simple solution has, apparently, never occurred to me. No wonder I lose so many golf balls. The weather was absolutely perfect for golf and I was playing with my own clubs, so most of my prepared excuses were invalid before we began. My caddy, Nassir, agreed with all of my club selections and consistently told me to putt to the "right side" of the cup. It wasn't until the fourth hole that I realized that the only words of English he knew were "good club" and "putt right". He could, however, shake his head in eloquent disgust at every shank, hook and slice. In spite of my state of play, I had a great time and was surprised to see peacocks roaming all over the course. They are not dangerous, not haraam and probably taste like chicken. The whole day cost a little less than twenty dollars with gratuities thrown in. I think I'll play again.
Today we held the semi-annual embassy auction. Twice a year we auction off computers, furniture, appliances, equipment, rugs, and surplus items to the general public. The GSOs are responsible for the auction and I'm a GSO. We had a crowd of about 400 people show up to bid on 307 lots. We arrived at the site at 7:30am, the auction began at 9:30am and ran, non-stop, until just past 4:30pm. Every single lot was sold and we netted a bit over 7.8 million rupees, which is almost $128,000! It was my first opportunity to mingle with and talk to Pakistanis who were not part of the diplomatic community. We had very tight security around the compound we were using and the day went off without a hitch. Tight security is just a fact of life here given the current political and social unrest. The men, and the crowd was virtually all male, were a mix of small businessmen and odd lot brokers. We had a pile of broken stuff and assorted junk piled against one wall to a height of about fifteen feet. This was called the Junk Pile and it fetched the highest bid of the 307 lots. The Junk Pile went for 900,000 Rps. When we closed the doors and left, a group of men were gathered in the park across the road from our compound auctioning off the contents of the Junk Pile piece by piece. The next day we learned that the auction in the park lasted all night and the owners of the Junk Pile made a profit of almost 100,000 Rps from the resale. Here are some shots of the auction yard and a few of our customers.
This was the crowd gathered to bid on the big blue/green generator we put up for sale. It went for 610,000 Rps. You can just barely see it in the photo because a large percentage of the bidding audience is sitting on it.
This man is trying out a Stairmaster that the Health Club put up for sale. He seemed to be disappointed that he wasn't actually gaining any altitude no matter how hard he climbed. Frankly, I completely understand.
These gentlemen were quite willing to shout out their considered opinions to anyone who asked and many who didn't. Their opinions invariably fell along the lines of, "You paid too much, you dumb ....!".
Not everyone appreciated those considered opinions!
Nor did everyone find the auction to be a riveting and compelling experience.
I think Osama bin Laden just bought two used air conditioners, an office desk and a chair in reasonable condition.