The flight ended up a breeze as I had a good night’s eye shut, a solid 6 hours in total sleep with no jet-lag feeling! The sound temporary respite helped perk up and restore the glow of my skin—it gave me the refreshed and revitalized feeling that I needed to face the day!
Since my roommate was not around when I woke up, it was easy for me to go around checking literally the “ins and outs” of the room, including the unloading of my things( clothes, food, first aid kit, etc. ) from the suitcases to the clothes closet. Food? Really? Funny isn’t it? Oh yes! I brought with me some food, e.g. noodles, packed snacks, chocolates and would you believe even few bottles of drinking water, just in case the Pakistani food does not meet my liking. I have this stomach problem that I would get really bad and most of the times it is aggravated by certain food, particularly spicy ones. You see, I have never been to a Pakistani restaurant nor tried any Pakistani food in 20 years of my life! Actually, I was not really worried as far as health risks are concerned because I was armed with a vaccination done a couple of weeks before my departure. Normally as part of protection for international travellers to “third world” (I hate to say this term) countries in Asia, Africa and even Eastern Europe , it is advisable to undergo such inoculation.
I thought doing my daily regimen on my first day would not be cumbersome as I was alone in the room. I hurried in the bathroom to take a shower but to my dismay the bathroom’s vintage! Although it was immaculately clean and tidy with all the white tiles, surprisingly there was no shower. Instead, a claw foot tub was waiting for me at the center invariably raised from the floor with its ball feet. The bath tub actually looked comfortable and inviting with its nickel and gold-plated fixtures at the end and a combination of marble and porcelain, however I simply couldn’t afford to plunge myself into a deep cold soaking tub on my very first day for two main reasons. First, I am not used to dipping myself into bathtubs. I needed more time to strategize on how not to risk myself from slips and falls and I didn’t have the luxury to do that on the very same day due to time constraints! Second, it was not just an ordinary” built-into-the-wall” tub anchored on the floor, but it was positioned more or less at the center of the room and a claw foot one. Thus, to avoid the danger of slips, I patiently bathe myself from the faucet beside the wash basin and amazingly, it still turned out to be a real bath! (It is so frustrating that I was not able to take a snapshot of the room).
Since I skipped breakfast in exchange for the sound sleep, my stomach started to grumble and crave for food. Lunchtime was scheduled at 1 pm and onwards, unlike the 11 am or 12 pm lunch break which I was used to at the office. It was past 1pm when I joined the rest of the group in the dining hall. I could smell the delicious aroma of something like a beef stew with some kind of fried potatoes while on my way to the dining area, which made me more hungry!
I joined the other lady participants in a table of 6 and that was where I met my roommate, although there was not enough time for us to interact maybe because we were engrossed with our eating or perhaps we were still sizing up ourselves. The food served on the table was great. There was Chapati, a round unleavened flat bread and I thought I liked it the first time I tasted it. In fact, I had more of it than the steamed rice. The stew was just a perfect pair for the chapati but it was only later that I have learned — it was not actually beef but lamb’s meat (or “mutton” for older sheep) . No wonder, it had a distinct taste, but more succulent and juicy than beef – it was the best stew I ever had actually, but of course my Mom’s carabao’s meat stew was an excellent version too! The sliced cucumber, tomatoes and lemons made our meals more appealing and appetizing. Oh yes, that was the first time I have eaten a lamb’s meat and the chapati which were all prepared homemade by the in-house cook of the hostel.
Since it was a Sunday, the participants were treated by the Hostel Administrator to a brief city tour. The main agenda was to allow “Christian” participants to exercise their religious faith and to roam around the city center of Karachi, particularly the Saddar area. Fortunately, three of the lady participants were Catholics and we went to hear mass at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral which I understood was run by the Jesuits. Majority of the Catholics in Pakistan originate from Goa. It was interesting to note that despite being a predominantly Muslim country, Pakistan does not bar Christians from practicing their spiritual beliefs. However, being minority citizens, Christians do encounter at times some kind of a discrimination in the said country such as in politics, social gatherings and related activities.
Oh, it was such a long day — tiring yet exciting! Indeed, this journey marked some “first times” in my life ! Till next issue….See y’all!