With so much happening in the first two years of the 21st century, where I thought I would never be, what next is in store for me and the family?
In early 2002 (probably February) I was offered a posting to Islamabad, Pakistan which was, I believe, my first choice on my list of posting preferences. Even though, both Wendy and I, knew of the dangerous security situation there we decided to accept the posting. DFAIT is much different in regards to postings than the military. DFAIT gives you a number of choices which you can think over and discuss with your spouse and children before accepting or rejecting. With a military posting there was no thinking or choice it was simply pack up and go!
The security situation in Pakistan continued to deteriorate and the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad had all soused and dependents evacuated to Vienna twice and then returned to the Mission. With the church bombing within the diplomatic compound in March of 2002 all dependents were once again evacuated but this time back to Ottawa. Islamabad became an ‘unaccompanied posting.’
I was informed of this and because the terms of the posting had changed (no dependents) I was given the option of refusing the posting with no consequences. I asked what were the options if I did refuse the posting, another posting or stay in Nairobi? Because all other posting had been filled, included my replacement, the only option was to return to Headquarters. I talked it over with Wendy, and because on the previous evacuations dependents were returned to post fairly quickly, we made the mutual decision that I would go to Islamabad and Wendy would return to Ottawa.
In May we used our final travel perk for a trip to South Africa which included the Garden Tour. Our return happened to be on the day that our granddaughter Olivia was born and then it was the tasks of personal effects inventory, and determining what would go where and how! On overseas postings you are required to complete a personal effects inventory listing all items, including date of purchase, value and how they are to be shipped. Shipping methods include, sea, air, accompanied or placed in Long Term Storage (LTS). The complete inventory is for customs and insurance purposes. It can be quite a daunting task although it is made much easier when you have a copy of your previous inventory as well as entering the items into a computer spreadsheet.
After everything was sorted as to shipping methods and the ultimate location and submitted it was then time to choose the shipping company. The Mission has a list of accredited moving companies and representative from three companies take a survey and submit a quote. We are given a choice of the three and if the Mission decides that our choice falls within the criteria (usually cost) that is who will receive the contract.
Now came the negotiations on when I would be leaving Nairobi, my replacement would arrive, the incumbent in Islamabad would leave and I would arrive. Because the department is only interested in saving money there is no hand over from one person to another. Therefore, it makes it a lot less complicated than it sounds because the two people who are moving, myself and the person in Islamabad, would come to an agreement that was acceptable to the Mission.
Once departure and arrive dates were worked out it was then to arrange for the movers to come in and pack us up In July, 2002, four packers arrived at out home in Nairobi to begin the job of sorting into the various categories, wrapping and packing our effects. There was one person whose only job was to wrap and package all of our framed photos and pictures in the special crates he made for them. After three days of packing the moving truck arrived and our effects were on there way to there new destinations. The only other thing to ship was our vehicle and it would be going with be to Islamabad.
With only a couple of days remaining in Nairobi I drove the vehicle, a Toyota Surf, that I had imported from Japan, to the shipping company to have it safely secured in a shipping container. The Surf is the right hand drive version of the Toyota Forerunner. It was a great safari vehicle, the slide back ‘moon roof’ allowed you to stand on the seats and get a great all around view. Of course the four wheel drive came in handy when the dirt roads became muddy with the rains.
With everything packed up and shipped out it was our turn a couple of days later. Heather, Kim and Olivia had preceded us and we all met up once again in Ottawa. After getting everyone settled in back ‘home’ it was time for me to be off to Islamabad. Our home certainly was filled with people - Don and his Labrador London, Kim, Heather, Olivia and of course mom Wendy.
My Air Canada flight from Ottawa to London, England was uneventful but landing at Heathrow and getting to Gatwick was a bit of a rush because the shuttle bus missed one of the time slots. No fear though because I still arrived in time to only find out that the Emirates flight to Dubai was delayed, and delayed again and then finally cancelled. Apparently a food truck had ruptured one of the fuel tanks. I must say the the ground staff worked their hearts out getting everyone rerouted. We ended up being bussed back to Heathrow and boarding another Emirates flight to Dubai and then myself and another lady went via Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) from Dubai to Islamabad. That flight in economy was something to experience; for our meal we had a choice of food, and after seeing what the person beside me was eating I declined, speaking of the person beside me he spent an inordinate time picking his toes! One of the stewardess spent the entire flight standing in the aisle observing the passengers. it was quite evident that no one had any idea of bathroom cleanliness!
