Armageddon - MTV Style
Islamabad, Pakistan - 4 / 6 / 02
It is good to know that even though I am half a world away, Qwest can still find a way to screw me. My voice mail, which I have had ever since I received my cell phone, for some reason had been disconnected. I call up the wonderful customer service only to be informed that I don’t have that particular feature as part of my calling plan, but if I am interested, they would be more than happy to add that to my bill. It is quite frustrating, trying to yell at someone over the phone when dealing with a one second delay, although the receiving party is guaranteed not to get a word in edgewise. Regardless, the voice mail should be active by the end of the week, unless of course the customer service representative disregarded the call. That would be understandable, due to the fact that after I mentioned that I was in Afghanistan, soon after there was yelling and screaming in the other room and I hastily hung up the phone. Thankfully the commotion was only from the excitement of young, nubile women on the television, but hopefully it put the fear of God into the Qwest employee.
Sunday, the call came down to catch a flight to Islamabad. I placed Fazil in charge of making flight arrangements while I went to work packing the CBS crew’s luggage. The time was around 8:30 am. Fazil returned at 9:00 am with the ticket on Arianna and informed me that I had to be at the airport at 10:30 am. At 10:00, I glimpsed at the departure time, and to my horror, the flight was scheduled to depart at 10:30. We hurriedly loaded up the vehicles and sped to the airport. There were few vehicle/pedestrian collisions on the way to the airport, at least no more than usual, and upon our arrival proceeded to deal with the nightmare of porters and customs. After ridding myself of one hundred dollars to officials and laborers to ease the transition, I found myself at the gate at 10:29. I then waited four hours for the flight to take off.
I am a bit thankful Arianna does not provide frequent flier miles. That, and the ability to emotionally shut off in times of high stress. If I thought the flight from Dubai to Kabul was frightening, I was soon in for a treat. As we took off from Kabul International Airport, I glanced out the window to see that our heading was straight towards an enormous thunderhead. As I prepared myself for my horrible dreams to come true, I found myself slip into unconsciousness. I awoke during our approach into Islamabad, the pilots’ Russian training once again in full glory, and the plane only bounced three times when we landed. I was greeted to the view of antiaircraft gun nests lining the runway, with the occasional armored personnel carrier speeding along the service road. Disembarking the plane, I was greeted by armed soldiers who were more than happy to escort the passengers to the terminal to pick up luggage and appropriate visa stamps. I collected all my parcels with the h! elp of a young porter, met the CBS driver, and went my merry way to the hotel.
The Marriot is a wonderful establishment. Situated next to the Ministry of Television and across the street from the Presidential Palace it has what all tenants are looking for: location, location, location. Of course on a military level the hotel would be considered collateral damage. The view from the roof is exquisite however, and it is quite a joy to have air-conditioning available. The foods available at the various restaurants in the hotel are all superb, and the room service is fast and courteous. The swimming pool is kept at a comfortable eighty two degrees and the muzak version of Foreigner’s I Want to Know What Love Is, playing in the elevators just helps with the overall class of the place. It is pretty easy to forget that I am in a totalitarian military state with all the fancy trappings around me, although I am quickly reminded when I go to the roof where numerous soldiers are posted or when I watch the local TV with the MTV style war machine propaganda!
I can’t write anymore today, I have the tune Pakistan, Oh Pakistan in my head, and it is making it difficult to concentrate. More Later.
- Mike Brandenburg