On the trip back to Heathrow I was able to place a telephone call, as a distressed Canadian, to the ‘Watch Office’ back at the Pearson Building in Ottawa and explain my situation and rearrange the airport pickup. I later found out that the Watch Office had phoned 3 or 4 people in Islamabad not once but 2 or 3 times to alert them to my situation. I was met by a driver at the airport and driven to my staff quarters in ‘C’ compound, minus my bags, which were delivered the next day.
The High Commission(H. C.) in Islamabad is located within the Diplomatic Enclave and consists of three separate locations; ‘A’ Compound which comprised the Chancery (Headquarters), the Official Residence (High Commissioners residence), and some workshops, ‘B’ Compound consisting of 3 and 4 bedroom two story staff housing as well as more workshops/storage and some locally engaged staff housing. The compound is across the street from the U.S. Embassy, ‘C’ Compound with 2 and 3 bedroom houses as well as a one bedroom row housing unit, the Canadian Club which included the bar, restaurant and movie theatre/games room, outdoor swimming pool and gym. Some senior staff members also lived off the Diplomatic Compound in the city. Each of the 3 compounds are within 10 minutes walking distance of each other.
I got myself all settled in and as it was the weekend I made a trip across the compound to the Canadian Club to see what was going on. I met a former colleague from the HC in London, sitting on the patio, and he was one of the people who had been called about my change of plans. I thought it would be a good idea to buy him a beer for being woken up more than once in the night. As I walked into the bar I was met by 3 people sitting at one of the tables with; “do you hash?” That was my introduction to who would become three very good friends. I said that I had previously in Damascus but had not been hashing since 1997 but would be happy to restart. However, I would wait until all of my shipment had arrived before I restarted.
The weekend being Friday and Saturday which makes the first day of the work week being Sunday I had two days to get over any jet lag and really try and get settled in. One of the other people in the compound kindly took me off grocery shopping which was an experience in itself! You can forget about major supermarkets and think more along the lines of a 7-11 or Mac’s Milk for all of your groceries and a butcher shop for meat, hopefully the butcher shop will have a refrigerator. All in all the city was only slightly more modern than Damascus. The main difference was the quality of the city streets and general housing, this was probably the result of Pakistan once being a British Colony which had an overall effect on the city planning and housing. The city is laid out in a grid pattern and different ‘suburbs’ are referred to as Sector [letter]and a sub-sector number i.e. Sector A-9 which makes it easy to find your way around.
Work was work and not much more can be said about that. I had my own office on the second floor and a locally engaged worker on the first floor. He looked after most of the locally engaged staff user problems while I managed the servers and Canadian-based staff problems.
The separation certainly had some psychological problems and I was very happy that I had restarted hashing. It was the one place where you could blow off a little steam and just let yourself go and have a bit of fun. I also found that it was almost as cheap to simply eat supper in the restaurant in the Canadian Club as it was to purchase and cook supper. I would have lunch at the very small cafeteria in the H.C. The only problem with eating in the Club and the hash was the consumption of beer, in the later months I started using the gym, swimming pool and outdoor running on a more regular basis.
One of the benefits for being on an unaccompanied post is two extra 90% paid trips back to Ottawa a year. So this would mean three trips plus on our overseas allowance there was also a monthly payment towards travel. In the end it could/should mean four trips home a year or eight in total. Of course I used two of the trips get home for Christmas but the other trips were used for more exotic travel.
Since I had restarted hashing again I learned much more about the world wide appeal of the hash. One of the first trips that I did was a Hash Cruise out of Split, Croatia organized by the Dalmatian Hash House Harriers. I did not do this entirely alone not only did three of us from Islamabad go on this trip but I convinced Wendy that she should come along as well. Three of us left Islamabad for Vienna, Austria where we would meet up with Wendy whose plane would land a half hour after ours. However, there was a bit of a mix up because I was told that she would be leaving from Montreal on an Air Canada flight but when we checked on the arrivals board there was NO Air Canada flight nor any flights from Montreal. One of the hashers got in touch with the arrivals desk while I called home to find out what was happening. I was on the phone confirming everything when I saw Wendy’s distinctive bag whizzing around on the baggage carousel. What happened was, the flight was an Austrian Air Lines co-share with Air Canada and the flight originated in Toronto. Those worries were over.
Chalk up four more countries on the list; Pakistan, Austria, Croatia, England but more on that later.